Following the release of their debut single “Life in a Day” in 1978, Simple Minds kicked off one of the most enduring careers in rock. Things really took off for the band in 1985, when they recorded “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” for The Breakfast Club soundtrack, igniting the American charts and leading them to go on to perform at Live Aid, a career highlight. They’ve been releasing music ever since, racking up a whopping six UK No.1 albums, with their latest 2018 offering Walk Between Worlds receiving critical acclaim and giving the band another top 5 body of work. Kerr hasn’t shied away from exploring other avenues too, opening Villa Angela, a delightful boutique establishment in Sicily over a decade ago. As the band work on fresh music in preparation for a new album cycle, I spoke to Jim about all things creativity, the music industry and Simple Minds.
First and foremost, Simple Minds are such an iconic band, how does it feel to have been in the music industry for this long?
We feel very fortunate to have made a life out of doing the thing that we all love doing most, namely creating our own unique music and performing it to appreciative audiences worldwide.
Are there things you would have changed about your time and experiences in the industry?
Looking back, there are always some changes you’d make with the benefit of hindsight. Some minor and some major. You can only learn by experiencing things, but with that being said, even mistakes and errors are valuable as you move forward learning from them. Perhaps we could have organised ourselves better. Less touring, and more time given to songwriting in those early days. But we were enjoying ourselves so much on the road, so that was never going to happen.
Of all the years you’ve been releasing music, do you have a favourite memory?
There’s always something special about doing things for the first time – so our first ever gig is a memory I’m unlikely to forget. I can’t explain what it feels like to hear the sound of applause, and then realise that the person being applauded is you! I wish everyone on earth could experience that – even just once in their lives.
Over the years band members have come and gone, but what keeps Simple Minds going?
It’s inevitable if you are going to endure for decades that some people will come and go. As it is in any workplace, I guess. Change is always necessary to make progress. Without it, you fizzle. The secret is what and when to incorporate changes. As to what keeps us going? It’s intrinsic to our personalities, it’s who we are and it’s what we do as people. It’s not really something you retire from.
From Life In A Day back in 1979, to 2018’s Walk Between Worlds, what’s your personal favourite album from your discography?
I don’t have a favourite. I’m always changing my opinion on the quality of the work involved. Some are better than others, some were easier to make, some have happier memories. It’s about more than just the music involved with us.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you and the band in terms of music?
It massively impacted us. Our world tour ground to halt after only a couple of weeks and we’re still waiting to discover when we can pick up the reins on that. Instead we’ve spent our time writing and recording a substantial amount of songs.
Have you taken up any new hobbies since the pandemic began? What’s helped you get through the pandemic?
Good question! Being as fortunate as I am means I live in a nice place, therefore lockdown was tolerable for me. My hobbies are walking, reading, swimming, cooking, and creating music. All of that continued last year, particularly in summer.
What is the typical creative process like for Simple Minds?
So, Charlie sends me his musical ideas. I listen intensely to them, until I know them like the back of my hand. I’ll always get him to change some things here and there that will give me the basis of working on the lyrics and the vocal melody. Once we have enough ideas, we come together in the studio and polish the ideas into completion.
You’ve worked with some world-class producers like Trevor Horn, Steve Lillywhite and Peter Walsh. What do you look for when choosing who to produce your music? Is it their history of sound?
You’re right, we have worked with some of the very best, but yes, of course it’s their previous work that attracts us. But also their personalities! If you’re going to work cheek by jowl with people for months on end, it is important that you like them and get on well together.
Are there any producers you’d like to work with that you haven’t collaborated with in the past?
Daniel Lanois is someone we would do good stuff with I suspect, so definitely him.
Some bands find being on the road for months on end tough, how do you view touring and what does it mean to you?
It’s been our lives and fortunately, we’re the type of band that have adapted to touring really well. Many talented people can’t stand touring but feel obliged to do so. I can’t imagine how that feels.
What is your favourite song to perform?
The last one of the night as I’m knackered by then [laughs].
Fans are often starstruck when they meet you, have you ever been starstruck when meeting one of your idols?
Of course! I’m a fan too. I quite often get invited to go backstage whenever I go to gigs. I rarely accept the offer as I would be too starstruck!
So, what’s next for Simple Minds? Is there a new album on the horizon?
There is indeed. As I said earlier, although the touring stopped due to COVID, it really meant we could dedicate more time to recording and it’s all going great.
Listen to Simple Minds’ 2018 album Walk Between Worlds here.