Interview: Whitey from Kaiser Chiefs

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Before their show at Portsmouth Guildhall in February, Joe Hawkes managed to catch up with Andrew White, guitarist of the Kaiser Chiefs.

First things first: do you prefer Andrew or Whitey?

Anything’s fine, as long as it’s not rude. It’s all good.

How’s the tour been going?

It’s been great. It’s a very long tour, which is unusual for us. It’s nice to get to play all the towns you never really get to play when you do arena tours. When you do arena tours you usually just play the middle bits of England and hope people come and see you, but now we’re taking the tour to them. It’s been fun.

You’re playing in Portsmouth tonight – what’s the crowd to expect?

Full on. You’d be surprised what we can pack into a venue of this size. We bring the whole shebang, so bring your sunglasses! Everyone’s saying it’s sounding great and looking great. We play all the hits, we’re not afraid to do that, even though we are promoting the new album.

You released The Future Is Medieval in a unique way – the listener was invited to build their own version of the album from 20 tracks on the website. How do you feel this worked?

It was great. It got us interested in music again. We’d had some time off, so it was hard to get together. One of the main reasons we did it was that we needed to do something different, not to tell people 6 months before and get bored of it by the time its come out. We knew we were shooting ourselves in the foot a bit, but we needed to do it. It didn’t sell as well as our other albums, but we didn’t think it would. It wasn’t about that, it was getting us interested in and excited about music again.

How did you come up with the idea?

Ricky [Wilson, lead singer] and his friend did it kinda out of boredom. We thought the idea was cool but we had to write a shedload of good songs for the concept to work.

I waited until the CD came out because I always feel like I should be dictated to by the artist…

Yeah I see. This was basically a fans’ album though, and most music is downloaded now. We’re not against that, we appreciate that technology changes things, but what it has done is turned music into something that’s throwaway. Music is important. When you download an album, you might not listen to it, or maybe just the single. When you download it, it sits on your computer; it isn’t anywhere, whereas CDs, vinyl, cassettes are there. You can read them. So our idea meant that fans had some kind of ownership, a kind of digital object.

I agree. At 21, I’d like to think that I’m still considered young, but I feel that it’s a sad thing to lose the thrill of reading a CD inlay on a bus

Yeah, but music has changed. I don’t know what music is like for your generation. I’m from a different generation. I had to go into town with actual money and go to a shop and buy music. If I was lucky it was there and I went home before I’d even heard it. I do download digital music; it’s a great way of finding music. It’s not hard, it should be hard! I’m a bit of a dinosaur though…

A lot of my friends have been downloading music illegally for ten years now.

Because of that, music is suffering! When we record an album, for example, it costs £50,000-£100,000 and we don’t earn any money from that. Bands are gonna die and we’re gonna end up with a lot of rubbish music eventually. In ten years time, I dread to think what it’s gonna be like. I think we were one of the last bands to actually shift CDs. I’m glad we were there.

It’s the alternative acts who are going to suffer most as well.

Definitely. There are 2 or 3 major record labels left, and they’re losing money hand over fist. If it wasn’t for Adele, the music industry would shut down! Look at the high street; compare how many Greggs there are to music shops. Nobody cares about music anymore and it’s a shame because music is culturally very important. People listen to music through crap laptop speakers, so why do we bother taking a day to find a good keyboard sound? Hopefully it’ll come full circle but at the moment it’s not very good. There is lots of music out there, but a lot of it’s crap.

The album charted in the top 10, but was less of a commercial success than your earlier albums. In the current musical landscape do you see yourselves as more of an alternative act?

No, I think our first album was an indie album. We were an indie band on an indie label – we did it all ourselves. We just became popular. When you become popular, that sound becomes commercial. The second album had ‘Ruby’ on it which, of course, is a commercial song, but we’re a bunch of indie kids and we always will be. We have indie bands supporting us and play festivals. We’re not a pop act.

An alternative version of the album is going to be released in America – why’s that?

Why not? It hasn’t been released in America yet. We’ve written enough songs and we don’t feel particular affinity to any, so there are some from the English album on there and some new ones.

It’s your album after all! When will ‘On The Run’ be released in the UK?

It’s being played a lot in America at the moment and apparently it’s going down really well. Maybe it’ll come out in March. Nowadays we could just release it tomorrow if we wanted – we aren’t, but we could. Singles are released as soon as they are on the radio now. What is the world coming to?!

It’s been quite a pessimistic discussion this, hasn’t it?!

No, no, really. I’m fine! I’ve done it, me. I’m just worried about other bands. We’ve had number one albums and things, but I worry about new bands. But there’s some great music out there and some people will be able to make a living out of it.

After ‘Off With Their Heads’, the band went on a hiatus – what did you get up to?

I had a baby, that’s it really. I don’t know what the rest [of the band]got up to! I became a regular family guy, which was nice. After 6 months I was bored shitless; I needed to do something. I’m glad I’m touring, because I get bored. At least on tour I get some sleep!

Are there any plans for after this tour?

After September, I’ve no idea.

Any UK festivals?

We’d love to – are there any left? We will try and do the ones we didn’t do last year.

Is it true that you took part in an attempt to break the record for world’s longest scooter rally?

Yeah, I like scooters and it was just an excuse to ride your scooter for a day. I think I’m a world record holder now – well, me and a thousand others. Nothing more stupid than a thousand fat men on scooters…

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