A walk through Simple Minds' past
You’re talking my language!” jokes Jim Kerr, when I inform him I’m recording him on an old dictaphone. Retro is very much in the mind of the singer, his band having just celebrated their 40th anniversary.
It was January 1978 that Simple Minds were born – the same week, he reminds me, that the Sex Pistols split.
“It (punk) was a shambles by then, but things had moved on and I guess we became part of the thing it moved on to.”
But the band – who had grown up listening to punk acts like The Damned – retain that spirit. “If we put the sound to the side for a second, we’re still working with that ethos.
“When I think of punk, it was DIY,” he elaborates – “no rich daddy to get you piano lessons, you had to just get up and do it. 40 years later, here we are, no-one’s given us a lesson on how to write a song or play a gig, it’s all been from doing it.”
Simple Minds quickly evolved, going from what was termed ‘post punk’, to hit singles, becoming amulti-million pound business – but on their own terms. “Even now we work independently, we do all our own stuff and the record company license it from us – so we work on a punk business model.”
And new album ‘Walk Between Worlds’ has a feel of those days playing Scotland’s club circuit. This perhaps nostalgic sound is in part inspired by Charlie Burchill’s interest in old tech. “Any time we get a day off he’ll be looking for old analogue synths he had first time round and thought were dated and sold off,” he laughs.And these echoes from the past influenced the lyrical side of the new material as well. “I thought if we’redoing that I’d try and put myself into the position of the character I remember when I was 18 or 19,” he recalls.
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And none moreso than on new single ‘Barrowland Star’, about the legendary venue which reopened after several years lying idle thanks to the band shooting the video for 'Waterfront’ there in 1983. “It’s become one of these great temples of music – the song tries to encapsulate young men going to play there and what it meant to us,” he explains.
And the grand theatre offered musical inspiration even now.
“Charlie plays his longest ever guitar solo on ‘Barrowland Star’ and I think his best, real glam rock guitar,” Jim enthuses of their new single.
“You want to retain the tradition, the hallmark, but not the same old same old,” he says. “Fortunately for us we’ve done so many different things, we can riff off, if not rip off, certain phases of our band.”
Although there’s only so far musicians who’ve been on the go for four decades can step back in time. “We’ve not got mohicans or Doc Martens – but who knows what’s the corner?” the singer laughs. “No, that was then, this is now. The world’s changed. You can evoke, but you can’t go back.”
Simple Minds play Glasgow’s Barrowland on Tuesday February 13th, with shows at Manchester's Albert Hall (14th) and London Roundhouse (15th). Walk Through Worlds is out on February 2nd.