Laying down the Indie soundtrack of 2005 with songs like ‘I predict a riot’ and ‘Oh my god’ the Kaiser Chiefs return with their new album Yours truly, Angry Mob.
Already teasing us with addictive ear worm and number one single ‘Ruby’: the rest of the album delivers and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as the first.
‘Everything Is Average Nowadays’ is the obvious bridge between the two albums sound wise, and the latest offering is a smooth progression into a more mature sound.
So on the eve of the album release and just hours before their first number 1 was to be announced; Contactmusic got the chance to have a chat to guitarist and former Yorkshire bmx champion, Whitey.
Contactmusic: Doing my research for the interview I couldn’t believe how many people asked you who ‘Ruby’ was. Does that kind of thing get annoying?
Whitey: Not really, to some people it does. Interviewers don’t read every interview out there, so I don’t care I just tell them it’s not really about anyone. It’s obviously about something but from our perspective it’s not written about anybody. But if you know someone called Ruby, it’s about them. It’s honestly that simple.
CM: Well you’re on the road at the moment…
W: Well it’s different to what it used to be, we’re not exactly ‘on the road’ at the moment, it’s a lot easier.
CM: In what respects?
W: Well we just have to turn up and play. It’s like I woke up at 10 ’o’clock in my own house in Leeds, jumped on a tour bus, came down here, had some lunch and now I’m talking to you. So yeah, it’s a lot easier than lugging amps up and down stairs.
CM: I bet it is. So you’ve been showcasing some of the new tracks live before the album is even out. What kind of reception have you been getting?
W: Good, surprisingly good really. It’s a lot to expect for people to go mad at songs they’ve never heard before. Now we knew the tour would coincide with the album release so we didn’t want to book say an Earl’s court or something and have 18,000 people not knowing the songs, we wanted venues which were a bit more intimate. Plus we don’t want to be blowing our own trumpet; we want to take it nice and slow. It’s always good to have somewhere to go.
But playing the songs is great; being able to talk about them, play them and hear them. I genuinely can’t wait for people to hear them and finally jump up and down.
CM: So in a live respect is it nice to have a deeper pocket of songs to choose from?
W: Oh yeah, we were struggling before playing B-sides, do you know what I mean? We only had like 16 songs in 2005, we didn’t have many songs.
We didn’t expect for things to take off so quick, we didn’t expect to headline so quickly. As you know when you headline you’ve got to play for an hour, but we’ve only got, I don’t know 40 minutes worth of stuff - Hence the reason why ‘Oh my god’ is so long at like 7 minutes.
I mean its good now, it’s just natural now but when we first started doing it, it was to make the set longer, but every band does that.
CM: Really?! [laughs] so with your hefty schedule coming up does that help keep things fresh?
W: Yeah especially if it’s new stuff because it keeps you on your toes, as your constantly thinking, because sometimes you can switch off. It’s like when I’m playing ‘I predict a riot’ it’s not that you switch off but just get into the groove of it, but when it’s a new song you’re nervous, you’re sweating and stuff and there are the odd mistakes, so it keeps you on your toes, it’s good.
CM: So with such a lengthy tour what do you do to separate yourself from the music?
W: Well with every available opportunity the band as we all live in Leeds, go home. So if we’re within an hour/hour and a half drive of Leeds we go home, and when we go home we’re just normal people obviously. I think we’re only famous as a band, not as individuals. Even Ricky can walk around Leeds and not get recognised, but obviously if we all go out together it’s different.
But I think it’s quite easy for someone from Leeds or from the North to be grounded, because I don’t think people really give a shit to be honest. You might get the odd person who might say whatever, but even fans are really nice. But to be honest there are bigger things in life than seeing a member of Kaiser Chiefs walking past.
CM: Well that’s very humble of you but something I’ve seen before with people from the north. It’s almost like there is this kind of semblance of normality with a lot of northern bands.
W: Yeah, well even Oasis; you know they’re effing and blinding and saying we’re rock stars and that, but you still know they’re pretty grounded, you know he’ll go and see his mum and stuff like that.
I mean I don’t know whether it’s a northern/southern thing but particularly for me it was because I had nothing, I literally had nothing.
I had a crap job, in fact I was signing on. I didn’t have any money, the band weren’t going anywhere, but just because I’ve moved on doesn’t mean my family or friends have. Some of my friends are still signing on, my dad still doesn’t own his own house, you know what I mean it keeps you grounded when you go home and everything is the same as when you were 17.
I guess it’s just how you were brought up. Maybe its just northerners are poorer and we appreciate it more? I don’t know.
CM: It’s a very admirable way of looking at things and I think it would tarnish your achievements if you did change.
W: Well some people want the band to be effing and blinding and to be untouchable, but we’re just not that kind of people.
I think a lot of it had to do with getting a record deal when we were quite old. You know at the time we weren’t 16 or 17 and I think if we were, we’d have been a little bit arseier. But because we were older, we’d had jobs and we’d had lives before we got signed, it’s almost like the band has interrupted our lives. So we do appreciate it more.
CM: So was there a specific turning point when you thought ‘This is gonna be it’?
W: No, we’re still really pessimistic. It’s not like some random guy comes into your dressing room and says “That’s it, you’re officially big you’ve made it”. When you’re on the up it’s just a constant up, I don’t know what its like on the way down I’m sure we’ll find out soon. Well hopefully we’ll postpone it for quite along time.
So yeah there wasn’t a definitive moment. I suppose it’s just when you’ve got time off and you can reflect on stuff and think ‘Oh shit, we’ve actually done all this’. But when I go home I’m just normal and I forget I’m in a band. It’s a bit like signing on when I’m at home, because I’ve got nothing to do and I’m just walking around in my underpants. It’s pretty similar to being a student or signing on.
CM: Living the dream?
W: Living the dream, well that is the dream -its one of my dreams to do f**k all.
CM: I suppose it is. [Laughs] So coming on to the album, I think there is a really smooth progression between both albums was that a natural evolution or were there any deliberate changes you made?
W: It was a definite natural thing. Now obviously we wanted to make a better album or what we thought was a better album. As musicians we are better musicians and songwriters, well I think so anyway, so obviously it was a natural thing to write bigger better songs.
But we were conscious of the ‘O’s’ and the build-ups in songs. As initially when we did it Ricky or Nick did it in a practice and it was exciting, it was great. It reminded us of the old dance songs you know like a Josh Winks song, with a build-up and the beat would come back in and the crowd would go mad and that was kind of what we were trying to do.
But then it turned into a gimmick, we’d be walking down the street and some guy would shout “Wohhhh!” so we decided to put something in there, an exciting bit of music instead of not doing that. So that was the only conscious decision really, apart from making a better album.
CM: And I think you have and there is definitely a more established sound.
W: It’s a slightly more mature album, but then we’re more mature people.
CM: I saw your MTV2 making of the album, when you booked the big house and studio.
W: Oh yeah, but we used it effectively. What we did was from January 2006 we kind of finished touring; we went into our old rehearsal room in Leeds, same room we’d been in for years and wrote the album – we wrote 20 songs and had them finished.
Then we booked the studio for August, you know this big mansion country house type thing, which we got quite cheap I think, and then we recorded it. So we didn’t turn up without any songs and spend like a week trying to write a song, we had the songs finished so we could spend more time on getting the records to sound right. So we spent more time on vocals and effects.
So it wasn’t this big extravagant thing. We were up at 10am and would work till 12 at night everyday and we enjoyed it as well.
CM: It’s a very workman type way of looking at things, almost tackling it like a 9 to 5 job.
W: Well it’s not really. I’ve had 9 to 5 jobs and they’re pretty mundane and this is quite a special job this. We really appreciate that we’ve got this job and there are literally a million people who would kill to have a job like ours.
Personally I think that when you get signed its 50% luck and 50% talent, I really genuinely believe that. But then after that you make your own luck up.
I mean that’s why we are nice, I mean I’m not trying to preach or anything but we try and be nice to people. You know if you’re friendly to people on the way up, then hopefully they’re gonna be friendly on the way down.
CM: I remember seeing a little documentary with Trevor Nelson where he said he would treat people in shops or at labels etc with the up most respect, because in two years they might be your next boss. I completely agree with that and it’s something I’ve always done.
W: Yeah and it’s nothing to do with being in a band, it should just be like a life thing.
CM: I agree its just being a good human being.
W: I mean in the classic rock and roll stereotype it’s pretty boring to live your life like that, but we try to be true to ourselves and as long as we’re honest with ourselves it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks.
CM: So inspirationally on a personal level are you looking at anything different?
W: It’s still the Beatles. On the way down from Leeds today to the Wolverhampton gig we watched 5 and 6 of the Beatles anthology even though we’ve seen it 1000 times. We’re actually getting quite obsessed with the Beatles.
I mean there are loads of great bands out there but they’re just not as good as the Beatles, we’re not as good as the Beatles.
CM: So final question, the album finishes with the song ‘Retirement’ which documents inventions which you could have retired on if you invented them. So if money or physics weren’t an option what would you invent?
W: It would be nice to invent a totally harmless energy source that we could run the country off and it was the size of a pencil sharpener. It doesn’t emit any fumes, it’s harmless and a completely renewable energy source.
CM: I tell you what that’s very altruistic philanthropic thing to say.
W: Well it’s not really as my gas and electricity bills would be cheaper.
But it’s funny, when you’re in a band you do get contacted by a lot of charities, which is great as they want to increase their profile and before we were just pretty normal guys, but now we’re just a bunch of lefty’s a bunch of old hippies.
CM: Well that’s great and I think if you can help someone you should but there are a lot of apathetic people about, but I think you can help out in your own way. I mean I give blood, give to charity and read the paper to be aware of what is going on in the world – and I think everyone can do that regardless of whether you’ve got mass amounts of money.
W: Yeah definitely I mean it’s not our main mission we’re not like U2 or gonna preach or anything. But yeah it makes you more globally aware and if you actually listen instead of just putting your name to it, it’s an interesting thing and as a human being it’s ultimately a good thing.
CM: Well thanks for the chat it’s been a real pleasure.
W: Thanks man, no problem.
Interview by Adam Adshead