As iconic indie band Kaiser Chiefs gets ready to rock Malta, frontman Ricky Wilson tells Ramona Depares how music has to be born out of truth, with some added glitter and dirt.
Through the years, the band moved from quintessential Britpop to a more dancey sound. How did this progression happen? Were there any particular triggers?
We are currently recording our seventh album in 15 years. That might not seem like a lot; I mean it’s only about an hour of noise per two years, but a lot can change over that amount of time. There have probably been seven versions, or even eight if you count a rogue ‘best of’. A change can happen either gradually or in massive shifts, it’s kind of hard to define. So, the honest answer is I don’t know. There’s never been a plan, we just kind of make the noise we make until we don’t.
Is one sound more ‘Kaiser Chiefs’ than the other?
Maybe to the people who listen to our records, they’ll probably have a favourite one, depending on when they first heard us. That’s usually the way. My Pink Floyd is very different to Simon’s (Rix, bassist), because we listened to them in different orders.
Would you say that in today’s climate there is still space for a protest album? And would Kaiser Chiefs ever consider ‘going political’ (in the social commentary sense) again?
We don’t like saying stuff for the sake of it, but sometimes you just can’t help yourself. There’s plenty for us to get our teeth into at the moment on a global scale. But probably what I find more interesting to write about right now is the idea of ‘is it worth me writing about it?’ Where do I fit in? People can only usually connect with a song if you don’t try to specifically connect. Otherwise, I find that it comes across as a bit patronising. I just think about my experience and hope that, in some way, someone else does too.
In many ways, Kaiser Chiefs is viewed as a pop band with a punk message – would you agree with this description, and why?
I like that a lot. Can you start using that more? I’d rather people enjoyed the dancing than the lecture, though. I prefer the sugar to the medicine.
Do you believe that music can have an impact on social/political situations?
Music has quite a wide reach. It can seep through the cracks and soak into your senses easier than any politician can. We’re just pretty lucky that most creative people who are adept at it almost always try and use their powers for good.
The lyrics to your works seem to be pretty tied to the reality of life – starting with one of your earliest hits, I Predict A Riot. How much of the song-writing is inspired by real-life events?
It all has to be. Sometimes I have to add a little glitter and sometimes it may require a little dirt, but essentially it all comes from truth. Only the names have been changed.
Which brings me to the next – wedding bells are set to ring in 2019. Would this have had any bearing on the fact that the latest album is very much focused on affairs of the heart?
Ha! I’m not sure. Once in a while, everyone fancies something a bit sugary, and I suppose that was our moment.
You’ve played many festivals and venues. Can you share some of the most memorable moments?
I never remember the good ones, but I’ve seen some astounding pictures. We have done some incredible things in some amazing places, but our preoccupation for looking to the next thing always gets in the way of enjoying the moment. I’m trying to stop intellectualising having a good time. I’m getting there, but it takes a lot of practice and breathing exercises.
Nowadays, few bands keep going strong for as long as you are – how did this happen?
The alternative is too unbearable to think of. The worst day in Kaiser Chiefs is still better that my best day before it. Don’t tell my fiancée that, because I moan about the other four constantly.
Would you say the digital era has ‘killed off’ the idea of having veteran bands, with music being so easily sampled and – maybe – forgotten?
I’m not going to concern myself with that right now; the music industry is probably only about 80 years old and has gone through many massive changes. They’ll be another seismic shift along any minute, so let’s not worry about it.
Right now, where would you predict a riot?
If I could predict ‘riots’, I would give it all up and work for the UN. I’d like a blue helmet and a flak jacket with ‘Riot Predictor’ written on the back.
Kaiser Chiefs’ concert, presented by Rock ’n Malta, takes place on August 30 at Aria Complex, San Ġwann. Tickets are available online.
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