Maybe they can‘t help but do things in a big way. but Simple Minds can take three years between LPs and still return triumphant for an album that marks a creative highpoint and another 18-month world tour. Street Fighting Years follows a period. encompassing Spark/e in the Rain. Once Upon a Time and Live in the
( 'ity (rfIJg/tts (from their last punishing set of live shows). in which Simple Minds have been accused of sacrificing their subtlety for stadium-rock bombast. While far from disowning records like ()nee Upon a Time (which he admits was something of a rush job. written and recorded in two months). singer. Jim Kerr. is keen to stress the growth of the band since then.
‘After the last period. and our live album. I think we felt it was the end ofthat thing. We‘d taken it as far as we could. that big dynamic. I still love that. but listening to the live album it was like that for four sides. and I think enough‘s enough.‘
Their current tour. which has just completed its Iiuropean leg. is certainly no less spectacular. but Kerr. guitarist (‘harlie Burchill and keyboard player Mick McNeill (joined on stage by new bassist Malcolm Foster. violinist Lisa (iermano. percussionist Andy Duncan and long-serving drummer Mel (iaynor) have managed to marry the subtle textures that endeared so many to New Gold Dream with the forceful rock power ofthc later work. in a progression that goes hand in hand with the band's growing maturity. The responsibilities of families. and the settlingofSimple Minds‘ earlier rootlessness had a part to play.
‘We knew we were taking a year‘s break to get off the roller coaster. That last time out was when we went through the hallowed portals into the big league stadiums. an American
Number One. And it had a dramatic effect on us. because it‘s hard to get a grip and a perspective. and I think all credit to us. we knew. And most bands might have cashed in. We looked round and saw what was good about it and what was bad. And although the band is very important. and was the most important thing in our lives. it no longer is. We‘ve got fatnin and such. it was our duty in the moral sense to be around for the kids growing up and the kids being born. A perception was needed. We've been in Scotland now for two-and-a-half years. and moving at the pace of Scotland. Although not getting the bus at 7am we were writing Monday to Friday and taking weekends off to see friends. I hate to say normal life. it‘s very glib.‘
With Kerr approaching his thirties. enjoying life and talkmgot Simple Minds ‘reinventing‘ themselves.
Street Fighting Years has the sound of
a band clearing out dead wood and making a fresh start. The studio they built on the shores of Loch Iiarn. leaving them little change out of £200,000. is being talked about by producers worldwide. I’referring to work in I’erthshire rather than London or Montserrat. they recorded Street Fighting Years there. and are recognised as having a greatercommitment to their homeland than the pan-Iiuropean Minds of the past.
Kerr‘s refusal to live anywhere than in in the shadow of the Forth Rail Bridge was one cause of friction between him and his wife (‘hrissie I Iynde. who is loath to leave London. where Kerr finds it impossible to write. for any length of time. The eventual cracks in their marriage were pounced on gleefully by the press. a source of no little pain to Kerr.
‘If anything's interesting it’s the music. therefore you should highlight that. There‘s an urge to win this battle when you get this big
success. and you're game for big headlines. I love seeing our records in the charts and being a big name band. but the problem is to co-exist where you‘re equally big outside it in a different way. I feel sorry for ‘ personalities who are Personalities first and foremost. It‘s that. and in a family sense with the kids. You don‘t want them living in a goldfish bowl.
"I‘here‘s just not a lot to it. really.‘ he says of the rock life. ‘You go to school. you get mates. you form this band. you play every night doing something that would be a hobby anyway. and it just goes. . . lguess there‘s a glamour. as the tabloids put it. tags to riches. and they're obsessed with money. I don’t feel comfortable with it.’
These days he's seeing more of his daughter Jasmin. and (‘hrissie‘s first child Natalie. though they spend tnost of their time in London with their mother.
"I'he only down side of what we do is that it's very hard to maintain that close family thing that‘s so important to me. If somebody says how do you deal with it. you just have to take it on the chin. really.‘
Kerr has been heard to say that one thing that rankles him about the breakdown of his marriage is that someone so committed to ideals of community should be contributing to the statistics of broken marriages. It's interesting. then. to note that his personal conflict is mirrored in the songs on Street Fighting Years all of which concern conflict ofone kind or another.
‘I feel over the years we’ve been getting more focused. even militant. and physical as well. People talk about the difference in Sitnple Minds being from art-rock band to a stadium band. or from a Iiuropean band to an American band. and I don‘t care about that. I think the difference is that before we were making a music that was of a voyeuristic nature. whereas it seems
R V _..
Alastair Mabbott and Trevor Pake track down Jim Kerr
to talk about Simple Minds‘ lengthy layoff and the ‘more
concrete' music they‘re now playing.
now there‘s this urge to be much more concrete and physical. and essentially write about these times.‘
The eternal question remains. though. whether rock music is the best place to do it.
‘When you're younger there's the notion of escapism. and a great way to escape is to form a rock'n‘roll band. and that was all very well. and I recommend it. But I think we age and get older. and I think if you‘re going to pick up a pen there’s a duty at some point — although we're entertainers first and foremost -- there's a wee bit of a duty to bear witness. and I think over the years I’m not interested in escaping the world as much as I am talking about the things that back me off. I still love this time and being alive in this time. still at the back of the tnusic and songs there's a basic joy of life. But over the years. if things have hacked tne off. instead of witlulrawing into my own world I've felt the need to contribute.‘
But from his privileged position of big rock star how much does he see of what‘s really going on‘.’
‘If you make the effort you can get an idea of what it's like. If you went to India you‘d need at least a year to really get under the surface. but you try so hard to get out of the cocoon. It‘s often hard to get other people to talk. When you go out somewhere you are the centre ofattention. I try to get other people to talk. The last thing you should do on a night off is to go out with the band for a (‘hinese meal. You go to a bar. find out where life is. All the education we‘ve got has come from almost touchng that. You just have to look for it. Most bands just cover themselves with security. but we've built up a network of friends over the years.‘ Simple .thtds play it! the SIX '( .. Glasgow on Fllt‘St/(lt S and Wednesday 9, followed by Meadowhunk Stadium. Edinburgh on Sutttrddv 13.
The List 28July~ IOAugust 19897