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SIMPLE MINDS (JIM KERR) INTERVIEW [2009]

WHEN I INTERVIEW PEOPLE FOR MY WEBSITE I OFTEN HAVE TO PAY A BIT OF LIP-SERVICE TO THEIR NEW RECORD, I GUESS THAT'S PART OF THE MEDIA GAME, BUT I HAVE TO SAY THAT WITH YOUR NEW ALBUM 'GRAFFITI SOUL' I DON'T NEED TO DO THAT BECAUSE I GENUINELY THINK THAT IT RANKS AMONG THE VERY BEST OF ALL YOUR WORK...

Good man, we totally appreciate it and the nice thing is we never get tired of hearing it, but it's funny, I started talking to people about the record about a month ago and people have been saying it's good, people have been saying the kind of thing that you said and you can imagine the satisfaction that comes from that for us.

IT SOUNDS LIKE AN ALBUM THAT'S VERY COMFORTABLE WITH ITSELF, AN ALBUM WITH CONFIDENCE, AND AN ALBUM THAT WAS FUN TO MAKE...

There's a lot of what you're saying there that makes sense, I've been trying to describe to people... sometimes you get this thing in your head and you're trying to make the record sound like it sounds in your head and that's a lot of grief, but that's usually part of the deal, a kind of no pain no gain type of thing, and then occasionally - much too occasionally, rather frustratingly - you get one where you get up in the morning and everything you do, everything you try, just hits the mark you know? Even rises above the mark that you're aiming for sometimes. With this album - I mean we'd done the writing up front and we'd taken care of the melodies and everything - the room sounded great, the band sounded great, it honestly was all great, I mean even the cleaner would come in and go 'that sounds great!', and that doesn't always happen, people need time to get into it all and you have some good tracks and some less good tracks, tracks in transition and stuff...

It's particularly satisfying that you're saying that because over the last few years Simple Minds have been in the process of getting its mojo back. Ten years ago the mojo was well and truly gone and we've been in a process of... not just getting the work done, but also getting the right team, the right people and the right producer, getting our own confidence back, and getting a bigger sense of the mission each and every time, and I think that all of that has come together in this record in a very solid way. I think that's why we have this rather cocky new record.

COCKY IS A GOOD WORD FOR IT I THINK, THERE IS A COCKINESS TO IT, A BIT OF A SWAGGER...

Yeah, and there's also the timing, timing is a bit of a strange thing! Sometimes - no matter what you do, no matter how good it is - the timing means that people just don't want to know. You'll probably have had the same thing with the whole concept of your website, but there is no doubt that certainly musically now the 80s seems pretty much the vogue, not just the reformations of the bands but equally U2 with a new album in March, Depeche Mode in April, Simple Minds in May and I believe The Cure are working on something, Pet Shop Boys, Morrissey... they were the people who were very much our contemporaries back then and are still contemporaries in the sense that people with long careers, coming out of the 80s, are still out there and writing new chapters.

THERE'S A DEFINITE LIVE FEEL TO THE ALBUM AND I KNOW YOU HAVE TOUR PLANS FOR 'GRAFFITI SOUL' DON'T YOU? CAN YOU TALK ME THROUGH WHAT YOU HAVE PLANNED?

I can tell you the current plans and progress... through the summer - June, July to the middle of August - we're doing dates that are primarily outdoor dates, most of them are outdoor dates and most are in the European territories, plus we're also playing the Isle of Wight Festival and that leg will be mostly an outdoor festival type set. Middle of August and into September for about six weeks we are in the process of putting dates together in the US, Canada, Mexico and South America and the agents are looking at putting OMD and Simple Minds together for some of those dates.

Beyond that, once we get to October, we're looking at maybe getting to Australia, New Zealand and hopefully the Far East, and then in December we're back to the UK to do a more extensive arena tour to play 'Graffiti Soul' shows rather than the festival set... that's the plan, we'll see whether it comes off or not! Also people should always check our website because we never confirm anything there until the contracts are done because sometimes it happens that dates are reported elsewhere and you get some poor bugger who has booked flights and whatever, plus it makes us look bad because promoters are very quick to just throw things out there!

LAST TIME WE SPOKE WAS FOR THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR AND AT THAT POINT YOU WERE ABOUT TO TRY WORKING WITH MICK MaCNEIL AND DEREK FORBES AGAIN... THAT OBVIOUSLY DIDN'T LEAD TO ANYTHING THAT YOU'VE USED ON THIS RECORD, BUT ARE YOU ABLE TO TALK ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE OF WORKING WITH THEM AGAIN?

Yeah definitely, first of all it was a pity because the timing, in the end, could have been more right. It wasn't right, and I'll explain why... the idea came about - not so much that we were trying to work with them on this record to be honest with you because we were already pretty much down the road with this one then - but because EMI, who own the catalogue, knowing about the 30th Anniversary tour wanted to put out another compilation, and they don't have anything new in the vaults they haven't already used. We said look, we can understand why you would want to do this but you need to add a new couple of things, and I had the idea that we couldn't really celebrate the whole anniversary thing without talking to the original guys who had brought so much to it all.

Contact with them had been... minimal but not in any way bruised, so we got in touch and said look, how about we quickly get together and knock off a couple of - and I thought to make it easy, a couple of cover versions to offer something new - and they were well up for it. Then, within the tight schedule we had we earmarked two or three days and everyone was up for it. Prior to that we had a dinner together to get us all in a room together to have a chat and get all the old stories out of the way and everything, and that all went great, we had a great, great laugh.

On that very day as things would have it Charlie had come up with this new idea for a song, and during the meal we all went out into the car to listen to it, and everyone was really positive about it. The following day we had a day of technical meetings - because we hadn't played together for so long, to sort of decide how we were going to do it - and then go into the studio the following day. Unfortunately (laughs) that day didn't go so well and we had lots of disagreements, which in turn opened a few other wounds and all in all... well, had we had a week or two I think we could have worked through things but there was just too much pressure, and some people needed a lot of reassuring about various things, and we ended up thinking that maybe this wasn't the time after all. But for the future, who knows!

ANOTHER TRIP BACK IN TIME FOR YOU WAS THAT YOU WENT BACK TO ROCKFIELD STUDIOS DIDN'T YOU, TO MAKE THE NEW RECORD?

We did, and we enjoyed it very much as well. That was less a contrived thing because, unfortunately in this industry where everything is sort of contracting, there are so few recording studios around now, and very few residential recording studios, Rockfield is one of the very few left. The residential situation has always suited us, we felt that if you're living in the place where you're working then it's full immersion, and then from that you get more feeling for the record, much more firepower and attack. But Rockfield was special because it's where Simple Minds either recorded or wrote some of our fundamental early records and we hadn't been back there for twenty years.

Generally we're always keen to try the next thing, a new thing, and we were a little reluctant to go back in the sense that you're always worried that somehow you can't go back. But it was a great experience and we slipped right back into it, and Rockfield - in a very positive sense - had not changed at all, it lives and breathes its history, and although it was a huge part of our history it goes beyond us to the generation before us, people we'd grown up with, people like Led Zeppelin and David Bowie, all those people had recorded at Rockfield so the place sort of breathes that heritage which is so good!

HOW MUCH DOES THE LOCATION WHERE YOU MAKE THE RECORD FEED THE RECORDING PROCESS AND THE FINAL RECORD?

I think that wherever you are, if you feel good... and this is answering a slightly different question to the one you asked me... I've been spending a lot of time in Sicily as you know and aesthetically it's a lovely place but it's more than that, I think that if you're anywhere that you're feeling energised, anywhere where you're feeling good, then that energy is pretty much pre-requisite.

THERE'S A DEFINITE ENERGY THAT FLOWS THROUGH THIS RECORD... I DON'T KNOW IF THAT'S DOWN TO THE FLOW OF THE SONGS OR THE LINE-UP OF PEOPLE WORKING ON IT, BUT THERE'S A REAL 'TOGETHERNESS' IF THAT MAKES SENSE?

That's so good to hear, and you know I have to give respect to our original line-up and the stuff those guys brought to the band, because they brought so much to it, and by the end of the eighties and into the early nineties losing that, for one reason or another, was like... well it was like being in an aeroplane with six engines and suddenly you're down to three, and you're always going to struggle with that. It has taken us really this long to get a team that, with respect to the originals, can gradually come out of the shadows and not just feel that they were just 'standing in'. It's taken a long time but on this record they were very much in the moment and were coming up with ideas and pushing, and like I said bringing a lot more firepower, and that confidence fills the room.

YOU TOUCHED ON RECORDING COVER VERSIONS THERE, AND THE DELUXE EDITION OF 'GRAFFITI SOUL' COMES WITH A SECOND CD OF COVER VERSIONS... WAS THAT A FUN PROCESS FOR YOU?

Well you used the word fun, and that's exactly what it was, and I'll tell you how it came about. We knew we'd have to knock off one or two extra tunes because these days you need things for iTunes or whatever, and... how can I put this without sounding arrogant? The ideas we had for the album, the leftover ideas, we didn't really think that they were, what should I call them, b-sides, we thought that this stuff we want to keep for the next phase, so we were left with the idea of covers and we thought we'd do one or two of them. But then we came up with this thing... in the studio you break for dinner at about 8 and people have something to eat and a couple of bottles of wine and... nothing happens, and we came up with this thing where basically, at dinner every night round the table, someone got the chance to choose a song and then half an hour after the dinner you had to have your parts together - the guitar parts, the lyrics, whatever - and we limited ourselves to doing just a couple of takes at the most.

It was all great fun, obviously no-one was allowed to come up with something like 'Bohemian Rhapsody', it had to be something... I don't want to say and easy song, but something really pumping, something you'd have played in your school band that we could just knock out, and it was great to do. Also, when we were doing them, because the pressure was off the engineers would just try stuff and it just all took the pressure valve off it and it was creative even though, excuse my language, we were just fucking about!

MAY 2009

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