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Simple Minds: Graffiti Soul - The IndieLondon interview

Simple Minds

Interview by Jack Foley

SIMPLE Minds release their new album, Graffiti Soul, on Monday, May 25, 2009, as part of their 30th anniversary celebrations.

They talk to us about the making of the record, their plans for a world tour and they’re own personal favourite Simple Minds tracks of all time.

Q. The new album sounds great, how important was it to return as emphatically as this? Every song sounds big…
A. We obviously are aware and proud that this is our 30th year of Simple Minds but we definitely didn’t want to release an album that sounded like we’ve been ‘around the block ‘that long. We’re happy with the energy and the melodies as we think we achieved that.

Q. How has the music scene changed since completing Graffiti Soul and your last album? Is it more competitive? And how does the internet factor? Favourably, unfavourably or a little bit of both?
A. Favourably. It is such a powerful medium to be creative on many different levels, however, it will have a lot downsides, mainly overload of everything.

Q. How did it feel to return to Rockfield Studios to record the album? Were you nostalgic at first?
A. I was curious to return but wasn’t expecting the nostalgia/ emotional impact it had on me, To be in the same room where we wrote songs like I Travel or Celebrate was a transport back to some very happy times.

Q. Album opener Moscow Underground is a great starting point. Can you tell us a little about the themes behind it, and why it stood out as an opening track?
A. It has driving relentless momenum that begs for ‘train’ metaphors. So many amazing songs have been influenced by the idea of a journey or travel of some sort, eg Autobahn [Kraaftwerk], The Passenger [Iggy Pop] – even our own I Travel. And this song is definitely intending to take you on a journey, which could be the reason why it’s the opener of an album.

Q. Another of our favourites is Light Travels, a slow build epic. Again, can you talk us through that?
A. Light Travels was written largely by a friend ours and Jez Coad’s which we heard at least 3 years ago and loved it. However, it was one repetitive verse which we struggled with to record on a number of occasions till finally the answer to presented itself through a dogged perseverance.

Q. Likewise, the title track…
A. Another track that we had around for many years and thought had great potential in the melodic area, but couldn’t find an identity for it. When Jim gave it the title for me that’s when it found it’s identity and from there musically it was the green light to develop the quiet, naïve qualities it had, contrasting the ambiguous title it has.

Q. Stars Will Lead The Way is a real stadium-filling crowd-pleaser. It’s got chanting, it’s got sky-scraping guitar riffs. Is this destined to become a fan favourite in your opinion?
A. Jim believes so, it wasn’t obvious to me. It does have all the trademark elements to make it one of those tracks, but for me, I will always remember It the way it started which was using an ‘charango’ (a 10-string insrument from South America used on a lot of Chilean traditional music).

Q. How many songs did you write for Graffiti Soul in total? And how easy was it to select which ones made the final LP?
A. In total I think there was maybe 15 or 16 it’s difficult to say exactly. There were / are… songs that were from that general period but a lot of them were never destined to be on this album.

Q. Older, more experienced bands seem to be thriving at the moment, following new LPs from U2, yourselves and Bruce Springsteen. Is that encouraging? Why is it such a good time for them?
A. People are aware of quality and not frightened anymore or bullied by having to be seen to be liking something that has been around a long time. However, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how long or how short a time an act is around, it still comes down to having to give it your best shot every time.

Q. How hard has it been to keep going over the years? What’s the biggest challenge facing a band of your stature?
A. It’s not been difficult at all. There may be different periods where we might have been lacking an energy to take us to the next level but we’ve never thought about stopping ever. The biggesy challenge really is that the more you do the more you realise what you don’t know so in a sense every time we work on a project it’s a bit like starting all over again.

Q. Can you reflect on the Nelson Mandela 90th Birthday Concert performance. How much did that mean to you, especially given some of your songs like Mandela Day. Did you get to meet him? How was that?
A. J im and I had our photograph taken with him which obviously is a wonderful memento, however at 90 years of age the last thing you want to do with his precious time is waste it, so we where happy to do the photo call. It’s very pleasing to have written a song about a man who, is one of the most revered men of the last century, when he was in jail, and then play when he’s free at such a wonderful celebration

Q. Who else inspires you, either in life as a whole, or when it comes to creating your music?
A. I get inspired by all sort of things. I’ll go through periods where it could be film directors like Peter Greenaway, or Werner Herzog, and then it could what I’m reading. Musically at the moment one of my favourite bands is MGMT.

Q. What can we expect from the forthcoming world tour? Are you looking forward to hitting the globe again?
A. Very excited about the tour hope we can follow on from the tour we did in December last year which was a great success, and looking forward to playing some of these songs live for the first time.

Q. Looking back, can you ever have imagined just how significant and enduringly popular a song Don’t You Forget About Me would become?
A. No idea at all, which just goes to show what I know. I suppose some songs just resonate with some feeling that seem to be quiet simple yet mean a lot to different generations

Q. If you had to select 10 of your own songs as favourites, which would they be – and you can include album tracks. What would be the 10 definitive Simple Minds tracks?
A. This would change all the time but here we go anyway…
I Travel
Love Song
Alive and Kicking
All The Things She Said
Someone Somewhere in Summertime
New Gold Dream
Speed Your Love to Me

Q. Finally, and if you have time, which 10 tracks (in general) would you assemble for a playlist for IndieLondon readers? What’s on your ipod at the moment?
A. Of Moons, Birds and Monstors (MGMT)
Billy Watch Out (The Doctors of Madness)
After All (David Bowie)
Dirty Boulevard (Lou Reed)
Gimme Danger (Iggy and the Stooges)
Summer Cannibals (Patti Smith)
Les Mariquises (Jacques Brel)
Colony (Joy Division)
Curve (The Mermen)
Old Man (Neil Young)

  1. Great interview and great personal song selections. They’ve been added to my ipod already

    Jack    May 26    #