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Kaiser Chiefs

Mayhem! Meets… the Kaiser Chiefs
The Kaiser Chiefs are currently on their first UK tour in almost two years. The tour follows their re-emergence this year with a new album – ‘The Future Is Medieval’. We catch up ahead of their appearance at Portsmouth’s Guildhall this month to see how it’s going…

How would you describe the band to anyone new to Kaiser Chiefs?
We’re in the line of the great British bands.

So you returned from your two year hiatus this year, how has 2011 treated you?
2011 was good. We all had a great time working out how we were gonna release the album and loved the fact that it came off. The night before the album was released was genuinely exciting and it felt the same as when we released the first record, which was sort of the point; to do something new, to make things exciting again. After that we’ve played some great gigs all over the world. Glastonbury was a highlight as was Splendour in Australia; our massive homecoming shows in Leeds and more recently we did our most extensive tour of Europe ever, so all in all, another year of good times.

Why did you take the break? What were you doing during that time?
We toured or were writing/recording all the time from 2004 to 2009. When you do that, I think you start taking things for granted and it was great to be at home for a while, sit back, take it all in and work out what to do next. As everyone knows now we’re hardly idle to the time off. After Off With Their Heads we toured for another year then had some time off and pretty soon got into writing and recording the 25 tracks that got released in various ways around The Future Is Medieval album. That was a lot of fun. We were able to get together and make music and then go off and do other things before coming back to it again. There was no real deadline. Just when it was finished and the website was designed we could hit the button and stick it out for everyone to enjoy. We loved that. We also liked that it was our little secret. As things progressed the number of people who needed to know got bigger and bigger but we were massively impressed that the whole thing didn’t leak before the day.

Has your sound and your influences changed over the years?
We think that it’s important for bands to develop over time and, particularly on the last album, we tried to stretch the boundaries of what people expect from the Kaiser Chiefs. Loads of people have mentioned to me that they couldn’t believe that certain songs on the last album were by us and that was with intention. We wanted to try different things and experiment with different approaches and different sounds. We think if it’s the five of us playing and singing then it sounds like KC and the challenge was to try to do these different and interesting things while keeping the big tunes that we have been famous for. We keep doing that and we’re looking forward to the year ahead and more new music coming out for everyone to hear.

We understand your band name comes from the South African football team, what is the bands link to South Africa?
The name does come from South Africa but the link comes from Leeds – our home town. A Leeds United legend, Lucas Radebe signed for Leeds from Kaiser Chiefs and we loved the name so we nicked it!
With your most recent album, ‘The Future is Medieval’, we understand that rather than simply allowing download, you let the fans pick 10 out of the 20 songs to make their own album for £7.50. What made you decide to take this approach?

It came from an idea Ricky had, but the main motivation was seeing record sales in general go down and down. And people more and more think music is something disposable. I think that a lot of people are guilty for letting that happen and we just wanted to do something different to everyone else, to stand out from the crowd, to make people stop for a minute and listen to the record rather than just downloading it and moving onto the next thing. Obviously something has to happen with how music is sold and we were just trying to actually do something rather than just sit around and moan about how things used to be.

How do you think online has influenced the production of full albums?
More than ever tracks are important and iTunes has made it easy to grab music you want quickly. I think that is a great thing in a way but though people think we are a singles band actually albums have always been massively important to us. We always tried to make our albums flow and be interesting all the way through.
The way we did The Future Is Medieval made that less important and that again was intentional. If people want to pick and choose tracks we thought it would be cool to give them more choice; let them get on with picking tracks. But in a sly way, because they had to pick 10 to complete the album, we got a lot of people thinking about the album and the running order, in order to pick the ultimate track list. We are also about to release the vinyl version ourselves – basically ‘cause it’s not really financially viable for record companies to do that anymore. So basically, I think while bands and artists are still interested in making albums, they still have a long way to go.

How instrumental were your awards with NME and the Brits to your success as a band?
At first with awards we took them for granted and just thought it was a good night out but I think they were actually really important – especially the first few, and especially to separate us from the crowd when we went places outside the UK.

What is the songwriting process for the band and has it changed with new technology over the years?
Our songwriting process has always been pretty much the same. Nick comes with songs/ideas/bits and we finish the music and Ricky finishes the lyrics. Very occasionally something different happens but that’s about it. Things have changed a lot though since we started. We used to be jamming in a rehearsal room for hours and hours and before we were first signed we (well Nick and Peanut mainly) spent hours recording on bits of equipment we got for bargain prices or borrowed off people. One thing at a time, learning as we went, that’s how we did our original demos. Now it’s a lot easier, Nick will demo songs in his studio and send them to us to listen to before we play them together. It speeds up the whole process. In fact Nick’s studio is great. We recorded a few of the songs for the new album in there. And we’re currently working on the new single. We can just get in there and get on with things; no need to wait around for other people. It makes life dead easy.

Have any of you got families now? How do you manage being on the road and family life?
There’s only one Kaiser kid so far. But from the start we were all close to our families and so going away for months and months is hard. We just try and get back to see people as often as possible or get them to come out to us.

What are your favourite bands at the moment?
During the time off me and Nick put out a couple of singles by a band called The Neat who are great. And we’ve got a load of unsigned or new bands on the bill with us on the tour. I think there’s five or six different ones over all the dates. They are all worth checking out. On top of that, there’s a band from Leeds called Stalking Horse who are cool and another band from San Diego called Transfer who just supported us in Europe. They are genuinely brilliant. A really great live band, even Whitey watched them when they were supporting us and that’s almost unheard of.

If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
I personally love Lou Reed, but never meet your heroes.

What are your plans for 2012?
First off, do this interview and then we have a little bit of recording to do for a single we are going to release early in the year. More new material. After that it’s back on the road round the UK, USA, Europe, Australia and everywhere in between. That takes us to about September. After that who knows?

Thank very much guys!

Interview by Jennifer Le Roux