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SIMPLE MINDS (JIM KERR) INTERVIEW [2008]

YOU'RE OFF ON TOUR TO CELEBRATE SIMPLE MINDS' THIRTIETH ANNIVERSARY AND YOU'VE CHOSEN TO PERFORM 'NEW GOLD DREAM' IN IT'S ENTIRETY ON THE TOUR... CAN I ASK YOU WHY YOU CHOSE THAT RECORD OVER ANY OF THE OTHERS?

There are two or three words that have been used... it's not our biggest selling album because we've had a couple of albums that sold more than 'New Gold Dream'... but some people describe it as a seminal album and I think for most people who know the work of Simple Minds the whole sound and vision of the band sort of came together at that point. The albums leading up to that I think showed a lot of promise and had been singled out by critics and had started to get some commercial success but I think 'New Gold Dream', for the band, found its own voice.

That's one thing and then I think that somehow the album, for people who perhaps don't like Simple Minds that much, is the one that even they seem to like!

The final reason I suppose is that with some records when you try to play them live, by their very nature what works well on record doesn't work quite so well live, but 'New Gold Dream' does work and it will work... all in all I think that it will be quite something!

FUNNILY ENOUGH, LISTENING TO 'NEW GOLD DREAM' AGAIN NOW - AND I HAVE TO CONFESS THAT I HAVEN'T LISTENED TO IT FOR AGES - I WAS STRUCK BY HOW MUCH IT SOUNDED LIKE A 'LIVE' RECORD, PARTICULARLY IN COMPARISON TO THE PREVIOUS ALBUMS WHICH WERE MORE DENSE AND ARTY...

Well that's right and I think that the years leading up to 'New Gold Dream', from '79 through to '82, the band did a tremendous amount of touring and yet somehow also managed to make three or four albums, and I think there was a tremendous... 'learning' sounds like a boring word in rock and roll terms but there was a confidence that came through, and that came through, of being much more confident and being a lot more adventurous as a result of being more confident, so I would say that that's right.

The record itself, my recollection of it, is that it was kind of effortless, it just kind of happened and I think that the mood of the band at the time... we could just feel that we were onto something a wee bit special and I think it was all over and done in about four weeks, one song would just sort of go onto another and I don't really remember any dramas at any point, I remember it as being a really nice experience.

I SEE 'NEW GOLD DREAM' AS A KIND OF A TRANSITIONAL ALBUM BETWEEN ONE SIMPLE MINDS AND THE NEXT SIMPLE MINDS, AND IT REALLY IS THE BEGINNING OF THE SIMPLE MINDS THAT EVERYONE THINKS OF WHEN THEY HEAR THE WORDS 'SIMPLE MINDS'...

Yeah... I think to put it in a more crude way it was the album that took us to the door of the big league, it didn't take us into the big league but it took us there, and it kind of said 'Are you going to go through this? Do you have the gall? Are you really up for it?'... It took us to the door but there was a wee bit to go before we sort of took off and really kicked the door down, and that momentum sort of just carried through.

After 'New Gold Dream' was 'Sparkle In The Rain' with 'Waterfront' and 'Up On The Catwalk' which, although it continued the noise about Simple Minds, didn't really allow us to make that much more headway - we did in a touring sense but not really in terms of selling records - and it wasn't until the one after that, 'Once Upon A Time', and 'Don't You' and stuff... not to say that anything we would have done next would have done the same but certainly there was a great momentum, an energy and a huge interest in the band that meant that as long as we came up with something half decent the success was there for us.

IT SEEMS LIKE 'NEW GOLD DREAM' WAS ALSO THE RECORD WHERE THE BAND, AND THE LYRICS IN PARTICULAR, WERE STARTING TO SPEAK WITH MORE OF A SOCIAL VOICE, SINGING MORE ABOUT REAL, DIRECT THINGS...

I think that's right. Again it comes from what we had been doing for the period of time before 'New Gold Dream', when you tour a lot you tour within the confines of being in a band and your visions of the places you visit are very limited but I do remember that when we were touring at that time there was a lot going on, especially in Europe at the time because it was a time when Europe was still divided during the Cold War days, but we were getting a sense of the world around us, that's probably to best way of putting it, just through the traveling and the walking down the streets in these places.

We'd been to Chile and we'd been to Argentina and we'd been to these places that had a lot of great things going for them but also a lot of darker sides. But we were starting to experience things that make you think and that make you want to know more about them and so it was perhaps inevitable that some of that would drip into the songwriting...

You write about what you experience, you write about what's interesting you, you write about what's keeping you awake at night, you write about what's in your dreams, all of these things, but obviously if you're experiencing a broader landscape then the songs themselves probably start to pan out and become more panoramic too.

I KNOW THAT THE FORMAT FOR THE FORTHCOMING ANNIVERSARY DATES WILL SEE YOU PERFORM 'NEW GOLD DREAM' IN IT'S ENTIRETY AS WELL AS PLAYING A LOT OF OTHER STUFF TOO, BUT HOW WILL IT WORK? WILL IT BE A TWO HALVES THING, WITH AN INTERVAL OR SOMETHING?

No it's not... that had been considered but coitus interruptus is not my thing - there's a quote for you, I might go on to regret saying that! - but what I mean is that once you are up there doing it and you're in for the long haul then I think that breaking off the momentum would feel strange, it might work better if you were doing some kind of acoustic set but no, I think we'll start the journey and then we'll just see it through!

AS THEY ARE GOING TO BE VERY MUCH CELEBRATORY EVENTS WOULD I BE RIGHT TO EXPECT THE OTHER HALF OF THE SET TO FEATURE A LOT OF HITS, FAMILIAR MATERIAL?

Yes... I thought you were going to say because they are going to be celebratory events then will you be drunk! But yes, your assumption is quite right!

IS IT YOUR INTENTION TO PERFORM THE 'NEW GOLD DREAM' PART OF THE NIGHT IN A WAY THAT REPRODUCES THE ORIGINAL SOUND OF THE ALBUM OR WILL IT BE A KIND OF REINTERPRETATION OF THOSE SONGS FOR 2008?

No... god forbid! We will try and recreate the feeling and the atmosphere as it was, I mean we won't drive ourselves nuts but we will get it right, we will evoke that time and we certainly wouldn't do something jazzed up...

SO YOU WON'T NEED TO GO DOWN THE OBSESSIVE ROUTE OF USING THE EXACT SAME GUITARS AND AMPS AND EVERYTHING TO REPRODUCE THAT ORIGINAL SOUND?

Not quite that no, I wouldn't say that we will quite be doing that but certainly there will be a lot of time spent getting the sounds pretty much as was.

ARE THERE SONGS ON THE ALBUM THAT YOU HAVE NEVER PLAYED LIVE BEFORE?

There are, there's two or three... it is a short album, only thirty-eight minutes which I love about it, and there is only eight songs on the album - I think only two that we've never played live before, probably because we tried but didn't quite master them but one would think that we are more experienced now! Also we've never played the songs in this sequence before and I think there's a lot to be said for the sequence...

WHEN YOU SAY 'WE' WHO ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? IS THIS TOUR ALSO A REUNION OF THE THE 'NEW GOLD DREAM' ERA SIMPLE MINDS LINE-UP?

Well... not quite, by 'we' I mean the band as we have been for the last... however long! Certainly Charlie Burchill, the guitar player and co-writer, and Mel Gaynor, the drummer, will be there... it's possible that some of the chaps will pop up, you know? I mean we've had quite a long list of band members and ex-members over the years and I think it would be churlish not to invite them along but this is something we will have to work out. We haven't been promoting it as a reunion line-up or anything.

To be completely frank we haven't settled on anything yet and the shows are still a wee bit away, but I'm sure you can imagine how difficult it is sometimes to go back to those... sort of relationships...

THE EQUIVALENT OF A WHOLE ROOM OF EX--WIVES? THAT SORT OF THING?

Yes! But I'm glad it was you that said that and not me!

MAYBE WE SHOULD MOVE ON! ARE THERE ANY PLANS TO CAPTURE ANY OF THESE SHOWS, EITHER ON AUDIO OR VIDEO FOR RELEASE LATER?

Definitely... there are discussions going on right now, and you know, this is the time, we have something to talk about, we have something to play so I'd say yeah that's almost guaranteed to happen in one way or another.

IS IT TOO EARLY TO ASK ABOUT SUPPORT BANDS FOR THE SHOWS?

It is, but we want to get somebody special, we do want to get a name and someone that will really strike a chord with everyone as opposed to some anonymous - no matter how good they are - group, you know what I mean?

SOMEONE THAT PEOPLE WILL BE EXCITED TO SEE...

Yeah, and someone to fit in with the whole event as well.

DO YOU HAVE A WISH LIST OR EVEN A FANTASY LINE-UP?

Kraftwerk would be great! But I'm not sure if we could ever pull that off! I love The Psychedelic Furs, they are a great band, and I'm a big fan of Peter Murphy too... but we'll have to see what happens!

YOU'VE ANNOUNCED SIX SHOWS SO FAR, ALL IN THE UK, DO YOU HAVE MORE DATES UP YOUR SLEEVE FOR ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD OR IS THAT LIKELY TO BE IT?

Well... let me tell you, and I'm going to be very honest about this, but we were in two minds over this whole thirty years thing, about whether to shout about it or not. Two minds in the sense that to us - and I wrote about this a little bit on our website - thirty years is a big deal but then I asked 'but is it really a big deal?'... I mean if you're Mick Jagger or Bob Dylan or David Bowie or any of these people who have been doing this for yonks longer than us then we must seem positively wet behind the years, but then at the same time the... let's call it the humane, sentimental part... took over and said look, it's thirty years, there has to come a point where you give a nod to the journey we've been on.

Also, without being too corny, we do have a fantastically loyal and important fan base out there and the story of the band doesn't just belong to us, it belongs to them as well and so we thought we'd have a bit of a party but rather than going on a huge extensive tour, which I think would be making too much of a palaver about it, which would only really be relevant to us if we were still adding new chapters. We have already begun a cycle of new songs and there will be a new album at some point in the future, although not this year, and we are starting to work on that and it's more than possible that after that the band will play live much more extensively...

But it will be the end of the year and it'll almost be Christmas and we have some time to do it, so for all these reasons we didn't look at it as a normal month after month jaunt and we wanted to keep it small and special... it's a party and you can't have the same party every night for months and months.

YOU JUST MENTIONED NEW MATERIAL, IS IT LIKELY THAT THERE WILL BE ANY NEW SONGS IN THE SET FOR THE ANNIVERSARY TOUR?

You know, if over these months something comes out that just screams to be played then perhaps but I think this is a chance to really look at the journey that we have completed up to now. If one song did come up then we might do it but I tell you what, a song that is unheard by audiences in a set like this would be a real baptism of fire... it might not stand a chance, everyone going 'What's this?'... You have to handle these things very carefully and give them some thought.

SINCE WE LAST SPOKE, WHEN THE 'BLACK & WHITE' ALBUM CAME OUT, SANCTUARY MUSIC THE LABEL YOU WERE ON HAS FOLDED HASN'T IT SO PRESUMABLY YOU'RE IN A NEW SITUATION AGAIN FOR THE NEXT RECORD?

Well we are, our contract with Sanctuary was a two album deal and the people who essentially bought Sanctuary, Universal, picked up on our arrangement with Sanctuary so in essence everything is just transferred to them.

IS IT TOO EARLY TO SAY WHAT SORT OF ALBUM THE NEW RECORD WILL BE? WILL IT BE A NATURAL FOLLOW ON TO WHAT YOU WERE DOING ON 'BLACK AND WHITE' OR ARE YOU HEADING IN A NEW DIRECTION FOR EXAMPLE?

Well things are always developing and nothing really ever stands still but having said that it's an interesting question... some albums when you finish them you think well there's not a lot more to be said about that but I think there is still scope to follow on from 'Black & White' if you know what I mean... yeah, I do think it will follow on, I don't think we exhausted our form on that so I think that it will maybe lead on from that but end up in another place. If that happens that would be great!

MARCH 2008

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