KASABIAN

Absolving their sins

by Felicity Hughes

Following in the footsteps of the U.K. band Oasis, Kasabian — from Leicester, England — have set themselves up as working class heroes.

Making as much noise off-stage as on, they have delighted press and fans by slagging off the competition (Brighton’s The Kooks “make music for girls”) and by partying on an “epic” scale.

When The Japan Times spoke with lead guitarist and songwriter Serge Pizzorno over the phone in England, he didn’t disappoint.

“After the gig we usually get on the bus, read a book and quietly go to sleep,” he says, his voice cracked with post-party exhaustion. Really?

“Of course not. You don’t want to know what happened after, we just have a good time, you know,” Pizzorno says. “We do loads of drugs, drink loads of drink and go to bed.”

With the release of their second album, “Empire,” Kasabian’s brew of psychedelic prog rock punched through the U.K. singles charts with two hits. With tracks such as “Shoot the Runner,” “Empire” has an aggressive, military theme.

“The album’s about best mates, your lovers, it’s about close people. It’s not about England or anywhere, it’s about the world,” Pizzorno says. “It’s about the important people in your life, the ones that are close to you, that’s what it’s about, it’s a really personal record.”

After touring the United States and the U.K., the band are about to touch down in Japan for a nation-wide tour. Asked what they’d been up to on the road, Pizzorno reveals that he and Kasabian’s singer-guitarist Tom Meighan have just invented their own extreme sport: “We were traveling around in Yorkshire and we were surfin’ on top of the tour bus. Nearly chopped our legs off on a motorway bridge, luckily got down just in time.”

At the heart of the band is the two’s longterm friendship, and these types of daredevil stunts are a tradition from childhood.

“We used to climb trees, get shot at by a farmer,” he says.

Unlike Oasis’ brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher, Pizzorno is horrified at the suggestion of him and Meighan ever fighting: “We never fight, friends for life.”

Later, onstage at a concert at The Brighton Centre, Meighan plants a kiss on Pizzorno’s lips and the mostly male audience doesn’t even bat an eye. Pizzorno — who has dated Kate Moss — has received much media attention for his good looks and recently was voted number 21 in the NME’s “Cool List.”

“I don’t know what to say, I’m sorry that I’m the only member of the band that’s in it,” he says, ” ’cause I think we’re all f***kin’ cool.”

Despite the working class front, the nice thing about Kasabian is that after two years in the limelight, they are genuinely delighted with their success: “I’m glad we’re getting all this attention, it’s good. We’re just kids that made it from a little town.”

But the group had their share of trouble in 2006. Earlier in the year founding guitarist Chris Karloff left the band, and, though they say the split was amicable, because of Karloff’s contribution to songwriting, questions have been raised about the band’s longevity. Karloff has been temporarily replaced by American guitarist Jay Mehler.

“Jay is a top man, he’s the American reverend, he’s insane. He’s a certified reverend, a religious man,” Pizzorno says. “It’s nice having a portable reverend on tour ’cause he can take confession and bless you.”

Does he have much to confess?

“There’s a few things that I’m allocating for the sheet of sins that I’ve already committed,” he laughs. “He’s just got rid of them for me so it’s all good. . . . We’ve just got a fresh sheet.”

Although he hails from Leicester, over the phone Pizzorno’s accent seems closer to that of Manchester, the hometown of the Gallaghers, and now there’s gossip on Kasabian fan sites about Mehler beginning to take on a British accent.

“It’s a load of bollocks,” Pizzorno says. “Steer clear of Internet pages and gossip because they’re just for people who’ve got nothing better to do with their lives.”

And are they looking forward to touring Japan?

“We’ve had f***kin’ amazing times in Japan,” he says. “The Japanese fans are wild. They are out of their minds and I love ‘em ’cause they’re like us, we’re out of our minds.”