Airbourne – Across The Ocean


Aussie rockers Airbourne are living the dream taking it to audiences right around the world cutting their teeth overseas touring with the likes of Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Motley Crue. The new album Breakin’ Outta Hell is out this week and is set to reach dizzy heights here and overseas. Across The Ocean got to speak to Ryan O’Keefe about the new album and life on the road from Los Angeles.


It is great that Airbourne are back with album number four, do you feel like old hands now?

Yeah, it is a bit hard to believe sometimes but it is great to be out here playing a couple of songs off it. Sometimes we feel like the old kids on the block but hey I’m thirty this year and we’ve got a long way to go.

Does it get harder making an album?

It is a good question and I think the best way to describe it is like a painter or an artist. Every time you just try and apply the tricks you’ve learnt in your other projects like albums, or a certain way to sing a chorus on day one of album two then you’ll apply that on album four on a number of songs. It’s basically little subconscious things that we try and add. The best way we have been describing this record is if it was done in the past is like a Jack and Coke and we hope this is more a double Jack and Coke.

Was it hard fitting in recording this album given that the band is constantly touring?

Well, we did tour mid last year but then we came home at the end of last year and we got Bob Marlette (producer) and Mike Fraser (engineer) who are big guns, out to Australia earlier this year to work on this one. Joel and I had a vision for this album and we worked on about thirty demos and from there when Bob came out we wrote a few more in the studio. We were literally writing right up to the last vocal so sometimes when you get in there you get the majority of the record and you start asking yourself what the record needs. Interestingly Breaking Outta Hell was one of the last songs we wrote for the album.

Are you finding that you’re a lot tougher on yourselves now as song writers?

You do, one of the big tricks in this industry is not to get attached and being willing to change anything and absolutely everything. It doesn’t matter how you like something if it needs to be changed it needs to be changed. We’ve always been hard on ourselves and because we did our first record with Bob he brings the hammer down. He’ll say that it doesn’t matter if a song is seven minutes, it doesn’t have to be three minutes twenty just as long as at no time does it get bored. There are those elements and anytime you start to get bored, when in doubt cut it out.

How do you whittle down thirty demos to the final twelve songs or so?

Usually the producer would ask us to hear all the demos but what was really cool this time was Bob came to Australia and basically said, alright, play me your first song. We said to him don’t you want to hear the rest of our demos and he said nope, you just play me what you think. I got through eight or nine songs of our demos and we made a couple more in the studio. Rivalry has a slower groove in it but it is still very heavy but different. I couldn’t imagine the album without it but it was one of those we felt that had this but was missing a groove. We needed a song like this and the process is ever evolving before all of a sudden you’ve got an album done. It’s like how the fuck did that happen.

Will the leftovers find their way on to something else or do you start from scratch next time?

A bit of both, we take to something old in to the next process. Ready To Rock from our first EP ended up on the first album. A few of the original riffs are still in there so you never really know what a demo can do. It may well be a pre chorus for something else and then all of a sudden on album five a song can come out which could be really cool. It’s always evolving on the old and the new.

How does Breakin’ Outta Hell compare to the previous three?

We’re evolving doing Airbourne, we’re never going to change but always try to improve what we’re doing and what we love doing. We always want to make sure that we do what we love live but that’s doing Airbourne. Like I said with the Jack and Coke, this is a double Jack and Coke. It’s got more Airbourne, more diversity in a way in that you’ve got Breakin’ Outta Hell which is a classic Airbourne song then you’ve got Rivalry which is a new step but still very Airbourne. The whole record is like that.

What did you think when you played back the final mix?

I loved it! Mike Fraser is an unbelievable engineer and was really great to work with him here in Australia.

Is there a story behind the cover art?

We’re always really involved in it. This one was a bit hard as we thought we would have a heap of ideas around Breakin’ Outta Hell. A lot of them just weren’t getting us excited then we got on to Melbourne artist Ben Brown who has done stuff for Cold Chisel because we needed merch stuff done quickly for the European tour. He drew up some t-shirts and we were still working on the single artwork as well as the album artwork. Ben started drawing pictures of Joel coming through a hell background. We like it that much as an awesome t-shirt which became the single artwork then we got back to the album artwork and had to decide what we would need and the ideas weren’t sticking. So we got Ben to take the single artwork further and made a more skeletal version of Joel and put the crocodile teeth in there. Joel wears that when he goes out on the piss and I actually said to him that I need to put something on the cover so people know it’s you and you have to wear that live. We’ve put in an order for twelve pairs of crocodile teeth!

Are you looking to getting back home and touring Australia over the New Year’s break?

Yeah! We’re having a few days of in LA at the moment. The schedule is tour the States then back to Europe for another big stint. We’re playing with Volbeat in some pretty big venues with them then back home for early next year.

No Adelaide? What’s with that?

This first lot of touring is all warm up. When we got back from Europe we didn’t play Donnington or Wacken or Hell Fest or playing any of these A-Festivals. The States is the same, we’re not doing a lot. It’s all a part of the single tour so all of this year and early next year is a warm up for a whole year of touring next year.

What stands out the most for you considering some of the big shows Airbourne have played?

So many things! Waking up in a different town every day! Touring the UK with Iron Maiden was a childhood dream come true, that wasn’t even a dream because I wouldn’t dream something that good. We spent a lot of time touring with Motorhead and unfortunately we feel the gap now, there’s a huge hole on tour posters in Europe now when we tour. They’re just there any more now. Just being able to live the dream and to be able to put rock ‘n roll musician down as my job description is pretty amazing I reckon.

Rob Lyon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rob Lyon has been writing about all things music for well over ten years in Adelaide clocking up more live shows each year seeing the best going round.

Whether it is rummaging through vinyl at record stores such as Clarity and Title finding hidden gems to scouring the internet to find that album by the next big thing or chasing bands to get that elusive autograph and photo his passion is music all the way.
Rob Lyon

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