Success is an interesting word. How do you define it, particularly in terms of music? Some would deem success to be the fact they get paid a few dollars to play their tunes on a scungy stage in front of six people. Others would call success being able to quit their day job to concentrate fully on their craft. Still others would consider themselves successful based on the amount of money in their account, the size of the bling on their fingers and the length of their limousines. All of those qualify, it’s up to the person concerned.
Back in 2005 or so, Warrnambool locals Airbourne, no doubt considered themselves successful. They’d moved from their country base to Melbourne and were playing shows at the legendary Tote Hotel and the equally time-honoured Duke Of Windsor. Their crowds were swelling and people were talking and they were being paid, basically, to drink beer and lay down their own brand of AC/DC-inflected rock n’ roll. As far as they were concerned (judging by their stage manner and their energy), this was it and the hard work had paid off and sweet success was theirs, full and ripe, the juice running down their collective chin.
Then of course, it all happened. The hype machine kicked into high gear, they were signed by Capitol and whisked off to the States to record their debut, Runnin’ Wild. The deal then fell through but they were picked up by Roadrunner Records and the dream continued, US and European touring, another record laid down in Chicago – 2010’s No Guts. No Glory. – and the train kept rolling, Europe in particular embracing these scruffy rock n’ roll bogans from country Victoria. Is this success then? Is this where it’s at for Airbourne? Do they believe the hype? Is it normal yet?
“Well, it does feel normal I guess,” muses rhythm guitarist, David Roads. “I mean, we never let anything go to our head in other words. We’re very focused on what we’re doing and when we get on the road, we just get into work mode. Sometimes you look back on certain events, certain shows you’ve played and you go, ‘Wow, that was amazing’. I mean, we opened for the Rolling Stones back before we even started going overseas, and that was amazing to play with a band of that calibre. So you look back on certain things and say, ‘That’s a great achievement’, so it’s exciting at the same time.
“And the hype, yeah, that can be hard sometimes,” he goes on. “I mean, before Runnin’ Wild, there was some hype there for a while, and I guess because we built things up so strongly in Australia and then were signed to Capitol and went to record in America, I think being an Aussie band and going over the pond to record over there makes people think, ‘I wonder what they’re gonna come back with, I hope they don’t come back sounding all American’, there’s always that kind of speculation.”
That kind of speculation was rife indeed around that time, people were waist-deep in the nu-rock ‘movement’, everyone looking for another Jet to tout as our own, another big rock act to put up against the rest of the world, and Airbourne were it for a while. Much like Jet then, Airbourne were also the source of much scorn, people putting them down for their similarity to AC/DC, their supposed lack of originality, but it didn’t seem to matter. As Roads said, Airbourne never let anything go to their heads, and as such, unlike Jet, they’re still a viable entity and are still out there, runnin’ wild.
Case in point, 2010’s, No Guts. No Glory. As strong an album as their debut, and one which garnered strong success the globe over. “Yeah, the reviews have been really good for this,” Roads smiles. “It’s a tough album, the second album, because you’ve gotta prove yourself again and you’ve gotta top your first one. So I think it went down good.” That it did, which then brings us to where Airbourne are now. They’ve been hyped, they’ve delivered, they’ve kept going and have released two strong records and this is, for them, success. But these are country lads, and country lads don’t rest on their laurels, being, as they are, brought up on hard work and determination. There’s another Airbourne record afoot.
“Well I won’t give too much away,” Roads laughs, “ but these new tracks are sounding really good. We’ve got a lot of material in there, and what we didn’t do on the last two albums, was go back to ideas we’d recorded and put away, dating back to eight years ago. So that’s what we’ve been doing, just going back over all of that…and what we learnt off the first two albums, working with producers, we’re trying to do as much of that as we can with the songs before we go in and work with a producer…so yeah, we just wanna get in there and make a really rockin’ third album.”
Airbourne have been holed up in a warehouse in Melbourne these past few months, delving back through riffs laid down in soundchecks, song ideas long ago recorded and since forgotten, although this isn’t to say they’re not writing any new material. “Oh no, not at all, because we write on the road, there’s a lot of stuff we wrote last year,” Roads explains. “For example, there might be a riff that we recorded in a soundcheck, so we’ll bring that out and write new stuff to it, lay it on the table and then see what we can do with it.”
No Guts. No Glory. was written in Warrnambool’s Criterion Hotel, the pub where these four boys spent their formative years, the pub that gave them their start. It seems quite appropriate that such a record was written in such a place, something they’re not doing this time around, but something that’s not lost on them. “Yeah, that was great,” laughs Roads. “But that place burnt down while we were on tour last year…if it wasn’t for that, we might have gone back there, that was great that place, it was the first pub we started playing live shows at, it was the only dirty rock pub in Warrnambool at the time.
“But sometimes it’s not a good idea to go back to the same environment to write, you wanna put yourself in a new environment, it’s just a bit easier for creativity and writing,” he adds. So it seems the writing for Airbourne’s third record is progressing nicely, and as Roads goes on to say, the band are looking to head into a studio once they’ve completed their upcoming tours of both Australia, later this month, and Europe, where they’re supporting metal gods Iron Maiden, and playing the Wacken festival. It remains to be seen if this record will top what their previous two efforts have achieved, but as far as Airbourne are concerned, this is success, this is what they were put on this earth to do and you can bet your bottom dollar, they’ll be doing it until the day they die. After all, no guts, no glory.
Samuel J. Fell