Q&a Kaiser Chiefs' Ricky Wilson - on singles, getting into the UK's consciousness, the future, War Of The Worlds, turning down The Voice & more
In the last eight years Kaiser Chiefs have transformed themselves from also rans Parva into a band whose songs are so successful tabloid newspapers, football fans and more are constantly 'borrowing' their lyrics. To mark this period, the band recently released a singles collection Souvenir, and now Ricky Wilson sits down with Q to take stock, take aim for the future and explain why - if you're in a band - you should never do cookery on TV.
How the devil are you?
"I'm good, the devil hasn't taken hold yet. We're going off on tour tonight, it's the summer of festivals now so everything is good with the world. The bus is even picking me up outside my house, it's a bit like being on summer holidays."
Something to do with your weekends?
"For bands the summer is like one big game of golf. Every festival is a hole and you just go round trying to win them all by being the best. Some are easier than others because you're on the bill with shit bands and sometimes you're on with bands you actually respect. Tomorrow it's Sting and Lenny Kravitz. We set each other tasks in the band. Simon [Rix, bassist] has to go up to Sting after his set and say, Have you ever thought of finishing your show by pointing at the audience and saying You've been stung! [laughs] and I think it's 15 bonus points if you say, Are you going to go my way to? Lenny."
How many points do you get for a singles collection? Kaiser Chiefs have released one, but why in the iTunes era? Haven't people had cherry-picked the tracks already?
"Yeah, I should have figured out a really good answer to this question! I just didn't think about it, I was more excited about doing the artwork as I'm always in charge of doing that. Every time we do an album I have a little project to do. Nick [Hodgson, drummer] came up with the tracklisting. We had the idea last year when we recorded On The Run for the American version of The Future Is Medieval. Actually, it's very complicated bringing out albums these days. You used to record 12 tracks, put them out and everyone buys millions of copies [laughs]. Now you go to America and they want a different cover and a different title [The Future Is... was called Start the Revolution Without Me in the US] and Japan want six extra tracks! I think bands used to do singles collections a lot more, they were the done thing and I wanted to be the first band of our group to do one - I still think about coming out in the mid 2000s in this wave of great British pop with Franz, Kasabian and all that lot. I'm pleased we have the singles, and the obligatory news ones that... obviously I'm going to say they're brilliant, but I don't think we'd have brought out a singles collection if we didn't think the songs were really strong."
Tell us about the two new ones, On The Run and Listen To Your Head?
"They were done in different ways. The first one was done with Stephen Street, old school Kaiser Chiefs, and the other was just us with Nick at the helm, which is very new school Kaiser Chiefs. People can buy it and work out which they prefer, old school Kaiser Chiefs or new school Kaiser Chiefs. I think there's good things to be said about both."
Why not do a Best Of?
"I keep getting asked, Does this mean the end? I think a singles collection doesn't but a best of or an anthology does. Also if it was the end, we'd be cashing in on a massive farewell tour, and we're not."
Does it represent the end of an era though? Drawing a line under the Kaiser Chiefs' first chapter?
"Well there is that. The comments on Twitter I've had have been interesting. I ignore the positive ones from the fans and go straight to the negative ones, but there are people who follow me who don't really like the band who tell you, I've forgotten how many songs I knew! I suppose that's part of the reason for doing it, just to remind people and to remind yourself to a lesser extent. I don't know how it say it without sounding uncool, but we've had a lot of hits."
It's interesting you mention that generation of bands, because since that 'intake' of bands, say post Arctic Monkeys, groups have struggled to survive as long you.
"We've been going eight years as the Kaiser Chiefs and that seems to be a massive success story, but 20 years ago we'd still be a baby band. The modern thing now seems to be to give a band four years and that's it. I've been asked a lot about whose career I'd like to emulate, but then you think about them individually and they've all had something terrible happen, so I can't think of any. Whereas we haven't had any troughs, it's been consistently, kind of good. We're really lucky. No one's died, no one's got into heroin, you know what I mean?"
Though the flipside of that is you're almost criticised for still being around.
"That's just the modern condition. I don't want to criticise TV shows but the winner of X-Factor has only got a year, that's it. I don't think the kids in these acts realise how fleeting it is for them. It used to be people would build it up to knock it down, now they don't even build it up. It's just stick them on a pedestal, then remove the pedestal!"
Is there a sense, looking ahead, that the new school Kaiser Chiefs have to find a new way to continue because of this culture?
"I don't know. We've cleaned the slate a bit and we're back to square one but we've always enjoyed that position. It's kind of daunting too, I don't think any of us have thought about the future or a new album yet. No studios have been booked..."
After you get to that point, will you have to think of a new way of doing things though? A new way of going about your business?
"People just believe things happens to bands, in the same way they believe I'm a multi-millionaire who's on a yacht at the weekend, which isn't true either - well that's what I tell my friends when it's my turn to buy a round! [laughs] The perception is it's a great big machine, but it's just the same lads getting together making noises and there's no grand plan or scheme. I'm not lying. That's what's exciting about it, we haven't got a boss and that's what anyone in a band is trying to avoid. We work so hard not to work."
Have you listened to the singles collection from start to finish yet?
"I've listened to it three times while running and I ran for the entire length of it and I got proper Goosebumps on two occasions to the point it was proper thrilling. One was at the end of Never Miss A Beat and one was On The Run, the new one."
The singles are fixed, you can't rewrite history in the same you can with a best of and only include favourites, has it triggered any flashbacks?
"The nostalgia is amazing. Simon and I drove up to Leeds last week and we got out at a petrol station and it reminded me of The Ordinary Boys tour [the Kaisers' first major tour], I was like, Simon it smells like The Ordinary Boys tour! He didn't know what I was talking about. But I love it. I look back and now I don't even think of it as me. I don't think I could stand in front a bunch of people, especially people from the music industry, and dance round like we used to. It's crazy the stuff we've done, I can't believe it sometimes, but that's all for the best of..."
Have you learnt anything about yourself from listening back?
"Definitely. I was a lot more concerned with rhyming than sense at the beginning, which was probably a good thing. I just enjoy it, particularly when I remember doing things when no one knew who we were. Like writing Oh My God, I remember one line exactly. I remember walking to the shop to buy my dinner and Nick had this bit for the chorus that had to change. However with Nick, it will only change if it's so obviously better that there's no discussion. He suggested: It don't matter to me because all I wanted be is left to my own resources like Only Fools And Horses. I said we can't have that and I remember coming up with ...A million miles from here, somewhere more familiar on my walk. We were only doing it for us, there was no one else involved. I wasn't thinking about Q or the fans or the festivals or anything like that. I was thinking about our first gig! "
And now people sing that song at football matches.
"It's in the British consciousness. The headlines in The Sun, or the sports pages where they write I Predict A... Oh My... whatever. I think it's great we're in the Dictionary Of Modern Phrases for things we've said in songs. Getting into the consciousness of Great Britain has been one of our lasting achievements."
Anything you regretted picking as a single now?
"Yep, but I'm not telling you! [wicked laugh]"
You're appearing on the new, "Next Generation" version of Jeff Wayne's War Of The Worlds album as the Artilleryman, did you enjoy doing that?
"I only did two days work on it for the album. I really enjoyed it because it was so hard. I've never really sung harmony, that's Nick's job, and now I'm suddenly doing harmonies to my own voice and talking with a pre-recorded Liam Neeson. I was thinking, What the fuck am I doing here? but it's great and they're really happy with it. I was one of the first people on the record but since then - and I can't tell you and I wish I could - I've found out who else is on it and it's fair to say I'm the least famous person at that particular party! The arena tour, I can't believe I'm doing, is mental. It's one song a night for 30 days, easy! Also on the tour is Marti Pellow and Jason Donovan. I remember going to the hairdressers with a picture of Jason Donovan when I was younger!"
Is this something you'll do more of?
"No! The thing that annoys me is people saying I'm going into musical theatre, I'm not. It's an orchestra in an arena, not Rock Of Ages."
Are you interested in doing more projects outside the band though?
"Yeah I am. I'll go for a meeting with anyone really. I'm in a band and we play at night so I've got plenty of hours in the day. I made a decision last year to do things that frightened me a little bit and that was the first one. I went for a couple of meetings with The Voice but that didn't work out for me, but I'm not sure if that was a good or a bad thing, because if I had Souvenir might be Number 1 now. That's thing, there aren't really many opportunities for music on TV these days, unless you're prepared to do cookery. And really, do you want to see Plan B chop a carrot... that sounds like some weird slang, doesn't it?"
Finally, if someone had told the lead singer of Parva that one day he'd release a singles collection, what would he have said?
"I can't think whether I'd do it again. It was a lot of hard work! I'd do it again if I knew I'd get here but I think there's something weird about someone who has total belief, which I had. I was probably more cocky then than I am now. There were certain times after Parva where if you'd told me that I would have broken down in tears because it was horrible. People think we wrote the Kaiser Chiefs songs and got signed straightaway, but that's not what happened. We sent of a demo with Oh My God on it and everyone turned us down! Then we went on The Ordinary Boys tour because they liked us and I swear their label only signed us because Preston told them to. They signed us for a pittance then sold us round the world for millions, but you can't begrudge them because they invested when no one else would. It's amazing how many people do interviews on TV now with our discs behind them. You want to know who was responsible for our success? Us five."
Paul Stokes @Stokesie
For more head to Kaiserchiefs.com.
11:04 AM | 04/07/2012
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