Courtesy of your fellow Incubus HQ friend Vasco Melo Calheiros.
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Multi-platinum, legendary rock band,Incubus have left California and headed to the UK to start off their eagerly anticipated tour to support the upcoming release of their new studio album ‘If Not Now, When?’
The band are playing a sold out show at London’s HMV Forum tomorrow night (June 14th) and I had the pleasure of catching up with Ben Kenney (bass), Chris Kilmore (turntables, keyboards) and José Pasillas (drums) today at their record label’s offices.
Resonance: The new album has leaked online in advance of its release next month. How do you feel about people getting access to your material in advance, without having paid for it, and how do you see the future of the music industry in general given that online piracy is so prominent?
José: It sucks!
Ben: It’s tricky. It’s a double edged sword. On the one hand, you’ve worked so hard on something and then you have it taken away from you. The second side of the coin is that people want your music, so if you spent all this time and it didn’t leak, it’d probably be an indicator that people aren’t excited for what you’re doing. It’s kinda the norm now, every anticipated album leaks and it’s just reality. There’s nothing we can do – we’re busy making music. We’re not going to go out there and start smashing people’s hard drives or anything!
José: You know, the fact that there’s so much time between the leak and the actual release is a good kick in the schnuts too. But, you know, it’s actually a good indication for us and that’ll never really go away. Once it leaves our hands it’s out of our control.
Chris: That’s what I was gonna say. First you’re like argh, fuck and you’re pissed off but then you get over it and (think that) at least the people want the music. But it’s more relevant for the record labels than it is for us cos once we’re done, we hand them the CD and it’s out of our hands and after that what happens, happens. For us, we just want people to hear the music and as long as people still keep coming to the concerts and get to see us live and have an interest in us then that’s always a good thing. It’s kinda like all press is good press. It’s money out of a lot of people’s pockets but, at the same time, you could be selling no CDs at all.
Resonance: Yeah. It must be hard for fans as they’re in turmoil between desperation to hear it but not always wanting to download it illegally.
Chris: If you download it, that’s fine but as long as you go and buy the record when it comes out too.
José: Yeah, cos then you’ve kinda redeemed yourself (laughs).
Resonance: So, talking about the tour that’s coming up. Is there a really revised set list this time around? Will you be playing a lot from the new album? I know on your Facebook page you asked fans which songs from ‘S.C.I.E.N.C.E.’ they’d like to hear played live. Is that an indication of the set list or are you going to be focusing more on the new material?
José: A little bit of everything. Until it comes out we’ll be limiting what we play from the new record but we will be playing some new tracks. We have 6 full lengths that we’re grabbing music from so we’re trying to do a fair share from each. It’s a good 70/80 songs we have to choose from. We’re pretty well versed in playing all that stuff so we’ll be picking and choosing to get an even balance then, as the record comes out and people want to hear more of it, we’ll start adding some more of the new material into the set. It should be fun. It’ll be really eclectic and we’re excited about it.
Resonance: When you’re on stage do you ever stop for a second, detach yourself from your role and just listen to the other guys and admire their ability? Or are you so focused on what you’re doing that you don’t have time to stop and think ‘wow, the rest of these guys are fucking awesome’.
Ben: Personally, my ego is so big so I only have awe for myself (laughs). Some of our stuff is very challenging to play so there’s a lot of the set is spent focusing on just playing it. You divvy up your attention between getting your thing done, checking out the people going nuts in the first few rows and then usually the last thing for me to notice is what everyone else on stage is doing. When that all glues together, I don’t even know, it’s so rapid fire.
José: Especially at the beginning of a tour, we’re focusing on our own part and trying to get that right, After a couple of months of really getting it down you can sorta let go a bit and listen to what other people are doing. I get to appreciate it more when I get to see footage from videos and recordings of radio and live shows then I can really appreciate it. I feel as though I am in a great band with great musicians so I feel really lucky.
Resonance: I guess you’ve got your core songs that are really popular. Do you feel that you have to play those hits or is that not an issue? Do you create your set list based around how you feel on the night or do you always include certain songs regardless?
Ben: With this many records, like José said, it’s difficult to play everything. It’d take days but we def want the show to make as many people happy as possible.
Chris: It depends on what kind of show, too. If it’s a little club show for our hardcore fans then we can dig deeper into the catalogue cos they’ll understand more. But if it’s a radio show or a festival or something like that when we have a short amount of time and not everyone is there to see you then you want to play the bigger songs.
Ben: Yeah, we don’t want people going out to the concessions during our set.
Resonance: Will there be any slightly more obscure songs in the set tomorrow night? Stuff you don’t get to play very much since it’s likely to be an audience of hardcore fans.
José: We’ve been practising some of the stuff we’ve not played in a long time so we’ll get to showcase some of it.
Chris: Ben and I like the obscure stuff, because the obscure stuff is old and that’s before our time so we have a different perspective on it.
Ben: It’s like playing covers (laughs).
Resonance: If you had to choose one of your songs to introduce you to a stranger who’d never heard of you, and that you think most sums up Incubus, what would you choose?
Ben: That’s a really subjective question and I’m not sure there is just one song that sums us up.
Chris: I got one! I would choose ‘Wish You Were Here’.
Jose: I agree!
Chris: Just the sound of it and what’s going on. There’s a little bit of turntables in it so you know there’s a DJ and the chorus is a big rockin’ Incubus chorus. It really defines us. At least that’s what I think.
José: ‘Anna Molly’ might be another one.
Chris: ‘Anna Molly’ has the same kind of thing. What would you choose?
Resonance: I think ‘Wish You Were Here’ is a really good choice, actually. I’m surprised you chose ‘Anna Molly’! I think ‘Wish You Were Here’ is easier for everyone to appreciate. I love ‘Anna Molly’ though and, lyrically, they’re both really strong as well.
Resonance: In some of the interviews you’ve done before about the new album, ‘If not now, When?’, you’ve said it’s not really a heavy rock album, but it’s a bit more concise, sort of storytelling. I think Brandon said on an MTV interview that it’s almost romantic in a way, in the way he wrote it. How do you think that will transfer when playing it to a live audience?
José: It’s just gonna add to the spectrum. I mean, most likely, we’re not going to get on stage and only play the new album so it’s just going to be another colour in the palette, I think.
Resonance: That’s what is so interesting about you guys. With every album that comes out, you don’t know what to expect and that’s a good thing. There are some fans who only like, say, ‘S.C.I.E.N.C.E’ and that’s it …
Ben: Some people just want to relive a certain period of time.
Resonance: Yeah and they just want you to make ‘S.C.I.E.N.C.E’ part two, but that would just be boring and what’s the point. You can see the progression and how you guys have changed over time and that’s amazing.
Ben: Well we appreciate when people appreciate that.
Resonance: OK guys, we’re being hurried along so just one more for you. If you could only watch one movie, listen to one album and read one book for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Ben: That’s easy for me! Movie would be ‘Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan’, album would be Ahmad Jamal ‘Happy Moods’ and book would be ‘Fountainhead’ by Ayn Rand.
Jose: Mine would be ‘Godfather 1’ .. or 2. Record would be Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ and book would be, shit, it’s on the tip of my tongue (laughs). ‘A Farewell to Arms’ by, shit, what’s the author? It’s like an old book you’d study in high school .. Can’t remember. Is it Albert Camus? Or maybe Hemingway?
Resonance: Don’t worry, we’ll find it – It’s Ernest Hemingway, in case you wanted to know
Chris: Yeah, I’m gonna pass on that one.
Resonance: It’s a hard one. I wouldn’t have been able to answer it either!
OK guys, I think we’re done. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat. It’s hugely appreciated. Best of luck with tomorrow night’s show and the album release. Look forward to catching up again when you’re back at the end of the year.
Incubus: No, thank you. Lovely to meet you .. Bye!