Interview by Francijn Suermondt / Rabbit Attack PR
10 years on from the release of their debut album Runnin’ Wild, Airbourne have gone on from strength to strength and are now regulars on the festival circuits around the world with frontman Joel O’Keeffe the perfect entertainer ensuring the band lodge in the mind of the crowds for years to come.
Although the band has been pretty static line up wise, long-time rhythm guitarist David Roads announced he would be leaving the band to work in his family business earlier this year. Harri Harrison was announced as his replacement so we went out to find him at their recent Bristol show to get his take on joining the hard livin’ Aussies.
Fran : Welcome to Harri Harrison from Airbourne … hurray!!! First of all …I just want to say I just loved your set at Rambin Man last year..I took my niece as an 18th birthday gift, to come and film my interviews. I have to say you guys exploded on stage with ‘Ready To Rock’ and we just looked at each other and said ‘SHIT’….I haven’t been knocked off my feet by a live band so much in the last 10 years….amazing!!
Harri: As you mentioned I cannot claim too much responsibility for that as I was not yet with the band at that time. . But I know when I came into the band that was definitely the kind of MO the whole band operates on, especially at those festival gigs, it is all about capturing people, hooking in new people, I found in the summer season that that’s just what we did. There is always that core group of Airborne fans who are already there singing every word from the first note right to the end and I guess the whole thing we try to achieve is get the Shepard’s hook out and draw in people that are 100 metres away at the very back of the festival and give them the same sort of feeling that you have just mentioned.
Fran: It’s the electricity which I think everyone feels… what I loved was the girl in front of me had Airbourne pants on over her leggings … Airbourne pants how amazing. …where do you get those from …I want some!! Moving on …. Do you songs start with the lyrics or the music? I know you haven’t been involved so far possibly as you have just joined the band, presumably you are working on new stuff now with the guys? How does this work?
Harri: For the most part, and this is how the guys have worked previously, the core of every song is the riff and instrumental idea, but we are all constantly taking notes on our phones, writing down phrases and lyrics, song titles, whatever may spark inspiration. So I guess the way we have been doing this for the last few months is making sure that at each sound check we have some tape running, so we are getting everything recorded. There is going to be a hell of a lot of stuff to go through when we get home as we have been coming up with some really cool stuff just jamming together at rehearsals. So that’s something that by the time we do get home and start the process of working on the next record, we have to play with. There is going to be many ideas to sift through, work on and develop from there. So the main things is there is no formula no strict rules, you kind of just let an idea flow when it hits, whether that’s a lyric, a single word, a chord structure …whatever it may be.
Fran: So in your mind, what do you think makes the perfect Rock track?
Harri: Being a guitarist I’m a big riff guy, I love riffs and prior to this tour, we were touring in South American, what was amazing to see over there, was that they sing the riffs rather than the lyrics (as English is not their first language) ….so they were turning the riffs into big soccer (or football) chants ….that’s definitely something which showed me the importance of a great riff to certain audiences. And then the band is all about big choruses and big singalongs …
Fran: Very tribal isn’t it …
Harri: Yeah, definitely, you mention tribal, the kick drum driving the song is key and to not over complicate things, I think most bands can tend to over complicate things and that is something we try not to do. The songs start in a raw form and are then built up, built up and built up and then usually stripped back, actually.
Fran: Well it works … it definitely works!!! So this is a question about when you recorded and produced Breakin Outta Hell …. Was it recorded differently to Black Dog Barking and will you do anything different in the future when recording new albums?
Harri: I know the main difference for the guys was that it was the first one done at home in Melbourne, BDG was recorder mostly in Vancouver, in fact all the ones before BOH, were recorded a long way from home. This was the first opportunity with Spinefarm records, that gave us the power by asking us ok where you want to record? What studios and producers do you want to use? So yeah that was the most significant thing I think. And even I, even though I was not yet officially in the band, had the opportunity to have a couple of beers and hang out at the studio. And I did actually sing on ‘It’s All For Rock N Roll’ so that was a cool full circle thing, as at the time we had no bloody idea what was to come …but it was cool to have been part of it before actually joining the band. Another thing was that BHO was produced by Bob Marlette, who produced Running Wild and Mike Fraser engineered and mixed the record and he had only worked with the guys previously on No Guts No Glory.
Fran: When you were a kid and dreaming of being a rock star…how does the reality compare to the dream of it, what are the pros and cons ….
Harri: I guess the one thing I was fortunate to have experienced already is the work involved. It’s a huge uphill battle, to keep things moving forward, progressing…..and to continually reach new people and all of that. I had in my previous band started touring internationally in 2015, so I had a good couple of years of experience of leaving home for months on end, leaving family and friends, being hungry, literally, and sleeping on backstage couches, on the floor of the venue, basically wherever you can steal some sleep. I guess that’s probably a true reflection of what it is like to be doing this, it’s not easy, it is work and I guess that’s the thing that evades most people when they are dreaming about becoming a musician and doing this for a living, is that it’s a job ….. The best job in the world…but you need to constantly work at it to make yourself better. So with the experiences I had I knew to expect the work that was going to be involved. Since joining the band we have essentially been on the road for 6 months with very little time a home, so that’s the reality. It’s amazing, it’s the best thing ever, and we absolutely love what we are doing …..we may turn up to venues sleep deprived or a little tired …but when the intro starts playing and you hear the crowd …then the energy …then it’s all ok !!
Fran: We are in the UK…which UK bands have influenced you and do you have any guilty listening pleasures that you would not normally admit to?
Harri: Deep Purple and the Rolling Stones are probably my two earliest music memories, that stems from my parents, I was fortunate that they had cool record collections. Some of my earliest memories are of trips in the car with those cassettes in the tape deck as a sort of sound track to us driving around. To this day I love Deep Purple ….
Fran: Are you going to see them on their tour?
Harri: Actually we did a couple of shows with them in the summer! It was really cool. I’m a massive Richie Blackmore guy so it’s sad that it doesn’t look like they will reconcile before Deep Purple wraps things, up but they had a bloody good run of it and made a hell of a lot of good music together!
Fran: So your concerts are becoming legendary ….a lot of the reason is because Joel is bonkers on stage climbing on shit! Where do you think most of your fans are from? Is it Europe? I know that for example you don’t have rock festivals in Australia … so does that cause a problem for your home grown fans?
Harri: In theory the rock festival should work in Australia, there is no shortage of sites as to where festivals could be held in theory. However, I believe there will be a Download Australia that is being organised for next year, so that is something that even if it is half as big as the Download here will be amazing!! Yeah definitely the European audience is the biggest, craziest, Airbourne fan base.
Fran: Why do you think that is?
Harri: I think, and I always find this really interesting, that European audiences treat Australian rock music as though it’s its own genre. So all the European fans who love metal, British new wave metal and all those subgenres…. Look on Australian rock as passionately as these…for example if you mention to North Americans about ACDC they will have heard of them, but if you mention Rose Tattoo for example they probably won’t of. But most Europeans know all of these other bands and the long deep history of Australian rock, inside out, so I think it all stems from that. We just see Airbourne as continuing the legacy of Australian rock.
Fran: If you had a dinner party for 6 people dead or alive who would you invite and why
Harri: Jimi Hendrix, I would just like to talk to him about his approach to music and the guitar as an instrument, nearly 50 years on from his death, in my book he is still relatively untouched in terms of how inventive he was and how he totally threw the rule book out in terms of his music.
Keith Richards & Lemmy … I would like to just observe and listen to them. I love the fact we are touring with Phil Campbell and the Bastard sons so it is great to bring that history together and even my guitar tech Roger was Motorheads guitar tech, so there is a lot of common ground between the us and Motorhead. We are happy to be employed to pick up the torch and carry it onwards.
Rich Robinson … from the Black Crowes, from a guitarist point of view, I really like him as a guitarist and as a song writer.
Chris Robinson … to see him bicker and fight with his brother!
Fran: Where are the females???
Harri: Bette Davis … she was married to Miles Davis, early 70’s. Different type of music to where Airbourne comes from I guess, but she was sort of like early funk, rock n roll. And, you can imagine what her environment was like in the 70’s doing that, a young female in a male dominated world and she was a real trailblazer in doing something really unique. She would be someone interesting just to throw in the mix of all these guys who will have stories and have blazed trails.
Fran: Thanks for that I am going to look her up now!
Harri: Yeah she is really cool, one of those people who are more influential than a lot of people give her credit for and yeah again…she probably doesn’t get enough credit because she is so obscure. There is a lot of music that would be a lot different if she had not been around before.
Fran: Have you got any news or scoops for the My Global Mind readers?
Harri: I guess the biggest scoop is that as most people know we are on the final leg of our Breakin Outta Hell tour now and we will be winding up on the 22nd Nov in Nottingham. Then we will be straight back to Melbourne straight into the writing process for our new album. We are going to ride off the energy we are feeling at the moment and it feels really good, we are coming up with new ideas and it’s all flowing freely, so we are going to jump straight into that and get a new record underway!
Fran: YAY! Do you have a title yet?
Harri: No and even if I did I would have to kill you if I told you!
Fran: I’m so looking forward to it, I reviewed your last album for myglobalmind.com and I want the dibs on the next album! Thank you so much for this interview …..To say thank you I have some of your favourite beer for you ….Carlton Draught Lager!!