You may not know this yet, especially if you're not exactly up on the music scene, but English rock band Kasabian (made up of front man Tom Meighan, songwriter/guitarist Sergio Pizzorno, bassist Chris Edwards, and drummer Ian Matthews) is widely considered to be the best act in the world—at least the Q Awards think so since they've awarded them with the title twice now (once in 2010 and again this year). That's not the end though, because NME has given them a slew of awards (including Best British Band and Best Live Band) and the Brit Awards awarded them Best British Group in 2010. All of this recognition and one would think they would be much bigger in the United States, but it may be in part due to the fact that they haven't really been focusing on the North American market—until now anyway. Before taking the stage at San Diego's House of Blues, frontman Tom Meighan sat down with me and chatted about where the band is now, their newest record 48:13, what it's like going from playing Glastonbury to playing small venues, and shared some performance war wounds.
I'll be honest, I was more than a little nervous for the interview. With their music surrounding me in High School, I had lost track of their career through the years and didn't have quite as much knowledge of their history as I would have liked. Add on the fact that I wasn't sure which member of Kasabian I would be chatting with, that Meighan has a reputation for being a difficult interview subject and that I was coming from a funeral, and you've got a pretty frazzled interviewer. Well, whatever image anyone may have of Meighan being intimidating is pretty far from the truth—instead he's incredibly sweet, charming, easy-going, and funny. Plus, without him directing me out of there, I'd still be lost in the cavernous hallways of the House of Blues à la Spinal Tap.
Mila Pantovich: You and the rest of the band have been quoted as saying that this new album, 48:13, is your most honest so far; can you elaborate on that?
Tom Meighan: I think in retrospect of all our records, we sound like we're born again. 'Cause there's no fear in it, you know, we just threw everything at it. We've just kind of hit a point—we feel reborn with the record.
MP: To be honest, I had no idea how young you all were; I just assumed with the nature of your career, you were all in your 40s. But no, you're only 33.
TM: Holy sh*t, yeah. I mean, I was 23 when we put the first album out. It's crazy, isn't it?
MP: How has the response been so far?
TM: It's been a really good tour. We've got a new record label (we've divorced the other one), we've got management over here that want to look after us; we've literally gave our all. All we're waiting for is it to catch fire, which I think it will. I think we're coming back in April and we're gonna just hit it and hit it until it catches and once it goes, it's gone. Yeah, the response has been great. People have really just been really pleased to see us. A lot admiration and love.
MP: Which is a lot better compared to some past experiences with the press; you've really been through the ringer.
TM: Oh, f*ckin' hell, yeah. I think with this record things have turned, which is great.
MP: It seems like you guys seem to be a dying art in the music industry right now, at least in terms of popular rock music, where not a lot of bands have the same level of energy and honesty.
TM: Our energy, yeah. It is what it is, you know. We're honest. I don’t think you can find another one like us in the world. Certain groups just come through every now and then. People need heroes to aspire to, rock 'n' roll people to love and look up to, and we just won that mold. We're characters who inspire young kids to play guitar. It's all very well being in a rock band, but some break through and I don’t know, we just had it. There was something about us. We're like a power house now—it's big, it's strange.
MP: On the new record, was there a song was particularly challenging?
TM: I just knew when I had bumblebee, I [thought], "That's f*ckin' great. That's the heaviest thing we've ever done." We're pushing it, big time. I just knew when I had that, that this record would be our best one. And anything that Serg [Pizzorno] was writing and bringing in was just f*ckin' fantastic. The songs are amazing. The structure of them and the melodies. Stuff like clouds, bow, glass, and doomsday, [...] they're incredible songs, so much energy and youth is in them.
MP: What do you think about the Internet's influence on the music industry and its listeners?
TM: I think music's just devalued. "Here's an album." "Oh great, I'll burn that. Yeah, cool." It's really sad. Instead of like, holding it and looking at it and going, "Oh, this is my album." Even if it's a CD—I love vinyl, but even a CD—you open it up and you'd be like, "Wow." You read the lyrics and be fascinated. [But now] it's just throwaway, no one gives a toss. It's just there.
MP: The House of Blues is definitely a smaller venue than what you're used to in Europe, what's it like going back and forth between the two experiences?
TM: I don’t think it really phases us, because whether we're playing in front of thousands of people at Glastonbury or here, we're still the same band. It's about the space and seeing around us. Things don't change on stage how we are, it's just the size of it. Of course, these club gigs are great, I love them.
MP: Is there a venue that you've hated?
TM: Not really. I mean, I think playing Monday night or Tuesday sucks a bit, you know what I mean? But it's been great, to be honest.
MP: Do you see a transformation within yourself as a front man when on stage?
TM: I think that's pretty much me. It is me. I'm [not gonna] put a suit on or go into a superhero. I mean, there's two me's [sic]. I am like Clark Kent; I've got two lives—it's weird. I'm at home, I'm Clark, I'm here and I'm Superman. So it is weird.
MP: Well, you're a father too.
TM: [laughs] Dad, yeah. But people see you differently, you see. I've got two lives; it's strange.
MP: How do you reconcile the two?
TM: It is difficult. I suppose you try to keep on a level and not get caught up in it all.
MP: Any days off coming up? How long has the tour been going now?
TM: [laughs] I haven't had a day off this tour, no shit. It's been three weeks now, but I get a day off in Mexico and a couple of days off in Los Angeles because we've got Jimmy Kimmel, so that'll be alright. And then home for about four days and Germany, yeah.
MP: When was the last time you were surprised by other musicians in a good way?
TM: Jack White. He is f*ckin' amazing. I think he's my generation's genius. He's just superb; he's cool, he cares, he's committed. There's loads of great music; Jack White, I think he's just one of those guys that comes on every now and then.
MP: He's disturbingly consistent too.
TM: Yeah, yeah, he's on it.
MP: I love asking musicians about what they like to read, because it always bleeds through into the songwriting, which I know Serg does the majority of, but do you have any favorites?
TM: Yeah I love reading, of course. Edgar Allen Poe, dark horror stories, and Shakespeare. Brilliant. It does matter, you know, anything. Even slang, even if it's a comic [or] sh*tty language, we use words and try to mix them.
MP: We always hear of the cool side to being in a rock band, but what are some of the horrible aspects to it?
TM: Oh just loads of f*ckin' horrible times. Awful times. Airplanes are horrible; I'm always in an airplane. Waiting at airports is horrible. You kind of just get immune to it.
Actually, a horrible experience, we did a gig in New York and I fell off the stage and landed on a beam and whapped my leg. My leg was just black. I'm lucky I didn't fall off the f*ckin' building 'cause it wasn't marked. Injured myself badly. I've got scars on my legs [pulls up pant leg] from the speakers 'cause I'm running around so much, I hit them. [laughs] Chipped a tooth the other night on stage, mic hit it and split my lip on stage. It happens though.
MP: How'd that happen? You just hit yourself in the face?
TM: Yeah, by mistake. You get caught up, you know. Fingers crossed, [knock on] wood I don't injure my leg or anything, or break any bones tonight.
The performance went off without a hitch and with no new injuries—as far as I could tell from the audience anyway.