Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
"I tend to be a little more proud of something after knowing if it’s connected with somebody. "
Usually I would probably worry if I found myself alone with two darkly-clad men in a slightly sinister, cobble-stoned alley between old warehouses in Dublin. Between two dumpsters nonetheless. This is a particular case, however, for the two men in my company are Peter Hayes and Robert Been, and we’re behind The Academy, close to the Temple Bar Area, where BRMC will be playing their first show in Europe after a rather long pause tonight. Restavrant, their support on this leg of the tour, are still soundchecking, so this and Peter’s need for “fresh air” result in us retiring to said alley. It is a great night to be talking to them, as they both seem to be quite excited about the new songs they have brought along on this tour, and about how the audience will react to them with their long-awaited follow-up to Specter at the Feast only coming out in January.
First of all I’d like to ask why is there a tour this time without the new album being out yet? Is there any particular reason?
Peter: Sort of… One is maybe – just for the hell of it. And two was kind of maybe the aspect of giving the album a little bit more life, because you never know… We threw the word out there that we’d like to see if anyone’s interested in us.
Robert: That’s what I said to you the other night – ‘Are we maybe here too soon?’ (laughs) Because there’s a part of it that it’s not the usual way to put out music. But then again, why does it always have to be the same way? I don’t know. We’re a little bit nervous about what people might think of it.
Well, from a fan perspective it’s always a bit… not strange, but you might feel a bit uncomfortable if you can’t sing along yet. At least for me it’s always a bit tricky because you try to get as much of the new songs when you hear them for the first time.
Robert: Well, step out of your comfort zone! (grins)
So you got a new producer to work with you on the new album, right?
Peter: Yeah, we worked with a different guy [Nick Launay], we always work with different people.
Robert: It’s always a bit strange to work with someone else at first, it always feels like they’re not doing anything in the beginning and then later on you realize it’s the little things. Any little thing goes a long way. It’s a lot like having a conversation with us right now, if you feel a little awkward, like ‘When should l say something?´and ‘How much should I say?´ And even if you don’t think you said anything you probably said too much. (laughs)
Well, there’s this theory of how you can’t NOT communicate…
Robert: And, I mean, silence can be unnerving, because if somebody isn’t saying anything, it probably means that they are not happy with something, so it changes your spirit and the music, I guess.
Maybe it’s also just about getting accustomed to you, to get the vibes…?
Peter: It’s always the starting point to figure out if it’s going to click, and I don’t know… He was helpful in a few different ways, moral support being one of them. And the other things were mixing, ideas of how to do things.
Did he maybe help you with a major breakthrough? I can imagine you can easily get stuck in a creative process.
Peter: The breakthroughs tend to be more ‘Does a song make sense?’ Yeah, we get to a point where we rehearse and put them together and sometimes you ask yourself ‘Is this making sense to a listener?’ And then he comes in and he goes ‘Yeah, that makes sense’, and you’re like ‘Okay, cool’. And then he might go ‘Well, if you take out this part, it might make more sense’. And then you go ‘Hm, I don’t like that part out’. (laughs)
Like ‘Argh, this is the part I liked the most…’
Peter: Yeah, and it ends up being shit like that, so you argue about it and then maybe he’ll sneak it out at some point in time without you knowing it, during the mix… (Robert laughs.) See if you like it that way, you know? And then sometimes you catch it, sometimes you don’t.
Robert: And then in the end you don’t miss it like you thought you would. It’s a lot of psychological things.
Robert: Well, hopefully for the aims of peace and for further mankind. (laughs)
Is there anything that you are particularly proud of concerning this album?
Peter: Oh God… Now’s the wrong time to be asking that. (laughs) Too close. It’s the same with every album. Maybe it’s different for Rob, but I tend to be a little more proud of something after knowing the fact if it’s connected with somebody. If people are reacting to it. It can be like ‘Oh shit, I wasn’t expecting it that this song actually connects more with people than that one’. It tends to be a little more that way. It can be proud in the studio and then being totally let down. You can be totally into something, feel like ‘We did a great one’, but then it just doesn’t translate and then you feel like shit. So right now it’s the time to see how people react, and then it’ll be like ‘Shit, no one’s reacting to anything…’ (laughs) Who knows? Let’s see what happens.
I highly doubt that will be the case.
Peter: Ah, you never know…
Robert: We were talking about this the other night, how critical we are right now over ourselves, which is like an unhealthy survival thing. In the past we kind of co-produced, sometimes we let go more, but it always feels like when you can’t pass the buck you end up being really hypercritical of yourself. It’s a good thing but it makes it harder to just let go and be happy about it, because you’re always in this mode of ‘Should have / would have / could have’. But in a few hours all that’s theoretically supposed to come to an end. (laughs) I’m glad we have the records’ memories. Sometimes we have memories of the past because it teaches you… But when I start to play I forget most of those things that were driving me crazy before. It’s like your face is pressed up against the glass, kind of too close to see the whole picture. And people being in a room, feeding off that energy reminds you pretty quickly… hopefully. Or it crushes your dreams and leaves you in an alleyway between two dumpsters. (laughs)
Robert: We might end up back here after the show…
I had a look at the list of songs on the album and with some albums you had like old songs popping up. Are there any of them around this time? Is there a chance that some old songs might be released on some collection or as B-sides or something?
Peter: The songs that have been floating around the longest are Echo, Spook, Little Thing. They’re years and years old. Years, and years, and years! At least the ideas for the songs, there was a handful of them that are like that and kind of 1:51 in a way. I forget the other ones, which might be a few more…
Back when the forum was still on, people were always going on about 1:51, and the other one I think was Seasons.
Peter: Yeah, that’s still floating around somewhere.
Robert: We’ve been so focused on getting new songs sounding the way they can have a chance live, we haven’t focused on the older ones that much. With the DFA tour we tried to bring a few older songs back that we hadn’t played for a while, like Cold Wind. There were a few times when we were bringing back older songs. But maybe ask us again in a couple of months after we’ve learned the new ones. Sometimes they don’t stay with you very long. One person might remember it, but it never happens that all three of us remember the whole thing at the same time. (laughs) That takes a while to get us all moving as one thing.
There’s one song title that stuck out a bit, or maybe I’ve just been watching Game of Thrones too much. It’s King of Bones.
Robert: (laughs) Oh my God, it rhymes with Game of Thrones, King of Bones…
Yes, and there’s this character The King of Bones in Game of Thrones.
Peter: Is there, really?
Yes, one of the wildlings, a couple of seasons back. He’s this guy who always wears this bone mask.
Peter: One of the dead guys?
No, one of the wildlings, the people living beyond the wall.
Robert: (laughs) Shit, maybe we should take credit for that and get all the super Game of Thrones fans to buy the record.
Yeah, maybe… Well, I haven’t listened to it yet so I have no idea what it sounds like, it’s just reading these words that’s what popped up in my head. But maybe I’ve also been watching too much Game of Thrones.
Robert: I’ve probably watched too much of it too. Maybe it’s subconsciously getting in there… Okay, I think it was actually written before that season, because it was one that we were messing around with for the Specter album, which might be before that. (laughs)
So, if HBO comes knocking on your door and wants money, you’ll now know where that comes from.
Robert: Yeah… that will be an interesting lawsuit. (laughs)
Another one I found outstanding was Circus Bazooko. Does that one have anything to do with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?
Robert: Yeah, that was actually intentionally stolen. The whole song sounds like a weird drug trip to me. Getting into that whole Hunter S. Thompson mindset helped us making it more weirder than it already was. The whole kind of atmosphere, which is my favourite moment in that, the circus themes and how they can barely walk and move.
Peter: I think they’re on ether during that scene.
For Specter At The Feast the artwork was very distinctive with Paula’s drawings. Is there anything similar coming up for this one?
Robert: We don’t want to reveal too much until people are actually holding it in their hands. We’re already coming out early playing new songs before the album is out, we have to keep some things up to imagination.
Maybe just a little bit?
Peter: If there’s anything like the past, it will probably be out in a week. That’s usually what happens. And some of the artwork will be out, you know what I mean. As soon as it gets into the hands of somebody outside the record company it’s out. I’m sure it’s probably out NOW, actually, because we’ve given links to interviewers and all that, so. It just takes one of them to share it.
Robert: We’re doing a special version of the album, which is like the deluxe version, but on vinyl. It’s an alternative cover and some unreleased songs on it as well. That one’s like the fully-imagined one because we kind of had to cut it down a bit. It’s kind of a waste to put all the bells and whistles into CDs and things that people don’t really are into that much anymore.
I mean, CDs are dying out anyway…
Robert: We always try to do something special.
Peter: I was thinking that it’s actually better for the world to not have the plastic roam around, with CDs and everything. But then, if you have the same amount of people buying vinyl, that’s worse, because vinyl’s actually worse for the environment. But that’s just this whole hippy thing. (laughs)
Well, as soon as certain countries and companies stop polluting the environment that much I’ll start worrying about my vinyl collection. I mean, I already drive a hybrid car…
Robert: While we’re arguing about hybrid cars and all that, Trump is wrecking the world, so…
Talking about formats and all these things, are you still considering doing videos for any singles? I mean, are there any good bands still doing ‘proper’ videos as such?
Peter: That’s a good question. We actually did one… (to Robert) Do you know why it’s not out yet?
Robert: It was delivered today? Yesterday?
Peter: Yeah, there was one done, fair question. No idea… I don’t particularly care about videos that much.
I mean, they cost a lot of money and do people still watch them anyway? MTV’s dead, it’s only Youtube and stuff.
Peter: The only cool thing about it is supporting the arts, you know. That’s how we look at it. It’s another dude’s version of the song. There will be the band’s version and there might be some dude who wants to get his visual creativeness out. That makes sense to me, doing a video that way. It’s like ‘Go for it, if you have some sort of vision where the music inspires you to do something’. That’s the whole point of videos nowadays for me. It’s about supporting another artist and their work. If it was all about the band and just doing something like an ad, that whole thing never made sense to me. I never really wanted to be part of that. It’s part of the game though, you kind of play it. So now it’s cool, if people are still trying to use it more as an ad format, I guess, which is cool if this is the way people see things, visually. And people listen to most of their music on Youtube, I guess.
Robert: It’s always good to get perspectives from different people, seeing the music differently.
So it would be more like there’s an artist who would like to do some kind of narrative version of a music video instead of the typical band performance video? Which I can imagine must be a pain in the ass, if you have to perform a song for a day over and over again.
Peter: Well, I mean… It’s not working. (laughs) Yeah, you have to do that with anything.
At least you don’t have to worry about any choreographies and stuff. That might be fun, though.
Robert: (laughs) It’s more about getting the spirit of the song across, yes, and not getting in the way at the same time. It can be kind of intrusive, putting a picture over a sound. We’ve always had a hard time trying to keep it kind of real. We’re just a band, we’re not trying to fool anybody.
Peter: The way it goes is, you throw the song out there at people and then they come back with storylines. Either stories they’ve had prepared for years they’ve been wanting to get out, or we have some stories and we go to them.
Robert: Brian worked on the first video, because he had a lot of good visions and things and it was nice being able to come let him bring that to life. So someone else brought something new to our music.
I can imagine you have to be a bit careful so that your song in the end isn’t connected to something that you might not like.
Peter: With Love Burns we had to struggle that way in the beginning. It was an idea that we would be getting into another world. We had to struggle with the people and went ‘Okay, bring it back to something we’re a little more attached to’. At the same time, if the band wasn’t in it, it’d be more so like that we’d be detached. And there’s no real way you can really judge that, if you’re not seeing the faces of the people doing it, it’s just somebody’s visual picture. How can you really argue with their interpretation? I mean, you can NOT like it. (laughs)
So, one last question for you. Who or what are the Wrong Creature(s)?
Robert: I’ve been trying to answer this, but I feel like I always mess this up… Pass? (laughs) Everything and nothing?
Sometimes it’s about things that sound good and I really think it’s okay to say so, if it’s the case. Like a catch phrase or something.
Robert: It came from a lyric in Little Thing Gone Wild. And there was something that just felt kind of right about it, an idea of looking at things from a different perspective and not always being in the right, the way you’re looking at yourself or what you’re creating. But that might be too vague. (laughs)
Sounds good to me, I mean you don’t need to get all philosophical or anything.
Peter: I mean, it goes both ways. You think about it, and then other days, I don’t much care. (laughs) It’s nice to pin something down, it makes things nice, and clean, and easy. But why not let it be open, to change every day?
Let everybody interpret it themselves.
Peter: Hopefully! If they want to think. If they don’t want to think, that’s great too. I don’t want to fucking think and interpret, I just want to fucking listen and shut my mind off.
Robert: Is that so wrong? (laughs) It paints pictures in the mind, which is a good thing, most people we talk to take it into a different world, and that’s the whole point.