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INTERVIEW: AIRBOURNE

Previously published in TOTAL GUITAR magazine in 2009:

"Excuse me sire, would you like to step outside?"

AIRBOURNE

REAL MEN PLAY AT 10 – The Rules Of Hot Rock N Roll Guitar With The New Kings

Known for their high octane guitar playing and onstage presence, these ruffians have shot from the dive bars of Australia, to playing shows with the likes of Motorhead and Motley Crue. Coming from a time where playing in a band meant all amps were strictly turned to 11, alcohol was consumed for breakfast, and local girlfriends were locked up in fear they may be stolen – they are the embodiment of all that rock n roll was, and all rock n roll should be. This is Airbourne and they know all about playing hard and fast! Guitarists Joel O’Keeffe and David Roads are here to teach their ways…

Rule 1 – Kick Out The Jams!

Blast onstage like your life depends on it. Playing live is like a boxing match, says Joel O’Keefe “You have to go the entire 20 rounds. You can’t just do the first 3 rounds and then fall on your fucking arse, you’ve gotta do the entire match and then another the next night! You have to play every show as hard as you can and treat it like it’s your last, so it’s everything pushed to the limit.”
Dave Roads: “We’re just in your face all the time running around onstage, it’s just rock n roll that does that. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a full room or an empty room. We’re like that in rehearsals!”

Rule 2 – High Voltage!

David: “Use a shitload of Marshalls. Not for looks though – all plugged in for real. We use JCM800’s the Kerry King ones, but just on the clean setting, and then also some JCM2000’s.”
Joel: “And 16 cabs. 8 cabs per side.”
David: “Fully cranked up so you cant hear anything else onstage!”
Joel: “Although if you crank them all the way, some of them can’t handle it. So you’ve gotta find that good spot, which is around 8 it seems. But the older ones – the Marshall JMP’s – can go all the way up, so with them we just have them flat out.”
David: “And no pedals at all. The only pedal you’ll find on our stage is a Boss Tuner. Just play a classic Gibson with a Marshall, the same old remedy. Keep it simple!”
Joel: “I actually don’t even use my tuner anymore!”

Rule 3 – Throw Down A Blazing Solo!

Need we say any more on the subject? David: “It’s like the icing on the cake!”
Joel: “You’ve always got to have a solo in there – it’s kinda been the rule. But it’s also an important part because the solo is the explosive part. It helps the band kick up another gear, and it’s another part that people can really rock to. It’s something else for me to do too!”
David: “When it comes to Joel, it means climb a tree, or a PA, or something.”
Joel: “A lot of bands just stopped doing solo’s in the 90s  – they just disappeared! Maybe producers went: ‘Oh this song is 3 minutes 30 seconds? Well now it’s gotta be under 3 minutes!’”
David: “But hell no, not with us!”

Rule 4 – Improvise!

Make it up as you go along, laughs Joel: “A lot of my solo’s are ad-lib, it’s pretty close to what the album is, but playing live different things happen and you feel different things, so you just decide stuff on the spot. Instead of that solo that was just a bend with a hold in it, you end up just wanting to go bend it, bend it, bend it, bend it, and you know just trill it. It’s just more energy and it gives you something you can change every night. You can’t change the chorus every night!”

Rule 5 – Know Your History!

Don’t mess about listening to new music! Listen to the Godfathers of rock n roll. These Aussie boys know exactly how to get the sound, as David puts it bluntly: “Get a Marshall. Get a Gibson.”
Joel: “Plug it in and play it loud, and just play whatever you wanna play. Just crank things up, just ‘hear’ it.”
David: “Listen to a lot of old bands. For us it was Rose Tattoo, The Angels and AC/DC. But there’s tons, Motorhead are another great band to replicate that kind of sound.”
Joel: “I just kept wanting to play big A chords and play pentatonic scales – I just wanted to hit the same notes as Chuck Berry. It’s whatever knocks the switch in your head, whatever makes you wanna punch someone in the face, or makes you go ‘Fuck, I wanna play this!’ If it’s a Black Sabbath song, then you know – learn a Black Sabbath song!”

Rule 6 – Have A Drink On Me?

Jack Daniel’s is to rock n roll what a bread is to butter. Very complimentary! But surely there’s an etiquette to all this boozing lark…
David: “Of course! We have a few drinks when we rehearse too, and I think you just adapt to being able to drink a lot and play at the same time. If you weren’t much of a drinker in the first place and you start drinking on the road? Just look out before you start the show!”
Joel: “You don’t wanna be cold sober really, but you’re not gonna go up there so drunk you drop your guitar and fall off the stage…”
David: “… or be out of tune and out of time for the whole show. But you gotta have that little buzz! It’s all about getting the mixture the right way. Take a slow ride.”

Rule 7 – Be A Real Man!

Stop being a sap. Get rid of your fringe, put the eyeliner back in your mum’s top drawer, and stay in this for the long haul! Some rockers are legend to the cause as Joel testifies: “The guys that are still doing it – Keith Richards, Angry Anderson, Angus & Malcolm Young, and of course Motorhead. Those 3 guys are the real men of rock n roll!”
David: “Yeah, we got to know them when we toured Australia together. When we came to filimg the video for ‘Runnin’ Wild’ an idea sparked so we just put it to Lemmy, and he was happy to do it. He just came down for the night in his limo full of Jack Daniels and asked us to jump in.”
Joel: “Most unbelievable experience of our lives. We learnt so much just hearing about what Motorhead has gone through.”
David: “Yeah, sitting there drinking with Lemmy telling us old Motorhead stories was awesome. His main advice was: ‘Don’t worry about getting married and having girlfriends, just go with the flow in this industry!’”

 

Interview: Gary Sutherland © 2009.