Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has been revving my musical engine for years. I’ve seen ’em a lot, know all their records. In anticipation of seeing them again at the upcoming Moon Block Party, I present to you my interview with BRMC’s Peter Hayes.
HardRockChick: You’ll be playing the upcoming Moon Block Party with some familiar company. What are your thoughts on the event?
Peter Hayes: I’m hoping to run into Tinariwen, to steal some tricks from them.
HRC: It’s been a long and winding road for y’all. Looking back on when you first started to now, what’s been the most unexpected? How have things differed from your initial vision as a band?
PH: The most unexpected thing has been how many places we’ve been able to play around the world. Some of the places we have gone I never would have imagined being possible for us. As far as initial vision goes I don’t feel like we’ve strayed too far from our ideals, we’ve always come at it with the thought that our music is for everyone and we should be thankful if anyone wants to listen. We still feel that way.
HRC: As a longtime BRMC fan, one of the things I love most is your willingness to experiment: from rock to gospel to blues to The Effects of 333 to touring with a range of bands. How do you define yourselves? Are there any new, surprising areas you’d like to dabble in?
PH: Oh the hideous defining of ones self. I usually say we’re psychedelic rock n roll, and that we try to lean heavier on the roll side of the rock, to someone who hasn’t heard of us. One thing I’ve always been interested in trying to do is an orchestra piece. I’m not that into just adding strings to a rock song. I’d rather try to do a whole orchestral piece.
HRC: I’ve always loved the organic feeling of your live shows. How do you maintain that vibe over so many years?
PH: I’m glad it comes across that way. We’ve always been a bit anti showman/Rock Star.
That’s just something we try to keep with.
HRC: You have some really dedicated fans. Have you seen them change over the years? Any cool fan stories?
PH: There are a lot of lovely fan stories. They’ve been good to us- I wouldn’t know where to start with telling a story about them though. I’m not sure about seeing a change over the years. One of things I love about doing music and touring is it seems to exist in a different time zone; one that’s frozen somehow, but always forward. That’s just from my side of things though and doesn’t make sense to me either.
HRC: You play a lot of benefits, and your music gets licensed for quite a few commercials, TV shows, and film. I heard that you donate a lot of that money. Can you discuss?
PH: This ties into your 2nd question, initial vision of the band and things changing, etc. We turned down a lot of syncs in the very beginning, just being afraid of the so called sellout label. It was just money, and we hadn’t thought far enough ahead to imagine anybody really asking to use our music. We had to sit and think about what sellout and art really meant. For us, sellout boiled down to being selfish. So art needed to be giving, accepting and inclusive of all. I like to think that art can be a part of everyone’s life no matter what job/work, career they are in and we all have the choice to do what we do in an artful way, I don’t mean the clever cheat artful way. Turning things down meant the lives of the people and their families who are trying to help us are being affected. We feel we need to keep everyone in mind when we make our choices. So we try not to be snobby or judgmental about other people’s art. Sometimes we have donated, sometimes it’s money that comes in and saves our asses from going broke. I’d recommend it to any band, if they are asked to do something they’re not comfortable with, do a little research on the company to find out if there is somewhere that has been affected badly by them and turn the money around to help what they have hurt, or of course say no- sometimes that’s easier. At the end of the day we are lucky as fuck anyone is asking to use our music, and it feels right to keep that in mind and give when we can.
HRC: Are you working on new material in the wake of last year’s Specter at the Feast? What’s next?
PH: Yes, I/we are trying to get in the headspace of writing. There are songs that didn’t make the record that I’m going back to and trying to finish the words on, and there’s been a few new ones that have come, it’s always living on a wing and a prayer for what comes next.
HRC: What is something you consider yourself obsessed with at the moment?
PH: I’m trying to teach myself how to mix and record using surround sound. I’m getting a little obsessed with that, my room is a fucking mess of speakers and cables, just slapping together anything I can find.
HRC: There’s a costume contest at the show. What are you going to come dressed as?
PH: The ghost of Christmas past.
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