Like them or not, there is no denying that Kaiser Chiefs are among the best live acts around. I have seen them three times, interviewed them as much. (Once for Billboard, twice for NTV). Ricky Wilson is just a beast onstage. He goes wild and makes the crowd go even wilder. The band just never fails to deliver. So, the news that they would play in Istanbul for the second time around, was more than welcome.
The show was, of course, amazing. Everyone went home happy and satisfied. Me, on the other hand, added yet another bizarre interview to my portfolio. I was the first one to interview the group among a couple of journalists. Ricky Wilson and Simon Rix to be exact. Whereas Simon was a doll, all jokes and smiles (and certainly easy on the eyes), Mr Wilson was his moody self. To his credit, at least he knew it. At one point, he even self apologetically promised that he’d try to “cheer up.” So I did my best to extract whatever I could, for a serious culture and arts show, in about five minutes (not exactly the ten we were promised).
After I learned that this time, they actually explored the city for a couple of days and loved it, I moved on to the important stuff. The lukewarm reception of the last record…
Whose idea was it to come up with a “choose your album” marketing campaign for the new record? Yours or the label’s?
Ricky: Oh, it was the band. Definitely the band. We wanted to come up with the idea because we wanted to do something different. Not something that we had done before…It also solved a lot of problems for us because it gave us the motivation to do it. It didn’t leak –which most albums do. It made us very excited while we were doing it. The music was better because of that I think. So yeah, it was definitely the band.
So you’re absolutely happy with that decision? You don’t regret it?
Ricky: Nooo, why would we regret it? It was amazing. It was really, really good. We had the best two years of making a record anyone’s ever had. (So he’s either lying to me, or NME. I’m guessing me.)
You have said that it changed people’s perceptions towards the band. In what way?
Ricky: I don’t think I said that.
(Stops abruptly and gazes at me. Seeing the look on my face, he starts laughing. Happy to irritate the irritating interviewer. Then Simon comes to the rescue.)
Simon: “I think it did, I think it did a little bit you know…I think it was an interesting and brave thing to do. I don’t think it was necessarily what everyone expected from our band.” Ricky mutters, “oh maybe, yeah…” Simon concludes, “That is why, people might be thinking twice about our band.”
I decide to move on to neutral ground by asking why they chose “The Future is Medieval” as the album title. Ricky answers: “I don’t know. You have to ask Nick.”
I’m lost. Simon has a knowing and a rather sad grin on his face. He has seen this film before. I say, “Oh, Ok.” Ricky then turns to his bandmate, “Do you know why he chose it?” Poor Simon. The look on his face compels Ricky to add, “Sorry, I will cheer up.” Simon looks at him with a confirming smile and kindly orders: “Cheer up!” Ricky gets the message. “I don’t know” he says. “It kind of worked at the time. It felt like it fit with the record. But it’s no real explanation.”
I want to ask about Souvenir, their latest singles album, but Ricky cuts me in the middle. He thinks I’m inquiring about the obvious title. He thinks I am an idiot. He explains, “It makes perfect sense. It is basically a souvenir of being in the Kaiser Chiefs for the last eight years. So instead of buying all four records, which will cost you a lot of money or a lot of download time, you can just buy one souvenir of the last eight years of Kaiser Chiefs.”
Why did you want to do a singles album at this exact moment? Many thought it was to remind people that you really do have a lot of great songs. (This is the kindest way I can ask whether the release is to restore their prestige, a move that’s part of some kind of damage control before the festival season.)
Ricky: Yeah, it’s a really good by-product of it. It’s something we’re really proud of. When you listen to it, it’s surprising how many hits we have had in such a small amount of time. So maybe it is a good reason: to remind people that we are still going strong. I don’t know.
If you want to clear the muddy waters, always ask about a new project! That is what I do when I ask about “War of the Worlds.”
Ricky explains: In the seventies, a man called Jeff wrote an album which sold like, I don’t know, under a million copies? It was called “War of the Worlds”. Since then, he’s been taking it on tour, playing arenas with an orchestra…
Here, my cameraman says he has to pause due to a technical problem. I look at him with disbelief. We stop for a minute. I am trying to come up with ideas to edit this thing in my head. When the problem is fixed and it’s time to resume, Ricky gayly concludes, “Ok, yeah..Then that’s how it came about!” Oh my…Simon is laughing. Very funny, indeed.
Ricky had his fun so he continues, “No, he’s been taking this on tour with an orchestra. He also re-recorded the record. It was finished in two years. I’m on that record with a lot of other people like Liam Neeson and other people I can’t tell you about yet. I’m going to go on tour with him and sing it to people. It’s great because the band tours on Christmas and we are not doing anything with Kaiser Chiefs on Christmas anyway. So it fit in perfectly.”
I want to ask them about a comment they have made on the decline of guitar music. But since Ricky has been so nice (!) all night, I have to start by saying: Here’s another thing Nick said…They can’t help but laugh. A sincere one this time, thank God.
Nick had said that guitar music’s popularity is at an all-time low. Mark Lanegan going electro, Muse doing dubstep, festival line-ups being dominated by dance and r&b acts… How is this shift affecting you?
Ricky: I don’t think it’s at an all time low. That would mean that it wasn’t any good. But it’s probably amazing that no one can hear it because it’s not on your radio stations all the time or the tvs. There will always be amazing guitar music in garages, cafes and pubs…It’s just that at the moment it’s not what the kids really want to listen to, which I think is probably a good thing for guitar music because you can’t have too much of it. You have to have a feast and famine to make sure that things move on…He pauses and turns to Simon, “I don’t know what I am talking about! Does it make sense?”
Simon goes: Sort of, yeah…I mean we are here and there are a lot of guitar bands playing at this festival. (Not to mention headliners Selah Sue and Kimbra…) So there’s still plenty of stuff going on. I just think that at the moment, there are a lot of big artists dominating the radio and sort of smaller, indie bands are getting less of a chance. That’s a shame but I am sure that it will change.
Ricky adds: When we first started playing, guitar bands were really popular, right? It was a big thing. Then for about good ten years, it was really unpopular. But we still carried on playing guitars and we still enjoy it. I don’t think it really matters how famous or how far you are from it, as long as you enjoy doing it and carry on doing it.
For about a good minute, I had been ignoring the tap on my shoulder, a signal to end the interview. I squeeze in one last q.
Just a single yes or no…Would you ever play a set without Ruby?
Ricky is quick to say yes. Simon agrees, “We personally like to play it so why would we not play it? But if we got requested not to…” Ricky grins, “If some billionaire said, ‘will you play at my party but you know I hate Ruby’, I would not play it.”
My time is up. I say, “thanks a lot” –with a million other things under my teeth.
Ricky smiles back: Thanks very much, indeed!
Sure, I think, this was good entertainment right? Can’t wait for the fourth interview!
Concerts Photos by Muhsin Akgun. www.muhsinakgun.com