Thursday, May 30, 2013

Winniped Free Press interview with Peter

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

By: Nick Patch, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - The black-cloaked rockers in Black Rebel Motorcycle Club had some typically moody material ready for their latest album "Specter at the Feast" that they wound up banishing to the dustbin.

Why? Well, after the 2010 death of founding member Robert Levon Been's father Michael — who had fronted the '80s new wave outfit the Call and acted as his son's band's sound engineer — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club felt disinclined to wallow in darkness.

"I didn't really want to be singing sad songs because it was a sad time in life," said founding guitarist/singer Peter Hayes in a recent telephone interview. "I didn't feel like doing that. I moved on to other things that were coming from other places."

Speaking of other places, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is currently on the road with upcoming dates Wednesday at Montreal's Corona Theatre, Thursday at Toronto's Kool Haus and May 24 at Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom.

From the tour bus, Hayes talked to The Canadian Press about moving on from a tough loss, the band's longevity and trying to whittle down bloated setlists.

CP: The loss of Michael Been was obviously major for the band, on so many levels. He had influence on the musical side but clearly that was only a small part of it, right?

Hayes: When someone's a father for one and then a father figure for me since high school — you know, I didn't live with my dad, so he became that — yeah, it's beyond music. The main thing he really did was he fought for us in the studios. It's kind of the typical story, you don't appreciate it till it's gone. But he was in the studio fighting with the engineers, fighting with the record companies, telling them to get off our back — you know, "they know how to write a song, even though it looks like they don't know what they're doing." So that's a huge thing to have, you know?
He was very respectful about the writing process. He gave his opinion, sure, but he had respect for what we were trying to do.

CP: The band was formed back in 1998, meaning this is your 15th anniversary. Were you aware of the milestone?

Hayes: Oh God. Yeah. Fifteen. Is it really that? Well... I always try to look at it as we're lucky to get away with it again, as far as getting the album out and actually getting to tour. It seems to be getting a little harder each time as far as survival on the road. But yeah, aside from that, I'm kind of amazed each time an album gets done and we get ... to scratch out a living.

CP: The band's lineup has undergone some changes with the departure of original drummer Nick Jago, but that 15-year stretch is a testament to your relationship with Robert.

Hayes: Yeah, we started in high school, you know? I was playing at some bar in a nearby town and I was telling my friends what I was going to be doing, and Robert happened to be walking by. I didn't know him that well. And none of my friends showed up, but Rob did. And Michael, actually, because they wouldn't let Rob into the bar. So Michael came around and laughed at me as I was playing. I went back with them to their house that day and we just started playing music.

CP: "Sometimes the Light" was a song you wrote that was a late addition to the album. Can you tell me about it?

Hayes: I was sitting at home and I just felt like I needed to release some of my truths of the passing. I (had) kind of held off on a lot of my feelings about the death in the family. And that one came along, and I was happy that it did. I felt that it was a nice, honest way to do it. There's no guitars, nothing grand, no rock and roll (BS). Just some keyboards.

CP: Six albums in, is it getting harder and harder to craft setlists?

Hayes: Oh man. Yeah. Actually, the last gig we just had in Nashville, we'd been feeling it (was) real long. We have a tendency to do that. It can be a two-hour show real quick, you know. So we're trying to chop that back a bit. It's a bit much for folks, or it can be. If people are there for that, that's great, it's good to give it to people, but at the same time, it's the same with an album a little bit — you put on 19 songs, I sure as (hell) don't come from a place where I can listen to all that. I don't have the patience. And it's similar live. You gotta work with the reality that people are taking time out of their day, and you can't assume they're just going to soak all that up. I don't think it's necessarily possible to soak it all up like that.
We're learning how to chop it back. I think it'll probably make for a better show to take it back a little bit and make it a little quicker.

Answers have been edited and condensed.


Monday, May 27, 2013

BRMC Tour Announcement | Online Merch Store | US Final Dates

We are coming to the end of our US tour and have had a great time with you all.
We hope you will join us for the final dates...



We are excited to announce that we are coming back to Europe and the UK this July and August.
(More dates to be announced soon!)


BRMC merchandise is available online!
Visit the store today to pick up your copy of "Specter At The Feast".



Friday, May 3, 2013

Robert Levon Been Talks Music, Loss and Bass

BRMC’s Robert Levon Been Talks Music, Loss and Bass

Michael Leonard
Robert Rivoli
Photo by Arminé Iknadossian

2013 is already a landmark year for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Robert Levon Been. The co-singer/bassist/guitarist has reunited his late father’s band, The Call, and BRMC have just released a fine new album, Specter at the Feast.

The Call were the acclaimed ‘80s band led by Robert’s father, Michael Been. And Michael was also key to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Michael was their live sound engineer right up to his sudden death in 2010. Robert took the place of his father in The Call’s L.A. reunion shows of April 2013, and a live DVD of the shows is being edited. And BRMC’s Specter at the Feast is also something of a tribute to Been senior: the storming single “Let the Day Begin” is a cover of The Call’s best-known song of the 1980s. asked Robert Levon Been about Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Call and BRMC’s Epiphone and Gibson gear…

Was reuniting The Call your idea or did you get asked by the other members?

Not sure it was anyone’s “idea,” we just connected. Those guys were like a second family to me when I was growing up. I was always on the road as a kid with my dad, so I knew them. It took a year to find a window to hook up. It was a shot in the dark, but rewarding. When I strapped on an old fretless bass of my father’s, I felt pressure, sure. And his vocal range is much wider than mine. So, I’m not sure how we did it, but we did.

Robert Rivoli How was it playing your late father’s music?

I was a nervous wreck before the shows. It was intense. I had 20 songs to learn, songs I thought I knew… but when it comes to the bridge or the third verse, it became harder. But it was a beautiful experience. It was very emotional for me. But it wasn’t just to honor my father. It was also about the other guys in The Call. Their hearts are still in it, they’re still playing music, even if it’s in bar bands just scraping by. But I learned a lot from them, and it was great to do it for them.

You’ve said before that your father, Michael, didn’t reckon you had any musical ability as a child?

When I first started playing guitar I was 13 or so, and I had no understanding of musical foundations at all. Musical puberty was yet to come! Michael turned to my mom and said, “You have nothing to worry about, he’s not going to follow in my footsteps.” But thankfully, a couple of years later, I picked up the bass and found it better for the way my brain works. And I got decent pretty quickly. Guitar still didn’t come for another few years, it took me some time.

But I’ve read an interesting book about humans’ hearing changing around 14-16, and something changes in the brain. I grew up listening to a lot of heavy metal with my friends, but it was more of a communal thing, right? I don’t think I was really listening, it was just something you could share with people.

But then I heard “Leave Them All Behind” by Ride. It was almost as if my world went from black and white to color that day. Once I heard that I changed. I listened to a lot of Stones Roses, The Verve… and lots of classic stuff like Led Zeppelin of course. But everything switched that day.

Specter of the Feast is an album of extremes, from quite delicate guitar work to full-on rockers…

There’s an atmospheric, healing sound to the record. It’s what we needed, and it felt natural. Making music is just capturing a space and time. But for all the light side, there’s also other tracks where we smash our heads through a window. We visit both poles on Specter and everyone wins that way.

It was personal. The fact that I got through this and created something was reward enough. Y’know, at one time I was shooting to get out of bed in the morning. So there’s much credit to everyone around me to make it happen.

You have a very melodic bass style: who are your main influences?

Peter Hook, first. His parts seemed “fightable.” And certain things from Ride and Verve records. I tend to be more aggressive than those though, that’s my American side. Hendrix records, Nirvana… they all have bass that really inspires me.

Robert Rivoli You mainly play a vintage Epiphone Rivoli II [a sibling of the Gibson EB-2D], which is a rare choice. Why?

I got my first one because it was all I could afford. I couldn’t afford to go to Guitar Center! I found this pawn shop in San Francisco, and it was the only bass on the wall apart from modern plastic things. It was $800, and had loads of scars all over it. I complained to the guy that it was scratched and a bit messed up. He didn’t know basses at all, and I was “complaining” about the things I really loved about it! I knocked him down to 400 bucks.

I adjusted my playing to it. It’s short-scale, really light, too.

I can’t comfortably play other basses now. Anything else, it feels like going from driving a sports car to a dump truck. Other basses feel like work to me. It doesn’t feedback so bad and even when it does, I like it. With other basses it’s impossible to get that. It’s a souped-up hot-rod, to me.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have a guitar “image”: you and Peter Hayes both with double-cut Gibson/Epiphones…

Yeah. Pete travels with nine Gibson guitars, just for different tunings. It’s kinda annoying, as there’s no room for anything else, ha! So when I play guitar, I tend to borrow one of his ES-335s. We play similar semi Epiphone and Gibson models, but maybe they talk to each other? It’s a struggle to stay out of each other’s ranges sometimes but that’s helped our playing: learning to play lines that complement each other’s space. We’re both big fans of three-piece guitar bands, obviously. With my bass I can go super-low, but I play higher melody too. That’s when me and Pete cross swords… that’s how we work.