INTERVIEW: “I regret not doing it a lot sooner”: The Killers’ Dave Keuning discusses his debut solo album ‘Prismism’
Written for NME [12/10/18]
The Killers‘ guitarist Dave Keuning has announced details of his debut solo album, ‘Prismism’. Check out the first single ‘Restless’ below, along with UK tour dates and an interview with NME below.
The guitarist says that the project “reawakened the creative part of me” following gruelling touring schedules with The Killers. Burnt-out and ready to “take a step back a second”, Keuning took a hiatus from life on the road when the band kickstarted the 2017-2018 ‘Wonderful Wonderful’ world tour. He spent more time with his son and found himself writing songs at home in San Diego. The result is a 14-track album of songs that are “kinda all over the place style-wise” and have allowed Keuning to go into creative overdrive.
To get a feel of what’s in store, listen to his debut single ‘Restless Legs’ below. Keuning discusses the freedom of making his own music, performing with Smashing Pumpkins, how long until fans can expect a new Killers record, and his hopes for working with the band again.
Lyrically, what inspired you while making this record?
“[It’s] just what kinda came out of me. A lot of people are going to read into this and that. Some of it is about my personal life, some of it is complete fiction, and some of it was just that I needed something to rhyme with the previous line. It was my first time writing lyrics. I had this thing where it came quite naturally.”
Can you can you reveal which song or which songs are a bit more personal?
“It’s all personal but…because I don’t like to explain too much, I would say that any given song is about more than one thing. Sometimes the line of the song will be mostly about one thing then I’ll flip to singing about something else. Or I’ll sing about some state-of-the-world thing for a couple of lines because maybe there’s some crazy stuff happening on the news or something. And that might have been something that really bothered me and when I needed, like, four more lines.
“So it’s a little bit schizophrenic that way. ‘The Queen’s Finest’ has a lot of different subjects in it but most people don’t even get that right. And it’s not about the Queen [of England], I can tell you that.”
What would you say are the main similarities and differences between the sound and mood of this and the music of The Killers?
“Well, this album is me doing everything, and doing it at home and calling all the shots because I always wanted to call the shots, necessarily, just because it was me making the record. And then I brought in this producer that I know, Brandon Darner, [credits include Imagine Dragons] and he would throw his two cents in on arrangements, typical producer stuff. A lot of it I tracked at home. I did whatever I wanted.
“You know, with The Killers you have to compromise with three other people and everybody wants a song to be something different and maybe the music to be a different direction. And there’s probably a lot of songs on there that I’ve tried to estimate whether they’d be on a Killers record or not. A lot of them would not be on a Killers record – maybe, maybe some would – but I think that most of them would not.”
What are the main reasons for that, in terms of musical style?
“Some of [the songs] would fit on a Killers record but I’m kinda all over the place style-wise. You know, I really like the way bands like Led Zeppelin and The Smashing Pumpkins have all kinds of different music. That’s kinda how I live; I’ve got acoustic songs, I got keyboard-driven songs, I’ve got guitar-driven songs and some of those would fit on a Killers record, probably. But this is just what I made up and I think…I don’t get a chance to play much keyboards in the Killers so on those songs I was just kinda exploring all the fun of keyboards that I had in my house but I’d never got to use before.”
And is it not really a case of the other members of the band saying, “No, you can’t play keyboards”? Rather, it’s just that it’s where you fit in with the band? Or were there some kind of creative differences?
“I think you had it right the first time. I always felt a little uncomfortable trying to show my keyboard parts [to them] because I’m not the keyboard player. Like, I don’t want to play bass either because Mark [Stoermer] is an awesome bass player. But when you get to do your own album, you finally get to play those instruments.”
How did you find the experience of The Killers touring without you for the last album? Did it make you miss it?
“First of all, it was necessary for them. They had to choose between…this was the only way they could tour. They wanted to tour and I could not commit to that long of touring. So it was kind of a weird all-or-nothing situation. At times it felt like it was like you’re kind of left out of the party a little bit, you know. And it made me miss playing live. I always loved playing the shows, it was never an issue from that – that was never the problem. I really, really miss the shows, I miss the fans and to be honest that’s kind of why I’m doing this. I want to get back out there and play shows but on a schedule that isn’t merciless. And then at least I have some control over when and where I’m doing things.
“But I want to get back out there…I didn’t want to tour [with The Killers] for a year and a half, but I didn’t necessarily want to retire either. I still love playing music and that’s kind of why I had to do this too. Of course, I still might play with The Killers down the road, I could play with them next week for all I know – anything’s possible – but that tour was definitely an all-or-nothing thing and I couldn’t commit to it.”
Have you had any conversations with them about rejoining the band, say, for the next album? Have you had any conversations about what direction they’ll take?
“We haven’t had much conversation but what we have talked about is that they’re in the very, very early stages of making the next record. And I’m mean, like, very early stages. I have no idea when it will be done. No clue. But I am sending ideas for that, and you know, I may record some of that with them too but it’s really early to tell.
“I think they intend to put it out fairly soon but, you know, time flies and then all of a sudden a year could go by and they’re not done. I can’t speak for them on how long it’ll take. But I think they fully intend to put it out much sooner than – like, not like a three or four year period – I think they want to put it out probably…I don’t know…I would assume sometime next year.
“That’s another thing that kind of happened with the last record. Sometimes it takes a year and a half to make an album, too, and that’s a long time to be travelling back and forth between the studio and home. So we’ll see. Maybe. We’ll see what happens. I could certainly still be involved. It’s way too early for me to say how much – fans are probably curious how much I’ll be involved in – I’ve no idea how much I’ll be involved and I could be involved a lot or or little or not at all. But I am already sending ideas to them and I’d like to be involved.”
How would you feel if a new Killers record was made and there was no contribution from you?
“I don’t know. I mean the last record [‘Wonderful Wonderful]’ was weird for me.I did work on that album for about a year, maybe even a year and a half flying back and forth – not consecutively – kind of for a few weeks, then go home, then come back for maybe a week. It’s was just like a lot of going back and forth and then eventually I just kind of got tired of flying back and forth because I kind of had no idea what was going on or when it was going to be done. So I had weird feelings about that one too. But I don’t know. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”
Do you still feel close to members of The Killers? Is there any animosity?
“There’s no animosity, I mean, I guess we’re like brothers that sometimes go long stretches without talking. But we’re sort of, you know, really always related somehow.”
You and Mark [Stoermer – The Killers’ bassist] recently joined The Smashing Pumpkins on stage for their 30th anniversary celebrations. What’s it like working with them? Do you have a good relationship with them?
“Those guys are great. You know, people sometimes say things about Billy [Corgan]. I can only speak from my own experience. He’s always been nice to me and pleasant to me. So that’s all – that’s my only frame of reference. I really like those guys. And I was really honoured that they asked me and Mark to do that because that was the band that I was practising in my room at high school – just all their songs. So that was a big thing for me. I was super excited about that.”
Do you think you’ll work with them again?
“Possibly. I mean if they asked me to play on a song, I probably would do it again. They certainly don’t need me in the studio to make a record. But I’d love their help with mine someday. I’m just I’m just thinking out loud – none of this stuff is in the works or anything.”
With your solo project, how does it feel to be front-and-centre as the vocalist? Is it a nerve-wracking experience or is it a relief that you finally get to do it?
“It’s a little bit of both. I told someone else, like, everybody probably thinks, “Oh, Dave, he always wanted to be the lead singer” and, “He quit the band to be…” no, it’s not exactly that. It’s actually that I didn’t want to tour, so I had a ton of free time and I made a record. At first I had no vocals on it. I actually thought that I was going to find someone else to sing on it. But after, you know, sitting with the music, I got a computer and I got a microphone and I got songs that needed vocals and I’m right there. So actually I just gave it a try, like, just for the convenience of it. And they’re my songs; you start to get really sentimentally attached to them. And you’re worried about what the lyrics and vocal melodies are going to be like when someone else comes in to do them.
“I can’t say whether or not I’m a very good singer but at least I was kind of controlling what the melody was, which was fun for me. And I just did my best. I don’t necessarily welcome being the frontman but it’s probably what is going to be my thing in this project…because at least then I can pump music out a lot faster, as much as I want to, because I’m not waiting on someone else for lyrics or anything.”
Do you see Keuning as having a long run?
“This is something I will always do from now on. I really, really regret not doing it a lot sooner. I really, really regret not doing it, like, 10 years ago. I guess my life has been pretty chaotic for the last ten years and I finally needed this break to get centred and not be on the road and just take a step back a second. And I finally felt like making a record. And as soon as I got going it reawakened the creative part of me. It went into overdrive. It was like, once I got started with one song I never wanted to stop. And I think I still feel that way.
“Of course I hope to play with The Killers again but I’m going to do this parallel – regardless of what happens with The Killers. If for no other reason because I’ve made it at home, so you know I can always just record at home and if The Killers want to use some music, then great. If they don’t then I’ll just put it out. I’ve got a lot more song ideas already in the works. So now that I’ve crossed this bridge, I’m really, really having fun with it.”
‘Prismism’ is released on January 25 via Thirty Tigers