March 10, 2010 | Author: Greg Phillips
Warrnambool’s finest, the hard livin’, hard rockin’ Airbourne, packed their bags, marshalled their global troops and their truckload of Marshall amps as they set out for a sonic assault on the world with their powerful new album ‘No Guts’ No Glory’. With Aussie rock gods AC/DC fresh in our minds from their recent (and quite possibly last) tour of Australia, has Airbourne got what it takes to accept the baton should it be thrust their way? Greg Phillips asked the question of guitarist David Roads as he prepared for a German show that night.
Have you got used to being a international touring band now or does it still seem a little surreal?
Oh, it’s not too bad now. All of 2008 was over here and it kind of feels like home in a way.
You’re in Munich for a show tonight?
Yeah that’s right we’re on the German leg of the tour
How many at the venue tonight?
Around two thousand tonight and it is sold out. It’s our own show. Germany is a pretty strong market for us.
With your first album, there was a hell of a lot of hype, even before the album came out. With this new album did you feel more relaxed about making it?
Actually it did in a way. I know there is always that second album syndrome that people talk about but I guess our mentality was just to get in there and keep it simple, meat and potatoes rock and roll and just make a rockin’ album. We already had a lot of ideas because we had been writing on the road all through 2008 and then when we came home to Australia at the start of 2009, we spent five months in our home town of Warrnambool and just chucked all the riffs and ideas out on the floor that we had worked on and we had some really good material to choose from. We were pretty confident from the start we could go in and make another good album. I think the key is to write as you go along. If it’s the other way and you go right, you have to make your third album or whatever and you had no ideas, that would be pretty stressful I reckon.
I believe you slept in the studio. Did that mean you got more work done or just woke up cranky?
I reckon it was really good and helped with the album. It meant we didn’t have to drive to work every day from the hotel because that can be a pain in the arse. All the facilities were there. It was a pretty big studio. I slept in the amp room. Joel and Ryan slept in the drum room and Streety was in his bass room. You could work all night and if you did knock off and someone sparked up with an idea, you could go back in and put it down. I think we’d consider the same again for the third album if we could.
Did you record any differently this time?
Mainly just the way we did it live. Joel had watched this DVD on Status Quo. It showed the band just sitting around in a circle together in the studio playing live. We wanted to give that a try so we all gathered in the drum room. We wanted to capture what we do live and put that on the album. The only way to do that was to play live in the same room with our amps, but we also had a couple of amps in the big room so we could get some of that natural bleed through the mics. We did it all straight to tape. You still can’t beat that sound. We compared it back to digital but it (analogue) was still better.
With AC/DC and Rose Tattoo in their latter years, do you see yourselves as carrying the torch for the real Aussie rock?
I always say that in interviews over here. We always carry the AC/DC tag. It’s nothing that offends us. We carry our influences on our sleeves and I always try to explain that to the American press. It’s the Aussie sound. Everyone in the states has only really heard of AC/DC, not as many know about the Tatts, except for Europe. They are big over here. We just love playing that style of rock and roll. It is what we have grown up listening to and we love doing it. I guess we don’t think about it as carrying it on but we do what we do and if we can make a living out of it, and if it keeps going that way it would be great.
You get much more recognition overseas than you do at home. Does that bother you at all?
It is hard at home because we are a massive country with a small population. Here in Europe they have a lot of big rock festivals. Even the way it has panned out with our record company Roadrunner (EMI in Australia). They are based in the states. They wanted us over there to break us.
You’ve got that classic Aussie rock sound that the world knows from bands like AC/DC. Much of that comes from the gear you use, that Gibson/Marshall combination. Were you into that gear as soon as you could afford it. Had you tried any other combination?
We’re open to trying different amps and stuff but we have always played Marshall and Gibson. Since Joel and I were kids, the bands we grew up listening to, they were using that same set up. pretty much as soon as we could afford it, cos Gibson guitars are expensive when you area kid … that was our main goal at that age. I remember working on the farm with my old man saving up enough money to buy my first Gibson. It just seems to be the winning combination, Gibson through a Marshall.
What are currently using amp wise on stage?
For quite a while now I have been using the Marshall JCM800s, the re-issues and even some old ones if I can get my hands on them. We have been using the Kerry KIngs as well, just for the clean setting. It has just a little bit of a different sound, but it’s really cool. Joel has been using the 1959 SLP and the re issue one, plus we take a couple of DSLs on the road with us too.
How many cabs do you have on stage?
On this tour we have 24 cabs we are taking on the road! So it’s six stacks a side. We have a semi trailer with us and it’s loaded with Marshall cabs and lights and extra production.
How do you like to have your amp settings?
With the 800, I just try to drive my amp naturally to get a dirty sound because being the rhythm player, I like to have a clean sound anyway, kind of similar to Malcolm Young’s tone in a way. So yeah, I try to drive the amp to get the natural sound out of it as opposed to putting the gain right up or something. Depends on the venue too. If you are playing a smaller venue you have to turn down. You sneak it up throughout the night and I’m constantly tweaking it.
Do you guys switch between amps much for different sounds?
I’m pure 800 myself, but Joel might play his Kerry King 800 as well as the 1959. Some of the venues on this tour have been a lot bigger so we’ve been able to run the majority of them or all of them. Out of the wall of cabs on stage, there will be two main cabs that get miked up and that will be our main tone coming out of the PA. The rest we just run through different stacks.
It’s a very clean sound. Are you using any effects at all?
No effects other than a Boss tuner pedal. We like to keep it simple … Gibsons straight into the Marshall.
And guitar wise, you’re using Explorers mainly?
Yeah, all Explorers. Joel uses SGs as well. I’ve been using Explorers for a while and have just settled down with those.
You’re often compared to AC/DC, is the use of Explorers as opposed to SGs also a way of getting away from those comparisons?
Kind of, but really we just jumble it up. Joel will use the SG for one song, then he’ll switch back to the Explorer. He is constantly switching back and forth for different songs in the set … different sound, different look. He still likes to use it. They are a great guitar, the SG. They do have a certain sound about them and for certain songs he likes to use it. I guess the white Explorer is his main guitar he will use for the majority of the set.
How many guitars do you take on the road with you?
I only have four with me this time. I have tried to limit it down. I had more and didn’t use them and it was just dead weight. So we save on freight costs that way too. Joel is probably more like six or seven but we just chuck them all in together. There are probably around 14 or 15 guitars traveling with us on the road.
Joel has been known to climb the odd tower. Has he managed to stay alive on this tour?
So far but the festivals haven’t come around yet. We’ll be here in June for their summer festivals and that’s when it gets dangerous. With all the scaffolding surrounding the stage, he will venture out into it. That can get pretty high.
You don’t get into that stuff yourself?
No someone has to keep us in time, keep the rhythm tight. Also I have been limited to a lead for a long time but from tonight I am switching to a wireless. We’ve had some wireless mics come in. Joel has always been on wireless. We kept getting tangled. We criss cross all over the stage, so we’re switching over to wireless.
Are there any of the new tracks that are going down well live?
Yeah, ‘No Way But The Hard Way’ is a song that has been getting a lot of radio airplay over here. The album has just come out here. The set we have been doing is the majority of the old songs and about three of the new ones but they seem to be going down well.
Are you finding the longer you play, the tighter things are getting? Are you feeling that on stage?
Absolutely that whole year in 2008 we did over 200 hundred shows. It definitely does. That’s how a band develops playing shows and touring together, building character. I think that’s what stands out with ‘No Guts. No Glory’. We are more Airbourne again with this one. Over the years playing together you just learn to read each other. If anything does go wrong on stage, someone makes a mistake or something, we just come together and get ourselves out of it.
You’ve seen a bit of the world now. Do you think you have changed at all since you were young guys playing a pub in Warrnambool?
Nah, not at all. We were just staying for a couple of months in Warrnambool over Christmas and we were still hanging out at the pubs we used to hang out at. .. catchin’ up with mates for a few beers. We’re still pretty grounded. We’re pretty much still poor musicians because any money we make goes back into paying for tour expenses.
I guess you are looking forward to coming home to play?
Yeah, well we are talking about that at the moment. Talking about later in the year and I can’t wait for that. They’re talking Japan, new Zealand and then an Oz tour. When it’s winter here, we’ll come home for the summer. Nothing is confirmed but it could be October, November toward the end of the year. This tour goes to the end of July and then we may pick up a Canadian tour before heading back to the Southern hemisphere. I have to tell you this has been good talking to a fellow countryman. I don’t have to talk slow. I can talk in my usual slang. We hope to get home soon.