Ahead of this weekend’s Grandslam open air concert in Inverness featuring Simple Minds, The Pretenders and KT Tunstall, Jim Kerr talks to Martin Hutchinson about life – and music.
“I’m done,” says Jim Kerr, at the end of a long day’s promotion for the Simple Minds album and live tour which includes a visit to Inverness on Saturday.
The 58-year-old frontman has steered the Simple Minds ship since its formation in 1977, and along with guitarist Charlie Burchill, is still the band’s focal point.
February saw the release of the band’s first album of new material since Big Music in 2014.
Walk Between Worlds is a pretty concise album, rattling through the eight tracks in just 42 minutes.
The band is well-known for such great anthemic numbers such as Promised You a Miracle, Waterfront, Sanctify Yourself and Don’t You (Forget About Me) and this album will certainly add to the canon.
The overall impression is that Jim is proud of the album.
“Some of the tunes are spectacular – and I didn’t write them! Charlie’s guitar work is phenomenal.
“The whole thing sounds like classic Simple Minds and contemporary. I realise that that sounds weird, but it does manage to tick all the boxes.”
There are two halves to the album, which harks back to the old vinyl records where there were two sides.
“That’s right,” says Glaswegian Jim. “The first half of the album has songs that have more ‘poppy’ arrangements and they remind us of when we were kids just starting out.”
Tracks like the opener Magic and The Signal And The Noise certainly have a feel of the hunger of youth.
The second half sees the band turning more melodic with some layered strings, especially on the track Barrowland Star which is a tribute to The Barrowlands – an iconic ballroom in the east end of Glasgow where the band has played many times.
“Yes, later on in the album we get a bit more expansive – like we’ve grown up,” says Jim.
And the album was actually recorded in two halves as well.
“That’s right,” Jim says.
“It’s not like the old days when you had six weeks to record the album.
“There’s always a lot of ideas and we tend to work on stuff for over a year and then halfway through we tend to have a break – usually a tour or a holiday.
“On our break during recording the Walk Between Worlds album we went on our acoustic tour.
“We were so impressed by the musicians we used on the acoustic tour, we decided to use them on the rest of the album – and they’ll be touring with us again this year.”
During last year’s acoustic tour, the band played in Manchester; the night following the bombing at The Manchester Arena.
Jim tells me that the decision to play was an easy one to make.
“There was no hesitation, not for us. We all wanted to play the date but we had to wait to see if we could actually go ahead. In the end, the city wanted to promote the idea that things would continue, but we had to be sensitive to the wishes of others.”
For festivals, the band tend to play a slightly different set.
“Yes, the festivals are different, but that’s mainly because they’re not your crowd. You have to win them over. People will know all the big songs, but we will show the whole career of the band.
“We’ll have worked the new line-up well by then. They’re all amazing players and characters.”
And now the band has the option of throwing in some acoustic songs.
“Yes, we have now got the confidence to do it and it’s nice to break a song down. Yes, I can see us doing some acoustic songs from now on.”
As for the future, Jim is optimistic.
“Well, we work every week. The album is just a part of what we do. We’re writers and musicians; and we’ll go on being us.”
Simple Minds, along with The Pretenders, continue to enjoy outstanding musical journeys and phenomenal worldwide success. On the Grandslam tour, they are coming together on the same stage for the first time since Live Aid which presents fans with a unique opportunity to see both bands as the tour swings into Inverness at the weekend.
As well as celebrating their new albums both bands will perform their classic hits. They’ll also be joined by KT Tunstall. See today’s Q&A to find out more about what she’s up to.
The Grandslam Tour is at the Northern Meeting Park, Inverness, on Saturday. Gates open at 4pm. Tickets are available from all the usual agencies such as ticketmaster.