It’s been a busy seven years since Kaiser Chiefs released their anthemic Britpop debut, Employment–seven years marked with world tours and sold-out stadiums, time off, record label startups and one major marketing experiment.
Their second album Yours Truly, Angry Mob birthed a single that slayed the charts, though the record racked up fewer than one-third of Employment’s sales. Their third and fourth albums (Off with Their Heads and The Future is Medieval) were admittedly not by and large financial successes, though the latter allowed fans to create and purchase their own mixtapes out of 20-odd new songs; a first in the industry.
Yesterday, March 6th, the band released Start the Revolution Without Me–its significantly reworked version of The Future is Medieval for its U.S. audience–and we’re proud to say it’s quite good. Bassist Simon Rix was kind enough to chat with us on their new release, living up to Employment and where he buys his gear, all before they play 9:30 Club this Friday.
Hi Simon, how are you doing? Where are you calling from currently?
I’m okay. I’m in London and we’ve got a few days off before we head over to America.
Well almost welcome back to America. What’s your favorite thing about touring The States?
The stuff, really. I’m a bit of a guitar collector so the best thing is all the gear, really. There’s so much great musical equipment and pedals and all sorts of stuff that you just don’t find in England that just never made it over.
For all of our gearhead readers out there, what’s the best place to buy gear that you’ve found in America?
It depends, really. I’ve gone to a great store in Teaneck, New Jersey last time, I bought a few things there. It’s called Lark Street Guitars. They’re good. And then there’s a few in L.A.. There’s always Nashville that has great guitars, it’s a great place to buy those. It’s just the sheer amount of stuff. I mean in England there’s only a couple of stores in the whole country that have got good stuff whereas in America there’s just a store in every city.
The big news is that Ricky Wilson, your frontman, will be joining a musical [a stage adaptation of H.G. Wells’s “War of the Worlds”]. What does this mean for the band?
Eh, it just means we’ve got a couple months off, really. He did some recording for that a few months ago and then they asked him to do it live so he checked it out and said it was okay–he didn’t want it to get in the way, you know? Kaiser Chiefs is still Number One for a while. We said it was fine. (Laughs) We’re going to tour through most of the year until November so if he wants to mingle and tour in his time off, that’s fine with us.
And what do you typically do during your time off?
What do I do? I don’t get a lot of time off but we had a couple years off and although I did a couple things with Nick [Hodgson] from the band, we released a couple singles by the band, I do think I sort of wasted that time off because I was relaxing and going on holiday. Next time I get time off I’ve got to make the most of it. I have to get on that as soon as possible, really, ’cause it always comes so quick. So yeah, just try and maybe do the label again? We did this label called Chewing Gum Records we set up and we did a few releases. I think I’d like to do a bit of that, really.
I was going to ask you–you started Chewing Gum a few years ago but last year you recorded and released your UK record, then this year you’re releasing Start the Revolution Without Me and touring. What’s that like? How do you make time for it?
I mean, that’s one of the things we had to learn is that it’s a lot more difficult just to go put a record out than I thought. There’s a lot more to it, really. We sort of just thought we’d find a band, record ’em and just stick it out but there’s a lot more bits and pieces. So I think it’s sort of a sign that we all love our jobs in that sort, that we got that time off from recording and touring for such a long time and almost the first thing we did was find another band and release some music with them.
Got it. I have to ask about this because it’s so prevalent in your music–you’ve got a lot of lyrics or titles that take political swipes, like “I Predict a Riot” or “Angry Mob,” “Off with their Heads,” and of course Start the Revolution Without Me is no exception. Would you say that all members of the band are politically conscious?
Well you’ve got bands that are like Rage Against the Machine where they’re very politically driven and our band is not really a very political band in that sense. What I’d say is that we’re very in touch with modern-day society. We write songs about what’s happening, like “Never Miss a Beat,” and “I Predict a Riot” and “Angry Mob” and all those things are a comment on society like The Clash would have done or The Jam would have done. We’re not saying “everyone should do this” or “everyone should do that,” it’s more of a comment on what is happening and what has happened over the last few years.
What are some of the biggest changes in society you’ve seen since forming?
We’ve grown up a bit. When we formed the band I was like twenty-something, early 20s, and you sort of change your opinion when you get older but you see binge drinking and fighting. When you get older you learn more about the media and how that works and as a kid, I was always sort of a wild one and nowadays everyone grows up very fast. People are also disenchanted by how society runs and treats them… I think that people in general, especially younger people feel like they’re cut off from what they’re talking about and everyone feels like even though there are different political parties, they’re all basically the same. I think there’s a sort of disenchantment in politics and how things run and I think that’s sort of how we’re having economic problems, because people don’t really engage with it at all.
Got it. So now I’ve got a couple of lighter questions for you–I’ve been seeing a lot of outrage on fanboards so I’ve got to ask–it looks like you’ve cut off your trademark mop of curly hair. Why? Where’d it go?
(Laughs) I just decided it was time to be a bit more, I don’t know, smarter. I’ve had that hair for a long time, since I was a student. I think in our time off it was a time for thinking about what had happened to us and I particularly sort of felt the moment where I realized how successful we’ve been and being a musician is my job, it wasn’t like a dream anymore. It wasn’t something I was looking toward. It had happened and we had been successful and I don’t know how the hair relates to that but it’s that whole experience.
And what’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you on tour in America?
We’ve had lots of good things. We went to The Greek one time and a guy sort of crowdsurfed toward the stage and then he was sort of trying to get onstage but then he stripped completely naked and was just dancing. We toured with Foo Fighters a few years ago, maybe three or four years ago now, and then after a gig we went to a bar with Dave Grohl and me and Nick did “I Predict a Riot” with Dave Grohl singing and playing guitar. That was a good time.
Ha, you did “I Predict a Riot” together? That’s awesome.
Of course we did. Of course we did that one.
It’s off such a classic album, even an iconic one. Do you ever feel pressure to live up to Employment?
No, I think I’m delighted obviously that it’s a big album and everyone likes it. It’s growing up in a band knowing that you have done something good but it’s only been the last couple years that I’ve realized that was the case. And a lot of times people are sort of saying how good Employment is and there are a lot of young people who bought the album when they were like 14 or something who are now 20 or whatever and they’ll come to a gig but they couldn’t come to a gig when they were too young. So that’s real interesting, isn’t it? There’s like a whole new fanbase, which is great. But it’s good to have done something that they regard as musical history. You can’t ask for more than that, I think.
Start the Revolution Without Me is getting released here in the U.S. soon [March 6th] and it’s been getting pretty positive feedback. Anything you’d like to add or let us know about it?
I think the album is sort of a really good remaking of the one that came out in England. We’ve got a new song that’s only available in America. I think “On the Run” is one of the best songs we’ve written for a long, long time. It’s worth signing up just for that.
Well fantastic. We can’t wait to have you and we’ll see you when you make it to the 9:30 Club.
Oh yeah, that’s a great place to play and we’ve sold out all our shows, which is great. Cheers.