Ashton Court Festival', Bristol 23rd July
Icons Hold Their Own With Young Guns
Keith Clark -
'Bristol Evening Post' - 24th July 2006 (UK)
After two days
that were dominated by the young guns of the
local music scene it was left to a bloke in
his late 40s to finish off the weekend and
show the younger bands just how it is done.
It may be some
years since Jim Kerr and Simple Minds were
filling massive stadiums and arenas, but they
showed that they were still more than capable
of putting on the big show.
And the adulation
from the huge crowd was obvious.
But Simple Minds
didn't go for the easy option. It wasn't a
set completely dominated by nostalgia for
their 80s heyday.
band are experiencing something of a revival
thanks to their current album, Black &
White 050505, and a number of newer songs,
including a powerful version of Home were
given an airing. And a large section of the
crowd knew all the words. But it was the classics
that we had all come to hear.
And the gems
from the past like Sanctify Yourself
and a spellbinding version of Waterfront.
was their big hit Don't You (Forget About
Me) that had the audience singing along
with real enthusiasm.
in good shape and still does all the dance
moves and the full gambit of extravagant rock
singer poses but his voice no longer has the
full strength of the old days and it was sometimes
difficult to hear him against Charlie Burchill's
big guitar riffs.
The set closed
with Alive & Kicking and that
summed it all up. Simple Minds may not be
the big hitters that they once were but they
are still very much alive and kicking.
Keith Clark -
'Seven Magazine, Bristol Evening Post' - 20th
July 2006 (UK)
who are headlining this year's Orange Ashton
Court Festival, have been on a year-long tour
that has taken them across the world. And
they are thoroughly enjoying being back on
the road again, as frontman Jim Kerr told
Keith Clark After a three-year hiatus, Simple
Minds returned with their highly successful
album Black And White 050505 last September,
and it has been business as usual ever since.
For the Scottish band embarked on a year-long
tour of the world's arenas and festivals playing
to massive crowds of devoted fans who showed
that the band needn't have worried when they
sang Don't You (Forget About Me) all those
One of the gigs on this tour will see them
headlining the Orange Ashton Court Festival
this weekend and, special though this will
be, we just can't hope to compete with one
of their recent shows - playing beneath Berlin's
Brandenburg Gate in a concert to herald the
start of the World Cup.
"We love playing anyway but to combine
that with the football, and we are obviously
huge football fans, made that something not
to be missed once we were asked," said
frontman Jim Kerr.
"It was kind of overwhelming because
the stage was literally under the Brandenburg
Gate. It brought back memories of the first
time I went to Berlin in 1979 and going to
the Brandenburg Gate and seeing the wall.
We couldn't have imagined then what was to
"This World Cup event was more a TV event
than a rock 'n' roll event, it was like Top
Of The Pops from the Brandenburg Gate, but
it was something not to be missed."
three decades - during which time they scored
more than 20 Top 20 hits, including All The
Things She Said and Alive And Kicking, sold
30 million records, had five number one albums,
a number one single in America and three American
Top 10 singles - Simple Minds have been major
worldwide attractions, gaining them the accolade
from Q magazine as "the world's best
But despite relentless touring for so many
years, Jim says he still enjoys being out
on the road with the band.
"Thankfully, I still enjoy touring; in
fact I enjoy it immensely. I'm probably enjoying
it more now. For a while, although we hadn't
actually quit, we had certainly stepped back
from any real momentum and although we did
occasional gigs here and there this has been
a real bona fide tour, a year long and we
will have played on almost every continent,
and I think you can only do that if you enjoy
"It must be hell for the people I've
come across who love playing but don't love
touring. Even if you work in a bank you can
go home at the end of the day and get weekends
off and holidays, but on a tour you have to
wave goodbye to things like that. It is part
of the deal."
Many bands will tell you that the worst part
of touring is the hours they spend just waiting
around with nothing to do, but Jim doesn't
see this as a problem.
"You do spend so much time hanging around
waiting, but if you've got three hours to
spare and you're in, say, Amsterdam and you
choose to spend it in your hotel room rather
than visiting one of the museums around the
corner then you've only got yourself to blame.
Many people would kill to do that."
The latest album has a big, sweeping, multi-layered
sound that recalls everything you ever liked
about Simple Minds. However, despite the size
of their sound, Jim says they always felt
confident that they could translate this onto
the live stage.
"We are a band who have toured a lot
and, even if I say it myself, we're pretty
good at it, and we've always been pretty good
at not only getting stuff translated onto
stage but actually making it better, because
inherently I think Simple Minds are a live
"For this album the approach to the recordings
was like the early days. It was band-like,
with everyone in the same room as opposed
to lots of computers, and because the album
was recorded almost in a live way it meant
that the translation was much more immediate.
"We then used the computers to enhance
it and stuff, but fundamentally it was four
or five guys in a room playing, and that is
what it is live."
The Eighties was a time when so much new technology
was introduced and the music world took it
all on board, especially in the studio. The
feeling was that because it was there it had
to be used, sometimes to excess. Jim feels
that Simple Minds went through a period when
they were as guilty as any of them in relying
too much on technology.
"The technology has been both a blessing
and a curse for us. I suppose we embraced
it at a point when we had got bored with the
band, which was about eight or nine albums
in. The technology came out and we went 'wow'
and embraced it. But then you began to see
after a while that there are gains and losses.
"However, once we got to these songs
and writing them they seemed to suggest that
they should be approached in a live way.
"We got all excited and went 'let's do
it as a band, just plug in and make it just
sound like a band'. In a way it is easier
said than done but I think the songs were
really good to begin with and the dynamics
were great and the band pulled it off with
The result was some of the best reviews that
Simple Minds have had for years; even some
of the trendiest music papers, who in the
past probably would have written off a band
this well established, had to admit that,
while it was classic Simple Minds, they had
come up with something that is every bit as
relevant as all the modern bands who have
been influenced by them.
"Yes, I think we got a fair crack of
the whip, people got behind it and said the
kind of things we would have hoped they would
"I think the net result of the album
and the live tour, and the commitment by the
band to both those aspects, has been that
even our biggest critics would hesitate a
wee bit before writing us off as some Eighties
band that was just churning it out. For that
reason alone, I have to be happy."
Academy, Newcastle 6th February 2006
Gordan Barr -
'Newcastle Evening Chronicle' 7th July 2006
majority of the audience were 35-plus, but
that didn't stop a fair number of them forgetting
their age and jumping up and down like there
was no tomorrow.
last time I saw Simple Minds was back in the
early 1990s when they played Gateshead Stadium.
This is a much, much smaller venue, and just
as well, as Kerr's voice simply isn't as strong
as it used to be.
times during the gig you struggled to hear
his recognisable tones, and now and again
you thought the vocal chords may even give
the consummate professional, he persevered
and at times the magic of old returned as
thought it had never left.
give him his due, was on stage for just under
two hours, showing terrific stamina - though
the beads of sweat were evident from just
minutes into the concert. A great workout,
gig mixed plenty of new material with a smattering
of the old stuff. Waterfront was the first
number to really get the crowd going, but
Someone Somewhere (In Summertime), Up On The
Catwalk, See The Lights and Love Song were
equally well received.
and then the gig lost momentum when the pace
slowed down with some of the newer material,
and it took a good two minutes for the fans
to get behind the anthemic Don't You (Forget
said, the night ended on a high - after two,
lengthy, encores - to the strains of Alive
and Kicking. Something that Jim Kerr and the
band obviously are very much still.
titans Simple Minds return with an album that
recalls their glory days. Guitarist Charlie
Burchill talks to Tim Slater about playing
at the original Live Aid and his-new found
love for the pedal steel...
Tim Slater -
'Guitar Buyer' - November 2005 (UK)
majestic pop/rock hybrid made the band simply
unstoppable during their mid-1980s peak. The
Scottish foursome built their music on a grand
scale, that relied more on carefully constructed
dynamics and space than traditional rock histrionics
- U2 were surely watching enviously as their
Scottish rivals conquered the charts and the
world's megastadia. Like U2, Simple Minds'
portentous sound served as a backdrop for
the band's outspoken political views, not
least their refusal to play at South Africa's
then-notorious Sun City leisure complex, which
helped to maintain awareness of the Anti-Apartheid
movement and similar worthy causes. July 1985
marked what was probably Simple Minds' zenith
when they played at the American leg of the
original Live Aid concert. Unbeknown to the
band, their masterful performance was let
down by a faulty satellite link, meaning that
only a brief fraction of their four-song set
was sent out live to the watching world.
Simple Minds' guitarist since the band formed
in Glasgow in 1978, recalls the atmosphere
backstage shortly before Simple Minds played
at the historic concert.
"It was an amazing
gig, and I remember that there were two stages
with multiple set-ups. Bo Diddley was set
up near us and I was standing with my guitar,
getting ready to go on. We were obviously
supposed to keep quiet because there were
bands on stage playing, but Bo plugged into
his amp, started playing, and he just turns
around and looks at me and says 'Plug in and
play, young man'. It was surreal because there
were all these famous people around like Jack
Nicholson and everybody was very accessible
and up for it, er, except Madonna."
quality of Charlie Burchill's guitar work
perfectly encapsulated the best of what 1980s
guitar playing was all about. Along with Andy
of The Police, U2's The Edge and Alex Lifeson
from Rush, Burchill helped to pioneer exciting
new guitar sounds and techniques based on
judicious note placement and tasteful use
of effects, rather than rehashed Chuck Berry
riffs played at around two million decibels
started when I first got an echo in the early
days of the band," explains the amiable Scot.
"Space was something that we worked on from
the beginning, because we wanted the band
to sound really big. Mick [MacNeil, keys]
would use a lot of pads and multi-timbral
sounds, and I found that the best way to work
with that was to be quite sparse and inject
stuff, rather than play all over it. The echo
was the thing, because then you could sound
like keyboards - when I started using rhythmic
echoes I thought that was the way to go, but
you need space for it. I'm pretty certain
that The Edge and I discovered an echo unit
at the same time. I've never really thought
about that before. People like Mick Ronson
were the bridge [between pre and post punk
guitar playing] because he was a rock player
who was also an arranger, and by the time
I was finding my way I wanted to play in a
more linear way."
blades like Muse and Bloc Party have unveiled
their admiration for Simple Minds' music,
and consequently there is a veritable torrent
of revised critical opinion on the band, who
are preparing for a short tour in February
2006 to support their new album Black & White
050505. With the sounds of the 1980s so much
in vogue after so many years, Burchill admits
that he does spot elements of Simple Minds'
influence on today's top bands.
"I think that
Franz Ferdinand have got a lot of Simple Minds
about them. It's not that they are copying
us, but something about the angular guitar
sounds really reminds me of early Simple Minds."
Black & White
As a fully paid-up
member of the Guitar Freaks Club, Charlie
Burchill is the proud owner of some beautiful
instruments. Gibson and Ibanez Flying Vs,
vintage Strats and a gorgeous white Gibson
ES-355 have all rotated through Simple Minds'
guitar line-up, and there's no sign of Mr
Burchill slowing down yet. "I remember I always
wanted a sunburst Les Paul," he offers, "because
I dreamed of owning one when I started, and
that was the first guitar that took up my
"I love the
Flying V. It's something that should be kitsch
and in bad taste, but they look bloody amazing.
I know that a lot of metal players like them,
but Jim [Kerr, lead vocals] just brought a
white Flying V; he doesn't even play guitar,
but he got one anyway."
"Most of the
new album was recorded with a Gretsch White
Falcon that I've had for years. It's a '62
and it's a fabulous guitar. I can't see past
Gretsch at the moment, and the thing that
I love about it is that no matter how distorted
you make it, it still has that classic Gretsch
clarity. It's a nightmare to control live
though, and I use a Les Paul for the main
part of the set. You really have to grapple
with a Gretsch, and a friend of mine pointed
out that for the most part they were built
from shit. They had shitty woods, they ahd
shit pickups but they are unbelievable guitars.
I just struggle with it, but it's worth it.
"The White Falcon
has a Bigsby on it and I've got a Bigsby on
the Les Paul that I use now that stays in
tune amazingly well. My main Les Paul is a
standard; I've got a Black Beauty as well,
but the main one I use is a real generic Standard
from about 1995: it plays great. My guitar
tech did a great job on it, but the Gretsch
demands that you've just got to be careful."
new album, 050505, kicks in with some classic
Burchill riffing, and while his guitar work
remains as understated as ever, it still powers
along like a stealth bomber, backed up by
a veritable arsenal of harware. Indeed, the
old valve/solid-state amplifier argument is
one which Charlie is having with himself all
happy because we did it like a band this time:
we set up and played live in the old way,
and we had just about every combination of
amps and speakers imaginable.
favourite amp is a Matchless DC30, but I also
had a Fender Twin and a Vox AC30. I also used
a Line 6 Vetta, mainly for effects, running
through a valve amp via the line out. We had
real difficulty at the beginning because we
had to find different ways of balancing the
levels when we were running the effects through
the valve amps. It took a lot of tweaking
and a lot of fiddling about to get the levels
"I used a lot
of thythmic echo, and the great thing about
the Vetta is that everything is temo-based
and it's very easy to program. Soundwise,
it's maybe not as good as having real tape
echoes, but you have access to just about
everything that you'd ever need.
"The thing is
that when I hooked into the Line 6 stuff,
it changed the way that I thought about amps,
but recently I started thinking that I should
get back into amps again, instead of just
taking a direct out from the Vetta. When you're
piling it through an enormous PA it sounds
great, but you still feel that it isn't as
good as the 'real' thing. It kinda' goes in
circles and now I'm thinking about going back
to amps, but I enjoy discovering new things
and there's still a lot to discover, you know?"
Give Us A
about his pratice routine, Burchill typically
has a more reflective approach, rather than
committing himself to endless hours of unbridled
a mixture of things, really, and like most
people I tend to go through phases. I went
through a phase of playing classical guitar,
and although I'm not that good, I just love
the challenge and love to finally get through
a piece. I enjoy working out the counterpoint
stuff and felt really encouraged to study
a lot more and start reading as well. Then
I kind of stopped it and went back to playing
for fun. I've been thinking that I really
need to get back into studying because I'm
getting much better with my fingerpicking
and I'd really love to be a really good picker:
I was listening to some Paul Simon stuff and
I'd love to be able to play guitar like him,
he is a brilliant guitar player.
"In my spare
time I also use a lot of thuning. When I'm
working out what to play on a tune I'll do
a quick pass and something unusual will come
out from that. For example, if I was doing
a minor chord of any description, there's
a shape that I like to use. I can't even describe
it, but for me it's something that I would
just gravitate towards. There's a kind of
Celtic thing, in that I'll often try to avoid
minor or major thirds and make the chords
sound a bit more ambiguous. Often I'll go
for a root and fifth, or play an inversion
with a suspended forth or something like that.
I love to try and get unusual note clusters,
like semitones apart on strings: to create
a mild dissonance where the chord doesn't
feel like it's sitting where you'd normally
expect. Live, I have about three guitars with
different tunings, but it kind of varies depending
on the set we're doing. There are certain
tracks where I will use a specific tuning,
but I'll only maybe use two or three during
the course of a concert.
"A great tuning
that I love is this [low to high] DGDGAD.
That's a nice one. I don't understand quite
why, but when you find a new tuning that works,
suddenly your whole world opens up a million
to experiment with different tunings also
extends to instruments where you can do it
on the fly... "I've got a Telecaster with
a Palm Bender on the G and B strings," he
explains. "It sounds like a pedal steel, but
I've also got a real pedal steel guitar and
when you tune that thing and start to run
your fingers through the strings you come
up with incredible stuff. It's amazing, I
wish that I could play it really well because
I love the tone. I've got a cheap one because
BJ Cole [legendary Brit pedal steel viruoso:
played on the Benny Hill Show theme, last
seen playing live with The Verve - Triva Ed.]
advised me not to buy an expensive one - and
I still play it. What a sound. The intervals
compensate for just using a bar, but when
you watch the experts playing they are putting
their hands into shapes as well, they're angling
it and using the pedal and knee levers; it's
departs for a Simple Minds rehearsal he lets
slip that alongside his beloved pedal steel,
more gadgets might be making their way into
been wondering if I should start getting back
into the guitar synth again. I used to have
a stupid plastic Casio guitar thing with plastic
strings and we did an album with an instrumental
track at the end where nearly everything was
played on that little guitar. It was dynamite
but it depends on how you use it. It's only
your imagination that makes barriers isn't
No solo album
from the 'Minds axeman just yet... "I
love virtuoso-type guys like Adrian Legg and
Davey Graham," says Burchill when we ask if
he's thought about putting out his own record.
"Mind you, if I did a solo album it would
probably end up sounded like Simple Minds!
Jim and I have tried the idea of doing new
projects under a different name to try some
new ideas or new territories, but we never
really get it off the ground because everything
we do sounds like Simple Minds. At some point
I'd love to make an album using a baritone
guitar because there has to be a place for
that. Even though it's the same tuning, you
play differently. I suppose guitars are like
that, for example I've got a Gibson Barney
Kessel and there are some things that just
won't work on it. Every time that I play it
I end up playing jazz."
equal a top acoustic tone according to Charlie
Burchill "I did use heavy strings on my
electric guitars at one point, but now I just
use Ernie Ball and Dean Markley light top,
heavy bottom guages. "Recently I've been toying
with the idea of going back to heavy strings,
because I bought a couple of Gibson acoustic
guitars and one sounded great and one sounded
really bad. I realised that the best-sounding
one had really heavy strings, and I appreciated
that the difference was pretty staggering.
I don't think that it makes such a difference
on an electric guitar, except maybe on the
low E, but I think that it makes a massive
difference on an acoustic guitar."
Charlie Burchill's skilful guitar work on
these stonking Simple Minds tracks..
The Times', Theme 19 - Volume 4 (1989)
Simple Minds have recorded dozens of cover
versions, ranging from Human League to Velvet
Underground but this 1980s take on Prince's
apocalyptic warning of impending doom is appropriately
You A Miracle', New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84)
(1982) By 1982 Simple Minds had the big
synth rock sound that became their trademark.
Burchill's guitar interlocks seamlessly with
Mick MacNeil's keyboards and the economical
guitar solo is a classic example of straightforward
but effective 1980s guitar playing. The live
version from 1987's Live In The City Of Light
is even better.
Sparkle In The Rain (1984) A pulsing bass
line underpins this anthem, punctuated by
Burchill's stabbing harmonics and echo-laced
whammy bar work. Alex Lifeson must have been
watching closely because his own playing on
Rush's Grace Under Pressure LP from the same
year sounds particularly inspired by Charlie
Black & White 050505 (2005) The lead-in
track from Simple Minds' new album is an absolute
belter; Jim Kerr has rarely sung better and
guitar playing is amazing. Lead guitar, Jim,
but not as we know it. For those looking to
grab a slice of the latest SM action, Black
and White is available now, available from
any music trader worth his salt.
Meeting Of Minds
talks to Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr about
stardom second time around...
- icbirmingham.icnetwork.co.uk - 3rd October
Way back in
the 1980s, Simple Minds were one of the biggest
bands on the planet. There was simply no way
of avoiding them.
Like a Scottish
U2, their home was the world's largest stadiums
and the band's albums sold by the barrowload.
Fronted by Jim
Kerr and instantly recognisable for Charlie
Burchill's strident guitar slashes, they scored
hit single after hit single and could seemingly
do no wrong.
Just like U2,
they married a humanistic political stance
with massive air-punching choruses. They were
the very epitome of the first Live Aid generation,
rubbing shoulders with Nelson Mandela and
lending their influential name to all the
from humble punk roots to media darlings was
hard won. Starting life as the shambolic Johnny
and the Self Abusers, the band only began
to get into their stride when they changed
their name to Simple Minds and tied their
punky spunk to a raft of art rock influences
from Bowie to Roxy Music via the then de rigeur
Like the first
incarnation of Ultravox, their was something
otherworldly and post-modernly clinical about
early Simple Minds.
A debut album,
Life In A Day was a bit of a limp lettuce
marred by weak production and overly commercial
material, but a second set for Virgin, Reel
to Reel Cacophany, saw the band starting to
come into its own.
cryptic lyrics and obtuse guitar made it an
instant favourite in sixth form common rooms
across the land.
Empires and Dance was even better, with the
same experimental spirit given a commercial
spit and polish. Opening track I Travel gave
Simple Minds their first hint of a hit single.
to go better with the double set Sons and
Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. Produced
by Steve Hillage, the album managed to include
mostly classic songs, despite its long running
New Gold Dream
hit paydirt though and put the band in the
super league. It had the same effect on their
career as REM's Green or U2's Unforgettable
Fire. Nothing would be the same again.
The band handled
it well, putting in the legwork with ever-expanding
tours and bigger and bolder albums.
Sparkle In The
Rain, Once Upon A Time and Streetfighting
Years were massive sellers all. The gigs became
more messianic and Jim Kerr found himself
sitting at the top table of rock's new aristocracy.
Sadly, it wasn't
to last. As the gigs became bigger, Simple
Minds were forced to make the albums more
anthemic and pretty quickly the powerful hooks
became all posture and bluster.
When you reach
the top by riding a simple formula there is
nowhere else to go but down. Lacking the savvy
for reinvention of U2, Simple Minds were quickly
forgotten, Britpop was the final nail in the
The band regrouped
spasmodically but the handful of albums in
the last ten years showed a band trying to
bimble its way out of a cul de sac armed only
with some powerchords and a vague notion of
avoided the pitfalls of nostalgic package
tours which have kept the soup on the table
for the likes of the Human League, ABC and
Spandau Ballet and quietly drifted off to
various parts of Europe. Jim Kerr fetched
up in Sicily where after a couple of high
profile marriages to Patsy Kensit and Chrissie
Hynde he seemed to have relaxed into the life
of a gardener and small businessman.
out of the blue, Simple Minds are back. Touting
their strongest album in years, Black & White
050505, they are about to embark on a UK tour
which takes them away from the stadiums and
back into venues where they will be able to
actually see their fans.
for once, is perfect. With Franz Ferdinand
leading a new charge of Scottish artschool
dilettantes and a full-on 1980s electrorock
revival, the name Simple Minds is once again
cool - as long as you don't mention the later
Black & White
050505 sounds like the work of an old friend
who's been given a new lease of life. Familiar
without flogging an old horse, it plays to
all the band's strengths and is hugely refreshing.
Simple Minds, miraculously, sound relevant
Jim Kerr's in
upbeat spirits when I talk to him in a London
hotel room. He's also disarmingly honest.
The phrase 'return to form" has been
bandied round in relation to the new material,
so dismissing the band's entire post-peak
output. How does that make Kerr feel?
"Well, it is
a return to form," he says.
decade was very stop start for us. That's
part and parcel of having a long career. The
people who inspired us - David Bowie, Lou
Reed - have all been through long periods
when their work has not been as focussed,
for whatever reason."
With the feeling,
possibly, that this was the band's last chance,
Kerr and co rolled up their sleeves and got
was a concentrated effort this time,"
admits Kerr. "We closed door and said
let's get it done.
to make a record that made people sit up and
along the way discovered a vitality. It took
a commitment creatively and also with our
sessions, a lot of material was recorded but
only 42 minutes-worth made the final cut.
This was a delberate ploy. Rather than releasing
a long and potentially flabby album, Simple
Minds have delivered something that's taut,
melodic and memorable.
some very good songs that didn't make the
album as they would have disrupted its flow.
They would have stuck out.
'We wanted the
album to be solid and focussed whereas in
the past we were probably tempted to simply
pile them up."
The album was
mixed by studio legend Bob Clearmountain who
was responsible for the stadium mashing sound
on Once Upon A Time.
This was an
astute move for, as Kerr readily admits: "There
is a certain style of Simple Minds song which
he makes sound fantastic. Once I heard what
he'd done with (first single) Home and Stay
Visible, the hair on the back of my neck was
starting to stand up."
Being away from
the top flight for so long, success for a
second time is far from guaranteed for Simple
Minds. I asked Kerr what he was hoping to
achieve with the album.
"I suppose we
were hoping for visibility," he says. "Hoping
that things get heard. That exercise now feels
complete amd the reaction we've had, both
nationally and internationally, has been fantastic.
a long way towards reestablishing us.
material sounds brilliant live and slots in
effortlessly next to the older stuff. We now
want to continue working and build on this
& White 050505
rockers Simple Minds have recently returned
with new album 'Black & White 050505'. We
pitched up for a chat with frontman Jim Kerr
- 3rd October 2005 (UK)
you've never really been away, people are
starting to call your new album 'Black & White
050505' a 'revival' and a 'return'. How do
you feel about that?
honest, our musical activity has been stop-and-start
for a while, and in that way this album is
a return. We wanted to prove ourselves. Everyone
worked really hard to make it the best we
What do you
think about the current '80s-influenced musical
decades always have a certain image, and until
recently the '80s weren't very popular. When
you saw clips on TV from the '80s they would
make fun of the strange clothes and haircuts,
but I think it's great people have started
to discover some of the better things that
went on then."
formed Simple Minds in the late '70s, did
you ever imagine you would still be playing
and recording almost 30 years later?
For me it was just about getting a gig, and
then another gig. When I talk to young bands
these days they are very career conscious,
but we never thought about anything like that."
As a band,
you have achieved pretty much everything.
What motivates you to still keep recording
'everything' isn't really what we were after.
I mean, it's great selling lots of records
and playing to thousands of people, but making
music is also about the passion. It's not
always so much that you like making music,
but that you get a song in your head. It's
the need for making music; the need to create
that keeps us going."
Do you still
get the same thrill out of playing live as
when you first started the band?
in a different way. It used to be quite a
fraught experience, I'd be nervous and panicky
and all the rest of it, but now I'm not. A
few weeks ago we were playing a TV show in
France, and this young girl was performing
for the first time. She was telling us how
nervous she was, and how it must be OK for
us because we'd played so many times before.
In a way that's not true, because we constantly
have to prove ourselves to everyone. People
might think 'Pah, they'll never be as good
as they were twenty years ago,' so we have
to better ourselves all the time, and that's
a constant challenge."
How has relocating
to Sicily changed what you do and your approach
there's a saying that says hardship makes
people more creative, but I think that people
will always perform and create better if they're
you felt at home when you went there. Why?
first went there 20 years ago, it felt mysteriously
right, but I couldn't explain why. The people
there are friendly, open and passionate about
life, and they have this fuck-off attitude
that islanders sometimes do, which feels great."
you been listening to lately?
been really busy lately, but I was really
pleased when Antony & The Johnsons won the
Mercury Prize a few weeks ago, even though
it caused a bit of turmoil."
To Simple Life Was Always On Jim's Mind
Liz Kennedy -
www.newsletter.co.uk - 30th September 2005
For a musician,
Jim Kerr knows plenty about football and,
when I spoke to him, he was even looking forward
to a Rangers game. The Simple Minds' legendary
frontman was in superb form and, with fans
and critics alike loving new album Black and
White 050505, the Glaswegian has plenty to
make him smile.
The band has
cornered the chat show circuit as well: booked
for The Late Late Show tonight on RTE and
last Friday they performed an energetic version
of new single Home on BBC's Jonathan Ross.
But there's music and then there's football.
Sometimes the two coincide. Himself a Celtic
supporter, Jim revealed that a disparaging
reference to Arsenal on his CD liner notes
is because his son James (from Kerr's marriage
to Patsy Kensit) is a major fan of the Gunners.
like to wind my son up, but don't get me wrong,
I'll be seeing Arsenal with him at the weekend.
I don't mind that at all, but worse than that,
James supports England." He moves on
to a recent and still resonant victory for
Northern Ireland: "What a great result
for your team against England. I was really
pleased to hear about it." I tell Jim
that you could hear the singing across Belfast
after England's recent rout at Windsor Park.
you could. I didn't see the match myself,
because I was in France, but I read about
it in the papers next day. I wonder is it
a return to the glory days?
seeing great Northern Ireland teams when I
was growing up. For small teams like Northern
Ireland or Scotland, it's a brilliant boost
to beat a big team. Northern Ireland are having
a real moment in the sunshine now." Jim
is well known as a Celtic supporter and says
that the team is still 'suffering a hangover'
since energetic Ulster manager Martin O'Neill
resigned to spend more time with his family.
But he is well
across Rangers' recent games and has a great
respect for the Ibrox team. "Glasgow
has two great clubs. Alex McLeish has always
been a big, big fan of Simple Minds. And Ally
McCoist gives me grief, especially when Rangers
scores against Celtic. After the match he'd
be straight on the phone." We discussed
the fact that Rangers were playing Inter Milan
in an empty stadium this week and Jim revealed
that he had a strong interest in Rangers'
lose either way. If the Gers pull off that
one, I can really give my Italian friends
some stick." Unfortunately as it now
turns out, they didn't, losing by a goal to
As Jim has spoken
of Martin O'Neill's non-stop motion, I tell
him that I think Simple Minds are showing
a great energy themselves these days; live
as well as on the back-on-form new album.
It's followed a quiet couple of years for
the band, who will be back in Belfast to kick
off their European tour in January.
a mysterious kind of a thing. Did we wake
up one day and it was all happening again?
Hard to say, I stepped back for a while, but
I'm devoted to music, so it was all still
there, just a question of returning to it.
It'll be a belter when we get back to Belfast!"
Black and White 050505 has the trademark big
sound that Simple Minds' fans will remember
and love. Jim laughs when we talk about how
funny, you'll like this. When foreign journalists
ask you about the sound of bands from Ireland
or Scotland, they always think it's something
to do with big wide open spaces and glens
and mountain ranges.
from Glasgow; there's no much of the mountain
there. We have a very distinctive sound and
it's great to have rediscovered that. There
are elements you have that are just your own
nature, influential genetics, this inherent
you could say it's our landscape." Part
of that unforgettable landscape is the classic
international Number One: Belfast Child. Jim
and I get involved in a discussion about Bob
Dylan's folk music influences, as portrayed
in the iconic Scorsese documentary and he
tells me how Simple Minds appropriated the
air of a classic Irish ballad for their haunting
hit. "We always felt a wee bit bogus,
because we'd used She Moved through the Fair
for Belfast Child. I felt a lot better when
I saw how much Dylan had done the same thing
with some of his early songs." He adds
a self-deprecating 'don't get me wrong, I'm
not saying Simple Minds are anywhere close
to Dylan' before he tells me that BBC Scotland
recently found that Mr Zimmerman's hit The
Times They are A Changin' was based on Scots'
folk-song Farewell to Sicily.
in Sicily for seven years now; it was odd
finding that out. It was a Scottish soldier's
lament, apparently. It was just odd hearing
that. I've had a complete change in lifestyle
and I'm really settled in Sicily now."
I ask the Glaswegian if he's ever homesick,
or if Sicily is now 'home'. "No, I know
fine well where I'm from; I've never felt
homesick. I'm lucky enough to be able to travel
to Glasgow whenever I want, but I'm happy
in Sicily, with the language, the culture
and, yeah, the weather is a big bonus."
That's reflected in album track Different
World (Taormina. Me), which name-checks the
beautiful mediaeval town and is something
of a 'musical postcard' for Sicily, according
to Kerr. We touch on another happy subject
when I ask him about his vocals, which sound
granite-hewn and soaked in whiskey, especially
on Dolphins, the last track on the album.
I venture to wonder whether he's ever abused
his voice and he laughs his leg off.
I can safely say I've never abused it... but
I've probably abused most other parts of my
body, now you come to mention it. But I'm
a good boy, when it comes to my voice. I'm
no much of a drinker, I don't smoke and I
look after myself, especially on tour."
to safer matters, I wonder whether Belfast
Child will be on the set-list here next year.
He begins "We play songs from every period;
if it feels right on the night, we'll do it,"
then he goes on in classic bad boy mode: "If
you want me to, I will."
see on the night, Jim, all I can say is, when
you open your European tour in Ulster next
year, Don't You Forget About Me.
London 12th September 2005
Les Linyard -
www.thecritic.info - 17th September 2005 (UK)
have been around since time immemorial or
so it seems - the bar tonight, chock-a-block
with competition winners who apparently hadn't
seen the band for 20 years (or similar), echoed
with stories of the invention of the wheel
and how things had improved since Saxon times,
OK I exaggerate, but you get my drift. The
reality is that their first album Life In
A Day was released in 1979, their latest,
the excellent Black & White 050505 has just
appeared on the shelves and it does more than
suggest there is life in the old dog yet!
The evidence supplied succintly by the album
was backed up by a scintillating set in intimate
surroundings when the band played the latest
of Capital Gold's Legend series of gigs.
The venue (The
Venue, off Leicester Square) was personally
selected for the concert by Jim Kerr, front
man and focal figure of the band, though the
excellent guitarist Charlie Burchill has also
been with the band from Day One. This small
and snug arena is famous for being the scene
of The Sex Pistols first ever gig (I doubt
if today's seating would have survived that
gig!), as the ever-youthful DJ Mr. David Jensen
informed us in his kind introduction. Fortunately,
another difference between this concert and
that long-gone punk moment was the fayre was
decidedly more coherent than anyone who witnessed
the aforementioned gig would remember (if
indeed they still can remember?) and the musicality
was on a far higher plane. Jim and Charlie
are today backed by a superb band, drummer
Mel Gaynor, bassist Eddie Duffy, and Keyboardist
Andy Gillespie, also not to be underestimated
are the latter two's fine harmonies that underpin
a lot of the Simple Minds repertoire.
To tell the
truth, I was expecting the show, recorded
for broadcast by Capital Gold, to be a 40
minute thank you and goodnight affair, with
a couple of new numbers thrown in to gently
introduce the new album to a hopefully returning
audience. What we actually got was a full-on,
all guns blazing 90 minute trek through their
awesome back catalogue, with four new tracks
intermingling perfectly along the way, the
new material stands proud with the old, particularly
the new single Home, which despite it's youthfulness
represented one of the evening's highlights.
I'm sure that a lot of the audience, the non-fans
obviously, were expecting a laid back show,
possibly passé, outmoded and unfashionable
due to the bands longevity, what they actually
received was a refreshingly contemporary and
neoteric set full of energy and occasionally
sheer class. Loud, straightforward and intoxicating,
the band seeming to excel and thrive on the
intimacy, they could rarely have been closer
to the audience (to the degree where Jim endured
several hugs from females with a friendly
thank you response!) and the audience raised
the roof in sing-alongs despite the small
number present. The crowd pleasers were all
present and correct, Don't You Forget About
Me, Sanctify Yourself, Waterfront and Alive
& Kicking all gaining great reactions. Overall
a super night that had even the ticket winning
sceptics nodding in awe - Simple Minds might
be ageing, gracefully it must be said, but
for energy and vigour this concert would take
some beating, for class and presentation it
would really take some beating. They are still
alive and kicking, check them out if you ever
get the opportunity....
(5 out of
London 12th September 2005
- www.musicomh.com - 17th September 2005 (UK)
They're only the band The Beatles could have
been!" Take this quotation from Alan
Partridge and substitute the words "Simple
Minds" and "U2" and a picture
emerges of how the fates dealt with these
80's rivals. Around this time, the two entities
were synonymous with overblown stadium rock,
all big drums, harmonics and synthesisers
(as keyboards were once known). Indeed, were
they in a race, it would be difficult to tell
who might win - U2 with their mulleted preacher
up front or "Ver Minds" with their
tubby Scot behind the mic. As the Berlin Wall
crumbled, though, it was U2 who pipped it,
having the imagination to clamber across and
record Achtung Baby while Simple Minds crashed
to the ground somewhere just outside Liepzig,
virtually disappearing off the pop radar.
So with all
these memories in the back of my mind, to
be within touching distance (not that I would,
you understand) of Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill
is somewhat, well, freaky. I'm sure U2 do
the occasional gig to 200 fans in an old punk
rock venue off Leicester Square - alright,
maybe not, but to be this close to a band
who recorded the Wembley-filling sounds of
Alive And Kicking and Love Song (both given
an airing tonight) is, simply, surreal.
For the crowd
of lucky Capital Gold listeners, however,
it's as close to orgasmic as many of them
can probably hope to get nowadays. The two
enthusiastic fat blokes at the front, with
a combined age of 100 if they were a day,
even knew the words to the first few tracks
from new album Black & White 050505 (which
I believe was a clue in The Times crossword
yesterday). And when Don't You Forget About
Me kicked in (almost a hit for Bryan Ferry,
apparently, and the key to Simple Minds "overnight"
success) their barely contained rapture burst
out, prompting several not-so-young-anymore
ladies to storm the stage for an opportunity
to touch their hero.
for sure, though - Jim Kerr hasn't lost it.
According to MC David Jensen, The Venue was
chosen by Kerr for its "theatricality",
and he made the most of this with his trademark
head movements, arm swinging and crouching
down (you had to be there). In fact, it made
me long for a time when singers in bands used
to dance - whatever happened to them? On an
equally positive note, the new material does
compare favourably with the old - although
nothing will ever beat the throb of Waterfront
for me. And yet, at the same time, therein
lies the problem.
You see, frankly,
the reason they ran out of steam in the first
place was that their material was never actually
as good as their rivals'. A song such as Mandela
Day (still in the set, it would seem) only
serves to remind us that the 80's were a long
time ago and, actually, weren't that much
cop anyway. That said (and I'm sure Kerr and
Burchill must say this to each other every
day recently) - what are The Bravery doing
today that Simple Minds didn't do better twenty
years ago? And for me, in many ways, that
just about sums it up. And if they've still
got it - well, let 'em flaunt it!
Paul Taylor -
www.manchesteronline.co.uk - September 2005
Doing what they
do best, Simple Minds opt for an unashamed,
nay chest-beating return to the days when
they bestrode the stadium rock world no less
comprehensively than U2.
every song here canters along like an avenging
warhorse through airy soundscapes amid a heavy
mist of significance, Charlie Burchill's guitars
chiming in the accustomed manner. Subtle,
(3 out of
- Mail On Sunday - 18th September 2005 (UK)
an opportunity amid current wave of Eighties
nostalgia, Simple Minds return with an album
that recalls their stadium-filling peak. Always
little more than a poor man's U2, the band
nevertheless prove here that they are still
capable of big, tuneful scarf-wavers, however
inconsequential their lyrics.
Jim Kerr's voice has mellowed into something
considerably better than the histrionic mewl
of 20 years ago, and the fine production brings
out the best in every song. There may be nothing
here to convert a younger audience, but standout
tracks Stay Visible, The jeweller Part 2 and
Different World will doubtless delight the
band's older fans and provide a platform for
a successful tour in the spring. That said,
the band's sound remains too one-dimensional
ever to become truly interesting.
(2 out of
London 12th September 2005
- 13th September 2005 (UK)
Hoary rockers alive and kicking in London...
Last night PlayLouder
found itself in the unlikely company of 200
or so Capital Gold listeners.
To catch 80s rockers Simple Minds do a blistering
set at The Venue (where the Sex Pistols kicked
off their career in '76.)
Minds could have shown the kids a thing or
two, though sadly there were none there. Still,
it didn't stop the folks present going absolutely
mental. Seriously, we've not seen a London
gig this riotous for an age, and we've seen
The band played
tracks from their new album 'Black & White
050505' plus classics such as Waterfront,
(the not quite so topical as it was) Mandela
Day, Alive and Kicking, Sanctify Yourself,
and Don't You (Forget About Me).
Who needs Franz
Ferdinand secret gigs eh?
- www.melodic.net - September 2005 (FRA)
I remember when
I got a package from my friend Tomas back
in 1985. We were "hardrockers" back then with
long hair and t-shirts saying Thin Lizzy...
He sent me new tapes once every month while
I was an exchangestudent down in France and
in one package he sent a tape with the new
album with Simple Minds called "Once Upon
I remember thinking
that the man must have got insane. Simple
Minds - a synthband from hell... Why the hell
did he send me that for? I put the tape into
the player and have since that day been a
H U G E Simple Minds fan. I went to see them
on the tour in Avignon the same year and was
totally blown away by them. That is 20 fucking
years ago. Geeehhh... I'm starting to get
Here I am -
sitting in my "boyroom" listening to a new
Simple Minds album once again. The only differences
are that instead of having Mom and Dad at
"home" I have a wife and own kids and as I
said a new Simple Minds album in the player.
And that is what this review is about... A
brand N E W produced Simple Minds album where
the rumor said that they should've gone back
to the sound of the mighty mid 80's. The producer
from the classic years Bob Clearmountain is
back and the ambition of this timetravel back
to the 80's is obvious.
Do they succeed
then? The opening "Stay Visible" is marvelous.
A tremendous bombastic opener of the album
and the same flow continues in second out
"Home". Fourth out "Different World" starts
out with the patented piano-trademark of Kerr
and his men and steps into a big refrain in
the typical way for the band. The main part
of the album is in this good shape but there
are two nonsense-tunes that doesn't grab at
all (out of 9), and you can't really compare
the album to the classic "Once upon..." and
"Real Life" and the four stars I give the
album are of course based on the quality of
the album but spiced with a touch from my
heart called nostalgy... but who gives a fuck...
Jim Kerr and his men are back and that in
very good shape. Now we just want that tour
(4 out of
- Guitar & Bass - November 2005 (UK)
Minds haven't reformed: Actually they've never
been away. Michael Heatley meets that master
of soaring, stadium-filling guitar atmospherics,
As we celebrated
the 20th anniversary of Live Aid and then
watched Live 8 recently, how many of us pinpointed
Simple Minds as the megaband that Geldof,
if not time, forgot. In the '80s, it seemed
you couldn't mention U2 or Simple Minds without
the other coming in the next breath, and so
popular were these twin superpowers of rock
that they had a mutal non-aggression pact
not to release records in the same month.
Jim Kerr and
Charlie Burchill were seen as the like-minded
cousins of Bono and The Edge. And, like the
U2 duo, they are still very much in harness,
as the release of Black & White 050505 proves.
The Simple Minds story, Burchill insists,
has never really stopped. 'People say "What
happened to the band, where have you gone?"
but we've never even had a hiatus, taken a
sabbatical or anything,' he insists. 'It's
always been a work in progress.
you could never really compare us and U2.
They were essentially a guitar band and we
were a keyboard atmosphere-based band. I'm
always surprised at the comparisons.' He admits,
though, that there were parallels. 'Both acts
were Celts, putting on shows and having something
to say that might be important.'
So would Burchill
liked to have been there at Hyde Park? 'I
believe we were asked, but we were approached
very late. To be honest, we never really expected
a call. Where we were (in producing the new
album) it would have been quite difficult.
But I'm delighted to see its success. Geldof
was getting a lot
of stick and I was glad to see it come off.'
never approached the guitar as an heroic instrument
- in fact, the first Minds albums of '79-'80
saw him dabbling in sax and violin in an attempt
to add new textures to the band's European-influenced
music. His violin experiments were inspired
by the velvet Underground's bassist John Cale,
who also played viola, and the Doctors of
Madness, a band from London. 'They had an
edge to them, and we were big fans. I found
the violin a lot easier to learn than people
said, and I still play a bit.'
started life as a failed punk outfit Johnny
And The Self Abusers, Simple Minds quickly
gravitated to the art-rock end of the musical
spectrum. Charlie pinpoints encountering bands
like Gong and Kraftwerk - 'serious music we'd
hear through older brothers and friends' -
was an electronic band with influences from
the mid '70s electronic era,' he reflects.
'The guitar playing wasn't in a conventional
style: it was always more to do with sound
and effects, trying to create an atmosphere.
Over the years I suppose it's become more
rock-orientated, a king of hybrid. We've varied
from album to album.
touring for the last three years and the one
thing that's missing was product. This album
is far more focused and the first for years
I'd regard as a typical Simple Minds release.
It was recorded very traditionally at Wisseloord,
a studio in Holland we'd used before. We recorded
it over two months and mixed it in about three
weeks. We've got a great label in Sanctuary,
probably the best of the independents, and
it feels like a proper release. We feel it
deserves attention, and it's getting it.'
Black & White
is, by Simple Minds standards, a guitar-orientated
album. 'All the same, the guitar isn't always
very guitar-like,' Burchill points out. 'Most
of the treatments are done by guitar, most
of the atmosphere.
and keyboard have always been very integrated.
After Mick (McNeil) the original keyboard
player left, I suppose the emphasis did go
back onto the guitar, but ironically enough,
around that time - the late '80s and early
'90s - we began working with non-linear systems
such as Pro Tools and the like. It was an
era where you could take guitars and make
them more origiinal than that generic keyboard
The new album
opens with a track called Stay Visible, which,
Burchill admits, is 'something I haven't done
a great deal of - a very full-on, high-energy
approach'. His more usual oblique strategy
is evident in Underneath The Ice in which
he used a Danelectro baritone guitar, tuned
a fifth below, to play melodic lines; then
there's a track called Different World, full
of 'very unusual sequenced guitars, octaves
and stuff like that'.
all found him employing his favourite '62
Gretsch White Falcon, while a Country Gent
also saw quite a lot of use. He reserves his
recent stage favourite, a mid '90s Les Paul
with a Bigsby, for things that are more direct.
But disaster struck in the last days of recording
when it fell and broke its neck. 'They say
that will always happen if you own a Les Paul,'
he sighs. 'I also have a 1970 Black Beauty,
but it doesn't sound like a Les Paul - it's
far too clean a note.'
has a Tele with a B-bender, which leads us
onto his penchant for pedal steel. 'Years
ago I saw someone on a TV show playing classical
music on one and it just amazed me - the variation,
the beauty and the complexity of playing the
thing. It has a great tone and I've used it
instead of keyboards and programmed things
on three different tracks. Rather than play
slide, I sometimes use the pedal steel...
you can control it. I've got a Rickenbacker
lap steel, but the pedal steel feels more
simplified his life in the amplification realm
in the last couple of years by adopting the
Line 6 Vetta. 'For someone who uses a lot
of effects it's very adaptable; you can do
things quickly that used to take a long time.
You can programme to a degree that will allow
you to create your own chain of stuff.
'I like to use
it with two Matchless amps in stereo. The
Matchless, I suppose, is my workhorse. In
the past I used to use Roland JC120s, Marshalls,
even a Fender Bassman for a while until I
went down the path of using something new.
In the studio I'll bring the heads into the
control room and set up a couple of combinations,
but time and again I come back to the Matchless.
'When we go
out on tour next year I'll use the Line 6
and the Matchless, and I also intend to incorporate
a couple of the old Roland Space Echoes...
and maybe, if I've got the courage, I might
even drag out the old Echoplex! The Vett's
handy for live work, and when you've shoved
it through that size PA it's doubtful anyone
will know the difference. But echo is something
apart - you have to have the real deal.'
hasn't always given Burchill the room to express
every facet of his musical personality, especially
since a wining formula was hit in 1982 with
New Gold Dream and, three years later, the
US chart-topping (Don't You) Forget About
Me. 'There are various projects we've started
that we've never had the time to finish,'
he sighs. 'We've even played with our old
keyboard player Mick, tried to involve him
been talk of a totally vocal-free album. 'We've
always used to have three or four instrumental
tracks on every album - it became a bit of
a tradition,' he reveals. 'you can open up
the music a bit more on B-sides and extra
tracks... but you end up working with things
you bring back to Simple Minds. We've been
working with a lot of other people as well.
It's been really interesting to see how they
approach things; guys in Sicily, California
and Paris, people who aren't that well known,
a track here and a track there, but nothing
that really constitutes a project.'
current collaborator apart from ever-present
Jim Kerr is Jez Coad, who co-produced the
new album, working extensively on quite a
few tracks and co-writing a number. The two
met via shared management. 'He's a guitar
player with great ideas, the sort of guy who
helps you get where you want to go,' enthuses
Burchill. 'The first time we cam across him
in the '90s he was in a band called the Surfing
Brides. He has some great angles and the chemistry
of our collaboration works well.'
Though Mel Gaynor,
drummer from the '80s glory years, has re-enlisted
and bass player Eddy Duffy also contributes,
Simple Minds has come full circle from staring
out as a duo, then becoming a five-piece,
then a three piece, and then coming back to
a duo once again. Whatever the future holds
for Simple Minds, you can be sure that Jim
Kerr and Charlie Burchill will be together
at the heart of it.
Heroes and Influences
Minds signed to Virgin in 1981, they were
paired with prog-turned dance-music guitar
gura Steve Hillage. 'The reason he got the
gig with us was because he'd just done a track
with Ken Lockie who'd been in a band called
Cowboys International,' explains Burchill.
'The track was fantastic, and Virgin said
this guy's a guitar player, he's an old hippie
and we think he'd work a treat with a band
like you, considering the musical background
you came from.
'We worked on
a single, The American, and it was fantastic,
so we ended up doing some more with him (two
albums, Sons And Fascination and Sister Feelings
Call, that were first issued as a limited
edition double LP). As a guitar player he
taught me a lot of little tricks. People regard
him as a hippie but he really had an edge
to him. A lot of his System Seven stuff is
guitar influences came via brother Jamie,
the first kid in their Glasgow neighbourhood
to pierce his ear and dye his hair. 'He was
a big Hendrix fan, but at the age of 15 or
16 I was aware of other players too, like
The Door's Robbie Krieger. I've always been
a big Neil Young fan; then, what I found myself
using a lot more effects, I started connecting
with people like Jeff Beck.
was a big influence. If you listen to where
he plays and what he plays on Bowie records
you can hear a couple of notes that could
almost be a string arrangement. That half-open
wah-wah kind of thing... he was real anarchist
guitar player. My favourite album was The
Man Who Sold The World; considering they were
only a three piece, the atmosphere was really
'62 Gretsch White falcon, '67 Gretsch 6920,
Gretsch Country gentleman, Danelectro baritone,
'62 Strat, mid '90s Les Paul, Fender Telecaster
Amps: Line 6 Vetta, Matchless 50W combo
with 2x12" cab.
Effects: Roland Space Echo, Echoplex.
Who Rules: Robbie Krieger, Mick Ronson,
Album: Black & White 050505 is out
now (Sanctuary). For further information about
Charlie Burchill, see www.simpleminds.com
Ian Shirley -
Record Collector - October 2005 (UK)
how many Viagra did these boys take?
A long time
ago in a galaxy far away, Simple Minds were
not only up there with U2 but a short nose
ahead, Jim Kerr and the boys filling stadiums
and pounding out athems like Waterfront into
the lighter-illuminated night. Falling from
chart grace, they soldiered on, although Neon
Lights one wondered if minds had been lost
along with band members. But the jokes must
stop, as Black and White is an astounding
return to form.
Kerr and Charlie Burchill have gone back to
the basics of the Simple Minds sound and written
a lean nine-song album heavy on anthems that
contains no fat and no filler. Stay Visible
sets the tone, with Burchill carving out a
stinging guitar melody that unleashes a re-invigorated
Kerr. Home, Stranger and Underneath The Ice
continue an ascent that is almost Apollo-like
in its vertical momentum.
Kiss The ground are also fine examples of
Kerr's ability to put Bono in the shade as
a writer of image, evoking lyrical Pandora.
All told a perfect rock album and perfect
material to be belted out live in venues ranging
from medium-sized clubs to lighter-illuminated
stadiums around the globe.
(5 out of
Q & A
Ian Shirley -
Record Collector - October 2005 (UK)
with Black And White 050505, Ian Shirley asked
Simple Minds' Jim Kerr how they rediscovered
the thinking behind the album?
We wanted to
make a classic SImple Minds album but with
a new energy. That's easy to say, but a lot
more difficult to do without becoming a paradoy
or retro. We had a couple of false starts
where it just wasn't adding up. But once we
got some songs down, we could feel the hair
on the back of our necks standing up and identify
some of the power that the band were known
for on big albums like Once Upon A Time and
Sparkle In The Rain.
Stranger are laced with killer melodies and
We wanted these
big emotional pop songs with melodies and
lyrics that were almost so simple that you
couldn't deny them. Stranger was the first
song that made us think we'd got something
that was going to get people excited. The
bar had been raised. I think Stay Visible,
Home, Stranger and Different World, we would've
been glad to have at any stage of our career.
But to have them together, one following the
other, we're going for the throat!
Is that why
it's nine songs - a 40-minute album?
about 14 and the nine on the album are the
really strong songs. There are other songs
that, on other albums, we would've included.
But coming back, the album needed to be focused
and punchy. We were brought up listening to
albums that were around 40 minutes and we
never felt unsatisfied. If you put out nine
tracks and four of them are great, three of
them so-so, and two of them are nowhere, then
you've got a problem. But if you put out nine
tracks that are all cutting the mustard, people
shouldn't have any complaints.
Why did you
song from the lost album, Our Secrets Are
The Same, which was never released for all
manner of reasons. Last year, Virgin released
a box set and Our Secrets Are The Same was
on it and contained Jeweller. We'd play it
to people when we were working on this album
and their reaction was, 'what the hell is
that? Is that a new song?' Producer Bob Clearmountain
said, "you have to do it again!" The benefit
of re-recording is that it's a different arrangement.
In fact, we loved the original but didn't
feel that we'd captured it. So it was great
to get a second opportunity.
The chorus came
from a few years ago in Los Angeles. I saw
this cheesy advert for some jeweller in Hollywood
and this whole thing was 'jeweller to the
stars'. It made me laugh, but when it came
to lyrics, I thought of it more in a cosmic
That's the date
that the album was finished - 5 May 2005.
We'd done every edit, every mix, after two
years, there was nothing else to do.
Glasgow 4th September 2005
Gaughan - Sunday Mail - 11th September 2005
Kerr led a rejuvenated Minds back to their
roots with a sneak preview of their stunning
new album Black & White 050505 and an impressive
collection of their greatest hits.
At their peak,
the band filled huge stadiums and arenas all
over the world, but their choice of the legendary
King Tut's for their comeback made this a
night to remember for the lucky few in attendance.
Stay Visible, new single Home and without
doubt a future single Jeweller to The Stars
the atmosphere was electric and judging by
the reaction of stalwarts Kerr, guitarist
Charlie Burchill and drummer Mel Gaynor, newcomers
Ed Duffy on bass and Andy Gillespie on keyboards,
they are more than capable of climbing back
to the top.
Love Song started
a collection of their greatest hits including
Speed Your Love, oldie Premonition, Alive
and Kicking and Waterfront received a rapturous
welcome with the frontman taking a back seat
and letting the mesmerised crowd take over.
New Gold Dream
ended an amazing set but with the band and
crowd enjoying every minute they re-appeared
for a five-song encore including new song
Stranger and old favourites (Dont You) Forget
About Me and Sanctify.
(5 out of
Townsend - Sunday Express - 11th September
They lost their
way with a ropy "covers" album, but it's lighters
aloft as Jim Kerr and co return to the glorious,
wide-screen sound of the Glittering Prize
era. Kerr's voice has lost a bit of its Bono-esque
bounce but he uses its gruff maturity to advantage
on slower songs like Dolphins.
(3 out of
Times - 11th September 2005 (UK)
You either believe
that the world needs another Simple Minds
album, or you don't. If the former, the new
album will scratch every inch; the latter,
and all your prejudicial bunions will be trodden
Jim Kerr does
his huffing, puffing, Billy Goat-gruffing
vocals; Charlie Burchill wields a formidable
axe; and the whole sorry affair sounds ProTooled
to within an inch of its life. It would have
been interesting if they'd returned to the
esoteriea of Sons and Fascination and Sister
But hopes of
a comeback see them, on woeful lighters-in-the-air
blasts of bombast such as Stranger and The
Jeweller (Part 2), press the stadium-rock
button and head off, flatulently, into outer
(2 out of
Verrico - The Times - 10th September 2005
has passed since Simple Minds straddled the
Atlantic as bloated stadium rockers to recall
that they weren't all bad. Charlie Burchill's
glorious, chiming guitars, the cinematic scope
of their songs and, yes, even Jim Kerr's soapbox
vocals - at least when he steered clear of
politics - were worthy of the tag of Scotland's
More than a
decade in the wilderness has sucked away the
self-importance that made fans flee, and on
Black & White 050505 Simple Minds have rediscovered
how to write magnificent rock songs. Home
has the techno tinge of Underworld, Different
World could be Coldplay with attitude, while
Underneath The Ice is an atmospheric ballad
that avoids sounding windswept. A sizeable
step on the road to recovery.
(3 out of
- 10th September 2005 (UK)
In the last
few years there has been an influx of 80s
pop stars trying to regain ground long since
lost. Black & White 050505 will no doubt find
Simple Minds perceived as such but this album
does not sound like one born out of an ego
that wonÕt die or a need for some extra cash
(or both - take note Duran Duran).
The truth couldnÕt
be further away, in fact. This LP is one I'm
sure will be seen by many as Simple Minds'
best. It shows off the band's classic epic
pop sound (once since borrowed by U2 and passed
off as their own) without pandering to 80s
retroism or aiming to please just the last
of their die hard fanbase.
Put up against
the latest offereings by today's stadium rock
kings U2 and Coldplay this wins hands down
every time. It is an album with more energy
and imagination and should raise Simple Minds
back to their former glory. The only tarnish
to its name are Jim Kerr's lyrics, which are
at times painfully bad - Underneath The Ice
and The Jeweller (Part 2) being particular
low points. But then, if we're sticking with
the U2 and Coldplay comparisons, well, I think
(4 out of
Star - 10th September 2005 (UK)
production values and some of their best tunes
in ages, this comeback album doesn't quite
recapture the brilliance of New Gold Dream,
but songs such as Home and the title track
prove there's life in the old dogs yet. Don't
you forget about them. Again.
(3 out of
And Not Forgotton
Weimar - www.sickamongthepure.com - September
If Black & White
050505 doesn't strike a chord with the fans
of The Bravery, it will remain Simple Mind's
strongest album in twenty years.
The disc starts
out with the epic "Stay Visible,"
which sounds like retro '80s music for those
who love big sweeping guitars as much as electronic-pop
and "Beautiful Stranger" are reminders
of Jim Kerr's strength as a storyteller, while
"Underneath the Ice" and the title
track up the electronics, tempering Charlie
Burchill's guitar only slightly. Only on "Different
World" when the band's sound bears a
striking resemblance to Journey does Black
& White 050505 veer into cheese-rock territory.
has always taken the best elements of post-punk
guitars and the melody of early art bands
like Roxy Music to create their catchy-yet-sophisticated
sound. Jim Kerr may sing of the body being
tired but this Mind is as sharp as ever.
will probably be covering Simple Mind's classic
hit "Don't You (Forget About Me)"
to an entire generation of music fans completely
oblivious of the original. Since their John
Hughes heyday, Simple Minds has never quite
reached the same commercial success as they
did on The Breakfast Club soundtrack.
Stay Visible , Black and White, Jeweller
(8.5 out of
Sun - 9th September 2005 (UK)
If you thought
Simple Minds records were best locked away
with your old Pac-Man game, Rubik's cube and
other Eighties paraphernalia then you're wrong.
This 14th album
from Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill is a return
to form for the Scots group who have experienced
a career of ups and downs.
inspired by Kerr's Italian hometown of Taormina,
is a delight while Stay Invisible mixes piano
and strings in a beguiling way and Different
World keeps this momentum.
There's no nostaligic
sound to this album, either. While they'll
never regain the same levels of their former
glory, this might surprise you.
(3 out of
Express - 9th September 2005 (UK)
With every hip
band of the moment stealing their riffs and
style, it seems only fair that Simple Minds
have returned to show how it's done. For a
band with an Eighties heyday, this is surprisingly
tight record, full of sharp, epic-sounding
pop tunes and precious little filler. A very
(4 out of
Me? I Won't Let You
Jim Kerr is
hitting the road again. But the Simple Minds
frontman insists that the decision to tour
once more is not down to a midlife crisis,
writes Mary Braid.
Braid - Sunday Times - 4th September 2005
South of France
yesterday, London today, Berlin tomorrow.
If Jim Kerr, the lead singer of Simple Minds,
is knackered, or bored by questions about
his celebrity former wives, he hides it well.
In the midst
of a whistle-stop publicity round and preparations
for the launch of the band's second album
since its resurrection three years ago, Kerr
remains sweetly and humorously self-deprecating.
He deals very well with even the most impertinent
questions. Well, for the most part.
Ask him, for
example, whether he thinks the return of the
band that sold 25m albums at its peak in the
1980s might in some way represent his midlife
crisis, and follow that with a little more
idle speculation. Why else would a man of
45 worth a reputed £30m go back on the road?
it off. "You might have a point,"
he says, grinning. "Have I had other
signs? Well I'd have to say there's been the
red Speedos I bought."
He pauses as
if visualising himself, stomach sucked in,
in the crimson trunks. "Now that was
really ill-advised," he concludes.
Kerr is actually looking good - that's if
you found the young Jim Sillars attractive
- but he's clearly no longer the skelf of
a youth that could have sprinted down the
sand in a sliver of red without any fear of
ridicule or wobbling tummy.
Yes, Kerr, now
resident in Sicily where he owns a hotel,
plainly doesn't mind laughing at himself.
Up to a point.
provokes a flash of underlying, slightly unnerving
edge. It's not personal questions about former
wives Chrissie Hynde and Patsy Kensit that
needle him so much as attempts to play down
Simple Minds' achievements. The band that
created the 1980s anthem Don't You (Forget
About Me) is now rather sniffed at by the
revisionist music critics as way less cool
than the Smiths and way less talented than
U2, those other stadium fillers.
There is nobody
who compares to U2, admits Kerr. But he is
irritated by the belittling of his outfit.
He wonders how many other bands can claim
a run of five UK No 1 albums and so much success
in the notoriously hard-to-crack American
market that it could take part in Live Aid
So can he accept
that Simple Minds started to lose their way
in the mid-1980s when they took on the stadium
was a point when we didnÕt do our best work,"
he says, his eyes becoming a little harder
and a mite narrower. "But there is a
lot of lazy journalism around as well."
in the eyes and that careful reply which betrays
the intelligent, streetwise steeliness in
Kerr that must have played a big part in steering
Simple Minds to success. It's not that heÕs
defensive - though he is a bit - it's more
a confidence in his own worth. The eyes say,
quite fiercely, that nobody is going to take
his achievements from him.
had its time in the sun with the music critics
before, as is usually the pattern, the big
bucks rolled in. Kerr sees the irony in that.
Brought up in a high-rise in Toryglen, he
remembers telling his dad way back at the
beginning that while the band had yet to make
money, the critics considered them hip.
that to the bank manager,' my dad said,"
remembers Kerr, smiling. He adds that he understands
the tendency to turn on bands that make it
big. He's done the same himself. "But
the fact is that when Simple Minds started
there was nothing," he says. "We
invented ourselves and we sweated it out."
You get the
sense - as with most well-balanced people
- that Kerr feels a strong unbroken thread
runs from his boyhood in the council flat
to his luxury home in Sicily.
The days of
rock-star wannabe, red winkle-pickers and
embarrassing 1980s' garb are long gone and
Kerr leads a sophisticated life. But Toryglen
Ask if the rejuvenated
Simple Minds, who this week release Black
& White, their second album in three years,
still make money, and Kerr looks positively
affronted. "Of course it does,"
he says. "We don't play for nothing.
I come from the flats, you know?"
also have kept him grounded. Despite the high-profile
wives, and some embarrassingly chunky jewellery
in the 1980s, Kerr has shunned the rock-star
clichés of excess, drug and alcohol
When he stood
before tens of thousands of screaming fans
in the 1980s, he always paused for 30 seconds
to savour the wonder of how he got there.
And he still clearly feels the wonder of the
way life has turned out. "How could I
do anything but count my blessings?"
seems to have a nice life. After living in
France, America and London, Kerr now considers
Sicily his home. He has just sold his luxury
apartment in Glasgow because he wasn't spending
enough time there.
He is positively
poetic about the charms of Sicily, which he
first visited more than 20 years ago. "It's
the whole package," he says. "It's
gorgeous and it's mystical.
It's a place
on the edge and you can feel the African vibe
there. It has an incredible history and you
can still feel it. When you wake up there,
you just feel your best."
In fact, Kerr's
romance with Sicily started long before he
visited. His grandfather was posted to the
island during the war. "He used to tell
us stories about the place when we were kids,"
that all the 'wummin' there were fantastic."
Are the "wummin" still fantastic?
"Yes," says Kerr. "Why? Because
they don't mind talking to old guys."
Hynde when he was 24 and she was 32, after
their bands toured together. "Chrissie
was a cradle snatcher," he jokes. They
had a daughter Yasmin, now 20, andÊ Kerr is
also stepdad to Natalie, Hynde's older daughter
with Ray Davies from the Kinks.
Kerr seems to
have spent too much time in the studio and
on tour after Yasmin was born, and he and
Chrissie divorced five years after marrying.
He was 32 when he married Kensit and they
had a son, James. The couple undid the knot
only four years after tying it. Kerr has admitted
that once again he simply was not around enough.
Kerr is on warm
terms with Hynde. On his birthday it's Chrissie,
Yasmin and Natalie who take him out. His feelings
for Kensit, who went on to marry and divorce
Liam Gallagher, seem more conflicted.
have helped when, after they split, Kensit
claimed her love life with him had been somewhat
lacking. But he does his bit to defend Kensit
against her tabloid image as a dizzy, rock
star-loving blonde (before Kerr and Gallagher
there was a first husband, Dan Donovan, of
Big Audio Dynamite). She is, Kerr insists,
funny and intelligent.
He says his
mother helps keep him in touch with how Kensit
is doing. "People are always coming up
to her in Asda to say they thought she always
said Patsy was a nice girl." The public
obviously confuses her with her character
Kerr insists, he's a love-free zone. He doesn't
believe "the one" exists or that
if she did he could make her happy. "My
life is really full," he says, pointing
out that he has the band, his business interests
and three children to keep up with. "I
don't have time and any relationship would
be doomed to frustration.Ê What I want more
than anything these days is peace."
What he seems
to have dispensed with is the tension he always
felt between his love of the rock'n'roll lifestyle
- that seems to reflect something of the loner
at his core - and his desire for stable, traditional
things such as marriage - fostered by his
background and his parents' happy and lengthy
The most enduring
relationship of his life remains the one with
fellow band member, Charlie Burchill, whom
he met in Toryglen when he was eight years
in Rome these days. The best friends give
each other space - "We're not the Alexander
Brothers," says Kerr - but they also
live close enough for easy collaboration.
That still leaves the puzzle of why Kerr and
Burchill bothered to get together again after
a period in which Simple Minds were pretty
When the band
was on the backburner, Kerr says it was partly
because he no longer felt he had anything
to say. "It was like getting blood from
a stone," he says. "There was a
short period when I thought that must be it
and what shocked me was my acceptance of that."
It was Sicily,
with its mix of European and African influences,
that musically put the zing back into Kerr.
And three years ago, when the band went on
its first tour in years, he was "energised"
by performing again and heartened to find
people still wanted Simple Minds.
his fortune or great his business success,
he still considers himself essentially a musician.
"When the band is in a room together,
you can strip it all back," he says.
"You forget everything else. It's all
about getting a good noise."
He still remembers
the epiphany, 25 years ago, when the Simple
Minds sound first struck him. "It took
a long time to perfect," he says. "But
I just felt there was something in the music
in that moment that was too effective to be
to be happy with life as long as his family
is okay. "There's nothing else that I
really want that I don't have," he says.
Then he adds a crucial caveat, "but I
would like to do good work." Music, he
says, is not just a career, "it's a life".
says about contentment, Kerr seems too restless
for luxurious early retirement. He seems to
have something left to prove. "In our
daft wee heads, Charlie and I still think
it's a crusade," he says.
had an amazing life... from a Glasgow estate
to rock superstardom. Most amazing of all,
he's hip again.
Phelan - Sunday Herald - 28th August 2005
As the voice
of Simple Minds, Jim Kerr has always sounded
like a romantic. Since he started the band
almost 30 years ago in Glasgow, he has written
songs about art, travel, world peace, big
love and the collapse of great cities. In
person, though, Kerr talks like a pragmatist
who has gone through almost every stage of
a life in rock music - punkish youth, glorious
prime and natural decline - with very few
illusions. Today, he takes this observation
as a compliment. "I'm glad you mention
pragmatism," says Kerr. "I've always
been a realist. If you're going to have a
long career, then you know everything won't
always go to plan. I've made at least 100
mistakes. But at this point I think even our
biggest critics would concede that Simple
Minds is more than a career for us. It's who
we are and what we do."
When he says
"we", he can only mean himself and
guitarist Charlie Burchill, who grew up together
in Toryglen and founded Simple Minds on the
remains of short-lived Glasgow pub band, Johnny
& The Self Abusers. Now 46 years old, Kerr
made his fortune, and probably his best records,
a long time ago.
seem to have a very edited version of our
story," he says. "They tell us we
had it all and we blew it. Really? We wrote
hundreds of songs, played thousands of gigs,
sold millions of records. We were rewarded
like kings, and we enjoyed 95% of all of it.
It's not like we weren't contenders."
he's talking in the past tense, Kerr is here
in Glasgow's Malmaison hotel to promote a
new Simple Minds album, due for release next
week, with the pedantically contemporary title
of Black & White 050505. The press release
describes it as a "return to form",
which seems like a tacit admission that form
had been lost.
says Kerr. "The language of a press release
is always clumsy, but it's true in the sense
that we've made the record that we really
wanted to make. We wanted a so-called 'classic'
Simple Minds album. Big emotional pop songs
with a certain drama. Music that envelops.
Which sounds great, but how do you do that
without it being a parody or some kind of
retro 1980s exercise?" The bigger question,
and I don't mean this facetiously, is why
Kerr now lives
in Sicily, where he owns a hotel, speaks Italian
fluently, and takes a deep and sincere interest
in local politics and history. I get him started
on the subject when I mention that I visited
Naples for the first time recently. "Really?
Naples and Sicily were a joined kingdom, did
you know that? They used to be called the
Two Sicilies. But they've been rubbed out
of history, because history belongs to the
winners. They're fascinating, these renegade
places. I love them."
One of the reasons
that Kerr joined a band in the first place
was to get out of Glasgow and see the world.
It was obvious to him that Johnny & The Self
Abusers weren't going much further than a
couple of gigs in the Doune Castle bar (lead
vocalist and sax player John Milarky had come
up with the name before he came up with any
songs). So when Simple Minds were assembled,
Kerr provided enough focus for all of them.
"People who worked with us in the past
talk about me as if I was a dictator. I can
understand what they're saying, but I was
consumed at the time, and when anything got
in my way I was borderline ruthless. If you
didn't like it, you could fuck off and get
your own band."
need, that heating-element in the blood of
young musicians, can't possibly still be at
work in him. As Ally Sheedy's character said
in the 1985 American teen-movie The Breakfast
Club: "When you grow up, your heart just...
dies." Kerr, like most people who ever
saw that film, is more inclined to remember
the theme song than the wisdom of the dialogue.
Don't You (Forget About Me) was pre-written
for the Breakfast Club soundtrack and reluctantly
recorded by Simple Minds after Bryan Ferry
and Billy Idol rejected it on grounds of banality.
It immediately became their biggest ever hit.
Kerr never liked the song or the movie, but
he understands their sentiment.
me of something Bruce Springsteen once said,
about how when you're 18, music is the only
thing in your life. You're burning up with
it, even though you've only maybe got a leather
jacket and one guitar. Then you get the reward,
and other things come into play. Family and
so on. After that, even on a good day, you've
lost at least 50% of your energy. So now I
have to really manage my time, I set aside
three or four months where I'm doing nothing
but writing songs."
you wonder exactly what Kerr does with the
rest of his time. "I live my life,"
If Simple Minds
were ever great, it was in the early 1980s,
somewhere between the cold, modish Euro-disco
of their early days and the grand utopian
guitar anthems of their peak, which coincided
with their performance at Live Aid. Fans from
the glory days will say the band lost all
sense of poetry when they became explicitly
political, particularly on the 1989 album
Street Fighting Years. "I thought we
were on really safe ground with that stuff,"
going to be an artist, surely you're going
to hit on things like apartheid, or the poll
tax, or Northern Ireland. Especially in Glasgow.
Although with Belfast Child (a reworking of
an Irish folk song, which was Simple Minds'
first and last UK number one single) I could
see people thinking that was really clumsy."
Or possibly sectarian. "Maybe. But it
wasn't, and I'm not. Only the most insane
Celtic supporter could really think that was
a republican song. My dad's from Strabane,
so it always felt very personal. Most of my
1990s and into the 21st century, Simple Minds
became more inconsequential with each successive
record - Good News From The Next World, Neapolis,
a covers album of songs by The Doors, Kraftwerk
and Joy Division that was so unlikely and
unpopular that it remains faintly unbelievable
hardly setting the hills on fire," admits
Kerr. In the meantime, he was busy becoming
a professional internationalist, with homes
in London and Nice and shares in Glasgow restaurants,
including conveyor-belt sushi place Oko, a
Scottish dotcom agency called 2Fluid Creative,
and his own personal management consultancy.
In 1998, he was part of the £30 million consortium
that tried and failed to buy Celtic Football
Club, acting more as a concerned fan than
a corporate shark. "In that period I
was feeling very distant from music. I wasn't
excited by myself in any shape or form. It
wasn't exactly a crisis, but we decided to
step back. Not give up, just put things on
ice, musically. In that time I got involved
in a lot of things that I was more passionate
about, projects I wanted to see materialise."
a vulgar subject, and successful artists tend
to avoid it, but Kerr has no problem talking
about his finances. By the time Simple Minds
made it big with deliberately commercial records
like Once Upon A Time, he felt that he'd earned
it. "We had been working for years and
we were always in debt, so there wasnae any
guilt about making it." This is the first
time in the interview that Kerr's neutral
accent sounds particularly Glaswegian.
There is a trace
of his background in his attitude to money.
He doesn't want to blow it, he wants to use
it. He stayed at his parents' house on the
southside last night, "just so we would
get some time to chat", and they were
saying much the same thing to him. "They
were saying I always had money, because I
always had Saturday jobs. I was a butcher's
boy, which was a tough job for a vegetarian.
But you could buy a copy of Ziggy Stardust,
or a ticket to see Alice Cooper. There was
a great satisfaction in working for it, and
not needing mummy and daddy to help you out."
Minds started out, all their cash went into
paying for the next gig. When they became
rock stars, Kerr's percentage went into his
family's future. While he has had, in his
own words, "two failed rock'n'roll marriages"
- to Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, and
actress Patsy Kensit, who then went on to
become Liam GallagherÕs ex-wife - Kerr never
allowed himself a dissolute lifestyle. There
were joints, a bit of speed, a few tabs of
acid early on, but he gave up drinking young,
and to this day he says he's never even seen
heroin. "My mum has though. That's the
irony. She didn't want me to be in a rock
band because she didn't want me exposed to
drugs, but every day she was walking past
junkies on her way to work in Greggs the bakers."
odds, Kerr has a good relationship with his
own children (he has a daughter and stepdaughter
by Hynde, and a son by Kensit). "It could
have been chaos, and at times it was, but
somehow we managed to get through and stay
a family, albeit fragmented."
He sees his
kids when he can, although it's not as often
as he would like, given that they still live
in London while Kerr has permanently relocated
to Sicily, sold his shares in almost all his
business ventures, and got back into music.
He got inspired again in 2003 when Simple
Minds toured to promote Cry, probably the
least successful record they ever made.
definitely flawed, but it got us kick-started
again. Every night we were playing songs from
across the whole catalogue. Even Johnny &
The Self Abusers songs. It should have been
a trip down memory lane, but the music seemed
to have a new currency. We got enthusiastic
about all our trademarks again."
ItÕs true enough
that those trademarks are back in fashion,
which was bound to happen if they hung on
long enough. Bands like The Killers are trading
on echoes of their early sonic drama and romance.
But Kerr has also proven himself to have pretty
good business sense, so I ask if he has used
it to work out how badly the market wants
or needs a new Simple Minds record.
I could, to be honest, but when you're making
the music you can only hope that it speaks
to people. If this record only sells five
copies, it won't make a difference to my life,
except maybe on a tax return. I'll still be
eating spaghetti like I always do. But it
would be a blast if it sold five million.
It would feel like the cycle was complete."
Hogwood - www.musicomh.com - September 2005
Beware the 'return
to form', the comeback album. Two phrases
that have enjoyed close proximity in discussion
about Simple Minds' reappearance from the
creative wilderness after three years away.
The date - not entirely pretentious - refers
to the day on which sessions for the record
And yet this
is a musical renaissance of sorts. Jim Kerr's
Sicily haven appears to lend him more of a
chance to write songs instinctively with the
band, and a 'less is more' approach removes
a lot of the baggage that ccompanied some
of their over-inflated tracks in the 1980s.
track Dolphins, a startlingly bleak outlook
and a brave way to finish the album, Kerr's
disembodied voice over the toll of Eddie Duffy's
bass, with Blue Nile-type cinematics in between.
The track's timeless opening, not a drum in
sight, reaches an awkward calm quite unlike
anything they've done before.
won't please all the fans, but then the band
are on much safer ground with the opening
trio. The single Home is particularly good,
a Charlie Burchill special looping around
Kerr's vocal puzzle that he's "home,
but thousands of miles away". Opening
track Stay Visible uses the widescreen approach
once again but with a greater economy, its
opening betraying 21st century musical technology
but in all reality similar to the music the
band were making at the start of the 1990s.
Stranger too, opens up into a strong chorus,
Kerr's voice taking a firm foothold in mid
It's the central
part of the album where the going gets tougher.
Underneath The Ice has an uncomfortable, meandering
vocal line, with Kerr's voice subtly vocoded
but sounding unrelated to the stilted bass
and clumsy, slower rhythm. The Jeweller (Part
2) (don't you just hate it when there's no
part 1?!) also fails to convince fully, Kerr
singing of where the "air is thin"
and sating a "lack of oxygen", both
evident in the slender vocal delivery. Kiss
The Ground may feature a more traditional
Kerr line in the verse but the lyrics become
questionable by the chorus, by way of example:
"There is no hidden karma, there is no
special plight, there is no special armour
to take me through the night."
apparent shortcomings at the albums core don't
detract too much from the many positive elements
of this release, particularly the surefootedness
of the opening trio, nor the willingness to
try something different at the end. The old
ones may still be the best, but for their
fans Simple Minds have offered hope that now,
having blown the cobwebs away, they may be
about to go big again.
McKinlay - www.musicomh.com - September 2005
You know that
hollow, echo-y 'huh' noise some people make
just before they throw up all over your carpet?
Well, Simple Minds have captured it and made
it in to a song, but for the sake of decency
they have pretended the sound is actually
the word 'home'.
how funny the chorus sounds aside, this track
is really pretty alright. While it's more
mature and easy-going than the likes of The
Killers and The Bravery, the guitar riff on
this track demonstrates exactly the kind of
thing Flowers and Endicott were thinking of
when they decided to rip off the eighties,
and it's probably the kind of music they'll
be making in twenty years' time when another
generation of young 'uns have come along to
rehash their music and steal their thunder.
If this track
is a good reflection of the forthcoming album,
then it's probably going to sound a lot like
New Order's 2001 album Get Ready, which wasn't
a massive success despite being really quite
good. But in a time when The Departure and
Bloc Party are getting the trendies dancing,
maybe with this Simple Minds have come up
with the perfect soundtrack for their sleepy
And White Route To Success
say you haven't noticed it - bands of the
1980s, reforming with albums whose publicity
boasts of being "the best thing since
(insert name of biggest album, usually the
first or second)". Simple Minds, however,
have always been around, despite shrinking
away from the public eye in recent years.
The band's long association with Virgin ended
with last year's Silver Box.
Hogwood - www.musicomh.com - September 2005
Now they reside
with the likes of Morrissey and Elton John
at the troubled Sanctuary label and are releasing
Black and White 050505, a record that represents
their most natural and instinctive piece of
work for some time.
Much of this
reinvention has been credited to Jim Kerr's
new found state of bliss at his Sicily residence,
and the influence it exerts on him. Certainly
when musicOMH.com caught up with him he sounded
relaxed, and was even prepared to begin with
football talk, more specifically of his beloved
Celtic and their lack of early season form,
crashing to a little-known Slovakian team.
online looking at the Glasgow media",
puzzles Kerr, "and we've been scratching
our heads, dying of embarrassment! It's such
a shame as the club's in as good a shape now
as it can be, there's not a sugar daddy but
it's a huge club in a tiny league, which means
it's in a kind of limbo."
of football make him pine for Glasgow though?
"I was there the other week actually.
Since I've been 18 though I've always been
a restless traveller. Me and Charlie (Burchill)
went hitchhiking when I was 16-17 and we ended
up going all the way through Europe. At that
time Glasgow had an image of being hard, grey
and pretty miserable." Was the band a
way out? "No. I really enjoyed the family,
the friend. I just couldn't keep still after
that first tour of Europe. Glasgow is going
through a renaissance now though; it's a real
hotbed for music. Another thing to bear in
mind is that I'm a Scotsman who doesn't drink.
There's this one culture there, and it involves
to hitchhiking, Kerr blames band activities
for his restlessness. "We toured extremely
hard, in fact we probably overdid it. You
think you have an abundance of energy but
it runs out after a while! My first 18 years
were shaped by Glasgow, but in life after
that as a person I've been influenced immensely
by different countries. When you get into
a different language you get into a new mentality.
I actually regret that I didn't do more of
it, and I'd rather experience a country for
what it is than some place that's a UK enclave."
The band's single
Home seems to tackle the singer's situation
head on. Or does it? "I'm not quite sure
where 'home' is! It's kind of ironic that
Sicily has played a big part in the return
to making music again though. If anything,
Different World (a track on the new album)
is more about Sicily than Home - it's a musical
postcard. Home is more a feeling you carry
around with you. It's like 'I'm home, but
I'm thousands of miles away'. As for the writing,
we just put it together wherever we are. Sicily's
influenced the music more in the sense that
if you get up in the morning and it feels
good, you're gonna have positive energy to
on the 'less is more' approach of the new
record. "Certainly, we were looking to
make dramatic music but we're keen not to
fill it all up, the space. There's an abundance
of ideas, people were bringing so much to
it. It is much better if you can have light
and shade, and a lot of the time the songs
begin from not much."
A prime example
is the closing track Dolphins, a bleak texture
with Kerr's voice almost a cracked whisper.
"It really goes on a trip. I have to
give credit to Jez Coed for that one. Charlie
had the basic idea, then Jez said 'we've gotta
take it somewhere' and he managed to blow
it up, but not over the top. The voice was
done in a hotel room using some cheap microphone,
but we couldn't get that "shiver"
thing going, I was almost under the mixing
desk in the end!"
Few bands were
as politically charged as Simple Minds in
the 1980s, but in the light of recent developments
in Northern Ireland will Kerr see songs like
Belfast Child in a different context?
really interesting, cos over the last few
weeks I was thinking, 'would we even sing
it again?' and then I thought yeah there is
a point, cos it's a great song. I don't have
an answer to your question though; no one's
asked me that! Essentially it is a hopeful
song, although sometimes I used to think,
'What is the point of any hope?' Sometimes
it seemed wishful thinking. But now I read
what the news journalists are saying and it's
like, 'what was it all about in the first
Does the continued
success of contemporaries U2,New Order, Depeche
Mode and the like inspire him? "Well
I think they're an inspiration to record companies
and people like that more! Sometimes the climate
is more welcoming. Four years later we're
suddenly back in; all it takes is someone
to drop your name as an influence. My daughter's
now 20 years old and was telling me the other
day about Bloc Party raving about us on the
TV, which is nice, and James from the Manic
Street Preachers also said some good things
And with that
he's on to the next interview. There's little
doubt Kerr cuts a mellower figure than the
one that toured himself to a standstill in
the '80s and in the process made Simple Minds
one of the biggest bands on the planet. Twenty
years on, the desire to make music and perform
on, their song remains the same
Perry - Q Magazine - October 2005 (UK)
Simple Minds. Mid- '80s. Singer Jim Kerr was
married to Patsy Kensit. Did overblown Stadium
rock such as Alive And Kicking. Well, 20 years
on, Patsy's moved to Emmerdale and Simple
Minds are still playing overblown stadium
rock. In fact, they'll probably keep doing
it until the British public start buying their
ecords again. Unfortunately this is unlikely
to be the album which does it. It's epic but
there are no songs of the calibre of Promised
You A Miracle. And a miracle is exactly what
Simple Minds need at this point.
(2 out of
- 30th August 2005 (UK)
One of Scotland's
most successful bands, with a career spanning
nearly three decades, Simple Minds have sold
over twenty million records, had five number
one albums, a no. 1 single in America, three
American top ten singles and been voted by
the influential Q magazine as one of the world's
best live acts. They have influenced bands
as diverse as current favourites Bloc Party
and Muse, as well as Moby, Manic Street Preachers
and Stereophonics along the way. Most recently
Yellowcard paid homage to their biggest hit,
'Don't You (Forget About Me)' at the MTV Movie
Minds evolved from a post-punk art rock band
influenced by Roxy Music into a grand, epic-sounding
pop band. The band grew out of a Glasgow punk
group called Johnny and the Self-Abusers,
which featured guitarist Charlie Burchill
and lead singer Jim Kerr. The inaugural 1978
lineup of Simple Minds featured a rhythm section
of Tony Donald on bass and Brian McGee on
drums, plus keyboardist Mick McNeil; Donald
was soon replaced by Derek Forbes.
albums leaped from one style to another but
soon the band began a transition to a more
accessible pop style, including New Gold Dream,
which became their first chart album in the
U.S., the well received Steve Lillywhite-produced
Sparkle in the Rain and Once Upon a Time,
which went gold and reached the U.S. Top Ten.
Now after a
brief hiatus Simple Minds are back with Black
& White 050505 (thusly named when recording
ended on May 5, 2005). To be released on September
13th by Sanctuary Records, Black & White recalls
the sweeping, vast sound that characterized
their biggest hit albums, Sparkle In The Rain,
Once Upon A Time and Street Fighting Years.
Black and White, recorded in Italy, Holland
and then mixed in Los Angeles by the legendary
Bob Clearmountain, is a return to form for
the band and should see the emergence of a
whole new generation of fans as well as satisfying
their current ones.
Jim Kerr's distinctive voice comes through
strong in their first single, 'Home.' Together
with co-founder and lead guitarist Charlie
Burchill, they have produced a song that should
lay to rest any rumors that this is a band
that have had their day. 'Home' recalls classic
Simple Minds with a driving rhythm and the
distinctive Burchill guitar sound. Kerr says
"There are a number of songs on the album
that will make great singles but I feel that
the way 'Home' kicks in with Charlie's signature
soaring guitar riff, there could be no better
way off announcing to the world that Simple
Minds has recaptured the musical spirit that
defined our best work. Lyrically, 'Home' is
a pop song with a spiritual heart, taking
us on a secret journey through the thoughts
of someone who is desperately seeking out
their own inner crusade."
Songs such as
'Stranger,' 'The Jeweller (Part 2)' and 'Different
World' give their past hits a run for their
money and reminds us that here is a band that
can do "big emotional pop on a grand scale"
as well as anybody and probably better than
most. Never afraid to tackle the bigger issues
as demonstrated by their classic international
No.1 single 'Belfast Child', the current CD's
title track 'Black and White' is a somber
electro ballad about the madness and shame
displayed by an increasing amount of world
wide Holocaust deniers. Similarly 'Dolphins'
closes the CD on a gentle though cinematic
note. Distinctive pop at its best, Jim Kerr's
voice resonates with brittle emotion, with
the lush backing building slowly until it
fills the room. Somehow it seems the perfect
ending to what is definitely their best recording
in a very long time. Bursting with melodic
energy, Black & White 050505 harkens back
to the band's classic days, when NME declared
Simple Minds band of the year.
"We wanted to
make an album once again that was full of
dramatic and atmospheric pop music. We felt
that we needed an album that proved as much
to ourselves as anyone else, that the big
beating heart of Simple Minds was very much
alive and driving us on once again. Having
delivered Black & White 050505, an album that
we believe is 'classic Simple Minds,' albeit
with a whole new energy, we can honestly say
that we are delighted with the results and
look forward with a totally revitalized outlook
to this next phase of our on going creativity."
says Kerr, "We feel with some certainty that
people who grew up with Simple Minds will
share our enthusiasm for this new work, while
at the same time, believe that these new songs
are good enough to interest a whole new contemporary
audience. Needless to say, in the tradition
of all great rock bands, we are extremely
excited at the prospect of playing this album
live on stage and look forward to doing exactly
that in the near future."
Allen - www.playlouder.com - 30th August 2005
It's been a
while since Simple Minds permeated our consciousnesses
on a regular basis. In the early 1980's Jim
Kerr and his band of Scottish droners stealthily
became one of the biggest bands in the world,
stadium fillers on a par with U2. They made
some fairly unusual records to begin with;
'Reel to Reel Cacophony', 'Empires and Dance',
'Sons and Fascination' and 'Sister Feeling
Call', before becoming more radio friendly,
and adopting a sound that had widespread appeal.
Following phenomenal success for both bands
in the latter part of the decade, Bono and
U2 went on to discover irony and attempt dance
music, while Simple Minds just sort of dissipated
away (or so some people thought).
in the main for soundtracking brat-pack classic
The Breakfast Club with one of the most iconic
songs of the decade, and for Kerr's high profile
marriages to Patsy Kensit, and Chrissie Hynde
before her (PlayLouder is instructed to avoid
talking about them), the band who sprung from
Glasgow in 1977 as Johnny and the Self Abusers
are back with a brand new album, 28 years
later. And it's good too; 'Black and White'
is a return to form, reminiscent of their
work when they were on the cusp of becoming
world-beaters - the 'Sparkle in the Rain'
and 'New Gold Dream' era more precisely.
These days Kerr
splits his time between Italy, Sicily, Scotland,
and London (where his children are based).
Long time collaborator and Simple Minds guitarist
Charlie Burchill also lives in Italy. Easy
So Jim. how
things please Simple Minds?
pause) In a sense they do, yeah."
alright here. It's a bit muggy but it's ok."
So why did
you choose to move there? Was it the food?
"Haha. No, not
quite. We came to play here about twenty years
ago. You know I love these parts. I love Mediterranean
stuff but especially Sicily. It's really quite
unusual in as much as it's obviously Italy
and Europe but it's nearer Africa. And I just
like these places that are on the edge, they're
on the fringe. I love the whole culture and
everything and as I've got to know people
and sort of step-by-step got the language
and the mentality. It's started to feel like
my place now."
So are you
a bit of a multi-linguist now?
"I would like
to more multi-linguist but yeah, I speak Italian."
It's a beautiful language but you don't speak
it anywhere else do you? "That's fine by me."
Burchill lives there as well yeah?
in Rome. He met an Italian girl yonks ago
and lived there, and we just got into it and
he was into the language and all that as well
- and in his case it's come back to him recently,
where he has gravitated back towards there.
So it wasn't a band decision, it was more
a personal decision. And admittedly, because
technology has made it so easy, it has made
it much easier to work anywhere... If we'd
tried to do this twenty years ago it would
have been odd."
you have got other people in the band who
"We work a lot
individually in the early stages and then
we come together and build it up, and then
when we get to a certain point we get everyone
together and go away. And in the case of the
new album we worked in Amsterdam and then
we finished it in America. But the basis of
it was done in Italy."
this day and age don't generally stay in the
same job - so to actually be working with
the same people you were working with twenty
years ago is quite an odd thing.The relationships
must change quite a lot?
in the case of Charlie. I mean I've known
Charlie since he was eight years old. Having
said that, that's extraordinary, but in terms
of everyone else, it's the same job. I think
part of the reason it works is that somehow
we do know how to give each other space. And
we do have other interests outside so when
we come together people bring something fresh
and new to it. When you're 18 and all living
in a squat together and all agreeing on the
same politics, you know then you are more
like a little gang. It's not quite like that
So your politics
are different now?
"I guess what
it is, is that people develop lives beyond
the cult of the band."
politics, Italy is quite a strange place isn't
Hard, really hard to fathom in my experience.
Really hard to fathom out how it works, how
the parliament works and so on. It is very
feeling like there at the moment because following
the bombs in London, Ayman al-Zawahri made
some announcement about Italy not being exempt
from attacks? Do people fear that happening
or do they just get on with life?
do get on with their lives but I mean as you
say the media... (sighs) ...the media is kind
of the same everywhere with these things,
they're spun out and even if they're true
you still get bombarded so you know, there
is fear. I'm sure there is fear but people
do get on with their lives."
was going on about Londoners being resilient,
but you aren't going to suddenly piss-off
and live in a field under some tarpaulin are
you? The media in Italy is frenzied isn't
it - that's where the whole paparazzi concept
is from obviously...
"It came from
there, they sort of began the whole thing.
I mean I'm not plugged into it to be honest
- I just switch it off but it is. Television
here is owned... if you can imagine Tony Blair
owning, owning BBC1, 2, 3 and 4..."
FOX in America really isn't it?
"Yeah, but at
least Murdoch's not a minister or president
or anything. Berlusconi is. I don't know,
it's a hard one to work out. Anyway..."
anyway the album 'Black and White'... you
seem to have collectively got your mojo back.
We're pleased. . I mean I suppose people -
when they've done a new album, they all say
'yeah, it's great' and 'yeah, it's our best',
but we're really pleased with it in the sense
that it's the album we wanted. And you know,
rarely does that happen. You go in with something
in your head and something else comes out.
It sounds great but how do you do that without
becoming a parody of yourself? How do you
do it without being some '80s retro-thing,
which would be terrible. But that was the
challenge that was staring at us when we were
saying when we wanted to do - a classic, because
by definition when you say classic you're
talking about the past or you're talking about
something already done or something already
established. It's very difficult to go back
to the past but I think somehow the balance
between those old trademarks are there. They
don't seem like a parody or well worn, in
fact they seem to have a new vitality."
have a quite narrow view of Simple Minds,
just remembering when you became massive in
the US. Does it annoy you that people don't
see the whole picture?
"I think what
happened is Simple Minds have made a lot of
different music through the years and lots
of different genres or formats, and yet there
was always Simple Minds. For 90% of people,
kind of all they know is the big stuff, Live
Aid, 'Once Upon a Time', 'Don't Forget About
Me'... that was the period that was most publicised
and that was the period that was peak-time.
I'm kind of realistic that outside the hardcore,
as far as Joe Blow goes that's all he knows.
You see I can't complain about that and I
don't think anyone owes us anything. Does
this frustrate me? No I just think sometimes
when I see stuff I think well 'they're uniformed'
out life as Johnny and the Self-abusers didn't
"Yeah. In fact
I heard some of that the other day."
brilliant name. Why did you change the name?
it is a great name."
"It's a great
name, and in fact it was much maligned because
people were always just sort of 'oh, that
was you just sort of fucking around', and
then we got real, but in actual fact we wouldn't
have done anything without the Johnny and
the Self Abusers thing because it gave us
the madness to get off our arses and do something,
and during those couple of gigs that we did,
we got a good feeling that this was a great
thing to do, what a great thing if you were
able to do this, if you were able to pull
So you only
ever did a couple of gigs under that name?
"About a handful.
They were all certainly in Glasgow and stuff,
all pretty memorable because there was usually
a riot or fights or, you know, some bar would
close down afterwards. It was quite intense.
We recorded a double A side single called
'Saints and Sinners' and in true punk fashion
we split up the day it was released. Which
was kind of pretty good."
Did you have
"It was a...
no it was like a real... it lasted over a
period - that golden summer of 1977 in Glasgow."
So when you
kind of look back over your career so far
what really stick out as highlights?
"Well you know,
it is tempting to talk about those iconic
moments, being No.1 in America, playing a
stadium, that stuff, but probably it was when
you're on the backroads and you're playing
a gig. We remember we were playing almost
night after night, you know, we might have
been playing to fifteen people but it was
just starting to sound really good. The potential
at that moment when you think 'God, this is
real, it isn't just me who feels this.' Those
moments are the moments that you really savour.
And you know all that big stuff, don't get
me wrong, it's great, it's fun. Fantastic,
but it's no longer just about you. It's about
marketing, it's about money spent on advertising,
it's about a lot more than you, there's an
industry behind you - but in those early days
where you are living on your wits and you're
sort of inventing yourself... it's a great
"With this record
- I mean the last five weeks - every time
someone like you says, you know 'hey, this
is really good' I feel like, yes! Great! In
a sense I'm like 'what do you care? What do
you have to prove? Do you sell buckets of
records?' When you write a song, you haven't
a clue you know? When you are sitting there
writing it with a blank paper or a blank screen
you're not thinking 'Oh, I've done this and
I've done that', you're in the heart of it,
it's a puzzle and you're trying to work it
out. To Get a sense of something really, really
good about it - but until someone personal
gets a chance to hear and then get something
from it you just don't know if it's there
or if you're imagining it. And when they do
get it, it feels great. Certainly now the
world seems a less lonely place."
What do you
look back on and say 'I regret that'? I know
people always say 'no regrets' but what would
you look back on go 'actually, I wish I hadn't
"Well I think
you're right, people do say no regrets and
I've got to say it as well, in the sense that
regrets are a heavy thing to carry around
and I don't have that, but... the thing I
would change with the benefit of hindsight,
the only thing that I would think 'that could
have been done differently' is organisational,
you know? Maybe we had a few records that
weren't finished when we put them out. We
conned ourselves that they were finished and
would put them out because we'd booked tours
and you know - had made the commitments. We
jumped the gun basically. Things like that
I would change given the opportunity.
"I do think
mistakes are really important you know. You
do get a lot from some of the albums we've
done, the flawed albums in a way that are
more interesting, in a sense. If you're going
to have a career for 20 or 30 years you're
not going to be on it all the time, in fact
most the time you won't be on it. You'll have
purple patches, you'll have moments of true
inspiration and the rest is about going up
one way streets and having to make U-turns
and going off the boil and being riddled with
doubts. And then the records that come out
under those circumstances, they're flawed
but there's also something very good about
them, and I guess what I'm trying to say is
that there's a temptation to looking upon
the records as isolated things. But they aren't.
They're part of the journey and they merge
into each other and the journey's not all
Harnell - Bristol Evening Post - 25th August
The Killers! You love Bloc Party!" shriek
the marketing men, "Now hear the band
that started it all - Simple Minds."
To be fair,
that's not too far off the mark and doesn't
require a massive leap of imagination.
despite their protestations to the contrary,
the 2005 incarnation of Simple Minds doesn't
stand up particularly well to the band in
its mid-1908s pomp.
of chest-beating and bluster on these nine
new songs but not enough decent tunes. Too
much descends into plodding, heard-it-all-before
They start promisingly
enough though with the stadium rock of Stay
Visible and punch their weight.
And The Jeweller
(Part 2) is the band at its poppiest but lacks
Dolphins, with its nod to Kraftwerk, is perhaps
the most interesting thing here.
I always like rooting for the underdogs.
(2 out of
Evans - www.remembertheeighties.com - 15th
August 2005 (UK)
I THINK THERE'S
A MASSIVE PERCEPTION THAT SIMPLE MINDS ARE
THIS HUGE STADIUM ROCK BAND, BUT ACTUALLY
FOR ME THEY AREN'T THAT AT ALL... PERSONALLY,
'MY' SIMPLE MINDS IS AN EXPERIMENTAL AND FAIRLY
ELECTRONIC BAND, SO IS IT FRUSTRATING FOR
YOU TO BE PIGEONHOLED AS THIS STADIUM ROCK
MONSTER WHEN PEOPLE SIMPLY IGNORE OR ARE UNAWARE
OF THE JOURNEY IT'S TAKEN YOU TO GET HERE?
have to say that it is both frustrating, but
also kind of understandable in as much as
you rightly say, before we achieved big success
we were one of the biggest cult bands around
- we had four or five albums out before we
achieved any sort of commercial success and
they were pretty eclectic even if I say so
myself - they ranged from the avant guard
and they were pretty cutting edge stuff and
I think the album titles say it all... 'Reel
To Reel Cacophony', 'Empires & Dance', 'Sons
& Fascination'... I mean hardly mainstream,
and certainly not 'Don't You Forget About
Me'! I think there was a gradual evolution,
or whatever you want to call it of that path
- I think that in the middle of the eighties
Simple Minds both took part in some of the
biggest iconic events - Live Aid and the Nelson
Mandela concert - and we did a couple of tunes
that became big iconic worldwide tunes, and
those images, those worldwide images - apart
from the cult following - would have been
the only time people had seen Simple Minds;
playing to thousands of people and me with
my arms outstretched! That's why I think there's
such a very distinct impression of that, and
yet for those 'in the know' I can understand
how they could scratch their heads and go
'but wait a minute... it didn't begin there'...
LIKE DIFFERENT BANDS, YOU'VE GONE THROUGH
DIFFERENT STYLES SO COMPLETELY...
true, and when people ask me about the music
of Simple Minds I do have to say 'But which
Simple Minds are you talking about?' because
I think it's fair to say of the descriptions
of the work of Simple Minds - where we began
as this kind of art-rock thing, then we certainly
had a very electronic dance thing, we had
a period of being in with bands like Echo
& the Bunnymen, New Order, Joy Division...
We had a period doing the pop side of Simple
Minds with 'New Gold Dream' and 'Promised
You A Miracle', and then coming up to the
sort of stadium side in America with 'Don't
You Forget About Me' and 'Once Upon A Time'
and then there was the, I don't know if it
would be political or social songs; 'Mandela',
'Belfast Child' and so on and then there's
the nineties obscure, what the hell... (laughs)
QUITE A JOURNEY I THINK... AM I RIGHT IN THINKING
YOU ARE PROUD OF WHAT YOU HAVE ACHIEVED?
I don't think 'pride' is a word we use a lot
- I think there will be a day when we will
sit around and that is exactly how we will
feel, but yeah... we really like our band!
We love our band and that includes the u-turns
and including the mistakes and including the
fuck-ups. I was saying to someone yesterday
that in a sense to make the good albums you
have to make the bad, to write the good songs
you've almost got to write the bad ones -
it's all part of the process so we've loved
our journey, in fact we are still loving our
journey... 99% of the ride, and above that
we feel fortunate that we have had, and still
have the opportunity to do what we do...
WE'RE HERE TO TALK ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM AND
I WILL COME TO THAT IN A MOMENT, BUT FIRST
I WOULD LIKE TO JUST TOUCH ON ALL THE SIMPLE
MINDS ACTIVITY OVER THE LAST YEAR OR SO; THE
'EARLY GOLD' ALBUM, THE 'SILVER BOX' SET,
THE DVDs AND SO ON. YOU SEEM TO HAVE BEEN
QUITE INVOLVED IN ALL OF THAT BUT WAS IT A
GOOD PROCESS FOR YOU...
was... once you get into it - we're not ones
naturally to look back because we usually
have a new idea up our sleeves, and it's the
new idea that keeps us occupied, and thankfully
we don't sit with the weight of our past when
we're working - we don't get tied down by
it in that sense, although in other areas
it's hard not to acknowledge... but whenever
you do those things you're always forced to
look back and you do want to... I mean they
are essentially more a record company marketing
exercises than creative exercises but they
are your past and therefore you want them
to be dressed up and sound as good as they
can be, so there is a pleasure when that turns
DO YOU THINK
THAT PROCESS OF LOOKING BACK AFFECTS WHAT
YOU DO TODAY? DO YOU EVER THINK, WOW WE WERE
REALLY ONTO SOMETHING HERE THAT WE DIDN'T
QUITE BRING OUT, BUT WE CAN GO BACK TO THAT
AND BRING IT BACK TO THE TABLE?
the first part of that I'd say yes it does,
the unfortunate thing is that it's easy to
say let's go back but it's very hard to actually
do without being a parody or without coming
across as some sort of obvious eighties rehash...
it is hard to avoid that. Someone said - Brian
Eno probably because he's the only one who
would say something like this - that if we
had a dinner party this evening and we had
a certain group of people in a certain venue
and we had certain food and drink, a certain
wine and then we have the exact same people
in the exact same place and the exact same
everything a year from now the vibe would
be different... because so much depends on
what you've been through on that day or in
that time and such - it might just be a subtle
change or people might have had drastic changes
in their lives, and it's similar with music;
you can use an old guitar that you used on
a record ages ago, or you can use a voice
effect or whatever, but it somehow doesn't
help to go back to the past really... What
we were wanting to do with the new album was
to conjure up some of our previous sounds,
some of those classic trademarks, but somehow
for it to feel as though it has an energy
COMPLETELY ANTICIPATED WHAT I WAS GOING TO
SAY NEXT, WHICH IS THAT - IN MY OPINION -
THE ALBUM IS EXACTLY THAT... IT'S DISTINCTIVELY
SIMPLE MINDS BUT IT'S ALSO UP TO DATE AND
CONTEMPORARY, IT HAS THAT SOUND...
I'm really glad you say that because that's
exactly what we wanted to do. You very rarely
get the album you want - you go in with these
things and then something else comes out and
sometimes you're happy and sometimes not,
but we are so happy that the effect that we
wanted to conjure up is indeed impacting on
people like yourself who are already listening
to it... We had one or two false starts where
it wasn't working, but once we got to songs
like 'Stay Visible', the opening track, and
songs like 'Stranger' and stuff the hair on
the back of the neck was starting to stand
and we knew that this is what we used to do...
WHEN DO YOU
FEEL YOU LAST ACHIEVED THAT ON AN ALBUM...
long, long time ago... the nineties was really
hard for us, and apart from anything else
it was really hard creatively, because in
a sense with the exception of Charlie and
I, the band began to crumble toward the end
of the eighties and the early nineties and
we definitely missed the others and we had
periods of self-doubt... I think that when
I listen to the albums from the past ten years
there are a lot of things about them that
impress me but I can hear how we were and
that's mired in self-doubt or perhaps where
we had great ideas but couldn't finish them
off, or perhaps just didn't know where were
were in the greater scheme of things, or even
perhaps the thing we were talking about earlier,
that perhaps we were drowning with the weight
of the past on our backs. It's been a long
time I think since it has actually 'worked',
but you know what? This is it... it happened
the way we wanted it to happen and although
obviously in terms of finding a market for
it that's another challenge, but in terms
of the raw thing - the actual piece of work,
I think... job done!
ON FINDING A MARKET THERE... HOW IMPORTANT
IS IT FOR THIS ALBUM TO BE COMMERCIALLY SUCCESSFUL?
would be great... I mean it would be great
for all the obvious reasons, but it's not
really going to change our lives - i mean
when I was twenty-four to have a big success
was going to completely change my life but
it's not really going to change my life now...
it changes the tax return! It's not going
to change my life in that it's... how can
I say this! I kind of have everything! There's
not really anyone who has got anything that
I want... I'm trying to say this without sounding
smug... the best way of saying this is that
on a saturday night in six months time after
the album is out if it's sold five thousand
copies then I know I'm going to be eating
spaghetti with chillies, and if it sells five
million copies then I'm going to be eating
spaghetti with chillies! Would I love it to
happen? Would I love it to be on the radio?
Would I love the taxi drivers who ferry me
around every day to say 'I love that song
you do'? Well, that would be great and then
the cycle would be complete...
NEW RECORD YOU'RE ACTUALLY ON A NEW LABEL
AS WELL, SO I IMAGINE THAT IN ITSELF BRINGS
A WHOLE NEW APPROACH FROM A BUSINESS SENSE?
we are really completely self-financed and
we own our own operations and then we kind
of try to find a partner to deal with their
things. Looking at this label, and not that
I think we're the same story, when you see
the job they did with Morrissey for example...
they managed to take a - let's call it a 'classic'
artist - and they managed to present it with
a new life...
I ALSO THINK
THAT IN COMPLETE PARALLEL WITH WHAT YOU ARE
DOING, MORRISSEY ALSO PRODUCED HIS BEST WORK
FOR QUITE A LONG TIME ON THAT ALBUM...
think it is sometimes a cyclical thing...
when I look at the artists I love, and the
artists I grew up with - people like Lou Reed
and Neil Young and David Bowie... it's not
careers that they have, it's lives; they have
periods when they get lost, periods when they
produce weak work and then, just when you're
thinking that maybe that's the last thing
worth hearing they come up with another landmark.
it does seem cyclical, or it can seem cyclical...
YOU WERE SAYING ABOUT HOW YOU HAVE ALL THE
THINGS YOU NEED, AND THAT YOU'RE COMFORTABLE
WITH WHERE YOU ARE... DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU
STILL HAVE SOMETHING TO PROVE?
think you have something to prove every time
you sit down to write a song, because although
everything has changed within our lives and
everything has changed within the world of
music, with technology and the relevance of
music and your own perspective and so on...
the one thing that has not changed, when you
sit down to write a song - which in a sense
you're carrying within you - but don't quite
know how to get it across... the a need to
prove that we can still do it to ourselves
still exists. Every time we go on stage we
have to prove that we're not just some sad
old thing playing songs just to pay the electricity
bill... we need to do things that make people
say 'god, that was ten times better that what
I thought it was going to be'. So yes, there's
a tonne to prove!
THAT GIVEN THAT, IN MAY WAYS IF YOU'RE SETTING
YOURSELVES THOSE KINDS OF GOALS THEN ACTUALLY
EVERYTHING IS GETTING MORE DIFFICULT EVERY
TIME YOU DO IT?
it's more difficult if you're not on form,
and you're not always on form you know? There's
things that go on and life is just not like
that, but if you're on form then things just
seem to click into place... I live in Sicily
now and people ask me how that influences
me... it doesn't influence the music directly,
but it does influence the music in the sense
that if you get up in the morning and you
feel great you want to do something - your
sense are alive, you're not dulled or anything,
so where things aren't too difficult then
I do think the semantics change...
YOU'RE AT THIS POINT - TALKING ABOUT THE RECORD,
SETTING UP TOURING, THE WHOLE BUSINESS MACHINE
COMING TO LIFE... HOW DO YOU FEEL?
I started doing interviews at nine in the
morning and went through to six o'clock in
the evening and then to get to where I am
today I had to travel for five hours... well,
(sarcastically) poor me, and I called the
producer on the phone and he said 'man, how
do you do it - I feel so guilty sitting here
by the pool', but this is my gig - his is
to work on some tedious 'big sound' for twelve
hours while I'm on the beach... everyone has
their gig and this is mine. You kind of just
put the helmet on and you go to work and you've
already done all this work on the record and
if you want people to know you've it exists
then you've got to be pragmatic!
NEXT FOR YOU? I UNDERSTAND THERE'S GOING TO
BE SOME SHOWCASE SHOWS AND THEN A TOUR...
right - we think that there's certainly more
than one - maybe two or three - strong radio
songs on the record and we want to be available
for the next few months to promote them, because
when you disappear to tour you're really not
available any more, so the next few months
are really about promotion but yes, there
will probably be some media gigs and then
next year will be all about touring...
STILL THE THRILL IT ONCE WAS?
it is in terms of... again, I think what it
is is that it's managed a lot better, that
thrill... I mean when I was younger I would
probably think about the gig for the whole
day leading up to the gig and then by the
time the gig came I would be exhausted! Now
it's almost the opposite and I don't feel
anything until about ten minutes before we
go on and then I can almost switch on and
instantly feel the adrenalin, what's expected
of me and the importance of the gig, and I
say importance because as I said earlier,
if Simple Minds have a reputation as a live
band it's because we have always appreciated
that every gig is crucial - we don't just
say 'oh it's alright, it's only Cambridge'...
for the people there that night they don't
care if you were in Amsterdam last week and
New York tomorrow, tonight's the night, they've
bought the ticket and they've been looking
forward to it for weeks, they've met their
friends and had a few drinks and then if you
go on and your approach is anything less than
100% they'll see their friends the next week
at a dinner party or something, people will
ask how we were and they'll just say 'oh they
were OK'... and we want them to go ' they
were fantastic, I can't believe you missed
it, you have to go next time!'...
ON THE WHOLE
TOURING THING... GIVEN THE CATALOGUE YOU HAVE
BEHIND YOU, HOW ON EARTH DO YOU DECIDE WHAT
YOU'RE GOING TO PLAY?
the last few times we've played what we do
is we've got about eight or ten songs that
are the icons and we play them every night...
it might sound strong to say we're obliged
to play them but you've kind of got to play
your greatest hits album which is maybe ten
songs which are always there and then for
the other ten or fifteen songs you pull things
from the catalogue and the new album, but
we chop and change those around which not
only keeps it fresh for us but a lot of our
audience comes to see us more than once and
that way you really get to work your body
by permission, many thanks to Richard Evans.
Rendall - www.getreadytorock.com - 8th August
are back with a splendid new album 'Black
And White 050505'. The band have influenced
others like Bloc Party and Stereophonics and
with a renewed interest in eighties acts like
Duran Duran and Depeche Mode, their time may
have come... again.
is the band's vocalist and writes the lyrics...
'Stay Visible' could be a watchword for Simple
We toured for
a time in 2003 so we have never really been
away. 'Black & White' is the germ of that
more recent activity...
the impetus for the new album?
We wanted to
make a contemporary sounding album which was
recognizably Simple Minds. And I think the
album's timing is better for us now, than
several years ago.
How did the
songs come about?
will send me a riff or be working on the piano
and develop a vibe, and this often inspires
the lyrics. This is how Kiss The Ground came
about - we were on tour and Charlie developed
a riff in the next room, it just seemed to
come together. The beauty of technology is
that you can get down ideas quite easily,
you don't have to be in the studio.
the album title, it seems to echo the classic
'New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)'
Yes, that actually
came about because the engineer suggested
050505, as the last day we finished recording.
The track Black And White reflects those who
are in denial, taking its prompt from the
stories of the Holocaust. The Black And White
of the title also reflects the different moods
and depths of the album.
darker and lighter side. Dolphins reflects
a darker side?
I used the subject
of dolphins as they are objects of affection.
Only recently I saw a little girl with a dolphin
charm, they represent something friendly.
The subject of this song is a man who is so
low that even dolphins can't lift his spirits.
I think it is one of the album's best songs.
Home is the
Home is inspired
by my time in Sicily (Jim has lived there
for several years) and the feeling of stability.
But anyone can relate to that.
started life on the 'lost' legendary album
'Our Secrets Are The Same' (2003)?
Yes, when we
first recorded it we thought it was missing
something, so we reworked it. The album was
originally turned down by EMI and was reissued
by Virgin as part of a boxed set.
over 20 plus years, if you were to recommend
a Simple Minds album which one would it be?
I think 'New
Gold Dream' (1982) is the most creative but
'Once Upon A Time' (1985) is more commercial.
Do you think
Simple Minds inspired Scottish bands, like
Texas and Love And Money in the late eighties?
I think that's
true - if only that we opened doors that others
walked through. There was nothing much coming
out of Glasgow in our early period and it
must have helped.
Are you touring
the new album?
We are planning
some showcase dates in the autumn and probably
a tour in 2006.
I heard you
were planning to play smaller venues? This
will be in contrast to the big stadiums but
will be more satisfying for fans?
I agree that
the larger venues are impersonal. But in a
sense, it is like when we started playing
pubs in Glasgow in the late seventies. It's
important for a band to have a sense of perspective
and be able to perform in different situations
and with different challenges. I feel quite
confident about playing the new album next
to some of the old 'classics'. Sometimes it's
not that easy to integrate the old and the
new but I think we can do it more easily with
this album. I think it's important to play
the new material live.
the highlights in the past 20 or so years?
I think having
the hit singles and albums, but there are
always new challenges. Even when you're playing
White' is yet another chapter, and a new challenge?
Yes I am quite
excited. I think it represents the best of
the band without being too nostalgic.
on your i-POD that you'd like to tell us about?
I've been listening
to Anthony and the Johnsons (I Am A Bird Now,
Rough Trade) He's a very powerful singer with
quite a unique sound.
Kirkman - www.rockahead.net - 21st July 2005
are back! That is the good news.
The band led
by Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill release their
latest album Black And White 050505 in September
and this album is a real return to form for
the band that has now been in existence for
over twenty-five years. The album that has
been mixed by Bob Clearmountain (who was responsible
for the mix on the album Once Upon A Time)
returns to give the band a new lease of life.
The songs are what Simple Minds do best "Big
Emotional Songs" with great heart. With
the recording finished and due for release
the band are currently engaged in talking
to the media who have responded very positively
to the album.
spoke to Jim Kerr who was in France about
the new album, which has got everyone talking
and incidentally has the same sort of media
and press buzz around it as The Street Fighting
touched on the difficulties the band has overcome
over the last ten years and how positive and
confident the whole band are about the new
album. There is also talk of how Simple Minds
plan to take the album out on tour for a major
bout of touring activity in 2006.
is out in September, it is called Black and
White 050505. What is the significance of
Well right up
to when we had finished the album there had
not been a specific title that had leapt out
at us. On the final day of mixing when you
sit down to see if everything has been made
and compiled we thought what are we doing
to do about a title? The engineer looked at
the date and it was 050505! The Black and
White part of it comes from one of the songs
but also it quite aptly describes four or
five other songs that are the old style, optimistic,
positive sound of Simple Minds. Then I think
it is balanced with a few other songs that
are more pragmatic, a bit desperate but cynical.
It is very
much an album of now, very current sounding
and it doesn't matter what anyone says, from
a band point of view you have to be comfortable
with Simple Minds in the here and now rather
than looking back.
That is right.
There are two sides to having the history
and the legacy that Simple Minds have. There
are a lot of great things that have happened
in our career but at the same time when you
sit down to write a new song you cannot dwell
on that because in a way it would be too much
to carry. Indeed the music industry and our
lives have changed so much over the years,
the one thing that remains the same always
is the blank page of that initial computer
screen when you sit down to write a new tune.
We cannot dwell on that, we have to work in
The box set
came out last year. It was a very nice package
and it underlined the past, which box sets
tend to do. Did it make you think, well that
is what we have done in the past now get ready
for something new?
It did seem
really convenient to do that because as you
said the box set came out last year and previously
there had been a compilation of stuff called
Early Gold. In those years obviously we were
working simultaneously on new stuff and it
was almost like clearing the vault, underlining
and freeing us up to come this year with Simple
Minds presently. Whilst you want your catalogue
to be available and you want it to be up to
date in terms of re-mastering and great artwork
and stuff, you don't want to be just some
retro exercise. So it is almost your working
on two strands You work on your catalogue
but it also has to be given new life and new
meaning by your current work.
been a great deal of buzz and excitement about
this album and the last time I remember this
happening was the album Street Fighting Years
came out in 1989. There is the same kind of
feeling about this album. Are you getting
that at all?
I am absolutely
getting that. This week I began the promo
for the record in the different countries.
I have probably done about seventy or eighty
interviews and I haven't come across one negative
interview yet. Let's face it there has certainly
been enough of that in the past but not one
this time. Everyone has said that the band
is on form and by and large most of them say
this is a great album. I am glad you can remember
when there was last a great buzz because I
I have followed
your career back to the late seventies, early
eighties and the first big album from the
eighties was Empires and Dance. There are
certainly pointers in Simple Minds career.
As I say I feel the same buzz about this album.
Well that indeed
would be nice because certainly the last ten
years since Street Fighting Years I sense
Simple Minds began to crumble after that for
various reasons and we hold our hands up to
that. It sounds pathetic but we had worked
and toured so much we were dead on our feet
and came to a kind of hiatus. Our keyboard
Michael McNeil who had brought so much to
the band decided he didn't want that lifestyle
any more and in the years since then it has
been tough. We lost a lot of self-confidence
and direction. You also have a life outside
of music and you have to deal with that. It
isn't always plain sailing. We have felt leading
up to this recording there was a sort of wholeness
about the entire thing; that this was very
much Simple Minds re-discovering their strengths
and really pushing the boat out to make that
agree with that but you weren't the only band
from your era who didn't exactly have an easy
ride. U2 made a couple of albums which some
people weren't keen on. It wasn't down to
the music, there was a perception that they
had had their best time and that is it. Simple
Minds seem to have fallen into a similar bracket.
With this album I think you have really staked
a claim that you are back.
much. We feel so as well, even more than that
we felt we had to. To ourselves this was almost
make or break in terms of the quality and
the product. What ever it goes to do from
now on we are going to push to promote almost
with our hands now. In terms of making a record
that could merit making the landmark that
we needed that was what we were striving for.
I think we have it. I agree with you and I
think the guys in U2 would agree with you
about the way you described their path although
they have had an incredible career. Sometimes
you have to think well, it is not that you
make bad albums but some are incomplete. Sometimes
the albums were good but the timing was wrong.
You can start it and you can finish it but
you can't solve the missing piece of the puzzle.
like that. Some go on to bigger and better
things, and yet some albums are very much
of their time.
Yeah. The artists
I would say who influenced us like Lou Reed,
Neil Young, David Bowie, Bob Dylan even John
Lennon had periods in the wilderness where
they make a u turn or make something poor
or half baked. Just when you think they are
on their knees they come back with some purple
patch record. What it is, is that after a
certain point in a long career it suddenly
ceases to be a career and becomes a life.
Life is not always about being on the up or
easily explained away. There are points where
you are just struggling.
that great quote from Lennon isn't there,
"Life is what happens when you are busy
That's it. Someone
asked me yesterday if I see myself making
music in ten years time. I said that absolutely
nothing would make me plan for that at the
same time I wouldn't be surprised if I was
talking to you in ten years time.
at the single from the album, Home. For many
bands the singles market is not something
you consider and yet this is a very good calling
card from the album. Simple Minds are back
with this particular track. I imagine that
radio, certainly in the UK is going to take
notice of this.
We have had
a great early reaction on the radio programme
that I have heard. We went for it and we needed
it and I agree with you in the sense that
it is right there. Not only do you go - that
is Simple Minds but you feel instantly that
the band is on top of the game. The melodies
are really strong it draws you in. We are
not an obvious singles band but we have written
some great ones. I think on this record Home
is a great calling card and there is another
two or three like Stranger and Different World
that perhaps when the media has warmed up
again would accept them.
has mixed the album. You have worked with
Bob in the past. He has an incredible knack
of making records sound incredibly big. He
has to have the stuff to work with in the
first place, but what attracts you to working
with someone like Bob in a mixing and post
As you said,
we worked with Bob twenty years ago and he
was already a legend then in as much as he
had made some of my favourite records. Not
only had he done Born in the USA and Pattie
Smith albums, Bob had engineered those Chic
albums with Nile Rogers, Bernadette Woods
and worked with Blondie, Roxy Music, and David
Bowie. We were desperate to have him and he
also did a great job when you think about
Alive And Kicking and Sanctify. He blew up
what we had already blown up and made it sound
fantastic on radio. This time round, because
you can't go back to the past because things
have changed so much but as these songs began
to materialise we thought this is Clearmountain's
game; this is his thing. It was a pleasure
to go back and see him because he really hadn't
changed a bit. He had got better! He is freak
(he wouldnÕt mind me saying that!) he is one
of these technical guys who loves the challenge
as you said. He gets into it and feels it.
I love the way he positions and compresses
is finished; I expect you will be going on
tour to promote it. You are in the eye of
the storm at the moment because you are doing
the promotion but you must be itching to get
out there and show how great it is by doing
with this album. Again, having discussed the
good and the bad points of having a career
and a catalogue, usually it makes it hard
for the new songs because when you are trying
to slot a new song in between two iconic songs
it barely stands a chance. Yet I can imagine
starting the set with something like Stay
Visible from this album and going straight
to Home as the next song without the audience
scratching their heads and thinking, what
I think the
reason for that is this is Simple Minds and
what people expect from Simple Minds. It is
what you guys expect from Simple Minds if
that is not pushing the point.
I think you
are right, big emotional pop songs with great
drive and rhythms, dramatic and strong melodies.
They are the kind of songs that hopefully
embrace you and pull you in. They have the
trademark stylistics of the Simple Minds effect.
you are going on tour. Have you any idea when
you are likely to be in the UK?
I am actually
due a conversation later on this day with
an agent who we have been holding off until
now because we wanted to get the album done
and promote it as much as we could media wise
first. There is some talk of some small yet
to be confirmed media gigs By and large next
year is going to be all about touring.
where we want to see you. Simple Minds were
one of the great live bands. In terms of what
you are going to do about the live presentation,
are you going to be going for the big gigs
or are you quite happy going into smaller
theatres in the UK or into the arenas?
I think we would
like the chance to build that up again. We
would enjoy the chance to come around a couple
of times, say playing the rock n roll venues.
I saw you
in the Royal Court, Liverpool; in the early
eighties, it was a great gig.
The agent always
wants you to go for the money. Like I said
I would like us to really get to work and
build it up again, do the rock n roll venues
in the early part of the year. Maybe we could
do the more prestigious festivals in the summer
and then round at the end again if it all
works out again.
are certainly capable of that. Bands like
the Rolling Stones are equally at home in
a nice theatre venue and then will do a big
stadium. I think Simple Minds are capable
of that as well.
I think you
should be able to do it that way, in a pub
or in JFK stadium. When you are in the heart
of a song whether you are singing to eight
people or eighty or eighty thousand it should
mean the same.
connection is the same no matter how many
you are playing to.
It really is.
Outside of that it is all to do with production
really. We have done that in past and it would
be nice to prove that we can still do that
and do it again.
Well I think
Black and White 050505 is certainly the best
album from Simple Minds in the 21st century
and I am sure there is going to be quite a
few more. It does it for me and I am sure
it will for a lot of other people as well.
It has been
great talking to you and appreciate the time
you have taken. It is great to have you back
as a band. Take care.
Week' - 6th August 2005 (UK)
acts citing Eighties influences, Simple Minds'
Jim Kerr believes the band's new album makes
them as relevant as they ever were.
bands seem to be inspired by the period when
you were at your height. How do you feel about
We were influenced
ourselves by bands, some of whome are still
around, so it's really down to the cyclical
nature of music. I get excited when I hear
something that reminds me of Simple Minds.
It feels nice.
Do you think
this makes your new album sound quite contemporary?
The new album
is pretty contemporary anyway. We set ourselves
a task that sounds easy but was nigh on impossible,
which was to make an album that was completely
Simple Minds. But something happened and the
band clicked. This album is the sound of a
band on form.
Why are you
living in Italy now?
It's in Sicily,
actually, in Taormina. I've been coming here
for more than 20 years. I first came here
on tour, so in a sense it was music that brought
me here. I've always loved it and thought
it would be a great place to work from. I
can speak the language and I feel really integrated.
The move has reinvigorated me and that's had
a beneficial effect on the music.
to Sanctuary - why them and what's it like
working with them?
They were keen
to sign us and they're a company we've been
watching. it mainly came down to the job they
did with Morrissey where they took him to
a new level, which made us realise that Sanctuary
wasn't just a catalogue label. It's also because
of a guy called John Williams in A&R there.
It's a funny thing to say, but it's nice to
talk to someone in the music industry who
knows about music. He's a complete joy to
still a political edge to your work? If so,
what are your current concerns?
We always want
to write about the themes that surround us.
A number of the tracks on the album are written
from a more internal perspective, but songs
like Black & White certainly deal with more
external themes. Not in an overt way, but
I think that's me looking around at the world
we live in.
live still give you the same buzz?
and foremost a live band and we'll be on the
road next year. Before that there's talk of
doing a few media gigs in September. it's
something I love. Every time you step on stage
you've got to prove yourself.
record are you most proud?
If someone who
didn't know any of our music asked what they
should check out first, I'd say New Gold Dream,
as many think it's our classic record. There's
also Empires And Dance, which is a big favourite
with me as there's something special about
the imagination behind it. In terms of the
political side you mentioned earlier, with
things like Belfast Child, Street Fighting
Years would be the one to go for. But a concentration
of all of them would be the new one. Rarely
do you make the record you really set out
to make - its happened two or three times
with us - but with this one there's a real
feel thats it's among the best things we've
done. I know everyone probably says that,
but we feel that way about it.
What do you
think is the biggest change in the industry
since the Eighties?
There have been
colossal changes. We started in the days before
MTV existed, never mind the internet. it's
different in so many other ways - marketing
didn't seem so huge as it is now, for example.
do you like these days?
I really like
The Killers. And I can understand why Coldplay
are the biggest band in the world. On a less
mainstream level, I also picked up the Antony
& The Johnsons record recently and it was
The new Simple
Minds album, Black & White 050505, is released
on September 12 on Sanctuary Records.
Greg Prato -
www.allmusic.com - 1st August 2005
'With a sudden
resurgence of '80s new wave from both revivalist
acts (The Killers, Interpol) and reunions
of the old guard (Duran Duran), the time is
certainly right for other veteran acts to
get back in the ring,' so to speak. And the
Simple Minds have done just that, with the
release of 2005's 'Black and White 050505.'
Founding members Jim Kerr (vocals) and Charlie
Burchill (guitar) are back once more, with
an album that manages to incorporate both
elements of their earlier, best-known work
(such as 1985's Once Upon a Time), as well
as modern sounds.
That said, Kerr
and Burchill wisely don't stray too far away
from their identifiable sound (a la U2's post-Joshua
Tree work). This is no more evident than in
the track "Different World," which doesn't
sound too far off from a more polished Dandy
Warhols composition, or the soaring album
opener, "Stay Visible."
A major factor
in the group's creative rebirth can be attributed
to the input of Bob Clearmountain, who previously
worked with the band on their aforementioned
1985 album. Maybe something good is coming
out of all this '80s nostalgia & inspiration
for older acts to issue surprisingly strong
albums, as evidenced by 'Black and White 050505.'
(4 out of
Inspire Simple Minds Comeback
Simple Minds have credited The Jillers with
inspiring them to release their first new
album in three years.
The Don't You
Forget (About Me) stars - Jim Kerr and Charlie
Burcill - are thrilled their trademark new
wave music has garnered renewed popularity
thanks to bands like The Killers.
taking advantage of current musical tastes
by releasing their latest disc, Black &
White in September (12).
"New wave is big again with bands like the
Killers. We wanted to make an album once again
that was full of dramatic and atmospheric
"We felt that
we needed an album that proved as much to
ourselves as anyone else, that the big-beating
heart of Simple Minds was very much alive
and driving us on once again.
"I feel that
the way Home kicks in with Charlie's signature
soaring guitar riff, there could be no better
way off announcing to the world that Simple
Minds had recaptured the kind of uplifting
musical spirit that defined our best work."
- www.getreadytorock.com - 18th July 2005
It is indicative,
if somewhat horrifying, to discover that in
my local city centre music chainstores, Simple
Minds barely have a browser rack to themselves.
In one store,
there's no sign of anything by the band, in
the other just their 'Silver' box set and
a couple of copies of the 'Best Of'.
in truth, have slipped off the radar, arguably
since 1985's 'Once Upon A Time'. By their
own admission, things have been a bit rubbish
in the past decade with a slurry of patchy
albums and one of cover versions.
And White 050505' put them back in circulation?
Damn right it will.
If you can tolerate
the U2 vibe (on the opening track 'Stay Visible',
and it has to be said throughout the album)
you also have to pinch yourself to remember
that Simple Minds were stadium fillers in
the eighties in their own right. U2 have also
had their fair share of iffy albums but managed
to maintain their profile, and I suggest that
'B&W' may be Simple Mind's 'Atom Bomb'.
If Duran Duran
and Depeche Mode can still hack it, there
must be a market for Simple Minds. Jim Kerr
and Charlie Burchill form the core of the
current band, with long-time drummer Mel Gaynor
and Eddy Duffy on bass.
The first single
'Home' has a wonderful rolling rhythm, Kerr's
distinctive burr,and Burchill's always tasteful
guitar. Ditto 'Jeweller' which first appeared
on 2003's legendary 'lost' 'Our Secrets Are
The Same' CD. One hopes that on this track,
Burchill is permitted to let rip with an extended
solo in the live context.
'Kiss The Ground'
is yet another classic, a 'Come Together'
bass riff, and keyboards augment the wonderful
hook. One might have hoped for some Burchill
power chords to underpin matters but, hey
ho, we're talking economy and taste here,
with everything in its perfect place.
reminds me of 'Beautiful Stranger', the Madonna
track, but has a catchier chorus, whilst 'Different
World' segues into 'Underneath The Ice' which
perhaps best offers up the band's blend of
atmospheric electro-pop rock.
If there is
a formula on this album, it is economy. Although
a short album, at a mere 41 minutes, on this
comeback Simple Minds never overstay their
welcome, maintaining the consistency and quality
of the songwriting and each track worming
its way into your consciousness with successive
The band propose
to tour this in smaller venues in the autumn,
this could be a shock to their system but
a wonderful opportunity for the punters to
show their respects without watching a big
racks? They'll be filling up with back catalogue
after the release of 'Black And White'.
(4 out of
5 - Pretty damn fine)
Forget About Us
Billy Sloan -
'Scottish Sunday Mail' - 17th July 2005 (UK)
In 1983, Simple
Minds scored one of their biggest hits with
the classic song Waterfront. Singer Jim Kerr
wrote the epic track after a walk along the
banks of the River Clyde in his native Glasgow.
Now the Scots
rock superstar hopes a song about his new
adopted home in the Italian mountains will
rocket his group back into the charts. On
September 5, the Minds release the single
Home - a track written about the beautiful
town of Taormina in Sicily.
'I turned up
in Taormina five years ago and fell in love
with the place,' Jim told me. 'It's been a
great inspiration and I really rediscovered
my love for writing songs here.' The single
is taken from the Minds' new album, Black
And White 050505, which was recorded in Holland
and Los Angeles The title refers to the date
Bob Clearmountain - who has also worked with
Bruce Springsteen, The Who, The Rolling Stones
and Paul McCartney - finished mixing the album.
Jim said: 'We
wanted to make an album again which was full
of dramatic, atmospheric pop music. We needed
a record that proved as much to ourselves
as anyone else that the big beating heart
of Simple Minds was very much alive and driving
us on. I believe Black And White 050505 is
classic Simple Minds... with a whole new energy.'
Here's my exclusive
track by track preview:
The opening track sounds like the theme from
an espionage movie. Kerr recorded the passionate
vocal in just one take. Destined to become
a great song live.
A throwback to the Minds' 1981 album Sons
And Fascination. This slice of experimental
pop is a cross between electronic Bowie and
early Magazine. Will be a killer single.
The intro reminds me of Moby before Mel Gaynor's
power drums kick start the track. The 'stranger
beautiful stranger' hook has the makings of
another live Minds' anthem.
WORLD: The piano start leads into a driving
mid-tempo rocker fuelled by trademark Charlie
Burchill guitar and great double-tracked vocals.
THE ICE: There's a tribal feel to the
backing vocals as Kerr sings: 'When I saw
you skating by/ I was underneath the ice.'
The album's BIG slow song.
The original version was included on the Minds'
great 'lost' album Our Secrets Are The Same.
The group have updated the track and it fits
WHITE: A brilliant haunting epic destined
to succeed classic Minds' hits such as East
At Easter and Let It All Come Down as a live
finale. I think this is one of the best things
they've done in years.
GROUND: Opens with more fine Burchill
guitar leading into another moody Kerr vocal.
Low-key verse which doesn't really come to
life until the hook.
The electro-intro is a nod to their great
heroes Kraftwerk. Kerr's vocals are eerily
reminiscent of former mentor Peter Gabriel.
Musically, this track is a real leap of faith
but they have saved the best until last. Fantastic.
White 050505 Sanctuary Records Press Release
'Noble PR Ltd'
- 5th July 2005 (UK)
One of Scotland's
most successful bands, they defined a generation,
have scored over twenty Top 20 hits in a career
spanning nearly three decades. They have sold
over thirty million records, had five number
one albums, a no. 1 single in America - plus
three American top ten singles and been Voted
Q magazine's world's best live act. Simple
Minds embarked internationally on countless
sold out stadium tours including headlining
three times at Wembley stadium. They have
influenced bands as diverse as current favourites
Bloc Party, Muse, as well as Moby, Manic Street
Preachers and Stereophonics along the way.
Most recently Yellow Card paid homage to their
biggest hit, 'Don't You (Forget about me)'
at the MTV Movie Awards.
Now after a
three year hiatus Simple Minds are back with
their best CD since 'New Gold Dream,' called
'Black and White 050505.' Released on 12th
September by Sanctuary Records, 'Black and
White' recalls the sweeping, vast sound that
characterised their biggest hit albums, 'Sparkle
in the Rain,' 'Once upon a Time' and 'Street
Fighting Years.' 'Black and White' recorded
in Italy, Holland and then mixed in Los Angeles
by the legendary Bob Clearmountain is a real
return to form for this four piece band and
should see the emergence of a whole new generation
of fans as well as satisfying their current
ones. This is a CD that captivates on its
first listen and then just gets better. What
with the renewed popularity of Duran Duran,
New Order and Depeche Mode and the propensity
for pop acts to sample 80's sounds, there
is little doubt that Simple Minds time has
truly come again.
The CD's opening
track, 'Stay Visible' has all the depth, melody
and warmth of a theme tune for the next Bond
movie. Lingering in the mind long after the
last chord has played, it evokes images of
an expensive open top car zooming along an
empty mountain road or an endless stretch
of Arizona desert.
Jim Kerr's distinctive
voice comes through strong in their first
single, 'Home' released on 5th September and
together with co-founder and lead guitarist
Charlie Burchill, they have produced a pop
song that should lay to rest any rumours that
this is a band that have had their day. 'Home'
recalls classic Simple Minds with a driving
rhythm and the distinctive Burchill guitar
sound. Kerr says "There are a number of songs
on the album that will make great singles
but I feel that the way 'Home' kicks in with
Charlie's signature soaring guitar riff, there
could be no better way off announcing to the
world that Simple Minds had recaptured the
kind of uplifting musical spirit that defined
our best work. Lyrically, 'Home' is a pop
song with a spiritual heart, taking us on
a secret journey through the thoughts of someone
who is desperately seeking out their own inner
'Different World (TAORMINA.ME)' give their
past hits a run for their money and reminds
us that here is a band that can do "big emotional
pop on a grand scale" as well as anybody and
probably better than most. 'The Jeweller (Part
2)' proves that point equally. Bursting with
melodic energy, here is a multi-layered song
harking back to the bands classic 'New Gold
Dream' days, when NME and the entire British
music press declared them band of the year.
to tackle the bigger issues as demonstrated
by their classic international No.1 single
'Belfast Child', the current CD's title track
'Black and White' is a somber electro ballad
about the madness and shame displayed by an
increasing amount of world wide Holocaust
deniers. Similarly 'Dolphins' closes the CD
on a gentle though cinematic note. Atmospheric
pop at its best Jim Kerr's voice resonates
with brittle emotion, with the lush backing
building slowly until it fills the room. Somehow
it seems the perfect ending to what is definitely
their best recording in a very long time.
Jim Kerr says
"We wanted to make an album once again that
was full of dramatic and atmospheric pop music.
We felt that we needed an album that proved
as much to ourselves as anyone else, that
the big beating heart of Simple Minds was
very much alive and driving us on once again.
Having delivered 'Black and White 050505,'
an album that we believe is 'classic Simple
Minds,' albeit with a whole new energy. We
can honestly say that we are delighted with
the results and look forward with a totally
revitalised outlook to this next phase of
our on going creativity. We feel with some
certainty that people who grew up with Simple
Minds will share our enthusiasm for this new
work. While at the same time, given the chance,
we also feel that these new songs are good
enough to interest a whole new contemporary
audience. Needless to say, in the tradition
of all great rock bands, we are extremely
excited at the prospect of playing this album
live on stage and look forward to doing exactly
that in the near future."
Different World (TAORMINA.ME)
Underneath the Ice
The Jeweller (Part 2)
Black and White
Kiss the Ground
For those too
young to remember Simple Minds the first time
around the group are perhaps best known for
their 1985 number one hit "Don't You (Forget
About Me)" from the film The Breakfast Club,
the classic 'Brat Pack' movie starring a very
young Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Ally
Sheedy and Molly Ringwald. Scotland's Simple
Minds evolved from a post-punk art rock band
influenced by Roxy Music into a grand, epic-sounding
pop band. The band grew out of a Glasgow punk
group called Johnny and the Self-Abusers,
which featured guitarist Charlie Burchill
and lead singer Jim Kerr. The inaugural 1978
lineup of Simple Minds featured a rhythm section
of Tony Donald on bass and Brian McGee on
drums, plus keyboardist Mick McNeil; Donald
was soon replaced by Derek Forbes.
albums leaped from one style to another, with
Life in a Day consisting mostly of dense,
arty pop songs; critical acclaim followed
the darker, more experimental art rock of
Reel to Real Cacophony and the Euro-disco
of Empires and Dance. The group began a transition
to a more accessible pop style with the albums
Sons and Fascination and Sister Feelings Call,
originally issued together and subsequently
split up. New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) became
their first chart album in the U.S., and the
tour-shy McGee quit owing to burgeoning popularity,
eventually being replaced by Mel Gaynor. Following
the Steve Lillywhite-produced Sparkle in the
Rain, Jim Kerr married Pretenders lead singer
Chrissie Hynde (the two groups had toured
Ferry rejected the opportunity to sing 'Don't
You (Forget about Me)', Simple Minds almost
did so as well; Kerr was dissatisfied with
the song's lyrics, which he regarded as formulaic.
His change of heart gave Simple Minds their
only American chart-topper, and the song later
became an international hit as well; however,
Kerr's feelings about the song remained ambivalent,
and it did not appear on the follow-up album,
Once Upon a Time. This album went gold and
reached the U.S. Top Ten. The next ten years
saw the group release a number of albums,
all of which failed to match the dizzy heights
of their earlier successes, until now.