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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Blended: Catching up with Kasabian’s Sergio Pizzorno

The guitarist, songwriter and producer-visionary behind Kasabian, Sergio Pizzorno, let's rip at critics, K-bands and life on the road.
Sergio Pizzorno, left, and Tom Meighan, of the band Kasabian in concert at Dubai rugby Sevens grounds in 2012. Duncan Chard for the National
Sergio Pizzorno, left, and Tom Meighan, of the band Kasabian in concert at Dubai rugby Sevens grounds in 2012. Duncan Chard for the National

Kasabian are a walking anachronism – a throwback to the days when rock bands were edgy, antagonistic, outspoken hedonists, who made serious music and daft statements.

Five albums and 12 years into their recording career, the quartet’s status as one of the United Kingdom’s biggest and best-loved bands was solidified when they closed the Glastonbury Festival last year.

Known for mixing plodding guitar riffs with dancey electronic beats, they initially faced scepticism and derision from the notoriously cynical music press in their homeland, but now the four Leicester lads are being hailed as national heroes.

You need proof? In February they won their second NME award for Best British Group, and last October bagged a second Q Award for Best Act in the World Today.

Whether you find their sledgehammer, stadium-sized approach an intoxicatingly anthemic primal thrill, or see their decadent, artistic pretentiousness as infuriatingly outdated, the love or blame all lies at the front door of one man – guitarist, songwriter, producer/visionary Sergio Pizzorno.

Never one to shy away from giving a good quote, Pizzorno, 34, was in top form when I spoke to him, answering anything put to him in matey, freewheeling monologues, ending most sentences with “man” or “you know what I mean”, and flecking his speech with frequent – and unprintable – profanities.

You’ve had a busy few weeks.

It’s been insane man, I’ve definitely shaved off about five years of my life at Coachella. Whoa. I’m just recovering now.

It can’t have topped closing Glastonbury last year?

No, nothing can – you’re obviously going to still carry on the quest, but it’s going to take a lot to come close to that.

I hope little Dubai won’t be an anticlimax?

No, no, man – last time we played [in 2012] we didn’t really know what to expect. It’s just a mad place, but the gig we played was crazy, way more larey than I thought it would be. There were a lot of people having a good night and that’s all we ask for. It was amazing.

I hear you’ll be bringing along the string quartet you took to Glasto.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – there’s a huge influence of soundtracks and films – that’s where it comes from, I’m obsessed with that.

You know you’re just giving Billy Bragg stacks more ammunition for his Spinal Tap comparisons?

Oh mate, poor Billy Bragg – there’s a quote that goes “resorting to personal attacks does nothing but undermine one’s credibility”.

The title of your last album – 48:13 – suggests you’re at the stage where you let the music do the talking.

Yeah, it’s just all about the legacy, what you leave behind. Experimenting, trying different approaches. The majority of bands out there right now, you can guess exactly what they’re going to do, exactly what the album cover’s going to look like. That’s always bored the hell out of me. Whether you like our band or not, no one really knows what to expect – which if you’re an artist is kind of amazing.

Sure. But did you really have to make the cover pink?

Well, one – it’s a beautiful colour, there’s something really dangerous about it, especially as with us, everyone presumes this masculine thing, so to juxtapose that – and also the punk thing, the punks took it on in the late 1970s for the same reasons.

Yeah, ‘the masculine thing’. You must be sick of the ladrock tag.

I think journalists do love their labels because it makes their job very easy, they just cut and paste what the previous person said if they can’t be [bothered]. We’re all guilty of that.

There was a wave of other guitar bands beginning with “K” that came up about the same time as you – The Killers, Kings of Leon, The Kooks, Kaiser Chiefs, Keane – do you have a favourite?

Yeah, yeah – I’ve no idea why. I’d put them all in the same sort of – what are those bins in the supermarket? The lucky dip bin, everything’s a quid [Dh6] – they’re all [UK budget shop] Poundstretcher, those boys.

Rock is a bit dead right now.

I suppose it is. We’re wanting for characters, mavericks, that’s what I wish for – no one’s negative, no one’s just talking [rubbish] and being aggressive. Someone that’s just completely breathtaking, that comes into the scene and changes it all.

When you guys say things like that, people call you arrogant ...

Yeah, definitely, and I think in print it always looks terrible. I’ve always said – how can you take any of this seriously? You’re paid to play your guitar, the whole thing is ridiculous. To read what we say and take it as downright serious? As if. And Keith [Richards] and Pete Townshend said the worst [stuff] about everyone, they were dark, man – and that’s why I like them. I can’t say that? I can say what I want, I’m in a band, see you later.

The critics are on your side – at last – but the one thing they all pick on is your lyrics.

Yes – it’s taken a while. Again, it’s all out of context – you can pick three or four lines from a song to analyse. But as a whole, there’s way over 50 songs. Kurt Cobain got the same stick. If you listen to a song like Fast Fuse, I defy anyone to pick holes in that tune.

Let’s go local. Did you know there’s a hipster cafe in Dubai called Tom & Serg [Kasabian’s lead singer is Tom Meighan]?

Someone sent me a photo and I thought it was a wind-up – is that really true? That’s even weirder, we should definitely go. If we’ve got time, we’re there.

I’d like to test how normal you are. When was the last time you took public transport?

All the time, I love the bus, the Tube. I’ve got kids man, so they love it. Like, three days ago.

Cooked a meal?

If you count, like, getting it out of a packet and putting it in the microwave, about 20 minutes ago.

Let’s flip it over – what’s the most rock ‘n’ roll thing you’ve done?

I mean pretty much everything you can imagine, it’s all out there and it’s all been done, many times over. We’ve been in this game so long now that it’s just part of going out on tour. Specifically ... I don’t want to really get anyone in any trouble, but when we’re on tour, we live the life you expect us to live – let’s put it that way.

But you’re a settled family man.

Yeah, of course, of course, that’s one side of me – there’s also another side. And that’s the side that goes out on tour and enjoys himself.

Any regrets?

Nah, nothing, we are where we are for a reason. Everything is a lesson that leads you to the point where you are now. It’s been one hell of a ride, quite an incredible ride.

It has – you’ve been in this band your entire adult life. Ever wanted to do a solo record or play with anyone else?

I don’t really know, I never really think about it. You never know what’s around the corner, man, so I just wake up, check my pulse: “Heart’s still beating? Right, let’s go, what we going to do today?”

The key seems to be that you four still all get on.

Yeah, [who] knows how man, there just must be something in all our personalities that clicks. Everyone has their own seat at the table and no one tries to sit in anybody else’s seat.

But, as songwriter and producer, you’re very much sitting at the head of that table.

Yeah, the thing is that’s how it’s always been. We’ve been together since we were 16 and that’s how we started, and that’s how we still are. That’s why it’s not weird.

Any idea what the next album might sound like?

I have an idea, but these things, they never quite go to plan. I can see it sounding different to the last five records. I don’t know what is next, but I think it will be the start of something brand new... chapter one of a new era.

So, are you the best band in the United Kingdom?

If I was 23 and didn’t know any better, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you the truth, but now you realise there’s no such thing – the great thing about music is it’s not a race, there’s no winners or losers. I think what we’ve created as a band is very unique. So out of all of them, we’re definitely the most unique. That’s what I’ll give you.

Kasabian perform on Thursday, April 30, at 10.45pm

rgarratt@thenational.ae