In 2018 Easy Minds returned with their 18th studio album, Stroll Between Worlds. That yr, we talked to Jim Kerr about how the band had weathered the storm and emerged stronger than ever… By Paul Lester
Jim Kerr is sitting within the restaurant of a sensible West London lodge, casting again over his band’s glittering 40-year profession. However that is the Easy Minds frontman we’re speaking to right here, so it’s not the cosy eager for an easier black and white age.
No, he’s being nostalgic for the futuristic pop days of 1980-82: the colorful, expansionist period when every little thing is feasible and his band had been travelling round Europe at “30 frames a second”, conjuring Themes For Nice Cities, channelling the edgy tumult as they witnessed Berlin in all its bleak magnificence and handed via Paris as locations of worship had been assailed by explosives.
Working class cultural omnivores from Glasgow’s tenements, they had been devouring artwork and literature and experiencing the vivid thrill of all of it, the true cacophony, at first-hand.
“It was music, films and books,” recollects Kerr, trying each inch the pop star elder statesman in his full-length black coat with fur collar, overlaying a black t-shirt.
“It was going to Berlin and seeing the Wall, being in Paris when bombs went off in synagogues. It was studying Joseph Conrad’s Coronary heart Of Darkness however seeing tangible stuff as effectively. We’d left the high-rise constructing in Glasgow behind. It was an extremely wealthy time.”
The velocity of change was astonishing as Easy Minds launched 5 albums in three years, issuing their debut album, Life In A Day, when Kerr was 19 and their shimmering new pop masterpiece, New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84), when he was barely 23.
“I don’t know the way we, and others, did it,” he says of the famously fertile punk and post-punk interval. “It reveals you the power we should have had. The place did we discover the time? As a result of we had been touring in addition to recording an album each 10 months.”
Again then, Easy Minds appeared to be speeding headlong into the long run. However they haven’t essentially slowed down. They’re about to release Stroll Between Worlds, the follow-up to 2014’s well-received Huge Music and the 2016 “reimagining” (Kerr’s phrase) of their catalogue that was Acoustic.
In actual fact, Kerr has already provide you with 4 model new tracks that can type the premise of Easy Minds’ subsequent album.
“I’m speeding into the subsequent album simply now,” he says, in his thick Glaswegian brogue. “We’ve received the bit between our enamel. The place that drive to maneuver on comes from, I don’t know. Nevertheless it’s sort of a attribute of mine – shifting forward.”
And but he acknowledges that, as a lot as he thinks concerning the future, he’s compelled to accommodate his previous.
“We do have this dance with the previous,” he permits. “It’s the previous that made us.”
Does this teetering between at times clarify the title of their newest album, Stroll Between Worlds? Apparently not: it’s about notions of empathy, explored on the title monitor.
However the opening quantity, Magic, does replicate on the qualities Kerr and Co had been required to carry once they began the band again in 1977.
“I used to be excited about the place in God’s title we received the chutzpah, the sheer gall, to even dare to assume we had something of curiosity to say,” he admits of a time when, actually, the one British cities with substantial musical histories had been London and Liverpool.
“Glasgow was an utter desert. We’d by no means met anybody who had written a track. ‘Proficient folks’ can be your cousin who might play the accordion or draw.”
It was punk that noticed the UK music business change into, as Kerr places it, “decentralised”. The impact on Glasgow may very well be felt instantly because the seismic motion unleashed a wave of creativity. “Earlier than punk, a band needed to go to London [to succeed],” he observes.
“Up till then, nobody had executed it – nobody had a report deal or received a gig. Individuals would have laughed on the thought! Inside a yr, we had the keys to the asylum. There have been folks beginning report labels or style firms, or doing documentaries on krautrock. You didn’t should be ‘good’, you simply needed to have concepts and power.”
Out of the blue, Glasgow – and Edinburgh, and Dundee, and different British hubs equivalent to Manchester, Sheffield, Bristol and Leeds – had been stuffed with like-minded artistic sorts. Each week, the music papers can be filled with scorching new Scottish bands: Easy Minds, Associates, Orange Juice, Josef Ok, Fireplace Engines, Altered Photographs…
“We had been all very a lot of a kin, and we’d see one another on the identical gigs,” says Kerr. “Alan McGee wrote in his e-book [Creation Stories: Riots, Raves And Running A Label] about going into Glasgow metropolis centre and seeing this group of goth children: that was me and [Minds guitarist] Charlie Burchill!
“We had been all fairly totally different, however all of us had a voracious urge for food, and a curiosity. I feel you’re born a kind, and we had been fortunate sufficient to be born the categories who’ve the insanity to start with, to consider in magic.”
Easy Minds, like a lot of their technology, had been kids of David Bowie and Marc Bolan: “Bolan was John The Baptist, he advised you the form of issues to come back. Bowie was the Starman.”
One in all Kerr’s largest regrets was not with the ability to see Bowie in Glasgow on the Ziggy Stardust tour as a result of he – then a 13-year-old butcher’s boy – had stood on a plank of wooden with a rusty nail and his mother and father wouldn’t let him attend on crutches.
However he did catch this glamorous character – “rumoured,” he gasps, nonetheless half-believing it, “to be from one other planet” – 4 months in a while the Aladdin Sane tour, by which era he had additionally seen a few of his different favourites: Roxy Music, Alice Cooper, and Genesis with Peter Gabriel.
“The world was by no means the identical once more,” he says, nonetheless in contact with the sensation. “To really expertise them… We grew to become obsessed.”
Laborious to consider however, inside just a few years, Easy Minds had toured as assist to Gabriel in Europe whereas the band and their entourage had sung backing vocals, alongside Bowie, on Iggy Pop’s album Soldier.
At that time, Easy Minds had been evolving from a considerably by-product new wave band into an experimental outfit knowledgeable by prog, glam, the nihilistic drone-rock of The Velvet Underground, krautrock, the Euro electronica of Kraftwerk and sequenced disco of Giorgio Moroder.
By the tip of 1979, and their second album Actual To Actual Cacophony – a recent of Wire’s 154, Gang Of 4’s Leisure!, Speaking Heads’ Concern Of Music, PiL’s Metallic Field and Pleasure Division’s Unknown Pleasures – Easy Minds had been turning into critical contenders.
By Empires And Dance (1980), issued the identical yr as Bowie’s Scary Monsters (And Tremendous Creeps) and Iggy’s Soldier, they had been rivalling their heroes. Kerr considers the concurrently launched 1981 units Sons And Fascination/Sister Emotions Name to be the purpose the place they stumbled upon an unique sound.
“Some artists arrive fully-formed: The Patti Smith Group, The Smiths. Different bands take a little bit of time,” Kerr decides.
“I nonetheless assume Actual To Actual… had quite a lot of good issues, amongst them creativeness and inventiveness, however to me it wasn’t till Sons And Fascination that we took our influences and grew one thing new.”
And by New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84) they – and lots of of their friends – had outstripped these influences. “After all, I might by no means see it that means,” he argues, “however we had begun to be extra our personal factor. Every little thing about New Gold Dream… was – I can’t say ‘good’ however it was the right report for the time and for us in our profession,” he muses.
“It had that high quality all through, there was the art work, it had hit singles…”
NGD… captured completely new pop’s peak, the second that dour, darkish post-punk gave strategy to vivid pop, NME ceded to Smash Hits, Trevor Horn unveiled his hi-tech productions for ABC, Greenback et al, and the charts had been instantly the unconventional place to be.
“I feel the primary band desirous to ‘go pop’ was XTC – that’s when Virgin [Simple Minds’ label after their third album] began getting fascinating,” he displays.
“Who might think about [labelmates] The Human League being pop, not to mention us? They went from Being Boiled to being No.1 within the States in, what, two years? Who can think about Boy George being so massive? Then there was Marc Almond and people stunning songs made out of soul, cabaret and synths…”
Kerr was particularly impressed by Billy Mackenzie and Associates, whose Occasion Fears Two (“This superb ghostly, haunting pop music”) beat Easy Minds’ Promised You A Miracle to the upper echelons of the singles chart in early 1982. “I keep in mind pondering, wow, they’ve executed it earlier than us. The charts had been the place you needed to be…”
New Gold Dream may need represented Easy Minds’ artistic zenith, however it wasn’t their industrial apogee. It wasn’t sufficient to be one of many stand-out bands of the brand new pop period. They needed to compete with the most important acts on earth.
“We had been a bit fearless – we had been going to do what we had been going to do, no matter how hip or stylish it was,” Kerr says. “The thought of turning into an enormous band was sneered at, as was the concept of attempting to interrupt America.”
Kerr talks of “having a way of future”, and of perception. Easy Minds had the latter in spades. However not fairly as a lot as a bunch of upstart Irish rockers. He wasn’t satisfied by them at first.
“I wasn’t a lot into guitar bands, so I resisted U2,” he admits. “Then, after I lastly did see them, they blew me away. They appeared so compact – only a vox amp, a tiny drum equipment, no banks of synths or sequencers – and but it was overwhelming.
“Individuals requested me: ‘How do you know they had been going to be the most important band on the planet?’ and I’d say: ‘As a result of they advised me’.”
In 1983, it wasn’t clear who was heading for international domination out of U2, Easy Minds and Echo & The Bunnymen. The Steve Lillywhite-produced Sparkle In The Rain (1984), that includes the anthemic Waterfront, rousing Up On The Catwalk and charging Pace Your Love To Me, urged it could be the Minds. Was it a deliberate transfer, to go “stadium”?
“It appears chilly now, however other than John Leckie, who produced our first three albums, we modified producers each album,” Kerr surveys his band’s profession.
“We felt as if we’d received the max out of Peter Walsh [NGD producer], and we had been evolving so quick. Plus, we’d simply received in [powerful drummer] Mel Gaynor and we’d executed our first few festivals, in Belgium and Holland, in entrance of 80,000 folks, and I keep in mind pondering: ‘What kind of music would work right here?’ Six months later we had Waterfront.”
The worth of success
Was he as comfy enjoying massive areas as he was pubs?
“We had been by no means comfy with any of it as a result of we’d by no means executed it earlier than. Individuals simply assume it’s a straightforward bounce to go from enjoying up in Aberdeen in entrance of a bunch of fishermen, to enjoying universities to enjoying arenas in Europe… Each gig introduced a unique problem.”
Such because the one supporting Peter Gabriel in Turin the place the [prog] viewers threw missiles, or the one in Marseille the place a rioting crowd was dispersed by policemen bearing tear gasoline.
“That was the time of the Baader-Meinhof gang and anarchists,” he recollects. “Gigs would usually be the main focus for violence. In locations like Italy or South America, there’d be the leftist children, the right-wing children… Everybody got here.
“Whenever you get larger you realise your band isn’t yours anymore. I keep in mind enjoying a stadium in Switzerland and our manufacturing man appeared down. I mentioned: ‘Why the lengthy face?’ He grumbled: ‘We’d like 40,000 folks to interrupt even and we solely have 38,000.’”
Easy Minds tailored effectively to the massive success that adopted 1985’s As soon as Upon A Time album and the hit single Don’t You (Neglect About Me).
John Lennon described early-Beatles fame by way of Caligula-esque debauchery. How mad did issues get? “Nicely, I don’t assume anybody would have touched The Beatles,” he replies. “After which there have been the heavy metallic bands…
“On a scale of 1 to 10, we had been in all probability a 5.”
Kerr does recall – a lot to the discomfort of his press officer, who has joined us – asking his Italian limo driver whether or not he might purloin for the band: “Some 100 per cent Colombian [cocaine]” and the response was pure Scorsese/Scarface.
“I can get you cocaine, I can get you helicopters, I can get you AK47s…” Kerr remembers turning to Burchill and sighing: “That is the flicks.”
Nonetheless, Kerr was by no means in it for the hi-jinks. He frames it in soccer phrases: “Every time we received wasted, we might be godawful the subsequent night time. And we needed to be on type. We would have liked to get three factors each night time. A draw wasn’t ok.”
Easy Minds had been Premier League rockers all through the 80s, culminating with the Trevor Horn-produced Road Preventing Years (1989).
Issues appeared set to proceed that means within the 90s when Actual Life (1991) and Good Information From The Subsequent World (1995) each reached No.2. However the subsequent decade-and-a-half noticed a sequence of low-charting albums, and Kerr questioned if the sport was up.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that, 10 years in the past, the band was flatlining,” he says, forlornly. “I assumed: possibly that is it. We agreed we weren’t going to go round like punch-drunk boxers as a result of we didn’t know what else to do.
“And we additionally agreed we weren’t going to do the nostalgia factor – no disrespect to anyone that does, however we didn’t should. So we determined if we had been going to do it [again], we’d should commit 100 per cent.”
He admits it wasn’t straightforward returning to the fray following a lay-off that noticed him even investing in a lodge.
“You discover out so much about your self,” he says, revealingly, “once you’re in a van driving to a half-full membership, previous a stadium that you simply as soon as bought out. I suppose you both get drunk or depressed, otherwise you ask your self: ‘What are we on this for anyway?’ Will we wish to be a small band, an enormous band, or are we going to attempt to get on with being a very nice one?”
Does he care about dimension? He fixes Traditional Pop a stare. “For those who requested me, would I wish to be promoting as many data now as we did within the 80s? Guess what my reply can be.”
They won’t fairly be within the high flight, however Easy Minds are Division One survivors, who can certainly eschew the retro circuit to deal with the brand new.
Their latest albums have acquitted themselves effectively: Graffiti Soul (2009) and Huge Music (2014) had been each acclaimed as returns to type. Stroll Between Worlds is poised to do the identical. Kerr and Burchill have gotten Easy Minds again on monitor.
“Ten years in the past it was a bit like placing the wheels again on, getting the engine going, turning the automotive round and seeing how far we will take it,” says Kerr, who confesses, regardless of the auto metaphors, “I don’t even like automobiles”.
“That,” he provides, “is the easiest way to explain the place we’ve been.”
And the place they’re going?… “We’ve moved on,” he says, merely, pondering of the brand new seven-strong configuration, with Kerr and Burchill the only real unique members. We’re nonetheless Easy Minds, however if you happen to have a look at us in 1983, who would have thought it’d come to this? The problem is to maintain doing what you’ve all the time executed, however change.”
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Easy Minds Stroll Between Worlds in out now.