I needed to sail to new lands and see what I could find

Kasabian’s Serge Piz­zorno talks to ALEX GREEN about go­ing solo and the state of rock mu­sic

Bangor Mail - - The Music Interview -

WHEN Kasabian went on hia­tus for the first time in some 17 years, Serge Piz­zorno’s three band­mates de­cided to take it easy and spend some time away from the spot­light.

The band’s gui­tar-wield­ing song­writer, how­ever, thought it the per­fect mo­ment to be­gin work on his de­but solo al­bum.

It was last year when Serge re­tired to his home studio, dubbed the Sergery, and be­gan work on The SLP, his full name is Ser­gio Lorenzo Piz­zorno.

He en­listed the help of Bri­tish up-and-com­ers Lit­tle Simz and Slowthai to work on the car­toon­ish, free­wheel­ing record, an es­cape from the pres­sure of be­ing in a sta­dium-sized band.

“I could eas­ily sit back in my deckchair and en­joy the last 15 years,” he ex­plains.

“But I’d be in the same place. I needed to go on an ex­pe­di­tion. I needed to sail to new lands and see what treasures I could find.”

It’s no sur­prise then that the 38-year-old, now a fa­ther-of-two, needed a cre­ative out­let away from the band.

All had not been well in the Kasabian camp.

When the Le­ices­ter four-piece fin­ished tour­ing their 2017 al­bum, For Crying Out Loud, Serge feared they had be­gun to tread wa­ter.

They had been to­gether since school and had re­leased six studio al­bums and a slew of EPs.

On top of this, their totemic front­man Tom Meighan had re­cently

split from his part­ner and the singer’s on-tour be­hav­iour had be­come in­creas­ingly er­ratic.

The band ap­peared close to burnout. But while his band­mates rested, Serge got to work

“You have to keep your­self in­spired,” he pro­claims.

“You have to keep fit. You have to keep your brain mov­ing and work­ing.

“That was re­ally what it was all about. It wasn’t like a deep need that I wanted to do this thing.

“I had some time to make an al­bum, and ex­per­i­ment and col­lab­o­rate.”

Un­der­pin­ning The SLP is an en­tic­ing comic book con­cept.

“Mean­while... in the Bat­cave,” he says, ref­er­enc­ing the Six­ties tele­vi­sion ver­sion of The Dark Knight.

“It’s al­most like what I do with Kasabian is out there and then in­side, there’s this.

“I had all these ideas and I had time – for the first time in a very long time. I thought that was what I would fill my time with – mak­ing an al­bum.

“There were three pieces of this ‘mean­while’ story and I filled in the gaps with nine other songs.”

Kasabian are best known for their an­themic sing-along cho­ruses and pound­ing gui­tar so­los.

But The SLP sees Serge em­brac­ing the gen­res Kasabian only ever man­aged to dab­ble in.

Serge’s first love was hip hop and rave.

As a teenager, he saved up his pocket money to buy a sam­pler, and started recre­at­ing the fa­mous basslines of the day.

This ex­plains the pres­ence of rap­pers

Lit­tle Simz and Slowthai, from north Lon­don and Northamp­ton re­spec­tively.

“I wanted young Bri­tish artists that I think are in­cred­i­ble – I wanted that sound,” he gushes.

“How I see Bri­tain now – from my point of view. It was im­por­tant to get those young Bri­tish voices on.”

As he in­tended, the al­bum sees him show­ing off his myr­iad in­flu­ences; the grunge-tas­tic twang of the Meat Pup­pets, the ethe­real hip hop of Por­tishead, the as­tound­ing hip hop sim­plic­ity of DJ Shadow.

If The SLP bears sim­i­lar­ity to Da­mon Al­barn’s Go­ril­laz, his solo ex­cur­sion out­side of Blur, then this is no co­in­ci­dence.

Serge ac­tu­ally took ad­vice from Al­barn on step­ping out alone, over a game of ping pong, of course.

On the ad­vice of the Brit­pop le­gend, he swapped his late-night work­ing hours for the nine to five. This is of spe­cial in­ter­est, given Kasabian have al­ways been likened to Al­barn’s work­ing class ri­vals Oa­sis.

Like the Manch­ester rock­ers, Kasabian rode a wave of eu­phoric gui­tar mu­sic that was as suited to the foot­ball ter­races as it was to grungy dive bars. And like Oa­sis, their early songs tack­led fame, unity and to­geth­er­ness.

So how does Piz­zorno deal with the ap­par­ent death of rock mu­sic? How does he see a mu­si­cal land­scape dom­i­nated by singers like Sam Smith and Ariana Grande, or rap­pers like Kendrick La­mar and Kanye West?

“There is some in­cred­i­ble gui­tar mu­sic out there,” he says af­ter a long pause. “I just think it’s had its time. But it comes back around.

“It de­fies genre be­cause it’s just about hon­esty.

Given Kasabian’s pub­lic im­age has al­ways screamed bravado, it’s no sur­prise Serge has few fears about go­ing it alone.

“I think you would be silly to over­think it or worry,” he laughs.

“You just have to ex­pect the pres­sure when you are part of some­thing mas­sive like Kasabian.

“The im­por­tant thing is that you don’t try and com­pete with it. That’s one part of me and this is an­other.”

■ The SLP is out now.

You just have to ex­pect the pres­sure when you are part of some­thing mas­sive like Kasabian

Kasabian gui­tarist and song­writer Serge Piz­zorno

Serge Piz­zorno’s solo al­bum, The SLP, inset be­low, takes its name from his ini­tials

Serge, third from left, with Kasabian in 2015

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