Kaiser Chiefs’ frontman Ricky Wilson on his new album, telly stardom and ‘landfill indie’
We’re here to talk about the new Kaiser Chiefs album. What’s your favourite song on it?
It changes daily. This sounds really ridiculous, but I do listen to it daily – that’s the first time that’s ever happened with one of my records. I’m also trying to learn it; it’s really hard to sing. Because I’m on The Voice, I thought, “I’m going to have to pull something out of the bag here because people are going to notice the singing.”
Be honest – if you were on The Voice as a contestant, do you think your fellow judges would turn for you?
Possibly not. People expected me to turn around for people like me, and I didn’t.
What song would you do?
We were never good at covers. At the moment, when you go to a radio station, no matter where it is in the world, they want you to do a wacky cover version – something inappropriate to your style of music. We spend a year writing, recording, until it’s perfect, then we have to go and play someone else’s song badly.
Have you had any famous mentors along the way?
I’ve made quite good friends with Marti Pellow [from Wet Wet Wet], he’s given me some of the best advice ever. He went through the mill a bit. Sometimes his voice comes into my head – “drop your shoulders, don’t be so guarded, it doesn’t matter in the end.”
Were you surprised when you first saw the new, super-slim promo shots of yourself?
I wasn’t really eating because I was panicking about going on TV. The camera adds 10lb. There were 16 cameras pointing at me so that’s like 160lb.
Do you have to practise doing the spinning chair thing?
We never practised, that’s why I was panicking. The make-up girl kept coming over to give me messages from my girlfriend Leslie in the audience, saying, “Sit up straight, don’t do this and don’t do that”, because I didn’t know what I was doing.
In the blind auditions, do you have to wear the same outfits the whole time?
Yeah, it was seven days. Eight in the morning until one in the morning, then you’d go back to the hotel, put your outfit behind the desk and it comes back dry cleaned. It was my first taste of hard work since I left school.
Do you have any tips for good frontman-ship?
I think you can learn a lot more from people you don’t like. Don’t try to learn from people you do like, because you’ll end up being them.
Noel Gallagher turned down the chance to be an X Factor judge. Should he have done it?
I would’ve liked to see him do it. He’s a wildcard, if he got bored he’d walk away. He’s cool like that.
Important question now. What does Tom Jones smell of?
I do know, but I can’t remember the name of it [laughs]. It’s special. I think he has it made. You know you’re in the big leagues when you have your own aftershave mixed.
Were you determined not to be an attention-seeker like Danny from The Script?
Because I didn’t do the first two series, I didn’t really watch him on it. I had to stop wearing denim. Also I think you’ve got to make an effort on a Saturday night. I think when you take a job on Saturday night TV, there’s an element of attention-seeking that you can’t avoid.
Do you think that the ‘manufactured pop’ thing is killing acts like Kaiser Chiefs?
No, I think the music industry works in peaks and troughs, and you need things to take over in order for things to thrive underground.
So you’re encouraging some ‘overground’ stuff, so the underground can flourish?
I’m not going to take responsibility: “Yeah, I’m sacrificing myself so the underground can flourish”, but there’s an element of trying to get a little bit more recognition for alternative music on the TV. [At one point] there was not a week where Maximo Park or Bloc Party didn’t appear on Top Of The Pops, but you can’t do it any more.
In the scene Kaiser Chiefs came from, many of the bands have ended up being called ‘landfill indie’. You guys have survived, though…
Every time there’s a successful scene, you will get a lot of lesser versions of it. It will be happening at the moment – guys in record companies wanting another Rudimental and they’ll look for it until they kill it. That’s the cycle that happens.
Are you a music snob? Who are you listening to at the moment?
Of course, when something gets big I don’t like it any more. I like Fat White Family. I’ve got a massive soft spot for The Horrors, I think they just keep getting better on their own terms. That’s another thing we’re obsessed with in alternative music, trying to make it look like it just came [easily]: Like, “Oh, I just vomited in the studio and the song came out.” But then other people make Lord Of The Rings [in a year], and we make 45 minutes of music, so it’s kind of embarrassing saying this took us a year.
Kaiser Chiefs’ Education, Education, Education & War is out 31 March
(Images: Danny North/BBC/Rex)