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JIM KERR (LOSTBOY AKA) INTERVIEW [2010]

WHO IS LOSTBOY AKA? IS IT JUST YOU, OR IS IT A BAND OR SOMETHING BETWEEN THE TWO?

The irony is that in terms of making the record there was a great team involved, but the direction is mine and when it comes to the road I'm putting a band together, but it is very much a singular vision. However to put that vision across I'm going to need some fantastic people and having spent most of my life working with fantastic people I'm not prepared to settle for less. The rehearsals actually began yesterday and Jez Coed who produced the album, and has been involved with Simple Minds in the past, is playing guitars and some of the tunes are his as well, he's an amazing talent, but the drummer is a new kid so we're going to have a real mixture of pro's and youthful energy!

HOW DIFFERENT IS IT FOR YOU TALKING ABOUT THIS PROJECT, WHEN - UNLIKE WITH SIMPLE MINDS - THE PEOPLE YOU'RE TALKING TO DON'T HAVE HUGE PRECONCEPTIONS ABOUT WHAT IT IS THAT YOU'RE DOING?

Well it's undoubtedly a blank page, a fresh page and I'm very guilty of wanting my cake and eating it! It would be different if I had given up on my previous day job but I have no intention of that. I love Simple Minds, I love the band and I really do think that we've got the bit back between our teeth recently. But rather mysteriously over the last couple of years I seem to have become somehow more prolific than ever, well since I was eighteen at least, when music was the only thing in my life… and that brought on a situation that wasn't a problem exactly, but it meant that I had all this material which I could have used in Simple Minds but for various reasons I decided not to.

It also coincided with the fact that Simple Minds - like a lot of 'classic' bands - do an album every three and a half or four years, then tour it for a year - which I love but I'm not content just going down to the beach when that's done you know? More than ever now I want to get down to the basement to get on with the next song, to get out and play and I really wanted to find another outlet. I didn't want to start another band and I didn't want to do a Jim Kerr solo album because that just didn't sound very imaginative…

When I was working on the first few tracks that became Lostboy, there was something about the atmosphere of them that surprised me. I'm not really a very nostalgic person, but they definitely took me back to a certain place and time musically that I like; post-punk, the music that I was listening to then, and creating back then, but it also took me back to the person I was in that life. Connecting with that gave me the idea of connecting with that boy - well I wasn't quite a boy because I was eighteen, but I wasn't quite a man either - this in between character, and I started to play around with that, wondering what that character would write today if you gave him the equipment, and a band and ten days in a studio, and that just became the seeds of what has become Lostboy.

DO YOU HAVE ANY PARTICULAR EXPECTATIONS FOR THE PROJECT? IS IT A FULL COMMERCIAL PROJECT OR ARE YOU JUST HAVING FUN? OR IS IT A BIT OF BOTH?

Well I am having fun but it's not a hobby. I know that it's hard not to imagine that someone who has been in another band isn't just having a little dalliance and is just on a bit of an ego trip… and I hope it's not that, and I have to say that I am working very solidly on the second record already and I do really immerse myself in it. It's not just a little thing, a little fling on the side, but I am having fun with it for sure and it is as much about that too.

DO YOU EXPECT IT TO BE A BATTLE TO CONVINCE PEOPLE, THE MEDIA IN PARTICULAR I SUPPOSE, THAT THIS IS A 'PROPER' PROJECT RATHER THAT A PASSING WHIM? DO YOU RELISH THE THOUGHT OF THAT FIGHT?

I do relish the fight. I did a phone interview for Australia before we went down there a few weeks ago and it was a cheeky one, the guy came on and said that he was going to read the first ever Simple Minds review from 1979 and he read a single review from Melody Maker which completely trashed us - and I remember being a kid and getting the Melody Maker so it was like a stab in the heart! He read it out and then asked me what I thought now and I said 'Well 'Melody Maker' has been gone for about eighteen years, but we're still here!'… It would be great to have it all but you just can't have it all. You have to do good work, and you have to do plenty of it, and if you do that then something clicks. Some of that good work will be at the wrong time but if you do enough good work then some of it will be at the right time, it's a message in a bottle. Someone will find it.

Like everyone else I do get frustrated and 90% of the time I probably just wish it would work you know? But today I found myself fired up, and I would much rather be fired up than be not caring. There's always a resistance, when you start a band there's a resistance. It's great to have the story I have, and I'm very proud of that story, but there is also a downside that I have that story because I think of this as a brand new project. Then again Radio 2 have play-listed the single this week which wouldn't have happened without my other story, so there's pros and cons.

What I'm going to do with this project is I'm going to work like the clappers on it for the next year and a half and I want to produce another quality record and have a substantial amount of live work behind me, and then I think that when it's time to go back to Simple Minds, back to the mother-ship, I will be leaving something pretty solid and cemented.

IF YOU DIDN'T HAVE SUCH A RECOGNISABLE VOICE WOULD YOU HAVE BEEN TEMPTED TO TRY AND RELEASE THIS WITHOUT ANYONE KNOWING IT WAS YOU?

I've never really thought about that, although having said that it's not ever been something I would have set out to do… Lostboy for me is about the style of the music, but I listened when marketing men ganged up on me - it's always a war to get your music across - and I thought that although Lostboy AKA Jim Kerr is a bit of a mouthful it's sufficiently far away from a Jim Kerr solo album while still keeping Jim Kerr in the title.

GIVEN THE SUCCESS THAT YOU'VE ENJOYED IN THE PAST ISN'T IT SOMETIMES TEMPTING TO JUST TAKE THE EASY OPTION?

That's true, there's other things in life and I have a rich life outside music, I have other interests… it's not one-dimensional, but having said that there was a period about ten years ago - between ten and eight years ago - when there was a real famine of ideas and getting new ideas was like getting blood out of a stone so I know how that feels and now that there's a feast I just want to run with it, while the ideas are there, while the creativity is still there and while the energy and desire is there.

AT WHAT POINT IN TIME DID YOU REALISE THAT YOU HAD THIS GOING ON, THIS NEW PROJECT?

Ironically it was really starting to happen during the recording of the last Simple Minds record, which went very smoothly. But when my part was done for the day I was sitting in the kitchen with my notebook out working on this parallel thing, not even knowing what it would be.

I MIGHT BE READING TOO MUCH INTO THIS, BUT HAVING HEARD THE LOSTBOY RECORD IT SOUNDS TO ME LIKE SOME OF THE ELEMENTS IT CONTAINS WERE ACTUALLY ECHOING SOME OF THE ELEMENTS THAT APPEARED ON TRACKS ON THE LAST SIMPLE MINDS ALBUM?

I think that's right. It's funny, some people have asked me what the point is of doing something that isn't completely different to Simple Minds, but I say that although it's not a million miles away right now I do fully intend to kind of grow Lostboy over the next few records, and it will take some time to cross the border fully. I mean it took Simple Minds several records to get the composite of influences right and grow something that was uniquely ourselves…

GIVEN THAT SIMPLE MINDS HAVE MADE SUCH DIFFERENT MUSIC OVER THEIR CAREER WOULD IT NOT HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE TO TAKE THIS PROJECT INTO SIMPLE MINDS AT ALL?

It would have been possible I think for two or three tracks, but as most of the Simple Minds music comes from the great collision of music between Charlie and I - already we have got the seeds of some new songs even though the next album isn't due for the next couple of years - the way we work is that we kind of see what we have and then we try to shore up the weak points. If we haven't got enough energetic tracks for example I might bring in something I've got… so yes two or three could have been used like that but… I wanted them you know!

WHAT DO THE OTHER GUYS IN SIMPLE MINDS THINK OF WHAT YOU'RE DOING?

They were cool that this whole project is basically designed to work in Simple Minds' 'downtime', because the band does have its cycle and I said, and so whether I go to the golf course, or take cooking classes, or make music it doesn't really matter. But I do think that Lostboy throws a bit of a challenge for everybody involved, I'm showing a lot of energy, I'm out there and I'm doing this. It's not really the point but I think that energy will create energy and that's a good, good thing. Three weeks ago we were in Australia and New Zealand doing some Simple Minds shows and Charlie said he was going to stay on for a few days and he asked me if I wanted to stay down there too. I said I had to get back because the Lostboy project was quite imminent and he told me that he had checked it out online and that it sounded really good. He wished me all the best and then he said 'you know, we should have been doing things like this years ago', which I thought was really interesting… so that's one take on it!

SO FROM THAT IT DOES SOUND LIKE MAYBE THE THINGS YOU ARE DOING NOW WILL HAVE A KNOCK-ON EFFECT AGAIN AND WILL BRING SOMETHING INTO SIMPLE MINDS?

Well, I think so. Charlie's probably sitting there with his guitar just now, going 'I'll show you, Lostboy' which would be great, a great new energy…

WHAT SORT OF REACTIONS HAVE YOU BEEN GETTING TO LOSTBOY FROM THE HARDCORE SIMPLE MINDS FANS? ARE YOU CONCERNED AS TO HOW THEY MIGHT REACT TO IT?

Well I was definitely curious, and I had my own thoughts on it, but concerned isn't the right word. If you were going to be concerned about that then you probably wouldn't even bother doing it! Nevertheless we all know that almost by the very nature of being fans they are actually very conservative, they like the classic line-up, they like the original versions… so to be honest I wasn't expecting a free ride at all and what has been great is that once things started to turn up online, certainly on the website and in the online communities there was a fantastic reaction. That said, and it's not a regret as such, but I do think that the track that has become the single is slightly misleading for the Lostboy project because it is the track that's the most like Simple Minds, but the hard-nosed problem was that the radio people really liked it you know, and radio is worth its weight in gold so that's just the way it had to be.

I SUPPOSE THE SINGLE IS KIND OF A BRIDGE FROM WHAT YOU DO WITH SIMPLE MINDS TO WHAT YOU'RE DOING WITH LOSTBOY…

Exactly!

IT'S INTERESTING BECAUSE WHEN I GOT THE ALBUM IT WAS SENT OVER TO ME DIGITALLY AND I LOADED IT ONTO ITUNES TO LISTEN TO AND I DIDN'T REALISE THAT IT WAS SET TO SHUFFLE THE TRACKS AND THE FIRST TRACK THAT PLAYED WAS 'SOLO MAN SOLO HEAD' - WHICH IS KIND OF THE OPPOSITE TO THE SINGLE - AND I WAS BLOWN AWAY BY HOW TOTALLY DIFFERENT IT WAS…

I'm delighted to hear that. For me the album kind of takes care of business in the first four or five tracks, the poppier tracks, and I do really like it, but then I'm excited about the way that the record starts to get really expansive and you can feel that this lost boy is starting to search, and he wants to be adventurous and imaginative, like a coiled spring or something. I'm dying to play that track live actually, I think it's going to be a great live track… there's something about the motif at the start that makes it a bit James Bond I think, it has that sort of danger in it…

IT HAS QUITE A DARK INDUSTRIAL FEEL TO IT DOESN'T IT? BITS OF NINE INCH NAILS OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT?

Exactly! I was in Asia recently and I was looking at this fascination that they have there for superheroes and comics and all that sort of thing, and the motif at the beginning of the song has a slightly Asian keyboard part… but for the song I came up with a kind of anti-hero, a character called Solo Man Solo Head who is a kind of vigilante man and who, rightly or wrongly, is going to sort this mess out… just saying that just then makes me realise that I wouldn't write like that within Simple Minds, so already you can see it's starting to push towards becoming its own thing…

AS YOU PUT YOURSELF THROUGH THE CREATIVE SONGWRITING PROCESS HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHICH BOX TO PUT THE IDEAS IN? WHAT GOES TO SIMPLE MINDS AND WHAT YOU KEEP FOR LOSTBOY?

Well I suppose the main thing is that most of the early work for Simple Minds comes from Charlie Birchell, not all of it but probably 90% of it. Although the other day I was very excited about a piece of music that I was working on with the Lostboy band but then after an hour or so I began to realise that it was actually a bit too sophisticated to fall into the Lostboy remit as I see it right now, so yes I suppose I do start to position things…

THE ALBUM SEEMS TO GO RIGHT ACROSS THE BOARD MUSICALLY, FROM POP TO INDUSTRIAL DANCE… WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO THAT BRINGS IN SO MANY INFLUENCES?

Well that's right… I didn't have access to quite the same scope of music back then, but I did like a lot of different things. I'd be looking for some obscure krautrock album but I'd be equally enthusiastic if I came across something great by Stevie Wonder or any of the perennial influences of david Bowie, the art rockers and still loving the prog-rockers as well. I would have thought nothing of listening to something like 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway' - whose main character is something of a Lostboy someone pointed out - and then listening to something like Motown Chartbusters Volume Seven. Obviously now, like everyone else, I'm carrying all my music around with me… today I was listening and Pink Floyd came on, one of the tracks from 'Dark Side Of The Moon', Ralph Vaughan Williams came on and I liked that, The White Stripes and so on…

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE EIGHTEEN YEAR OLD YOU WOULD HAVE MADE OF WHAT YOU'VE DONE ON THIS ALBUM? THIS RECORD THAT YOU'VE KIND OF MADE IN HIS NAME?

You know what… I think he would think it was cool. I think he would love the melodies, he'd like the imagination… it sprawls but I think the vision in cohesive enough, it's not all just thrown in there. I think in particular the melodies and some of the dramatic moments on the record as well, like Soloman that you mentioned, and there's a track right at the end called 'The Wait' which I think is a great piece of music and is very much its own thing. At the same time I think he would like the cool pop, like 'She Fell In Love With Silence'... I think he would like it!

MAY 2010

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