Jim Kerr, (seen here fourth from the left), a Scottish singer, songwriter and lead singer with Simple Minds, chats with Kevin Cooper what he did during the lockdown, the re-working of their debut single Act Of Love, putting together a set list, and their forthcoming tour of the UK.

Jim Kerr is a Scottish singer, songwriter and the lead singer of the rock band Simple Minds.

In 1977 he was one of the founding members of a six piece punk band Johnny and the Self Abusers. Going under the name of Pripton Weird, he played keyboards and shared vocals with John Milarky. After eight months and the release of one single, they changed their name to Simple Minds.

With Simple Minds, he has achieved five number ones in the UK Album Charts and has sold more than sixty million albums. They were the most commercially successful Scottish band of the 1980’s. They have also had considerable chart success in America, Australia, Germany, Spain, Italy and New Zealand.

In 2010 he released a solo album called Lostboy! AKA Jim Kerr. From that album he released three singles, Shadowland, Refugee and She Fell In Love With Silence.

Kerr lives in Taormina Sicily where he has a hotel.

Whilst preparing for Simple Mind’s tour of the UK, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Good morning Jim, how are you?

Hi Kevin, I canna complain. Having said that I always do (laughter). More to the point, how are you today?

All is good thanks for asking and before we move on, let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Not at all, thank you for speaking to me once again. I know that we have done it before a number of times so thank you; you really are a good man.

I have to ask, just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Well, where do I start (laughter). I am speaking to you today from Scilly. I am looking out the window just now at Mount Etna; there is a beautiful blue sky whilst Etna is covered in snow. It really is quite a poetic vision. However, I will be getting ready to leave here very soon because we have the very small matter of eight months of live work. At one point during the past two years, you could have sat down and stroked your chin whilst thinking, ‘are we ever going to see this again’, and I have to say that it feels great knowing that we are. We are finally getting the chance to go and do this thing which has a great importance within our lives.

How did you manage to stay sane during lockdown; what did you get up to?

During the first few months, I was in the countryside up there in Scotland. I have a studio space there and it is the wilds behind me, and I must say I did spend more than my allotted time outside simply because I didn’t think that I was going to cause anyone any harm (laughter). There were a lot of long, lonely walks, thinking ‘what is this’ but after a few months, both Charlie (Burchill) and I had managed to find different places with different restrictions, and at that time in Germany they were under far less restrictions than we were in the UK, and so we found a studio which we had known from the past and we went over and began working on an album which we are within touching distance of finishing. So, in answer to your question, Charlie and I kept occupied by being creative and I have to say that really did help us.

On the subject of being creative, I have been playing the re-worked version of your very first single, Act Of Love and I have to say that I love what you have done with it.

That’s great, thank you for saying that. I have to say that Charlie and I are also looking forward to playing Act Of Love on the forthcoming tour as we both agree that it is one song that deserves a live airing. I personally love all of the energy in that song. It really is a barnstormer and I feel that performing it live is going to be great.

Whose idea was it to rework it?

I have to put my hands up and say that would most probably have been mine (laughter). It was mine in a sense that I have been championing this idea of going back to this, which is one of the very first songs that Charlie and I ever wrote, but surprisingly, it was never included on our debut album. That was only because we had a wealth of material and being one of the first songs that we had written, but about a year later there were a load more. You are always worried about pushing forward a new thing and I think, mistakenly, Act Of Love got overlooked then. Over the years, and in particular, the more recent years, fans who know Simple Minds have been saying “I have heard this live recording from back in the day of a song called Act Of Love which just seemed to appear out of nowhere”.

A couple of times when we were in the studio, and it is amazing how these things just come together and fall into place, when Charlie was tuning up, he would actually play the riff from Act Of Love. I would say “what is that again” and so, at some point, it was like ‘we really do have to go back to that’ (laughter). When we finally went back to the original demo of the song, it actually sounded really good but with the benefit of hindsight and I think with a much bigger awareness of the song writing craft, we could identify things that were missing in terms of making it a better song. I personally think that the version that we have just released shows all of that.

You and I spoke just prior to the release of Walk Between Worlds. Were you pleased with how well the fans reacted to the album?

Yes, I was, their reaction to the album was really great. I think that the last two or three Simple Minds albums have all managed to hit that sweet spot for a lot of people. There has been a new vibrancy to the music, and it is great at our stage of the game because it really is not that easy to have that, but for us, it is there. We, as a band, are always trying to move forward but, at the same time there are recognisably some of the Simple Minds trademarks together with some of the moves and sounds and I feel that is a good combo. So yes, their reaction to the album was really good.

I personally feel that the song writing between you and Charlie simply gets better and better. Would you agree with that?

You know what, yes, I would absolutely agree with you on that point. I particularly feel that during the last few years because Charlie and I now live very close to each other once again. For a long period there we were actually living in different countries from each other or different ends of the country, but we are living close to each other now. When you think that we originally met in the street in Glasgow, so what does that mean. It just means that we are both really connected with one another once again and that comes out in the work.

A lot of fans at the time said that they thought that Walk Between Worlds was your best work to date. Would you agree with them on that?

To be totally honest and open with you, I am possibly the worst person in the world who you could ask that question (laughter). I am always changing my mind. There are always different points, different things and to make matters worse, I find myself looking at our albums through a nostalgic lens. The more that I listen to an album, the more things I can hear wrong with it (laughter). Having said that, at the time it would have felt like the perfect thing to me. Because of that, I tend to look at our albums as a continuum, and what I would say is that some of them are more in focus than others and some of them are more confident than others.

You mention listening to an album and picking fault. When an album is finished can you walk away or are you a meddler?

The thing that we have learnt together with all of the things that we have seen over the years is that there is no definitive way to record a song. For example, there could be five versions of ‘that’s the song’ (laughter). And so, once you realise that then you are in the position where you have to make a decision and go with it. When you have to do that then yes, I can do that. I can make that decision so this is what the track is going to be. Having said all of that, there is always time for a last-minute intervention (laughter). Sometimes you have a wee inkling in the back of your mind that says “you know what, I don’t know about that. It sounded good but I’m not sure” (laughter).

At that stage I won’t say anything because why upset the apple cart. Someone at the last minute will say “are we going to sign off on this, are we sure about that” and it is at that stage that I will say “I’m not fucking sure about that” (laughter). I have to say that there is an art, a skill, and a niche to make decisions and stick to them, the caveat being that there is always room for a last-minute intervention (hysterical laughter). There are a few people whom I am fans of. I am a huge Peter Gabriel fan, a huge Bryan Ferry fan, and I know it from knowing them a bit, but I also know it from good authority from people around them and I don’t think that they would mind me saying this; they really are a fucking nightmare because they are forever meddling.

They simply do not like to give up; they don’t like to give in and give up (laughter). On the one hand you could say “well their method works, look at the great records that they have made” but they possibly bring sometimes unnecessary agony on themselves. I also think that psychologically, although no one admits it, it is kind of scary to hand over your work because that’s it, it is going to be judged now and there is no going back. I think that a lot of people actually do find that bit quite scary. Being in a predominately live band such as Simple Minds, especially in the early years, we had six weeks to do that and then we were back out on the road, so you had to get it done. Looking back, there are a couple of records that I can hear just how they might have suffered simply through a lack of more time being available. However, I would have to say that by and large it was a good thing.

You have briefly mentioned that you are currently working on new material. When are you thinking that it will be ready for release?

Well, to be totally honest with you, I don’t think that the new album will be released anytime during the next year, and I will tell you the reason why I say that, in fact thinking about it there are two reasons. The first thing is that this tour that we are now about to undertake is a postponed tour from two years ago, and it is essentially a greatest hits anniversary tour. So, you don’t really want to be bringing out a new record that gets submerged under all of that. That simply wouldn’t be fair on the record.

But the other thing is that because of Covid, and you might have heard people talking about this, the whole vinyl thing, which is a big part of our sales, especially the early sales when you are looking at chart positions, because of Covid and a hell of a lot of other factors, I don’t doubt that the current situation with Russia, the production of vinyl records has simply stopped. Vinyl at the moment is so very scarce, so there is a huge queue of people waiting to have their records pressed so even if you handed it over now, it might be a year before the plants could produce the albums for you. So, all of those things are telling me that hopefully the album will be released this time next year.

As crazy as this sounds, I was recently told that one of the main reasons as to why vinyl production has for the time being ceased is that there is a massive shortage of cardboard for the sleeves.

Is that what it is, well that really is crazy (laughter).

You have mentioned forty years of hits, after a two-year enforced hiatus, are you now chomping at the bit, wanting to get back out on the road and tour?

Yes, we are. As I said earlier, everyone who enjoys playing live gigs, then of course, the live gigs are the things that are the centrepiece, and to not be able to engage in that for the last two years, for a band like us, is shocking but another thing in addition to that is that when you have spent as much time as we have touring, our pals, the crew, all of that, it is almost like a extended family. It always has been that way, and it still is. We have really missed all of that as well so yes, chomping at the bit and there are a lot of reasons as to why that is.

With your vast back catalogue, is it an enjoyable headache whenever you are putting together a set list for a tour?

(Laughter) I have to say that it has recently become a real challenge. I know what you mean when you say that, because there are only so many songs that you can play on any given night, but I think that we have got that down quite well. I personally feel that with a really good set you want to tick, there are five or six boxes that you really want to tick within your set. You want to play the songs that the audience expect to hear, that’s a given. You want to give the audience a sense of time and legacy, so you want to go right back to the start. You want to come right up to the current music that you are making. You want to play a couple of obscurities for the hard-core fans, who really appreciate that stuff, the songs that they never thought that they would ever hear played live. You might even want to throw in a cover that no one ever thought about.

I think if you do all of that, you have got a good chance of sending the majority of people home happy. So, what we do is, we do that, we will probably play twenty-five songs every night, but before we go out on tour, we will have rehearsed between thirty-five and forty which means that there are most probably sixteen or seventeen that we will play every night whilst the other eight positions on the set list are up for grabs from the pool. That, for us, keeps it fresh and we never play the same set on consecutive nights. It just gives it that bit of freshness especially for those fans that will come to see more than one gig. They are usually guaranteed not to hear the same thing exactly. That way, we keep it fresh, but I will say, it’s a tough one; there is no perfect set, but that gives you a good chance of most of us being happy, but more importantly, the audience being happy.

I am being told that there is no support for the UK leg of the tour, is that correct?

(Laughter) just who the hell have you been speaking to (laughter). Whoever your mole is, they happen to be perfectly correct. There is no support; it is two sets with a short interval. We really do want to give full bang for the buck so to speak. We find that although it’s always great if you can bring along something new and interesting, these people really do want to hear Simple Minds, so it works well as a show. We play these two sets with full immersion.

The last couple of times that I have photographed and reviewed you, you have been at The Royal Concert Hall here in Nottingham. This time around you are playing The Motorpoint Arena also here in Nottingham. Do you have a preference regarding the size of the venue?

Firstly, I feel that have to say that I think that The Concert Hall up there in Nottingham is particularly good, I have to say that. I really do like performing there. Having said that, I also like the challenge of them all and if you have played there a couple of times then you really do want to go onto somewhere different. Somewhere that gives you a wee bit of a different experience. Great bands should be able to play at Live Aid or at their mates birthday party and still give it their full commitment and put on a great show, so yes, they are all a challenge (laughter).

You and Charlie have been together longer than most marriages…

…oh yes, we have certainly been together longer than mine (laughter)

Are there disagreements along the way?

Oh yes, oh yes (laughter). Thankfully, there are not enough in any way to encumber or spoil the relationship that we have, it is always fun, it is intense, but it is always fun. Charlie and I don’t have small arguments; we only have humongous arguments, screaming, shouting and all that (laughter). I find that arguments are usually caused by pure frustration at a very rare point that Charlie and I may not be on the very same page with something. The problem is that we are not good at explaining to one another; we are good but not when we get to that very rare point, we haven’t been good at explaining to each other, why someone is missing the value in the idea (laughter).

It is usually out of frustration, but I have to say that it is so rare, but inevitable also (laughter). Don’t get me wrong, at the end of all that I really don’t enjoy it, because we both do get upset. But, at the end there are two great things which come out of this; there is never ever any hangover, which I feel is remarkable, and after the argument there is a kind of solace where when we are still at this stage, we are both still so passionate. That has to be a good thing.

You have supported Record Store Day on many occasions. How does it make you feel when five minutes after an item has been sold it appears on eBay for five times its value?

Oh god, of course, it really does annoy me and make me wonder just where people’s morals are. The thing is that you get the same scenario with tickets as well at certain gigs don’t you. What can you say about that? In my day it was bootleg albums, which cost a fortune. I would pay through the nose for an inferior sounding product but it was a rarity and you had to have it. So, unfortunately that is a problem to which I currently have no solution.

We have spoken about the set list for the forthcoming tour, from a purely personal point of view; will Ghostdancing be making it onto the set list?

Yes, it will; will it make it onto the set list on the first night of the tour, I don’t know but it has to. We haven’t played it for such a long time. Well listen, since you have mentioned that I have to tell you that I was thinking the other day, we had a rehearsal last week and Ghostdancing wasn’t there. So, I made a few notes, and I wrote down Ghostdancing which I feel we will have to get everyone primed and back on board with that particular track. It has not been played for a long time, so it really will be fresh.

On that note Jim, let me once again thank you for talking the time to speak to me today. You stay safe and I will see you in Nottingham.

Thanks Kevin, I look forward to seeing you when we get to Nottingham. You take care and it’s been great talking to you as usual.