Compared to when they formed in 2000, Kaiser Chiefs circa ’16 are an entirely different rock band. They’re called something else for starters, shedding their original name Parva three years and one record in.
Now – six albums, two drummers, a greatest hits and those spinny Dr Evil seats off The Voice later – they’re back. With a new sound, a stoic outlook and a free gig for ShortList readers in the diary.
With the indie stars taking the stage last week for the third gig in our 48 Hours To… series with Lynx Anti-Perspirant, we sat down with frontman Ricky Wilson and bassist Simon Rix to discuss what it takes to get noticed in 2016.
You both live in London now. When you nip home to Leeds, has it changed?
Ricky Wilson: Most of the places we used to go, like my school and university, have been knocked down. Everything’s been knocked down. Maybe it’s a curse I bring.
Some get statues in their honour, others bulldozers…
RW: For me it’s the drive past those places. I just got off at Tottenham Court Road and The Astoria has been knocked down…
Simon Rix: That was particularly heartbreaking.
With Fabric adding to the long list of clubs on the scrapheap, is London losing its cultural ID?
RW: It’s changing. And that’s the thing about the music industry – you can sit around all day moaning, but you can’t live in nostalgia for the rest of your life. On our new record, we didn’t want to rely on any kind of heritage or legacy, because in our minds we haven’t achieved that yet. Most bands are like that, even the ones that are massive and doing stadiums – why are they still doing it? They don’t have to, they’ve earned their money, they’ve got it stored away in Switzerland. But they keep going because they don’t feel like they’ve achieved something they’ve got to achieve.
Did gigs for national magazines exist back in 2000?
RW: They didn’t, but what did exist was doing whatever you had to do in order to make it work. It used to be going straight from work, minibus, gig, straight to work again without sleeping. Or flyering your own show 10 minutes before you got changed and ran on stage. ‘Whatever it takes’ stays the same, but whatever it takes is moving by the month.
People criticised John Lydon for doing a Country Life ad, but that funded a PiL reunion. Isn’t that, in itself, quite punk?
RW: Well, it’s because he’s the godfather of punk, right? He knows more than anyone – you do whatever it takes.
Is self-promotion half the job now?
RW: A lot of being in a band is about clichés. That’s why we’re all obsessed with [This Is] Spinal Tap, because it’s almost too close to the bone. It’s like Ricky Gervais’s David Brent movie – that’s our generation’s Spinal Tap. When you see him go into a radio station trying to sell his tour, and they try to make him do a game. The amount of games I’ve had to do on radio stations. I don’t wanna do a game called ‘Teeth Or Beef’. But it even happens to U2 – you see Bono falling off a bike on Jimmy Kimmel and you think, “Why are you doing that?” It’s because he’s doing what it takes.
SR: Barack Obama read out mean tweets [on Kimmel] and one was from Trump, wasn’t it?
RW: You’ve now got people queuing up to get in a Range Rover with James Corden. It’s great, but it’s so different. Recently I saw a picture of David Bowie on a train eating peas, and I got super-excited. “Ooh, Bowie ate peas, that’s weird.” Well, he’s not just eating peas, he’s eating dinner, but there are peas on the plate, and I thought, “That’s not very Bowie, is it?” Nowadays, would Bowie have to go and do a skit? Would he have to do Carpool Karaoke? Probably.
How do you foresee the future of Britain and/or Kaiser Chiefs?
RW: The band’s future – every album we’ve made has been a kick against the last one, and that’s the way the world works as well; it swings wildly. People always make huge decisions because they want to shake things up. It’s why a lot of people voted for Brexit, because they just wanted to rattle the cage. People want to be heard.
SR: It’s like the US election – if we had an election in the UK now, with May and Corbyn, the majority don’t like either of them, so it’s a really weird space to be in. You’d hope that with the next one, you’d get someone that everyone likes.
RW: If I need to decide whether to watch Ray Donovan or Westworld, I’ll flip a coin and see what it lands on. Let’s say heads: Ray Donovan, tails: Westworld. If it lands on heads and I go, “Well I kind of want to watch Westworld”, then I know how I really feel. It’s the best advice. If your gut’s telling you it’s the wrong thing to do, do the opposite. And it’s the same with America – a lot of people just wanna see the world burn. You wanna see what happens.
Kaiser Chiefs’ new album Stay Together is out now
(Image: Danny North)