Wednesday, April 14, 2010 interview in english

BRMC are featured on the cover of UZetka, a local university’s magazine in Poland. You can read the entire magazine, including an interview with Peter, on UZetka’s web site.

A PDF of the April issue is located here.

The full English translation is below. A special thank you to MichaƂ Stachura for providing us with the link and translation.

Rip off of Elvis
They don’t make big money on music.  They don’t reach tops of charts.  But life gives them a lot of kicks. They returned broke from their last tour.  They’ve lost a band member, too. Now they’re back: with the new material, new drummer and the new tour, after which, they’ll probably end up dead broke again. On the May 23rd they are going to visit Poland again to promote their latest record. Here’s Peter Hayes, a vocalist and a guitarist of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

Your latest album is entitled “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo”.  Sounds mysterious, where did it come from?
One of our friends here in Los Angeles was working on an album that would contain Edgar Allan Poe’s works. We were working on “Annabel Lee”. We found another poem by Poe, I believe the title was “Devil in the Belfry” and there was a line “beat the devil’s tattoo” that became the title of the album and one of the songs. The song used to be called “Forsaken”. All the changes were made ten hours before we sent the record to the press.

Was the process of writing songs for this record different from writing material for “Baby 81”?

Not too different, no. You know, every album is the mixture of everything around us. Sometimes we make a song when we’re jamming, in hotel rooms, in a bus, during sound checks… we take a song any way it comes. [laugh]

The new album sounds dirtier than the previous one. Did you plan that?
The only idea we had when we started writing songs for the new album was to do what we do best. We wanted it to have a piece of each of the previous record in it, too. Intersperse our sound a little bit, but we were focused on writing really good songs. That’s what it’s all about, the sound. But we didn’t want to turn on the wrong road… you know, if we’re not on it yet. [laugh] We wanna stick to what we do.

One of the best songs on “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo” is “Conscience Killer”. Where did that come from?
That actually came from Elvis. That song is a rip off of two Elvis songs: “Hound Dog” and “King Creole”. It was Elvis’ birthday and I spent 24 hours watching Elvis movies and documentaries. If you listen to those songs you’ll hear it: the intros, guitars…

Yeah, I sure will. Elvis Presley was not the first thing on my mind when I heard “Conscience Killer”…
I’m not lying! [laugh]

I’m not saying you’re lying, it’s just that Elvis… used different guitar effects?
OK, his sound was little different, yeah [laugh]

Long before releasing “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo” said that you fell in love with it, then stopped loving it and fell in love with it again. On which stage are you now?
Right now I’m trying just to remember how to play it [laugh], it happens with every album. You go through this non-stop, almost torturous process from wrtiting to recording, then you get the basics of the recording and start overdubbing it, you go to mixing, mastering… I mean it’s non-stop every day for good 20 hours a day… it affects your sleep. And it’s hard not to get fucking pissed off at the end of it, you know? Then you’re done and if we’re lucky we have probably a month or so of not doing anything. Then you start rehearsing things before touring and you realize you’ve forgotten things, so you get back to the record and listen to it to remember parts and how you played stuff. I’m at this point right now, trying to remember stuff. And once you remember you can have a little fun with that, that’s when it gets really good.

There are songs of your oldest previously unreleased tracks on the album – “Evol” and “1:51″ [bonus track]. Fans even signed petitions to get you record these.  Were fans the factor that made you think about recording the songs?
Various versions of them were floating around out there and we knew that they’re what people would be excited to hear. So, that’s a bit of a factor, definitely. It’s fun to do that, it’s fun to give people a voice. I think it’s a nice thing. If I could ask a band that I like to do a song and they actually did it, that would be nice [laugh]

This is your first record with the new drummer, Leah, who replaced Nick Jago. How did you get to know her? Were the songs from the new album written with her?
The majority was written with her, yeah. We met her when she was in a New York band called Dead Combo. We toured with them twice in America: First time they got a drum machine, the second time we toured they brought Leah with them. And then Nick was kind of keen to do something else so we got in touch with her when Nick wanted to go. Then she joined us and we toured for about six months and after that we went straight to Philadelphia to write songs. It took a long time just writing and creating music together, but having toured it’s been natural. Of course you gotta get used to each other a little bit, but we had six months of touring, so it was real quick. [laugh]

When Leah joined you you announced that she’d only end the tour with you, then you revealed that the new record is to be made with her, a final confirmation that she’s officially a band member came last.
We didn’t know if it’s gonna work, you never know. But we didn’t think about it too much, it was quite simple and we were aware it was gonna happen a long while ago. Like I said, Nick was definitely saying he wanted to do other things for a long time. We didn’t have any try-outs or nothing, she was the only person we had in our hat that seemed to make sense and it just worked out.

Lots of fans say that the BRMC without Nick isn’t really BRMC.
Yeah, you know, I thought the same. It’s a fair comment. I guess I would be more persuaded in that way if Nick was a bit more involved than he was. I’m not putting him down at all, but there’s been many years when he didn’t really wanna be there. It’s hard to say if someone’s a big part of the band if he doesn’t really wanna be there.

You tour a lot all over the world. What’s your way to survive the tour, see the same faces all the time and not want to kill each other?
We’re just doing it. There’s a lot of good people here with us. Road managers, people helping us with guitars… it’s important to get a bunch of people that kinda get along and like what they’re doing. And it’s lovely [laughs]. Sure it gets hard and it gets fucking rough and you get grumpy but so does anyone else, so that’s fine. [laughs]

Do you feel in a way underestimated as instrumentalists? You get a lot of questions asked about your name, haircuts but people seem to forget you play instruments, too.
Nah… I’m just cheating, really [laughs]. I don’t really know what I’m doing…. All our guitars are in different tunings cause I never learned to play guitar properly. So I don’t feel underestimated or anything, I couldn’t…. you know, I can’t even play with other musicians cause they’d tell me to go to different scale and I wouldn’t really know what that means… [laughs]

Right, and besides you can’t play guitar, you can’t play piano, too. Or trombone…
Yeah. When I was in high school I was in a symphonic band. I was in a jazz band and in a marching band. I lived in Minnesota for a long time and at the time in the US they were pretty much into football stuff, marching bands and all this, so that was what you did when you were a kid, you played instrument. Well, you either played football or in a marching band, but I was too scrawny so I ended up in a marching band. Then I moved to California and I kept playing, Robert played it too for a little while. Same thing, I never learned to read music, I just knew what the dots meant… the little black dots on the paper.

Last summer in 2009, you played one of your very few shows in Poland. Was there anything special you remembered about this visit?
We met our fas there, it was great. It’s always good to see people who enjoy your music. They gave us a flag that travels with me everywhere. It’s with my guitars.