"My first two initials are dB: David Brent," says The Killers'
guitarist Dave Keuning. "How about that?" Whilst perfectly friendly,
for much of the interview Keuning sounds quite tired. So he should
be, because the last few months have been a constant string of
concerts and promotional events for the band.
I'm speaking to him just hours before a show in Stockholm, Sweden,
and after that it's off to the UK for more. Their busy tour schedule
means that they missed the ceremony for the prestigious Shortlist
Prize, for which they've been nominated.
I ask if how it feels to miss such an event. "You know it should bum
me out, because I've never been to an award ceremony like that,"
Keuning replies. "But it just doesn't bother me that much. I always
watched other award ceremonies on TV and when the band wasn't there,
I thought 'oh what jerks, what's the matter with them?' And now I'm
in that band, I can't believe it."
And after the hit Somebody Told Me, which has only just dropped out
of the Australian singles charts after spending much of the year
invading our consciousness, recognition is coming from all quarters.
The Killers have even recorded an appearance on the upcoming season
of soap opera 'The OC'. The show has recently taken to featuring
music by American acts such as The Walkmen and Modest Mouse. "Yeah,
we play in a bar on the show," explains Keuning. "The kids just come
to the show in the episode and watch music, and they need someone to
watch. So it was us that night."
As a big Smashing Pumpkins fan, I note a strong influence of that
band on The Killers' debut album, 'Hot Fuss'.
"I've actually never had this conversation before," says Keuning,
surprised. "Because most people don't pick up on it. It's there.
It's underlying, but it's there."
The band handled the production of 'Hot Fuss' themselves, and so are
responsible for any Pumpkins-like guitar leads. But having Alan
Moulder mix the album certainly didn't hurt. "He's worked with all
our favourite bands," Keuning enthuses. "He's worked with not only
the Smashing Pumpkins, but Depeche Mode; he's even worked with The
Smiths - he engineered Shoplifters Of The World Unite. He did Nine
Inch Nails. They're not a huge influence on us, but that was one of
the deciding factors, the way he did [NiN's] 'The Fragile'. The
sounds are so great on it, they're so loud. It's a great mix, and
that was a big deal for us. And of course, he did a great job on
'Mellon Collie...' too."
Keuning expects the band to head back into the studio around
September next year and has already learnt a lot from the band's
first go at producing a record. "I'll probably do more of a
stripped-down approach. I still want it sound big, but not as many
guitar tracks. Mr Brightside had like 30 guitar tracks," admits
Keuning, revealing yet another similarity to The Smashing Pumpkins.
Success didn't come immediately to The Killers. The band initially
signed to Lizard King in the UK, and it was only after the buzz
built up around the band that a deal was inked with Island Records
for the rest of the world.
"At the time we had given up hope," says Keuning of the time around
the signing to the UK label. "We were just like 'oh, at least we get
a free trip to England out of this,' and that's more than we thought
we were going to do. We were so happy just to get that. And then we
got signed and now we've gone to England like nine or ten times."
American buyers of 'Hot Fuss' hear a different track eight to the
rest of the world: instead of Indie Rock And Roll, they get another
song, Change Your Mind. I asked Keuning for the story behind that.
"They did it purely because of us," he says. "We had gone back and
forth between eleven and twelve songs. We decided eleven is a good
number. A lot of great albums have eleven songs, and the total time
of the American one, with Change Your Mind is about forty five
minutes. Which is a good amount of time. We didn't see a need to
make it any longer. We couldn't decide between Change Your Mind or
Indie Rock And Roll, as the last song to be on it, you know? So we
decided as a compromise to have Change Your Mind on in America, and
have Indie Rock And Roll on in the UK."
Keuning's not quite as keen on the idea now, it seems. "It seemed OK
at the time, but now that I can look back I really regret the whole
thing," he sighs.
"Now we've got different albums, which isn't a bad thing, but I
think we should have just had both songs for the whole world and
been done with it. Part of the problem is that Indie Rock And Roll
means different things in every country. So in our version, we're
talking about American indie rock and roll, so we probably should
have had it out in America, but it seemed like people didn't like it
in America. So we put it on in England, but there, indie rock and
roll means something totally different. So only a handful of people
really get the song."
Keuning goes on to explain the song. "The song is not indie rock and
roll at all," he says. "We sort of did it on purpose, and sort of
accidentally, how I hit the distortion pedal on the chorus. It's not
indie rock sounding at all, and that's what I think is funny about
it. But we're just saying that we don't care, this is our song and
it's not indie rock, but we don't give a shit about what indie
rockers think. We just play our music."
When I ask which he prefers, he admits, "I actually prefer Indie
Rock And Roll. Change Your Mind was the last song written for the
album. It's a really good song too, they're both great. I think more
people like Change Your Mind than Indie Rock And Roll, actually.
"You can download the track from iTunes, for those who want to get
whatever track they don't have," he adds, sarcastically. "Sorry
about the whole thing, okay?"