Interview: Airbourne’s Frontman Joel O’Keeffe

Australian hard rockers Airbourne have been spreading their rock and roll around the globe for more than 13 years, becoming one of Australia’s best music exports. This September, the boys are back with their new killer album Breakin’ Outta Hell.

Thanks to our good friend, John Howarth of Bullet Proof, we had the honour of speaking with the band’s frontman Joel O’Keeffe about the upcoming 2017 East Coast tour, Breakin’ Outta Hell, the fall of Soundwave and BDO, seen Judas Priest at the Enmore in 2015, and his opinion of the current AC/DC line-up with Axl Rose, among other topics.

Breakin’ Outta Hell is coming out very soon, and the tracks recently released are absolutely killer. Just wondering, how’d you guys manage to remain true to yourselves and your sound after all these years?

breaking-outta-hell-cdJoel: That’s a good one mate, and glad you like the tracks so far. I think it’s mostly because we are a bunch of blokes who love rock & roll. We feel it and we play it for people like us; people who are into the same music of us, that’s why it’s so awesome to see fans at our shows with Iron Maiden, AC/DC and Judas Priest shirts for example because those are bands we love and grew up with and that’s the kind of sound we will play until the end.

You guys are coming back home to play some shows. However, not Perth this time.

Joel: Yeah mate, we are pretty excited to play our east coast tour. You know, it doesn’t matter if you play a huge festival overseas. There is nothing more special than playing in your land with your people and then getting a cold local beer to celebrate.

Sadly, we cannot get to Perth this time due to some schedule conflicts but I can promise you now that we’ll make it up for it. We’ll return for a bigger tour soon for sure, and we are already in talks to get to Perth later on.

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With the new album coming up, what would you say is your favourite song to play live?

Joel: That changes, but if you ask me from the new album, even though we haven’t fully released all the tracks yet, I’m super keen to tear the house down with “Thin the Blood”. I love the energy of that song and I’m sure the crowd will get crazy too.

That means you will be climbing the sh** out of the speakers or towers with that song?

Joel: (Laughs) For sure. It depends how many cold ones I’d by then.

You are super well-known for climbing on everything at shows. We saw you at Big Day Out, and you climbed a bloody huge tower and played a guitar solo on the top, with no harness. How many times have you been told off for doing that?

Joel:  (Laughs) Yeah, I remember that one. You know, I don’t really get told off very much lately because most of the promoters at festivals already know that “we are the band with that crazy guy who climbs on everything”. However, I used to get warned a lot. As you can see, it didn’t work (laughs).

We lost Big Day Out and Soundwave. What’s your take on the loss of our two biggest Australian  festivals?

Joel: Obviously the whole situation sucks. But I can tell you from a very good source that Australia will be getting an even bigger festival soon. Maybe not in 2017 but after, and it’ll be bigger than Soundwave and Big Day Out. So rock fans, be patient and don’t lose faith!

And I’m assuming you guys will be part of that new huge rock festival?

Joel: Too early to say, mate but if we can and if it happens, we will be there.

As a long time AC/DC fan. What’s your opinion on this new “Axl-DC” line-up and the whole Bryan Johnson situation?

Joel: I was just gonna say, this tour is called Rock or Bust, and that’s exactly what the guys are doing. They did not choose to be in that situation but they are still going at it. Now, Cliff just announced he is leaving too but Angus said they will continue touring. That’s the spirit!

Regarding, Axl Rose, I haven’t personally seen the shows with him but friends who were lucky enough to see the gig, told me it was spectacular.

As a rock n’ roll fan, can you tell me what musician dead or alive you would like to share a beer with?

Joel: Lemmy. No explanation needed (laughs).

Just to finish. You were next to me at the Enmore in Sydney a couple of years ago at the epic Judas Priest Soundwave sidewave. What do you think of them playing more smaller-intimate shows?

Joel: Judas Priest can play anywhere and they will still amaze me. Mate, seriously Rob Halford still sings like in the old days – such a good energy and I loved the latest album. The band is amazing; anything Judas Priest does is pure rock, and after more than 50 years they still got it. I’m a mad Priest fan.

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Tour Dates

Tickets on Sale NOW

Saturday 7th January 2017Summernats CANBERRA

Friday 13th January – The Metro Theatre SYDNEY

Saturday 14th January – The Triffid BRISBANE

Friday 20th January 2017 – Trak MELBOURNE

Breakin’ Outta Hell is out now!
Get your copy here