import/export...and everything in between

Monday, January 07, 2008

Ricky Wilson Spills It For Me

So, it's a bit belated, but what a great way to start off the year! I finally have transcribed and polished my interview with Ricky Wilson. I waited long enough to even make it relevant again, with their huge UK tour afoot. Anyway, I won't blabber on here, because I do enough of it in the intro. here is the text from my ARTISTdirect interview....

Sometimes it's hard to remember the things in life that are consistently great: your Mom, weather above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, weekly paychecks and the Kaiser Chiefs. Without catering to anyone but themselves, they have a legion of fans that spans indie rock circles, foppish critics, swoon-ready teens, people who only get their music from iTunes and I bet your Mom would like them too.

As the band wraps up their over a year-long tour of their sophomore album, Yours Truly, Angry Mob, we got a chance to chat with lead singer and affable, boyish charmer Ricky Wilson. On the eve of some of their biggest UK shows ever, Wilson is down-to-earth, confident and nowhere near as miserable as he lets on.

On first listen, it seems like the new album, Yours Truly, Angry Mob is more cynical than Employment, and based on your rise to where you are now. Is that true? Are we misinterpreting your intent?

People always say we're cynical, but I don't think people realized how cynical we were on the first album. I think we were a bit more pissed off on the first album, actually, but the music is so jolly you don't really realize. I think the music has become more... sinister. I'll tell you what, I'll try to be less miserable on the next album.

No, no, I like this "angry, young men" version of Kasier Chiefs.

Yeah, I think I prefer to be a bit more euphoric.

So, you have been touring this album since this time last year—are you starting to feel it wear you down?

I really enjoy it; it's always really good. As soon as you get on its fine. We don't really have that hard of a job, now do we? No matter how shit you feel, whenever you come off, you always want to do it again.

"Thank You Very Much" seems to sort of touch on that dreariness and monotony of touring and playing shows.

The sentiment of it wasn't really what I meant [laughs]. But, it's good to have a laugh and moan about [fame] every now and then. Everyone hates the job even if you've got the best job in the world.

Exactly. But, the way the albums unfolds tends to make the listener think, "ooh, they're talking about us."

I suppose you can't help it that much. If it's honest that's the best thing about about it, really. I'm pretty happy now, so maybe… I was pretty happy when I was writing it—especially for boys, though. I mean, when you've got a group of boys who are friends and you're writing lyrics, it's much harder to writer about how much in love you are and what a great time you're having. [Adopts pseudo-annoyed voice] You start writing songs about being pissed off and being annoyed at things.

Well, you actually sort of bridged that with "Ruby" [watch video here]; it's your first love song, isn't it?

Yeah, "Ruby" is kind of about how the best thing about when you meet someone is that very first moment when you metet—then it's all downhill from there…

Man, you guys really are miserable!

I know—I really had no idea!

This time around, you all were pretty vocal about ditching your former persona, which was more of a gimmicky band who just "oooh'd" a lot and wore striped blazers. How did you go about the change without alienating your fans?

The only thing I didn't like about it… I still like it—we still do it live, because we still play the old songs. I really like it, I just didn't like it in the pub when the only thing a person can think to say is, [starts singing in slight ogre voice] "Ooooooh, oooooh." And we really started doing it because we couldn't write lyrics. I think it's a really good device. I mean, The Beatles used to go [sings] "wooo" a lot, and then they stopped doing it—probably because people noticed they did it all the time. Then, they brought it back for the last album. As soon as anyone notices you doing something, you should probably stop it. You know, people noticed we were doing it everyone song, so you say, "Oh, shit. Well, I never want to be pinned down." So, you always have to move on, I suppose, so that's a good thing, isn't it?

Definitely. Now that you've achieved this status of "successful band," do you have any bands you look up to career-wise and whose path you want to follow?

I have a lot of favourite bands and stuff like that, but a lot of them get to a point where they're too big.

Like who?

Well, you know people start saying, "How big do you want to be?" And, I'm just happy being this size. We play big shows in the UK, we play medium shows in Europe and we play really small shows in America [laughs]. But, I like that. It must be so weird being Coldplay or U2. It's just big, isn't it? It's probably too big. It's probably not too big for them, but for us, we kind of like the way it is. Well, we're not in it for the money—so, we don't want to get bigger for that reason. We don't want to be playing the same size venues all around the world, because that would be quite boring.

So, is it refreshing coming to the US? I know that you had to cancel write a few shows over here this past summer. Did that have anything to do with ticket sales?

I don't really follow the ticket sales, so I don't really know about that. I do remember one thing. We were doing a gig in Dallas, and I think we sold 42 albums in Dallas. So, I was thinking, "if the venue is any bigger than 42-capacity, we're fucked." I think we're doing alright. The weird thing is—I don't know how many records we sold in America—let's say it's 200,000, right? That's still 200,000 records, and that's more than we ever thought we'd sell in the UK.

And, the thing about writing new stuff isn't made up—we have already written three, which is quite good. The reason we wanted to do that is that we didn't want the size of our shows to be outrunning the size of the band. I see that happen a lot with some bands—I'm not going to name any names. They've got two albums and they're playing arenas all over the world. Playing arenas is good fun and we really enjoy it. But, with two albums it's kind of filling an hour and a half, and both albums are 45 minutes; we'd have to play everything we've got. We don't want to do that. We wanted to inject more life into the big shows, so we needed new songs. And we're not the kind of band who's very good at writing songs on the road. We've got some very big shows coming up in the UK and next year, and we wanted more songs, more hits—even stuff people haven't heard. I really enjoy doing that at gigs.

You play a few B-sides live, which is always a nice treat for fans.

Yeah, we've got to start learning more of them, because we've got loads of b-sides and we only ever play them once when we record them. And also playing some stuff off the new album, which is a bit harder to play. Like, this song called "Love's Not A Competition But I'm Winning," that has all these layers of acoustic guitars, so we're trying to learn that at the moment. We've done it acoustically. We haven't played that live properly. It must be weird for people who have the album and know the band hearing us say, "We need to learn that song that's on the album." But some of them, the way they were written, that's how they developed in the studio. And I'm looking forward to playing songs we haven't played before. It's always exciting playing new songs.

What about the new songs; will these be going on a new album?

Maybe, maybe not. We might be doing something different next year.

Like what?

I don't really know yet. I don't think we're going to release an album for a while, but we'll be releasing things in between. We'll just have some new stuff, and it's really exciting. It makes me tap my feet and it makes me want to dance, and it's a good thing. I think we've got the festival anthem thing, and we're good at that, but with the new songs we're kind of doing more of the indie dance floor songs.

I read something recently that touched on you guys not really being an indie band, and the indie community thinking you didn't belong. Indie is such an arbitrary word these days, but where do you fit?

Yeah, ‘cos "indie" doesn't mean "indie" anymore. It's just people with guitars strapped around their necks signing for a million quid, and that's not indie. I think we're an indie band, yeah. We're definitely an indie band. [Pause] I've just seen an advert on TV and it's for Monopoly, but it's credit card Monopoly—there's no cash! That's weird. Anyway, where were we? Where do we fit? We're bigger than most indie bands, but we're not as big as the ones who've got boring. I think we're still exciting. When I was a kid and my indie band got big, it would outgrow me and I would go find my new, little indie band. So, we've got to keep things interesting. Because we can't rely on the fact that indie kids are going to like us and buy our records anymore.

It's very fair-weather these days.

It always has been; it was for me too. When Oasis got too big, I just went off them. They went from being my favourite band to being my least favourite band, and now they're one of my favourite bands again, because I've grown up a bit and I can appreciate them. People in other bands, as well as indie bands, they might not like us, but as soon as they get a bit bigger they forget about it. There's a lot of jealousy. I really like the fact that, maybe about a year and a half ago, when a new indie band coming out, their favourite thing to do was slag off the Kaiser Chiefs. But, then they have a bit of success and they realize we weren't doing it for the money, we weren't doing it for the fame. We were doing it because we really enjoyed it. And, no one slags us off anymore in bands, because I think that they realized we're quite good. It's the easiest thing in the world to slag someone off. It gets you more column inches when you're a small band.

Oh, UK press…

I quite enjoy it really, because its all a stupid game.

Speaking of the influence of the press, what was the inspiration for "Angry Mob" [watch the video here]?

Well, you know, you've got these people in indie bands—we've got a new song about this, as well—and they go on about how if you have a normal job and you haven't become a pop star, then you've in some way failed. And we've never done that. We've always… we realize that getting pissed at the weekend and spending all your money on drugs at the weekend is something that people do. We're not criticizing anybody. And it's the same thing with "Angry Mob," because some people might think in some way I'm going, "people that buy the papers and believe what they read and get sucked in by the press are idiots." But, I get sucked in by the press too. I believe stuff that I read, until I read something about me that's not true and then I go, "It's all lies!" But when I pick up a paper and I read that someone's done this and Amy Winehouse is doing that, I believe it, and I know it's stupid. It's about that and mob mentality and fitting into a group and following what people expect you to think.

You've championed a lot of new bands in the past, like The Cribs, but are there any new bands you're into?

I really like CSS and Klaxons. I like anything at the moment that's orientated to make you want to dance, which is a good thing.

Will we be hearing any Kaiser Chiefs disco tracks anytime soon?

Not disco, but more foot-tapping. It's really hard to talk about it without thinking to yourself, "How's this gonna sound?" Because I would hate to see a headline saying "KAISER CHIEFS GO DANCE."

We'll keep your indie dance club integrity. It's hard not to be influenced by bands who are au currant. Trends are just really good ideas at first before they become hugely popular.

Well, it's important to listen to new stuff, because you can tell bands who are into Led Zeppelin and that's all they've ever been into. It's good to go out and see new things and also stay exciting. I hate those third record bands who think they've grown up and take themselves far too seriously.

Well, please don't do that to us.

Nope! I take myself less and less seriously every day.

—Danielle Allaire

LA Broad


Cygirl said...


William said...

What a great interview! I have heard many chats with Ricky Wilson and other members of Kaiser Chiefs and they all sounded like they had their heads screwed on properly. Glad to see that it still holds true. Kaiser Chiefs are brilliant.
Ricky's quite funny, too: check out his stint as guest presenter on Never Mind the Buzzcocks (youtube has the vid).