Q&A: Kasabian guitarist Serge Pizzorno on leaving a legacy


Kasabian has never connected commercially in the U.S. the same way the band has in its native U.K., where the quartet is in the same ranks as the Arctic Monkeys and Muse. At home, singer Tom Meighan, guitarist Sergio Pizzorno, bassist Chris Edwards and drummer Ian Matthews routinely play stadiums and headline festivals like Glastonbury.


8 p.m., Sunday
The Regency Ballroom
Tickets: $32-$35.

In the U.S., Kasabian has chosen to limit its tour in support of its sixth album, For Crying Out Loud, to just two weeks, with the tour closer coming at the Regency Ballroom tomorrow. And yet, Pizzorno said yesterday he has seen just as much excitement and buzz from fans about the new songs here as back home.

“These shows that we’ve been doing have been simply incredible, and they felt like shows in England, honestly,” Pizzorno said in a phone call from Los Angeles on Friday. “The crowds and the gigs; that atmosphere has been the best I’ve seen. [Many] people just don’t know anything about [us here]. And you just think, ‘Oh, man, what a shame.’ If there was a just little spark, and people heard the music, then it could be incredible. … In America, there’s a bonfire ready to go, and we just need someone to light a match.”

This year marks Kasabian’s 20th since forming in 1997. The rock band has fit nicely somewhere between Oasis, the Stone Roses, and all the bands that followed them. Outspoken frontman Meighan and his bandmates have carried a style of swagger harkening back to classic rock and roll, which is perhaps one of the reasons why Pizzorno dislikes being lumped into the more humble rock and roll scene. The band has scored numerous No. 1s and top awards in the U.K.

For Crying Out Loud has also reached No. 1, but Pizzorno said writing the album, which he accomplished in just six weeks, was a unique experience. For starters, it returns the band’s sound to the basics: guitar rock. Its predecessor, 2014’s 48:13, was an electronic side trip. Pizzorno, the lyricist, said he wrote his most personal songs ever on the new record. The six-week creation process was also a personal goal, he said. Previous albums took a year or more to write.

The album is more personal, and much more optimistic and happy, but the songs are no less edgy than before.

Kasabian would definitely like to have a bigger audience in America, but has otherwise reached its goals, Pizzorno said.

“Everything we’ve wanted to do, and more, we’ve done,” he said. “It’s just been about leaving a beautiful legacy behind. Ultimately, when we’re gone, if we left a mark on the world … we’ve left our music. That’s kind of the most beautiful thing.”

RIFF: You wrote For Crying Out Loud in just six weeks. Did it come easier than your other records?

Sergio Pizzorno: [With] every album, as an artist you’re on the hunt for inspiration and a new way of looking at your work, to make it different. I’ve never tried to write an album really quickly, but thought this time I will. It’s kind of as simple as that, really. It’s just a different way of approaching things. It’s like playing a different guitar. You pick up a different guitar, and it’s a different size. It’s just weird. You have to find different ways to kind of want to make music. I was just thinking about a lot of my favorite records from the past, and a lot of them were done really quickly, and there’s an energy to that. I wanted to make an uplifting, feel-good record, but I needed to concentrate at that time because you cannot make one of those records in over a year, and you cannot predict someone’s life in over a year. You have many ups and downs. Shit goes down, and then all of a sudden, that will influence your writing.

It seems like you had a lot of fun making this record. It’s a romper from beginning to end. You wanted to focus on guitar. Were there other sonic aspirations?

Yeah. It was more conscious in the writing, really. I just got a guitar and a piano and wrote all the shit on that. I focused on the structure and melody, the kind of classic songs and song lines. … There’s a reason why all those incredible Motown songs were just perfection, structurally. There’s a reason why they work. The reason why they stand up now is because they all kind of follow the same rules. So I just tuned in to that and focused on that kind of pure melody. Then [we] sort of graffitied all over it, so to speak. I kind of added some flourishes. But it was all based around melody and structure.

This album is an inverse to your last one. I take it that was intentional?

Absolutely, yes. Every single nut and bolt of this band is a complete decision. … I think it’s about the legacy you leave behind and the journey the band goes on. I look at it as a whole body of work rather than specific albums, you know? This album … the best way to sort of describe it is sort of through the ‘70s, put through this futuristic filter.

Are these the most personal songs you’ve ever written? Listening to “Put Your Life On It,” that song seems very vulnerable and open.

Yes. You’re absolutely right. That tune specifically. … I was listening to John Lennon interviews [about him making 1980’s Double Fantasy], and he just said [in his songwriting] he decided to just say exactly what he wanted to say. [Before] he would always use a metaphor or poetry. It kind of blew his mind to say what it was he wanted to say. You do feel vulnerable because if you’re writing a song to your wife … there are simple lyrics that can be so corny, and it’s sort of uncomfortable. Then there’s pitching it to the right kind of mood, and it’s pretty beautiful. When I’ve played [“Put Your Life On It”] to people, what they’ve told me about the song, is you realize that’s what people want. It really connects when we say it exactly how it is, so I’m really proud of that song.

What story that you tell in song on the record is currently your favorite?

Right now it’s “Ill Ray (The King).” It’s the first song we open with live; it’s so powerful. What I’m really proud of with how far we’ve come as a band is the sound of that song. You can hear Bruce Springsteen in it. You can hear the east midlands rave scene. You can hear a little bit of Nirvana. All these things have been an influence over the years. … As an artist, all you’re looking for is your stamp, you know? And it’s that song [for us].

How did you recruit Lena Headey from Game of Thrones for the “Ill Rey (The King)” video? Her casting as a queen was pretty genius.

It’s one of those amazing circumstances. Basically, I had the idea for the video … in the back of a taxi, and I know a director [Dan Cadan]. And she is his girlfriend. If you’re gonna have a queen, you might as well have the best queen in the world. And she’s such a lovely person, and she’s so talented, like you said. It was a lot of fun.

What’s it like to have been at it for 20 years?

I’d say comedy has kept us together; a sense of humor. We still make each other laugh. That’s literally what’s kept us going through the ups and downs. Through all the madness, making each other laugh is what kept us together.

Do you have any favorite memories made in the Bay Area? Have you spent much time here before?

San Francisco is my favorite city in America. I spent months and months recording there. I especially love the Mission. I just love the Mission, man. I feel way at home there, man. There’s this little joint there called Taqueria, literally. People who have recorded with us think I’m insane because I go there every day for lunch, and they tease me like, “You’re fucking crazy,” and I’m like, “I don’t care–they’ve got this food that’s unbelievable.” … There’s this place called Vesuvio Café as well. I just love the history there of the beat poets. The whole vibe of that city is like no place on Earth, and I love it.

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