The second part of our exclusive interview between Richard and two Keane fans
ANDREW: I’ve read that Tim suggested to you that what you were doing wasn’t good enough when you were recording the second album.
RICHARD: Yeah, the first stuff that we did was… [pause and furrowed brow] I find it very difficult to remember chronology, but we’d done some recording, and I think then we had an American tour, because I remember having a conversation in a hotel in Santa Barbara or some place called Ojai – one of those weird words that you say wrong for a week and then you realise you’ve been saying it wrong and everyone’s just been thinking you’re a moron. Anyway, we’d been recording, and at the time I was trying to move into my flat and I was travelling down from London every day and back up, and Helioscentric’s a good two and a half hour drive. Also, we hadn’t written stuff in the same way. I find it so much easier if we’ve worked on stuff before we go into the studio, and this time we hadn’t. I don’t feel that I’m somebody who can just say ‘Right, I’m going to go do it this way,’ then I’m going to go do it that way. I like to work it out, practice it, get it right, know what I’m going to do and then record it. Obviously, with the second record, we hadn’t had any time to do that – Tim had written some songs, and it was a case of going in. And yes, he did say that. You have to say that stuff if you’re in a band, because it’s got your name on the front! We did re-record drums quite a lot more on this album, because previously we’d just go in, record the drums and then we’re done. With this, it was evolving, and sometimes we did songs three times.
CHRIS: I suppose on the first record you’d had years to perfect them.
RICHARD: Yeah, and we’d been gigging around the place and we’d pretty much got them down and recorded them as we’d played them in the gigs – there wasn’t a huge amount of studio trickery or wigging out or whatever. With the second one, it was very different. Hopefully with the third one, I’ll have a bit more time to prepare. You know, it’s hard to hear those things – it’s pretty difficult when someone turns round and says, ‘I don’t think what you’re doing is good enough’, but at that point you just have to sort of try and sit back and have a listen to it and see whether that’s true.
ANDREW: Are you proud of the fact that you stepped up to the mark – or that you think you stepped up to the mark?
RICHARD: I don’t know… I’ve never really thought about it. If Tim stops complaining, then normally it’s a safe assumption. Either that or he gave up!
CHRIS: Are you going to be a lot more prepared for the third record?
RICHARD: Well, we’ve got some time in our barn, the HQ, which we’re going to spend working on stuff in advance. We’re mainly trying to work out if the songs are right, because I think Tim and Tom want to know. We’ve been having a few weeks of not doing anything, just a bit of a holiday, a bit of a chance to take a breather. I think they want to feel confident about how many songs we’ve got, so that’s why we’re principally doing it, but for me it’s a great chance to get going on drum tracks. But absolutely, we want to do it slightly differently. Well, I do.
ANDREW: Is there anything that you’re particularly aiming for with album three? You’ve always wanted to strive to make that ‘classic’ record.
RICHARD: I think I used to think that it was all instinctive, but you can think about it to a certain extent. You can certainly try and push the way you’re doing things, and we’ve said in the past that we don’t want to just churn out records that are the same. I think the difference between the first two records, and the fact that some people have obviously come along with us and liked both of them, is kind of a vindication that you can actually try and develop as a band, rather than just doing the same thing. And so, once again, we’re going to try and do something different with the next one. There’s a lot of interesting stuff coming out of America that’s… I mean, I’ve been listening to people like Dr Dre for a long time, I think ‘2001’s a ridiculously amazing record and its probably the most played thing on my iPod. I love the sparseness of that, and the last record was really dense, it was full of stuff. So maybe we’ll try something that’s as empty as possible. There’s certainly elements of that that you could experiment with. You could try and be more minimal in your approach with instruments and try to get a bit more funk in there. We’ll see! Or it might just be a rock album – you know, I don’t know. But yeah, we’re going to try and do something different.
CHRIS: Have you made any firm plans for the third album? Have you decided who you’re going to be working with?
RICHARD: We haven’t decided what we’re going to do – genuinely! We’ve met a few people, but… you know, we’ll see. I can’t see us starting recording before Christmas. If things go really well, then maybe we will, but I would imagine we’ll be sort of working on stuff in the barn – maybe with a producer, or maybe pre-production-y type stuff in November or December. But I’d be surprised if we really start recording stuff. Also, the thing is, as soon as you start recording, that’s basically the next two years gone, invested, and your next month off will be two years away! And I know that having a month off is very self-indulgent and most people who have real jobs don’t get to just say, ‘I’m going to have a month off now’. But that’s just because… I’m lucky! As soon as you start recording, you record it, and then you mix it, and then as soon as you’re mixing it, you’re then playing it to people whilst doing the advance interviews for the world and then starting working out how to play the fucking thing, and then making videos, and then doing more interviews, and then you’re on tour, and then the album’s out and you’re still on tour, and then it’s festival, then another tour, then it’s a week off for Christmas followed by Australia or something, followed by America again, followed by more festivals, followed by meltdown! And then a month off! So it’s good to have a bit of time off before we get back into all that again!
CHRIS: How involved are you in the mixing and mastering stage of the albums? The last two albums have had a certain sound to them – quite punchy, quite compressed, quite ‘in your face’, quite modern-sounding – is that part of the Keane sound?
RICHARD: Well, on the second album, the vocals are much, much quieter in the mix than the first one. They’re much more embedded in the tracks, and that was something that we’d requested – in fact I remember Spike [Spike Stent, who mixed both albums] saying that they were way quieter than he would normally be comfortable with. We’re absolutely involved in the process – we’re there from the start to the finish of the mix. There are a couple of things in the pipeline which we’ve mixed recently and we’ve absolutely been there. And the more you do it, the more you have a relationship… like with Spike, we feel very confident with him that we can suggest something, he’ll try it out, if he thinks it’s shit he’ll say it’s shit. That’s difficult to do the first time. As for mastering, that’s really subtle. Spike will listen to a mastered version of something and his ears are so good, I’ll tend to leave that stuff to him and Tim. But yeah, we’ll be there for the mix – it really does set the tone. We’ve been so lucky to have Spike do both our records, because he is a genius. He is so good at it.
CHRIS: So he’s someone you’d want to stick with?
RICHARD: I think we really really trust his opinion and that’s a really valuable thing to know. And he’s confident enough in his own opinions to tell you then. So yeah, absolutely.
CHRIS: It’s quite an anal thing, but it can make all the difference.
RICHARD: It’s huge! Everything you record goes through that process. It’s massively important.
ANDREW: Looking back on this summer, do you feel you’ve missed out a bit on festivals this year, especially in England?
RICHARD: Yeah, I think we probably have. Most of them were being booked around the time that we were cancelling a lot of stuff, so I would imagine that if you were booking a festival, you wouldn’t think of Keane as a particularly safe bet. You’d want your big name headliners sorted out. But, weirdly, the fact that happened actually took some of the pressure off us. It’s meant that the last few months of touring have been really, really good fun because it’s been kind of on our own terms, and we’ve done a lot of our own shows. We had a chance to go to South America and stuff, which has been great. But yeah, it would be nice to do some big slots at some of the festivals we didn’t do this year, but the fact that we haven’t done them this year means that maybe we could do them at some point! We’ll see. We did do some so, though. The Isle of Wight was really fun and we did a festival called Werchter, and the line-up was completely ridiculous, Razorlight were on at 1pm. Then Snow Patrol, Amy Winehouse, Peter Gabriel, The Killers – that was the best Killers gig I’ve ever seen. And then it was us! At this point, we just thought we should fuck off, we’ll run off, we’re not here! ‘Nobody can find Keane! Put Snow Patrol back on!’
ANDREW: How do you feel about the way the music industry is changing? The live music scene is thriving, there’s sold out gigs on every night – are we moving toward a situation where gigs are the ‘big events’ instead of new albums being released by the artists playing them?
RICHARD: I think it’s going to be interesting. This is quite an industry conversation – it’s sort of very boring but very interesting at the same time. If you’re the kind of band who sells to people who know about computers, then basically you’re fucked. You could get to Number 5 in the charts, selling 10,000 records, but there’s probably 90,000 illegal downloads for those 10,000 legal sales. So, in a way, that’s great, because 100,000 people have got your album in the first week of release, which is amazing – you know, that’s a gold record. But you’re not going to get that gold record; in fact, you’re not going to get a silver record, you’re not going to be getting any money from it and the record label’s going to be going ‘Everyone loves them… why have we not sold any copies?’ And the band are going to be going ‘Will I still have to work at Sainsbury’s?’ or whatever. But, nevertheless, maybe if you’re that band, maybe the live scene is where you’re going to make your living, and that’s a good thing. I think you should be able to ‘do it’ live, unlike the Britneys of this world, who are very much cabaret.
ANDREW: Tom did an interview where he said that Keane’s mission was to wean people off Westlife records and onto something with a little more integrity. Given your broad appeal, do you think it’s ‘mission accomplished’?
RICHARD: Well… I’d rather they were listening to good bands than bad. Are Westlife still going?
ANDREW: Yes, as a four piece.
RICHARD: Oh… did Ronan leave?
ANDREW: Ronan wasn’t in Westlife, Richard.
RICHARD: I don’t fucking know. Robbie Williams has left Westlife! Hold the front page! Yeah, I don’t know. I must admit I did laugh very, very hard when Alex Turner said that thing about Take That at the Q Awards. I’m sure they’re very nice blokes but… fucking get over it, people. It’s funny. I can’t even remember what they won. Lifetime achievement, probably. Anyway… what were we talking about?
ANDREW: Do you think you’ve accomplished the mission of weaning people off Westlife?
RICHARD: I don’t know, I think there’s a lot of good music around and it gets on the radio, and that’s great, but there’s also a lot of really good music around that doesn’t get on the radio. I think there’s still a lot of shit that needs to be gotten rid of, and a lot of good stuff that doesn’t get played. I don’t want to name any names because it’s… you know, it’ll end up on the Bizarre page of the Sun or something, and I just… I can’t be arsed with all that.
ANDREW: Did you tire of the perceived spat between Tom and Kasabian?
RICHARD: Yeah. In fact, I was talking to Tom Meighan at Live Earth, and, you know, he’s a nice bloke. Nice velvet jacket, very smart. He said ‘It’s really nice to actually meet you and be able to talk directly to each other’. And he was saying ‘This thing’s been in the paper – I didn’t even do an interview with that newspaper! This thing was in a magazine – I didn’t even talk to that magazine!’. You know, when you read this stuff, you know there’s things Tom’s been quoted as saying that he didn’t say. But then some of it is funny, and if it’s funny then I don’t mind! I quite enjoy reading whatever Noel Gallagher has to say about whatever he’s talking about, because generally speaking, it’s really funny.
CHRIS: It must be quite flattering to have Noel Gallagher talking about you.
RICHARD: Well, exactly. I love that quote, ‘The three biggest twats in a band are the singer, the drummer and the keyboardist. That’s all I’m saying’ – That is absolute genius! And if I ever meet him, I would just congratulate him on his sense of humour. I didn’t stop laughing for about 10 minutes when I heard that. It’s brilliant. So if it’s funny, then fair enough!
Look out for part three tomorrow…
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