RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth caught up with rhythm guitarist David ‘Roadsy’ Roads as one of the best live bands in the business gets back down to business.
rushonrock: It’s only six months since you tore Download apart – is the UK ready for more Airbourne madness so soon?
David ‘Roadsy’ Roads: I think it is. We’ve got shows that are selling out fast and shows that have already sold out so it looks like people are still keen to catch an Airbourne show. The summer festivals were a good start but we always wanted to do a full headline show around the Black Dog Barking record. We looked at the summer shows as the build-up to what we’re doing now but of course Download turned out to be something else altogether.
rushonrock: It wasn’t a very long set though…what have you got up your sleeves as the headline act?
DR: The show’s quite a bit different compared to what we’ve done before. Any Airbourne show is always going to be an action-packed, crazy kind of gig and that goes without saying. But the setlist is working really well right now. We’ve got a good, dynamic range of songs from all three albums. Of course we do the singles but there are a few different songs in there too. It won’t be the Download set – for starters we have 90 minutes to fill! We do look online to see what the fans want but some of the stuff – like the B-sides or whatever – we just can’t squeeze in. On the night we might take requests and mix things up depending on the mood of the fans and how we’re feeling. It’s good to keep it spontaneous.
rushonrock: Looking back at the Download set did it feel as if it could be something special from the start?
DR: It did. Even before we got on stage there was this vibe and this expectation. We actually felt quite nervous. We’d been away from the live scene for some time making Black Dog Barking and you never really know whether your fans will still be out there. When we saw the crowds in front of the second stage it was just an awesome feeling. It was nerve-wracking but we all thought ‘wow!’. In this day and age you can be forgotten very quickly – we’d spent a year and a half making the new album and that was a long time to be out of the public eye. Download made us feel wanted again.
rushonrock: You were described as the band who best evoked memories of the classic Monsters Of Rock acts from the 80s and early 90s. How did that feel?
DR: I still watch the famous AC/DC show from Donington now. And I have a Whitesnake DVD from the Monsters Of Rock too. Back then their shows made that festival and we’re trying to do our very best to do the same.
rushonrock: Do you still believe in the rock n roll life you signed up for a decade ago?
DR: Pretty much. The songs are still about the rock n roll lifestyle and everything that comes with it. The only difference is that we feel a little bit more professional these days. We’re more seasoned and experienced. We still write songs about the same things but we’re much better at it! I was just talking about that the other day. When we get on stage now it just feels so much tighter, focused and more professional than ever before. But we still live by that same rock n roll code. That won’t change.
rushonrock: Do you ever feel jaded by what you see in the music industry?
DR: It can be hard. We did come into the music industry at a difficult time. Albums don’t sell like they used to and nothing’s really emerged in their place to substitute that lost income. Something like Spotify is a great concept but it means people just aren’t buying music like they used to. When you’re off the road for 18 months making a new record you do start to feel the pressure. There’s no money coming in and you start to look at getting back out there, playing shows and selling some merchandise. On the other hand we wanted to make the best record we possibly could and that took time.
rushonrock: Black Dog Barking benefits from a superb production job and, as you say, is an incredibly professional album – is that down to a bigger budget or a bit of luck?
DR: We just got into the studio with the right producer. It’s as simple as that. Joel (O’Keeffe, lead vocals and lead guitar) and Ryan (O’Keeffe, drums) had been on a production tour of the States to try and find the right person to drive the album. We knew the right bloke was out there somewhere. We settled on Brian Howes – he’s a Canadian living in America and we just clicked. It wasn’t like we had one of those million dollar advances to make the album so that’s not where the sound came from. It was Brian and his engineer who did us proud – they captured the guitar tones that we’d never been able to reproduce on a record before. Brian became like a fifth member of the band. We wanted to find out own Mutt Lange – a producer who we could rely on and go back to and someone who fully understood the band. That guy is Brian and we already want to work with him again.
rushonrock: You have a happy knack of writing songs that make an instant impression – is that the secret of Airbourne’s success?
DR: Most of our songs tend to be full-on rock n rollers designed to be remembered. We don’t want to put anything mediocre on an Airbourne album. We like a song with a big chorus and a powerful riff and if it doesn’t have that then it won’t make the cut – simple as that. There were songs that didn’t make Black Dog Barking and for one reason or another they just weren’t up to scratch. We might go back to work on them again sometime but for that album at that time we just didn’t feel they were good enough. If we don’t think a song is going to get a festival crowd going at Download, Wacken or Hard Rock Hell then we don’t out it on our album!
rushonrock: You’re a huge draw in the UK but are you starting to gain the recognition you surely deserve back home in Australia?
DR: It’s getting better and we can’t wait to get back there and play some more shows. We’re growing back home but we just don’t spend enough time there to make a sustained push. We love touring Australia but we just spend so much of our time in Europe and America. We’ll tour mainland Europe, the UK and then maybe pop over to North America and suddenly the time is running out. I do feel bad because we do have a lot of fans in Australia. We have played Melbourne and Sydney there this year but it’s not so easy to get around. As a band you’re even more reliant on mainstream radio to give you the boost you need over there. In New Zealand we’re quite fortunate because one of the mainstream stations over there is a rock radio station and one of our albums has gone gold there. It’s certainly somewhere we want to get back to. But we haven’t shunned Australia – not at all. If we could play more shows in our backyard we would.
rushonrock: What’s it like being an Aussie touring the UK at the same time as there’s an Ashes cricket series going on back home?
DR: What can I say? There are a few cricket fans in our party – our tour manager Mark and Ryan. I’m more of a football man but of course I’m aware of what happened last weekend and I’m quite interested! Having said that I think I’ll leave the sledging to Ryan.
rushonrock: Joel is well known for his crazy antics so what can we expect on this tour?
DR: Well I think he’s still a bit annoyed that he couldn’t scale the heights at Download – although he did enjoy his little run through the crowd. He’s got a few tricks up his sleeve – he always has. A lot will depend on where we are on any given night. In Paris last week we played L’Olympia and it’s a 3,000-capacity venue. When Joel set off he quickly realised he couldn’t get back to the stage without going outside, round the venue and through the back door! So he was running past these Parisienne cafes without his shirt on waving his guitar in the air and I swear people must have thought he’d nicked the thing and was running from the police. Suddenly this sweaty Aussie bloke was running past people having a quiet meal in a restaurant. The locals must have been thinking ‘what the fuck?’. Even the chefs started coming out of the kitchens to see what all the fuss was about. So let’s wait and see what happens over here!