Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Tom Chaplin

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: the Keane frontman and solo artist takes the ultimate test

Which New Zealand comedian has a 2020 TV special containing a routine where she mimes masturbating to Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’?

“Holy shit! I heard an interview with Adam Buxton and Rose Matafeo – she’s the only female Kiwi comedian that springs to mind.”

CORRECT. Her acclaimed comedy special ‘Horndog’ features a section about how ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ is a difficult song to wank to…

“[Laughs] I can imagine that! A mate once told me he used to have sex to my music and I’ve never been able to look at him in the same way! ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ keeps on taking on new lives. It’s become a TikTok meme to use a slightly sped-up version, particularly in Asia.”

Name three celebrities the judges mistook you for when you appeared on season three of The Masked Singer as Poodle?

“Mo Gilligan thought I was Snoop Dogg which was ridiculous because of my skinny legs! Rylan Clark and Mika, which was at least reassuring that they thought I was a musician! Some of the guesses were wild, like thinking I was Grayson Perry and Paul O’Grady.”

CORRECT. You performed ‘Rocket Man’ on the show. Any feedback from Elton John?

“Not that I’m aware of! I was summoned to Elton’s dressing room years ago, when Keane supported U2 on a world tour in 2005. He was lovely – and smelled very nice! [Laughs] He was a hero of mine growing up. He has a habit of reaching out once people end up in rehab, which is what he later did for me. He was doing a residency in Las Vegas and invited me to his dressing room which was floor-to-ceiling with Simpsons toys. He gave me his phone number, saying to call him any time I got into trouble. I never did, but it was lovely that he extended the hand of friendship at that point in my life.”

In 2004, NME printed a comic strip depicting Keane’s supposed “feud” with which other band?

“I know this because I got NME to send me the original drawing of it which I have framed. It’s The Darkness.”

CORRECT. After you suggested The Darkness were a novelty band, their drummer Frankie Poullian responded: ‘What are those public schooboys like? We used to call namby-pambys like that bedwetters – but now they’ve taken it to a whole new league. Keane are now more sheet-soilers than bedwetters and play music to suck your thumb to.” Ah, the noughties!

“I was so green in those days. The Sun interviewed me and I didn’t realise how things you say could get twisted. I learned a lesson from that! I loved that cartoon because it summed up the silliness of the whole thing. That was probably one of the nicest things NME ever wrote about Keane back in the day! [Laughs]”

Ever run into anyone else who slagged Keane off?

Kasabian was the big one. When I went to rehab, they started mouthing off saying: ‘If you cut his arm open, would he bleed rock and roll?’ and claimed I was addicted to port and cheese, which became a big thing. People kept asking about my addiction to port and cheese and I thought: ‘Really?!’ Back then, when people went to rehab it was seen as a joke, but now people realise that addiction is a form of mental illness and not to be laughed at. But I remember watching Kasabian at Coachella then going backstage afterwards to say hello. When they saw me, they looked sheepish and poured cold water on the whole thing, saying ‘We were only joking…’ They were apologetic and felt guilty, and being the bigger person in that situation made me feel better about it.”


Annie Lennox covered Keane’s ‘Closer Now’ in 2010. What did she retitle it?

“That’s a song I wrote! Might she have called it ‘Pattern of My Life’ after a lyric from the song? For some reason, that sticks in my memory!”


“Oh good! I’m disappointed that I’m doing so well. I’m going to start giving you deliberately incorrect answers! It was nice she covered that. I might try resurrecting that song at some point, if I can find the right place for it.”

Who’s been the most unexpected person who’s turned out to be a Keane fan?

“A lot of authors – like Trainspotting’s Irvine Welsh and American Psycho’s Bret Easton-Ellis – are champions of Keane. At times, Tim [Rice-Oxley]’s lyrics weren’t given the respect they deserved, and were dismissed as being vague and Coldplay-y. But they had more heft, and that’s one of the reasons I like them being fans. Someone sent us a picture of Taylor Swift with a load of Keane lyrics [from the song ‘Is it Any Wonder?’] written on her arm, and it was sweet we had some impact on her.”

Which two acts did Keane perform between at Live 8 in 2005?

“Was one of them Duran Duran? No? Now you’re getting into the time and space where my brain was beginning to lose bits of memory!”

WRONG. You were sandwiched between Ms. Dynamite and Travis.

“I’d never have got that in a million years! Part of the reason why I can’t remember anything is because the night before Live 8, I was up all night, so I got there feeling pretty woolly which made it even sillier walking around the biggest A-list backstage I’d ever seen. Paul McCartney was at the side of the stage watching us play. He was with [second wife] Heather Mills then, and I think they’d fallen in love to our ‘Hopes and Fears’ album, so they were both singing along.”

In 2010, the Conservative Party used which Keane song at their manifesto launch?

“I think they might have used ‘Everybody’s Changing’?”


“Because of the way we were perceived as a bunch of posh boys and all that nonsense, obviously people kept asking whether we’d given our approval for that song being used. Of course we hadn’t! Also, what message were they trying to get across with that song? When Tony Blair used D:Ream’s ‘Things Can Only Get Better’, that made sense. But ‘Everybody’s Changing’ is a song about feeling like you’re struggling when everybody else around you is moving on with their lives, so how does that translate into their manifesto? Anyway, the association is not a good one, let’s be honest!”

In 2010, ‘Hopes and Fears’ was among the records nominated for the BRIT Award for Best Album of [the previous] 30 Years. Who beat you?

“God, that album did mean a lot to people. Amazing. I’d forgotten that. It’s gotta be an Oasis album, surely? ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory’?”


“YES!! Noel Gallagher once described Keane by saying ‘the three biggest twats in any band are the singer, the keyboardist and the drummer. I don’t need to say anything else’, which was funny. I remember seeing Liam [Gallagher] backstage at the BBC and he went: ‘[imitates Liam] ‘Are you still doing the crack man?’. I responded: ‘No, I’m all right these days’. He advised: ‘That’s good man! Steer clear of the crack!’. [Laughs] Not to pick sides because that’s daft, but I was always more of a Blur fan. Although I don’t think Damon Albarn was ever particularly positive about Keane either, I remember meeting him and he was really nice and acknowledged me and Tim, and that meant a lot because I really admire him as an artist.”


Who hosted the episode of Saturday Night Live Keane performed on in 2005?

“How could I forget that?! Paris Hilton.”


“The show was a bizarre experience. I remember her little dog, which was treated in higher regard than us! I think Paris Hilton felt just as out of her depth hosting the show as we did appearing on it. When I was singing ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ live, I remember panicking: ‘How the fuck does this song go?’. Words were coming out of my mouth and I was just hoping they were correct. I’ve never watched it back, so I’ve no idea if was just singing gibberish, but you can probably see the utter terror in my eyes!”

Paris Hilton once claimed in an interview that Keane had been an inspiration on her own music and she planned to collaborate with you…

“I’m not sure about that. Maybe our management steered us away from that as an idea. These days, we’d probably go for it! [Laughs]”

Talking of team-ups, it was also reported Keane had worked with Kanye West

“Yeah. We’ve hung with Kanye quite a bit. He was a really big fan and when he did ‘808s & Heartbreak’, he invited us into the studio before he released it and played us some tracks. After that, Tim stuck around at night and they made some music, which was unfinished, so we never put it out. But there is something – something about cigars that are Cuban. That’s all I can remember! It’s good and maybe it will see the light of day one day.”

“Kanye was intense and totally absorbed in the creative process. He’s completely committed and has such self-belief which is why he’s able to be so dynamic and artistic, so it was lovely to feed off that for a short period of time. We had a habit of getting in our own way in those days and maybe if we’d been more confident in ourselves, we would have followed it up more.”

Complete the following of your lyrics: ‘I’ve earned it and blown it’…?

“That’s off my new solo record ‘Midpoint’. ‘Big into small/I’ve seen it all/Rise and Fall’.

CORRECT. From the track ‘Rise and Fall’. Tell us about the album…

“Ultimately it is a record about needing to find yourself at the point of midlife, because suddenly things change and you have to come to terms with no longer being the younger generation anymore and have to mourn the loss of that, and also after building your life, you’re at a crossroads where you think: I’ve got enough time to start again or am I happy with what I’ve got? Adjusting to that is tricky and can lead to self-destructive behaviour, so I’ve been trying to overcome those thoughts and questions in the last few years and navigate a way through. That’s what the record is about. Generally, artists shy away from talking about midlife or getting older because it’s not cool and it’s a curse of the industry that you’ve got to stay young, so meeting it head-on felt important.”

What seven questions do you ask in the spoken-word section of Keane’s ‘Spiralling’?

“We’ve been out playing live over the summer, so I should be able to remember this! ‘Did you wanna be a winner?/Did you wanna be an icon?/ Did you wanna be famous?/Did you wanna be the president?/Did you wanna have a family?/Did you wanna be in love?’ Shit, what’s the other one?

WRONG. You missed: ‘Did you wanna start a war?’.

“[Laughs] That’s because I’m a pacifist!”

You once described ‘Spiralling’’s attendant album ‘Perfect Symmetry’ as “self-indulgent”. Do you still feel that way?

“What I meant was the way it’s self-produced and mixed. It’s got some of my favourite Keane songs on it, but we were overreaching in terms of the presentation, and at the point as band, egos can run away with you and you get a bit lost in what you’re doing. It was frustration that it could have been a really great record but didn’t quite do quite what it was capable of in my opinion.”

The verdict: 8/10

“Nice! I think it would have been embarrassing to have remembered too much but also a bit depressing to have remembered nothing.”

-Tom Chaplin’s latest solo album ‘Midpoint‘ is available now. He tours the UK throughout October