Simple Minds | Interview
From their formation in 1977, Simple Minds have outlasted their 1980s pop heyday and continue to produce evergreen gems. Ffion Riordan-Jones spoke to guitarist Charlie Burchill to reflect on their extensive career and chat about their tour with The Pretenders.
Tell us a bit about your show in Merthyr Tydfil with The Pretenders.
We have toured with The Pretenders before and we can’t wait to head back out. One of our fondest memories is Chrissie [Hynde, of The Pretenders] and Jim [Kerr, lead singer of Simple Minds] getting married in 1984 [though they’ve been divorced since 1990 – ed].
If there’s anything you think you’ve learnt as a musician, what do you think the main point is?
In a nutshell, one of the things we think we have achieved is that we have managed to change around very often as a band. That’s largely part of having lots of different technologies around. We’ve been through so many different periods of development and that always contributes to what you’re doing at the time. It gives you a different process to think and we always wanted to try and make a different record than before.
Aside from technology, how do you think the musical landscape in the UK has changed?
I think it’s much harder now for bands. When we started there was more chance to be able to make mistakes and be given a second shot. You could learn and grow up in public. Now I don’t think that exists so much. There’s a lot of pressure to succeed with the first album and that’s the common mentality.
Looking back at your work, is there an album or track you’re proud of after possibly making a mistake?
Every band has an album that fans regard as the album – ours would probably be New Gold Dream back in 1981. That album had an overall sound, feel and emotion to it. It was very focused. It was the first time we wrote proper songs as before that we were very experimental. It was also the one that started us really heading off in an upward direction.
Where do you see Simple Minds going now?
Well with the last few albums we really went to work. We managed to make a mixture, mainly electronic. We always loved the tech-as-alive band sound, we enjoy creating a hybrid. We are still learning as songwriters though. You need to learn. A lot of people don’t see much point in doing albums anymore because you don’t sell as much as you used to, but for us, that’s what we do. We make records. That’s the only thing that hasn’t changed in our band since we’ve been together.
What music do you tend to listen to now?
I go to see bands an awful lot. Not necessarily new bands but more like Arcade Fire. I saw The Killers recently, and Sigur Ros! I find myself rediscovering older music that tends to inspire me. I spend a lot of free time in my studios messing around with different equipment and sounds. That’s got to be my main hobby.
New music on the horizon?
We have half an album written. We are looking to finish that. This tour is a really long tour; we are off to America for a few months then heading into other territories.
What can we expect from you guys from the show?
Well, there’s going to be a lot of women on it! Half of our band has women, and KT Tunstall is supporting before The Pretenders and she’s just fantastic. It’s going to be a ladies’ night!
Simple Minds, The Pretenders, and KT Tunstall, Cyfarthfa Park, Merthyr Tydfil, Sun 5 Aug. Tickets: from £25. Info: www.simpleminds.com