Over the last decade, Airbourne have become Australia’s bastard sons of dirty boogie and heavyweight rock and roll. They have taken the energy and hard partying drive of their native heroes, AC/DC, mixed in the spirit and attitude of their elders in Motorhead and Judas Priest, and cranked it all up to the next level. The band took form in 2003 under brothers Joel O’Keeffe (vocals, lead guitar) and Ryan O’Keeffe (drums), along with David Roads (rhythm guitar) and Justin Street (bass). Airbourne soared out the gates on the strength of its debut record, Runnin’ Wild; an album packed with gritty, riff-driven, 4/4 rockers that resonate with raw energy. Their second and third albums, 2010’s No Guts. No Glory., and 2013’s Black Dog Barking, continued the trend. This month, the band will release its fourth full-length studio album, Breakin’ Outta Hell, the first on their new label Spinefarm Records. This week, Metalholic caught up with Ryan O’Keeffe as he sat in an Irish pub on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles where the band is preparing to kick off its North American tour.
So aside from an album packed with headbanging, middle-finger to authority, party-your-ass-off rock and roll, what can you tell us about Breakin Outta Hell?
“It’s an album we’re extremely proud of. It’s the first record we’ve ever done in Australia. Everything else we’ve done here in the States. We flew out the dream team: Bob Marlette, who produced our first record, and this one’s been engineered by Mike Fraser who is obviously world-renowned and probably one of the best engineers in the world. I guess the general consensus and the message is breaking out of hell. It’s what the band’s about: We’re always about having a good time. We’re always about making sure people realize, sometimes life doesn’t have to be that negative like we see on TV. You can actually forget about sh*t and have a good time. That’s what we do. This whole record, you just put it on, you don’t even have to think—just leave it on, crack a few beers with your buddies, have a good time with a girl, and just enjoy life.”
“I think Bob [Marlette] definitely got me doing more interesting drum fills. He definitely pushed the drumming a lot more. In that respect, he didn’t let me get away with simply 4/4; that’s obviously what the whole record is, but there’s definitely interchanges between songs that are a lot more interesting, especially in ‘Rivalry’ and stuff like that. The whole approach to the record was almost like be Airbourne, do Airbourne, but do it better. So the best way I can describe it is, if what we’ve done in the past is a Jack and Coke, what we did this time around is a double Jack and Coke.”
One of our favorite songs on the record is “Do Me Like You’d Do Yourself.” Can you guys even play that with a straight face?
“[Laughs] No, you can’t. That’s the beauty of some of these songs. That’s what’s great actually. It’s about having a laugh. In Airbourne, we take what we do seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously. Songs like “Do Me Like You’d Do Yourself” make a great t-shirt. “Down on You”…that’s not even a double entendre, it’s a single entendre.”
The final track, “It’s All for Rock and Roll,” is something of a tribute to Lemmy Kilmister: What did you take away most from who Lemmy was?
“Yes, it’s about Lemmy. Those were the last lyrics we wrote in the studio. We used to see him backstage a lot at the festivals and I remember him always popping his head in, and he always said, “Remember, don’t change for anybody. Labels will come and go. Stay true to who you are and what you believe in, and what you play, and stay true to rock and roll.” That was the epitome of Lemmy, and we’ve always loved to have that kind of advice from such a great guy.”
You were 17 when Airbourne started, you turned 30 this year. How much has your perspective of things changed over that time musically and personally?
“It’s crazy. I’m sitting here, 30 now, on the Sunset Strip having a beer, and rock and roll is my career description on a visa. It’s amazing. I still pinch myself. Ten years ago, I remember trying to get into the Rainbow down the road whilst we were recording Runnin’ Wild. From then, everything that’s happened—I mean when we were making our first album YouTube was only out for a year. Facebook didn’t even exist. And of course, there was the whole Napster thing that I was surprised we even survived. I guess that’s part of the whole journey. You don’t want it to be handed to you. The hard times kind of make it a lot more fun sometimes when you look back and think about living on 2-minute noodles and just getting the job done. It’s great.”
You can check out the full interview with Ryan O’Keeffe below and catch them on tour this fall.