Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Interview: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

By David A. Cobb

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club garnered a bunch of interest with their major label debut, BRMC in 2001, and their sound echoed the fuzzed-out tunes of Psychocandy-era The Jesus & Mary Chain and modern spacey Britrock. During the tour for their second effort, 2003's Take Them On, On Your Own, the band performed several new songs and stripped-down versions of their hits. It was quite a departure for the band, and one that showed a gentler, countrified side of the band.

A lot has changed for the band since then -- they lost their label, lost their drummer, regained their drummer, and gained a new label. On their third full-length, Howl, the band stunned fans by sticking to the sound they hinted at in their 2003 shows. Gone are the spacey rock songs and fuzzed-out jams. In their place are acoustic-based songs with harmonica and low-key drums -- BRMC's new songs are soulful, spiritual songs reminiscent of old blues and early country music.

BRMC's Peter Hayes answered a series of questions about the new album, MP3s, thoughts on the music industry, record labels and selling out, and the band's success.

Obvious questions first: What prompted the change in your sound on the new album, Howl?

What prompted it was, it was a style of music we'd been playing since the first album, and we feel like we're still introducing people to the band; different styles that we like to write in and play in.

Was this something you guys wanted to do from the beginning or do you feel it is a natural progression for your music? I have seen all of your shows in Houston and thought at the last show that the acoustic stuff you played would have made a nice album on its own.

It's a natural progression, it's natural to us.

Without venturing into any legal territory, what was the primary cause of your split with your label? I felt the band got decent promotion on the debut and Take Them On, On Your Own, but I also feel that two excellent albums more or less got largely ignored by the mainstream.

We felt like they really didn't want to be involved in our music. We felt like they started backing off. Well, from day one they were frustrated that we didn't want people to remix the songs for radio. We'd let 'em do it, we'd be really honest if we thought that it sounded a bit too radio friendly, and we'd say "No, please don't use it, we'd rather have our version," because we got into this to try to change radio a little bit, or at least open the door for more things to be heard. And they didn't like that, and there was a whole thing going on when the internet was kinda taking over, the fears of record companies, the new frontier for them was -- whaddya call it -- TV...and commercials. They wanted bands to be on as many commercials as they could to help them sell albums, and we didn't do that, we didn't want to do that, so they thought that was a bad business move. That's what it felt like. So I'm not sure, there were a lot of people there that liked us. And we're sad that we left. But they can only do what's put in front of them, and we weren't put in front of them, because of higher ups I guess. I dunno.

How satisfied are you with the success you've achieved thus far?

I think it's more important to do it respectfully. If success comes from that, great...fine, but I think it's more important to respect art and the music that you do. Plenty of people don't have a problem with lending their voice to commercials and things that I don't think care about art, and I'm just not one of those type of people. I think that that feeds into a system, and there needs to be a counterculture against it, there needs to be somebody that says "No, there's another way to do it." I just...when I look at it, and I see a band feeding into the system, I can't put my trust in that they're not speaking for me. We got into this because I wanna be spoken to through music and art. I want somebody to know how I feel and speak for me.

What's your take on the state of the music industry? Are you for or against the MP3 "revolution"?

I don't have too much of a problem with it. I never did. I never had a problem with albums being on the internet before the album's out. I guess people call it stealing music, and that...that all wreaked havoc on the record companies, but that's needed as far as I'm concerned. Same with musicians, same with the rock star thing...I don't have any respect for people collecting cars. I don't have respect for their music. Ya know, either you live it or you don't. If someone got into the record business to collect cars and houses, I don't have respect for it and I don't have a lot of care about it. That's just meaningless. It's really selfish...To me it's unbelievable, especially with things like what's going on in New Orleans right now with people losing their houses, then you turn on the TV and someone is bragging about their house and 14 cars. What the fuck is going on? It doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense to me.

And with MP3s and all that, it's all fine. If it takes money from people scrambling for money, I don't care about that. But it should be respected too, I think. As far as, if you're listening to it and you like it and you take it, it makes sense to me to give 50 cents, to give a buck. It's somebody's art as much as anything else. If you don't have it, so be it, get a ticket for a show if you like it. It comes back around I think.

The people that don't (pay) then, maybe they don't care about it. It's not hurting anybody. How about we make gas free? (laughs) Music is a simple one. How about everyone goes and attacks a gas station take that for free?

What is the one description that you hate to hear about your music?

If I bring it up then that's just bringing it up. I don't bring it up anymore, it's blatantly obvious, but that has nothing to do with our music. (When pressed further...) Crap. (Laughs) I disagree with someone saying we're crap music. I get more frustrated with the black leather pants and leather jacket image thing. I have one leather jacket and I just got it last year, and it has nothing to do with music. You talk about music and it's either a fashion show or it isn't. I don't really want to be a fashion show.

If you could have any band or artist cover one of your songs, what song would it be and what band?

I think Johnny Cash doing "Shuffle Your Feet" or "Devil's Waiting." I thought about giving him one of those two, but didn't get the opportunity to. But that'd be cool. Or maybe what the Beach Boys would do with "Red Eyes and Tears."

How has the new label helped you guys this far? Are they being more supportive?

Great. Yeah, the interesting thing is the guy who signed us to RCA was the main reason we signed to Virgin, and he went to RCA, and having known what we're like, still signed us. And helping us out with our music, that's what a record company is there for. They like the music, they help you out with it, just kinda keep it in that place. With him helping us out, and wanting to keep us over there, they're all really eager to prove that they're not going to do what another person did. And it's not about blame either. It's just a different way of doing it. And the blame could be thrown on us 100 percent because we didn't do a bunch of commercials. Didn't wanna do 'em. We'd be a big fuckin' band if we did that, really -- much, much bigger. I can go to sleep, though. I can go to sleep well at night knowing that I tried to do something a little differently, and there's still little things that bug the fuck out of me with this, but it's alright. I haven't fucking sold the ship for another car.

> BRMC website
> BRMC on MySpace

(A big thanks to Penny from Filter who conducted the interview on Swizzle-Stick's behalf and transcribed the whole conversation with Peter.)

1 Comments:

luise said...

i have total respect for everything said in this interview

6:04 AM

 

Post a Comment

<< Home