Exclusive interview with Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr
by Karen Shaw
Scottish band Simple Minds, are anything but Simple, having sold over 30 million records worldwide and with six No.1 albums under their kilts, they continue to be one of the UK’s most successful groups.
Lead singer, Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill have been the creative core of Simple Minds since the group formed from the ashes of Glasgow punk outfit Johnny & The Self Abusers over 40 years ago. (now, I feel very old!) and in the eighties, they went on to knock out a fair few hits, like, ‘Alive And Kicking’, ‘All The Things She Said’ and ‘Promised You A Miracle’.
In an era of mullets, rara skirts and the iconic films, like The Breakfast Club, my teenage years were good. The film inspired me to be pulled into detention in the vague hope that Judd Nelson would be there in his fingerless leather gloves flicking his hair while setting fire to the science lab. It wasn’t the case, I ended with up Andrew Hargreaves who picked his nose and stuck his findings under the desk! It was the longest hour of my life…
The soundtrack to the film, ‘Don’t You (forget about me)…’, was also the soundtrack to my life for around a couple of my pubescent weeks (I was very volatile!).
Laughing, Jim readily admits that each song is a journey that has a special place in his memory bank.
“We wrote the song specifically for the movie, it wasn’t something we’d been asked to do before,” says Jim, “but I’m glad that we did because it’s become so iconic. We’ve written about three hundred songs but every time we start a new one it’s like a new puzzle again
because each song is usually trying to say something different. Some songs you want to play by the rules, other songs you want to smash the rules up. It’s a wondrous thing, music.
“We’re always writing. I can see why people will assume a new album is your latest eight or ten ideas but not at all. We’ll consider 20 ideas then whittle them down.”
Their latest album, ‘Walk Between Worlds’ is their eighteenth and summons the notion of tying together the threads of the past, present, and future, which is what Jim will be doing when Simple Minds joins The Pretenders on the stage for the first time since Live Aid. These two iconic bands are due to tour throughout the UK this year on The Grandslam Tour.
“Delighted”, are his words when I ask him about touring with his ex-wife Pretenders lead singer, Chrissie Hynde. “I’m such a fan and always have been, she’s a real icon is Chrissie. I saw her play recently and she was in great form.”
The last time Jim went on tour with Chrissie he ended up marrying her, so I wondered if Jim had any plans to rekindle his love with his past flame and get down on one knee…again…
“I think she likes Charlie (Burchill) more than me these days,” he laughs, “Chrissie is a real icon, so we’re delighted she’s joining us on tour, we’ve been trying to make this happen for a while.”
From humble beginnings on a Glasgow housing estate, faith has always played a dominant part in his life, “Either with or without the context of the religious sense, both me and Charlie had faith from a young age,” says Jim. “If I hadn’t met Charlie when I was eight years old, and if he didn’t live in the same street, I’d possibly be driving a taxi today. We have each other and we still havethe same level of commitment. I wouldn’t want anyone in a factory to listen to me talk about sacrifice but there is a sacrifice, you must put your life on hold while you do this and you’re either willing to do that or not. You also must have the stomach for it when it goes ‘tits up’.
“It was like believing in being an astronaut… we didn’t know anyone that had been in a band or anyone that had written songs or anyone who had a record deal, so you really needed a turn of faith. It was literally an idea of some kind of magic will get us there.”
With such a busy summer coming up I wondered how Jim manages to achieve a work/life balance and how he relaxes.
“When I’m touring, everything is so structured, and I’m surrounded by people all the time, so I love walking on my own in the open air in the countryside I go to the opposite extremes when the work is done! I go solo, usually hiking or walking. I live between Scotland and Sicily.
“I first visited Sicily with school when I was 13 and I realised the world was in colour,” he grins, “Glasgow in the 70s was bleak. It’s a lot better now but that began my relationship with Italy. It’s a part of the world I love. There’s something wild about it and it just got me!”
When most folk return from holiday, they usually buy a keepsake from that country, a keyring, fridge magnet, or perhaps a straw donkey, but our Jim loved it that much that he
returned with his very own hotel. “It’s amazing. I don’t go there too much as the minute I walk in I start inspecting the hotel and concern myself with the jobs that may need doing!”
Despite being in music since the seventies, Simple Minds are still as popular as ever with fans both young and old and Jim admits that their gigs are often made up of more than one generation, often with entire families coming. “The generation that we grew up would never have gone anywhere with our parents, but I’ll see kids and I’ll identify them in the audience and I’ll ask: ‘Were you dragged here?’ Some will say ‘yes’ and I’ll say, ‘it could be worse you could be watching Duran Duran!'”
Grandslam Summer Tour 2018 – Northern Dates
Fri 10th Aug | AJ Bell Stadium, SALFORD FIND TICKETS
Sat 11th Aug | Millenium Square, LEEDS FIND TICKETS
Sun 19th Aug | Durham County Cricket Club, DURHAM FIND TICKETS
Quick fire round
Kit Kat or Tunnocks Wafer?
Tunnocks! Made in Glasgow!
Towermina? Or Glasgow?
Towermina in Winter, Glasgow in Summer! Glasgow made me.
Haggis or Cannelloni?
Veggie so you can keep your haggis.
Irn Bru or Prosecco
Pretenders or The Proclaimers?
Brown sauce or ketchup?
Lancashire or Yorkshire?
Yorkshire… I’ll tell you why, because at the age of five my Dad who was a brickie he worked at near the Moors and we stayed in a caravan.
Breakfast Club or Flash Dance?