with Simple Minds
Karen Bliss -
Want to know
if Jim Kerr remembers Simple Minds' first
gig opening for Steel Pulse 20 years ago at
Glasgow's Satellite City?
Want to know
what his secret is to meeting and marrying
(and divorcing) two of the world's coolest
women, Chrissie Hynde and Patsy Kensit?
Want to know
if he cares that some folks have forgotten
about him? Or... if you dare... want to know
if his you-know-what is bigger than Tommy
Lee's (that's the rumor)?
Those are just
may be some of the questions asked by Simple
Minds fans around the world, when the perennial
Brit-pop band celebrates the launch of its
official web site (www.simpleminds.com) with
a live webcast, this Wednesday, at 3 p.m.
(EST), from the Cybertheatre in Brussels.
of Simple Minds brand new album, Néapolis
(due March 17 in Canada), the two-hour special
will feature a Q&A component from the audience
and via e-mail, plus a live set from the current
line-up which reunites Kerr and guitarist
Charlie Burchill with original bassist Derek
Forbes and long-time drummer Mel Gaynor.
"It's not a
very big place. I think the sweat's gonna
be dripping from the ceiling," says Kerr,
on the phone from Amsterdam yesterday. "We'll
play five or six songs, some old, some new
and some covers."
Kerr, who rarely
has time to "surf the 'Net" because of his
commitment to writing and touring with Simple
Minds, says the site will be a personal interpretation
of their career, as seen by the very people
who lived it.
to finally have our own site," he says. "For
a long time we put it off. We wanted time
to hook up with a team who could put together
a site that's distinctly ours without trying
to steal from the great fan sites that are
already out there."
Some of the
fan sites are so comprehensive, they mention
every picture disk, every white-labeled promo
copy and every bootleg available. One bloke
is even auctioning off his Simple Minds collection
"I think the
all-time band that managed to have a relationship
with their fans and have fans that would get
into their mythology had to be the Grateful
Dead. They showed the way," says Kerr. "I'm
not saying we're in that league, but we certainly
have that kind of a dedication form a lot
Kerr has fronted Simple Minds for 20 years.
It was the group's fifth album, 1982's New
Gold Dream (81-82-83-84), a new wave classic
even today, and 1984's Sparkle In The Rain,
which made headway in North America.
Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol reportedly turned
down the offer, Simple Minds recorded "Don't
You Forget About Me" for the soundtrack to
the brat pack teen flick The Breakfast Club.
It shot to No. 1 in the States.
More pop than
its pioneering first albums, the next album,
Once Upon A Time, would sell millions.
sales tallied 12 million albums worldwide,
the band's popularity took a turn for worse
in the '90s. Finally, after 1995's Good News
From The Next World, the band parted ways
with its record label of 14 years, Virgin.
But it soon found a home with Chrysalis.
After a year
long break, Kerr and Burchill began writing
for Neapolis, and the result is a cohesive
soundscape, interestingly quite gentle and
yet fused with the clank and blips and beats
Charlie and his sound box, coming up with
all sorts of stuff," says Kerr, the less technologically-minded
of the songwriting team, who jokes that he
can't even put batteries in his Walkman. "The
last thing he wanted to do was come off with
typical rock `n' roll sounds. So it's sometimes
stretching sounds and squeezing sounds and
stopping sounds and making pianos sound like
guitars and guitars sound like pianos - for
what, I don't know, but I love it."
Kerr loves playing
with Simple Minds. During divorces, slacking
sales, road burn-out and other band hazards,
he never once thought of folding the group
and moving on.
"By and large,
no matter what was going on, we've always
enjoyed the process. At times, it's been more
stressful than others. But we're so blessed
to be given the chance to do this," explains
Kerr. "Charlie and I have never got over that
fact that we can make this music at 2 o'clock
in the morning in the Highlands of Scotland
and it seems intensely private and personal,
and a year later, there it goes around the
Mark Blake -
'Q' Magazine (UK)
team up with original bassist Derek Forbes
and producer Peter Walsh for a reprisal of
their love affair with all things Krautrock.
After the big arena grooves of 1995's Good
News From The Next World, Neapolis, the band's
12th studio album, throws a sharp U-turn,
aspiring instead to the modish soundscapes
of New Gold Dream (81, 82, 83, 84).
as it might seem, this shift in emphasis makes
for an immediately more appealing record.
This being Simple Minds though, the pilgrimage
to Berlin goes via the French Riviera, and
while there's less pomp and ceremony than
before, there's still a surfeit of hot air
doles out the required studio touches - humming
synthesisers, treated vocals, icy guitar patterns
- and Glitterball, War Babies and Killing
Andy Warhol, in particular, emerge with oddly
familiar colours but not a little dignity.
What was once a steroid-inflated monster has
returned to the ring several pounds lighter,
even if Néapolis's fixation with an
era 15 years ago is one that some might find
as unhealthy as the inflated stadia rock of
(3 out of
Forget About Me
Oh, you have.
Well here's a reminder. He's Simple Minds'
jock rock colossus, hubby of Chrissie Hynde
and per-Liam Patsy, next in line to the Stateside
stadium throne when everything went ping pong.
Of course! It's Jim Kerr! back on the boards
in time to tell Nick Duerden, "We're
a classic car."
'Q' Magazine March 1998 (UK)
It is an unseasonably
warm January afternoon in Nice, South of France,
and the two founder members of Simple Minds
- singer Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill
- are to be found in a small restaurant called,
perhaps predictably, perhaps merely coincidentally,
The Scotch House. The Minds' contingent aren't
the only customers boasting a fulsome Glaswegian
brogue in here, either. For, if we overlook
the three elderly French women, all draped
in fur, seated separately, and each with an
effete poodle at their feet, the place is
full of wandering Scots. Over by one window
sit an elderly couple, looking confused and
querying the contents of Nicuise salad, while
over by the other are a trio of middle-aged
Scottish women attempting to communicate to
the brusque waitress that tea and cakes will
do just fine, thanks.
waitress approaches Kerr and Burchill.
she demands of the rock stars, although their
status goes completely unnoticed. The pair
order cappuccion. She responds by spewing
a torrent of words.
Kerr reiterates his order and smiles politely.
The waitress clicks her heels and stalks off,
perhaps slightly angered that they've not
ordered any food. This is, after all, lunch
time and The Scotch House is a business.
this place," says Kerr, referring more
to Nice itself than this particular eaterie.
"Been coming here for years (although
he has yet to master the lingo). After a tour
that's lasted something like a year and a
half. this is the perfect place to get your
head together, kick back, relax."
Jim Kerr is
38 and boasts the sort of winter tan that
implies little of his year spent in Hillhead
or the Gorbals. If anything, the bronzing
makes his bright blue eyes seem even closer
together than they already are. He notes that
in summer, the adjacent beach is filled with
nearly naked female bodies, swanning across
the sand with the kind of elegance that only
the French seem truly capable of. "Tittyville,"
he winks, rubbing his hands together as if
So, like an
eternal boomerang, Simple Minds, now in their
20th year, are back again with a new album.
Néapolis, their first long player since
1995's Good News From The Next World (whose
lack of any serious success ultimately led
them being dropped by Virgin), finds the pair
reunited with original bassist, Derek Forbes,
and long-serving drummer Mel Gaynor, and is
produced by Peter Walsh, who worked with them
last on 1982's New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84).
Swathed in synths and shadowed by the ghost
of Krautrock (their earliest influence), it's
a fine set, distinctly personal, relaxed,
and quite possibly the sound of a band attempting
to revisit their past glories.
band or artist with a history has an album
that's their holy grail," says Jim, "and
I suppose New Gold Dream was ours. It was
a special time because we were really beginning
to break through with that record (actually
their seventh), both commerically and critically."
He takes a sip of his cappuccino and looks
off into the distance in recollection, a pose
that would look great on the big screen.
that liked that record," he says, "connected
with it in a special way. There was a depth
to it, it created its own mythology, it stood
out. It was our most successful record to
date, and critically, the Paul Morleys of
this world were writing very nice things about
it. Neapolis wasn't created as some kind of
spiritual successor, but I suppose that in
getting back together with the people we worked
with best with, some kind of thematic similarity
Formed in 1978
from the ashes of the highly mannered post-punk
outfit Johnny And The Self Abusers, huge by
the mid '80s, and often defined by what appeared
to be a raging ambition and a way with sweeping
polemic, Simple Minds went on to sell over
12 million albums worldwide.
Sparkle In The Rain LP, they decided to set
their sights on conquering America, having
already slain much of Europe, and so undertook
what even they suspected could be a dodgy
project: singing Don't You Forget About Me,
the theme tune to bratpack movie The Breakfast
Club, a song that had already been turned
down by Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol. It transformed
their career and promptly transported them
into the big league. Top 10 in much of the
world and, crucially, Number 1 in America,
it was quickly followed by the Once Upon A
Time album, a record full of pomp and circumstance
that attracted as many people as it repelled.
It sold by the million, and added further
fuel to the theory that the Minds were in
a hot race with U2 for world domination.
says Jim, a slight shake of the head in disdain,
"that was all a media thing, much like
the Blur versus Oasis campaign. I've never
been interested in world domination. I'd much
rather leave all that to people like Hilter.
Also, if we had set out to compete against
U2, it would have been pretty tragic for us
because it was very clear from day one that
that was their objective and no-one was going
to stand in their way. And that's fine. If
there has to be a world's biggest band, then
thank God it was someone like U2 rather than
Bon Jovi. We've managed to remain outside
the trappings of fame while achieving a position
inside. There's probably not a country in
the world that hasn't heard our music, and
yet we can walk down the street, any street,
and go completely unnoticed."
Which is, curiously,
entirely true. For, despite the small fact
that their singer has been married twice,
both times to very famous women, and despite
the fact that the band remain a huge draw,
not least here in France, they attract not
an iota of attention. And it's all their own
doing. Kerr, who, incidentally, has now lost
the Michelin Man roll of flab he had a few
years back, looks the very epitome of ordinary
(despite being clothed with expensive subtlety),
while Burchill, a small man with natural charm,
appears, in person, the very antithesis of
a guitar hero.
really let any of the potential difficulties
that accompany Planet Art bother me,"
shrugs Kerr. "I suppose I've always been
pretty secure in myself. I learned as a child
to deal with anything that's come my way.
Even marrying the women I married didn't change
that. I've never invited Hello! into my house,
never been the kind of guy to hang out at
In 1984, Jim
Kerr married Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde,
with whom he had a daughter, Natalie. Then,
following their divorce in 1992, he married
actress Patsy Kensit, and had a son, James.
Kerr and Kensit appeared great friends as
much as lovers. Rather than dragging her to
the Groucho, gleefully waving the vees at
the ever-attendant paparazzi, he introduced
his wife to football. She promptly became
In 1995, the
couple separted, and Kensit (who had previously
been married to Big Audio Dynamite's Dan Donovan)
started seeing Liam Gallagher, whom she later
married and had tatoos with. Gallagher is
now stepfather to Jim Kerr's son.
like to suggest that this kind of thing happens
in our game," says Jim. "Rubbish.
This kind of thing - separation, divorce -
happens everywhere. They just get highlighted
in our game. Just because it gets reported
in the tabloids doesn't make it remarkable.
i realised that I wasn't marrying the girl
who works in the cake shop, who they were
was never an issue in my mind. These just
happened to be the women I fell in love with.
They were interesting birds with interesting
lives. So, yeah, I married great women. When
it worked it worked, and when it didn't it
didn't. It really is as simple as that. Chrissie
and Patsy are the mothers to my kids, and
they've both pulled off something I can't
do. They're with the kids every day, bringing
them up, and they're both doing a great job.
Of course it's sad when people break up, but
in many ways I couldn't wish for a better
situation. The only complication is the miles
that separate me from my kids. Otherwise,
I've absolutely nothing to complain about,
I've come out of both relationships with no
axe to grind whatsoever."
revealed that he and little James were great
mates, that he's enjoying his new role in
life, and that James refers to him as "stinky
arse" after the younger Gallagher's wont
of farting loudly in his face. Does Kerr every
worry about his son being brought up by someone
who he may not consider entirely appropriate
for the job?
he says, completely unruffled, "but I
can't comment on that. It's a legal matter.
All I will say is that as far as I have observed,
Liam Gallagher loves him. With that being
the case, I couldn't ask for more."
As he has done
since the turn of the decade - coinciding
with a conscious downscaling of the band's
music - Jim Kerr exudes an air of contentedness.
His lust for filling stadiums the world over
has now passed (although he lets it be known
that last year, without a record to plug,
Simple Minds played across the world to over
a million people), and he no longer wants
to play the iconic rock star. He sees his
peers as Springsteen and Lou Reed - whom he
presumably judges uniconic - rather than U2.
that we can honestly claim to being one of
the truly great bands," he ponders. "It's
like with cars - you've got your new cars,
your old cars, and..." dramatic pause
to suggest mental drum roll, "your classic
cars. We're somewhere towards classic."
And then talk
turns to Mariella Frostrup, whom he appears
to find rather attractive...
Jim Is Not
When I proudly
announced that I would be interviewing this
man, the thirty-somethings around me wowed
with lust while the twenty-somethings all
said who? You're rudely uneducated I fired,
for he is the ladys man of rock n roll; the
Hercules who'd cross rivers and climb the
Cairngorms to be with Chrissie... then Patsy...
then... Well then it got boring. He gave up
women and went back to his roots. But now
he's back. Thinner, glazed eyed but headstrong
- it's Jim Kerr with his Simple Minds bearing
all the Gaelic idiosyncrasy Irvine Welsh missed
and a lot more besides!
'DV8' - May /
June 1998 (UK)
in fact are those dodgy little punk outfits
graced by Johnny and the Self Abusers when
you see who grew out of them. What followed
was a social upgrade, a shift to the new style
eighties pop and a name change which didn't
justify social reprobation. Over the next
twenty years Simple Minds went on to sell
millions of albums worldwide and they're now
back Neapolis, their first album to hit the
streets after their not quite massive predecessor
back in 1995.
thirty eight, celebrating your twentieth anniversary
of bopping about in a boy band. Aren't you
You won't get
rid of us that easily! It is hard but when
you love it, when you're looking for a new
song, you can't be half-hearted about it.
We've never not been content with what we're
doing. We never thought the band would last
more than twenty weeks never mind twenty years
and even now I don't think it's meant to go
on for years and years. The Beatles only made
it last nine years and they were the best
band on the planet.
think about other things though, other than
Yeah, same as
Ah hah. I
didn't like to bring the subject up, but since
you have, how is your love life?
on hold at the moment. I don't know if that's
a poor choice of words or not! I've got a
few flames but nothing serious. I'm too busy
to be honest with you. We've been very busy
promoting this record around Europe and America
over the last few months. My eyes are glazed.
Well, I'm not
the original name for Italy's Naples inspired
the artowrk for the album and it's where the
finishing touches were perfected. With Peter
Walsh producing (he also produced 'New Gold
Dream') and original player Derek Forbes back
on bass, it's somewhat a revisiting of old
flames. But there is an evident of old innovation
and, bar the slightly more mature edge, the
synthesised sounds rooted in Simple Minds
earliest influences, Can, Cabaret Voltaire
and Kraftwerk are still very prominent.
is a corker if you're a fan of the band simply
because they haven't changed. Unlike U2, which
they are so loosely and inadvisably compared
to, Simple Minds have been nowhere near as
adventurous over the last two decades. In
return they've maintained a loyal fan base
without the sufferance's of 'Zoo TV' and failed
video links with war zones.
I can definitely hear flash backs from the
past but I don't think we were taking a trip
down memory lane just for the sake of it because
I don't know if it would be possible. You
know to tey and re-create the spirit of a
record you made x amounts of years ago, it
would be a bit like trying to create a dinner
party. You just couldn't do it. You could
invite the same people but it all hinges on
the mood and what the backdrop is and the
conversation at the table would be about that
period... it just can't be done. But having
said that, within our music we're quite amazed
at how different themes seem to cycle back.
the mood now? It's not a rock album. It's
probably more err... mellow?
It is, yeah.
It's quite a romantic sort of record, a bit
spacey I think. It's not as bombastic and
big but I think emoitionally it's still big.
Our musical influences are still much the
same and I think we carry these influences
with us... people like Lou Reed and David
Bowie I think are part of our genetics so
they're always there.
Is this going
to be the next big one?
You can't really
think too much about that. I mean where do
you start? The truth of the matter is we're
making this thing up as we go along and, sure,
when it's done you do everything you can to
let people know it exists. But it's up to
many different factors and sometimes it hits
home an sometime it doesn't. There's been
people much more talented out there who haven't
sold as many records. It's just the way the
deflating success following 1995's 'Good News
From The Next World' the band have ended their
fifteen year contract with Virgin (although
it's not clear who dropped who) and are now
signed with Chrysalis.
record company's as good as the other really
but it's good to get fresh input. It depends
more on the individuals you're working with
at the time and quite often that's changing.
Everybody needs that or you can take each
other for granted. Maybe that was what was
happening. I don't think the chopping and
changing is necessarily a bad thing; if anything
I think it keeps the music fresh. We spend
that much time in each other's pockets when
we're producing a new album and touring that
it's only fair to step back from it sometimes.
Then, if the music suggests it's right for
someone to come back then we get them back
and it's great that they're enthusiastic enough
to want to continue.
Jim is not. Despite his record with women
he say's he's uninterested with the high life
pretentiousness of stardom and keeps a fairly
big when we're in town and playing that night
but when we're not, we disappear. That's nice.
I wouldn't like it if we couldn't go to Safeway.
It's nice to hang out with the stars for the
frivolous thing it ios but to make it a way
of life I think would be kind of empty. It's
about who's who and who's looking at what,
whereas i like interracting with people...
quite often at those things no-one says anything.
the first release from the album, seems to
reflect that. Very representative of the album
it's a very basic three chord sound with a
bit of rhythm. The lyrics?
about fashion victims... glamour junkies."
What a piss
There are people attracted to those sorts
of things but I'm not condeming them."
How was it
then, singing on Top Of The Pops after all
really changed. There's a lot of grumpy men
still jumping up and down with cameras trying
to kick the kids out of the way. But I've
got so much respect for it because when I
was a kid it was where I saw all my heros
and you can't ever take that away."
The new album
precedes a European Tour commencing later
this month. Taking in the major European festivals,
it will be a collection of the classics; a
reflection of the old and new. But it will
also clash severely with the World Cup. As
a self-confessed football groupie with a forgivable
passion for Scotland's, I suppose that either
makes them either sad workaholics or not least
a fine dedication to their art. But Jim disagrees.
No, not at all. I'll make sure we play where
the games are. We'll have to dance around
of Simple Minds' new album 'Néapolis',
Jim Kerr picks ten records that remind him
of his favourite cities.
'Vox' - April
Juliette' Lou Reed (album track from 'New
the voice of Lou Reed is New york. A lot of
people only ever refer to his early work,
but for me this is an example of a songwriter
at his very best. He's a poet here, a professor
of music. I like to think that Simple Minds
have yet to reach our peak. Certainly on our
new album we've been more relaxed about what
we're doing than we've been for years"
John Cale (album track from Leonard Cohen's
'Various Positions', 1985)
like Lou Reed. John Cale's voice captures
the essence of New York. Even though he's
a Welshman, his voice sounds like the Gothic
New York. This track is actually by Leonard
Cohen, but Cale's voice is almost like a cathedral
on it. We wanted Cale to produce our first
album, but the record company wouldn't agree
Kraftwerk (single, 1974)
that captures a sense of driving between great
cities in Germany. We were always influenced
by European music. In fact, I'll always call
myself European rather than British. I guess
this is because travel was always our love.
Me and Charlie (Burchill - Simple Minds guitarist)
actually met and decided to form a band while
travelling. Although our first band (Johnny
And The Self Abusers) was a punk band, that
German electronic sound really came to the
fore with Simple Minds."
Make Me feel (Mighty Real)' Sylvester (single,
disco movement has been lambasted by the media
with - dare I say it - gay abandon, but I
still think it was a creative time for music.
It's such a joyful sound and this track is
so postive. And another New York track I'm
afraid. We were really influenced by disco
and tried to capture an essence of it in our
music, but perhaps in a less happy way! Every
day I get requests from some dance producer
or other wanting to sample something from
us and they're welcome to it. So I guess you
could say we've equally been an influence
on some dance music."
Is Dead' The Smiths (album track from 'The
Queen Is Dead', 1986)
is one of a kind, isn't he? Oscar Wilde meets
Frankie Howard. People talk about him being
camp, but I always thought he looked like
a street fighter, like he could really look
after himself, like he'd take a blade to you,
grill you. When he was doing stuff with Johnny
Marr he was so good. His targets would be
cut to pieces by his wit and the melodies
were always somehow unexpected. Definitely
Through The Fair' Van Morrison (album track
from 'Irish Heartbeat', 1988)
Grump. Happy Van. I just love some of the
stuff he's done. This song captures the feeling
of Belfast for me. It's very similar in atmosphere
to Glasgow, so I always feel like I've come
home when I'm there. You can almost hear the
mist in Van's voice and in this track he's
captured the spirit."
Finlay Quaye (single, 1997)
this one is South of France to me. Not a city,
but a part of the world I love. The reason
is that last summer I took the kids on holiday
there. We all took our own music to listen
to. My eldest took the Prodigy, I took this.
Finlay Quaye's got a really unique voice,
soulful yet strong. And we'll claim him as
a Scotsman, so he's in the squad for the fantasy
Life' The Pretenders (album track from 'Pretenders',
I love Chrissie to death. She's the mother
of my children, but for a long time I couldn't
really listen to her music. Then the other
night this came on the radio and it struck
me: what a brilliant lyricist, so sharp. The
way she spits out "Your sex life complications
are not my fascination" is like... Jesus,
to think I married that! Which city? I'll
give her Ohio. Although she likes to think
of herself as an Anglophile, she'll always
be a septic to me. A septic tank, that's Ohio!"
Nusrat fateh Ali Khan (title track from 1996
my favourite places in the world is India,
and although Nasrat was a pakistani his music
will always conjure up the essence of Jaipur
in India for me. I love it there, the sense
of chaos, the colours, the energy and the
art. There are so many tracks by fateh Ali
Khan that I could have chosen. He was a rare
talent and a great loss to music when he died."
Iggy Pop (single, 1997)
this is every city - the traveller, the passenger.
Then again, it's Berlin. The words are so
poetic, constantly moving with the music,
travelling with the beat. People often forget
what a genius Iggy is, instead they focus
on the way he cuts himself up. I love how
he uses words to get a reaction, whether by
lyrically representing something in a really
powerful way or by adlibbing live to change
the meaning. Once I saw him doing 'Sister
Midnight', and he changed the lines "I
had a dream last night, Mother was in my bed
and I made love to her" to "Last
night I saw my mother, she was in my bed,
her arsehole was black and blue." What
other vocalist can get away with that? genius."
The War Against
The other album
Exile illuminates, for me, is Neapolis, the
new one from Simple Minds. I have no idea
what plans for US distribution the band has
for this record, but I liked their last one,
Good News From the Next World, well enough
to spring for this UK limited edition in its
hinged metal tin. I've grown attached to the
tin, actually. In some alternate universe,
where they could never quite perfect plastic,
all CDs come in metal tins like this. What
they make the CDs out of, if plastic didn't
pan out, I'm not certain, but if I lived there
I could cultivate the affectation of snapping
a CD tin open and closed, like smokers flipping
the covers of their eight-ball lighters back
and forth, which was the only thing I ever
thought was cool about smoking.
Ever since Simple
Minds temporarily got stuck in the arena-anthem
rut in the late Eighties, I've been expecting
them to implode, but not only have they managed
not to, for me, they've since contrived to
stay out of ruts entirely. Good News From
the Next World was a return to Sparkle in
the Rain-era Big Music, but Neapolis, in an
oblivious reversal of the usual "We just wanted
to get back to basics" earnestness, plunges
eagerly into a thicket of synthesizers, sequencers,
drum machines, processor swirls, acoustic-guitar
jangle and Jim Kerr's emotive crooning.
drum loops ally the record with Gary Numan
and Curve, but Kerr and Charlie Burchill (and
returned bassist Derek Forbes, and even old
drummer Mel Gaynor on one song) are not haunted
by (or don't recruit) any of the demons that
beset the others, and as a result this is
an incongruously sunny record of twitching
music. I expect it's too sunny for neo-goth
audiences, insufferable in the way that people
who leap out of bed ready to initiate pledge-drives
and repaint guest bedrooms are to those whose
idea of a productive start to a day is getting
to the fifth cup of coffee before the mailman
If Numan's pinched
snarl and Halliday's processor-flayed sighs
are your idea of the genre's vocal ideals,
Kerr's sweet, sincere, lilting melodies may
seem as out of place as Pat Boone singing
Motorhead songs, and if anonymous aggression
and a drug-trip-enhancing blur are integral
to this sort of music, to you, listening to
Simple Minds gloss over them may be like watching
your parents failing to wear jeans correctly.
But the three albums complement each other,
to me, Numan's providing weight, Curve's supplying
buzz and Simple Minds' adding sparkle, and
even if the three sides of the triangle don't
appear to be the same length when you gauge
them from your own vantage point, you always
understand the music you like better if you
know what it leaves out. And if eighteen-year-olds
are the arbiters, I'm wearing my jeans wrong
Dave Veitch -
Singer Jim Kerr
and guitarist Charlie Burchill bring original
bassist Derek Forbes back into the fold, as
well as New Gold Dream producer Peter Walsh
and drummer Mel Gaynor, for an album that
eschews stadium-shaking anthems for the sort
of atmospheric, detailed synth-rock the band
perfected on Sons and Fascination and New
guitar, industrial rhythms and drum loops
show the band has keeping abreast of electronica,
but generally understatement, luxurious soundscapes
and melodic songcraft are the order of the
(3 out of
Kerr In The
Dele Fadele -
'Vox' April 1998 (UK)
If the young
Jim Kerr; who fronted Johnny And The Self
Abusers in the late '70s tailspin of punk,
knew what fate had in store for him and his
mates, would he had bothered? Of course he
would. Driven to escape boredom on a grim
Scottish council estate, the SImple Minds
frontman always had dreams of being beamed
worldwide on global telescreens. The problem
is that his dreams have come true arguably
at the expense of his muse. He fell in love
with America and slowly transformed his group
from an exquiste European mainstream experiment
into an increasingly gargantuan rock machine.
1995's overdone 'Good News From The Next World'
would seem to have been the last straw - one
collection of grand gestures and grander platitudes
So what do Simple
Minds do, three years on? They attempt a return
to their roots. A return to credible early
- '80s albums like 'Empires And Dance' and
'Sister Feelings Call' to find the spark that
set 'em off in the first place. A retreat
to a basic and creative way of working that
seizes old technologies and updates them in
a time of vast and sweeping changes.
But is it possible
to return to the past after so many bridges
have been torched, and so many fans have been
inspiried by the corporate brand entity and
giant spectacle Simple Minds have become?
Yes and no. A compromise has been struck,
and 'Neapolis' knowingly combines the best
of both worlds into something that retains
the trademark group signature but is more
forward-looking than anything they've done
for years. This means the cinematic sweep
of the words and music remain, but are enhanced
by all manner of modern gimmickry' expensive
noises that acknowledge current techno are
splashed over riffs and grooves.
If there's a
flaw in this approach, it's that the space
in the music that Simple Minds exploited in
the early '80s has been replaced by a need
to make sure there's always something going
on. Preferably something spectacular. Like
a European art movie made with a multi-million
dollar Hollywood budget, 'Neapolis' sometimes
tries to hard to have tis cake and eat it.
'Song For The
Tribes' is the opening statement, a meditation
on fame and an outreach to the audience that
blows up a simple semi-acoustic song into
an anthem, and has Kerr admitting he can't
really say everything he really wants to say.
The catchy 'Glitterball' would've been a disco-ey
song in the old days, but settles for being
a bittersweet celebration of hedonism, with
visions of what Kerr calls "the great
unloved" whiling away their weekends
in escapist dancehalls, bellies full of wine.
seems to be Simple Minds on the outside looking
in - and Charlie Burchill's music astutely
conveys this sense of dislocation - as if
they sometimes feel trapped by their riches
and position and want to actually join the
struggling people on the street. Certainly
'War Babies' could double as a love song and
a strange snapshot of Sarajevo, while the
uptempo 'Lightning' acyually articulates the
feeling of wanting to be someone else.
The other hard-rockin'
track on an album of mid-tempo numbers occasionally
disfigured by noise comes as a surprise. 'Killing
Andy Warhoal' is the world seen from the viewpoint
of one of the late Manhattan-based artist's
stable of stars, and might even allude to
Valerie Solanas shooting the dyed-hair scenester
in the late '60s. The closer, 'Androgyny',
continues the theme of outsiders and strangeness,
while being designed as a nagging, circular,
have once again tried, perhaps unsurprisingly,
to cover all bases. But at least they've done
so with a discernible measure od success this
(3 out of
Now: Jim Spills The Beans
hype about 'Néapolis' marking a return
to Simple Minds' past....
I don't really
buy into this idea of going back. I don't
think you can go back. The technology's changed,
we've changed, the world has changed. Why
would you need to goback?
populate 'Song For The Tribes'?
It's an abstract
idea; the first song we've ever written about
Britain in a way. There was an image of Britain
at specific times last year, whether it was
the euphoria of the election or the whole
Princess Diana thing. Stock images of Britain
were trotted out when, in fact, Britain is
si fragmented. Different people want to live
in different ways. Some wanna live up trees,
some wanna live in castles. Not only do I
not but into this thing of Britain and Brits
and all this Brit-talk, but I actually think
it's a way of holding people back.
Why the fascination
with Andy Warhoal?
The usual things.
Iconography. Art as a testament. I was in
the museum of Modern Art in New York checking
out a few paintings, no big deal. But in the
coffee shop afterwards, these two guys sat
next to me, and I noticed that one of them
was an, er, Andy Warhoal lookalike, and that
was intriguing. I did a double-take. I couldn't
help but hear what was going on, because they
got quite animated. And it became apparent
they were having a huge disagreement on what
they'd just seen, and it also became apparent
they were lovers, so there was more at stake.
One of them said: "They're killing Andy
Warhoal, killing his name, killing the bmythology."
Very intense. I improvised around the idea.
Babies' be read as an anti-war statement?
It's not about
war between nations. Probably more the fallout,
that's like a war, between people, when communication
breaks down. Emotional warfare."
- www.cd.co.za (South Africa)
Back in the
Sixties, little Jimmy Kerr would always hang
out with Paulie Hewson in the little shed
in the backyard. There they would dream about
the bands they would front, the songs they
would write and the political issues they
could sing about to crowds all over the world.
Jim's first band, Johnny and the Self Abusers,
made a minimal impact on the punk audiences
of the day but his next one caught a ride
on the more style and musicianship orientated
New Wave movement. Simple Minds' debut 'A
Life In A Day' was mature and tuneful and
was the first in a long line of rock 'n rhetoric
albums. John Hughes used the song 'Don't You
Forget About Me' over the closing credits
of his teen bonding movie 'The Breakfast Club'
and the image of Judd Nelson raising a triumphant
fist took Jim Kerr and his gang to stadiums
all over the world.
But little Paulie
Hewson became Bono and his U2 gang eventually
eclipsed Simple Minds (and all other contemporary
competitors) with the hugeness of their PopMart
tour. So Jim Kerr has decided to forget about
those Belfast kids and Sarajevo victims and
South African freedom fighters and has released
'Néapolis', a rock-steady piece of
work that sounds current and futuristic, all
at the same time. There's echoes of Bowie,
Kraftwerk, the Rolling Stones and, strangely
enough, U2, scattered all over this surprisingly
un-boring CD. All these 11 tracks were written
by Jim and his faithful old mucker, Charlie
'Song For The
Tribes' is a restrained but menacing opener
that is followed by Jim Kerr doing his homage
to 'Boys And Girls'-period Bryan Ferry on
'Glitterball'. Electronica waltzes nog! The
third winner in a row is the first single
'War Babies' which is a 'Vienna'-ish Euro
ballad that casts a spell over you and keeps
you interested all the way through. 'Superman
v. Supersoul' is a mid-album strong point
with its sweet melody drifting over an insistent
percussive underbed. 'Killing Andy Warhol'
sees Jim letting his new cool mask slip slightly
although only with the naff lyrics.
'Néapolis' (meaning "new city") is
a brave attempt on Jim Kerr's part to win
back some late Nineties cred, fans and respect.
It's not as important what he's saying as
how the lyrics combine with the music to create
a well-rounded and frontline rock album. He's
stopped competing with U2 and seems comfortable
knowing that he can still put out an album
as good as anything little Paulie can. Don't
you forget about Jim!
(7 out of
career is back on track but, as he tells Lousie
Gannon, marriage and music don't mix
- 'The Express' 21st February 1998 (UK)
Jim Kerr walks
into a London studio and throws four large
bags into the corner of the room. In a few
hours he will be on a plane to perform Simple
Minds' new single 'Glitterball' in France,
then Belgium, then every other country in
Western Europe. He looks pleased at the prospect
of his impending flight. Kerr is a man who
does not like to stick around.
Like many clebrities,
he is as famous for his personal life as his
success with Simple Minds. For the past few
years he has avoided interviews, ducking the
inevitable questions about Liam Gallagher
and his ex-wife Patsy Kensit, the controversial
king and queen of britpop. Warnings are flashed:
"Jim doesn't talk about private matters,"
say his minions. But five minutes into his
company and he's talking happily about his
son, his home in Ireland and his old school.
There are no invisible barriers. he is open,
down-to-earth and honest.
he says in his at times impenetrable Glasgow
burr: "You've got to be honest or there's
no point. You'll never move on." He shrugs.
In 39 years
Kerr has done nothing but move on. He was
born in Toryglen, one of the toughest parts
of Glasgow, the eldest of three boys. It was
a typical working class upbringing. His father
was a labourer, his mother looked after the
children in their flat overlooking the Crossband
Road. Kerr wanted something else and when
he was eight years old he met a boy called
Charlie Burchill in a sandpit. Together they
decided to conquer the world.
Simple Minds, with Kerr on lead vocals and
Burchill on guitar, was one of the most successful
bands in the eighties, selling vast numbers
of records in Britain and America, including
hits such as 'Don't You (Forget About Me),
Belfast Child and All The Things She Said.
They released album after album to massive
acclaim and made millions in the process.
In the Nineties
they began to flounder. "They were a
few years where we just went wrong,"
says Kerr. "So we had to get things together
and go back to go forward." He says this
with confidence as their new album, 'Neapolis',
has had the sort of critical reaction most
bands only dream about.
On a personal
level, Kerr accepts that his desire to keep
moving has wrecked both his marriages. His
marriage to Chrissie Hynde ended in 1989 after
four years and one daughter, Yasmin, now 13.
His marriage to Patsy kensit ended in 1996
after four years and one son, James, five.
been able to crack being married. I wanted
it to work," he says, "but I was
never there enough because I was always too
obessed with the band. Even when I had the
time to be there I wanted to be off travelling
somewhere else and even if I was in the house
I'd be spending hours away in my head so I
may as well not have been there anyway."
As he talks
you realise this is something he has had to
force himself to come to terms with. Music
for Kerr has always come first. "I used
to think I had a deprived upbringing but I
acyually had an amazingly special one because
I had parents who loved each other and loved
us beyond everything. I hoped I'd be able
to recreate that, but I couldn't do it.
were times when I'd think I'm going to put
my relationship first but when I did that,
the music suffered so I always reverted to
the music and the relationship suffered."
But it was Patsy
who made him realise he could not carry on
trying to have both. "When you're married
you need to be there for someone, especially
when they are children. A marriage can't work
when you are separted by work because the
glue just becomes unstuck.
very spontaneous person when it comes to big
emotional decisions. If I meet someone I fall
in love with I have to marry them and have
kids with them. It happened with Chrissie
and Patsy. They're both the sort of women
you fall in love with. But I was just so bad
at the small emotional things."
Kerr had never wanted to be divorced. After
one divorce he thought it would never happen
again. It did because he realised what pain
he was causing Patsy by putting his career
before his marriage.
divorce was the only option. "When you
see someone you love unhappy you have to take
stock. I've been married to two fantastic
women. Your reasons for loving someone never
change. They're special and I respect them
for being incredibly good mothers."
So far there
is no mention of Patsy's new husband, Liam
Gallagher. It has been said that the two musicians
can't bear to be in each other's company,
can't stand the mention of either's name.
Kerr laughs. "Where do people get these
ideas from? It's just mad."
One thing Kerr
has managed to do is mantain very good relationships
with his exes. Chrissie and Patsy became friends
through Kerr and ironically it was Chrissie
who first introduced Patsy to Liam. Kerr is
in weekly touch with the Gallaghers.
seem to think it's strange that we don't hate
each other. Strange that it's quite comfortable.
But Liam really loves my son and so does his
brother and that's all I care about.
goes to a poncy private school and half of
me worries as it's not what I had, but the
other half thinks that's great. He gets to
mix with a cosmopolitan crowd but he still
knows all the stories of all his saints; he
spent New Year up in Scotland with his cousins
and he loves it."
Ask if Kerr's
words are tinged with regret for a family
life that has remained out of his grasp and
he shakes his head. "I'm not going to
get married again. I'm single now and I'm
happy because I think I'm a loner who isn't
alone. At times I do meet women and think:
'They've got a busy career, they're flying
all over the place, maybe it would work',
but at the end of the day, I know it couldn't.
I've got two families and my family up in
Scotland. There's always something going on.
I don't think I'll ever marry again."
These days Kerr
spends much of his time in Ireland in a mansion
outside Dublin he brought with Patsy when
they were married. he is in good shape and
still looks boyish. Tactile and chatty, he's
relaxed in female company. His fairish hair
is cut short and his clothes - T-shirt and
black jeans - are discreetly expensive. He
admits to working on his apperance. He runs
every day, has given up alcohol and keeps
to the vegetarian regime he began when he
first met Chrissie Hynde. "I was eating
a burger. She looked at me and said: "You're
too cool to eat meat'. There was no lecturing,
no shouting, it was just this incredible feeling
she was right."
His closet friend
is still his co-writer, co-musician Burchill,
the boy he met in the sandpit 31 years ago,
the man with whom he is enjoying renewed success.
"We've always had this thing that Simple
Minds isn't just about the music, it's our
crusade against the world. There's always
been the two of us in it, there's had to be.
When there's just one of you people think
you're mad, with two you've got a revolution.
been the music first and we've both been able
to remind each other where we come from which
keeps our feet on the ground. There were times,
especially in the early days, when we used
to go into rock-star mode - the drink, the
drugs, the bad behaviour, the lot. But we
were always aware it was an attitude of mind,
something you could go into and come out of
His mind goes
to his great friend, Michael Hutchence, who
was found dead just months ago in a hotel
room. "He was a great guy," he says
sadly. "But Michael liked to live the
rock star bit all the time. You just can't
After a pause,
he returns to his years with Simple Minds.
He admits he and Burchill are probably the
only people who understand each other. In
Scotish tradition their first-born sons were
both given their father's names. "But
James' second name is Charlie and Charlie's
son's is James," he says with a smile.
It is not the
only thing they have in common. "People
think that it you've had our sort of lifestyles,
you're always out with the models, always
chasing women but we've always been incredibly
lazy where women are concerned. We never went
out looking. We've both met our wives in hotels.
I met Patsy in a hotel corridor in Spain.
She was shooting a film in the hotel and I
was staying there doing a concert. I kept
being told I couldn't go to this place and
that place because they were filming so I
was getting really grumpy about it. Then I
bumped into her in the corridor. She said
she was bored so I asked her if she fancied
coming to a concert - our concert. That was
Chrissie in a hotel reception when we were
doing this show together. She was this incredibly
cool, sussed American chick and I was this
20-year-old Glasgow boy. I was blown away
story is the happiest. He is still married
to the hotel receptionist he met in Switzerland."
In an hour Kerr
has to catch a plane. He points to his bags
in the corner of the room and smiles. "I
get a buzz from knowing that any minute I'll
be off." This is what life is all about.
Jim Kerr doesn't like his feet to touch the