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Lee Kiernan - Idles

Lee Kiernan - Idles

Lee Kiernan - Idles

Lee Kiernan is one of the guitarists with Bristol-based band, Idles. Described as 'Britain’s most necessary band', Idles create gut-wrenching and relevant rock that is resonating with fans across the world. Here, Lee opens up about his own background and life in one of the most exciting bands in the UK.

Idles use these mics on stage:
You have to discover it yourself

When I was a kid there was always music on; UB40 or Diana Ross when my mum was cleaning, and then if we were driving anywhere, my dad would always have Paul McCartney and Wings or Phil Collins on, so that's all I ever heard. I remember the first song I ever heard was ‘Stop! In The Name Of Love’ by the Supremes which is an amazing song. I'm very grateful as all that music allowed me to expand and discover more, and I now have a very broad music taste. If anything's good I'll listen to it.

When I was young I was listening to Biggie, Wu-Tang, Dr. Dre and drum ‘n’ bass as that was popular at the time, but my friends were listening to Blink 182 and Sum 41 and things like that. It drilled into me and that was it – my new love was Blink 182. That's when I started to search and find out what else was around. I went down that Emo road but also further back into the 80s. And this is the one thing that has never left me: my love for 80’s Hair Metal which is why I'm doing this interview wearing a Bon Jovi t-shirt. I have a collection of 80’s t-shirts, most of them are older than me!

Back in the 70’s and 80’s people could actually sing and play. It was so good and natural. People actually had to be good and that's why I have a love for that era. 80’s Hair Metal was the first thing I discovered for myself.

The moment I picked it up…

Around about eight years old I heard [Beethoven's] Moonlight Sonata and it changed me forever. I remember going up to my mother as a kid and saying 'I need to learn piano' and it wasn't that simple as we were a poor family. But my history teacher was a piano tutor on the side so that was it – I started learning how to play the piano. I had a shitty Casio keyboard with speakers in it. It had five buttons on it that played songs that you could either play along to, or pretend that you were playing. I can't play piano for shit now though…

I then moved to bass, played that for two months, and hated it so then moved to guitar. I think [with bass] I always felt like couldn't do enough, whereas now as a guitarist I have to refrain from doing too much. I love plodding along on the bass now but it could never be my main instrument and the moment I picked up the guitar, that was me done for life.

When I was younger, my friend and I started a couple of bands and used to cover songs and do house shows whenever his parents went away. They had a caravan down in Devon, not too far from Bristol, so they'd go away every weekend. That was it: out comes the booze, out come the guitars and we'd throw house parties and play shows at his house. Absolutely dreadful but it was so funny.

It's what I have and it's what I am

Idles were already around before I joined. I joined four or five years ago, but the first few years it was just a bunch of friends having a laugh, trying to figure out what they were and what they were doing. But then the other guitarist left, so I messaged Joe [Talbot, singer] and said 'I play and I'd be up for coming' and that was it. They had some auditions and I went in and said 'I'm so nervous I've already had three shits' and that was it, the room was ready, you know!

I'd left rehab four months before and this opportunity came up and it sparked in my head and it was like 'this is what I'm meant to be doing; this is the reason I ended up in rehab was because I'd lost touch with what it was that I love and what I should do'. There was always something in Idles that I admired and wanted and enjoyed as a fan. I'd seen them twice in Bristol and they were always rough and ready but I'd seen something in them and suddenly I was in it.

I am doing the thing that I love. This is what I am meant to be doing, what I have always meant to be doing. There’s no way I can f****** do it unless I stay sober. I'm not good on the other side. Music has been my love – it's the only reason. It's what I have and it's what I am.

Look sick, sound sick

Fender and Marshall have been my key instruments throughout my life and then there are shit loads of pedals – we have a real issue where we cannot stop buying pedals! I use Logic for music and use Adobe Audition for video editing. The Adobe package is one of the best things ever invented – Photoshop, Premier and Audition – and the fact that you can link them between them so I can edit music in Audition and then relink it back to the film so you just step out of one program and go into the other. Me and [Joe] Talbot do the videos and it's one of my other loves. This is the whole point, as we started as a DIY band as we had to. We had no money and no backing, we just had people who cared about what we were doing and a strong work ethic. We still are, in many ways, but just have the help of a label.

The producer, Paul Fraser, had some Aston gear and he bought some Spirits to the recording of the album [Joy as an Act of Resistance]. We sang through them and we put one on the Roland Jazz Chorus which [Mark] Bowen was using as his second amp. We did all the backing vocals through a Spirit and did all the guitars – they are so versatile. We use Starlights as overheads for the drums live too and Spirits on both guitar cabs and we keep Origins as backups too. It's amazing how the Spirit should be just a recording mic, but it works so well live as well. It's absolutely spot on. Everything about Aston mics is sick. They look sick and they sound sick.


Q. Who are your favourite artists?
A. Brian May is my hero and always will be. Every solo he writes is so well thought about and has a purpose in a song. It's not to fret wank or take over that section – it's actually to make that section better. Bon Jovi is going to be everywhere with me. Bambara supported us for our American run are genuinely a fucking amazing band and as people are genuinely amazing.

Q. If you weren’t working in music what would you be doing?
A. I'd be making films for sure.

Q. What are the 4 words you’d chose to describe Aston, or your experience with the brand?
A. I love the way they look like light lightsabers!

Q. What is the first song that made you cry?
A. Maybe Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah. His voice made that song.


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