“We wanted everything as visceral and direct as it could possibly be…” - Airbourne talk new album Boneshaker with hmv.com
Australian hard-rockers Airbourne return today (October 25th) with their fifth studio album, Boneshaker.
After returning to original producer Bob Marlette for previous LP Breakin’ Outta Hell, this time the band have made a sonic shift, with the arrival of producer Dave Cobb, a man best known for helming the hit records for country stars Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson.
The result is new album Boneshaker. You can hear Cobb’s influence, but this isn’t Airbourne go country, it’s still a raw, lively and turbo-charged record of pure rock and roll.
With the album now in hmv stores, we spoke to guitarist Matt ‘Harri’ Harrison to talk about working with Cobb and trying to capture the band’s ferocious live sound...
It’s been three years since your last record, when did you start putting the songs together for this new one? Or do you need the mayhem of tour to subside?
“It’s a little bit of both. Thanks to the wonder of modern technology, we record every soundtrack now and there is always something at every one of those. In that sense, it’s always ticking over. But in terms of properly compiling ideas and fashioning them into songs, that’s much, much harder on the road.”
“We tour so heavily. It takes a tour finishing to be able to decompress and listen to the stuff and really sift through it. We had three years to go through, hundreds of riffs and ideas. Only a couple got to the stage where Joel put lyrics on them. Then we got serious about the writing.”
You did the record with Dave Cobb, when did you decide he was the guy?
“It took one phone call and he was always top of our list. His name isn’t hard to come by in our world, he’s so amazingly successful, I think he’s probably the biggest producer in the world and he was always someone we talked about.”
“He’s done so many big country records. There’s not a huge amount sonically that’s relevant to us in those records, but you can always tell it’s him producing, he’s always doing something a little bit different. The guitars sound great, the drums sound great, it always sounds like human beings in a room being great at their instruments.”
Did he take much convincing?
“Weirdly, when we first talked, we told him about Black Robot. That was a band he was in with some of his mates and they do this awesome cover of Eric Clapton’s ‘Cocaine’. That was a big record for us. When we spoke to him, it was really clear that he wanted the same type of record we did. We wanted to do something super raw and basically bottling what we do on stage.”
At this stage in your career, what do you need a producer for? Is it someone to bring discipline to recording or something more technical?
“Sometimes it’s being a mediator, sometimes it’s co-writing and arranging, sometimes it’s bringing the best sound of you, Dave was all of those things. He’s definitely got a way of working and it’s a big culture shock for you. He always does it live and he always knows when the take is there."
"Nine times out of 10, it’s the first take too. He’d storm through the door and shout ‘That’s it, you’ve got it’. And we’d think we were still learning the song! That’s his thing though, his goal is always captured the moment of inspiration at the moment it happens.”
How did you find living and working in Nashville?
“It’s a music city and it’s an incredibly inspiring place to work. So much of what you’d go to Los Angeles for is in Nashville now. You walk around the city and live music is spilling out of every bar from 11am until 3am. The musicianship of some of these cover bands is incredible too. The guitarists made me want to give up!”
It’s a 10-track-record, was it always your intention to do something like that?
“We didn’t realise until after we finish, but it’s barely 30 minutes long. We were back home in Australia and a few weeks after recording and we listened to it for the first time through. That was when we realised. A few of the songs were longer, but we cut them down. We wanted everything as visceral and direct as it could possibly be. A song wasn’t allowed to dull or dip or plateau for a moment. It’s a short sharp punch in the face.”
When did you decide that Boneshaker was the right album title?
“Late. I mean, it’s a classic Airbourne title and initially, we thought that was a bad thing. It felt too familiar. But once we started working on artwork and the album’s visual feel, it made more and more sense to the point that it became undeniable. It was always the obvious choice, but we fought it for a long time. Now we love it, we’re talking about doing a Boneshaker beer and even Boneshaker condoms…”
Finally, how’s your live set coming on? You’ve got five records now, decisions to make. But then with a record so short, you can probably fit them all in...
“Exactly. They’ll all work really well in the live show. We know the songs people know us for and what they want to hear. But we’re so excited to play the new songs, these songs were made to play live, we premiered a lot of these songs live and we can’t wait to bring them out to people. We’re booked right through 2020 and into 2021. We’re ready to work!”