Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Silent Uproar: Obviously the first thing you notice when listening to the new album is how different the sound is. When was the decision made to go in such a different direction?
Peter: Well, it ended up being more intricate than we had figured as far as a direction. We weren’t really planning on doing a bunch of vocals and things like that, it just kind of came spur of the moment. The only thing we planned was the acoustic stuff because we had a lot of songs that started out that way, “Love Burns”, “Salvation”, “Rifles”, “Shade of Blue” and a couple of other ones on the second album. They started in a hotel room or in a living room on an acoustic guitar. It was definitely part of this band that we hadn’t introduced to people and we just thought it was an important part of this band that people needed to hear. It still feels kind of like we’re finally introducing one of the last parts of this band. It’s been a thought for a while you know, we’ve had songs that complicated situations, stuff you’d see like “Gospel” and “Way of the World,” those songs were written before the first album. We held onto them and we didn’t put them on b-sides because we thought they were important as songs and as a part of this band for people to hear.
SU: In a way, is this the record you wanted to make all along?
Peter: It’s a record (laughs). You know, we wanted to make the first one, we wanted to make the second one, we just had a different idea. The second one was just plug straight into a board and a distortion pedal and kind of go at it and make it kind of as aggressive and annoying as possible. Just, see what people would put up with as a different kind of stripped down sound. There wasn’t a lot of experimentation on it, we just went at it. And this one, there’s really a lot of experimenting on this one but with acoustic guitars and vocals and pianos and strange things.
SU: Do you see Howl as a transition record...sorta moving from heavy reverb and feedback to a more acoustic/mellower sound or is it just another phase in the band?
Peter: Yeah, it’s just another… another place that we’re coming from with music. We like to write, it’s gonna come and go. It’s definitely not a, now we’re a country gospel group blues band or whatever you want to call this now. We’re not that either. We’re a mixture of all of it, you know? We’re trying to have fun making records and having fun playing music and to have a point and purpose behind it. That’s where it’s all coming from and if you feel the same way, then join in, sing along (laughs).
SU: And so, when you go to make a new album down the road, it could be something completely different, is it just a matter of what you’re feeling at the time?
Peter: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve got four songs recorded already that didn’t mix with this album because they’re more aggressive and louder songs. There’s that already. I just think that’s the way it should be. It should be about what’s in front of you at the time; there’s good songs and there’s not.
SU: It’s almost like your record could be snapshot of where you are now. Like this is where we are, this is what we put out. And next time we might be feeling something different and that’s what we’ll put out.
Peter: Yeah, I mean, I can guarantee that it’s not going to be disco (laughs). And it’s not going to be hip-hop or trance or whatever you call it. It’s not that. We’re not good at that stuff. We can kind of just keep it rock and roll and we’re okay at that. I think (laughs). Some people say no but that’s about all we can do so we’ll keep it to that.
SU: Where did you pull inspirations from when writing the songs for this album?
Peter: We’re pulling from what we see is lacking in music basically. In rock and roll, the roll has been missing for a long time, so we’ve been trying to put that in it from day one, and for ourselves anyway, you know what I mean? Just kind of the atmosphere of if you’re in the same room as us while we’re playing, then I would like to think we’re of the same opinion and we’re like-minded. And there’s a good thing about that. That means we’re not alone, we’re feeling the same thing so let’s all, join in and it’s a good feeling. I don’t necessarily get that from music, but maybe I’m just not tapping into the right stuff necessarily.
So just kind of pushing for that really. I got that from Beatles albums and Rolling Stones old albums and some Beach Boys. Somebody going in and having fun and making music for music’s sake, and you go along for the ride with the band.
SU: I know the record just came out, but how has the reaction been so far? Do you pay attention to that?
Peter: I pay attention to it a little; I’m kind of interested how people see it. This album is a show of faith for fans, if you’re a fan of music I would think you’d like this because that’s what we’re trying to be. Just trying to write good songs and not trying to sell anything more than that. Hopefully we can ake a living doing it, and so far so good. People seem to be really liking it and appreciating it for that.
SU: I think people appreciate the fact that you’re willing to step away from the sound you had before and try something new. So many times bands are okay with ‘hey this has done all right for us we’ll just keep doing this.’ It’s just cool to see you take it in a different direction and throw that out there and see how it comes out.
Peter: Thanks, man. It got out there and people like it and that’s for the best already and we’ll make another album down the road and everything’s fine. We don’t have four cars from it but that’s not the fucking point (laughs).
SU: I noticed you incorporated some different instruments this time around, like a trombone in some of those songs. What was that all about, where did the idea to include these come from?
Peter: Well, actually I started playing the trombone when I was in sixth grade for the school band. I was in the school jazz band and marching band and I was doing anything to get out of the house as much as possible. Somehow I ended up playing that instrument, I don’t know if it was the last thing people wanted or what. Everyone was doing trumpet and I was just kind of around and I got left with that. It’s just kind of like, ‘fuck it. Why not? Let’s see what the fuck happens’ you know.
SU: Were you like, ‘guys I want a trombone in this song,’ and they were like “what? What are you talking about?”
Peter: No, no one really thought about it that much, the thing with it was we were just shitting around. We brought it in cause we were like well we can play it maybe. Like the one Bob Dylan has on “Everyone Must Get Stoned,” that kind of drunken thing and the band used it a bit and we had a couple of other ones. That seems to not be around a whole lot that kind of drunken feel with those instruments. I guess there’s the ska deal you know with trombones and saxophones and things like that. It goes along with that spirit of like “well, I can’t really play this but I can pick it up and get some noise out of it,” and that’s the spirit of rock and roll. Let’s make some noise out of this thing and have fun. Everybody can get involved, bang on a pot if you can’t make a noise out of it. It’s the spirit of it, man.
SU: You need to give yourself a little more credit than that. It did come out sounding pretty good.
Peter: Well, that’s all right but that was the idea behind it, just take it out and see if it works.
SU: You split with Virgin right after the last record came out. Did the split with your label bring you closer as musicians/bandmates or did it cause the rift that led to Nick Jago(drummer) leaving, albeit temporarily?
Peter: Well no, what caused the rift was just so much touring. That came down to we needed a break and I was the one who said ‘I need a fucking break. I’m getting on a plane and going home because it wasn’t making sense in a way to me for some reason. I don’t know. I just played a show and made enough dough to get to the next show. There’s a time when you just have to stop that. And it was time for another album too, I guess in a way it seemed like time to stop and at least regenerate and…rejuvenate, I guess is the word. While we’re going at it, let’s make sure it’s coming from the same fighting spirit, you know. It’s the only way to do it. It can be helpful, taking a break and stepping back from it. Then you’re in a bar and someone put on “Red Eyes and Tears” and we’re like, fuck it, we still got work to do. And that’s the truth of the matter; we’ve still got music to make.
And the record label, the only drag about that was that they had a different opinion on the way the business should be done. I think a lot of people like the music but thought we were making mistakes not doing commercials and there’s a bunch of things that came up that would have probably sold more records if we had done. That’s what they believed but we wanted to do it a different way than that. So I think the business people should step back. The people that really aren’t involved with music, they’re involved with business. There’s a lot of people who are involved in music at the label and they come up and say ‘I’m sorry that happened.” I don’t know, I never even met the business people, so (laughs) you know what I mean? I don’t know what they’re deal is.
SU: Well after that were you a little skeptical to go with another major label when you hooked up with RCA?
Peter: Yeah. We’re still coming from the same place. When we went with Virgin, we kind of jumped in the belly of the best and you cut your way out if you have to. We’re just trying to make music with a system that can be a lot about business. So, it’s the same thing. And if people like it, then great. The cool thing was, the guy who signed us at RCA was one of the main reasons we went to Virgin. He left within months after we signed to Virgin. Then the people who came in after that left and the people after that left. You never know what the fuck’s gonna happen. We made the album and then we brought it to these people and whatever. There’s plenty of indie record companies that didn’t want anything to do with it. It’s like, no, now would you go re-record it with someone who’s got a big name and can make it a big hit or something, for an indie band a hit. So you get the same thing with indies as you get with majors. It’s whoever likes it.
SU: Do you feel that album artwork and packaging has become less or more important in the age or of iTunes and MP3s?
Peter: Me personally, I never had enough dough to collect albums or CDs. The first time that I had enough money was when we started going to record labels in 2001 because they wanted to sign us. And that was the first time in my life that I had a collection of anything. And I ended up selling those for food (laughs) because that’s what I thought you were supposed to do with it. What is kind of lacking in that though, is the love of a fan, to me. I don’t know if that’s true or not but if you love a band, you go out and get it. I mean I have those kind of albums. I love that. That’s like some weird kind of pride thing like ‘yeah, I got that.’ I love it. You know, that is kind of the throwaway kind of fast food society, the iTunes thing. At the touch of a button you can get rid of a song cause it doesn’t mean anything anymore. That’s as much the musician’s fault as anything else, if you’re making music that’s fast food, than you’re going to be treated that way. People aren’t going to give it much credit. I’d like to think that I could be able to make music that means more than that. More than just a temporary fix. You can mean something in a person’s life for a month, you know something I love means something for a year or two and there are things that you hold onto for a long time.
SU: You think it’s more challenging for a band to do that now? Most of the stuff that comes out is rehashing old stuff, rarely do you find kind of, a new deal, you know what I mean?
Peter: Well, I mean, yeah that’s true, I guess. I don’t know, I try not to look at it that way too much as far as rehashing. I think it’s good to rehash the spirit of rock and roll. I think that’s a good thing.
SU: Maybe it’s not so much that as culture is so disposable as it’s harder to find the people that it can connect with and who will really hang on to it.
Peter: I kind of tend to spiral into a place that’s like ‘oh, fuck. This is hopeless’ but this is just my perception of it. Please prove me wrong, somebody. But my perception of it is that radio can kind of be like that. It’s a test of society so why don’t we shove it down their throats for a week and they’re going to love it and move on. That didn’t help anything you know what I mean? And the record companies can do the same thing. It’s like you love something for a moment and you try to cram it there but it’s not presented to people in a way that says “this is something more than this.” Once again, it’s up to the musicians and artists to create that type of music but at the same time it’s got to be taken care of by everybody and respected. It is being sold to people as look you can make a lot of money from this and boom and then you’re gone. I don’t know. There’s nothing to respect about that and nothing to hold onto about that. That’s why it is the way it is really. When that turns around, as far as culture respects art. Writing respects movies. You know, if you respect a movie for having a place as art, not just as entertainment, but as art and culture. Marking a statement of some sort. I think that’s a good place to start, you know. It’s got to be presented that way and it’s not being presented that way.
SU: Is there anything you hope to accomplishment with the band that you haven’t quite reached yet?
Peter: Yeah, sure man. I want everybody to hear or music. I want them to not just hear it but feel it, get something from it. I want people to have the opportunity to hear it and get something from it.