Kaiser Chiefs Interview by Dean Constant
So how is the European tour going at the minute?
Yeah it’s going really well. We are into the first three dates, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. But yeah it’s been cool; it’s good to get back on the road.
Do you all get along on tour? Does anyone have any bad habits that piss the others off? My housemate flicks his bogeys at me when he thinks I’m not looking…
No not really, we’ve been doing this for a while now so we’ve pretty much got used to each other. The little things don’t get to us anymore, otherwise we would be arguing all the time! So yeah we’re quite close as a band, as a crew and as the whole Kaiser Chief travelling party thing you know.
I suppose because you all pretty much grew up together as well?
Yeah, we are just one big family on the road.
When do Kaiser Chiefs finish the European tour and what’s next?
Well, we get two days off then we start the UK tour! So that’s going to be the big highlight, the big end to the year.
And what do you prefer – touring the world and taking your sound out there, or in being in the studio recording new Kaiser Chief material?
Kind of a bit of both really. When we’re in the studio and the songs are near to completion we can’t wait to get out there and play them. And then when we’ve been touring round the world for say, a year, 18 months, then we’re ready to get back into the studio.
What would you say your best gig is to date?
Probably the one we did as a secret thing at Leeds Festival this year, where we played under the name of ‘Hooks for Hands’. Basically that was the most exciting thing; it was proper like word of mouth, like five minutes before we were due on stage and people were legging it from all over the site. That’s what’s proper exciting about it and you need to do these sorts of things to keep of fresh y’know, keep a bit of excitement in it all. That’s probably one of the best gigs this year, even though it was like, 3000 people squashed into a little tent.
Just to see peoples faces give the ‘Is that the Kaiser Chiefs?’ type look.
Yeah and running whilst on the phone saying ‘it’s the Kaiser Chiefs I’m telling you!’ legging it over the hill and jumping over the barrier. So yeah, little moments like that make it important.
Probably some of the earlier stuff we did when we played to something like 13 people in Philadelphia, but it wasn’t actually the worst gig as it turned out to be a good laugh. It was never going to be absolutely amazing with that many people in the room so I think we ended up dedicating a song to each person in the end.
What’s your favourite Kaiser Chiefs song you like to play live?
It’s probably ‘Oh My God’, the song we usually play last. It’s got a big ending and it’s really become the big anthem that we end on. It was one of the first songs we wrote as well. It’s great to see that song go from when we used to be playing it in our little set of 5 or 6 songs when we were supporting, to now where we are closing arena shows with it and stuff like that!
Are there any songs that you think, ‘Oh God not this one again’?
No, we don’t really get bored of songs; there are certain songs that work well and we work quite hard at making a good set and making it sort of flow well for people to actually enjoy, rather than just chucking a load of songs down on a piece of paper. There’s no song that we really don’t like, I guess in the earlier days we would play some of the weaker songs from the first album or play B sides when we didn’t have enough songs, but now we are onto two albums it’s okay now, we can do a good set with a mixture from both albums.
How do you guys unwind after a gig? A few beers? A Radox bath? Yoga perhaps?
Recently we have been watching ‘Saxondale’ on the bus and working our way through series one watching a couple of episodes a night, that’s all. That’s been the last few nights we’ve been around Europe. Usually we have a beer or something in the dressing room but it’s making it into a laugh and hanging out like we have done for ten years. It’s amazing how it doesn’t change.
Are there any really random or scary countries you have been to and played and thought ‘Sod that we’re not playing there again!’?
We had only just started touring the UK with the Ordinary Boys in the very early days, and I remember going across to Moscow and thinking ‘This is weird’. It was our first ever trip away and now places like that are totally normal to us but at that time it was like ‘It’s Moscow, what’s it like? Are we going to get arrested? Are people going to steal our money?’ We had no idea what to expect, then you realise the more you travel the world the smaller it becomes really.
Was there a bad experience that makes you think that?
No not really, apart from our stomachs generally suffering I think from the water and things like that. It was an interesting time when we got home.
Any special words of advice for students, or even non-students out there who are currently in a band and trying to hit the big time?
I think from our experience, ultimately what gets you places at the end of the day is the songs. Often when you take a lot of knock-backs as a band then you kind of remake yourselves, and what you don’t realise you’ve done is actually improved your song writing along the way. You can look how you want to look and know who you want to know, and that sort of stuff, but ultimately if you haven’t got good enough songs then people won’t want to own them and people aren’t going to play them on the radio. So you need to spend a lot of time getting that bit right and being good as a band.
Who did Kaiser Chiefs aspire to as an ‘up and coming’ band all those years ago?
I was into Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine and stuff like that, and I guess before that it was Guns ‘n’ Roses when I was about 11. I started learning the guitar and by then I guess I was about 15 or 16. I got into the whole Britpop thing like Blur, Shed Seven and Oasis and they were the bands at that age I thought were really cool. Then I discovered their influences and started listening to The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, Pink Floyd etc. So it’s a mixture of them all really, it’s always changing and we are always discovering new stuff. We just wanted to be a great British band when we started out; that’s what we wanted to be regarded as.
Was there a particular turning point as a band where you all thought ‘Hey guys, I think this is it’ or did it just gradually feel like it was really happening?
I guess because we are in it all the time then yeah, it does feel quite gradual, but also we got a record deal around the end of the summer 2004 and later that year, about November time, ‘I Predict A Riot’ entered the charts first time round at something like number 22, properly into the Top 40. I remember thinking it’s a real tangible thing if you’ve got a record in the Top 40! So literally from 2004 it hasn’t stopped and we are now where we are today, so that’s about it.
Describe the feeling when ‘Ruby’ and the album ‘Yours Truly, Angry Mob’ went to number 1 earlier this year…
It was the second album and we had already had a lot of success with the first one, so obviously it was great and you do get an idea that you are going to be number 1 sort of earlier on the Sunday before the charts are on the radio. But we didn’t want to know, and we were like ‘Don’t tell us!’ I think we were on tour somewhere like Wolverhampton or Birmingham and we had the radio on and it said ‘The Kaiser Chiefs are number one’, it was like, fucking hell! We went on stage that night, I think to Paul Hardcastle’s ‘The Wizard’ (theme tune for Top of the Pops.) It’s weird it didn’t suddenly go to number one, we had been working towards that for a long time and when it came it was almost like an anti-climax. Also where else can you go from number one? You can’t go any higher, so you don’t have anything to aim for after that and when you’re there it’s like, what do we do now?
How did you guys celebrate? When I celebrate I tend to rush to Tesco’s and buy a cheeseboard and a bottle of value cherryade…
We had champagne and stuff in the dressing rooms with all our crew. It’s nice to have all the people there that have worked with you along the way, our managers were there and it felt like a success. Then the next week the album went to number one as well and it’s like, fucking hell, number one album, number one single – you can’t really come back easily after that. But yeah, we were feeling pretty confident.
How did you feel when Mark Ronson covered ‘Oh My God’ with Lily Allen? Do you think she hit the right chords and how did it feel hearing someone cover your song?
That was all right really. We heard it probably something like a year before it came out and we heard it before Lily Allen had become, well, Lily Allen. And we were cool; we were like, it’s a decent cover. You get some bad covers sometimes, and you can’t really do much to stop them and this one has obviously been very, very successful. It’s kind of cool as it puts a different slant and angle on your song. At first it’s a bit strange, and then you soon realise that covers are meant to be someone else’s interpretation of your song, and I think in that respect it’s done well.
They always say the second album is the most eagerly awaited. How did the fans react to the new album compared to the first album?
Well I think if you’re a fan you’re a fan aren’t you? You’re a fan ‘cause you like what the band do so the fans were just eager for new material. I mean ‘Employment’ would have been finished nearly 2 years when it came out.
They will always compare it though won’t they?
Yeah, but I think that our fans just grew with us and obviously ‘Ruby’ was huge even before the song came out. It was a massive hit. People were really happy, we had 4 or 5 hits from our first album and we came back with new sounding songs and a progression musically within the band. But we still had that kind of ‘hit factor’ to our songs. I think in that way we didn’t really let anyone down.
What does the future hold for the Kaiser Chiefs then? Any of you looking to go solo, like H from Steps for instance?
No, we’re too busy in the band for that. The future is that we’re finishing touring at the end of the year and then next year will be a year of bits and pieces. Taking time off, making it to places that we didn’t make it to this year, doing a couple of big things hopefully and looking forward to recording some new material.
If you weren’t in a band what do you think you would be doing instead to earn a crust?
If the band did fall apart I think we would still be friends, I think we would still end up hanging around somehow. But if the band hadn’t even been on the cards then I’m not quite sure. I reckon that I would be a photographer, and I have only got into this recently but I take loads of pictures when we are out on tour now, and I like old film photography, that sort of thing. I would probably be into band photography and be in the industry some way or another.
Probably a question that is asked all the time, but why are you called Peanut?
It was my nickname from school. I’ve had it from when I was about 10 years old when I drew a picture of myself in class and my head looked like a peanut and it went from that really.
What are you likely to be doing on an average Sunday afternoon?
I like to eat well, and recover from Saturday. If the snooker, Formula 1 or the football is on the telly then I’ll watch that, and then go to the pub in the evening and have a nice quiet Sunday. We don’t get too many of those unfortunately these days.
And finally, we ask the same last question on the end of many of our interviews. Marmite. Love it or hate it?
Absolutely love it!
Well thanks for the chat Nick; it was a real pleasure to speak to you. Good luck with the rest of the tour.