What’re you rebelling against, Johnny?
And so Johnny goes: Whaddya got?
We still remember the famous Marlon Brando scene on “The Wild One” 60 years later to put ourselves in context, and recall where Black Rebel Motorcycle Club took their name from.
BRMC still continue to be one of the finest bands to distil R’n’R without additives since the start of the new millennium.
They came along by chance with all The Strokes hype back in the early 2000s, and found themselves in the middle of a dancehall they hadn’t even pretended to assist. The hype was high but their ideas had another path marked.
They’re presenting their 7th album called Specter at the Feast ([PIAS], 2013), not an easy album as the death of Robert Been’s father, Michael Been, has been a hard loss for the band. Michael, worldwide known as The Call singer and guitarist, was also helping on production and even working with the sound engineering team during their last tour.
We catch Robert Been in the middle of the European leg and chat with him about music, Bowie, new reunions of The Call and how he sees the music business today.
How are you Rob? How is the tour going so far?
We’re in Belgium at the Rockwerchter, in the European summer tour. We’ve been touring in America and we’ve just started the European tour.
You’re playing in Spain in few days, after the strong rumours about the FIB Festival cancellation. Do you have any updates we don’t know?
I haven’t heard about that. It’s one of the festivals that we’re most excited to play. So I’m glad it’s still going on.
Let’s get to the new album. I think SPECTER AT THE FEAST it’s an album that somehow captures the essence of the band. It’s your 7th album already, how do you feel about it? is it easier to make albums now or was it better with the first albums?
It’s never easy. For some reason you’re always very sceptic with your life. There’s a lot that goes into the record, and there’s always circumstances around each album that tend to change, and rock and roll has got to fight for survival sometimes. We have some personal loss and we used this album to kind of, look forward, and kind of survive, and the music helped us go through that, so this record is an attachment to that, and I’m very proud of it.
“I’m just afraid of not being authentic with people.”
- Do you think about the listeners reactions when you’re composing an album? I mean, for instance, is there any sound that you would like to get closer to but are afraid of your audience reaction?
I’m just afraid of not being authentic with people. Going to the emotions, or having something that sounds like everything should be in place but for some reason the heart of it it’s missing… that’s the only thing that I’m worried about. I’m not worry about the people’s criticism, as knowing that we’re trying to make something that’s honest, the feelings that we’re trying to touch heart, a feeling that other people relate you… I think if you’re being honest with yourself, with the music, the writing, it will shine through if it’s true in you.
You’ve made a fantastic cover of Let The Day Begin in this record, and also you played on The Call reunion 2 months ago. I’ve heard that at the end of the day people tend to come back to their roots somehow. How was the experience for you? Would you like to play more with them?
The shows were really powerful. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into. It was a lot. I had to learn 20 songs, perform and sing them. There was a lot of work but it was a joy, you know? The guys that I was playing with had been like a second family since I was a little kid. My father would take me out on the road with them. I was 6-7 years old running around backstage with these guys and now I’m onstage playing with them. It’s very surreal. But it’s a lot of fun. Songs are still great. They’re such incredible musicians still these days, that’s the great thing about it. And if we get the chance to play again together I would love to do that. It was a lot of fun.
We’re working on releasing a live DVD of those shows, so hopefully that will kinda get people into The Call again.
“There’s so much music that is not necessary”
- I reckon you’re a band that never disappoints during the live shows and one of the few bands that can be proudly tagged as “AUTHENTIC”. Do you sense a lack of authenticity with all the new bands coming out thanks to the internet especially?
I just don’t think there’s anything really needed about that. There’s a lot of music that I don’t think it has very much… it’s not very much needed or necessary. It’s different people trying kind of acting cool… It’s difficult to kind of believe that music still can be used as something more, and people still believe in it as something more.
It doesn’t really have much heart or consciousness; it just feels kind of flat, and usually forgotten. But it’s just me. I could be wrong. But I hope I’m not. (laughs)
Is there justice in the music nowadays? What do you think you need to success in the music business? Do you believe in luck or do you think that work hard makes all the difference?
I don’t know, sometimes success is the exact opposite of creating music that is raw, real and true. Like it serves some purpose. Success is something in its entirety. But it’s an easy thing to come back. So a lot of people go for that.
We’ve done an all-nightjob trying to find a way through that. I’m not gonna lie, we would love to play bigger arenas and all that stuff and get our music to more people. We know that sometimes to get into that places you got to change what you do, and we don’t want to do that.
“Artists in the early days knew how the world looked like without Rock and Roll music”
I’ve read you play Hide & Seek with David Bowie when you were a child, is that true?
(laughs) Yeah, he was friend of my father. My father was working and while they were shooting, as I was a little kid, I was like 10 or so, I was trying to get anybody to play Hide & Seek with me and he was the only one who accepted. (laughs)
Well, he was already an icon by then, his legend has grown and grown with the years. You know, from inside the music business, all this kind of, celebrities’ scene we have now, How do you see it?? Do you reckon that there’s a lot of pose in Rock and Roll nowadays?
I think there are more artists like, you know, in the early days, making music. I think they knew what the world looked like without Rock and Roll music. I think they were aware, of what it was like before there was Elvis, Beatles and Stones, and lot of them were kids who grown up in a time before you know? There was How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? And songs like that, that just didn’t stick anyone. I understand, they point in the consciousness and were the voices of a generation, and I think that a lot of those artists like Bowie, Iggy Pop, Neil Young, a lot of them know what it’s like without that. And that’s the difference between lot of new bands today, that are spoiled, just thinking that this is how the world it is, and how is always going to be there, and is not the case, it can go away, it can stop. It’s like a black and white world. And I think they know what that feels like, and I don’t think anyone else does, so it means more, and they felt more and they’re more aware of it. They blooded more with their whole heart, you know, that’s why you get more of those icons and legends who are really hard to touch. They come from another time.
“If you’re making music that’s got something to say, it’s gonna polarized people.”
- You’ve been playing for 15 years now without moving to more commercial sounds. How is your relation with the media? Do you care about the critics or comments?
Well, usually if you’re making some music that’s got something to say, it’s gonna polarized people. Is gonna be loved, is gonna be hated… that if you’re doing it right. But that doesn’t mean that it hurts, or bring you down when people talk shit about it. It’s just part of it though. If we made a really pop friendly record that everyone love… I would be death more nervous if everybody said thanks. That’s a suspicious place to be in.
Is there something you would like to do in music that you haven’t done yet? Soundtracks…
Yeah, we’re actually working on a soundtrack right now, and looking into some films, it’s a totally different thing, creating music for a scene created for a picture. That’s something we always wanted to do. We haven’t had the time because we’ve being on the road so much. We’re gonna start looking into that, and doing more things like that now. It’s something really inspiring and that we’ve never done before.
If you had the chance to play your music anywhere or anywhere in the world or in history, what would be that place or moment?
The only thing I regret is the day that I won’t be able to play,or to make a record because it’s needed you know? Like somewhere in the future, we could be too old, or we all split up or whatever the problem is, cos the feeling you get, I’m sure all bands get that, even after they split up, you get this feeling that something really good needs to be put out. And not being able to be there for that day, that’s the feeling I’m worried about. I’m not worry about going backwards, there’s no need to fantasize but being in a band on the 60’s, right there, would be just fine.
Some bands put themselves an expire date, you know they go ok, we’ll make 5 albums and then we will make other projects. How do you see it? Have you ever thought about that?
You can’t ever really know what’s coming next. You can’t ever say without a doubt that there’s not gonna be a feeling, an intuition or a song next year that you may want to try. You’ll never be able to know that.
The only bands that I think that say we’re gonna be quitting after this next album or wants to kind of knowing themselves, they’re not comfortable playing anymore, in that way, with those people maybe, and you can feel that sense coming I think, which is not right anymore. And it’s a hard day. I can see that. I don’t think that anybody does it intentionally though.
We borrow the logo of the guitar in the cover of Baby 81 for our site. Do you mind if we use it or should we find a new one?
(laughs) No man, I don’t mind, I’m good with that. Go for it.
Thanks! I really appreciate it. And last question: Are you happy?
I’m scared of that word! (laughs) I know many people that are obsessed with happiness over all else, and sometimes they think all else is a little bit more interesting. There are so many roads besides that one, I’m not done exploring them all. (laughs)
David Bernardo @rockasting