EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH AIRBOURNE’S JOEL O’KEEFE
Since the release last year of their Roadrunner debut, Runnin’ Wild, Australia’s Airbourne have practically skyrocketed to the top of the hard rock heap. They’ve already toured with such illustrious acts as Iron Maiden, Motorhead, and a some band called The Rolling Stones, appeared on talk shows, and, most recently, played the Rockstar Mayhem Festival. And they don’t show any signs of slowing down.
MetalSucks recently got to chat with lead singer/guitarist Joel O’Keefe at the Mayhem Fest’s stop at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. After the jump, read what O’Keefe had to say about hard partying, being the only hard rock act on an extreme metal tour, and the constant comparisons the band receives to AC/DC.
Who are some of the hardest partying bands on this tour?
Hardest partying bands on this tour? Fucking every band, every time you look around you see someone in the gutter. Everyone is having a great time. Pretty much from day one everyone was just fucking getting on it. I remember our guitarist [David Roads] being passed out. The first night, the opening barbecue thing, we had to carry him back to the bus. Everyone gets pissed all the time. “Pissed” is Australian for getting drunk. I don’t know if that translates [to other nationalities].
We heard that every night there’s a barbecue run by a different band.
Have you guys had your night yet?
We haven’t had ours yet. We’ve also been flying out and doing other gigs on our days off. We always have a barbecue, usually on the night before a day off, where everyone gets pissed. Tonight, everyone is going to Canada. So tonight it’s Mastodon’s barbecue and we’re looking forward to that. We missed the awesome burgers by Dragonforce. 36 Crazyfists cook up a mean steak. They marinate it for like a whole week, and then when you get it you’re like, “Oh fuck this is awesome.” Tonight we won’t miss one at all.
Oh, it’s great. For us it’s a different crowd. It’s predominantly hardcore metal. It’s not something you can walk into without getting your head chopped off. We play hard and every band on the bill is definitely out there playing hard. I think that’s the common ground that [the other bands are] finding with us. We don’t go out there to fuck around. We go out there to play hard. It’s go hard or go home. We’re from Australia, and to have a soft day on stage and weaken up a bit, you just let a lot of people down, including yourself. You could get turfed out of the country all the way back home again and never come back. So you’ve got one chance. You’re not a cat with nine lives. You’ve got one chance to make a kill, and you definitely make sure that you fucking kill that thing to death.
How do you feel playing to such big crowds everyday as opposed to the smaller ones you might usually play in front of?
Yeah, when we did the first national tour it went from about 3 to 4 months in a fucking van. It was a lot of fun. It was great because we’ve always been touring in a van but we never quite toured for 50 fucking dates in the space of 2 months. Then we went around again, so I don’t know how many dates it ended up being. We started out in the U.S. doing smaller crowds and now we’re on this Mayhem Tour. We just came back from Wacken, and we were one band below Iron Maiden, and it was 60,000 people all rocking out to it. It wasn’t Spinal Tap.
They didn’t give you the usual Maiden opener treatment?
No, there was not a dry seat in the house. It was fucking Wacken. Everyone was there to rock, and it was just a no-bullshit crowd. Those guys really know how to rock and roll, and by the time Maiden came out, it was a fucking slaughterhouse out there. It was 60,000 people… it was like, “Fuck!” It was great.
Have the crowds on this tour been treating you guys well?
They’ve been good. They’ve been really good. The first few shows, even from then, you see people with Slipknot t-shirts rocking out to what we’re doing is great. It’s a totally different thing, but like I said before, all bands on this bill go hard and I think that’s what metal is about. Everyone goes out there and fucking leans into it and really digs in deep. You don’t come off that stage unless you’re absolutely out of breath and bleeding. Every band, when you watch them walk on, they’re all pumped up. A bunch of the bands back there are lifting weights and really pumping up. When they come off stage, they’re just fucking red in the face, red chested, and fucking can’t get a breath. It shows that they’re really putting in, and the crowds are, too, with the circle pits and the walls of death. They’re putting in too, and it’s an intense tour. Whoever picked the name “Mayhem” is a fucking brainiac, because it’s a great title for this fucking thing. “Mayhem” it is.
You guys get compared to them a lot obviously.
Does that make you happy? Or do you wish people would let you have your own identity?
Oh, mate, in this day and age, whoever you are when you come out, especially if you’re from Australia and you sound like we do, you’re going to get compared to anyone who is out there. It doesn’t matter who you are, you are going to get compared to somebody. To be compared to the best rock and roll band in the business, who are still going today and are about to release another album, there is no higher compliment. I could list a thousand bands that I would not want to be compared to. There are a handful that any band does [want to be compared to]. If you get compared to a band like AC/DC or Motorhead or Rose Tattoo or Iron Maiden or Metallica, you can’t be doing anything wrong because that’s real rock and roll. I think Mick Jagger said it best, “It’s only rock and roll but I like it.”
-AR & VN