The third part of our exclusive interview with Mr Hughes
Richard, Andrew and Chris
ANDREW: There was someone on the message board who was planning to head over to New York for the Carnegie Hall show, then ended up cancelling, seeing the rescheduled date and then booking another flight at great expense for that, only to see that cancelled and…
RICHARD: (Head in hands) Can you not tell me any more of this? I do genuinely find this quite upsetting. It’s just like, you know that this happens, when you cancel something, and that’s why we’ve been desperately trying not to cancel anything.
CHRIS: There are some very dedicated people around.
RICHARD: There are, and we know it, and we don’t cancel shows without good reason.
CHRIS: I read that a girl from Brazil sold her car so that she could come up to Europe to see a few gigs in the last month…
RICHARD: Fucking hell. That’s just, like… bonkers. I met a girl in Toronto who had flown from Thailand to Canada, just to see the gig. I mean, I went and got her a T-shirt, signed it and that, but I mean, I think she was still a bit behind on the monetary front… free T-shirt vs. three days in Canada!
ANDREW: Does it hearten you that there are people for whom it means that much?
RICHARD: Yeah, and that’s why I don’t read our press! Because I’d rather just meet people and talk to them than read what someone I’ve never met thinks. Yeah, it’s completely ridiculous, it’s totally amazing, the level of dedication you get from people. You know, just going to a gig is a fucking shag. Just any gig. Whenever I go to a gig as a punter, it’s so unpleasant. I’ve been spoilt! Especially in London. Like, put in another bar – I’m missing half the gig waiting to get a drink! You get treated like shit. The same happens at airports, so someone whose holiday is going around airports to go to gigs is putting up with a lot of grief in order to see a band. So yes, it is ridiculously flattering that people do that.
ANDREW: Do you think you jumped ahead to big venues almost too soon, almost like the child stars who grew up too quickly?
RICHARD: I don’t know – I don’t regret anything that has happened basically, but I agree that it was difficult to go from tiny crowds to huge ones. Like that Glastonbury thing, we literally played to 200 people in New York two nights before, and then we flew back and stayed overnight in a Travelodge on the way to Glastonbury, and played to 20,000 people! The stage was probably as big as the whole of any venue we’d played in the last month, because we’d been in America playing little venues. So that was very, very dramatic. The reason we did The O2 show was that we wanted to film it, because we’re very proud of that show and it took a lot of thought. We’d been working on trying to do those venues justice. With a show where two people are rooted to the spot, that is quite difficult, and that’s why the B-stage thing is a way of getting us out into the crowd. That was really cool because suddenly Tim and I felt like the people at the back could actually see whether we were smiling or frowning rather than having to get their binoculars out. So yeah, it was hard but it’s a challenge. I’m sure a lot of people raised their eyebrows when they heard the Arctic Monkeys were going to headline Glastonbury, they probably thought ‘They can’t do that! They’ve only got two albums out, and most of the songs are less than three minutes long! How are they going to do it?’, but they did it and that was great. And I was excited to see how they did it. They did it by just being really good, and that in a way is kind of ‘their thing’. It’s like – ‘fuck it, we’re just really good’. So there we go.
ANDREW: How do you think your live show is overall at the moment?
RICHARD: I’m really proud of it. I know that if you go to a lot of gigs you might wish the setlist changed, but we’ve only got two albums out and we’re playing for quite a long time. Constructing a setlist is very difficult. We spend a long time coming up with it. If you’re REM and you’ve rehearsed 70 songs, then you’re never going to be short of a rocky song… but you always need one more rocker, whatever the setlist is. Anyone in a band will agree that you’re always short of one rocker, however long your set is – until you’ve got an enormous back catalogue. It’s true that some people will have been to a show before, but the majority of people in a room will only go to one show on a tour. You want to give them the best setlist, basically. You kind of have to accept that you’re playing in an arena to a lot of people who probably only know the singles, and you want to give them a good show – you want the atmosphere to be good. If you don’t want to do that, do secret unannounced gigs that aren’t in an arena – don’t do an arena show and then complain about the fact that you’re playing arenas, because nobody made you do it! You’re in an arena because you said ‘Yes, let’s do an arena tour’, so you’ve got to do it properly. You’ve got to approach it like that.
I remember going to see U2 at Wembley in 1993 – Zoo TV – and then buying the video which was from Sydney, and it was largely the same show. Well, of course it is – they’ve spent thousands of pounds on films! Like we’ve had this film made for ‘Atlantic’. Do you think we’re not going to play the fucking song after somebody has spent weeks making this film, and we’ve spent thousands of pounds hiring this ridiculous video screen? ‘Ah fuck it, lets just play a Beatles song instead.’
ANDREW: So you have thought about dropping in covers?
RICHARD: Well we’ve tried it occasionally! We did do ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ once, but we felt it didn’t work. It just seemed a bit throwaway, which is a terrible thing for a great song. No, we just like playing our stuff really. Although apparently we covered one of Snow Patrol’s songs at our Manchester show – I think we did ‘Your Eyes Open’, and the reviewer wrote that we’d covered Snow Patrol’s ‘Eyes Open’, in the middle of the gig! It’s not some obscure hidden track, it’s on the first album! It’s on the fucking tracklisting on the back! Oh, I laughed so hard.
ANDREW: They probably didn’t give it that good a review either, when they’ve left after three songs with the photographer…
RICHARD: Yeah. Yeah, that’s happened a lot. I think one of the things that made me stop reading stuff was the number of times you’d read something that says ‘At the start of this review, I think I should say up front that I don’t like Keane’. And it’s like – then why are you going? If you’re a punter and you don’t like Keane, you generally don’t find yourself logging onto Ticketmaster and buying tickets for one of their gigs! So don’t bother reviewing it. I don’t mind. It doesn’t bother me whether somebody from whatever publication reviews it or doesn’t review it.
CHRIS: I personally think the live set seems a bit more fluid and varied than when you toured ‘Hopes and Fears’. Is that something you’ve tried to work on, or have you just let go a bit more?
RICHARD: I think it’s partly letting yourself go, because I don’t pretend to be some kind of amazing drummer who can just turn his hand to anything. It’s difficult – I’ve always felt like I’m on the borderline of stage fright whilst on stage. I never really look up during the first few songs to see everyone, I’m just trying to get through them and then relax into it. It’s like anything that is quite nerve-wracking. I can understand why so many musicians have heart problems! One of these days I’m actually going to go and buy a heart rate monitor and have it on during a show, like a big show, and see what the hell goes on.
ANDREW: Hook it up to the screens on stage!
RICHARD: Yeah, well, Radiohead have done that I think! Or was it Massive Attack? But somebody has had that idea, and I think it would be really funny. Your heart is pounding before you go on, at something like Live Earth, it’s like ‘Fucking hell, this is ridiculous!’. But yeah, I feel like I have been much more relaxed. In fact, the last two gigs we did, the one in Portugal and the one in Spain, I was dicking about all over the place. It was really good fun. Before the Portugal one Tom and I were doing our stupid cheesy rock versions of ‘Hamburg Song’ – you can piss about when you’re warming up, because basically you’ve just got to be playing and singing just to get your muscles warming up. And I just thought ‘Fuck it, I’m going to do that tonight on stage’ and I just dicked about a bit which was really good fun! So I definitely feel more relaxed behind the kit than I have done in a long time… just in time for us to stop again! Great!
ANDREW: When there have been the hiatuses and it could very well have been that the band wasn’t going to continue, Tim at least has the fallback that he’s quite in demand in terms of people who want to write with him.
RICHARD: Oh yeah, absolutely. Last thing I heard, he was going to be writing for Ashlee Simpson! [Laughs] It’s not true. I can assure you it’s not true! But I must admit, I did laugh quite hard about it.
ANDREW: I assume Tom would then take some time off to address his problems. But what would you have done?
RICHARD: What would I have done like if we’d have six months, or a year, or if Keane have broken up? God, yeah, I don’t know! I have no idea.
ANDREW: Do you have like a future career plan after Keane?
RICHARD: Career plan! Er… no! I’m interested in many things – I think the more I read the newspaper and listen to Democracy Now and things, I become more and more angry. I can see myself trying to become more involved in political activism. I think there’s a lot of bad stuff and somebody’s got to do something about it. I find myself shouting at the TV and then I realise that instead of shouting at the TV I should actually just do something about it myself. I support Amnesty International and various other organisations, and try and get involved in a few things, but at the same time at the moment I am a drummer in a band. But if I wasn’t, then I think I would get more and more involved in that because fortunately for me I’m reasonably… I don’t need to go and get a job tomorrow if Keane stops. So I can basically pick and choose what I like. But at the same time I really love playing the drums. And if somebody turned around and said ‘Do you want to play the drums on this?’ I’d probably have a listen to the demos and see what I thought. But we’ll see – I’m not some kind of Steve Gadd-style, or Jason McGerr-style amazing drummer that can just turn his hand to anything, but I think for the right band I could maybe do something. I’ve not really thought about it much, as I like what I’m doing now. But there was a while there where I didn’t really know whether we were going to do any more shows ever again.
ANDREW: Could you see yourself following someone like Dave Rowntree (Blur drummer who stood for election representing the Labour Party)?
RICHARD: Yeah, well, maybe… Well actually, no. I’m not enormously party-political, and I think a lot of the problems are bigger than the party-political process can solve. Also, a lot of them are American-based, rather than UK-based, but I fear that we’re following a lot of them very quickly in this country. I don’t think I would want to get aligned to one party, because I think you get fucked over. If you watch those Britpop documentaries, or ask Damon Albarn about how he felt after he’d had his photo taken, or Noel Gallagher, they all realised that the politicians are just a bunch of smarmy cunts who use whoever they can to further their own personal credit. They were there to have their picture taken with famous pop stars and therefore get a few more votes, and I don’t think that’s a particularly cynical reading of it.
So no, I don’t think the political process is ‘it’ for me. But there’s a lot of bad shit happening that doesn’t get talked about. We’ve agreed to be part of this missile defence system in the UK – and everyone’s reading the Bizarre column and what some fucking waste of space from Big Brother said about some other fucking waste of space from Big Brother, rather than ‘Actually, don’t you think we should maybe not try and do this?’. Let’s talk about something real, for once, please.
Look out for the final part tomorrow!
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