Interview: Kasabian

The true spirit of Glastonbury is alive and well - but you'll find it at a farm in Leicester not Somerset. Dave Simpson meets Kasabian

Every year brings a chorus of moans that Glastonbury "isn't what it used to be", but few of us have any idea what it was really like in the days when Michael Eavis's farm hosted a few hippies and a dog. Some people who might are lively dance-rockers Kasabian, who for the past two years have gathered up mates, cider and mud sheets to play a free gig at their isolated farmhouse. That's exactly how Glastonbury started in 1970. This year's bash - held this week, some miles outside Leicester - particularly captured the mythical Glastonbury hippy vibe.

"I haven't been to bed for two days," sighs Sergio Pizzorno, Kasabian's marvellously named guitarist, who ended up in a field surrounded by girls in floral dresses. He grimaces in agony. "I think I've broken my ribcage." The hotchpotch of buildings - set in 880 acres of land, where the entire Leicester quartet live - certainly supports Pizzorno's description of life in Kasabian being "like an old cult in the religious belt of America". It's a mixture of habitable buildings, several disused farms, cowsheds and what was probably once a pigsty.

"When we got signed [to RCA, who released their recent chart single, Club Foot] we wanted a studio and place we could go," says Pizzorno. "Somewhere remote so our mates wouldn't be always coming round to get stoned." That bit didn't work out - there's been a steady procession of pals bearing weed, records and instruments - so the band hit on the idea of a one-off festival, where "anyone bringing a microphone" could play. Last year's consisted of eight stereo systems run off car batteries. This year the band hired a PA system, made a stage from pallets and ran electricity cables into a barn. "It reminded me of the Woodstock movie, where you see those guys on motorbikes," grins Pizzorno. "Except we had our guitar tech on a mountain bike ferrying cups of tea."

This is all par for the course for a band who epitomise the old-style rock'n'roll gang mentality. When Liam Gallagher met Kasabian, he said: "You've got some bollocks! You're a gang - not a bunch of students. A proper band with a cool attitude. You're rocking!"

Kasabian claim to be "the guardians of rock'n'roll. The Stones, Zeppelin, the Pistols, the Gallaghers, we're next in line." A lot of bands come out with similar stuff, but Kasabian walk it like they talk it. Life at their remote hiding place consists of a stream of PlayStations, records and parties most nights. When the Club Foot single came wrapped in a "flag" record sleeve bearing a semi-masked figure with the slogan "Kasabian - Join Now" alongside a gigantic terrace chorus, NME noted: "They seem like the sort of people who salivate over mid-80s football riot footage."

The band are all rabid Leicester City supporters and grew up with some current players. Various band members were on the books of Aston Villa, Leicester and Nottingham Forest in their early teens, before giving it up for music. Pizzorno admits that a few "proper football lads" came to the farm gig, but the rest of the crowd - students, "band types" and office workers - "got on famously". "We're not about divisions, we'll take anyone along with us," Pizzorno insists .

Formed at school five years ago, the current line-up (Pizzorno; Tom Meighan, vocals; Christopher Karloff, guitar/ keyboards; Chris Edwards, bass) has been together for three. Typically, they found Meighan - who sounds like a snarling fusion of the Fall's Mark E Smith and the Happy Mondays' Shaun Ryder - while he was singing in the street.

"We were just hanging around Leicester centre and we heard this voice," grins Pizzorno. "You could hear him streets away. He'd just have a few beers and start singing whatever came into his head - really fucking loudly." Meighan's foghorn blast is complemented by some of the most marvellous one-liners since Ryder's prime. "Blow my head with the Grateful Dead" and "terrorist on a day of rest" among them.

The band's blistering beats-voice collisions should cause the first storm of the weekend when they open Glastonbury on June 25. There'll be a few hundred thousand more people there than in the days when Eavis's festival resembled Kasabian's farm, but the band insist they are going to "treat it like our own headline gig" and "set the mark for other bands to follow". They got an early taste of a huge crowd on Monday when they supported the Who in Birmingham, where a passing Roger Daltrey, along with Pete Townshend and Robert Plant, joined Kasabian's growing band of legendary rocker fans. "I just said to him, 'Look, we'll play a gig at your place if the Who play at ours,'" grins Pizzorno, ribcage creaking with excitement.

· Kasabian support the Who tonight in Cardiff and open Glastonbury Other Stage on June 25. Their next single and an album are due in August.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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