Friday, February 6, 2009

Are the Kaiser Chiefs getting better?

A while back I had a lovely ol' chin wag with Mr Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs about "Off With Their Heads". I like their music. Not love, but they're good festival fodder with shouty, often spiteful, beer soaked anthems.
They play the Heineken Music Hall on Monday 16 Feb (for those reading in Australia, you'll be jealous to find out you're also missing out on the Australian Pink Floyd Show in the same arena on Monday 1 March) so get along if you're interested. There is a shorter interview about Ricky's love life in this month's Time Out, but whatevs. The charming Ricky Wilson...

Have you been to Amsterdam before?
Yes, yes, many times. It’s one of the places in the world we’re strangely popular. And we like going to places were we can play to lot’s of people

Did you ever come over here pre-fame, possibly a hedonistic pilgrammage?
Yes, we came over for a college trip but there was like four of us that didn’t smoke so we hung around together, supposed to be looking at art galleries but everyone was sitting around in coffeeshops. So we decided to get as drunk as humanly possible and we did and one night one of our tutors took us out to some very strange places and we lost him for three days. We all got back to our beds but he had a lost weekend. It’s nice to get to a point with a city where you can walk around it and know where things are.

Well congrats on Off With Their Heads.
Thank you, we are very pleased and we’re very proud.

It came out as expected?
We never expected to make an album this year at all, we were just going to take it easy. But yeah, we wouldn’t have released it if we didn’t like it. You can’t really plan an album. People say they wanted this or that but you just have to do what comes naturally and that’s what we did. It sounds like we were enjoying ourselves. Some of my favourite music is miserable, but we find it a bit difficult to be miserable.

A friend of mine recently interviewed Simon for an Australian magazine. Simon said for Yours Truly, Angry Mob is more musical than this one. How is this less musical?
I don’t know. That’s his answer. You’ve got five people in the band with five different opinions. I don’t know anything about the music, I just write the words, know what I mean. I love when people ask me what my musical influences are and I can just say “I write words”. Then they ask what are your lyrical influences? “Dunno, things ya see.”

Pretty stuff, colours...
Yes, exactly. What he probably means is we really tried to nail it on the last one and we tried to make the songs very songy songs. This was more just messing about. And not to detract from the last one but I think it’s great not to worry about how many songs are on an album and just do something you really like. Not everything has to be a single. Having that attitude you end up writing more singles.

Mark Ronson produced. Did you seek him out intentionally?
Not really. We kept bumping into him cos he’s a fan of the band. He came to a gig at Earls Court and said hello to us then Nick and I had a meeting with him. It was all a bit strange because he is the only producer who has actively contacted us about wanting to produce us. Normally producers sit in their office waiting for bands to contact them and then they pass bands on to their agent who says how much it will be and it’s all a bit about money. But this was more about the fact he really wanted to do it. We met him. We like him, that’s about 80 per cent. He’s the only one asking, he’s winning grammies so there must be something in it. And he’s in our age group. We’ve worked with people before who are brilliant but it’s always felt like we’ve had a fatherly figure in the studio. This time we were all messing about in a room and we were allowed to use everything.

And while he’s considered a current super-producer it was all kept pretty conventional?
We’re an indie band. That’s what we are. We were just messing about but there was some weird stuff we did. We did experiment more than ever on this record but you have to draw the line between experimenting and having brilliant songs and experimenting and having noise. It’s all well and good experimenting but we like really good tunes and we still want it based in melody… I feel Like I got bogies hangin out my nose… (reassured he didn't, he presses on). Experimentation is great and we enjoy it but we don’t want it to be the thing they’re listening to, we want them to be listening to the song.

Did he bring Sway or David Arnold (legendary James Bond composer) in?
No, he didn’t bring Sway in at all. Sway just came into the studio, he was passing by. Mark wasn’t there, I wasn’t even there. I was being a best man. And David Arnold, he’s friends with us because we worked together in '07 for the BBC. He came in to talk to Mark about the Bond theme that never happened. We asked if we could play him some stuff, we did and he rang back a couple of days later and said ‘is there anything you want me to do?’ It was more through us. Mark was good at bringing people into the studio that were famous for us to look at. Mark brought New Young Pony Club and Lily Allen into the studio. We wanted a Bananarama type thing so we thought let’s get Bananarama, but we were so impatient, we were moving so fast we wanted to do it now. So we said Mark, who have you got in your phone book? And we thought, 'perfect'.

Could you ever see the Kaiser Chiefs doing a Bond theme?
I’d love to do a theme, it’d be brilliant to do.

Is it in the Kaiser Chiefs canon?
Well all I’d have to do is write some words, that can’t be that hard. You just need to sing about guns and women.

You said you were already friends with Lily Allen?
Yeah, I met her for the first time ages and ages ago. I hadn’t heard of her, people were only just beginning to talk about her. I knew of her dad, Keith Allen. But I met her at this gentlemen’s club. I don’t know if she was in there with someone from her label and I remember someone saying she’s done a cover of "Oh My God" with Mark Ronson, who I hadn’t heard of at the time. I asked her if it’s any good. She’s very cute and smart and she said ‘It’s better than yours!”

You said you were writing an album that was fun and…
I don’t want it to sound like we were writing an album that was throw-away. It was fun to make but it’s not like we were writing Barney The Dinosaur.

But it’s fun and feels effortless. Is it hard to make is seem effortless?
No. But I don’t want to sound big headed because we do work very hard and there were long days that were stressful, but you can’t complain, it’s still sitting in a studio with your mates. It’s not really that much hard work. If we don’t really like a song it won’t get past the first ten minutes to get on the record. In that way it’s effortless. We’d be doing it anyway even if we weren’t successful. We wanted time off but after a couple of weeks it’s like, ‘well I don’t have any hobbies”.

As a PS, here's a video showing how lucky the Pro-tools generation are compared to the likes of the Beatles, as the band cover "Getting Better" on the original 4-track from the St Peppers recording.

As a PPS, the Press Associated reported this just a couple of days ago.

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