Interview with Charlie Burchill of Simple Minds - Simple Minds Interview
Allgigs writer Kim Sklinar attended the London preview show for Simple Minds' new album 'Graffiti Soul' on 31st March, meeting-up with guitarist Charlie Burchill the following day.
Our afternoon starts in a shady office on a beautiful sunny day in West London. Charlie straight away recognises my Northern accent joking neither of us (me from Wakefield, he a Glaswegian) have lost ours. Without further ado, Charlie and I buckled down for a chat.
Q: So, in a previous interview, you said that Simple Minds being together felt good, although 4 years previously it would have maybe been Im not really enjoying it anymore. With a new album and tour on the way, how does it feel to where you are right now?
You know, well, we were asked this about low periods in the career of over 30 years weve been going and in the early 90s I suppose we were like the old guys with all the new stuff coming through. At that point we never, ever lost the enthusiasm for writing or doing what we do or anything, but Jim likes to refer to it as saying we retreated and licked our wounds. In the studio we were up there and we spent longer than we should have done on albums and stuff like that, and at that time we should have really been plugged into something, and that happens. Then we got it back again and were really, really bang on form.
Q: At the album preview, you announced that a special edition of your next album, Graffiti Soul, will include a CD of covers. Where did the inspiration for some of the covers such as Thin Lizzy, Neil Young come from, and why did you choose those particular tracks?
Well you know one thing is mainly because we love them and theres a special thing with them. But picking them, you have to pick the ones you know you can play and do it well in a live way. Some of the tracks theres a Siouxi And The Banshees song on there were more crafted together. Its really all about of you pick the ones you can play and everyone will get into. Its pretty eclectic.
Q: I was born in the early 80s and your songs were soundtracks to my early youth, who do you think the new album will be more popular with, hardcore fans my parents' age, or people like myself?
I think it would be probably the die-hard fans, who will be by nature a bit older, but at the same time this is the thing that keeps on coming up. Obviously today, younger people dont really have this problem of being in and out of fashion where its not cool to be like that, its brilliant. Theres less of that and theyve got a much wider scope, and its smart to be like that.
And thats what Im finding now Im really surprised when we play our shows theres a lot of teenagers that are obviously brought along by their parentsId never have gone to a show with my parents. Id have never have listened to what they were listening to. But its different nowso maybe theres a chance that maybe if they heard it [the album], without thinking about it, maybe theyd go at it.
Q: Which do you enjoy the most recording, writing, touring, promotion, or the days off?
Oh thats an easy one, a really easy one. Hands down, its the touring, because the rests hard work. The recording can be really hard work, but the touring is what its all about, it makes everything else make sense.
Q: Plenty of artists are announcing reunion tours at the moment - Spandau Ballet and Depeche Mode just last week! Do you think this will be a one-off, or are Simple Minds back for good (I mean, you wouldnt want us to forget about you)?
The thing is, we never really went away. Were definitely not in that category, we were touring sold-out shows last year and weve been making albums. Were constantly working, and Depeche Mode are the same, theyve never stopped either. Great band, I know the Spandau thing came up though, but were always touring.
Q: Simple Minds have influenced a plethora of modern bands, for example Texas, Bloc Party, Stereophonics etc. In turn, do you think they may have influenced your new material?
Not necessarily our album, but saying that, the next one that we dobecause bands like MGMT have done me in. Theyre just so good. I just cant get it - how they can make a record like that, its brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Havent seen them live though.
And then theres like Elbow, and you know that Nina Persson? From The Cardigansthe second album shes done is amazing. Really great. And Empires of the Sun. Jim [Kerr, the bands frontman] loves them.
Q: The impetus for new album was to create something with a contemporary-sounding album full of vitality - that was recognisably Simple Minds do you feel that this is what you have achieved?
I think we did. We wanted a bit of energy and we wanted it to be quite focussed, we didnt want it to sound like weve been around for thirty years. Thats was really it, and I think we achieved that. Most of the reactions are that people are listening to the album and saying were really on form which is exactly what we wanted. I hope it continues [Graffiti Soul is set for release in May]
Q: What was the inspiration for the title Graffiti Soul, do you have a Graffiti Soul?
I know where it came from Jim explained it We had a few titles for the album, one of which was Blood Type O, which is one of the album tracks. But Jim was on a train and he heard these little kids just outside London, and they knew every bit of graffiti they were passingand were raving about it. At one point, one of them said this ones got the graffiti soul and he thought it was brilliant. Jim worked it into what we were doing in a way. You know, you can say music is a bit like putting your stamp on there. Thats our graffiti, its our thing, its in there [points to his heart].
Q: This summer youre going to be playing Edinburgh Castle, headlining the Isle of Wight Festival for the first time You guys are professional world-tourers, if you are going to be announcing any other dates, do you think they will be smaller venues or are you going to be doing the stadiums?
Were doing all the festivals in Europe in the summertime, then were off to America in September, then were going to maybe come back through Australia then back to Europe to do that again and maybe play arenas.
Q: No surprise intimate appearances then?
Hmm, there is maybe going to be a small show in Belgium actually as a warm-up in a small place. We love doing that because were really loud.
Q: Do you prefer playing the smaller venues?
Yeah, theyre better fun really because theres something about the pressure of the whole thing in a smaller place. Playing the NEC for example is always fantastic, its just a shame that people have to be that far away. You get the big screens that helps, but you still want to get closer.
Dissipates into banter about Radiohead/Kings of Leon and the Leeds-Reading festivals
Theyre great arent theyyeah KOL, the guy saw us and wanted to be in my band! I said, we should get him in then [jokes about a duet],aye, thatd be brilliant Charlie laughs
Q: You seem to be loving a lot of the music around at the moment, what was the last song you listened to?
Of Moons, Birds & Monsters by MGMT.
Q: If I asked you to list some classic stand-out moments from your extensive career, I imagine it would having number one albums, playing the Nelson Mandela and Live Aid concerts, your first time on Top of the PopsApart from those, what big things surprised you about your career?
When I look back, I think the fact that weve managed to change musically so many times and still somehow keep our identity. Its something weve never really talked about it much but nows a great time to talk about itif you look at our early albums until now and go through them, theyre so different with the range of sounds weve employed, and weve still managed to keep our identity. Im really proud of that. Weve taken on a challenge and weve done it. I would never envisage us being the type of band that were really big but you can imagine when you get to the third and fourth album and people say well, I never bought that one this time and youre like why?. That can happen to a lot of bands, a sound is a sound and thats it. Weve never suffered from that and it surprises me weve managed to achieve that.
Q: Youve played gigs all over the world, do you like playing the UK? How does it differ from other countries?
I think the difference is mainly that, in the UK, we do listen do a lot of music. Theres a lot of great stuff, its diverse. In Europe, the local artists can be really dodgy, its a bit Eurovision Song Contest. In the UK we have a lot of rubbish too, but nevertheless, weve been exposed to some really great music. It makes it a bit more discerning not cold same as the States. Youre challenged because youve got all this other stuff. Theyre all brilliant.
Q: Finally, back to the album. It was written on location in Antwerp, Rome, Sicily and Glasgow do you think these locations affected the sound at all, particularly as youre from Glasgow and Sicily is somewhere Jim has lived?
When we worked in Sicily we were working with a friend in a tiny, tiny studio a bedroom really. In a way, that shaped what we had equipment-wise and the way certain things were written. Then we went to Glasgow and we were in a dingy little rehearsal place with about fourteen other bands around it was great. We worked really fast and we wrote a lot in over a small period of time. Again, then Rome [where Charlie lives] we were working on stuff, and Antwerp where we were doing a one-off thing with an orchestra so while we were there we wrote stuff. Locations add something to what came out, it definitely comes through. Maybe if you have another band nearby you will write something different because the guys are going to play it, and if youre working on something atmospheric in a boxthey all have a different bearing on the way it turns out. Then you have to find some way of recording it and sticking it together and making it sound like its a moment in time.
Graffiti Soul, featuring the original Simple Minds line-up of Burchill, Kerr, Gaynor and Duffy is out on 25th May on Universal.
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