The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
Joel Okeeffe Airbourne - Interview
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Aussie hard rockers Airbourne release their fourth album "Breakin' Outta Hell" on September 23rd, the first full length to actually be recorded in Australia with the help of Bob Marlette and Mike Fraser on production and engineering. We get the lowdown from frontman Joel on how the album came together as well as a few laughs on how the digital age has played a part in the lead up to the world tour.



Joel: How are you going pal?

Andrew: I'm doing very well, how are you?

Joel: Yeah good thanks mate! Just over here in Canada.

Andrew: Oh yeah how's things in Canada at the moment?

Joel: Things in Canada are, well there's the inside of a tour bus, there's the backstage area, there's usually a hotel if you're lucky and that's about all we ever see. We're in a town called Kamloops and there's a bit of fishing going on around here, we got in late but I think the boys are still going to get the rods out and go for a fish because I think dusk is when the big fish come out to the surface or whatever.

Andrew: So how's things with the band at the moment and how are you feeling about the new album coming out?

Joel: Well the album has been leaked so [laughs] so it's already kinda out because that's just what happens usually. Walmart in Canada released it a whole week early so the thing is already up on Pirate Bay, so the Pirate Bay feedback has been pretty good so we'll see what happens when it actually comes out! But it's good to finally get another album out and start playing new songs live again and all that sort of stuff, it's just one of those things where it's what you do as a band. It's the fourth album, we put a lot into it. It took 3 years from the last one again, we changed labels again and all that sort of bullshit so it was all good in the end. We ended up in a really good place with Spinefarm/Universal, they're really good and on the same page. We just did a new video for "Rivalry", there's a bit of a fight going on and there's a more violent one that's going to come out too but that will only be Youtube because I can't imagine many TV networks going to stream it!

Andrew: [laughs] No but I guess that's the way things are today, everything is on Youtube and online so you embrace it I guess.

Joel: That's how it is yeah, you're absolutely right.

Andrew: How was the process for the new album compared to the previous albums? Did you change things a little bit or was it pretty much business as usual?

Joel: Well the biggest change was doing it in Australia. We've done B-sides and an EP in Australia, all at Hothouse down in St. Kilda in Acland Street but this was the first time we done a full album in Australia and we did it down in Sing Sing and that was probably the biggest change. One of the main reasons of that was we're just more relaxed in Australia and also the main part is coming out of our walls in Australia we got 240 volts of power and I can't remember if it's 60 hertz or 50 but it's that extra bit of voltage in the guitars, so that was one of the main things too. You just can't get it overseas, they got just one pin and it's just a bit pissy sounding!

Andrew: [laughs] It's interesting this is the first album you have done in Australia considering that obviously you are an Aussie band. So what was the reason that you had never done it in Australia before?

Joel: Well when you're a young band you sign up to a record label, you stick to your guns. The integrity of your music and what you are all about and you challenge them on that and basically you don't compromise your sound or what you are writing about or what the band's about. Because when you're a young band - and they tried it with us - quite often they try to change you and basically you gotta say no, we're not changing so you may as well drop us. It can go 2 ways, sometimes they will drop you or they will go, 'Oh we respect that you have a clear vision so we'll fucking back ya. But if you're gonna do it, we want you to do it in the U.S.'. So we go, 'Alright, no worries then'. That's the only difference you make because they're the ones spending the money so you go, 'Alright cool, you're not changing our sound or changing our songs but we'll do it in your backyard'. And on this record we signed with Spinefarm and part of the deal with them was when we were talking to them, they were so about the band we were like, 'Where do you want to do it?' [They], 'Where do YOU want to do it?' Noone has ever asked us that before, usually it's a shitfight. But we'll do it in Australia and they said, 'Sounds like a great idea!' and we were like, 'This is awesome!' They asked who we want to do it with and we said we'll do it with Bob Marlette and Mike Fraser and they said, 'Alright leave it with us and we'll get those guys in the rooms'. So that's when we got them out to Australia, flew out Bob who did our first record and then we got Mike Frasier to engineer and then mix it and he actually mixed it at Sing Sing as well so we've done the whole thing in Australia.


Andrew: Wow so it's a real true Aussie record then so to speak!

Joel: It is yeah!

Andrew: Good to hear! You got a tour to follow up as well with you guys doing an east coast run over here next year which is good to see but there's been a lot of fans over in Perth who are like, 'How come you guys aren't coming to Perth?' I guess you guys didn't have much of a say in that did you?

Joel: Well I mean the thing is this first tour, it's not like the big be all to end all tour. I think some people might of taken it a bit too far with thinking that but I was on the phone to management maybe 2 weeks ago when all this stuff started happening and said, 'Look we gotta get to Perth, we gotta get a plan, we need to let them know.' And he's like, 'We can't lock in anything yet because we got all these other things to do in Europe and stuff like that but let's get it together and we'll get a plan to Perth'. Because they're kicking and screaming over there so we want to get over there and do it. Logistically it's all doable, it's just it costs a shit ton to get it over there! But we're gonna do it, just not on this east coast run. This east coast run, we'll do that and then we'll go back away and we will come back to Perth. It's just trying to fit everybody in, we cancelled shows overseas to do the Aussie one as it is, and New Zealand so we do feel for Perth and we fucking love Perth and we're gonna go there. I don't know when it will be but we're not gonna leave them hanging, we've done it too many times now! Let them know!

Andrew: [laughs] Yeah definitely! Well you have a few albums under your belt now, picking out a setlist is probably getting a little more difficult these days I guess?

Joel: It is because you want to play what people want to hear and you want to play what you want to play as well so at the end of the day, the way to pick it is just to go, 'Does the fucking song rock? Is it rocking when we're all playing it?' We're all feeling it and generally that's what it is, I mean on this tour the set's been changing a little bit as we've been going because we got better songs now so we've been ditching songs out already. It's tough, we thought about doing a little bit of a rotating setlist thing where a few songs will switch out every night and we'll play some other ones in their place. How's this for a funny thing, we don't actually have the record yet [laughs]. We were on the bus and we were like, 'Shit we need to sort out our setlist when we go back to Europe and the UK and we start playing a full set when the album comes out.' And we were like, 'Well we can get it off Pirate Bay', and we were like, 'Is this what we're doing?' Because everyone has laptops, noone has a CD input in their laptops. So we're sitting there with the promo releases of the album because we got them given to us when we were on a promo trip and we were like, 'Well we can't put the CD in so this is an issue, so do we download it off fucking Pirate Bay and that's how we learn the songs again?' We recorded them months ago, we rehearsed all the old ones to go on tour so we were literally sitting down on Pirate Bay going, 'I think I'm going to have to download the record because I don't have it'.

Andrew: [laughs] Considering the state of the music industry, that's pretty ironic!

Joel: That's what it is! It's some kind of 20016 Spinal Tap!

Andrew: [laughs] A little bit yeah! I guess it's one of those things you learn along the way, how do you get around that kind of thing?

Joel: Well you remember what you did to a point but then you sort of go...I mean I still have all the lyrics on my computer, I've saved all them so I got that! But then it's like, how does the riff go again? Does anyone remember what we did? I don't know! We're going to have to get it, I've got mixes of the record on my laptop somewhere. I could go find them but they're just different from the album in a way, you kind of get to this point where you've been listening to all the mixes and then you stop listening to it and then mastering comes along and you're listening to that and then you basically put all of that aside and forget so that when the actual record comes out, you can sort of enjoy it again and go, 'I'm not listening to the mixes, I'm actually listening to it as a record again for the first time'. But then you sort of don't want to get mp3's off Pirate Bay to have that moment when it comes out, what do you fucking do, they're gonna expect us to play the songs the day it comes out! [laughs]

Andrew: It's an interesting one! Obviously these songs are going to sound great live, when you were recording them did you envision how they would play out live?

Joel: Yeah so basically when we were in pre-production down at the Wick in Brunswick, we were playing them all through, singing them and everything and there was a little bit of muscle memory there but basically rocked them out in the room and after were like, 'Oh fuck that felt good', or 'This needed changing or I think the crowd is really going to love this one.' When the band is making that energy and sound in a room together, that's when you can sort of go, 'I think the crowd is really going to love it. We're really loving it and it's really rocking'. And then when you are playing a song through, we'll go off on a jam in the middle of a song that's not what we would of recorded because it might turn into a 10 minute song so we're like, 'Fuck we should do that live'. So little things like that have already happened with them so then when we get them out live, all those little jam things will expand more and grow. We didn't really have that on the second and third record on any of the songs, every time we play them it's always start to finish. There's no real major jam moments except "Live It Up" has a bit but the first record, because it was the first record we ever toured - that's all the songs we had, the record was 40 minutes or something - so we had to actually extend songs live just to make them fit but we're having so much fun with them and the crowd participation moments where you're calling out to the crowd or smashing beers on your head or whatever the hell I'm doing up there. But we've already found that again with this new record so this is going to be rocking, I don't know if it's a working with Bob Marlette thing or what it was, same as the first record but yeah we really think they are going to go over well and we're already planning a setlist. It's just actually knowing the songs before we play them.

Andrew: Well we're looking forward to seeing you guys in Australia and hopefully at some point the Perth fans can catch you again. Thanks for your time today, really appreciate it!

Joel: Yeah no worries! Get the word out to Perth, tell them we're coming. We will be there at some point, we won't let them down. We've done it too many times and we fucking feel real bad about it so we're going to go over there at some point and we're going to make it up to them!


Saturday 7th January 2017 - Summernats CANBERRA
Friday 13th January - The Metro Theatre SYDNEY
Saturday 14th January - The Triffid BRISBANE
Friday 20th January 2017 - Trak MELBOURNE

Tickets and tour info HERE.

Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on September 22nd 2016