We got on the phone with Airbourne vocalist, Joel O’Keefe to talk about the new album, Black Dog Barking, drinking,‘n’ roll, the blue collar mentality. The new album is great and Joel was friendlier than expected. Actually, I think if you offered to buy him a beer at a gig, he’d sit down and shoot the shit with you. There was no rock star mentality here. Now, crack open a PBR, and enjoy the interview. Try to imagine an Australian accent, it might help with understanding the humor.
You’re currently on tour in the U.S. promoting Black Dog Barking; how has the fan response been to the new material?
Ah, great, they’re loving it. We had a circle pit the other night and the night before that, so they’re really getting into it.
Do circle pits often happen at your shows?
It does, actually. It’s rock ‘n’ roll, but I think the energy and intensity that we play, it draws that out of people; they think they’re at a metal show. It’s good to see, it’s what we want, everyone to have a great time.
With your last album, No guts, No Glory, there seemed to be an underdog vibe or theme to it; is there any kind of theme on Black Dog Barking?
The undercurrent of this record is, you’re gonna laugh, but the theme of this record is rock ‘n’ roll. It’s what it is; the first song is “Ready to Rock” and it talks about going down to the crossroads, making a deal with the devil, and selling your soul for a guitar. So, it harks back to the era, the era of Robert Johnson; he’s the reason why rock ‘n’ roll exists. He’s the guy.
And the other thing is, the reason why it’s called Black Dog Barking, is because it’s acknowledging the black dog that this band has always had on it’s back, pushing it, driving harder, to cut through all the crap, to get to the stage and put on the shows night after night.
We seen a sign the other night [in a venue] that said, “No crowd surfing, no moshing, no headbanging,” in other words, that translates to “not having fun.” We tore down those signs and said to the owner, “listen, mate, this crowd is gonna do what they like and if your security fucking touches them, we’re gonna have yous all outa here and you can all fuck off, we’ll cause a riot, and we’ll shut the whole venue down.” So the guy just backed off and the crowd had a great time.
Also, from No Guts, thefor “Bottom of the Well” is about a fighter getting a shot; are you guys fighting fans? Are you fans of the MMA?
Oh, yeah, you know,a bit of boxing.
Do you have a favorite fighter in the UFC?
Nah, not really. I just like to watch a good fight. Green is pretty cool, an Aussie fighter., we love him. He’s a tough guy.
Is MMA pretty big in Australia?
It is actually. The MMA is really making a big stronghold in Australia, every year it gets bigger and bigger.
Your music has been featured on a lot of video games, do you or any of the guys in the band play video games? Favorites?
Yeah, at the moment I’m playing Battlefield 3 and Far Cry 3. The new one coming out is gonna be Battlefield 4, that’s gonna be huge. I wanna play Colonial Marines. At the moment I play on my gaming laptop, [which is] made by ORIGIN; the guys who started Alienware, ’cause Alienware was sold to Dell, formed their own company in Florida called ORIGIN. They have an office in Australia, in the UK, and I think Japan, but we had ours ordered out of Florida. These things, they are so cool, you could fuckin’ launch a rocket to the moon. They’re high-powered, it’s like a gaming desktop, but it’s in a big fuck-off laptop; it weighs 12 kilograms.
There’s a track on the new album called “Animalize”; is there any connection to thealbum?
I know what album you’re talking about. The song is about our time in Vegas. We were in Vegas and we got really drunk and basically put the song together in Vegas. There’s a line in it, “everything we do is gonna stay in this town,” and “stranded in Nevada under a neon sky,” because we were left alone there, we were actually stranded in Vegas, which is a great experience to be in. Our phones weren’t working, really, we were just stuck there. The song just came along. We [went] to the bar outside town called Bootleggers… we’d get there about 4 in the morning from being in Vegas and we’d have a few beers, drink a few Jack and Coke’s about that time of the night, and we’d have some burger and fries, 24/7 kitchen that type of deal. We’re in there and we’d walk out, ’cause our hotel was right next door, and you’d look from the corner of your left eye you’d still see Vegas burning bright and you’d go, “ah, fuck it, let’s go back for more.” We’d just go back into the city; it’s so addictive. It wouldn’t let us go home. So basically that’s how the song came about.
Find out what Joel’s favorite beer is and what an Airbourne cover album might consist of after the jump…