- 19 Sep 22
Following the release of Kasabian’s new album The Alchemist’s Euphoria, Serge Pizzorno discusses rebirths, his new role as frontman, and weathering the storms on rock’s roller-coaster.
They say that when trouble comes knocking on your door, that’s when you find out who your real friends are. In the case of Kasabian guitarist, songsmith and now lead singer Serge Pizzorno and the rest of his band – bassist Chris Edwards, drummer Ian Matthews and six-stringer Tim Carter – that is most certainly true. Two years ago, the Leicester lads parted ways with their frontman Tom Meighan in the wake of the vocalist pleading guilty to assaulting his fiancée.
Changing singers is always a controversial subject. Even more so when your former frontman is convicted of an unforgivable crime. It left Kasabian wondering a few things. Would their fans stick by them? Would they find themselves shunned in the media due to Meighan’s actions? Would they accept Serge as a new frontman? And, perhaps most importantly – should they call it a day?
All of those questions and more were answered earlier this summer when they played a hugely successful show at Knebworth, supporting their mucker Liam Gallagher. When Hot Press catches up with Serge, he tells us that the ex-Oasis man’s loyalty meant the world to him.
“Knebworth was everything, man,” he beams. “Liam’s the greatest. He put us on before we even played a show – he showed his faith in us and we didn’t wanna let him down. It was a big, big gig, but once we got on that stage we were like, ‘Yeah, we could get used to this again’ (laughs). That show gave us the hunger back. We were like, ‘This is what it’s all about – playing big gigs.”
And what’s it like being cast in the role of frontman?
“I’m still learning every night, trying to figure it out,” offers Serge, who confesses to studying performances from the likes of Iggy Pop to see how it’s done (hopefully he’ll avoid the whole rolling on broken glass thing though!). “We’ve had a seismic shift. To be honest, I was happy being a songwriter. That’s my job and I’ll always love it, but frontman is a different beast.
“I feel my role is to be an extension of the moshpit and for me to bring the audience onstage with me. I’ll always try to bring that heart and soul. The summer has been insane. We’ve had some of the most joyous, euphoric shows we’re ever been a part of. There’s a new generation of kids getting into this band and that’s really exciting.”
When Kasabian were living through the first lockdown, did they consider performing under a new name and starting afresh?
“Kasabian is my life’s work,” replies Serge. “Basically, the band didn’t want this ride to end, but I have to say the last few years were the toughest of times in so many ways...”
Proving that iron sharpens iron, Kasabian re-emerged with seventh album The Alchemist’s Euphoria last month. It’s a dizzying, prog and house hybrid, full to the brim with ideas and ambition. Serge is both relieved and excited that his band’s first new new music in five years has been embraced.
“There was a time we thought that making a new album wouldn’t be possible and it would never happen,” he notes. “We’re genuinely so thankful we’re in this position and have new music out. It feels like a rebirth. I think there’s a renewed energy in the band. When you think everything’s all over and then you realise it’s not, it’s a powerful emotion. This album signals the start of something new.”
Viewed by the songsmith as a reflection of these turbulent times, Serge wanted to bombard the listener with a litany of styles and sounds.
“Yes, the album sounds like there’s loads going on in terms of ideas and stuff,” he says, “and that is the whole point. Me reacting to the world. Nowadays, most of us have a phone attached to us like a third limb. This is where the world is now, and I wanted to reflect that the nature of how we digest content – music, film etc – has changed.
“Most people watch TV and they’ve got the phone by their side. We’re all over the place in terms of focus, and I wanted the album to feel like that to mirror the times. I got really into the idea of taking from R&B, psych, electronica, industrial and rave, and switching from genre to genre over the course of a four-minute song. Have these real mad left turns and have them happen really quickly. That was the plan.”
There’s also a big Prodigy influence.
“Yeah, I’m a big fan,” grins Serge. “Liam Howlett is a pioneer, his production especially. One of the first records I got into was The Prodigy’s ‘Out Of Space’ back in the day. I’ve always been a huge fan of Liam and he was one of the reasons why I got into music.”
A self-confessed studio animal, creating new songs was a cathartic experience for Pizzorno during the Covid era.
“The studio is my safe haven,” he says. “That’s my weapon to fight back. Of all the doubts that go through your mind and all the things that other people might say, that’s my opportunity to do my talking. It’s my playtime. I’ve always approached it with an innocence, and work off that instinct and energy. I startoff my day saying today is about making some music and nothing else.
“Lockdown was tough for us and the crew. We were all a proper family touring the world together for all these years, so to see that industry stopped in its tracks was devastating. There were a lot of conservations about whether there’d be festivals again or shows bigger than 3000 people. These were genuine conversations that were happening at the time, so that’s why this year’s festival season was so good – we never thought we’d have them again.”
Armed with a sixth number one album in their native UK for their seventh LP (keep up!) and buoyed by a renewed sense of purpose, the resurrection men bring their show to Ireland for a brace of dates next month. Serge promises they’ll be nothing short of biblical (to borrow a phrase from the younger Gallagher brother).
“What can fans expect from our Irish shows?” he ponders. “Pure euphoria. The old songs are being reimagined and the new songs blend so well, so we invite you all to come in and lose your minds with us. It’s this one amazing gathering, and it’s just joyous abandonment. Everyone in that room is acting as one, reaching as high as we can go.”
• The Alchemist’s Euphoria is out now on Sony. Kasabian play the Telegraph Building, Belfast on October 20 and 3Olympia, Dublin (21).