"We were scared to death about working with him": The Killers on the time they recorded a song with Lou Reed

The Killers in the 00s
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Killers have been involved in some first-rate collaborations in their two decades as Las Vegas’ finest purveyors of anthemic indie-pop. There has been team-ups with Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Marr, the Pet Shop Boys and Phoebe Bridgers from Brandon Flowers’ crew but perhaps the most impressive is the time they enlisted late rock’n’roll icon and the world’s grouchiest man Lou Reed to duet on their 2007 song Tranquilize.

The Perfect Day singer taught them to up their work ethic, the band told this writer a few years ago. “One of the more positive notes was he tried to impart some knowledge he learned from Andy Warhol,” Flowers explained. “He told us a story that Andy Warhol would ask him, ‘How many songs did you write today Lou?’ And he’d say, ‘I wrote one song’ and Andy would say, ‘Why didn’t you write five?’ He told us that the first day we were working with him and the next day we came in the studio and he said, ‘How many songs did you write today Brandon?’ Haha! So it’s instilled in me to keep trying and working harder and he wrote a lot, that’s why he was so good at it. We were scared to death about working with him.”

The thing that broke the ice, stated drummer Ronnie Vanucci, was Reed showing the band how to do Tai Chi. “He was really into Tai Chi,” recalled the sticksman. “I don’t know anything about it. I don’t know how it came up but he was in leather pants doing these moves and showing me these squat moves and holding a leg out and all about the centre. It’s a pretty good memory for me. That’s the only time I’ve ever tried Tai Chi.”

Reed’s devotion to the martial art lives on – last year, a book titled The Art Of The Straight Line collated Reed’s writings about Tai Chi. Whilst The Killers didn’t take to it, they did pay attention to his other piece of advice. They’ve put out a lot of music since 2007, songs that have helped keep them near the top of the indie-rock pile. Listen to their collaboration with Reed below:

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.