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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

19 June 15 words: Tom Hadfield
"I’m glad that Rock City has stuck around like a shelter from the storm. It's good when you have a club that has that energy to it and has been taken care of"

Hey Rob hows it going? You at home in California right now?
Yeah still here in California. Just getting ready to jet out on tour. We’ve got our last day of rehearsals in a couple of hours.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have been around for a long time now, nearly seventeen years. I've been listening to you almost as long as I’ve been listening to music. Has the time flown by?
I guess with Leah joining the band BRMC has kind of got two chapters, at least in my mind, it feels like there was one phase with Nick for the first four records and since then its had a different feel. I try not think about though. Time can play tricks on you.

Did you ever think you'd get this far when you were just starting out back in 1998?
Whenever we’re making a record the only thing I think about is that album we are making. Putting everything into it you know? I never ever look at it like it's live or die from that one shot. You are only ever as good as your last album. It feels like maybe we never made it big enough to think we are comfortable and so we’ve never had the attitude of resting on our laurels and looking back. But perhaps that’s the own pressure I put on myself. I’ve never been one to take the blue pill you know? The one that makes you sane and relaxed.

I’ve been revisiting your back catalogue and working my way through chronologically before this interview. Obviously you’ve been through a lot as a band in those seventeen years, more than most bands should have to go through, and each album is shaped by that. The last album in particular, Spectre At The Feast, you can really feel the emotion in the song writing. Tell us about the song writing process...
I just write about what I feel at the time. Often I’ll look back a year later and only realise later on what I was actually writing about. I think most people don’t usually know what they are going through in the present. It's only after time that things start to settle and make sense. Everyone is just confused. I never like it when bands are talking about how they wrote songs and claim that it is a thought out process like storytelling. It's really the wrong impression to give people. I’m just as confused as anyone when I pick up a guitar as to what is going to happen. When I start writing a song I don’t know what the fuck is going to happen. I try not to think and don’t let my brain interfere. You gotta go into it really blind and that’s one of the best things you can possibly do. It's a shame that some think song writing is a meticulous crafted process. Just pick up the guitar and see what happens.

Having witnessed BRMC several times you are very much a band that needs to be seen live to be fully appreciated and you've just released the album Live From Paris...
Yeah, it took a lot to get to that point. It just felt right to try and capture the spirit of that tour and put the genie in the bottle somehow. I guess for people who missed us on the tour or even for fans who were there but just wanted to relive it. At the time all of us were reluctant to release it but I’m glad we did.

The artwork for Live In Paris is a really striking image. What was the thinking behind using it?
A photographer friend of ours was at the Paris gig and did a lot of great photos that night. One of the photos made the venue appear to have this gaping hole in the middle of it. It reminded me of this artist I’d seen somewhere but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then with just blind luck I stumbled across it again when we were deciding on the artwork. Everything he does has these apocalyptic waves within normal situations. It just mirrored this photograph of the hole in the room so much so we decide to use it. I like the contrast. It was a bitch trying to hunt the guy down and get his permission though.

Once you get out there on tour I guess it's a pretty macho thing. Seeing if you can take the beating you know? Then end up getting all cocky and seeing how many days you can go without sleeping. It's competitive. It's like fucking pirates measuring themselves up.

Festival season is upon us in Europe. You have obviously played masses of festivals in your time but how do British crowds compare to the rest of the world?
You guys are ultras at the festival thing. Californians in contrast are just learning to get their feet wet with events like Coachella. Most of America doesn’t really have festivals. There is more and more popping up all the time but nothing like Britain. I would say playing to British crowds is like being with an experienced prostitute. She knows what we like. She knows what she’s doing. She’s not going to get too worked up or over-excited about it. It's different to playing other places that can be kind of awkward and new. It can be exciting sure but it can also be traumatic.

Great analogy. I remember seeing you at Benicassim Festival in Spain a few years ago and it was an amazing set but even thought the festival was in Spain it was a 90% British crowd. Do you have any particular favourite festivals you always hope to play?
I remember I always wanted to go to the Reading Festival. That was the one. I took a flight over with my girlfriend and I remember seeing Primal Scream play atnd it was such a good show. I have this memory of standing at the back of the big tent stage right next to the pole that was holding everything up. I remember just thinking it would be so fucking mind blowing to play the big tent. That was one of the only times I let myself fantasize about being a rockstar and what could happen tomorrow. But anyway we went home and made an album. A couple of years later we were booked for the Reading Festival and were playing the exact same tent that I had dreamed about. I remember standing on stage and looking out across the crowd at the pole I had been standing by two years previous. I just had a complete out of body experience. A real trippy experience beyond euphoria. It was like the twilight zone. One of those weird moments when you let yourself dream big and then it actually happens. I’ll always remember that.

I saw Ride for the first time at a festival on Sunday in London they were brilliant. You take a lot of influences from British guitar music don't you with bands such as Ride and The Verve?
Yeah I mean always got teased and shit for listening to the Nowhere album and Storm In Heaven and stuff like that. The kids in my school were all listening to grunge and Metallica and Nine Inch Nails and stuff like that. Maybe that’s why I loved and listened to the British stuff so much because it was kind of like a fuck you to everyone else. My own private rebellion. I was so in awe of British guitar music and I studied those records. Bands like Ride, The Verve, The Stone Roses, Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and stuff like that. I didn’t like ALL the shoe gaze Britpop stuff though. I never understood people who liked shoegaze across the board. I only liked the ones who were just writing great songs. I guess I didn’t buy the ticket for the whole ride...No pun intended.

You've played Nottingham a few times in the past. Do you have any memories of the city?
Nottingham just has a bit of snarl to it. More so than other cities. A necessary evil almost. It seems that a city like Nottingham isn’t getting any favours. You guys have a little bit more fight about you, you seem rougher and you know how to have a good time. Every time we’ve gone there it's had the same spirit and you don’t get that from other places. I’m glad that Rock City has stuck around like a shelter from the storm. It's good when you have a club that has that energy to it and has been taken care of and obviously fostered a lot of good music.

What can fans expect from your fortcoming show at Rock City?
We’ve been throwing in a couple of songs that we’ve not been playing for a while. Weapon Of Choice we stopped playing for about 8 years or something but we are back playing it again now and it feels great. Sometimes it's good to let a song rest for a while and then bring it back and it has even more juice. We’re trying to work out if there is a new one we can play too.

What’s the deal with new music? Is there an album on the horizon?
Since Leah’s brain surgery we’ve had to slow down a little but once we get back from the tour we are going to hit the ground running again in terms of writing. We’ve got a few new songs but we don’t want to give to much away to soon. The trouble these days is that everyone has a camera phone so you play a new song and it's all over the internet the next morning which kind of ruins the surprise of a record. We’re hopeful for early 2016 for the new album but we can’t say for sure right now. You can’t rush these thing we want to make sure that we are proud of it. We’ve been rushed in the past and regretted it.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club perform at Rock City on Tuesday 30 June 2015.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club website

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