My list of Royal Blood questions was definitely not lacking, given how often I devour their music – but I really wanted to get this right. How often can you ask drummer Ben Thatcher anything? All my nervous-excited energy kept me digging for more ideas. On an impulse, I consulted Reignwolf. Jordan Cook replied with the ultimate surprise, sending photos of him and Thatcher embracing with passion. Finding a thread between these two life-altering bands was a thrill, and when I sprung it on Ben, his response was both hilarious and sweet. “Oh yeah, I’m touching his butt,” Thatcher said coolly about Cook. In a sincere tone, he added, “He’s a lovely, lovely man and we had to embrace as soon as we met. I think that was taken at a festival – maybe in New Orleans? He’s an absolute god on the guitar and a wicked person. I haven’t seen him in a while. He was over just before, while he was on tour. I wanted to go play some drums with him, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out that time. But he’s a talented, talented boy.” The ensuing confirmation that he hopes to jam with him someday soon wasn’t even the wildest part of my conversation with Ben.

Ben Thatcher & Jordan Cook Photos: James Demaria


During our laughter-filled phone call, Thatcher opened up about the highly-collaborative process between him and Mike Kerr, the new sound of Royal Blood’s latest single, “Trouble’s Coming,” their forthcoming album (due out in spring of 2021), and other details that entranced me as a fan. “From the beginning, it’s just been two of us, bass and drums, so it was almost like I had to fill a lot of the space with my drum parts, which was quite fun. But the band wants to be able to progress and do something fresh and different,” said Thatcher. “So to make people dance, there are certain techno beats you can do – and instead of moshing and going crazy, it gets the hips flowing a little bit more. It’s a little bit more sexy, I guess; yeah, that’s maybe the word. But it’s just nice to do something a little bit different, and something that makes you feel good when listening to it, and something that makes you move differently. With the drumming side of things, it’s actually more difficult to play those kinds of beats, because normally, you’d hear those beats with dance music, where it’s quite electronic and probably done by a computer. Whereas I’m doing these things live. And then also, alongside that, we’ve got some triggers that are filling out some of those sounds so that we can play it live, instead of having other people or using computers, or anything like that. So it’s a lot of playing with triggering these sounds,” he explained. “It’s kind of that French dance music; how they’re hitting sort of heavy – it sounds so heavy, yet it’s also so simple. And I think the way that Mike riffs over those straight beats makes it sound big and powerful. It’s also just a bit of a vibe.”

“For us, we don’t want to do the same thing over and over again, so it’s just converting our sound, and doing something different and fresh, and not really caring. I think you’re going to get people who prefer the first two records, and that’s for that time. There’s a place for that and we love that, and we are still that. But also, we’ve got to do other things, and we’ve got to make other songs that other people will enjoy. So it wasn’t really a conscious decision to design this new thing that we’re going to do. It was really more of a mission of what makes us feel good, and what things haven’t we done – so that we could try to work out how to do them. And it was a much more pleasant experience writing something for the first time and writing something differently than what we’re used to.” Recalling a past statement about how their music was all about removing things and seeing how simple it could be, I was curious if those principles still applied. “Yeah, I mean, less is definitely more, which has always been part of what the band is about. Not adding too much to the song’s base. But I think it’s also important to break your own rules and explore and learn by doing that. I still think if you put too much into it – too many elements or too many instruments – it takes away who we are. Royal Blood is Mike and I together, making music. And as long as it’s that, it’s gonna sound like Royal Blood.”


My favorite old Royal Blood story prompted the next topic. I remembered the duo once noting that the drum fill in “Lights Out” had come out of Mike asking Ben to do the dumbest thing possible. They were breaking out in tears laughing about this seemingly endless fill of his, but it ended up on the track regardless. “Absolutely, yeah,” Thatcher said. It sounded like he was smiling. “Michael often tells me to do the silliest thing I can do, and things like that often get put into the songs. Even with the fill that’s in ‘Little Monster’ – things like that. You know, those kinds of things don’t really go into modern music and so, to do those things that make us laugh – they’re just things that we put in to make us happy, in a way,” he chuckled. “And they make other people happy too. Like when I play that drum fill live in ‘Lights Out,’ people are all air-drumming to that, and all looking at each other, and all smiling. And it’s the dumbest part, of course, but everyone digs it. It’s a good moment.” I wondered, has there been just as much laughter while working on their 2021 record? “Quite often. It’s a fine line between being stupid and being a genius – and even if you go either way, it’s still brilliant, I think because it makes you laugh and it’s still fun. It’s good to explore. Making music should be fun. It should bring out the best in you and be as creative as possible. So having those moments and making each other laugh – and humor – is really important. I think it’s really important to have that philosophy behind our music, you know? Because it’s quite hard. And in a world of things being quite serious, we want to be a band that kind of takes everything else away when you listen or when we’re coming to you live. We don’t want them to be thinking about things apart from having a great time.”

Royal Blood – Gov Ball 2017


“We’re both totally in it together,” Thatcher said about their songwriting process. “He does all the lyrics. We both share everything part to part, so he would even come up with a lot of the drum parts. And I would come up with some of the vocal melodies. All the music is by Royal Blood; it’s not just me specifically doing the drums or Mike specifically doing the bass.” When asked about working on the new record, Thatcher revealed, “I think we just learned how to have fun again. I think the second record was quite a pressure. Because the first record wasn’t even meant to be a record. It was us doing demos and having a load of fun with that starting out. And then with the success and the rise of the band, after that, it was like, ‘Okay. Now you’ve got to do that again. But this time, do it differently, and we want different songs,’ and it was like, ‘…alright. How do we do this again?’ So that process wasn’t as…I mean, we love writing songs. But to have a bit of pressure, knowing that people are going to hear it and judge it, in a way – and also, for us not to have the freedom to do something different – I mean, it was quite a task for us. Now, this new record, we were like, ‘You know, anything really goes with this. We just want to have a good time creating again; a good spirit of enjoyment. And that’s exactly what we did.”

Thatcher’s excitement about the new record was bubbling over and kept increasing my own. “‘Trouble’s Coming’ is just a scrape on the surface, for me. And I think there are some songs in there…” The way he trailed off may have been an intentional dose of suspense, and it was working. “At this stage in the process, the album’s done. It’s still ours, though. No one’s heard it apart from our close friends. That’s one of the best situations because we’re still really excited about showing our mates what we’ve come up with and getting their opinions, instead of… I mean, of course, it’s great to get it out into the world and for all the fans to hear it. There could be people that don’t like it, which is fine. That’s fair enough. But at the moment, when we’re showing it off to friends and know that we all love it, it’s a really good feeling. It’s been great. I mean, they’ll never tell us that they don’t like something. But it’s just the excitement you have when you’re showing someone something. It’s like we’re kids and we’ve done something really good for our parents. You’ve eaten all your dinner. You’ve eaten all your vegetables, you know? You want to see the response.”

Royal Blood – Madison Square Garden 2018


It sometimes seems like badasses like Ben already have things all figured out – but everyone’s practicing something, so I asked what he’s currently trying to improve upon as a drummer. “I’m trying to play these songs live now. We just finished this record, and because we haven’t played a show in over a year now, it’s kind of sharpening my thoughts in learning these old songs again as well as the new ones. All these new ones are quite technical and I feel a little bit like I need another arm; imagine that. That’d be great.” He went on to describe the toughest technical aspects of the new music. “The drumming part, I’ve got down. I love drumming and I’ve been a drummer the whole of my life, so I’m quite comfortable behind a drum kit. But it’s all these new additions – percussive additions that I have to add. Like in ‘Trouble’s Coming,’ when you hear all those string parts, that’s all part of the drum kit. And if you hear the ‘yeah’s in ‘Lights Out,’ that’s all done by one of my feet. Since we don’t play to a click and we don’t have any backing track, I’m having to do all those bits live – and if you have a couple of tequilas, you can become quite spicy in your performance,” he divulged with an audible grin. On the topic of live gigs, we also discussed how Ben spends his time right before their performances. “Pre-show consists of a couple of drinks and just wandering around aimlessly, really. I probably stretch a little bit. But I don’t really have a routine. It’s just this vibe of getting hyped up, listening to some music, and yeah.”

At the mention of a couple drinks – and the spicy tequila-playing he noted right before that – P&W had to inquire about his preferences. “Favorite whiskey? I’m more of a tequila man, but I like a few Japanese whiskies. But I’ve got my girlfriend staring at me right now, who is Irish, who does actually like whiskey, and I’m going to have to say my favorite whiskey is Jameson before she hits me.” Favorite tequila came next, of course. “That’s a good question. I just got a new one recently. It changes most nights. I don’t even know how to pronounce this – how do you say that?” he asked his girlfriend. “Satryna. It’s amazing.” Tequila messes me up, so I was impressed by his drumming abilities under its influence. “Oh I’ve got it down to a tee. It’s like my friend,” he laughed. And then I had to know: has he ever gotten so drunk that he struggled on any songs? “Yeah,” Thatcher said amusedly, “but by that time, I’ve probably done all the main drumming bits that I have to focus on. Like normally, we put the ones that I have to really concentrate on at the beginning of the set. And by the end, we end with ‘Out of the Black,’ which could go on for hours if we wanted it to, and it sounds like all hell is breaking loose. So I can be as drunk as I want in that song.”

Royal Blood – Glasslands 2014


Having witnessed the intense synergy of Royal Blood, I tried to get into Thatcher’s mind during their simultaneously explosive and intricate performances. “It’s all about fun, really. Hopefully, in the shows, you don’t see me thinking about anything, ‘cause it’s just muscle memory, doing it all. And it’s really just about enjoying the time there. With the work that we’re doing now: in my head, now, I’m trying to remember what does what, and yeah, just getting it together.” As we wrapped up our long call, I congratulated him on an oncoming milestone: Royal Blood will have been together for a decade by 2021. “Ten years!” he exclaimed, pausing reflectively before sharing a message that sounded somewhat surprised. “Thanks to all the fans for sticking with us! And for letting us do what we love to do. We hope for another ten years and we’ll see how we get on.”

Royal Blood – Gov Ball 2017


Article: Olivia Isenhart

Ben & Jordan Photos: James Demaria

Live Royal Blood Photos: Shayne Hanley



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