Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr fills us in at BBC Radio 2 Live
We caught up with Simple Minds’ lead singer Jim Kerr to find out about their forthcoming tour, how the music industry is different today, and that Breakfast Club song.
How did you find playing BBC Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park?
We love playing, you know, and we haven’t played for about three months, so it was good to get up and do what we enjoy doing most. Obviously by our own standards it was a very short gig, a sprint rather than a marathon, but yeah, it was good fun.
You mentioned it was a short show, how do you tailor your songs to the set?
In this case, it was very much Radio 2 – there were certain songs that they would have liked, and there was a bit of back and forth. Originally we tried to sneak in five songs, but there was a strict time limit. We knew what they wanted from us and that’s what we did.
When playing your own gigs, do you ever get tired of playing the same popular songs (Alive and Kicking, Don’t You Forget About Me), or do you still get a kick out of them?
There’s an element of truth in what you’re saying in that there are some songs that we would almost never rehearse, or play at sound check. Everyone goes “Ah no, not that one again!” But that never happens in front of an audience because it’s just a different thing; you’re there to entertain.
If you’re playing for yourself, then play at home in the garage and play what you want. But from Simple Minds, I think the perfect gig for us is one where we can make everyone happy, including ourselves, by playing the songs that one would expect to hear but also playing some things that keep the hardcore [fans] happy, by playing a few surprises and a couple of new things. We usually do two sets when we play live now, so there are a lot of songs that allow us to tick all those boxes.
Is that how you would deal with playing to quite a mixed crowd? There are quite a few different acts playing today.
Yeah, there are definitely common denominator songs. I think something like today is not the day to be introducing new songs. It would be brave and we probably did do that in the past, to varying degrees of success. But people are there; they’ve come to hear what they know.
Does playing your old material bring up any memories or even regrets?
Even being here today: a lot of those records we worked on while we stayed in a little bed and breakfast next to Hyde Park, so driving up these streets today, there comes a point in your life where everything is a bit nostalgic. But music is potent like that, we listen to records and it takes us back, almost as strong as photographs. So there’s definitely a degree of that. Not really regrets though, there’s always something you would do differently with a bit of hindsight, but I think with regrets, that’s usually something you carry around, dwelling on it. But we don’t have much of that, that was what we did then and we did our best. Sometimes it works and sometimes, not so.
Being around for so long, are there still any pre-show jitters? Do you still get the same sort of butterflies?
To a degree, the band – I say them, not me – they work really hard so it’s usually well rehearsed and all that. And you know what, if something goes wrong, it’s only music and you can start it again. I wouldn’t have said that in the early days, where I would have been vomiting with nerves and worse. But the band works hard and the audience is there to have a good time. We have a few songs that seem purposely built for things like this – they let the audience come in. It works well.
Speaking about Don’t You Forget About Me, were you a fan John Hughes and his other movies?
Well to begin with, the story was that we actually turned that down a dozen times, we saw the movie and thought: “Nah.” And we were busy working and doing stuff, and the record company in LA said, “No, you don’t understand, this is going to be movies of a generation and he’s [director John Hughes] the zeitgeist.” And we went “Really?”
But what happened really was that they cajoled us. The producer Keith Forsey came up to Glasgow and said, “I know you’re not going to do it, but can I hang out because I’m a fan of the band and maybe we can work together in the future?” We liked Keith more than we liked his song. And when you like someone, and you’re in the pub and they say, “You know, we should do it! Why don’t we do it? It’ll get the record off your back. If it’s good, great, and if it’s not, then at least you’ve got the record off your back.”
We did the song in a drafty studio in an afternoon and thank God we did, it was great fun. Then we met John [Hughes] and he was such a music fan, and strangely enough he was such an English music fan, like The Cure and Morrissey. But those kind of lyrics are not really a Simple Minds’ thing, but musically when you hear it playing on the radio I think we put our heart into it. It will never be one of ours but in a way it’s a song that belongs to everyone. But yeah we turned it down a few times.
Were you in touch with John afterwards? How did you feel when you heard about his death?
Yeah we were, it wouldn’t be fair to say I spoke to him for a long time and it was obviously sad to hear that news [about Hughes’ death]. It is amazing how that song and that movie, particularly in America – where we’re going next month – really is one of the zeitgiest movies for that generation and many other generations.
Speaking about your tour, where has been your favourite place to tour so far?
There are places that we love playing whether its Latvia or Estonia, we love it. And if it happens to be Milan with a nice restaurant and the sun shining, we’d obviously enjoy that more, but we just love playing you know.
Do you find inspiration on tour? Do you get a chance to write at all?
Not so much of that, no. You’re kind of energised on tour, funnily enough. You think at the end you’d be knackered, but you kind of get an energy. We’re so looked after. And wherever we go, people welcome us so much. People talk about the pressure of it all, but you just have to be really good every night.
What’s next for Simple Minds?
We’ve got three months of touring, but we’re also – between touring – working on a new record and the finishing line is in sight. Even if the music industry wasn’t what it was, if you only get into the top 10 with five copies, it’s still important to be writing new songs. It revitalises everything and you may get lucky as well.
Photo: Courtesy of BBC
For further information and future events visit Simple Minds’ website here.
Watch the video for Don’t You Forget About Me here: