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.