Interview | Kasabian – Tom and Serge – 2009

Exclusive interview with Tom and Serge : “It’s been a mad 4 years, so that’s probably why we made a so mad record.”

As the West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum promotion in Paris ended, we have met Tom Meighan and Serge Pizzorno at their hotel. A soft jazz background, and a hushed and relaxed atmosphere.

Kasabian’s Paradise – We know that you all have a precise role on stage. But how do you work in a studio ?

Tom - Hard like dogs.

Serge - Very hard yeah, we kept record.

Tom - Actually, we’re not lazy when it comes to studio, we’re really good, we don’t f*ck about, we get the job done, we do. We’re pro-critical, and well… I’m very professional, sorry Serge, and we’re very… I’ll ask him if the vocals are alright about 50 times. I make sure he’ll be okay. We want to be the best we can be.

Serge - We work really well as a partnership but Tom still goes out, a sort of bandit, goes out of the ship, goes to war, comes back with the gold.

Kasabian’s Paradise – There seems to be a kind of chemistry between all the members on stage, including Jay (Mehler, guitarist), who works with you since 2006. But his status in the band is still unclear, even for your fanbase. Is he a member of the band or not ?

Serge - No, no, he’s a session player, still. He played on a couple of songs in West Ryder.

So he just plays with you and then, does his own things…

Serge - Yeah, he does his own things. …the “Reverend” (he laughs)

Kasabian’s Paradise – You’ve spent four years on the road, how did that inspire you for the album ?

Serge - I couldn’t tell anything specific. A change in your life, without you really know it, so it must have some way, but I couldn’t pick a point in which it did. I think there’s always a part where you have to bear in mind these songs we played live, so maybe that part counted really for anything. It’s been a mad 4 years, so that’s probably why we made a so mad record.

Tom - It’s just… he’s just said it. *laugh*

Tom, do you write too, or put ideas ?

Tom - I do, yeah, I’ve got songs but they’ll be useful when I’m about 40, for a love album so, they’re not relevant for now, so… (he laughs)

Serge (laughs too) - Love album…

Kasabian’s Paradise – There was a big gap between Empire and West Ryder, you produced it on you own first, and then ask Dan The Automator to work on it. What are the differences between the first version and the final one ?

Serge - No great deal musically. I think Dan is more direct, he’s more to the point. I think that’s the main difference. He sort of cleared away…

Tom - He’s more punchy, isn’t he, Serge ? The vocals are really in your face, and kind of spaced everywhere.

Serge - He’s really confrontational and confident, and he gets the point, he’s really direct. It was great working with him, going to San Francisco…

…in his studio ?

Serge - Yeah, yeah, we recorded home in Leicester and some in SF. The great thing Dan did was that he brought out Tom’s voice. His performance is incredible. I think his calmness, the way he went about his business, really help. I think he’s really good.

Tom - He didn’t really put me on edge, on to record. I think the way we did was really nice and relaxed. That’s probably what I need for the future.

Serge - I think his general manners, one of which is, he just stay calm, really calm the way through, he didn’t have highs and lows, kind of pretty much stayed, I think that helps… sometimes, someone’s like “it’s amazing”, but he don’t say “it’s amazing” so you start gonna “why is that not amazing ?” because he never really says anything. And it kinda help…

Tom - Yeah, he gonna kept me leveling, kept me in tact…

(Serge - …he kinda help you out, didn’t he ?)

Kasabian’s Paradise – About the new album, one of the most original compositions is Ladies and Gentlemen. It sounds like a romantic ballad but the lyrics seem to have a hidden meaning. Is that so, and if yes, what is it ?

Serge - So, it’s about the last man standing in a bar and reflecting on your life in a sort of sit-in, maybe had a bit too much to drink and fuckin’ had a good time, had to go. It’s kind of a sort of…

Tom - It’s kind of a song rant, isn’t it ?

Serge - Yeah, it’s kind of like the idea of “not taking life too seriously and you know what, it was a fuckin’ nightmare last night, but it was great”. It’s about that.

Kasabian’s Paradise – You usually refer to 60′s and 70′s bands when it comes to influences for this album but on Happiness, we can also hear gospel singers. Is gospel a major influence for you ?

Serge (looks at Tom) - Yeah, definitely for you !

Tom - Yeah, definitely for me because I’ve grown up listening black music and all that… but, this song, Happiness, to me, is like Lou Reed as Serge sings it in that and it’s quite seriously dark but beautiful, like A Perfect Day and it’s not very underground, massively…

Serge - …it’s kind of a church soul, I kind of imagine it played in a church…

Tom - …yeah, it’s our Perfect Day, it’s the same stature.

Serge - Yeah, I get it, it’s just the beauty of voices and instruments, it’s very soulful and it gets you there.

I read that you wrote it really young, you were 20 or something ?

Serge - Yeah, really young, like, 20 or something… called it fuckin’ 8 years ago… and it was totally different then. It was just light, as part of yourself, I was drunk one night and just picked my guitar and it just came from nowhere and I thought “that’s pretty good actually” and I did a few various versions of it that weren’t great and then we found this kind of gospel sort of…

Tom - …simple…

Serge - …yeah like a pray… not pray but like you imagine it played in a church in Mississippi or somewhere… Tulsa, South Georgia…

(brief silence)

Tom - Like a big hug, like someone hugging you, holding you (Serge agrees), it’s pretty much that. A mother to a child, not be aware, a mom’ and a baby (Serge laughs a little bit looking at Tom, who is very serious indeed), it’s very warm. It’s really warm, it grabs you.

Kasabian’s Paradise – The single Fire will be available on June 1st with a still unknown b-side. Can you tell more about it ?

Serge - There’s gonna be a b-side called Road Kill Café. There’s gonna be a version of Runaway, an old Del Shannon song, an amazing song, recorded at Union Chapel, really cool, really great song. It’s quite different for us as well, but it’s got kind of real coolness too. Road Kill Café, which we just recorded, is almost like Cream, it could be on the White album

Tom - Yeah, it’s very Cream, and Serge is really sexy. It could have been on the album, but it easy fit in the middle of it. (Serge agrees)

Kasabian’s Paradise – Your b-sides are quite inventive and original. How do you work on them ? Do you try to make something different ?

Serge - Yeah, always. That stuff is definitely the opportunity to experiment, try different things out and I think it’s never done enough with b-sides. I think that’s the opportunity to go even more wild and insane, that’s where you go fuckin’ mental. You have the album, then you have… These are sort of pieces of crazy shit.


Kasabian’s Paradise – What does the sleeve of the new album look like and who did it ?

Serge - It’s fuckin amazing…

(he asks us if we have seen it, and says to us that he will us let have a look on it after the interview)

Tom - It’s very iconic.

Serge - W.I.Z. did it. He’s done the videos for Club Foot and Empire. And it’s fancy : we’re dressed like we’re going to the fancy dress ball at the West Ryder Asylum, so we’re getting ready to go to a fancy dress party.

Kasabian’s Paradise – Serge, you said in an interview about the outcoming of West Ryder : “Now it’s time to destroy the system from within“, you also regularly refer to hippie culture and musicians. Do the band have a specific interest in counterculture and what’s your idea of it ?

Serge - I think, for the mainstream, we are sort of from the counterculture cos’ we’re the only sort of band that sold records that have the balls to change…

Tom - That’s on that verge, you know…

Serge - …and be different. The third album, this is the point where you start taking serious and you write music for the radio and you become fucking…

Tom - …U2 or fuckin’ Coldplay, you become that bands and the thing is that we’ve never been a commercial successfull band, we’re still kinda underground about it. And we’re not Pretty Things or the Rolling Stones members, I see us more than The Who, I don’t think The Who have written songs for the radio. But anyway, we’ve got that crossover wich means… I don’t know what it is, we’ve got that thing with people, maybe it is the way we put people up on the songs and then drop them down again. I think it’s we get people a kind of foray high, and that’s why we love it, we bring them up, and they’re left exhausted after the show. I’ve known not many bands do that anymore, not the rushes we give in, it’s in the music as well. I think that’s why it works.

Serge - I think that’s what we are, where we come from.

Tom - We’re very underground.

Serge - Yeah, but all the bands that we’ve been in to, they’re all about 60′, all the best bands, the great bands had that about them as well, they also give you something to be fuckin’ wild.

Tom - We’re not an underground band, I mean, the way we come through our albums, the first album was underground…

Serge - …we approached it with that attitude…

Tom - Yeah, we approached it with that attitude, like I said, maybe had the flooded pay.

Serge - It makes us have the allowance…

Tom - Yeah, we have the allowance completely, completely the opposite of fuckin’ what’s out there. We approach the underground, you’re right, we’re always approaching the underground. We can’t help if people like, it’s cos’ it’s refreshing. The thing is with this album we wanted to make a 21st century modern record of what we sound like where we are, the music world from dub to rock’n’roll to hip hop, drum bass and I think it’s just a modern record man but references in it and iconic come from where we are in England now and then (Serge adds : definitely) and the music around is in the playschool thing, it’s not a playschool album, it’s just how it is, and I think we hit it right.

Kasabian’s Paradise – At the beginning of your career, you already have a strong fanbase called “The Movement”. They even helped you to promote the band. Is the Movement still relevant for you today ?

Serge - The name was given us, we took upon this name, but it was just fans, fans that loved us enough to help to get the word out, and it was great, it’s a fuckin’ great thing to have…

Tom - Wow, the Movement… fuck me it was… (Tom remembers with a big smile)

Serge - Yeah, it was really exciting, it was like a punk sort of attitude…

Tom - It was yeah, “there is a party over here tonight and the best bands are playing here”…

Serge - …and they took it upon themselves to get the message out, it was amazing and it’s still there…

It’s pretty rare to have a band that really considers their fans…

Serge - We’re not amazing, we’re not really an internet band, we not normally talk, but what we’re trying to do, in our way is, we play as many shows and we try to visit as many towns as we can, big and small, and we continue to try and make music that inspires and is different, that’s what we do, that’s how we got our message across, that’s cos’ we’re not that sort of people, we just do it by continue to make it exciting, to move it right on, that’s how we do it.

Kasabian’s Paradise – You’ve already done a few warm up shows before the UK Tour, you’re going to do one in Paris on May, the 25th, as the only warm up show in Europe. Was it your choice or the tour manager’s ?

Tom laughs a little.

Serge - I think the records been really well received in France. All the interviews we’ve been doing have been really positive and we had really good feedbacks…

Tom - …not like in Germany, it was a bit different… *laugh*

Serge - *laugh* …so it was a good place to start. Paris has always been really good to us.

Kasabian’s Paradise – Tom, who incarnates for you the perfect frontman of the last generation, and why ?

Tom - Zach de la Rocha was fucking good, from Rage Against the Machine, he was a firm little guy. I like Kurt Cobain, I love Liam Gallagher as well because he was iconic to us on stage, he is fantastic in that. Those three are the one we grown up with and they probably have an influence on me… I don’t know, cos’ I grew up with funk hip hop element and the soul element, so probably yeah, I’m three frontmen.

Serge (admires him) - It’s great.

Kasabian’s Paradise – You’re gonna start the UK tour for your new album next month, until mid-July, what will you do next ? Will you go straight to Europe or US ?

Serge - I think we’re scheduled to go to Japan and Australia, America then Europe I think in October, but it can all change. But at the moment it’s a fall big, huge tour in Europe in October, but that can all change. We’re looking for touring this record, I think it’s gonna be a fucking really good experience, with three albums to play, it’s gonna be wild.

Tom - We worked hard for this record, we put forward, we’ve made the record we’ve always wanted to make and it’s like Radiohead after the first album, they were always better, and this is our version of OK Computer, the best record we could make. I hope, I think it’s iconic and it’s a classic and I hope it’s a fuckin’ album and the beauty in itself as well, and I think it’s gonna freak people out more than anything, that kind of lad rock attitude, things gonna down on its arse now with us, pretty serious band. That’s the fame and that’s all I wanna put across. And just say on the website that every fan must be ready on their toes for this.

* The Reverend is visibly a nickname given to Jay, a private joke. In an interview given to the japanese edition of Times, Serge explaned : “Jay is a top man, he’s the American reverend, he’s insane. He’s a certified reverend, a religious man. It’s nice having a portable reverend on tour ’cause he can take confession and bless you.

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