From the archives – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

April 21, 2011
3 mins read

On the 14th of May, 2010, Gary Steel conducted a phone conversation with Peter Hayes of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The result was somewhat incoherent.

Witchdoctor – Hi Peter, how are you doing?
Hayes – Okay thank you. How are you?
Witchdoctor – The coffee’s just not strong enough.
Hayes – What?
Witchdoctor – The coffee’s just not strong enough.
Hayes – I lost you again. What was that?
Witchdoctor – I just said, the coffee’s not strong enough. It’s morning here.
Hayes – [Pause]. Oh [weak laugh].
Witchdoctor – You’re in the Netherlands at the moment?
Hayes – We’re in Amsterdam right now, yeah.
Witchdoctor – Is that part of the world tour, or a promo thing?
Hayes – No, we played tonight. Yeah.
Witchdoctor – So I’ve actually got you after a gig?
Hayes – Yeah.
Witchdoctor – You poor thing, I’m so sorry.
Hayes – That’s okay man [laughs]. It stops me from getting in trouble.
Witchdoctor – The band’s history is turning into a bit of an epic now, isn’t it?
Hayes – [laughs] It’s gettin’ there.
Witchdoctor – It’s interesting that when you started you were right on the cusp of a revival in dirty rock’n’roll, and now it’s gone full circle back to you being really critically revered and freshened up.
Hayes – You say freshened up?
Witchdoctor – Yeah, a lot of the reviews are saying that the band is playing on all its strengths on the new record.
Hayes – Oh, that’s… that’s a nice comment, I guess it’s a fair comment, I think everybody’s just doin’ what they do. [laughs] As far as our music, somebody else’s music, they’re just doin’ what they do, they give you the run around and chase that, keep changin’ that from rock to whatever’s the next one.
Witchdoctor – A lot of comments about the new record suggest the band has been through a lot of changes, but I wonder if from your perspective the band is more of a continuum?
Hayes – I’m sorry, say it one more time.
Witchdoctor – [repeat]
Hayes – Oh, oh, sorry. I swear to you, I’m stone cold sober, even though I am in Amsterdam right now. [laughs]
Yeah, you know as far as comments about any of the records, to me everything’s fair for the most part. There’s obvious things that are people being a little moody I guess, like anybody can be, as far as making comments about we’re a rip off of this or that, but it’s all pretty fair…. Ahhhhh!
The plan is to continue trying to write a good song. And we may have yet to do that, you know, but that’s the drive [asthmatic laugh]. That we’ve written really good songs but haven’t written a really great one yet. Who knows.
I don’t really want to go there, because what else are you gonna do? If you’ve written a really great song, where are you gonna go from there? Another really great song? You’ve already done that, you might as well do another dog.
Witchdoctor – I guess the new things on the album are more Americana, and the Edgar Allen Poe influences and so forth. In the live show do you mostly play the new record, or is it a real combination of the band to date?
Hayes – It’s a pretty good mixture, you know? We’re four albums in, uh, five?
[He’s really slurring his words now].
It’s five, right? You kind of pick and choose, you know. If you load up the set with too much of the new album… If you do too many of the new songs then you’ve got no time for the older stuff so you’ve got to sacrifice some new songs; it’s give and take. If you’ve only got one album, you just play that album and get off stage, you know. [laughs].
Witchdoctor – Is the show a really different thing to what you hear on the records?
Hayes – Uh, oh, errh. Yeah. We don’t fuck with the songs. We don’t take a lick and start jamming on it. One thing we’ve never captured on record too well is the power of live, you know? I don’t know if anybody has, not even on a live DVD, you just can’t do it, you can’t really replace loud music, you can’t put that on a DVD, you can’t digitise it, it just doesn’t work. It’s less dreamy than the records, and sometimes a bit more, depending on the mood, I guess.
Witchdoctor – You never hear drums on a record the same way as at a concert.
Hayes – Yeah, you can get close but you’re gonna piss off everybody in the neighbourhood. I’ve done that, I’ve done that you know what I mean, you’ve got to turn that shit up.
Witchdoctor – Are you enjoying touring with Leah (Shapiro)?
Hayes – Yeah, yeah, she’s great.
Witchdoctor – Does she bring a different approach to the band?
Hayes – Not so much that, she kind of came from… when we met her she was playing with a band called Dead Combo, straightahead rock’n’roll. On the older stuff, there’s no different approach. On the newer stuff, maybe a little on this album. I think she’s a little more tribal in her approach, and I can dig that.
Witchdoctor – Thanks for talking to me Peter.
Hayes – Sorry man… sorry.

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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