Kasabian’s Serge Pizzorno, The TVD Interview

Kasabian has already had quite a year. They released a new album in May that quickly earned them their fifth #1 album in the UK. They’re closing out the year with dates throughout Europe, but first there are some long overdue stops to make in the US.

Before the tour, Kasabian’s Serge Pizzorno talks with TVD about their wild live shows and the vinyl experience.

It’s been three years since you’ve played in the US. What are you looking forward to most?

It’s kind of a lovely little run, because we’re only playing seven or eight dates. It’s not like a killer eight week event which is pretty nice. Over the summer we’ve been playing our new songs at the live shows and we’re definitely peaking. So it’ll be nice to play some smaller shows and refine it even more and see if we can turn any Americans on.

How are the audiences in the US different from the UK?

I suppose there are a hell of a lot more of them in England than there are in America. We’re pretty blessed, because it doesn’t really matter—the shows seem to sort of go wild everywhere. The people who do come to see us get sort of bedlam. So they’re pretty similar everywhere really. The mosh pits are quite intense. People seem to get transported to a seventh dimension. So yeah, it’s pretty similar.

What are your live shows like? Are you mostly playing from your new album, For Crying Out Loud, or do you mix it up with some of the hits?

Yeah, we have a nice balance. We have quite a few records, so we play a few off each. It’s great—to keep it interesting we mess with the old stuff enough that it feels fresh and fits with everything. I think for me, with the setlist, I try to create it like a dance gig where you build the set around the flows and the peaks. So, sometimes a song will be there because it’s an emotional thing rather than we have to play songs from this and this and this. It’s more to do with—you start at level and then at the end it’s just pure euphoria. When you get that sort of amazing, trance-like feeling, that tribal thing—that’s kind of what we do with the set.

I just saw your latest video the song “Ill Ray (The King)” and I really loved it. How did it come about? And how did Lena Headey (from Game of Thrones) get involved?

We didn’t have a video for this song and I got a few treatments in and they weren’t great. I was on holiday in the back of a taxi—this isn’t even a story—and I just wrote a treatment, because we needed one. And then I sent it to my friend who’s a director (Dan Cadan) and his fiancé is Lena. So he said “I love it and Lena’s sitting next to me and she loves it and she wants to be in it and be the queen of the story.” And luckily she was around.

It was great and it was shot in my hometown. It was just amazing to see the Game of Thrones’ Evil Queen walking around my hometown. Everyone was just like, “What is going on?!” And obviously King Richard is kind of an iconic figure from where we’re from, so to bring him back from the dead was quite fun as well.

What are some of your favorite record stores to visit when you’re on tour and when you’re at home?

Obviously the one in San Francisco, Amoeba. That is a ridiculous store and you can get literally, absolutely anything. It’s quite an experience. You go in there and choose a record from its front cover or the back and you read the label. It’s one of those things where the staff there have knowledge. It’s not like they’re sale assistants. They’re like, “Oh you like that, you’re going to like this because they recorded it in this studio.”

And shopping in London, Rough Trade, which is on a lot smaller scale. But when you walk in and the man behind the counter recognizes you and then pulls five records out and says, “You’re gonna like these.” Now the modern version is, you buy a song and it says, “Suggestions: You also may like this…” and the computer always gets it wrong. And you’re like, “Fuck you! I don’t like that!” But the man at the counter, a human being, goes, “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. These have just come in from Germany and were recorded in 1973.” And you just go, “Yes! Yes!” So, that’s kind of the beauty of it and they’re the kind of places I like to go.

What are you always looking to add to your record collection?

The sort of early electro hip hop records. They’re the ones I always dig for. There’s also, weirdly sort of Turkish disco music. It’s not easy to find, but at the moment that’s what I’m buzzing off of. It’s sort of their interpretation of disco, you get that sort of traditional sense and the scaling, but then the beat is this proper board to the floor and then it’s got this almost psychedelic nature to it. So that’s what I’ve been looking for recently, but it’s not easy to find.

Has it been inspiring any new music that you’re writing?

Kind of. I found this band called the Dur-Dur Band and it’s incredible. They recorded everything on cassette and then cut it to vinyl which is weird. So you kind of get this odd demo-cassette sound. I don’t think it was a move though. I actually think that’s just the way they had to do it because they didn’t have equipment. But it’s kind of amazing. The grove, hopefully no one will recognize it, but I’m going to nick all that groove because it’s so good!

What’s one record you think everyone should own?

Well, for me, the Silver Apples’ self-titled album. I go back to that every time. Every time, even now, it still sounds fresh like music from the future and it’s, you know, late ’60s, early ’70s. That vinyl, for me, that’s the winner.

Do you remember your first experience with vinyl or the first record you bought?

Yeah, my sister had a record player. She use to play The Smiths all the time, so I used to bang on the wall, “It’s killing me!” The Smiths and U2 and all that business. I think the first record I bought was Bad. I brought it home and wore the needle out just playing it and playing it. I remember, you always held the cover when you were listening to it. You didn’t let go of the album. You held the cover and looked at it while it was playing. I used to I love that. Most of the time you’d read the lyrics and sing. It was mega. It’s amazing that vinyl is kicking off again. It’s fantastic.

Do you think about that a lot with your album artwork?

Oh massively, yeah. It’s better now, because people are taking note that vinyl is worth putting time into. But we’re always thinking about it because we’re record collectors. I’m a digger. I used to go through crates and see if I could get records. So, it’s always been at the forefront.

A few years ago, people from labels were saying, “What’s it going to look like in an inch squared picture on the computer?” I’m like, “I don’t care, that’s not the only way people are going to see it. What about the vinyl?” And they go, “No one buys vinyl.” And then look what happened. But they do now, so you can leave me alone!

It made me realize how important it is as an experience. I don’t want to go too deep on this, but there is something we love about a record—sitting down and when side one finishes, you have to get off your ass and go and walk and turn it over. And there’s that little moment you have. It’s all those little things, subtle as they are, they really do make a huge difference that makes music feel more powerful. When you’re streaming it, it somehow devalues it in a way I think, because it’s just so easy and seems so disposable. But with vinyl, it’s more important—it’s a little experience we’re having.

Kasabian’s latest album, For Crying Out Loud is available on 180gm heavyweight vinyl with an 8-page booklet containing the band’s illustrations and lyrics. Their tour begins today (9/14) in the US followed by a European Fall tour.

Kasabian Tour Dates:
9/14 – Terminal 5, New York, NY
9/15 – The Trocadero Theatre, Philadelphia, PA
9/16 – Royale Nightclub, Boston, MA
9/18 – On Rebel Complex, Toronto, Canada
9/19 – House of Blues, Chicago, IL
9/23 – The Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA
9/24 – Regency Ballroom, San Francisco, CA
11/24 – Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
11/25 – SSE Hydro, Glasgow, UK
11/26 – BHGE Arena, Aberdeen, UK
11/28 – 3Arena, Dublin, Ireland
11/30 – Manchester Arena, Manchester, UK
12/1 – The O2, London, UK
12/2 – The O2, London, UK
12/4 – Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, UK
12/5 – Echo Arena, Liverpool, UK
12/7 – First Direct Arena, Leeds, UK
12/9 – Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham, UK

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PHOTO: CHARLIE GRAY

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