The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

The boys from the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have a reputation for being mean, moody and difficult to deal with. Not for Parmida Zarinkama though; this Rebel’s just misunderstood.

On a Friday afternoon, after a month of pre–booking and tireless wranglings with label reps we finally get a call from Robert Turner, the bassist and sometime vocalist for the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Sounding tired and rather drained, Robert explained that the band were in Philadelphia, getting ready to play a show with friends and fellow L.A. kids The Warlocks. And that, in fact, he was more that happy to speak to us.

The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club exploded out of the ‘Frisco scene two years ago, wowing everyone (especially the Brits, who always seem to catch on first) and instantly gaining a reputation befitting of a band named after a motorcycle gang from The Wild Bunch. But, despite the media (mis)conceptions, they’re not the allusive rockstar assholes people want them to be. Here is a band that makes The Strokes look like lazy hipster pussies and provides us with another golden idol to worship. Here is a band that is talented enough to deserve it.

DiSCORDER: So I hear you guys are already planning the next album? I heard you’ve already laid down some tracks and put them aside from the Take Them On, On Your Own sessions.
Robert Turner: It’s hard to think about it like that, but we’ve got a really good idea of what we wanna do on the next one. This album [Take Them On, On Your Own] was really free, there’s no concept, no interference. It was all just the sound the band makes put onto a record. That’s what I like about this album. But the next one is the exact opposite: It’s going through something completely different that’s not natural to the three of us. It’s like a side of you that there that you need to recognize, you know? It’ll be a different process, a totally different process. I’ll have to change the recording and the sound and everything.

With your next record, it’s supposed to have a more “rootsy, Americana” sound–is that where you’re going?
That’s where our heads are at right now. That’s where it feels right to go. We have a lot of songs that are ready for that kind of songwriting style and no one’s ever heard it. It’s too good to waste. It’s kind of fun for us to do something different but at the same time we don’t wanna fuckin’ like… [says something indeterminate, possibly about Weezer or weasels].

I read an interview in NME talking about the recording of Take Them On, On Your Own, that it was recorded in a really shanty London studio that doubled as a club on weekends….
[Laughs]

Is it going to be the same thing with the next album? Is the record company pushing you guys to get respectable producers and a nice studio?
We had all the doors open to us; we could have done whatever we wanted. We could have hired a million dollar producer in a billion dollar studio but we didn’t think that would add anything worthwhile, you know? Except money and money never sounds good [pauses, then laughs]. It might feel good, it might look good, but it doesn’t sound good. There’s no need for that, it’s not really a part of the art we’re making. It’s there as far as the record company will supply it but we’d rather save a bit making it and see a couple of fuckin’ dollars back from it someday [laughs]. You know, rather than wasting a million and being in debt forever.

You guys are sometimes lumped in with this supposed “new rock revolution.” How do you feel about that?
[Sighs] Um, we get some magazines that do and some that don’t know what to make of us. I don’t really know what to make of us most of the time, ‘cause we’ve really made our own sound.

I don’t think you guys sound anything like The White Stripes or The Strokes, but a lot of magazines mention you guys in the same breath.
Yeah, well, I can understand the spirit there, the spirit of those bands. We all want things to go back to basics again and remember why rock and roll was made in the first place…stick with some limitation in the sound and the break down of the song. And not lose the plot, you know?

How do you feel about the comparisons to The Jesus and Mary Chain and Primal Scream?
[Pauses, then laughs] Primal Scream? I dunno…they’re good company, but at the same time, um, it’s really about the music, about the way we look, you know?

The media really play on your image, give you guys that dark, rebellious but sexy kind of air. I was actually kind of nervous before the interview because of your bad reputation. But you seem nice!
[Laughs] Yeah, seem nice, so far.

So far.
[Laughs]

With your new CD and the climate of recent world events people seem to be trying to give your songs a more political reading. How do you feel about that? Are you guys more political now?
Um…I dunno. Everything is becoming more direct with us, with what we’re singing about. There’s one song on the record that’s about political stuff, and it’s fair to comment on it. It’s on people’s minds, so it’s going to get out there, but that’s not what the whole band’s about.

Speaking of political stuff: Drummer Nick Jago’s work visa. I read that he was born in Iran (so was I, by the way). With inmigration and travel being regulated so striclty right now, I woindered whether the trouble he was having related to that?
He was born there…that’s where he popped out [laughs]. But he’s an English citizen and his father was just making maps or something for the British government. That was never the hard thing. I think it’s just hard for everyone right now, you can have an almost perfect record and still everyone’s way too paranoid about letting people come and go as they please.

Generally, I like to end with a stupid question, so here it is: Jack White collects human skulls, what do you collect?
Um…airplane ticket receipts.

Oooh, that’s a good one.
I collect them from everywhere I go. I’m really obsessive about keeping the tickets from the destination and where I left from. I got to keep them all or I’ll never remember where I’ve been. Peter collects postcards; he has his whole wall covered in, like, old postcards he’s collected from all around the world. It’s really cool, actually, that’s a great hobby to have, ‘cause in the end you can put them all on your wall and it makes amazing wall paper.

Nice. I collect concert tickets.
Oh yeah, I used to do that. But then, like, we got in a band and everything.

Have to you lost track of all those shows?
[In a kind of nostalgic voice] No, you don’t have to…it’s really sad, it’s really rock star, you know, it’s like, you don’t have to pay for tickets anymore, you get let in, with your name on a guest list.

I think that’d be excellent!
No, I never have to pay to get in, so there’s never a record…just in and out the door…which is good cause you save money, or whatever… I don’t know what Nick fuckin’ collects.

Where is Nick right now, is he with you guys?
Yeah, he’s roaming the streets right now [laughs]…I think he’s trying to find himself [laughs again]. He keeps losing himself.

Identity crisis?
[Laughs] It’s no crisis, if it was constant it’d be a crisis…maybe it’s constant, I dunno. He loses everything, he loses his clothes, his wallet every week, glasses, backpack, everything. Once he lost his suitcase, that was crazy. I suppose he would collect things if he could keep them. •