Kasabian kings of the empire

By Scott Kara

* Review the Big Day Out for us! On the day, send your pxts and reviews to 021 YRNEWS (021 976 397) or bdopix@nzherald.co.nz and we will run a selection of them online.

Kasabian are as cocky as their mates Noel and Liam from Oasis. Outspoken singer Tom Meighan has an arrogant glint in his eye, a cheeky swagger and a sharp, gloating tongue.

He has proclaimed that his band are "the bollocks" on many occasions, even though they've only released two albums since forming in 1999. On Shoot The Runner, a track from their latest album, Empire, he rants delightedly, "I'm a King and she's my Queen. Bitch."

Modesty isn't Kasabian's thing. But guitarist and songwriter Serge Pizzorno says they're misunderstood.

"We believe that the music we make is great," he says. "I'm not saying we're better than you, or your band is shit, I'm just saying the music we make is great and there's nothing wrong with thinking like that. It's only stupid people who misinterpret it and get all serious about it.

"I'm sick and tired of hearing bands say how hard it is. And when they get to their second album they say, 'Oh, yes, we've made a second album and it's okay but we're not really sure'. I just don't get that mentality and it's not because we think we're better than anyone else, it's just that we believe in what we do."

Since the success of their debut self-titled album they've been making headway in America and although they're not household names in New Zealand, Empire went to number one in Britain when it was released in August.

Success and album sales of nearly two million worldwide haven't fazed the band, who play tonight at the Studio on K Rd and at the Big Day Out tomorrow.

"We've had a mad couple of years. It's been insane but we're still the same. Tom's just the most amazing person to be a around because nothing affects him and he's the same [expletive] lunatic I've known since I was 10," laughs Pizzorno.

"He's the ringmaster. That's his job. He's selling the tickets to the carnival. And we all have our responsibilities in the band. Whatever your job is in the band you have to be the best at it. You know, I used to work in a [expletive] factory, man, so the pressures of being in a band ain't that bad. It gets a bit odd and you do lose your mind every now and then but that's mainly down to drinking too much absinthe."

Pizzorno and Meighan were friends at school and started a band with fellow pupils Chris Edwards (bass) and Chris Karloff (guitar/keyboards) because "we wanted to be in the Who. We wanted to be in the Stones. We wanted to be in Oasis." Karloff left the band before they recorded Empire because of creative differences.

The band's early gigs, many of which were at a pub called the Charlotte, were raucous and a welcome relief from mundane Leicester life.

His growing record collection also inspired him to come up with what would become a unique Kasabian sound - part Oasis, Stone Roses, DJ Shadow and the Who.

"It was about trying to be ourselves. There's nothing wrong with being influenced by the people you love but you can't take the piss because people will find you out," he says.

They had to do the hard yards too, heading to London to play gigs when they could afford it and eventually they had enough money to record a four-track demo.

These songs had good radio play, and they were signed by RCA.

"But I don't think they knew what they had signed because we only had those four songs and they were all [expletive] insane [songs] and I don't think they thought we would turn out to have a number one album," he laughs.

While tracks like Clubfoot and the seething Reason Is Treason from their debut were hazy and druggy dance rock anthems, Empire takes a more clean and direct approach.

But Pizzorno confesses proudly, the album was written while the band were on a steady diet of absinthe, the highly alcoholic spirit.

"A lot of people make the mistake of when you mention absinthe they go, 'I've tried it and it doesn't make you go insane'. No. No. It's just the fact that it is so [expletive] potent and it's just a really strong drink and you don't see green ferries. It's just like a good whiskey."

Pizzorno says the main difference between the two albums is how they experimented with different rhythms.

"We concentrated a lot on making it a spectacular, big-sounding journey while still keeping it [expletive] raw and clunky.

"There's no point retracing the first album - I despise bands that make a carbon copy of their first album. As a writer I like to try different things. But you've got to remember this is only our second album and I've got another 20 to make - fingers crossed."

LOWDOWN

Who: Kasabian
Formed: Leicester, 1999
Where & when: Tonight, the Studio on K Rd; tomorrow, Big Day Out, Green Stage 4.30pm-5.20pm
Albums: Kasabian (2004); Empire (2006)

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