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interview | dv8 magazine (may/june 1998)

Neapolis album
simple minded, jim is not

When I proudly announced that I would be interviewing this man, the thirty-somethings around me wowed with lust while the twenty-somethings all said who? You're rudely uneducated I fired, for he is the lady's man of rock n roll; the Hercules who'd cross rivers and climb the Cairngorms to be with Chrissie... then Patsy... then... Well then it got boring. He gave up women and went back to his roots. But now he's back. Thinner, glazed eyed but headstrong - it's Jim Kerr with his Simple Minds bearing all the Gaelic idiosyncrasy Irvine Welsh missed and a lot more besides!

Almost forgivable in fact are those dodgy little punk outfits graced by Johnny and the Self Abusers when you see who grew out of them. What followed was a social upgrade, a shift to the new style eighties pop and a name change which didn't justify social reprobation. Over the next twenty years Simple Minds went on to sell millions of albums worldwide and they're now back Neapolis, their first album to hit the streets after their not quite massive predecessor back in 1995.

Jim, you're thirty eight, celebrating your twentieth anniversary of bopping about in a boy band. Aren't you bored yet?

You won't get rid of us that easily! It is hard but when you love it, when you're looking for a new song, you can't be half-hearted about it. We've never not been content with what we're doing. We never thought the band would last more than twenty weeks never mind twenty years and even now I don't think it's meant to go on for years and years. The Beatles only made it last nine years and they were the best band on the planet.

You must think about other things though, other than making music?

Yeah, same as any guy!

Ah hah. I didn't like to bring the subject up, but since you have, how is your love life?

Actually it's on hold at the moment. I don't know if that's a poor choice of words or not! I've got a few flames but nothing serious. I'm too busy to be honest with you. We've been very busy promoting this record around Europe and America over the last few months. My eyes are glazed.

Too much work?

Well, I'm not complaining.

Neapolis, the original name for Italy's Naples inspired the artwork for the album and it's where the finishing touches were perfected. With Peter Walsh producing (he also produced New Gold Dream) and original player Derek Forbes back on bass, it's somewhat a revisiting of old flames. But there is an evident of old innovation and, bar the slightly more mature edge, the synthesised sounds rooted in Simple Minds earliest influences, Can, Cabaret Voltaire and Kraftwerk are still very prominent.

But Neapolis is a corker if you're a fan of the band simply because they haven't changed. Unlike U2, which they are so loosely and inadvisably compared to, Simple Minds have been nowhere near as adventurous over the last two decades. In return they've maintained a loyal fan base without the sufferance's of Zoo TV and failed video links with war zones.

I can definitely hear flash backs from the past but I don't think we were taking a trip down memory lane just for the sake of it because I don't know if it would be possible. You know to tey and re-create the spirit of a record you made x amounts of years ago, it would be a bit like trying to create a dinner party. You just couldn't do it. You could invite the same people but it all hinges on the mood and what the backdrop is and the conversation at the table would be about that period... it just can't be done. But having said that, within our music we're quite amazed at how different themes seem to cycle back.

So what's the mood now? It's not a rock album. It's probably more err... mellow?

It is, yeah. It's quite a romantic sort of record, a bit spacey I think. It's not as bombastic and big but I think emoitionally it's still big. Our musical influences are still much the same and I think we carry these influences with us... people like Lou Reed and David Bowie I think are part of our genetics so they're always there.

Is this going to be the next big one?

You can't really think too much about that. I mean where do you start? The truth of the matter is we're making this thing up as we go along and, sure, when it's done you do everything you can to let people know it exists. But it's up to many different factors and sometimes it hits home an sometime it doesn't. There's been people much more talented out there who haven't sold as many records. It's just the way the penny drops.

After the deflating success following 1995's Good News From The Next World the band have ended their fifteen year contract with Virgin (although it's not clear who dropped who) and are now signed with Chrysalis.

One good record company's as good as the other really but it's good to get fresh input. It depends more on the individuals you're working with at the time and quite often that's changing. Everybody needs that or you can take each other for granted. Maybe that was what was happening. I don't think the chopping and changing is necessarily a bad thing; if anything I think it keeps the music fresh. We spend that much time in each other's pockets when we're producing a new album and touring that it's only fair to step back from it sometimes. Then, if the music suggests it's right for someone to come back then we get them back and it's great that they're enthusiastic enough to want to continue.

Simple Minded, Jim is not. Despite his record with women he say's he's uninterested with the high life pretentiousness of stardom and keeps a fairly low profile.

"We're big when we're in town and playing that night but when we're not, we disappear. That's nice. I wouldn't like it if we couldn't go to Safeway. It's nice to hang out with the stars for the frivolous thing it is but to make it a way of life I think would be kind of empty. It's about who's who and who's looking at what, whereas i like interracting with people... quite often at those things no-one says anything.

Glitterball, the first release from the album, seems to reflect that. Very representative of the album it's a very basic three chord sound with a bit of rhythm. The lyrics?

Well it's about fashion victims... glamour junkies.

What a piss take?

Not really. There are people attracted to those sorts of things but I'm not condeming them.

How was it then, singing on Top Of The Pops after all this time?

It hasn't really changed. There's a lot of grumpy men still jumping up and down with cameras trying to kick the kids out of the way. But I've got so much respect for it because when I was a kid it was where I saw all my heroes and you can't ever take that away.

The new album precedes a European Tour commencing later this month. Taking in the major European festivals, it will be a collection of the classics; a reflection of the old and new. But it will also clash severely with the World Cup. As a self-confessed football groupie with a forgivable passion for Scotland's, I suppose that either makes them either sad workaholics or not least a fine dedication to their art. But Jim disagrees. "No, not at all. I'll make sure we play where the games are. We'll have to dance around them."

DB8 Magazine
May/June 1998