Kasabian’s Serge Pizzorno is going out on his own – DUNCAN SEAMAN spoke to him about his solo project.
In the autumn of 2018, as they came off the road after an 18-month world tour that corresponded with their fifth successive number one album, Kasabian decided to do something they hadn’t done in years.
For the first time in more than a decade and a half, when they signed their first recording contract, the band agreed to take a rest.
Except Serge Pizzorno, their songwriter and guitarist, soon found himself restless. “After about two weeks it was ‘hmm, I’m not sure about this, I just need something to do’,” he says, explaining the route to his debut solo album, The S.L.P.
“I didn’t want to make another Kasabian album if mentally I wasn’t quite…I didn’t have any angle on what I wanted to do and I’ve always said, ‘Never make music to service the machine’. I need to feel it, I need to be inspired. Then it occurred to me I’ve actually got a bit of time to try something, to go on a sort of adventure to a new world, a little down-the-rabbit-hole trip and see what happens. I knew I’d come back a different person.
“Sitting on a deckchair’s great and wallowing in your own ‘hasn’t this been a good life?’ But no, I need to come back with new ideas and new enthusiasm, so I had this music that I was calling ‘Meanwhile’ in a hard drive, it was two or three little pieces of orchestral stuff that I thought had something interesting and then the cogs in my brain turned and I thought, ‘You know what, this would make a really interesting record’. There was me in the band and then there was ‘Meanwhile’ on something else and I thought I’d just fill in the gaps between this mini film that I’m sort of going to make in my head and in a four or five-month period I wrote the album.
“None of the songs on there were leftovers or could have been Kasabian songs, it was all brand new stuff that I flowed with. Making the record was so exciting because I just woke up every day going, ‘What shall we do today?’ I’d get a beat going or a few chords, something would happen and it would be exciting.”
The three ‘Meanwhile’ tracks that punctuate the album show the 38-year-old’s fondness for the soundtracks of Ennio Morricone and John Barry. It’s an musical avenue that the Leicester-raised musician had been wanting to explore for a while. “With Kasabian we’ve covered a lot of ground and I’ve touched on those places but it usually turns back into a song of sorts, whereas this…With soundtracks I like when the melody repeats and you get this kind of theme that runs through, it just gives it an identity, it’s really interesting. I was just trying to keep the album alive.
“I think the art of making an album is really important. I keep being told that it’s not got long left o people aren’t making them any more but I really believe in an album and a journey. I like to put this on and it takes me to new places.”
The S.L.P.’s varied tracklist also includes a couple of techno bangers and a homage to long-time inspirations the Wu Tang Clan. Pizzorno liked the idea that he had licence to roam far and wide. “That’s the word: licence. And experimenting with vocal delivery and getting a specific emotion or character that I could pinpoint, experimenting with the cadence and the way that I’m performing. I perform the songs in front of the speakers, I don’t use headphones, I perform in the studio just with a mic, having the music blaring out.
Whether you disagree or agree with what’s happened with Brexit, we have to move on from that and try and bring everyone together because it’s a scary landscape if we don’t. No one deep down could really want that.Serge Pizzorno
“The process was very similar to Kasabian, I write at home, but with this within a day the song would be almost finished and that was quite a liberating experience. Nothing was overthought, it was instinctive – this is the way I feel today, this is going to go down and there’s another song done, great.”
‘Meanwhile…At The Welcome Break’ features Northampton rapper slowthai while ‘Favourites’ has a guest appearance by another Mercury Prize nominee, Little Simz. Pizzorno says he was looking for collaborators who had something to say. “This album is where I see myself today, where I see Britain today. I wanted young British artists on this album, especially artists that I think are at the forefront of 1) having a voice and 2) making really interesting music. It just felt that ties in with the whole idea. Working with those two, that’s something at the start that I wanted to explore and moving forward, I think now I’ve started this what’s great is it exists, it’s somewhere I can visit. Approaching people to work with they now know this side, it’s a lot easier to explain what I’m trying to do.”
Given the album reflects how Pizzorno sees Britain today, does he see society’s current polarisation with sadness? He pauses for thought. “I started making music to connect, to bring people together,” he says eventually. “For me, the connection, that’s why I did it, why I wanted to be part of making music. I feel now, more than ever, it was an opportunity to bring people together. We are pushing further and further apart from each other and that’s dangerous territory. I just feel that we need to bring everyone together. It’s OK to disagree, we need some ground in which to meet. I just fear that we’re pushing and pushing. I just want to get everyone round.
“Music isn’t the answer, but I tell you what, it’s a good start. You can show just through speaking people have a common ground where they can meet. That’s a starting point and once we get them in the same room hopefully we can listen to each other’s stories and find a way of moving forward together that’s not apart. Whether you disagree or agree with what’s happened with Brexit, we have to move on from that and try and bring everyone together because it’s a scary landscape if we don’t. No one deep down could really want that.”
The reaction from Pizzorno’s bandmates to ‘The S.L.P.’ is, he feels, “testament to why we’ve been round for 20-odd years”. “I’ve just had beautiful vibes off everyone. I think they were all part of [this feeling that] something needs to happen’. Every now and again there needs to be a storm in the harbour, everything needs a little reset. If we go on tour and make an album the cycle is predictable, once you start shifting around…Even for fans, everyone’s going, ‘What’s going on?’ and I think that’s exciting because then when we do come back the excitement will be intensified because maybe people weren’t sure if it was going to happen.”
Pizzorno’s short tour that corresponds with the album’s release includes a show, for Crash Records, at the Brudenell Social Club. It includes a Q&A section. “I just wanted to say thank you, really, for the support,” he explains. “It’s just been incredible. This is like a little satellite planet out in the distance in outer space. The band I’m in is a huge thing, I’m never going to want to compete with that, I would be crazy to. This is just this little thing that exists and I wanted to say thank you and sign a few albums, say hello to a few people, do a few little acoustic things, that’s kind of the thinking behind that. The Q&A is to explain what the album is about, why I made it.”
The S.L.P. is out now. Serge Pizzorno plays at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds on September 12. www.the-slp.com