Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Simple Minds

WHEN Jim Kerr was eight years old he met Charlie Burchill at school in Glasgow. It was to be a pivotal moment in his life. The two became inseparable and went on to form one of the most successful pop bands in history - Simple Minds.
However although they started out in 1977 it wasn't until the 1980s that they gained commercial success with a string of hits that included Don't You (Forget About Me).
With more than 30 years in the business under their belts they've had an astonishing career - releasing more than 30 singles, countless albums – six of which have gone to number 1 in the UK - sold millions of albums across the world and won numerous awards.
And despite their fare share of staff comings and goings over the intervening years, and the inevitable minor disagreements that comes with any relationship, the pair have weathered the storms sticking together to gain a reputation as not only one of the most hardworking bands in the business but as a group of musicians who have been responsible for some of the most innovative and enduring anthems in rock music.
To celebrate, this year has seen the band launch a greatest hits album, Celebrate – The Greatest Hits +, and embark on a world tour which includes a trip to Greenwich's O2 arena at the end of this month.
"It's been a great year for us," Jim tells me. "In particular we're really excited about the album as it includes two new tracks, which we are very proud of.
“The tour is going great too so life is pretty good.”
The 54-year-old was speaking ahead of the Greenwich date on November 30 which he says will be "extremely special" - not least because 80s band Ultravox will be making a guest appearance.
"I love touring and doing live shows and we will be visiting four UK stadiums including the O2 as part of this latest one which we are really looking forward to.
"The O2 is a fantastic venue and we love playing there - and for this gig not only will we be playing as many of the hits as we can, the two new songs and a few surprises, but we've also got Ultravox with us so it will be amazing.”
For most musicians, life on the road can be exhausting and lonely but not so for Jim or the band – indeed he says it’s just the opposite, proof of which can be seen by looking at their extensive tour history.
"A lot of people tour but don’t really like it,” he says. “They miss home. However, for us, although we have a life outside, this is what we wanted to do right back from when we were kids and we are still passionate about it and love it.
“We embrace it. In fact I would even go so far as to say we were born to do this – so when we are on tour we want as many people to hear us as possible which is why we play clubs, theatres, festivals and stadiums.
“They are all totally different and I enjoy them all. It’s uplifting. But whether it’s performing to 100 people or 10,000, we want to give our best and all these years later that’s still the case.
"I still get a real kick out of it," he adds cheerfully. "In fact I'm a bit of a nomad, in that I have spent most of my life travelling all around the world but it suits me – it’s who I am.”
And although he says Scotland and in particular Glasgow, where he was born and brought up still has a special place in his heart, these days it’s all about the open road.
"I'm at my happiest discovering new places and not being tied down to one particular part of the world,” he says.
"And I’m sure this restlessness and nomadic spirit has influenced the music over the years – it’s certainly reflected in some of the earlier albums like Empires And Dance.”
As well as the tour, writing new material and releasing the greatest hits album, Jim has also set up a Simple Minds YouTube channel.
"Social media is great and I've really embraced it," he chuckles. "Because we are on the road so much it's a great new way to reach out to our fans. It’s fantastic as we can upload footage of our gigs and show people what we are up to.
“It’s all about forging a new relationship with the fans all over the world and it’s great to be able to have that kind of platform.
“Facebook is also a big part of our lives and I’ve done a blog diary for 10 years now which is on our website.
“The writing is a bit nonsensical – it’s about how it’s going or not going in the studio and snap shots of what we are doing on the road.
“But it’s a great thing to do and I really enjoy it.”
Despite all this activity, the reputation for being one of the hardest working bands doesn't sit easily with him.
"I don't know if we can live up to that cliché,” he laughs. “We do a lot and are passionate about performing live, but while remaining active is crucial, our desire to keep improving is every bit as important and make sure our audience has the best time at our gigs.
"I love the fact we are still here though, still have people who listen to our music and want to come and see us. It's very satisfying," he adds warmly.
But it’s his relationship with Charlie which he says has been the best and most important part of being in the band.
"I have been very lucky. We’ve played and collaborated with some amazing people over the years – Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, U2 and Peter Gabriel are just a few and all of them are our idols.
“We could never have forseen how things would turn out when we started. I have to pinch myself every day to remind myself how lucky we are!
“But my biggest reward is Charlie – he’s my best pal. We are still great friends, have a laugh together and mostly we see things the same way – it’s just fantastic.”

Simple Minds will be playing at the O2 in Greenwich on Saturday, November 30. Call the box office on 0844 856 0202.

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