the AU interview: Peter Hayes of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (San Francisco)

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are one of the few bands who announced that they were still making the trip out to Australia in the wake of the cancellation of the Harvest Festival in November. Touring their latest album, Specter At the Feast, in the US at the moment, Peter Hayes tells me about the album and the effect the death of Michael Levon Been (BRMC sound engineer, mentor and father of Robert) had on the process and touring the music all over the world.

How’re you doing Peter? What are you up to at the moment?

Yeah, we’ve just done soundcheck; we’re in the middle of a tour, a string of five. We’re on the third one in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Awesome – how has the tour been so far?

It’s great. It’s been really good; we did the first run through the US and we hit all the towns that we were pretty sure we could sell out and so we’re doing a run through the cities that we know were nowhere near selling out! [Laughs] We’re trying to get to people who maybe couldn’t drive the miles to get to the other places.

Cool! In terms of touring through this year, how would you say that BRMC has travelled as a live band?

It’s been fucking amazing, actually; I wasn’t expecting to get to Australia, Japan, China and we’re getting Vietnam…I wasn’t expecting that. I was hoping to tour there, but it’s fucking great.

Yeah! When bands head down this way, it’s logical to tour the Asian countries as well, for the band’s music in particular, how much of a buzz is it to get out to places like China and Japan? There’s got to be such a different climate for music over there in general.

Yeah, it kind of boils things down to its most simple form, which is that we are the lucky as fuck to be able to play music and people want us to come to strange parts of the world…well not ‘strange’, but you know, places that the majority of people in their lifetime wouldn’t be able to see. It’s not about some message that we have politically or whatever the fuck, that takes a backseat. If anyone else wants to take it for something else, then cool.

Definitely. Thinking about the songs you’ve been rolling out on this current tour – taking the US as an example – with the latest album, how have you been finding the material received?

I think it’s going over good. It’s always fun to see. It took until about now…we’ve been touring since February and now they’ve definitely grown into having their own character, you know? As far as received, I’m not sure; I try not to get too wrapped up in it. Someone will say, ‘Oh they’ve played too much or too little of it’ or ‘This one sucks’ or ‘I wish they’d play more of the old stuff’ – that’s going to be there regardless. I try not to read too much into it. I kind of go with, ‘at least there are people showing up’!

This is true! As long as that is still happening, you know you’re doing the job right.

[Laughs] Yeah!

So, with this album…we’re not in freshman territory here, it is the band’s seventh record, so you guys are well-versed in the whole process. I know for this album in particular, a lot of stuff had gone down which had personally influenced the making of it, so now that it has been out and circulating and you’ve been able to look at it as a whole, what are your feelings towards it?

You know, it does feel a little different. Michael was there from day one, in and out of the studio, piping in and trying to get record company people out of our way and trying to get the engineers out of the way so we could mix it ourselves. [Laughs] That’s definitely part of it, as far as I think he would be proud that we tried to step in and get it…we knew we could make albums and we knew could record, mix and play, but when somebody who has been there for a long time is gone, you start questioning everything. Who the fuck are you, you know? Since day one, we work ourselves to death, probably to a point that we should get better at it; we beat the shit out of ourselves trying to get things done, and worrying about things that are just insane. That’s how we like to do it, that’s what makes us feel good. That’s a sense of pride, you know? To do it and not give up on it; when we give up on it, that would not be a good place. I don’t want to get there. I’m happy that this one was the same as the others [albums] in that way, you know?

For sure. I think it definitely has a lot of standout moments on it that will be exciting to see as part of the shows you’re bringing out this way next month. Obviously, it is a shame that Harvest was cancelled, but how are you guys anticipating playing your own club shows in the wake of it all?

It’s great! [Laughs] Whatever it takes; we love festivals, but it’s great that we still get to play. It’s a shame though, maybe they had a rough time or somebody lost their ability to do their job or whatever, that’s a drag, but we’re still looking forward to playing music. I don’t hold one higher than the other as far as festivals being better than club gigs; they’re two different animals and yeah, the club gigs mean that we’ll probably get to play a lot longer too. That’s a nice thing, anyway.

Totally. So these shows are up in November…once December comes around, are you still going to be on the road pretty heavily?

I think there is a little bit of down time; there are talks of South America and maybe another run through France and Germany, but that is still in question. I don’t know if that’s going to work out. We should take care of ourselves! [Laughs]

That’s it, you’ve to be careful! I suppose, when you’re hopping on planes constantly and playing in all these different places, you’ve got to make sure to take care of yourself.

Yeah! Well, that’s one thing to remember, it does look like it’s an incredibly fancy life, but we’re not flying first class! [Laughs] It’s not first class and we’re on a bus with 13 other people. It’s beautiful and we’re family, but...We’re not in a van anymore though…

Oh good, so you’ve upgraded!

[Laughs] Yeah! We’re not dropping in in helicopters yet.

That can be the ultimate dream; parachuting down onto the stage…

[Laughs] That’s what we’re all working towards right? You can parachute into your job as well. We’ll have a goal.

Sounds good to me! Well, dude, best of luck for everything you’ve got coming up – we can’t wait to see you guys over this way soon.

Oh awesome, thank you very much. Come say hi!

Totally! Have a good show tonight and we’ll see you soon.

Thank you very much.