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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club prepare to Take Them On again


Story: Jack Foley

BLACK Rebel Motorcycle Club were immediately hailed as the most exciting young things to emerge from the world of rock for a long time, following the release of their debut album, BRMC, in 2001.

Singles such as Love Burns and Whatever Happened To My Rock 'n' Roll? set out BRMC's stall as a fiery, anti-establishment bunch of rebels, with something worthwhile to say.

Well, now they are back, and sounding better than ever, no doubt having benefited from the experience of touring with groups such as Oasis since the recording of their first album.

Take Them On, On Your Own is released on August 25 and has already been hailed by the NME as a masterpiece. It is a brilliant rock album.

Described in its publicity as 'an important and fiercely brilliant record, both because of what it has to say and the way in which it chooses to say it', the BRMC have most definitely proved that their illustrious debut was no fluke.

If anything, they are getting better...

Formed in San Francisco in 1998, the BRMC is comprised of Robert Turner (bass/vocals), Peter Hayes (guitar/vocals) and Nick Jago (drums).

The three of them had all gravitated to the city on the Bay from different parts of the globe.

Peter grew up on a small farm in Minnesota, while Nick spent his childhood in Devon. Robert, meanwhile, grew up deep in the woods of the Santa Cruz mountains, where he lived with his father, Michael Been - the former frontman of 80s new wavers, The Call (and nowadays, the band's sound engineer).

From the outset, the band perceived themselves as outsiders, not interested in finding their way into the mainstream.

Peter and Robert initially worked with a drum machine, before the arrival of Nick led to their first incarnation, as The Elements.

That, in turn, mutated into Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (the name, of course, hailing from the Marlon Brando classic, The Wild One), at which point the trio set to work on a 13-track demo, which was met with blank indifference.

"It was really hard to be doing something new," recalls Peter. "People weren't looking for that. Trying to do something different didn't really fly and it's fair to say we weren't very well supported."

In 1999, the band relocated to LA and their luck began to change. Around Christmas of that year, they signed a deal with Virgin that promised them full artistic control.

They set about making use of that pledge as quickly as possible and, without any outside instruction, constructed their dense, multi-layered, self-titled debut.

"When we recorded that album, the speed of our lives was deathly slow," continues Robert. "When we listen to it now, we don't feel that there's much life coming from it.

"It's a great record, but maybe it could have benefited from us going outside every now and again while we were making it."

Nevertheless, the album struck a chord with the right people and developed a massive following, making the expectation on the follow-up that much greater.

In order to do so, they moved to the UK and began work on it at the Fortress Studio - a cramped, dank shoebox of a space in the backstreets of east London.

Every night, from 6pm to 6am, they set about making Take Them On, On Your Own, aiming for a taut, propulsive rock 'n' roll record with 'faster tempos' and 'no fat'.

In their own words, they wanted it to be a statement, a step on from what they'd done before, and an attempt to distance themselves from the competition.

"We were really conscious that the content of the music wasn't being discussed anymore," explains Peter.

"What does most music give people aside from a good feeling? We wanted to know where the substance was. What makes a band great and lasting isn't the way they look or act, it's about what they have to say."

"We've put a lot of heart into this record," concludes Robert. "And we want it to be taken with all seriousness."

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