A can of beer has no idea of its fate when it's placed
on stage with Australian rockers Airbourne. Approximately
10 minutes into their set and the alcoholic beverage is beaten against
lead singer Joel O'Keeffe's head, showering the already rank-smelling
audience with hoppy goodness. This is actually a normal scene for
an Airbourne show. And so for their set on the Uproar Tour with
the likes of Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold and Stone
Sour, the 'gents were "themselves". Taking a genre
that's characteristically of these lands and beating it against
the head of society is what they're good at. So naturally I was
interested in exactly what was in this [must be] thick head. A few
hours prior to the spectacle I sat down with the legend himself,
Joel, and guitarist David Roads for an interview
Hybrid Magazine: You're kicking the crap out
of a genre that is definitively American, yet you hail from Australia.
Pitfalls? Advantages? Criticism?
Joel: I think touring over here, I'm not sure
if it's an advantage or disadvantage, but it's a lot of fun. There
are not a lot of Australian bands on the road over here, so it's
a unique thing. I guess. If we come to your town we may drink all
your beer. But it's a good thing I guess, we don't find any criticisms
over it. We are though, still learning what side of the road to
David: Well that AC/DC sound, that just
the nature of our sound. But we're actually a mixture of a lot of
bands like Guns 'N Roses and Motorhead.
HM: Why Rock?
David: Just who we are.
Joel: We love playing rock and roll. It's like
if someone likes drinking PBR, they're gonna keep drinking PBR;
they're not going to go get a Heineken. We've stayed with the same
things that we've loved since we were kids. When I was a kid I heard
"Kill 'Em All" by Metallica and I heard "The
Razor's Edge" by AC/DC and the internet had just come in. So
literally the only way to find out about bands was to listen to
the music channels and to just get the magazines.
HM: So what is the Australian music scene like?
Joel: It's pretty diverse.
David: It was a big scene back in the '70s
and '80s. But a lot of venues have shut down. We're a big country
with a small population, so the music pocket's not massive there.
Which is why we're so busy in this part of the world.
HM: Where is it more fun to play? US or
David: Everywhere's got its different qualities.
Joel: It depends on the night.
David: Big festivals like this are good, with
all the bands. It's like one big traveling circus with a party every
HM: Tell us about the recent album. (It's your
sophomore, so essentially you could still be figuring out your sound)
Joel: Oh yeah, it's definitely our best foot
forward. If I was going to the grave I'd want to go with that one.
We did whole bunch of extra recording for it in Australia, so the
whole length of it is 7 or 8 tracks. Sonically a lot of people think
this one sounds better. We really learned a lot recording "Running
Wild" and what we learned we applied to this one. We sort of
went to the Nth degree with the way we recorded. We were recording
24 hours straight. Producer slept on the couch. The power actually
blew out at one point.
HM: Joel, I've heard you once climbed up the
scaffolding of a stage and played your song. What the most insane
thing you've done?
Joel: We did this show at the Download Festival.
I climbed up to this underhang-overhand thing and then got onto
the top bit. And it was like raining and storming and stuff. The
safety people had a bit of a cry and shut the P.A. off. But then
our manager was there and he managed to convince them that they
needed to turn it back on. He was like "you're going to have
a riot". The crowd was shouting "Airbourne, Airbourne"
and the crowd barrier was rocking back and forth. After all this
craziness he was finally like "just go back out there!"
and they turned it back on. So we ran out there and said something
like "we play rock and roll for hard working people and you
are hard working people, so we're gonna keep playing!". Then
we finished the song and finished the set.
HM: Your songs have been featured in so many
video games, are they blessings or something in the future you'd
like to get away from? (24 total)
Joel: It's definitely a great thing. If you
look at the way of time and that sort of trend of music out there,
that is the new format of getting music out there. The budget for
video games is more than movies now a days. The video game industry
is moving ahead, because you have to buy the game, you can't just
download off of torrents. But you can do that with any CD and any
movie, which is why those two industries are suffering. Video games
are forging onwards and upwards.
HM: If someone has never been to an Airbourne
performance/show, what should they be prepared for?
David: It's definitely one thing I would recommend
for someone to discover us is to see the show. It's what we're all
about, that and making a good album. We get up there and give 110%.
Joel: We treat every show like it's our last.
Which is something we always done. We like to lay it on the line.
At one point I mentioned to Joel that I expected to
see some scaffolding being climbed upon, to which a response was
muttered lowly (and almost depressingly), "they didn't give
me any". Well as any good musician knows, you make the best
of what's given to you and so in the third song, with the help of
a speaker and a truck, Joel managed to propel himself not just up
the side of the stage, but on top of it. With Joel singing from
above, David and Justin Street (bassist) proceed to head
bang (well, swirl, really) in synchronized motions. The entire set
was extremely fun. Fun to shoot, fun to watch and obviously fun
for the band. Their music is, what most are calling, a fix for AC/DC
fans that were born after Bon Scott and thus amidst their
slight decline, while Airbourne's music is riddled with huge and
defining riffs, accompanied by power chords that were just that,
The question was were they right for this tour? Honestly,
not so much. Most of the acts that day commanded performances with
their gut wrenching, extremely raspy, screams and "hey look
at me, I can play really fast" guitar tricks. While Airbourne
was a band that has the talent of (obvious) rock legends of the
past and present. The one thing going for them at this tour was
the outdoors. Their music needs room to run around with arms flailing
above their heads and an outdoor venue is perfect for that. In the
end my face was officially rocked off.
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