Scotland’s Simple Minds evolved from a post-punk art rock band influenced by Roxy Music into a grand, epic-sounding pop band along the lines of U2. The band grew out of a Glasgow punk group called Johnny and the Self-Abusers, which featured guitarist Charlie Burchill and lead singer Jim Kerr. The current line-up also features Mel Gaynor, Eddie Duffie & Mark Taylor.
As Simple Minds come close to finishing their latest studio album I caught up with Jim Kerr at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales to find out what has been happening and in some sense of the word a look at the past, present and future. For many years now Simple Minds have gained the accolade as one of the greatest live bands in the World and the enthusiasm for the band and the music has never been stronger.
Hi Jim, how’s the new album progressing?
We have been recording the new album at Rockfield Studios in the picturesque town of Monmouth. The studio is steeped in history and in a lot of ways very inspirational, the recording process has gone really well and we are all very pleased with the strength of the songs. I take some time out in the mornings to get some fresh air and exercise and you would be amazed how much comes to you with the music that we have been working on and I think it is a good thing to get some space and get some air. Sometimes it is really difficult to get all the answers to all the questions, but sometimes when you take a step back the answers just naturally come to you and that is one of the great thing about Rockfield. We have recorded here at various times in our career and every now and again everything seems to come flooding back, but the album is looking great and the more we get close to completion there is definitely an excitement and a buzz in the air.
Have you any ideas on a title yet?
No not as yet – There is a lot of thought and care that goes into a title and we like to work with our graphic designers. They look at the whole feel of the music and a design structure that fits in well with the songs. We talk about it on a daily basis but nothing is set in stone yet.
How would you best describe the feel of the songs? Also does the selection of songs have the strength of Black & White? Is there a chance you could be playing the entire album live?
With the collection of songs that we are working on now there is a good feel about the continuity of the music. Some of the songs flow nicely into each other. Black and White was a strong album that had that natural flow. Often Charlie will send me a riff or be working on the piano and develop a frame and this often inspires the lyrics, in some cases I have a bunch of lyrics and with some of the brilliant melodies Charlie comes up with, like clouds, some great songs just form themselves.
As regards to playing all of the songs live, I would say there is every chance that we will play the new album but there is a lot of things that this depends upon – for example – how positively the album is received and more importantly the reaction from the audience. In the past Simple Minds have always tried to play a few promo gigs for every tour – these are essential in order to get feedback and try to capture the feel for the set that we are playing.
It seems like Simple Minds is as strong as it ever was, would you agree to that?
I totally agree – the camaraderie that we have experienced as a bunch of friends and musicians at Rockfield has been totally uplifting – this has definitely filtered down to the music and the band is as tight as ever and the whole experience at Rockfield has been totally enjoyable. There is a guy here called Kingsley Ward, he is a huge part of Rockfield Studios and every now and again he will come in and tell us a story about some band or one of the many things that have happened here over the years – Queen recorded Bohemian Rhapsody here and many bands have recorded many many great songs and albums here. This can be a tricky thing – it can be immensely inspirational but also you can get the opposite and create an immense pressure that you have to keep up to the exceptional standards that Rockfield has become accustomed to over the years.
Will any new songs be played on the 30th anniversary tour later this year?
Possibly not – we are looking at this collection of dates as a journey from the beginning really with everything about Simple Minds. We are playing our “New Gold Dream” album in it’s entirety. Even though I am a great believer in looking to the future these concerts are about all the highs of Simple Minds and in this case it is going to be a musical journey – but on the other side of the coin it is hard to imagine that at some point we are not going to play a few new songs and we have a huge back catalogue to choose from. When playing live it is important to keep the momentum going and sometimes when you throw in a new song between two classics you have got to ask yourself, will we loose the continuity and take that risk of possibly going through a dip but I can assure you that these concerts will be a great experience for us and our die hard fans and something special to celebrate all things Simple Minds.
What kind of plans do you have for the forth coming tour, will it be World wide and what kind of venues would you be looking at?
We are looking at all options and venues for next year. On the Black & White Tour we kind of wanted to play smaller venues, clubs etc. Sometimes this can be a really difficult thing to do – you can’t rely on the big production and you are kind of stripped of all the glamour – along with the big stages.
An audience doesn’t care what sort of day you’ve had or whether you’ve been touring for weeks. For them, that show is the one they have been looking forward to for months and that’s a magical inspiration. We have always tried to approach each and every gig as “tonight’s the night” it also raises our game to make every night the best night on the tour.
We made it as a great live band playing small venues and at this particular time in our career we thought it would be a great experience to go back and play the smaller circuit gigs. With more intimacy and a stripped down, more lean production it gave the music a chance to breath and more often than not these little places were absolutely jumping – and I have to be honest we all loved every minutes of it.
After all these years does playing live still feel great? How do you see the music industry today? If Simple Minds were starting out would you find it easier or harder? What advice would you give to a young band trying to get their music heard in today’s market?
All of us are getting terribly excited at the moment – we are so looking forward to playing live again. We built our whole reputation on being a great live band, with talent, enthusiasm and with the determination to succeed and I think that still transpires for today. The whole structure of releasing a record has changed. When we first started there was no internet or technology and we would make journalists and representatives from record companies come and see us. We were very persistent in never taking no for an answer and the same applies today. I think this also applies to the future as well, regardless of how the industry changes and trends that follow – enthusiasm and the will to succeed will always be your most powerful attributes in making any band or musical act succeed.
Finally what does the future hold for Simple Minds?
At the moment we are just putting the finishing touches to the album and then Charlie and I are off to Belgium and Holland to be featured in the Night of the Proms Concerts which we absolutely love. We get the chance to play some of our best songs with a full classical orchestra and we get to play our music to people that wouldn’t normally come to a Simple Minds concert. After the Proms gigs we start rehearsals for our 30th Anniversary concerts starting on the 26th November at the MEN Arena in Manchester then after that we have a wee break coming up. 2009 is going to be a very busy year for Simple Minds – the album is being released in the early part of next year and then we are going to do a World Tour. We will be playing in the UK and all over Europe and then on to North America and then who knows where our music will take us. We are all looking forward to getting out on the road and doing what we do best – playing our music live.
In 1984 as a young school boy wondering what to do next – I can vividly remember seeing “Ultravox” at Cornwall Coliseum, for those of the same generation the support band was called “Zerra One”. This was the first taste of live music which lead to Simple Minds at Milton Keynes Bowl in 1986. It was one of those pioneering moments in ones life where for the first time I knew that I wanted a career in music – whether it was being a performer or behind the scenes. The compulsion was overwhelming – to this day I have never experienced anything as powerful as that. Today, 24 years later as I look around my office which is littered with posters and memorabilia and with countless gigs and concerts coming up, I can’t imagine what it would be like not to have that inspiration at some point in your life.
Simple Minds are about to embark on their 30th Anniversary Tour which includes playing their pioneering album “New Gold Dream” in its entirety and you can see Jim & Charlie at the Night of the Proms concerts in Europe, for all information and tickets have a look at the website www.notp.com
For all the information you need on tickets and dates for Simple Minds forthcoming 30th Anniversary tour the website is www.simpleminds.com
Tags: interview, jim kerr, simple minds, The Big Stage
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