"We were born to do it. It's as simple as that
Kasabian are headlining Glastonbury. They tell Lauren Murphy where it all went right
They have spent most of the past decade pegged by many as lad rockers, barrel-scrapers, knuckledragging musical neanderthals not fit to lick Oasis’s boots – but whether you’re a fan ornot, you can’t deny that Kasabian have come up in the world.
The day before we meet Tom Meighan at a posh Gentleman’s Club in central London, we’re part of a group of European journalists who’ve been ferried to Abbey Road Studios – Abbey Road, no less – for the first playback of the Leicester quartet’s new album, 48:13. Meighan shuffles onto the small stage and clears his throat, meekly introducing himself to the room as if we had never laid eyes on him before, and tells us that he hopes that we enjoy the album. “And if you don’t,” he deadpans, “you can just leave.”
It’s hard to figure Meighan out. He seems, in many ways, to be two people rolled into one: tipping a balance between-self-confidence and-arrogance, chest-thumping bravado and insecurity. He has a Gallagher-esque talent for insults, once referring to Julian Casablancas as a “posh skier” and Justin Timberlake as a “midget with whiskers”, but when we sit down to talk to him about the album the next day, he is warm and sincere, a likeable bundle of manic energy that has no doubt been enhanced by the wine that he’s been quaffing for most of the afternoon. He barrels headlong into answers without wasting much time thinking about them, doesn’t hesitate in whipping out his iPhone to show us pictures of his (admittedly adorable) two-year-old daughter Mimi, andis clearly proud of the quartet’s fifth album, which is bolshier, louder and more in-your-face than ever before, if that’s even possible. And that’s just the garish neon pink artwork.
“We’ve gone full circle,” he says, nodding enthusiastically. “It feels like it’s our debut album, honestly. It’s weird; there’s no fear in it. It’s just very direct. It’s the best thing we’ve ever done, without a fuckin’ doubt. I know I say that about every record, and excuse me – but it is.”
Once the band stopped touring their previous record, Velociraptor!, about 18 months ago, guitarist Serge Pizzorno – who writes all the lyrics and took sole control of the production reins for the first time on 48:13 – began writing new demos.
“He’s always being creative, bless him – he can’t stop,” Meighan laughs. “He’s Pete Townshend, he’s fuckin’ Paul McCartney. He’s got so much shit, computers, numbers and words going through his brain. So I listened to some of the demos last summer and sang on some of them, and we took them to the studio and just did ’em. It was pretty straightforward, in that respect. I let him get on with his stuff and then I sing. That’s pretty much it.”
There is an undeniably dance-oriented aspect to many of the album’s songs, which Meighan claims is a result of tapping into the music of their childhood. At other times, it harkens back to their eponymous debut with the addition of pace-calming interludes. Both he and Pizzorno have previously mentioned The Prodigy as an influence, a sound that is particularly audible on lead single Eez-eh.
“I love The Prodge and I love Liam Howlett,” he says, nodding. “It’s weird, because when rave was dying out – around ’91 or ’92 – we were around 11, and rave was like a massive, massive cultural punk thing; everyone going into a field, taking drugs, whatever. I was only 10 or 11 years old and I remember hearing The Prodigy’s Experience; my dad was like ‘turn it down!’, ’cos it did his head in. But we grew up with that culture, so some of it’s stayed with us. Eez-Eh is an electronic, punk, cocky, funny sort of statement. There’s a lot of character to it, that’s why I like it.”
It’s certainly a ballsy first single to put out there; was attempting to catch people off-guard a deliberate move?
“Well yeah, of course it is [ballsy],” he shrugs. “When Radiohead released Kid A, everyone shit themselves. But we had to keep moving, y’know? A massive thing was when Sergio got the Kanye West record Yeezus and played me Black Skinhead. The production on the whole record – but particularly that song – he really kicked it around. So we thought ‘That’s pretty cool; if he’s doing that with hip-hop, we could do that with rock ‘n’ roll.’”
Their streamlined, no-nonsense sound goes hand in hand with the album’s title, a simple reference to the running time. He had wanted to call it ‘5’ initially, he said, in the same manner as Led Zeppelin’s IV or Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4.
“I had to explain Velociraptor! so fuckin’ much; ‘why’d you call it this, why’d you call it that’,” he says, shaking his head. “We’d name an album and then we have to dig ourselves a hole to explain it, and I can’t be bothered with all that. What I love now is that I don’t think anyone can fuck with us now, and I love that. ‘Cos all these years, there’s been sneering and all this,” he says, sticking his chest out and making a rude gesture. “So now it’s like, ‘Put that in your fuckin’ record collection and shut your mouth’. It’s true, that’s how I feel. We’ve