The holidays are right around the corner, which means that year-end Best Of lists are also fast approaching, and we’re a bit disheartened that one of the year’s most important albums has been completely overlooked in America. We’re talking about Velocitaptor! the dynamic fourth full length record from UK rockers Kasabian.
While the album has made top ten debuts on more than one continent, Velociraptor! failed to crack the Billboard Top 200 charts in its first week of release in the United States. The bands previous effort, 2009’s West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, established an industry foothold for the band, and earned them headliner status at festivals all across Europe. This past September, the lads from Leicestershire dropped their latest effort Velociraptor! (read our review) which shot straight to number one on the UK album charts. Described by guitarist and principal song writer Sergio Pizzorno as a jukebox record, Kasabian has found a way to pay tribute to their musical heroes while still managing to push preconceived musical boundaries to the limit.
Part of what makes Kasabian so fascinating is their nearly decade long rise to dominance across Asia, Australia and Europe while going virtually unknown in America. If Coachella was held in Manchester England, the boys from Leicestershire would already have multiple headline appearances under their belts. With Velocitaptor!, Kasabian has created a record full of material which could work across numerous FM radio formats all while managing to keep their trademark blend of hard rocking psychedelic-tinged guitar riffs and animated dance grooves.
We recently sat down with Kasabian vocalist Tom Meighan to discuss America, his influences, Velociraptor! and the current state of music in 2011.
You spent time in San Francisco recording your last two records. What is it about San Francisco that brings out the best in Kasabian? Any favorite locations in the area?
There’s a place called Laslow’s that we go to which is a bar. A friend of ours, Brian, runs it, and that’s great, but it’s just because Dan The Automator’s studio is based in San Francisco. If it was in LA, we’d go to LA, and if it was in Antarctica, we’d go to Antarctica.
The goal of your last record West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum seemed to be for the listener to play the entire record front to back and digest as one piece – a concept record. With Velociraptor!, members of the band have gone on record and shared that it is a jukebox record with various styles and flavors for the iTunes generation. Was this a deliberate move on your part?
West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum was literally our mental record. No, it wasn’t a conscious decision. We just make music and what comes out of Serge’s brain at the time, and the vibe we’re in at the time is what we produce, it’s like a photograph.
As a huge fan of hip hop, what was it like to have Days Are Forgotten remixed by Z-Trip to include a flow from LL Cool J? Are there any other hip-hop artists you are eager to work with?
I grew up on hip-hop music, since I was 10 or 11. I loved NWA, Public Enemy, KRS-One, and Cypress Hill. I’d like to work with RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan one day, but the LL Cool J thing was fantastic, and that was by accident.
Portions of your last two records were recorded in San Francisco. With America not embracing Kasabian in the same way the rest of the world has, do you find that being unknown allows you to hide out and helps the creation/recording process? What do you feel the band has to do to break down the walls and achieve stateside success?
I don’t really care, to be honest. We have to break down the walls by playing loads of songs, and if it gets on the radio, we have a hit. That’s how it works nowadays, isn’t it?
On stage, Kasabian comes off as a fearless well oiled machine. In interviews, you always seem confident and sure of yourself. Is there anything that scares you?
Yes. A lot of things scare me, but I’m not going to tell you what they are.
In a day and age of YouTube and piracy, many artists shy away from performing new material before an album is released. Yet you performed numerous songs from Velociraptor! before its release. How do you feel about fans sharing clips of your shows on YouTube? Do you feel that those early live clips helped create a buzz for Velociraptor! or did it hurt your campaign?
It’s up to them, isn’t it? It damaged me in many ways, yeah it did.
While sounding futuristic, Velociraptor! manages to pay respects to the sounds of yesteryear be it Motown or The Beatles. What up and coming artists currently excite you?
A lot: The Horrors, I love the Kills, Noel [Gallagher’s] got a great record, a fantastic album. I love what Liam [Gallagher] did with Beady Eye. There’s a lot of great things out there. I’m glad that Adele’s done really well, but I bet she’s sick of it now that she’s so popular.
Velociraptor! has some of the most personal lyrics Sergio has ever written. How much of a challenge was it for you to properly convey the emotions of another human being?
Well he’s my brother, so what he puts down, he has to go through me like a telepathic Elliot and E.T.
You have performed everywhere from the Royal Albert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl to the rooftops of New York and an airplane. What’s the next venue hurdle for you guys?
Wigston Swimming Pool.
With many months of touring behind Velociraptor! on the horizon, what is the one thing you can’t live without on the road?
Kasabian are currently on tour, giving super short answers to all your questions in the backstage area. Pick up Velociraptor! and find out where to see them at the official Kasabian site.