The fourth and final part of our exclusive interview with Richard
CHRIS: The whole band seems to have gotten more political recently – doing concerts like Live Earth and Live 8 in support of issues – much more so than when ‘Hopes & Fears’ originally came out. Is that something the whole band is really involved in?
RICHARD: I think the Live Earth thing was something that we all desperately wanted to be involved with. I took a Geography degree you know, so I was aware of some of this stuff. Having grown up in the countryside, as Tom has said, we don’t particularly want to see it turned into a desert. So there are things we’re all passionate about – the political stuff is something I’m very into, but I think each of us have our own particular things that we care about. But it’s all just getting a bit older, and it happens – you start giving a shit about this stuff.
ANDREW: Usually people get older and they start worrying about the basic tax rates and become very conservative.
RICHARD: Yeah. I’m in such a ridiculously privileged position, just because Keane has done well – if I can’t think about some of this stuff then I have no right to expect anyone else to. I guess I’ve just had enough of hearing myself shout at the TV.
ANDREW: Do you think Live Earth was the right way to approach things? You’re probably going to be able to get a different perspective on this than a lot of commentators who’ve not had the chance to be really close to the campaign.
RICHARD: I think it is difficult to build upon things, because as I said, politicians are basically just going to do what they can to let it all blow over until everyone’s forgotten about it – ‘We’ll pledge this – and we won’t actually write the cheque’ or ‘We’ll say we’re going to do this’ and then we’ll actually do this, or put in the word ‘maybe’ in very small letters in the contract. As I’ve said in the past, the thing that I think Live Earth has going for it is that there’s a politician at the helm, and he knows how it works – he’s seen it all happen. He’s been trying to get legislation through in America since the late 70s I think. He’s got 30 years of being stone-walled and laughed out of Congress or whatever. So I think the fact there’s a politician rather than a pop star at the helm, it at least gives it a bit of a fighting chance.
ANDREW: I think what mainly fuelled people’s cynicism was that you’re basically some of the worst offenders in terms of carbon emissions…
RICHARD: Yeah, it’s right and it’s true. There was a little handbook for us: ‘How you can make your concerts have a smaller impact’, and we got the train there. We did that whole leg, Amsterdam, then back to Live Earth, all on the trains. We didn’t fly, and we didn’t do it as a gimmick. We did it because we don’t like flying. But it is possible to do that. It takes a bit longer but it’s actually really relaxing.
ANDREW: There’s something quite romantic about the train.
RICHARD: There is! And whilst the other day we flew back from Spain, last year we took 50-something flights and this year we’ve taken 20-something, so it is possible to reduce it. We’re saying we don’t like private jets, we don’t want to take internal flights. If we’ve got to go to America, we’re looking into the whole offsetting thing, but that’s not ideal. Of course it’s hypocritical, but I imagine a few people watched and a few people took some action. I try and cycle around London, or just get the Tube – small things.
CHRIS: Don’t you think having a huge production to mark the campaign was a mistake? Wouldn’t it have been easier to maybe film a few little pieces in a studio, or maybe broadcast from your barn?
RICHARD: Yeah, it might have been, but I don’t think it would have got on TV in the same way. It was basically blanket coverage, and a load of short films that were shown inbetween the bands. That for me was the important bit, the ‘infomercials’.
ANDREW: You’re almost trying to get it in behind people’s defences.
RICHARD: Well, yeah! We were like one of those moth traps – we’re the flashing blue light, and in front of it is the little electrical grill that kills everyone! But you’re right. In the context of global pollution, frankly it’s a drop in the ocean. You know what, I don’t have any kids – that’s my biggest contribution, and I’m vegetarian. Those are the two biggest contributions that I make towards my carbon footprint – that I don’t have any kids and I don’t eat meat.
ANDREW: That’s a sad outlook for humankind if we save the world by not having kids.
RICHARD: Yeah, but nobody talks about it, and it’s one of the problems. I think if I don’t have children, somehow I think there are still enough human beings for us to have a fighting chance of survival. Those other 9 billion, by the time I die, will probably just about still be there!
ANDREW: Tell us a bit about your photography.
RICHARD: OK, I have a camera. I’m going to take a picture of you two by the way – the interviewers to accompany your piece. Yeah, I just like doing it. It’s a great thing to do when you’re on tour, because you spend so much time in random places that lend themselves to you having a look round. I just love doing it. Actually, Rob and I are going to publish a book of our photos. You heard it here first! We’re going to see if we can put out a book of photos from the last couple of years on tour, because obviously he takes lots of pictures too. I don’t know if you’ve seen his Flickr site, but he’s a very talented photographer apart from the ones that have appeared on our website. So yeah, Rob and I thought it would be really good fun to try and publish a book of pictures.
CHRIS: So that’s the type of book drummers write then?
RICHARD: Exactly – pictures! That’s genius. That’s precisely the type of book drummers write.
ANDREW: You can put that quote on the back cover.
RICHARD: ‘It’s the kind of book drummers write’. That is absolutely genius. Yeah, so I love doing it. Like after a show if we’re somewhere like Haugesund, there was this amazing boat yard across the bridge and Rob and I and Matt [another of the crew] – instead of getting shit-faced, we just went and spent a couple of hours in this weird, not quite dark night that you had in Norway, breaking into the shipyard, climbing the fence, and taking pictures. The photography is something I love doing and I guess maybe it is a drummers’ thing.
I actually used to be really into it when I was at school, and then my girlfriend bought me a camera about three years ago, maybe, and I got really back into it. And I love that – because we go to such amazing places and I wish I’d been taking pictures from the start. Well I did take a few. But the book should be really good fun, because Rob takes a lot of pictures during soundchecks and things and he’s got a really good eye. We’ll try and stick some of the wanky arty ones in the back of the book, and the ones of Tim and Tom at the front! It should just be an interesting thing. I guess it’ll probably be out next year some time… Who’d have thought it? It’ll be a laugh.
ANDREW: I look forward to putting it on my coffee table.
RICHARD: I’ll send you a copy. [To Chris] You’ll have to buy yours. Unless I can use that quote.
CHRIS: I’ll think about it.
ANDREW: Have you moved away from film to using a digital camera yet?
RICHARD: I haven’t.
ANDREW: Is that a romance thing?
RICHARD: It’s partly a romance thing, and it’s partly because I really like film. Rob still occasionally takes a shot where he feels the colour balance is not what he was hoping. I’m colourblind, so I trust film, whereas I wouldn’t trust the digital thing to get the colours right. He’ll take a shot and say ‘God, I love the way that it’s just greens and blues’, and I’ll be like ‘…yeah!’. It’s partly that, and yeah, I do like the romance of it, and also I’ve bought shitloads of film cameras. It breaks my heart to just put them on a shelf. Maybe one day though. I love Rob’s one-a-day flickr thing he does [a photo of himself every day], and I’d like to do that, but you can only really do that with digital. But once you get one digital you’re just going to do it, so yeah. We’ll see. As long as I can still get film I think I’m going to stay with that.
ANDREW: You’re looking very dapper on stage these days, wearing a suit and so on.
RICHARD: Well it’s not a suit, but yeah – I like the jacket. I went to see Radiohead play at Hammersmith Apollo and Phil Selway played the entire show in a white suit. And he was still wearing it when he left the stage. I just thought ‘You’re so cool’. And Charlie Watts has definitely set the bar fairly high for the elegant drummer. I just like jackets.
ANDREW: What was it like playing with the Stones? Did they really come and kick you out of the backstage area?
RICHARD: You know – they did actually take over the entire backstage area, including the hotel that was backstage and the pub that was backstage. Apparently there’s an entire truck that deals with the stuff they have backstage including a full size snooker table and a satellite TV thing so that Mick can watch the cricket wherever he is in the world. And you think that’s ridiculous – you know it’s ridiculous… but probably true!
ANDREW: You can quite imagine that if Tom was in a position like the Stones, he’d love to watch the cricket wherever he is!
RICHARD: I think he probably would! We’ve got Sky TV down at the Barn.
ANDREW: What else is great about the Barn?
RICHARD: It’s in the middle of nowhere, we’ve got our own picnic table…
CHRIS: Made especially for Keane?
RICHARD: Yeah, specially approved wood. No, the bloke who owns the place just knocked it up for us. What’s great about it? It’s got a drum kit set up – at home I’ve got an electronic kit, but here at the Barn I can go and play a real kit. And yeah, it’s just really nice! You get sunlight, and fresh air, and you can go outside and chuck a tennis ball around, and there are deer in the forest behind it, and stuff like that. It’s just really beautiful and really inspiring, and it feels comfortable. We’ve got all our flags up there now. We were given a Brazilian flag when we played in … I think it was Sao Paolo – someone chucked a Brazil flag on stage which had loads of stuff written on it, and I put it over the kick drum at the gig, and now I’ve got it hanging behind me on the wall in the Barn.
ANDREW: The fans are always over the moon whenever they see things like that hung up…
RICHARD: Oh, we were over the moon to get it! It’s like ‘Wow, we got given a flag!’. As soon as I got it, I was like ‘Well, that’s going in the Barn’. We’ve got a Mexican one hanging up on one bit of wall, and we’ve got an Argentinean one next to Tim’s Rhodes. I’ve got all my snare drums on a big rack so I can just try another one out. I absolutely love it. That’s another good thing about the Barn – we can experiment. All our gear stays there, so it’s all permanently set up, and we’re getting to experiment more. Tom’s got some guitars down there, Tim’s got all his keyboards down there and bass guitars and stuff – we’ve even got our Farfisa in there, which is a bit out of tune but still sounds good. It’s just … fun, you know? It’s like having your own rehearsal studio – well, it is your own rehearsal studio, without having to break everything down at the end of your 4 hours.
ANDREW: You can stay in there as much as you long, as long as you like.
RICHARD: Yeah. You can sleep there.
ANDREW: What do you think about the general state of the music scene at the moment?
RICHARD: I think there’s always great people around. Findlay Brown is a friend of mine who I think is amazing. I love his first record, and I’ve seen him play live about five times. On his own, he’s amazing; with his band, he’s amazing. There are a lot of people like that. The new Tegan & Sara record is amazing, really really great. It’s produced by Chris Walla from Death Cab for Cutie, and Jason, the drummer from Death Cab, is playing the drums on the record – he’s one of my favourite drummers. The record itself is brilliant, and I like the new Feist record… there’s music coming from all corners of the earth that I like, and I think that’s always the way – you’ve just got to find it. You might not see Tegan & Sara on the front cover of NME, but you should do. It’s a great record.
CHRIS: Do you still get to go to many live gigs?
RICHARD: Yes, I go to quite a lot, because I live in London, so it’s a bit easier for me. In fact, it’s easier because even if it’s sold out, there’s usually a way I can get in, because most of the venues in London, we’ve played at!
CHRIS: Do you ask ‘Don’t you know who I am?’
RICHARD: Fortunately, I’ve never had to do that. But I do try to get to a reasonable amount of shows. I went down to the Wireless Festival the other week – to see Findlay [Brown] actually, and the Queens of the Stone Age, which was really good.
ANDREW: Do you find you can get down the front and be pretty much incognito?
RICHARD: Oh, absolutely. It’s the best thing.
CHRIS: Do you think the young Tim, Tom and Richard would be listening to Keane?
RICHARD: That’s a good question! I still feel quite young though! But, yeah, I would imagine, maybe. Because we always liked stuff with good melody that we thought was actually about something, so I dunno! It’s difficult to know – maybe we’d all be into MCR and be wearing eyeliner, screaming a lot. I don’t know. There’s so much good music around – I went to see Muse at Wembley, and that was just amazing. But I feel like we do good melodies and I feel that’s one of the reason it translates abroad, because if it’s not your mother tongue, it’s harder to listen to the lyrics – not impossible, but harder to – and I think the fact that there’s a good catchy melody has helped us abroad. So yeah, I don’t know if we’d be listening to us, but I think we might. Good question though.
ANDREW: Now that all the touring’s done, do you find it hard to readjust back into normal life without someone telling you where to be?
RICHARD: Yeah, I think it is difficult. You do just get used to stuff. But no, I enjoy both aspects – I like being on tour, I like not being on tour, so I’m pretty happy either way. It was pretty weird playing the last show in Spain, just coming off stage knowing that you weren’t going to do that again for quite a long time, and we have such a great crew that knowing that they’re going to go and work for other bands – I feel very jealous of that! It’s pretty weird finishing a tour, but you kind of look forward to spending a bit of time at home, and go on holiday. And if you’re too used to having a schedule and people doing stuff for you, you just need people around you to tell you ‘Do it yourself, you lazy bastard’!
Thanks again to Richard for agreeing to be interviewed by Andrew and Chris – and to Andrew and Chris for doing so! Look out for their interviews with Tim and Tom, coming soon.
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