Photos and edited by Dustin Halter
The decline of popular rock acts in the mold of the great bands featured on Alternative Nation has been lamented for too long. We have all witnessed far too many false dawns, anti-climaxes, and disappointments, as another up and coming band fails to deliver on their early promise. Occasionally, a band will come onto the radar, make all the right noises, and do all the right things, but there is always something missing. Maybe it’s age, maybe a tacit understanding that rock music has lost its commercial edge, but there’s something lacking. The rock community is more than ready for a band to batter the doors down, grab music by the lapels, and ignite the pilot light that’s been flickering for far too long. Maybe now, that time has come. Maybe now, that band has come to kick it all off again. And just maybe, that band is Royal Blood
Royal Blood’s debut album was a bruising mix of Queens Of The Stone Age-style riffing with the rawness and swing of The White Stripes. With an intense, uncompromising sound that would put most four-pieces to shame, the UK duo became one of the biggest selling bands in the UK before earning a sizeable following in the States. After already being out for an early morning run, an energised and upbeat, Mike Kerr, frontman of the band, sat down to talk to Alternative Nation about touring the States, supporting Guns N Roses, meeting a grunge icon, and his memories of the late, great Chris Cornell.
Do you need to keep in shape doing what you do?
Well no one likes a fat rock star do they?? I’d prefer not to see a double chin in photos.
How’s the Stateside tour going so far?
The shows have been really good. I guess we’re not quite as popular in the US as we are in the UK, but we’ve spent a lot of time here, and we are at a level which feels really exciting. We’re playing to a couple of thousand people a night wherever we play, so it’s like quite a feat, but it’s taken a lot of touring. The shows have been great and the American audiences really get it. America is so big, man, that a show in New York and a show in Little Rock is like nothing else.
Do you still get that sense of wonder when you come over to the States?
Yeah, for sure. I think New York for me feels like I’m in a movie or something, and Chicago because I used to go there a lot as a kid. There’s so many great spots that we love coming back to. We’ve spent a long time in America. 80% of our time has been spent here really.
There must be high expectations of this new record after the huge success of the first. How do you deal with that?
I think we have high expectations for ourselves anyway because we’ve put a lot of work into this album and we’re in a really good place, but I mean you can’t rely on those things and you can’t control them, so there are no nerves about how anything is going to go. The position we are in now feels great. Anything more than that is accepted with open arms.
You’re supporting Guns N Roses on some dates on their “Not In This Lifetime tour” and you recently supported them at Slane Castle. What’s it like opening for such a legendary band?
Those shows are massive and that band is like on another level. So, so huge. I think we played to like 80,000 people or something. It really is kinda mental. Getting in front of those people is kind of a weird one because they aren’t your fans. They’re there to see Guns N Roses. You play it like a different game. It’s great to have the opportunity, particularly at Slane Castle, as we’ve always wanted to play there. We’re obsessed with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ live DVD from Slane, so it was some moment for us. Plus, we got to say hi to Mark Lanegan and that was pretty wild. I’m a huge fan and he is a really nice guy.
Speaking of iconic grunge singers, we recently lost Chris Cornell. Do you have any memories of Cornell and Soundgarden when you were growing up?
That all happened once we’d left America. I missed a lot of it ‘cause it was music I discovered much later on, but I knew “Black Hole Sun,” obviously, and I remember initially when I started singing and recording myself singing, there were definitely Chris Cornell references and styles I would use. That’s my memory of him anyway.
How did you actually start singing then?
I don’t know. When I started a new band no one else wanted to do it, so I said, ‘yeah I’ll give it a go,’ in the same way you’d start anything. I guess it took guts at first. It’s like watching yourself back on video and hearing your own talking voice and you cringe and wanna jump out the window and it’s kind of like that at times, but you get over that pretty quickly. I’ve never taken lessons or anything like that. I don’t know if I’m singing properly now, to be honest with you.
So, is it all you on stage or is there a definite separation between Mike Kerr on and off stage?
Not really, I don’t have any time to adopt a persona. If anything, I am resisting any of that and trying to be as much of myself as possible. I’m a busy man, I haven’t got time for personas. I make a conscious effort to resist that. I’m just me on stage and I put everything I have into that time on stage.
Royal Blood are playing:
07/31 – Clifton Park, NY @ Upstate Concert
08/01 – Buffalo, NY @ Town Ballroom
08/03 – Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart’s
08/05 – Chicago, IL @ Lollapalooza
08/08 – Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
08/09 – Seattle, WA @ The Showbox
08/10 – Portland, OR @ Roseland
08/12 – San Francisco, CA @ Outside Lands Music Festival
08/13 – Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory
08/15 – San Diego, CA @ North PArk Observatory
08/16 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern