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Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr: ‘People aren’t gonna stay in their seats and it’s gonna be sweaty’

PUBLISHED: 08:00 04 November 2016

Jim Kerr tells Zoe Paskett about the band’s love for David Bowie, going back to their roots and an acoustic gig with a kick

The image of Judd Nelson punching the air in triumph at the end of The Breakfast Club is one of the most iconic scenes in cinema – made more so only by its accompanying song.

Simple Minds’ Don’t You (Forget About Me) has been covered by everyone from Billy Idol to The Killers to that kid with a guitar on YouTube, but it’s about to get its most anticipated cover yet: Simple Minds themselves.

Best known for their stadium-filling sound, Simple Minds received an Ivor Novello Award earlier this year for their Outstanding Song Collection.

The new album by the Glasgow-born band, Simple Minds Acoustic, looks back over a hugely successful career spanning nearly 40 years.

“We’re really not that great at looking back,” says lead singer Jim Kerr.

“We love our story of course and we’ve been very privileged to have this life in music, but we’re always busy working on a new thing.

“But two years ago, we bit the bullet on Chris Evans’ show – we basically busked and the reaction was kind of overwhelming and that got the ball rolling.”

Kerr and band mate Charlie Burchill, who has been by his side ever since they went to school together, decided, halfway through recording their next album, to take a break.

What would they do on this break? Go on a relaxing holiday to Kerr’s hotel in Sicily? No, they’d record an acoustic album.

Going back to their native Gorbals to do so, they found themselves steps away from where they grew up, working in a studio in an old social club where “our parents would have danced. It was a return to the roots musically, physically and emotionally.”

Kerr and the band decided, as they settled into the recording process, not to have any guests on the album, opting instead to “go deep” into the music themselves.

“The very day after deciding that, we were at an awards show in Glasgow and lo and behold KT Tunstall was performing. To say she was good would be an understatement; she was off the scale good.

“Even though we’d just had that meeting, I said to Charlie: ‘I think we should ask her.’

“We never had time to approach her because, as I was talking to someone, there was a tap on my back and she said: ‘I want to work with yous!’”

It was through popular demand that they decided to make Simple Minds Acoustic and the accompanying tour, which comes to the Hackney Empire on November 10.

“If you’d said to me even as little as two years ago we’d be doing something like this I’d say: ‘no chance, it’s not our thing’,” says Kerr.

Simple Minds took their name from Jean Genie by David Bowie, one of the band’s greatest influencers. It was Burchill who broke the news of his death to Kerr over the phone.

“I still find it hard to accept. Charlie learnt all of those Bowie songs, it was some of the first stuff he learnt.

“We are going to be carrying it with us on stage. We want to keep it a surprise but there’ll definitely be a nod to Bowie, especially as we’re in London.”

Despite an extensive international tour, this is the only UK venue they’ll play. But for those further afield, it’s broadcast live on Radio 2 and the Red Button.

“Both the BBC and ourselves were looking for a particular kind of venue,” says Kerr of the Empire. “I saw Morrissey there and I still remember how great a venue it is. It’s a real treasure.”

At this stage in the game, he says, they want to have new experiences, and playing this intimate live set is one of them. It would be fair to wonder how a band so well known for stadium fillers will fare.

“We wanted to have our cake and eat it. We wanted to do an acoustic thing but we didn’t want it to be reduced.

“As soon as someone says ‘acoustic’ you think it’s going to be two guys, a stool and a few candles and that’s the last thing it’s gonna be. It’s gonna be energetic, people aren’t gonna stay in their seats and it’s gonna be sweaty!”

Simple Minds perform Live in Concert for BBC Radio 2 on Thursday November 10 at the Hackney Empire in preparation for their album release the following day.

The performance will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 at 8pm and available to watch on the Red Button.

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