Airbourne: Welcome To Hell
“I’m not too sure about that!” exclaimed Airbourne drummer Ryan O’Keeffe when BLUNT labels his band as big an Australian export as Vegemite.
“It’s been great but. It’s 10 years ago now that I was trying to sneak in up the road to the Bourbon Bar and Grill while recording Runnin’ Wild just down the road. There’s been a lot of ups and downs, a lot of big tours, and a lot of meeting our idols. It’s been fun.”
At the time of our conversation, O’Keeffe is sitting on the famous Sunset Strip in L.A, downing a cold beer and preparing for the release of Airbourne’s fourth studio album, Breakin’ Outta Hell. While maybe not being as big an export as Vegemite, Airbourne have done more for rock and roll music in this country in ten years than many bands do in a lifetime, albeit from a vantage point more often away from our shores.They are spending increasingly less time in Australia than the rest of the world, and O’Keeffe admits this is one of the drawbacks of being in a touring rock band.
“This is what we love doing,” he stressed. “We’re pretty fortunate to be able to have this career. We’ll never say no to a tour – this is what we signed up for. Being in a band does come with sacrifices but that’s the whole point. You sign up to do this for the rest of your life.”
As for their latest release, O’Keeffe feels that although fans of the band know what they are in for with each album, this one already has that feel of something special.
“It’s more a rock and roll model of Airbourne,” he offered. “I guess this time around… in the past when we’ve done like a jack and coke, we consider this one a double jack and coke [laughs]. It’s got a bit more personality in it. It’s got songs like ‘When I Drink I Go Crazy’ which is written about a night out. There’s a song on there called ‘It’s All For Rock ‘n’ Roll’ which is written about Lemmy, so it’s a bit rawer sounding but we’re really happy with it.”
“Certainly, when we went in to the album, we wanted to try and top the last one, Black Dog Barking. That one went really well and it was a bit daunting to come into this project having that to top. We just knuckled down with Bob Marlette, who we worked with on Runnin’ Wild and it was actually the first record that we did in Australia. All of the other three were done in the U.S.”
“I think once you have a foothold in the industry, you keep doing it for love.”
While conceding that those albums were recorded overseas in an effort to maximize their sound and quality, O’Keeffe admits that finally recording in their home country did hold a bit of sentiment within the band.
“I guess actually recording this one in Australia was pretty special,” he admitted. “Flying out Bob, who we hadn’t worked with in ten years, was also special and we also got back Mike Fraser, who actually engineered our second album, and to have him in the studio working alongside Bob was extra special so the whole process was a lot of fun.”
One thing that Airbourne have staked their reputation on since their inception is their live performances. They are met wtih anticipation and respect from both their fans and their peers alike, and O’Keeffe says that putting on a memorable live spectacle is of pivotal importance.
“It’s absolutely everything,” he enthused of their concerts. “Our manager keeps telling us we spend too much money on the show but that’s what we do. It’s what we pride ourselves on and we are proud of putting on good shows so we’re always investing pretty much everything back into the shows as the band grows.”
Another thing which has followed the band since they burst onto the scene in 2003 is comparisons to Australia’s other biggest export, AC/DC, but rather than be offended or tiring of the constant references, Ryan says the band still hold the remarks in high esteem.
“It never gets to us,” he shrugged, “probably because Joel [O’Keeffe, vocalist/guitarist] loves them. He’s like, ‘I don’t care. I’m the world’s biggest AC/DC fan and I know every lyric’ [laughs]. The fact that we’re linked with the greatest rock and roll band on the planet -we still pinch ourselves to hear that. Bands like The Poor were a big influence too, as was Rose Tattoo and Billy Thorpe and The Angels. There’s just so much good Aussie rock out there.”
Whereas many rock and roll bands have a limited and variable shelf life, Airbourne seem to be growing stronger with each album, a fact not lost on O’Keeffe.
“It comes down to passion and devotion,” he said. “I think once you have a foothold in the industry, you keep doing it for love. To be true to the band, you have to just continue doing it, and hope people catch onto that and pass it on. Rock and roll is basically about good times. Whether it be sex or drinking or thinking about how loud you want it; it’s just about having a good time.”
Saturday January 7th – Summernats, Canberra
Friday January 13th – The Metro Theatre, Sydney
Saturday January 14th – The Triffid, Brisbane
Friday January 20th – Trak, Melbourne