Three decades of Simple Minds

Eighties legends Simple Minds make a welcome return to Blickling Hall in July. The band's frontman Jim Kerr told us about surviving 30 years in the music business.

You might expect a rock star with 30 years in the music business under his belt to perhaps be slightly jaded. But not Jim Kerr.

The Scottish frontman of one of the quintessential bands of the 1980s is back on familiar territory, hitting the promotional trail for an extensive tour, which includes an eagerly-anticipated date at Blickling Hall on Friday, July 17.

And get him talking about the band's new album, Graffiti Soul, and he chatters with the enthusiasm of a whippersnapper who's just been in a recording studio for the first time.

'The well's never really run dry,' he says.


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'The record took shape in three or four different places - Italy, France, Wales and Glasgow and then finally for the mixing we went to the States. In terms of the style, I'm tempted to say it's a classic Simple Minds album, whatever that means,' he says.

'The thing that we are most pleased about is that it's got an energy, a vibrancy. It certainly doesn't sound like a band that's been around the block for 30 years.'

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There's no rock star ego in evidence either - talking about his career, Jim is endearingly humble and grateful for the band's achievements.

Despite some high-profile relationships - he was married to Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde and actress Patsy Kensit and had a child with each - he seems to have survived a life on the music scene unscathed.

Don't go expecting tales of rock and roll hedonism.

'I've never been much of a drinker,' he says.

'I'm a poor drinker... On my 30th birthday I'd had too much to drink and then had a horrendous night on stage. Not only physically horrendous, but the audience had paid good money and got - from me anyway - a shadow of a performance. It just wasn't on.'

In fact, he admits that in the early years he suffered from stage fright.

'It took me three or four years to get comfortable with it. Before, I used to fret over everything that could go wrong. It was pretty miserable,' he says.

But once he got over that unease, being on stage was the biggest buzz. 'Can you imagine going in to work in an office and they gave you a round of applause? Everyone would excel that bit more - we are very, very lucky,' he says.

'Without wishing to patronise them, our fans have given us this incredible life. A life beyond our dreams. We won the lotto - in fact more than that because you could win the lotto and it could be meaningless.

'We've managed to have a life, of touring, travelling and music. We're beyond thankful.'

Jim's humble nature could stem from his childhood. From an early age music was, and has remained, his first love. 'Growing up in Glasgow in the early '70s, there really wasn't much else on. In fact I was saying to someone the other day, 'There was only football and music'. The other guy said: 'There were girls too'. I replied: 'You must have been lucky'.'

Jim spent his youth watching bands, dreaming of the day he could get up there on stage.

'Live music was so much more exotic than football. Going to see bands at 13 or 14, we knew which bands had delivered, who'd set the place on fire - and who had come on and looked at their shoes for an hour and left.

'We wanted to be the former as opposed to the latter.'

With friend and guitar player Charlie Burchill he formed a punk band. The duo then recruited Mick MacNeil, Derek Forbes, Brian McGee, and became Simple Minds. The name was derived from a lyric from David Bowie's Jean Genie.

'We were working class kids in Glasgow. At that time Glasgow was very much an industrial city. The industry was on its knees. There was a question mark hanging over everything. The music was something that started as an escape and a passion - it came out of that,' Jim says.

Number one records followed such as Don't You (Forget About Me), which featured on the soundtrack to the iconic brat pack movie the Breakfast Club, Alive and Kicking and Belfast Child. They were close to other enduring acts that emerged in the era of mullets and leg-warmers, such as U2, the Cure, Depeche Mode and (obviously) the Pretenders.

Since then the Simple Minds line-up has changed and reverted to the original pair of Jim and Charlie Burchill who now perform together with Eddie Duffy and Mel Gaynor and, 31 years on, Jim isn't thinking about retirement.

Asked why he still does it, Jim seems slightly stumped.

'At one point, probably about 10 years ago we started asking ourselves that. We are born to it. This is what we do, this is who we are. It's become our career. It's very natural. In the case of Charlie Burchill, him and I have been doing this since before we were teenagers.

'The day's never come when we felt there wasn't another song or felt that playing live isn't worthwhile. There's never been a point where we feel this isn't great, because it is great.' he says.

With every band from White Lies to Keane plugging in their synthesisers and channelling the '80s in their music, what does Jim think about the decade's revival?

'I've been hearing about this '80s revival for the last 15 years. In some ways I think the '80s have never gone away,' he says, pointing out that his contemporaries Depeche Mode have also just released a new record.

After years on the road Jim still lives something of a nomadic existence. He explains that he was bitten by the travel bug at a young age. 'It goes way back. The first time I went outside the UK was on a school trip to Italy when I was 14. I got a sense of a bigger world and wanted to experience it. And I've never lost that passion. Travel affects the way you think,' he says.

He accepts that his fragmented lifestyle wouldn't suit everyone.

'Despite trying to rebel and attempt to settle down, it's not for me. Recently I've been in Sicily. Honestly, I'm always in transit. Even now there are bags at the hotel which I'll leave with them for a month and then come and pick them up.

'The bags have my books and candles and things which people have in their lives, not in their bags,' he says.

Jim says that he's looking forward to returning to Norfolk.

'We've got a fond memory of playing there a few years ago. It was one of the first stately home gigs we did,' he says.

With a string of achievements to the band's name, Jim must have lots of career highlights?

'I think without doubt the highlights are playing in front of an audience and people coming away happy at the end of the gig.

'And doing this with my best mate Charlie Burchill for 30 years,' he says.

t Simple Minds play Blickling Hall on Friday, July 17. Tickets cost �37.50, plus booking fee. Telephone the EDP ticket booking line on 01603 772175, visit our website at www.edp24.co.uk/shop or call into our offices at Prospect House, Norwich, Yarmouth, Cromer and Lowestoft. Alternatively telephone the Blickling Hall box office on 0844 800 4308.

t The band's new album, Graffiti Soul, is out now. For more information visit the band's website at www.simpleminds.com

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