Over the past ten years, the five-piece from Leeds known as Kaiser Chiefs has established themselves as one of the premier rock ba
Over the past ten years, the five-piece from Leeds known as Kaiser Chiefs has established themselves as one of the premier rock bands on the circuit in Britain. With numerous awards and a plethora of hit songs, the band’s enjoyed a great deal of success that may have surprised them after their first attempt at a band collapsed in 2003. While their largest success is easily found in their home country, the post-punk inspired outfit has also cemented strong fan bases across Europe as well as America, becoming favorites of the indie scene here over the past decade thanks to songs like “Ruby” and “I Predict A Riot.”
Last year, the band released their fifth album, Education, Education, Education & War, an album seen as a return to form to the original sound the band was noticed and praised for in the first place. Despite the departure original drummer Nick Hodgson in 2012, the band seems stronger than ever now, armed with the maturity and awareness to stand out when it’s becoming harder than ever for a rock band to do just that.
Before Kaiser Chiefs unveil their signature power rock on The National this Saturday, bassist and founding member Simon Rix gave us a unique look into a veteran’s view of the music world for both new and old bands. From advice to up-and-coming bands to some very astute observations about the band’s own shortcomings, Rix’s poignant opinions not only put the band’s past work into better clarity, but does more to excite fans for upcoming releases than any new song ever could.
You guys have been coming to America for years now. Does it familiar at all now or does it still feel as strange as it did the first time you came?
Been coming quite a lot over the years like you said, but it’s always felt a bit different. I think America has a completely different feel than the United Kingdom and Europe. I’ve been here a long time now. I came here on holiday before the tour and the main thing for me is enjoying it this time. In the early years, we came to America a lot as well as going all over the world, but you’re flying all over the place and getting tired and run down. The more into your career you get though, the more you think of this as a privilege. You’re touring America and people would pay to do that and you’re actually getting paid to that. The tour’s great so far though. We’ve been some place we’ve never been before like Kansas and St. Louis on Wednesday night. It’s great in America that you can still be doing new things because it’s so massive so you can never run out of places to play.
Have you gotten used to the hectic schedule of the road or has it died down over the years?
I think you get used to it. No one prepares you for it though. When you’re in a band, you want to make music and you want to be successful, but no one prepares you to be successful. You get removed from your house and you travel around the world especially in the early days when everything is happening very fast. I never prepared for that and I don’t think any bands, but I took it for granted. I didn’t have the time to realize how good it was. You’re in New York, but you do a gig and leave and then you’re in Sydney, Australia and then the next day you’re in Tokyo and then the next day you’re somewhere else. It’s very hard to soak it up and enjoy the time because it’s get in, do interviews, go to a radio show, do the gig – you don’t get to actually enjoy it. Actually, we’re doing this bus tour around America this go-round and it’s been great to be able to see places and be places we’ve never been before like go to the desert. Later on in your career, you get to really enjoy it. When you’ve been a few times, you can start to do the touristy stuff and feel the vibe of the city.
So what are some touristy things that you’ve done that’s especially memorable?
I remember one time we went to the Motown museum, the original Motown house in Detroit, and that was really good because I think we’ve always all been into soul music for a long time. When we were younger, we used to always go to this club that was playing like Motown, Stax, and Northern Soul music. I think going there and seeing the home of Motown was good. We actually tried to go to the Stax equivalent when were in Memphis the other day, but it was closed. Utter disaster.
What big things are left in the world that you’d really like to discover?
Just discovering the cities more. I’d like to go to the Brazilian rainforests actually. America too actually. Like I said, I came here for holiday before the tour so I was driving around the deserts of Utah and Nevada with my girlfriend, just seeing all the national parks. Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park in Utah. Amazing places and it’s great because everyone’s heard of the Grand Canyon, but no one’s heard about these places and they’re equally incredible. I’ve actually started a list of all the states I’ve been in so far in my life and I’m going to try at some point to go to all 50.
I’ve heard you talk about trust really improving between you and frontman Ricky Wilson over the past few years. Is it still improving and growing?
Yeah, between all of us really as a band. We were five people, the same five people, for a long time and everyone had roles and did certain things. Then Nick [Hodgson], who was the drummer, left and it left a bit of a hole behind so we had to start again. We had to learn to trust each other in terms of that we could do it as new four-piece. Then we added Vijay [Mistry] so we were a five piece again and had to deal with the thought of, “could we continue?” I don’t know – it’s weird because we only lost one person, but it seemed like a big deal inside the camp. In the end, it wasn’t that big of a deal even though we still miss Nick. It was more a matter of confidence and just a matter of doing it really. Sometimes you just need to trust in each other’s abilities to write songs and lyrics.
Do you still talk to Nick? What’s he up to?
Yeah, of course – he’s still a great friend. I think he’s just trying to keep busy. He just wants to write songs basically. That’s his main love. In a band, you get to do that, but you have to do other stuff like go on tour and do interviews and all the other stuff that comes with being in a band. I think Nick just wanted to focus on songwriting because that’s his number one love.
So has Vijay acclimated himself nicely into the band?
Very well, I mean it’s been two years almost at this point, but he fit in amazingly and he made the transition from Nick to him so easy. It’s still funny because I think of how Ronnie Wood is still the new person in the Rolling Stones despite the fact that he’s been in the band for thirty or maybe forty years. I think of it being weird for Vijay since he will always be the new boy no matter how long it lasts. He did make it really easy though. He’s a really nice guy and he’s a really good drummer so we knew that it’d be okay, but it was really nice for it to be an easy transition.
Now, shifting a bit, would you say at this stage in the game, you’re listening to more new music or more old music?
Just as wide a range as possible really, but mostly new. There’s still bands I would go back to who are my favorite bands always. Stuff like The Velvet Underground. I think if you’re going to be a musician though, you can’t shut your eyes and ears and pretend that new stuff isn’t happening. You have to be involved and know what’s in the charts and know what people like because music changes all the time, doesn’t it? It’s interesting that people are doing new and different things. We’re going to start making our new record soon and I think it’s important to not be stuck in the past. It’s important to move things forward and try and constantly be discovering new things like sounds, pedals, producers, arrangements, and whatever. You got to keep in touch really.
Are there any bass players you specifically seek out when you want to try something new or get stronger at an establish technique?
Not really. I think it’s always good to reference back to people. I always go back to Paul Simonon from The Clash because he’s one of my favorite bass player and I think he wrote a ton of good songs. I definitely think when you’re writing songs, if you can find a few songs that you think of as reference, it helps your producer or the band kind of get a grip of what you want to do with the song. Kind of tell them you’ve written a song and you think it’s in this style, but you want to do it with this more modern or more classic feel. It’s always good to have those reference points, but equally, our job is to keep pushing Kaiser Chiefs forward so I think the most important band to listen to is always ourselves.
What would you say is the biggest difference between you as a musician now versus you as a musician ten years ago?
The way I play bass guitar is the same, but my singing is different. If I could talk to myself from ten years ago, I would just tell myself to just go for it and sing. I used to have a mic on stage and do the oohs and aahs, but I never did any proper singing which obviously meant it was quite hard to do proper songwriting on my own, if you know what I mean. It was only in the past five years that I’ve really started being confident enough to write a song and sing it in front of anyone who wants to hear. Instead of waiting until I was 30, I would just like to tell myself at 20 to just sing out loud, that it’s not that hard, and no one’s going to criticize you. Just tell myself then to go for it.
Ultimately, it means I can finish a song with singing. Before, I’d have an idea and have to talk it out and someone else would come up with more of the melody. I can make more in-roads into it now. Even when we’re writing songs as a band, you can come up with ideas vocally. I think it helps with writing bass and keyboard lines and just helps with the whole songwriting process, being able to sing better that is. I’d like to be able to play piano though. I think that’d be the next thing that I would encourage my younger self to do, but it’s too late now.
To wrap up, Kaiser Chiefs have been a band for fifteen years now with five strong albums under your belt. What does the future hold for the band?
Well, hopefully a long one. Fifteen years is a long time, but the first sort of five years, nothing really happened. We had a different name, Parva, and it collapsed, so I only really count the last ten years. I think for the first five of that, we were real successful and everything was on the rise. Then we had a couple of years where we got lost and a bit confused. The songs we were writing were creatively good, but I think they were a bit unfinished. I think we were a bit too confident and cocky. On the last record, we got back to what we’re good out which is writing good, solid songs with big choruses that people like and can sing at festivals and things like that. I think we got the ship back heading in the right direction again and the next record has the opportunity for us to try and add to that. Still write some new songs, maybe try some different things and be more creative, and maybe change the sound a little bit. We can keep going and going from there and try to make better and better records. I think that’s the thing with all bands is you always like your last album the best. My motivation though is still striving to make the perfect record so I’ll keep pushing for that.
Kaiser Chiefs play The National this Sunday night with Priory opening the night. For more information on the show and where to buy tickets, click here.