We have been told that rock ’n’ roll is dead probably more often than we hear about the upcoming apocalypse. Yes, birds drop dead from the sky just like the record sales dramatically drop down, leaving the industry in dire straits. However, nobody can be proclaimed dead as long as they are still breathing. A breath of fresh air came from the Southern Hemisphere – more precisely, from Australia. This small continent had already given us the rock ’n’ roll juggernaut AC/DC and now it’s time for the world to succumb to their successors – Airbourne. The explosive quartet has been active for 8 years now, released two EPs (Ready to Rock in 2004 and Live at the Playroom in 2007) and two albums: the balls-to-the-wall Runnin’ Wild (2007) and the latest riff-drilling opus No Guts. No Glory. (2010).
The constantly touring outfit visited Finland twice in 2010 and we caught up with the band’s rhythm guitarist David Roads, who told us about the recording of No Guts. No Glory. and the tough life on the road.
I heard that you were sleeping in the studio while you were recording the new album. Did it help you to get more inspiration?
It was something that we kind of just decided to do. When we got in the studio, we decided we’ll stay there and not stay in the hotel. It was in Chicago and we didn’t want to have to drive to studio every day. So when we got there, Johnny K – the producer – just bought this new building, which had the kitchen and all facilities in it, so we thought we would just stay in the studio, that way we can work all through the night and also during the day, whenever we felt like it. It definitely helped with the recording process; it didn’t feel like a job. It was something more of just living around and we could keep working as long as we wanted that way as well.
How did you come up with the name No Guts. No Glory.?
It’s kind of like a saying we’ve always said, you know, even before Runnin’ Wild. We actually had a song called “No Guts. No Glory.”, but we didn’t put it on the album. We thought the name would just fit for the album name.
How is this album different from Runnin’ Wild?
Probably in the ways we recorded it; we did a lot of live-to-tape. We tried to catch what we do live and put that on the album. So we recorded it live. There was quite a big drum area in the studio, [and] we just all played around the drum kit in this tight little circle, so that we could crack that energy of what we do on stage.
Did you record the instruments separately on Runnin’ Wild then?
We did a little bit of live on that as well, but we also tracked guitars separately on their own, just to play fast rhythms and things like that. We still did a little bit of that on the second album too, but the main core of it was all live done together.
I have read that some of the material for No Guts. No Glory. was written while you were still on tour for Runnin’ Wild. It can be hard for some musicians to work like that, because you can’t concentrate, you don’t have much free time. Was it hard for you as well or was it more inspirational?
It was inspirational, yeah, you’re pretty inspired when you are on tour, you’re meeting different people, you’re playing in different towns, picking up different women whenever you want to [laughs]. Yeah, when you travel around, you’re definitely being creative. We write all the time as much as we can. Like on soundchecks during this tour we’ve been jamming out a new riff and then just recording it down on a little recorder like the one we’re using here. Bob Marlette – the producer for Runnin’ Wild – told us [that] when you get on the road, once you start touring, you don’t get a lot of time to work on your next album, so you just have to write as much as you can, on the bus, in hotels. We don’t stay in hotels as much, it’s all venue or the bus, so you just [work] anywhere you can.
You state in your song that “there ain’t no way, but the hard way.” Does this apply to the music-writing process as well?
In terms of writing the style of music we play there are certain common rules you stick to. It’s about staying true to yourself and true to your music. Keeping it simple – a lot of bands try to overdo it during the recording process. We’ve got the motto, “if you can’t do it live, don’t record it.” We just stay true to ourselves, keep it simple, keep it rockin’.
What kind of a place is “steel town”?
“Steel town” is the working-class [town], the Levi’s jeans, blue-collar working class song. I think we got that idea when we were touring the UK, I think it was in Sheffield, but I don’t remember. It’s a steel town; it’s a big industry town. We were on the bus driving through the town and Joel got inspired by looking at the window at all those big steel factories and things like that. And we come from a working class background ourselves, we’ve worked hard and we still work hard. So we wrote a song like “Steel Town” for the working men.
You have a song called “Blonde, Bad and Beautiful,” are you implying that one has to be blonde to be considered beautiful?
Nah, I guess it’s just the stereotypical blonde-haired girl that goes with rock’n’roll [laughs]. It’s probably a question for Joel, he wrote this song. He must have a thing for blonde women.
How did you get Lemmy to appear in your video for “Runnin’ Wild”?
We just did a tour with [Motörhead] in Australia at that time and so we got to know them pretty well. You know this American film, Con Air, where the prisoners take over the plane, trying to break free from jail? Anyways, the guy who flies the plane is this rock-looking dude, kind of looks like Lemmy. So we got the idea from there. We talked to his manager and Lemmy was more than happy to come down and do it. He lives in L.A. anyway, that’s where we shot it. He came there and hung out before we did the filming. He was just parked in his limo until he had to drive the truck. Then we would sit in his limo, listen to old ZZ Top albums and drink Jack with him, he would tell us old Motörhead stories, so it was really fun.
You started from nothing and now you are riding the wave, so to say. Is there anything you still strive for as a band?
Like I said before, to stay true to ourselves and stay strong, getting a strong fan base and keeping it strong. We don’t want to be sellouts or be a ballad band or anything like that. Metallica in the young days had that hard, strong fanbase. We just want to have that and be able to keep touring and just playing. Rock’n’roll has been kind of dormant for quite a while through the 90’s and there’s definitely a big market coming back for it. The kids are getting back into it. We’ve got such a broad audience at our shows – from kids to people in their 50s that grew up with Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones.
But you don’t have any milestones, like I don’t know, winning the Grammy for example?
We’ve had the pleasure of winning the Metal Hammer award and some other awards we’ve got back in 2008. I mean it’s definitely an honor to win things, it helps marketing the band and kinda looks good on your profile, I guess. But it’s not about winning awards for us; it’s about winning new friends and keeping it at 110%.
You spend a lot of time together in the bus. Do you ever get tired of each other?
It’s not so bad; we don’t punch each other or anything. We get along pretty good, we travel on the same bus with the crew as well, there’s like 10 of us, we all drink, we all get along well. Just get drunk and go to bed before a fight happens [laughs].
Where do you get the energy to fire up every night like you do?
I don’t know. It’s just the adrenaline. We love what we do so much, we get fired up from that, we feed off the crowd. The sound of your Marshalls turned up to 10 and everything is loud and you feed off from that. It can be hard sometimes, if you’ve got a hangover or you’re tired and run down, you get up there and you got to tell yourself that you will be good for that hour and a half of show time, just rock it hard and then you can die after.
I have read that everybody seems to compare you to AC/DC – is it annoying already?
Oh yeah, I have heard that one before [laughs]. Well AC/DC had a big influence on our music and we never take offense to it, it’s an honor to be compared to such a great rock’n’roll band. But I always think of it as the Australian rock’n’roll sound: AC/DC are Australian, we are Australian, there are these bands like Rose Tattoo, The Angels, The Poor, Screaming Jets. This is the certain sound of that Australian rock’n’roll, the Aussie pub rock and that’s similar to AC/DC sound and that’s why we all sound like that.
Did you ever have to face any kind of negative criticism about your music and how did you handle it?
You always get criticized; in this day and age the world is full of critics. We never let it bother us. I mean we always wore the AC/DC-tag, but it never bothered us. I guess when we moved to Melbourne, because we originally come from a country town in Australia, we had to move to Melbourne, it was the closest city to pursue our careers. And Melbourne was probably the most critical musical city in Australia, the scene in Melbourne was very tough and we did get criticized a lot, when we first started there. But we stayed true, ignored it and still got in their faces and hit them with rock’n’roll and played hard.
Text: Tanja Caciur | Photos: Airbourne MySpace | Ed: Amy Wiseman