Airbourne have a new album coming out and a new tour on the way.  Photo Contributed
Airbourne have a new album coming out and a new tour on the way. Photo Contributed Contributed

Airbourne talk drop bears, beer and taxes

Airbourne are no strangers to success, and with a review of three and a half stars out of four by Rolling Stone it looks like the new album is set to be an utter crowd-pleaser.

The band are known for their wild antics, heavy drinking and down-to-earth attitudes.

'Breakin' Outta Hell' is the title of Airbourne's fourth studio album which is produced by Bob Marlette and engineered and mixed by Mike Fraser.


Airbourne have a new album coming out and a new tour on the way.  Photo Contributed
Airbourne have a new album coming out and a new tour on the way. Photo Contributed Contributed

We talked to lead guitarist/vocalist Joel O'Keeffe about the new album while the band were in Canada.

Marc Stapelberg: How would you like your fans to listen to the album for the first time when they get it?

Joel O'Keeffe: Well it's gonna come out on a Friday. So when it comes out on a Friday - What do we like to do on a Friday? We like to knock off at about five o'clock. So I would imagine get the record at some point during the day, don't listen to it yet. Wait til you get wherever it is - your mates place, or home - invite your mates over. Fill the bath tub up full of ice, and beer, or Jack cans, or whatever you're drinking and have a few and crank it up. You know, crank it all weekend. It is a rock' n roll album for a good time. It is called Breakin Outta Hell cause it is about getting away from things like work or university or school or paying bills and taxes and all that sort of s**t. It's about a real one way ticket outta hell. It's the one way ticket to let loose.


MS: The title track deals with escaping the rigmarole of normal life. Do you have a sense of that aussie battler and the daily grind?

JO: We grew up in working class Victoria. I am out here with three other Australians. Actually there is not just three, there is also a road crew member out here - little Mick. And then when we go back out to Europe we got Petrol, that's his name. He's Australian. But we are all working class musicians. It is what we do and we are around it every day. Roadsie he is like from very regional Victoria. His mum and dad are farmers. That's not easy, you know what I mean. We are very much in touch with it because we are so working class. Touring out here people might think it is all glamour. It is rock' n roll. You don't have a shower or bed for quite a few days on end. You sleep on a bus which great. We love it. But when you think of a tour bus it is like I think Bonn Scott put it this way - you're on the highway to hell when you smell the other guy's socks hanging in front of your face.

MS: Things are pretty tough in the regional areas. It is pretty hard to even buy a house.

JO: It's like that wherever you go. We've noticed that in Canada. It is the same sort of thing. People are struggling to buy homes just because it has been so overpriced. Investors are buying them up as opposed to the little battler who just wants a home. He gets bought out by a land developer who wants to develop something or turn it into a big block of apartments. And it is like a guy just wants a home to live in with his family and he can't cause he is getting outbid everyday by a group of investors he just can't compete with. And this album is a break from that. That is what it is for and that is what we use rock' n roll for as well. You put it on and you forget about everything else. Turn the world off and turn the rock' n roll on. That is what it is for because that is sometimes how we deal with it. You just gotta blow off some steam. And the best way to do it is at a rock' n roll gig or crankin up a rock' n roll record - a new one or an old one- it doesn't really matter as long as you're having a good time. And generally if your mates are there, that helps too.


MS: You have been quoted as saying you like Netflix. What are you watching now?

JO: We don't get too much wifi out here but what I was watching was a new tv show called Longmire. And it's got an Australian actor in it. I forget his bloody name. It's set in the middle of America but he is walking around with Chesty Bonds on and I am watching it and am going 'I've been to the US a number of times now. I've been to every f**king Walmart there is, you can't buy Chesty Bonds anywhere.' I mean he is the Sheriff of this town and he is cutting around in Chesty Bonds. So I thought that was pretty cool.


Airbourne have a new album coming out and a new tour on the way.  Photo Contributed
Airbourne have a new album coming out and a new tour on the way. Photo Contributed Contributed

MS: While doing research I found an O'Keeffe on the run from the cops in the states. Obviously I realised it wasn't you, but have you ever been on the run from the cops?

JO: (laughs) Ah yeah, when I was a kid. I was on the run from the cops. We used to do this thing where our parents and our cousin's parents used to all get together and have a dinner party. So all the kids would get together and go and cause trouble. And one of the things we used to do was moon the cars. So we are all standing there mooning the cars and we didn't really see what car was coming and we thought it was like a white commodore or something. And it was a cop car. So we mooned the cop car and then he put the lights on and chased us down a driveway and we jumped over fences and we all ran everywhere. And we ran back inside and hid under the beds. And hopefully he didn't come in and tell mum and dad. But he didn't. He was cool. And that happened quite a few times actually. Even with the cops. We would always end up mooning the cops by mistake.


MS: Have you informed the other bands about the dangers of drop bears?

JO: (laughs) They always ask us because they know we are Australian. They are like 'We know Australia is full of all these dangerous animals and scorpions, great white sharks and crocodiles, and funnel web spiders and box jellyfish." And we go 'ah yeah we got the drop bears too, you gotta watch out for them'. And the best one is the trouser snake. Because they are going 'Ah what's a trouser snake? Does it get in ya trousers?' and you go 'Ah yeah, you know when you put your jeans on in the morning you better watch out.'

JO: Ah that actors name in Longmire. His name is Robert Taylor.

MS: Cool, we'll give him a plug. You wear a crocodile tooth. I am assuming you didn't kill it yourself, but do you ever get asked whether you did?

JO: Ah yeah and usually I make something up on the spot just to have a bit of fun with it. (laughs) I go 'ah yeah this one time we had a crocodile just walk into the lounge room and I was just watching Rambo and I just got excited and I had to kill it right there on the spot cause he was going to eat everybody.' And then they go "Oh my god, really' (american accent) and then I go 'No, that didn't happen.'


MS: How many shows would you do on a normal festival run?

JO: On European festival run it is different. We basically play about five shows a week. If we are out for two years that adds up.

MS: Ok, let's do a rough calculation. Let's just say 300. And if you get four kegs of beer as your rider, then on a normal festival run you drink 1200 kegs of beer. Does it ever get too much?

JO: You got to tell yourself that the world is never going to run out of alcohol. It's just not going to happen. So you don't need to drink it all. There is always going to be more. And always share. There is always someone who wants a drink. After the show we might run into a few bands we might know and we say 'Come on over to our bus, we got the keg going. Feel welcome, come over, have a few'. It never gets too much. If you're really hung over and you're spewin up everywhere, which has happened, you're probably more likely give it a miss that day. Or you might not. You see how you go.

MS: Basically you have fallen off the Iron Maiden stage, got locked out of the tour bus in your boxes and thongs, and basically shut down a Download stage for climbing the lighting rig. Anything interesting happen recently?

JO: We had a thing happen over in the UK recently at a festival called Rambling Man. Basically I started to climb that day and the stage manager actually came over and he was yelling at me and all this sort of stuff so I got down and had a bit of a wrestle with him and then jumped out into the crowd and did a solo. So that was pretty cool.


MS: Union, League or AFL?

JO: I was into AFL since I was kid. But then also when I was a kid we used to always watch the State of Origin with NSW and Queensland in the rugby. And I got really into that. And I always do every year. And if we are on the road I still find a way to somehow get the game. I'm addicted to Origin. I really love it. And I'm always going for NSW. We didn't do to well this year but there is always next year. One of the things when you are overseas on tour and missing Australia a lot, if you walk into a pub and sometimes there will be AFL on tv or sometimes there will be rugby. And if the league comes on I will just pick the team who is the underdog and that is who I'll back for the day because if they win it is double as exciting.


MS: You have played with the Rolling Stones. Did you meet Keith Richards?

JO: Yeah, I did mate. I got a picture with him.

MS: Was he like an undead pirate?

JO: When we met them all. They came in and he's got the vodka and orange going. In they come and they crackin jokes. I didn't even have a shirt on because we had just come off stage, and Mick Jagger goes 'Oh you shouda told me you didn't have a shirt. I've got hundreds and thousands of them back there. I got green ones, blues ones, silky ones, I got a whole collection. You should go back and pick a shirt.'

And I was like 'ah ok'. And then Keith Richards grabbed my guitar and he goes 'Gimme a look at this guitar - what's this one?', 'It's a Gibson SG' and "Ah yeah cool' and he hands it back to me. And the way he talks is like he talks a bit like a pirate and when you are talking to him he is listening and he is looking at ya but you sort of don't know what he is going to do next. And he was laughing the whole time. They are just having fun and then like 30 seconds after we met them the whole arena goes black and you hear 'Dun Dah dun nun aah'. I still pinch myself today.


MS: Are you still running the white explorer?

JO: Yeah I am mate. Still running that. It is actually the VB explorer. There is the Melbourne Bitter, The VB Explorer and the Carlton Draught. The Gibson VB explorer that has the bottle top on it. That's the one that has been there since day one. That one is actually in the repair shop at the moment being fixed because it has had the neck broken on it about ten times. So they are doing a super mega repair on it to make sure she can handle the next leg of touring. At the moment I'm running my second explorer which is Melbourne Bitter. It has the Melbourne Bitter cap on it. And that one has gone into being the main guitar at the moment. And then Carlton Draught is being used for Breakin Outta Hell and Rivalry.


MS: Did you have any 'Oh F**ck" moments on the new record?

JO: Every record is the same. You sit there and you got this huge task ahead of you and your nervous. You don't know if you can pull it off. But Bob, our producer was there, and he's always making you feel comfortable. And there would be moments where I would be sitting there writing and would be going "I just can't seem to get this verse to work', "I just can't dig deep enough to get these lyrics right'. So he would be like 'It's alright. Let's just worry about it tomorrow'. And then of course, me, I don't do that, so I would go home and then I would be up to four in the morning. I would put something down, and be feeling it, and get the juices flowing again and then I would go in and show in him. And he would go 'Nah, Nah, that's it. Don't know what you did last night. But we found it.' So there were moments like that in those 'Oh f**k' moments because he had to get it done and we wanted to make every song work, but when the 'Oh fuck' thing happens you gotta go 'Right, we gotta push harder, we got to dig deeper, we just got to find a way, fuck sleep, fuck everything, we gotta get it.' That is kind of the mentality.

MS: Any chance of more regional shows later down the track?

JO: On this tour we had to cancel shows overseas to get over to Australia to do which is why unfortunately we are not getting over to Adelaide and Perth and any of the other smaller regional places. That is unfortunate about the way it happened but after this East Coast run we are going to see how it all goes, and it should go really well, and then we will at some point, when we do come home to Australia, because we always come home to Australia. At the end of this whole entire cycle there is a good chance that we will do a more proper regional Australia tour and get over to WA and get over to South Australia. We've never played up in the Northern Territory before, and it is one of the things personally for me that I want to do, and I want to get up and play near Alice Springs. And I want to play up in Cairns, and Darwin.

'Breakin' Outta Hell' is the title of AIRBOURNE's fourth studio album, set for release via Spinefarm Records on September 23rd

Tickets on Sale NOW

Saturday 7th January 2017 - Summernats CANBERRA

Friday 13th January - The Metro Theatre SYDNEY

Saturday 14th January - The Triffid BRISBANE

Friday 20th January 2017 - Trak MELBOURNE

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