First things first: Kasabian have created a monster with ‘Velociraptor’. It’s only fitting that the band’s fourth album is named after one of the most fearsome creatures to ever walk the earth.
“The velociraptor was the only dinosaur which could defeat the T- Rex,” explains the band’s songwriter/guitarist Serge Pizzorno. “They could do it because they hunted in packs and they always stuck together.
“When I first met Tom [Meighan, lead vocalist] he said if he ever had a band he’d call it The Velociraptors, and it felt right to use it now because we’re still the same band of brothers we were when we started out. And after the last one we wanted a title that was direct and in your face.”
The ‘last one’ was, of course, ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’, a psychedelic-sounding album which has sold almost a million copies worldwide (and a cool 730,000 in the UK). As the band’s third album (and their second UK number one), it has confirmed Kasabian’s place at British rock’s highest table.
As well as providing the new decade with its first de facto festival anthem with top three single ‘Fire’, it also brought many awards. Voted Best Album by Q and nominated for the Mercury Prize, the band also won Best British Group at The Brits, Best Album at the NME Awards and a host of other nominations. “The fact that we got kind of big off that record is amazing,” says Serge. “West Ryder was our Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake. Everything about it was perfect. But we’ve done that now and it’s time to move on. We’ve upped the stakes.”
‘Velociraptor!’ has the sound of a band that have absorbed the lessons of eighteen months playing stadiums and festival main stages and put them into practice. “The success of ‘West Ryder’ proved that people don’t want to be fed the same line all the time,” says Serge.
“We haven’t changed as people, we’re still the same bunch of piss –takers whether we’re in a palace in Monaco or down at the local bar, but success means that musically we can go wherever we want now. I used to love that about The Beastie Boys, you never knew what they were going to do next.”
Inspiration for the new album arrived late one night at Serge’s new home, deep in the English countryside. “I’ve got this old jukebox and one night I was up until six am and it kept spitting out these great tunes, anything from Elvis to the Chemical Brothers,” he explains. “I was like, wow, imagine if you had an album like that, which you could put on at any time of the day or night and it would just throw out one great tune after another. I knew it was massively ambitious, but if we could do it the results could be incredible.”
To achieve such a feat, even Serge needed some outside assistance. He claims that every night after he went to bed, a “mysterious presence” would arrive through his studio window and help him out. “I know, it sounds mental,” he laughs. “I’d be at home being a dad looking after (baby son) Ennio, and then I’d go into the studio and press play and hear all this amazing music. I’d be like, ‘Who the fuck’s done that?’ I wouldn’t remember any of it. I wasn’t getting much sleep and I had the idea it was this Mexican spirit coming down from somewhere and helping me out.”
The results of these metaphysical encounters were a collection of extraordinary songs, all with cleverly sharpened lyrics. Tackling subjects as diverse as the emptiness of celebrity culture (‘La Fee Verte’s’: “Dogs in handbags/Everyone’s a star”), self-justification (‘Days Are Forgotten’) and destructive love affairs (rock’n’roll lullaby ‘Goodbye Kiss’), it’s evident that sleep deprivation can be a hallucinogenic drug in itself. “I spent a month just working on the words, which I’ve never done before,” explains Serge.
“I’m influenced by MCs mostly. I love the way Wu-Tang, Gift Of Gab and Doom throw words out there. People have said the lyrics aren’t what you’d expect from a new father, but that’s just how they come out.” The results, as with ‘West Ryder’, were then taken to San Francisco to be mixed by Dan ’The Automator’ Nakamura. Over the course of six weeks, Velociraptor! grew muscles, and Tom Meighan delivered some of the best vocal performances of his life.
“Tom was amazing,” grins Serge. “He would go on these mad eight mile walks around San Francisco, singing the songs as he went across The Golden Gate Bridge. Then he’d come back into the studio and nail it.”
The final piece of puzzle came with the addition of strings at British Grove Studios in London. “That was an amazing experience,” says the guitarist. “I’d be giving all these mad directions to this twenty-piece orchestra like ‘I want it scary’ or ‘more horror’. The results were so beautiful, mind-blowing.”
This latest album has traces of everyone from Nirvana (in the turbo-disco track ‘Re-Wired’) to Led Zeppelin (with the stadium shaker ‘Days Are Forgotten’); from Karen Dalton (‘Goodbye Kiss’) to Boards Of Canada (‘Shelter From The Storm’). The end result, however, is a hundred percent Kasabian, except older, wiser, and able to hit the spot every time. As Tom sings in ‘Re-Wired’, “I flip the switch and make you feel electric.”
“The aim was to make a modern classic, one that people can take to their hearts and sing along to,” says Serge in conclusion. “It’s been fifteen or sixteen years since the last truly classic album, but I think we’ve done it.”
Britain’s best band have made their best album yet. One that’s perfect for house parties and stadiums. And 24-hour jukeboxes. And, as even the T-Rex discovered, opposition is futile.
New single ‘Switchblade Smiles’ is currently available as an instant download from www.kasabian.co.uk and LP ‘Velociraptor!’ is released on September 19th.