Britain, 2017: a nation divided by anxiety about the future. But not in one particular area of the Midlands, where four friends just want to have a good time. Kasabian’s upcoming ‘For Crying Out Loud’ is driven by a pure lust for life and it came easily to its creator, guitarist and songwriter Serge Pizzorno, who wrote it in just six weeks.
“I didn’t want to use any of this,” he says, gesturing at the synthesizers and samplers that line the walls of his vast home studio called The Sergery. “I fell in love with the guitar again, it’s all I wanted to use.” It’s a beautiful spring day, and the 36-year-old is lounging around his house in the countryside outside Leicester. A break-neck tour of intimate venues is looming, and then who knows? Things have a habit of getting out of hand for Kasabian.
Since their last album, 2014’s ‘48:13’, the band have experienced some huge highs. It was their fourth Number One, and led to the surreal rock rave that was their Glastonbury headline set that same year. Then, in spring 2016, Leicester City miraculously won the Premier League title and Kasabian were the ringleaders of a giant celebration in Victoria Park in their hometown. Serge also got married. “It was the best year of my life,” he says.
A week later, Serge’s bandmate Tom Meighan is bristling with energy as he bounces around a London hotel room. He’s wide-eyed, speaking at 100mph, only pausing to mute a fight on The Jeremy Kyle Show. “I like Jez, he’s alright.” You get the sense he hasn’t come down from the previous night’s performance on Later… With Jools Holland. “We played new one ‘Ill Ray (The King)’”, he says. “It feels so amazing to shout ‘Take all you f**kers and blow you away!’ It’s pure rock’n’roll anarchy.”
Tom, also 36, didn’t have it quite as good as Serge last year. He split with his girlfriend and mother of his child, leaving him “in a haze”. He needed the euphoric songs Serge had written for ‘For Crying Out Loud’ to bring him back from the brink. “This album probably saved my life,” he says.
Fast forward to April 18 at The O2 Forum Kentish Town, and the band play 17 of their most charged bangers – the only relent comes in the pause before the encore. As ‘Comeback Kid’ roars into the sweet release of ‘Eez-eh’, the glam-rock stomp of ‘Shoot The Runner’ and the already firm favourite of ‘You’re In Love With A Psycho’, the band and crowd become a tribe. No gimmicks, no machines – just one almighty human celebration. That’s what Kasabian are for.
Guitarist, songwriter, ringleader
Six albums into your career, do people still get Kasabian wrong?
“Nah – the ‘lad rock’ thing was always funny, especially after the first album. There wasn’t any Tangerine Dream or Silver Apples in there. You sort of learn to buzz off it and see the funny side of it. What is quite good is that you’re underestimated and that helps. It makes your surprising moves more powerful. If people really aren’t expecting you to have any depth, when you do something people are like, ‘Oh,
I didn’t know they were capable of that’.”
‘Put Your Life On It’ feels like that kind of song. A proper love song.
“I’m actually saying exactly how I feel about my wife on a song. You do feel exposed in a way, but it just feels good. I heard a John Lennon interview about him making [1980 double album] ‘Double Fantasy’ and going, ‘I’m going to say exactly how I feel’. It thought I’d give that a go. It’s just another way of writing ideas and making a song that I’ve not done before.”
Tom’s had a rough year, with his break-up. Was the feel-good nature of the album a gift to him?
“I don’t know how it would have been to be in the studio and make a really low, painful record. It would have been hard. I didn’t think, ‘Oh, what can I do to help’, it was just an escape for Tom to go, ‘This is my band and these tunes are exciting’.”
The opener, ‘Ill Ray (The King)’, feels like the manifesto for the record.
“It reminds me of if Daft Punk were in Nirvana. It’s got the power of a full-throttle rock band, but then it twists you into euphoria. You could be at a rave in a field in Coventry in 1992. It sums our band up perfectly.”
It also feels like a call to arms…
“It does, it does. It’s a pure call-out tune. It’s got the line ‘What’s your band called, mate?’ It came from my best pal and every time I played him a new song I’d just whisper in his ear, ‘What’s your band
called, mate?’ It always made us laugh so I just wanted to use that. It’s so ridiculously cocky, and it would make a great T-shirt as well.”
Rock music doesn’t really have much cockiness these days, does it?
“There’s something I love about hip-hop where they just call people out. That Kendrick Lamar verse in ‘Control’ where he just says ‘I’m coming for you’, calling them out name by name. It’s never really done in rock music, but we’ve done it so much. There’s something amazing about being on stage in front of people and saying the line, ‘What’s your band called mate?’ and ‘You smell of hotel soap’.”
Are you calling out guitar music at large?
“I’m calling out everyone. Not just bands, I’m calling out actors and anyone with a problem. ‘What’s your band called mate?’ You can see me laughing, mate – it’s all part of the entertainment.”
Singer, rabble rouser
You’ve already spoken about how you’ve had one of the worst years of your life. Did these songs bring you back from the brink?
“I said to Serge, ‘Why couldn’t we have made this record years ago?’ Everyone is in such a good space.”
So the music came when you needed it most?
“It feels like being reborn. I say it on every album but I think this is our best record, bar none. I think Serge is with me on that too. I just said to him, ‘Let’s write a f**king rock’n’roll album with big songs’.”
It must have meant a lot to have that kind of energy. Kasabian have always very much seemed like a gang.
“We are a gang. We’ve been together 20 years. That in itself is amazing. Me and Serge always wanted to be in a rock band. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, if this doesn’t work we’ll go find another career’. You get those bands that don’t give it their all, they’ll go to university and pursue something different. We were a gang and we’re still here 20 years later, sat in the Landmark Hotel in London talking to the NME about our sixth album.”
Do you feel like the survivors?
“There’s only us and the [Arctic] Monkeys left on that level. They’re great. Kaiser Chiefs too, probably. When we came out in 2004, you had Franz Ferdinand, Razorlight, Kings Of Leon, The Holloways, The Paddingtons, The Maccabees, Libertines had just finished. It was just a f**king good time. We were 22 and there was so much good music. Bands were back, there were loads of rock magazines, indie and rock’n’roll were cool. We survived it.”
So this album is basically a big ‘f**k you, we’re still here, let’s have it’ to the world?
“Basically mate, you’ve just taken the words out of my mouth – that’s what it is. It’s very emotional and autobiographical too. We normally don’t let people into our world. We normally don’t let people into that side of us. We normally sing about raptors that are going to eat you, or ‘John was a scientist, he was hooked on LSD’, or ‘Ooosh, tell me I want you’. We don’t talk about our feelings, but this one is all about us. It’s a window into our personal lives. The album is so human, whereas [2014 album] ‘48:13’ is a f**king cyborg record.”