Airbourne: Ryan O'Keeffe's track-by-track guide to Boneshaker

Airbourne (Ryan O'Keeffe far right) (Image credit: Travis Shinn)

It's mid-afternoon, and Airbourne drummer Ryan O'Keeffe has just opened another bottle of beer. The previous evening the band attended a playback for new album Boneshaker, and afterwards they stuck around, drinking with fans. Ryan eventually staggered to bed at 6am.

This is normal. Airbourne are lifers, committed to the cause. You can read it in their lyrics, you can hear it in their sound. And fifth album Boneshaker picks up where 2016's Breakin' Outta Hell left off: ten tracks of balls-to-the-wall boogie in 30 minutes, a smash'n'grab of pure, party-hardened Aussie graft. 

Rock'n'roll for life? You bet. "I was fortunate enough to meet Lemmy and spend a lot of time with him", says Ryan. "And he was like that." 

Boneshaker is out now. Airbourne's UK tour kicks off on November 13, with support from Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. Full dates bellow – Tickets are on sale now.  

Below, Ryan gives us his track-by-track guide to Boneshaker.


"Boneshaker was the first track we played in the studio, and the first thing we actually recorded. It was the sound of us getting involved in the way that Dave Cobb [producer] was capturing the record. 

"It was one of those ones that sold itself. No one ever knew it was going to be the first single, but everyone just who heard it loved it, so we made it the single and now it opens the record as well."

Burnout the Nitro

"We were recording in Nashville, which is a country town, and the start of this song has a slight country twang to it. It was really good to be able to do something like that, especially in Nashville, and especially when we were going out and seeing country bands a lot. 

"There are a lot of music great musicians around the area. Every band you see are a hundred percent better musicians than you are yourself. You go out and see these bands playing, and it makes you go back to the studio the next day and play better."

This Is Our City

"Joel came round my house when we were working on lyrics. And we were standing on my balcony, which has a good view of Melbourne City. We were just standing there, talking about our history, and what we used to do. Like we had a residency a pub called the Duke of Windsor. 

"Looking over the city we could point out hotspots, and places where we used to go ten or 15 years ago. All of those places have closed now, and we were talking about that. And that's where the title came from."

Sex to Go

"It's a title Joel had, and it's a good song in regards to the band playing something slightly different than usual, because it's a shuffle rather than being in 4/4. 

"It was good to be able to play something like that, because we're huge Rose Tattoo fans, and they do a lot of stuff like that. It was good for the band to deliver something like that on the record, and to do it quite well."

Backseat Boogie

"This is a really good song. Joel had the title way back, but the riff was inspired by the old songs that we were listening to at the time, like Tutti-frutti by Little Richard. There's a lot of Little Richard-inspired stuff in that song. 

"A lot of bands that have gone through the Nashville area have recorded songs like this, possibly in the same studio we were working in!"

Blood in the Water

"This is an interesting song. It's a song about shocks, and I remember Dave Cobb saying saying he'd never actually recorded a song about sharks. So we actually looked it up, and there's pretty much no songs ever written about sharks. 

"It's something different, you know? When you make a bunch of rock'n'roll songs about guitars, girls, cars and drinking blah blah blah, it's good to have a song that's seen through the eyes of a great white shark."

She Gives Me Hell

"It's a good mid-tempo song. All of the songs we recorded were done on the floor, on the day. We'd literally walk in in the morning, and Dave Cobb would go, 'What do you feel like doing today?' 

"So we'd get the guitars out and see what we felt like. And this was just one that came up. It was a real solid song, and I remember going the control room and everyone going, 'Yeah, this is a good one.'"

Switchblade Angel

"The riff for Switchblade Angel has been around for quite a while, since we lived in the band house in Thornbury, in a suburb of Melbourne. We used to live on welfare, eating chicken alfredo and two minute noodles and riders we'd brought back from the road. 

"It was on the back burner, but we've always had rifts. We've got probably thousands of riffs just sitting around that Joel came up with. Riffs determine when they want to be used, and sometimes they take a while."

Weapon of War

"In Nashville they have a system where homeless people can buy newspapers and magazines for about fifty cents and then sell them for two dollars. While Joel was walking to the studio every day, he got friendly with a bloke who was selling the newspapers. 

"One day he brought a copy and there was a double page article about PTSD and Vietnam veterans. That was obviously a subject that many of the homeless could relate to, and when you've done seven songs about cars, booze and girls it's good to be able to do a song that could really mean something to somebody. 

"It's kind of shitty to come back from war and there's nothing: That's it. You're done."

Rock 'n' Roll for Life

"That's Airbourne. That's our life. It's who we are and how we've been for our whole lives. 20 years of playing. I'm 33 and I played my first gig was when I was 13. 

"It's something that we've said for a long time – just as a band, to each other – and turning it into a song obviously made sense. It's who we are. We're out here until we die."

Airbourne 2019 UK Tour

Nov 13: Norwich UEA LCR
Nov 14: Nottingham Rock City
Nov 16: Manchester Academy 3
Nov 17: Newcastle O2 Academy
Nov 18: Aberdeen Beach Ballroom
Nov 20: Inverness The Ironworks
Nov 21: Glasgow Barrowlands
Nov 22: Liverpool O2 Academy
Nov 24: Cardiff University Student’s Union,
Nov 25: Bristol O2 Academy 2
Nov 26: London O2 Forum Kentish Town
Nov 28: Sheffield O2 Academy
Nov 29: Southampton O2 Guildhall
Nov 30: Oxford O2 Academy

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.