With the world on pause in 2020, Dave Keuning, guitarist and founding member of The Killers, decided to play. Embracing the full wealth of his creativity, and inspired by the social and political chaos defining the past few years, he got to work in his home studio, having fun with “guitar solos and nine-minute long songs” and welcoming the freedom of working alone. What resulted was new album ‘A Mild Case of Everything’, a collection of 16-tracks with a sound ranging from guitar rock to synth-pop, and lyrics about political uncertainty and the necessity of unity.
Much like his solo debut, 2019’s ‘Prismism’, Keuning sings and plays nearly all of the instruments on the album, but this time with more confidence in his creativity (how else could the nine-minute epic ‘Don’t Poke The Bear’ have come to fruition?). Now, with his latest record out, and two new projects with The Killers underway, he’s ready to get out of the studio and back on the stage.
NME caught up with Keuning from his intergalactically-lit basement in San Diego, California, for the latest edition of our In Conversation series, to discuss the inspiration behind his latest album, learn the real reasons he took a break from The Killers, and find out what he’s working on next. Here’s what we learned.
He was determined to release a nine-minute song, whether anyone liked it or not
Keuning shares that he wrote the sprawling power-pop track ‘Don’t Poke the Bear’ in the middle of the night, working on it until early the next morning. “I just kept adding parts to it. It was one of those nights where I had a lot of ideas going and I just wanted to make this epic song and I set out to do that,” he says.
“There are long songs that are boring. I hope this isn’t one of them. I’m really happy with the lyrics and the feedback so far has been good. I was going to put it on the record no matter if people liked it or not because I just had so much fun writing it and playing it.”
Last year reminded him of the ‘60s, when there was so much to sing about
When it came time to write the album’s lyrics, Keuning couldn’t help writing about what was going on in the world, explaining: “I’m not good at making up stories.”
Much of the record was inspired by his reaction to current events, with Keuning sharing: “There were so many things I couldn’t believe were happening and I still don’t understand a lot of it. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to coexist with each other or…just to have some common sense or try to treat each other like you would want to be treated.”
He adds that last year “kind of felt like in the sixties” because there was so much to sing about. He also touched on what messages he thinks listeners will receive from the album while discussing the track ‘Peace and Love’. “It’s very simple. There’s hardly any words to it. I just picked up a guitar and those chords came out,” he says about the song. “Because I just don’t understand why it’s so hard to not take your knee off someone’s neck when they’re dying. Why is that hard?”
People misunderstand the reasons for his hiatus from The Killers
Keuning took an indefinite hiatus from touring and recording with The Killers in 2017, and since then people have speculated and often misinterpreted the reasons for the break. “I guess they don’t understand anything until you’re in the person’s shoes,” Keuning says regarding reactions to him taking a break from band.
In reality, a “very crazy background story of more drama than I would wish on anybody, basically baby mama drama and on and on” was partially to blame for his hiatus. With Keuning adding that the gruelling schedule, not the band itself, was what he wanted space from. “I needed to break for my own sanity that had not really anything to do with the band.”
With their seventh album complete, The Killers’ eighth is off to “a good start”
After his hiatus, Keuning is now back and contributing to The Killers’ albums. “I was asked to record on the seventh record. I helped with that one, and then we’re already working on the eighth one together,” he reveals.
Although the seventh record is a concept album, Keuning says it “still sounds like The Killers”. “A lot of these songs were ready to be recorded, I would come in and play guitar. I did actually come in with a few song ideas that we worked on together and then made the record, so that was fun. It’s different.”
Although there’s no official release date for the seventh album, apparently the eighth album is well underway. “I’m just happy to be back in any capacity on the seventh record and now that that’s done, I’m just excited to write and see where the eighth one goes. I don’t think we know what it’ll sound like,” he shares. “It’s too early, but we’re writing ideas for it and we’ve got quite a few already, so we have a good start.”
He’s ready to officially go on tour again, solo and with The Killers
Keuning shares that he plans to go back on the road with The Killers while also touring solo shows. “I’m learning the new songs because I’m going to play them live. I’m happy to play them live,” he adds when asked about ‘Imploding The Mirage’ – the only Killers album he wasn’t involved in.
“I’ve had a good break thanks to COVID, so I’m excited about playing some shows, playing the old music that I love and playing new music. I’m always going to find time for my solo thing when it allows – I’m going to play shows probably later this year!”
Dave Keuning’s ‘A Mild Case of Everything’ is out now