Oh My God, I can’t believe it, Kaiser Chiefs return to live gigs with a return visit to Scarborough Open Air Theatre on Sunday 8 August. We reported, at the turn of the year, that they would be playing the UK’s largest open-air arena in July but, with restrictions still in place, the date has been rescheduled.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to get out there and play in front of people,” Kaiser Chiefs’ bass player Simon Rix told me, breathing a huge sigh of relief. “It’s the things we normally do and take for granted, just to do a gig on a weekend, or whatever. I’m very pleased that we can finally get out there and release all that pent up tension on stage.
“We didn’t rehearse in the first lockdown, but since the latest Lockdown 3 stopped, we’ve been able to get into a room to write songs and rehearse. We need to do a little bit to get tight and make sure we’re all match-fit, to do the pre-season!” laughed the Leeds United fan.
The Scarborough date is a much-anticipated return after a great night there in 2017. “That gig was really good,” Simon recalls, “and we’re looking forward to going again. Time is so weird, now, because we released our last album in 2019 which feels absolutely years ago but also feels like last week – because we haven’t done much since it came out.
“We’ll also be in Halifax, the Piece Hall shows (11/12 September), a special event where we’ve never played before, so that should be special, too.”
The Yorkshire rock legends, with Rix alongside Ricky Wilson (vocals), Andrew ‘Whitey’ White (guitar), Nick ‘Peanut’ Baines (keyboards) and Nick Hodgson (drums), burst onto the scene in 2005 with the huge festival anthems I Predict A Riot and Oh My God from their debut album Employment. The album originally hit number 3 in the UK chart but after three awards at the 2006 Brits, including Best Group, the album peaked at number 2 a year after release. Vijay Mistry replaced Hodgson on drums in 2012. Since 2005, Kaiser Chiefs have, with just one break, been working constantly until the pandemic struck last year.
“It was 2010 when we last had some time off between albums,” says Simon. “We’ve done festivals every summer, gigs in the winter and write an album in the spring. So, even though people think we have time off, we do work pretty hard. At the end of 2020 everyone was asking ‘Have you written a new album? Have you been creative?’ The answer was a big ‘No!’
“Actually, because of Covid, we were forced to take a break from each other and from being on the road and writing songs. I think we all enjoyed being at home and doing some ‘normal’ stuff like doing the garden. So, it’s been good think about all you’ve achieved, recharge the batteries and get some new inspiration. This year we started getting some ideas together, quite slow progress but there should be some new music soon.
“I moved back to Leeds in 2017 and the pandemic has been a good opportunity to reconnect with my community, volunteering, trying to support local venues and working with local artists who’ve been having a hard time.
“If you look at us, we’re going back in where we left off, able to start playing gigs but if the pandemic had happened in 2005, Kaiser Chiefs would have been really stuck. Without the Employment album, we would have been in a totally different situation.
“So, I’ve been talking to local bands, trying to help them find a pathway through it all and it’s been really good to reconnect to Leeds and the local area. It’s nice to give something back but I’ve got a lot from it as well. I’ve enjoyed volunteering and working with new artists.”
“When the audience has a good time, it makes us feel great and play better”
One of the joys, for musicians, is the feedback from the audience at a live performance, something Simon says he has missed. “Yes, we always say that gigs are a joint effort between us and the audience. When we play well, the audience has a good time and because they’re having a good time, it makes us feel great and play better, a symbiotic relationship, you need both.
“We did a couple of things with no crowd and you don’t get the same sort of vibe, so looking forward to being in front of those thousands of people because it makes such a difference to how you play, how you feel and everything. Hopefully, we’ll be taking these steps tentatively with everybody being responsible, having a test before they come to the gig and not being a super-spreader.”
Key to the Kaiser Chiefs music are those great bass-lines of Simon’s that drive the music on but it was on guitar that Simon first learned to play Beatles’ songs.
“I really liked The Beatles and, when I was 7 or 8, I learned all The Beatles’ songs on guitar. McCartney was a bass player, so he was influential. And then, weirdly, I was into Cream with some great bass-lines.”
I suggested that Cream was quite heavy for a young lad to get into.
“Yeah,” he laughed. “My dad played me lots of good guitar music, so I’m grateful to him. Later on, it was The Jam, punk and post-punk, The Clash and The Stranglers. A lot of people learn guitar, and nowadays drums, but a lot of people ignore the bass. I had access to a bass, so I became the bass player. At first, I hoped that maybe one day, eventually, I would get on guitar but then I played guitar in a band and I didn’t like it as much. So, I went back to bass and I’ve been there ever since. It’s just good to be driving things along and, sometimes, having some melodic lines in there. But it’s about getting the energy right and I’m always pushing. Playing live, I’d push and push and push and, hopefully, that gives us the energy.
On our first two albums, especially, there was a nice relationship where me and Peanut and Whitey filled in the gaps. Peanut would be playing low and I would go high or he’d playing some high piano, I’d come in with the low bit. Playing together for a long time, like me and Peanut, we’ve been together in a band since we were… 15. All that helps to make for a great energy.”
Great bands also have a great relationship between the bass and drums, the rhythm section is the heart of a band, something Simon has always enjoyed. “With Nick (Hodgson), we were in bands even before Peanut, we had our first band when we were 11, which was not very good! Then, in the time when I was at uni, I was in a band with Vijay Mistry. So, when Nick moved on, Vijay seemed like the obvious choice to me, I already had a good relationship with him. He was in my old band and then we pinched him from another Leeds band… everyone is friends again now!”
Kaiser Chiefs play Scarborough Open Air Theatre on Sunday 8 August. For more information on this show and all SOAT events, please visit scarboroughopenairtheatre.com