After the departure of drummer Spencer Smith last year, Panic! At The Disco now consists of front/only-man Brendon Urie. Back this week with fifth album, ‘Death Of A Bachelor’ – which throws trap beats, confessional lyrical hedonism and Rat Pack-crooning into the slick emo-pop mix – he talks to NME about keeping the band’s flame burning and why he’s “coming for you motherfuckers.”
Lyrically, the album seems to be waving goodbye to a period in your life. What were the bachelor years like?
“I look at it from the time the band started to a couple of years ago. I felt like a new person in the past few years. I wanted to kill off the old me that I’d been presenting myself as and reinvent myself. That led to a certain rambunctiousness in the writing.”
There’s a theme of hard partying. On the B-52s sampling ‘Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time’, you boast of ‘champagne, cocaine, gasoline – and most things in between.’ What’s been your most excessive moment?
“I’m still in excess mode! It never died off. When I was younger, I thought once I hit 25 I’d slow down. Nope! Now I just know exactly how to party and how much I can drink before I throw up. It’s all autobiographical. Champagne, cocaine and gasoline…I’d get drunk, do a couple of bumps in the past and then I was setting shit on fire – whatever I could get my hands on that wasn’t a living thing.”
Sinatra is a big influence on the album. Will we see an album of jazz standards or An Evening With Brendon Urie?
“I would love to do that. I love crooning. I did a 20-minute set last year at New York’s Distrikt Hotel of Sinatra songs and a couple of Panic! numbers in a lounge style. Before I tried it again, I’d want to go in with a vocal coach and learn to sing properly in a jazz style. For this album, it was nice to be able to use people like Sinatra and Freddie Mercury – influences I’ve had for years – as a catalyst for something new.”
You’re the only remaining member of the band left. How did that feel in the studio?
“It was liberating to be honest. It was the first time I didn’t feel like I had to compromise ideas with bandmates. To be honest, I’ve spent most of the past seven years writing alone anyway, so this was a chance for me not only to write the stuff myself, but to record everything, because I love bouncing from instrument to instrument.”
Did you ever think of releasing this under your own name rather than the band’s?
“No. In the past, members would leave because they didn’t want to be associated with the name Panic! At The Disco but that was never a question for me. It’s always symbolised something way more exciting and bigger than me and to be able to be part of something like that is the closest I’ll ever get to spirituality, I think.”
You paid tribute to David Bowie at your recent Brixton gig with a chorus of ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’. How did you feel when he died?
“It was devastating. When my manager told me the news, I started crying. I couldn’t contain it. It really affected me, I felt so many different emotions – I was thinking about how much he meant to me, how inspired I was by everything he had done, the first time I saw him in Labyrinth when I was a kid – all these things culminated in a hurricane of emotion that hit me all at once. I used to study ‘Hunky Dory’ – and be mad that I hadn’t figured out anything that cool! Playing Brixton where we was from, we didn’t have anything planned, but I said I need to get this off my chest, let’s at least do 20 seconds of ‘Oh!You Pretty Things’ I was really choked up at that point.”
You recently said one of your fears at 18 was joining the 27 Club. Why?
“Everyone I had known to that point was straight-edge and then after a year, everybody was fucking raging. I mean, I was always drinking and smoking and experimenting with drugs but I never felt the need to go overboard to escape. I thought their influence would affect me. It was anxiety but yeah, I did have a fear of that and as I got closer to 27, I was like, ‘I get to decide whether I die – and I want to do this for as long as I can’.
Could you ever see yourself working with any past members of Panic! again?
“No. Honestly, been there, done that. (Laughs) I’ve been there, I’ve been doing it almost a decade. You know, Spencer and I are still friends and I don’t talk to any of the other past members but it’s not out of hate or animosity – because I’ve bumped into them a couple of times. But other than that, I’ve got a vision for where I want to be in the future and I want to try something new which is why I don’t want to take steps to recreate something I’ve already done before.”
You sang for Barack Obama. How do you feel about the prospect of Donald Trump occupying the White House?
I’m kind of all over the place with it. At the beginning, I was just like ‘Oh Jesus Christ’. He’s synonymous with winning all the time because he’s such a good businessman, but is a businessman what we want for President? Especially a racist one. But as I get older, I become this shitty conspiracy theorist, and now I’m like ‘who hired this guy to be as crazy as possible so that he seems like an insane possibility so that somebody else will win?’ Or the other option is he becomes President and then does something even crazier to get impeached which could be a possibility. He’s such a maniac and someone like that doesn’t give a fuck – he’s been a billionaire for four decades, he can’t relate to the majority of people in America. He freaks me out, man.”
The album is a contender to hit number one in the US this week….
“Any band who says they don’t want to be number one is a fucking liar. Lots of bands play the game of ‘whatever happens happens, we’re grateful to be here’, but I’m like: fuck everyone else. I’m trying to be number one. I’m doing the best I can and working the hardest I’ve ever worked to ensure I’ve got that number one spot. I’ve learned that from Dr Dre, like ‘Dude, I’m coming for you motherfuckers!’. I tell Pete Wentz [Fall Out Boy]: we’re friends but on a competition tip, I want to own it!”
You’ve written with Rivers Cuomo on ‘Victorious’. Is there anyone else you’d like to hook up with?
“Kendrick Lamar is at the top of the list. ‘To Pimp A Butterfly‘ is my favourite album of last year – I’m blown away by how diverse it is. There’s a free-form rap and it’s over a piece of serious acid fusion jazz music and that’s unreal. That’s the most hip-hop punk-rock shit! Halsey’s a really great artist – her voice is great and she has a really cool message behind her songs.”