Anybody that’s seen the Kaiser Chiefs play live will know that singer Ricky Wilson is not a man that lacks energy on stage. He jumps, he screams, he stage dives and, if there’s any scaffolding in sight, it’s only a matter of time before he’s scrambled halfway to the top, mid-song. He’s as natural a frontman as you’ll see. So it’s perhaps surprising when, chatting on the phone from the UK, he readily admits that, even now, he gets stage fright before every gig he does.
“Every night,” explains Ricky, “a few seconds before I go out on stage, it always seems like the worst idea in the world. But I’ve got used to the fact now that I know that once I’m out there it’s great.”
“I’m not an applause junkie,” he continues. “It’s not like I crave the appreciation, I can’t really explain it. I find it really weird. I mean, I don’t feel comfortable in a room with more than like eight people. I don’t know what happens or what takes over when I walk out on stage but I become very comfortable. It’s an outlet. We took about a year and a half, two years, away from the stage and I had to go running every day. It was mad, it was like I needed something else. I think it’s more of an outlet to get my frustrations out. It’s not so much that I like people clapping, I like knocking things over and being naughty. I think it’s kind of controlled aggression.”
Indeed it doesn’t take long chatting to Ricky for it to become clear he’s a man who lives for the band and doing new things. Talking on the phone he’s typically laidback and dripping with his easy humour, but clearly not well, having got sick towards the end of the band’s longest-ever UK tour – “man, it was fucking gruelling – luckily the doctor put me on some magic pills and, although I haven’t slept for three days, I put in some good performances”. The bout of flu caused a frantic scramble for a last-minute replacement interview at TNT Towers last week, but, excited to chat about the upcoming Aussie tour, and drugged up to the eye balls, the Leeds man still insisted on taking the call.
“I love coming to Australia. It’s so relaxing. You know, you go to America and they’ll have us getting up at seven in the morning to do some sort of in-store in a record shop, whereas we come to Australia and we get loads of days off.”
Regulars to the land Down Under since debut record Employment first dropped back in 2005, along with a succession of hits like “I Predict A Riot”, the triple Brit award-winners can’t wait to explore new territory as one of the headline acts of the Groovin’ the Moo festival.
“I’d never heard of [Groovin the Moo],” he concedes. “But I’m getting a lot of tweets and stuff about it saying
So, I suggest, he doesn’t have too much of a role in deciding where they play? “Ah, it depends who you talk to in the band, everyone will say something different. But I’m of the school of just book it and give me a plan. I pay too many people far too much money for me to worry about stuff like that!”
Not getting bored, it seems, is the key. “We’ve played most of the festivals on the planet so this is a new one, and anything new I love. It’s great travelling the world, and I love it, but I don’t want to ever get used to it, because as soon as you get used to it, it gets boring.”
That probably explains why, when I ask if they’ve lined up any festivals for the next UK summer, he’s like an excited backpacker with a ticket in his pocket, not interested in anything other than the upcoming trip. “You know what, I’m sure it’s all in place. But the thing is, people from the UK are kind of blinkered because they just think of like Leeds and Reading or whatever. They don’t realise that there’s also loads in Europe and Australia and America. It’s the most fun time to be in a band. We just travel the world, working at weekends. It’s a bit like being at school in summer.”
Indeed, the need to keep doing something original is nothing new for the Kaisers. After releasing three albums in quick succession, and getting their first UK number one, courtesy of “Ruby”, from the Yours Truly, Angry Mobrecord, back in 2007, the five-piece indie kings took some time off, returning last year with their first album in three years, released in a revolutionary way – the band recorded 20 songs for The Future Is Medieval and allowed fans to listen to them all on their website, before picking their 10 favourites to make up their own personalised version of the record.
Seven months on, are they glad they did the experiment? “Well, I wouldn’t do it again, but it worked for us. It’s an idea, at least we had an idea you know what I mean. In a world full of people moaning about the music industry, and there’s a lot to moan about, don’t get me wrong, but there’s no point moaning. It doesn’t do anyone any good, it just does you harm. So we thought let’s do something that might be an answer, not the answer, because it’s fundamentally flawed, but it was fun and it worked and we were the first people to do it. It certainly didn’t translate into sales but to have a million people come on your website in the first couple of days is great. As long as a million people know about it, that’s half the battle won.
“Music’s gone tits up and you can either ride out the storm and see what happens or start coming up with ideas. We just came up with an idea and I’m glad we did it. It was fucking good fun.”
But that begs the question as to why a band so clearly completely full of enthusiasm decided to take so much time off? “I don’t know really,” Ricky tries to explain. “To be honest, it’s weird. Hiatus, or time off, you kind of forget that the world thinks you disappear, but when you’re you, you don’t disappear, you just carry on. I had to live with me every day. We carried on writing songs and carried on recording. It was only like six months after the last gig that we started making the last album so it didn’t really feel like much time off, and then there were so many songs that it took a lot of time. It was a big undertaking.
“It’s weird when people hail it as a comeback because you’ve been you all along. Sometimes you just go and tour Europe for a few months and then when you’re back people say, ‘it’s a comeback’. It’s like, fuck, I’ve been working every day, you know what I mean. It’s not like I’m on a beach somewhere. Out of sight out of mind I suppose, like anyone in the public eye.”
So, we can expect plenty more from the Kaisers? He’s not looking to try something else? “Before the band, I had lots of shit jobs. Well, all jobs are shit man. Mainly I was an art teacher. I went into that all guns blazing, thinking I was going to change the world, then a couple of weeks later you realise you’re not going to change the world. It was kind of fun, the kids were cool, but I didn’t like all the paperwork. Now I’m in my favourite band and that’s a good job. I’m pretty lucky.”
Tickets are now on sale for Kaiser Chiefs’ shows in Brisbane (May 8), Auckland (May 10), Sydney (May 15), Melbourne (May 16) and Perth (May 18). You can also catch them at the Groovin’ The Moo festival, which hits Bendigo (May 5), Townsville (May 6), Maitland (May 12), Canberra (May 13) and Bunbury (May 19).frontiertouring.com/kaiserchiefs & gtm.net.au
March 5th, 2012