Sunday, 26 September 2010

Unseen interview with Keane

A few years ago I was working on a project that for personal reason never got completed, so I have lots of writing work/interviews that have never seen the light, it seems a shame so I will post some bits and bobs on here.....

Can you tell me about the history of Keane...who inspired you and how you progressed to where you are now, what obstacles did you face along the way...?

The three of us have known each other all our lives. We went through school together, lived together, and basically have been a part of each others’ families for as long as we can remember. So we have a fairly unique relationship for a band.

We always dabbled in making  music together, but started to take it really seriously in about 1998. The big Britpop thing of 1995 really created a buzz about the idea of being in a band in the UK. A couple of years after that, Radiohead’s OK Computer came out. That was a massive inspiration to a lot of people of our generation, and I think it really made us feel that the music of our time could be innovative and intelligent – until then we had this sense, rightly or wrongly, that nothing had really been truly amazing in British music since The Beatles.

Our first gig was in 1998 – by that point we’d already been a band for three years - and it wasn’t until 2003 that we signed a record deal. It was a pretty long road, filled with many great moments and many crushing disappointments. For some reason we were convinced that as soon as anyone in the outside world heard our songs, we would be an overnight sensation. That delusion made for years of frustration, but on the plus side I think it was the thing that kept us going even when it seemed like we were heading nowhere.

In terms of actual obstacles, the two main issues for a band are always going to be managing to stick together and managing to keep your heads above water financially. We all worked in some fairly miserable jobs in order to pay the rent and pay for a rehearsal room a couple of times a week, and there were times when we really were in trouble. I often walked across London to work and back – two hours each way – for lack of a bus fare. Our guitarist left in 2001, after being our friend and ally for six years, and that was a real downer. We had a record deal pretty much wrapped up that fell through at the last second – I remember us sitting in the pub across the road from some lawyer’s office waiting to sign it, and it just evaporated. But the spirit of being on a great adventure together, and our inexplicable belief that we would inevitably succeed sooner or later meant that almost never seriously considered the idea that we should give up. I think that’s the biggest thing really – you can listen to advice, be praised or rejected, fail or succeed, but I think you know in your heart of hearts whether you’re any good or not. If you’re doing something that you’re truly proud of, then you should never give up.

What jobs would you be doing now if you weren't in Keane and do you think you could still be content if the music hadn't worked out?

I think one of the reasons we kept going for so long in the face of constant failure was that we had no Plan B! I literally had no idea what I wanted to do for a living. If Keane hadn’t worked out, I think a big part of us would always feel a bit frustrated and disappointed. But I still think we could all have been content doing other things, eventually. I’ve always liked the idea of being a farmer, or possibly a carpenter. I like making things.

When creating music who/what is the main focus?

For us it’s a combination of catharsis and the thrill of creating something new out of thin air. Who knows why you start writing songs in the first place? I guess it’s partly just doing what your heroes do and hoping you’re good at it, but I think some people also have a fundamental need to express their thoughts and ideas in some way that’s wider-reaching than just everyday conversation. For me personally, I find it much easier – and much more fun - to articulate my thoughts on love, war, religion, death and so on in songs than in conversation.

What are the best parts of being musicians (what have been the highlights of your career so far)?

The best part for me is when you finish a song and realize you’ve created something really good. Sometimes you don’t even realize until other people get excited about the song, and that’s a pretty amazing thing too. Feeling that you’ve created something that excites other people is a huge buzz.

In terms of a specific moment, our first appearance at Glastonbury was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. The adrenalin rush of being on a stage like that for the first time and hearing 25,000 people singing our songs back at us was intense and transporting. It’s a very hard feeling to describe – a bit like being incredibly nervous to the point of physically shaking, but in a really good way! I still feel emotional thinking about it now.

What are the negative aspects(low points) of your career so far?

We had to cancel some big and crucial tours shortly after the release of Under The Iron Sea because Tom was struggling with some drug issues, which in turn stemmed from a general state of exhaustion and non-communication within the band. We had simply ceased to enjoy being in Keane together, and we came very close to calling it a day. For many reasons, that was a really distressing time – not least because we’d struggled for so long to get our music heard in the first place. We were just enormously confused by the reality of suddenly being a successful band. Thankfully we fought through it rather than imploding, and ended up being much happier and stronger as a unit.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to seek a career in music?

Well, you be absolutely certain that it won’t be easy, so you need a thick skin and a lot of self-belief. That doesn’t mean you have to be arrogant or never doubt yourself, but as I said before, you should never give up if you believe deep-down that you’re doing something good. Other than that, I’d have two pieces of advice: one, it’s an endurance test – I sometimes think that we only succeeded because we kept going while everyone else gave up! And two, work as hard as you possibly can – the old cliché about success being 1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration is true. Actually, I’ve thought of something else....on one of our first ever tours we did a gig supporting Secret Machines, and their tour manager was a big old Texan guy with an enormous beard. He said to us after the gig, “I’ve got three pieces of advice for you guys – extremify, extremify, extremify.” That’s the best advice I’ve ever heard – you’ve got to fight hard to set yourself apart and get noticed, so whatever it is that makes you you, or makes your music distinctively yours, push it to the nth degree, and never settle for the mediocre or the generic.

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