Exclusive interview between Richard and two Keane fans
Here is the first part of our exclusive in-depth interview with Richard, which was conducted recently by two Keane fans (and message board regulars), Chris and Andrew. Look out for the other three parts this week. We’re pleased to say that Chris and Andrew have also interviewed Tom and Tim and those Q&As will be coming up soon too. Thanks to them both for doing the interviews. And thanks to Richard for the above picture, which he took at Live Earth in July. Now, onto their chat…
ANDREW: It’s been about two years since we last sat down together in Cornwall! It’s been a bit up and down since then…
RICHARD: You could say that! Blimey, two years. Up and down and up again. It’s been interesting but, you know, we’ve survived it and I think we’ve come out stronger. What doesn’t kill you makes your stronger.
ANDREW: The subject of Tom’s troubles has been done to death in interviews over the last year, but while we’ve read a lot about Tim and Tom’s views on the situation, we’ve not really heard much from you about it.
RICHARD: Ah, you see, I’m the drummer! People do ask me these things, but I’m too boring. It is weird, but that’s the way of the world – Tim writes the songs, Tom is the one who is the most visible person, and that’s just the way it works, really. Tom did the Q interview, and I don’t know if Tim’s said much about things. The thing is, most people in bands say they don’t read stuff about them, but I really don’t read stuff about me. I don’t even look at our website, or the forum, to see where the gig we’re playing next week is. I think there are good things written about us, but I honestly don’t know what’s been written and what’s been said about the way things are. But Tom seems better now than he’s been for a long time, and that’s good.
ANDREW: The best perspective you could have would be the internal one.
RICHARD: Exactly. You know, Tom’s been writing songs for the first time in a long time. When we first played gigs, all the songs were written by Tom. At the Hope and Anchor, we played a Beatles song, a couple of songs by our guitarist, Dom, and I think most of the others were written by Tom. Then Tim started writing more and more and came up with things like ‘This Is The Last Time’, Tom just went ‘Fucking hell… I might as well give up’. But actually, I think he’s realised that he shouldn’t just give up, he should carry on, because he does have the ability to write some really great melodies. For me, that’s exciting for the future. We’ve always talked about being a band that tries to develop and the idea of going from having one songwriter to two is the easiest way possible for a band to develop. That’s really exciting for me as well.
I have quite a simple view of it which is – we’re a band, we’re friends. If you listen to someone who’s been through the process of rehab, then they just say ‘It’s an illness. Treat him like he’s got an illness.’ What would you want for someone who’s got an illness? You want him to get better. Imagine if he had some freaky tropical rainforest disease, then you’d just want him to get better, and that’s the attitude I had towards the whole process of his drug problems. That’s what I did, and that remains my attitude.
ANDREW: Was there any particular point where you thought, for the first time, that it was a problem that needed to be addressed, or did it just come to a head in Japan?
RICHARD: With the rehab thing? Well, Tom went into rehab in January 2006 while we were mixing the record. Obviously, it wasn’t effective, and he said himself that he kind of knew that he was just bluffing his way through it. He’s a very intelligent man, and I think it’s possible for intelligent people to bluff their way through many things. We were cancelling things left, right and centre, like the U2 show in Lisbon, and I remember a radio session when I was actually in the radio station when I got a phone call saying ‘You have to leave, and you have to take your bags with you’. I had to walk past the engineer who was setting up the microphones for the session with my bag, and he said ‘I hope you’ll come back’. At that point, when we pulled out of doing Jools Holland, it was clear that it was all getting too much for Tom again, and that what we were doing was not helping – in fact, it was probably making things worse. The point is that we had all these things coming up, and Tom obviously wasn’t ready to do them and he needed to get himself sorted out a bit and work out if he wanted to do them first. At that point, it was pretty fucking obvious to everyone that it had to be sorted out.
CHRIS: So, when Tom went into rehab in January, was the intention to try to work through it, or were there any thoughts of putting ‘Under The Iron Sea’ on hold?
RICHARD: I wanted to delay the release of the second album until September but, in the end, we didn’t do that. It’s a band, you make decisions together, and that included Tom. So we did what we did and who knows what difference it would have made or wouldn’t have made. Maybe everything would have just gone tits up later.
CHRIS: Do you think it all detracted from the release of the record itself?
RICHARD: Well, when the record came out, it wasn’t public and it wasn’t known that this had all been going on. The U2 stuff was the previous summer, and it had obviously been going on for a long time, so a lot of things on the record were about those issues. But we couldn’t talk about them because they were private issues. So we were saying, ‘We’ve written this amazing record about… …we can’t tell you what it’s about! But it’s really really good…’, which kind of does hinder your ability to talk about it.
ANDREW: It must have been hard to get out there and promote it without getting into specifics.
RICHARD: Well, you can say it’s about ‘tensions within the band’, but then that just makes you sound like a wanker, because you’re not being specific. You can say you’re not getting on or whatever, but you can’t say why you’re not getting on. You end up looking a bit like its just… half-arsed, a bit non-specific, a bit wishy-washy.
ANDREW: When all the publicity was given to it being a dark album about tensions within the band, there was a lot of cynicism about it and people didn’t ‘buy it’, but if they’d known what was going on…
RICHARD: Yeah, but… who cares?
ANDREW: Is that the attitude you have to almost everything people say about you?
RICHARD: Well, it has to be. Everyone’s different but… I was chatting to somebody about the phrase ‘a guilty pleasure’, and we were talking about A-ha and how people wrote them off and then people came back to them. It’s either good, or its not any good. I like A-ha, and I’ve liked A-ha for a long time and I imagine I will continue to. I don’t feel bad for liking them, and I don’t feel cool liking them now, in the same way that I like Wings. You know, ‘Wingspan’ is an amazing album, and everyone should own it! It’s not necessarily the coolest thing you can like – although it seems to be becoming more cool – but all those ‘really cool’ people who didn’t like it missed out on it for ten years! That’s the punishment for being too cool.
ANDREW: Do you think music in Britain at the moment is too hung up on ‘cool’?
RICHARD: Yeah, of course. I see tours sponsored by Top Man or Shockwaves, and you just think: how can you all think you’re so cool when your tour is sponsored by Top Man?. How can you say that ‘We’re the coolest band in the world… sponsored by Shockwaves! You can have hair like mine!’? Just fuck off!
ANDREW: How do you feel about the attention that Tom attracts?
RICHARD: Tom gets a lot of grief. The other day – yesterday, in fact – we were waiting for our bags at Gatwick, and there were loads of people just taking photos of Tom, without asking, because everyone’s got a cameraphone on them. You know, we were just standing there for our bags! It’s really difficult – I wanted to… He has to restrain me at these times, to say ‘Look, just don’t worry about.’, because it drives me absolutely mad, because it’s really rude! If someone wants to take a photo, just come up and ask!
ANDREW: Did anyone ask?
RICHARD: No, nobody came up and asked. Fortunately, because then everybody would have come up and then everybody would have done it again, even though they’d already gotten a photo. It’s just really rude, you know – there’s flashes going off! It’s pretty obvious when a flash comes in your direction that the camera was pointing at you. He gets a lot of grief from that, and he has to put up with a lot of invasions of privacy. I guess that’s probably one of the reasons why he doesn’t live in London – he lives in the countryside. I get to go everywhere pretty much anonymously – it’s pretty rare, maybe five times a year or so, that somebody recognises me, which is great because I’m nobody special. I just play the drums in a band. Leave me alone!
CHRIS: Do you ever get caught out taking that too much for granted?
RICHARD: What, like buying porn or something?! (laughs) The only reason I say that is that the other day, we were all out ten pin bowling and as we were driving to the ten pin bowling place, I suggested we all stop at a newsagent and each go in and buy some porn… just to see if it ended up in the paper! We could get sponsorship, get rid of the Yamaha from the front of my drum-kit…
CHRIS: You have the poles already, you might as well add some dancers.
RICHARD: This is true! The poles… I wonder if we’ve seen the last of the poles…
ANDREW: A lot of the bits I like most on ‘Under The Iron Sea’ are your bits. Your drumming turns ‘Atlantic’ from what could have been an ordinary B-side into something really quite special.
RICHARD: Wow! That’s nice. It’s interesting you say B-side, because it was a B-side. That’s why there’s the demo of ‘This Is The Last Time’ as one of the B-sides, because we recorded…
ANDREW: ‘Thin Air’
RICHARD: Ha! You know this better than me. That sounds about right. We recorded ‘Thin Air’ at Helioscentric with Andy Green, and then Ferdy (Unger-Hamilton) came down, who was still our A&R guy at the time. We all really liked it and he just said ‘Keep this one in the bank for the second album. You’ll feel good about having one song there.’ And so Tim said, ‘I’ve got these two things that I think I can join together…’. And that was ‘Atlantic’, which is why it’s basically a song of two halves, because it was actually two songs that he joined together. Two sort-of half songs. He’d got the chords and he went off to try and write some words, because we obviously wanted to do it – this was at about 6pm on the day we had to finish recording. So he went off into this room with a piano at Helioscentric. After he’d recorded just the chords, basically just a pad all the way through, I started playing some drums along. And normally when I play the drums, I start with the melody and the melody guides where the drums go. The flow of the melody is what I think about the most when I’m trying to decide what to play on the drums – but I didn’t have any melody! All I had was some chords. So I was just playing this bog-standard drum shit and then I thought, fuck it, I’ll just swap it round two beats, and put the emphasis on the one instead of the three. Tim came in and really liked it, and so that, in a way, was really interesting because it was partly because we were doing it in such a different way. I’m really proud of it, so I’m glad you like it.
ANDREW: And, of course, there’s ‘Broken Toy’ as well, which I guess you must have spent quite a bit of time on because it’s so different to your usual style of drumming.
RICHARD: Yeah, well, I spent quite a long time trying to work out how to play the fucking thing! Tim had programmed a beat that sounded really like a sort of ‘Kid A’ song, his demo was just Logic drums, and it had a rough version of that beat which was all sort of echoes and delays, and I had to try and play it, but also turn it into a drum part rather than just a loop. That was really fun. It was really hard, though. I think we did a lot of that in New York actually, in the Magic Shop. There’s a bit on the ‘UTIS’ DVD where I’m playing something or other, and I think they got me on camera saying ‘God, that was really hard’, but the thing they’d recorded me playing wasn’t actually ‘Broken Toy’! It is fun to try and do something different, but then, you know, when you’re making a second record, you can do that. That’s a really long song – six minute songs aren’t out of place these days. How long is ‘Paranoid Android’, and that song ‘What Sarah Did’ from ‘Plans’ by Death Cab for Cutie? That’s a good six-minuter, but that’s amazing. Maybe we’re going to go prog!
Look out for part two tomorrow…
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