It’s one thing to have achieved long-running success as a professional drummer, but it’s quite another to have reached a point where you’re juggling multiple successful threads within the music world - that’s exactly the position Ian Matthews finds himself in.
Most of our readers will be familiar with Ian through the bombastic role he plays in Kasabian, the band he joined 14 years ago. In that time, Kasabian has built a huge following through their Britpop-inspired indie rock and fierce live reputation.
Six albums (including five Number Ones), countless smash singles and umpteen headline gigs (including Glastonbury and the Isle Of Wight) later, the band is still riding high, and newest album For Crying Out Loud is Kasabian with the swagger dialled up to 11.
Big beats and BDC
Which Kasabian beats are you most proud of on the new album?
“Ill Ray (The King) and Bless This Acid House were the last ones I recorded with them in January 2017. Bless This Acid House is just a good old rock and roller. I had great fun doing that. I had some cool fills I was doing on that. Serge was like, ‘Noooo!’ It was counter intuitive.
"There’s was such great stuff going on where I was tearing round the kit, but actually it sounded absolutely tremendous [without]. I loved doing it and loved listening back to it. Serge was right. Keep it basic, keep it rolling.”
Holding back is often necessary for the greater good of the music...
“Of course. And actually I don’t think you’re going to get very far if you harbour those kind of things. You’ve got to know where you stand. You’ve got to have pride in what you do. I still work at what I do. I still try and practise and keep on top of my game.
"I’ve become more confident with it through my experiences with Kasabian. That doesn’t mean to say I’m not ready for an outside perspective on what I’m doing. In fact, it’s great because I get to learn from it. If it makes me a better player ultimately… As soon as you stop learning you become arrogant.
“People wonder why this or that doesn’t happen for them in which ever part of the music industry. It’s probably something to do with you. Arrogance is one of the biggest things I think that can hold someone back, because, you’re not willing to work with the team, you’re too loud, you’re too complicated, you’re hard work.
“Obviously you don’t want people telling you what to play in the ultimate sense, but your bandmates, the people around you, they should be able to go, ‘Can you lean off on your crashes a bit, or can you play a bit more like the record?’ All these little things that musicians communicate with each other, they can be tiny but they can mean so much. People who can’t take that on board somehow don’t end up with many gigs.”
Kasabian has won multiple NME awards for Best Live Band. What is it about the band’s live show that justifies the awards?
“It’s taken work. I’ve been on the road with the band since 2004. It’s taken years and years of experiences of us creating this thing onstage. Tom is a pitch perfect singer. He’s incredible. They’re all talented boys. Serge has really developed an onstage persona. There’s almost two guys at the front there.
"We always go about every gig like it’s the biggest, even if it’s the smallest gig. Each one is important. “Backstage leading up to the actual gig there seems to be a little ritual now. We got a touring sound system that goes around with us in flight cases. It’s flippin’ loud!
"About an hour before we go on, on goes the music. Tom [Meighan, Kasabian singer] tends to be the DJ before the show, which can lead to some hilarious picks. Then we’re all set up. We don’t sit around in silence on our phones or laptops. All the FaceTime home is done earlier. It’s that hour that we build in, we go out onstage and ‘whoomph’. When we go onstage we don’t mess about.
“I think the people that come to see us expect that and you can always feel the excitement in the crowd when you’re side of stage. You go on and they all go off. A pyramid is built between the band and the audience.
"There’s a meeting in the middle and it’s such a fantastic feeling when that happens. The music that we perform is high energy, even the slower tunes. We have to craft the setlist to give the crowd time off, so they’ve got the energy to go back into the next tune.
“I’m really proud that we’ve been given those awards over the years. It means a lot, although I was never in the music game to be an award-winning musician. In fact, the only reason I became a professional drummer is because I realised when I was about 19 that I was doing these dirty jobs - I didn’t take much notice at school, I didn’t have any highfalutin jobs - and I realised I could probably earn a similar amount on a weekend with a couple of wedding gigs as I was getting yelled at by this bully boss.
"I thought, ‘What if I could swap that life with this life?’ I could stay at home all day and play drums, maybe get some lessons to get better, do wedding gigs and live off playing drums. That morphed into doing some teaching as well. To me that was success.
“I was able to live a musician’s lifestyle, living off my playing and I didn’t have to adhere to someone else’s structure. Obviously, like any job you want to be promoted. I never wanted to be a rock star - obviously it’s fantastic - but that wasn’t my endgame. My endgame was to be a professional musician and try and take it as far as I can. I feel very lucky.”