In 2009, Kaiser Chiefs were riding high on the success of their newest album, Off With Their Heads, which was produced by hit-making golden boy Mark Ronson. Although the Leeds-based troupe seemingly had the power to conquer any audience and critic—the band has sold more than six million albums worldwide—Ricky Wilson (lead vocals/percussion), Nick Hodgson (drums/backing vocals), Andrew White (guitar), Simon Rix (bass) and Nick Baines (keyboards), decided to step away and regroup after a grueling five years of climbing their way to the top.

Kaiser Chiefs began gaining strong media attention following the 2005 release of their album, Employment. Inspired largely by new rave and punk rock music of the ‘70s and ‘80s, the album ignited the revival gritty, imperfect rock tracks that seethed with energy. While the band received an NME Award for Best Album for the work in 2006, the band was faced with mixed reviews for their follow-up opus, Yours Truly, Angry Mob (2007). Yet not so surprisingly, the quintet received even further attention for its more pop- inspired, contagious tracks. “Ruby,” which held a position on the Guitar Hero roster of songs, reaffirmed the band’s position as part of the British revival.

Although a band’s decision to go on a hiatus typically leads to unresolved careers and inevitable break-ups, Kaiser Chiefs’ personal and professional rejuvenation began taking shape mere months after their announced separation. Age-old tales of rock and roll superstardom have long revealed the trials and tribulations of life in the limelight. From extensive periods of mind-numbing writing and recording processes to long, daunting months on the road, it is evident that only the strong and passionate survive.

Following the band’s brief departure from the music world to maintain “normal lives,” the men of Kaiser Chiefs are back and are tackling new developments in the digital media world head-on. The summer 2011 release of The Future Is Medieval allowed fans to pick and choose an array of tracks and concoct their own personalized albums. In light of this attempt for optimal engagement, the band chose top tracks, and a few new original ones, for Start The Revolution Without Me, which hit stores on March 6.

Featuring production efforts from industry heavy-hitters Tony Visconti (David Bowie, Iggy Pop, T. Rex), Ethan Johns (Kings Of Leon, Ray LaMontagne, Emmylou Harris), and Owen Morris (Oasis, The Verve), the album is bursting with tinges of tech-infused new wave (“Little Shocks”) and rebellious Brit pop (“Kinda Girl You Are”). With this eclectic mix of fun Brit rock, it’s obvious that the band is gearing up for a triumphant return. Rix took time out of his schedule to discuss Kaiser Chiefs’ decision to re-enter the music world, and why the band’s hiatus wasn’t really much of a hiatus at all. The transcription is below.

How have you and the band been doing? Are you preparing and eagerly awaiting your return to the U.S.?

It’s going great. We’re actually on tour in the U.K. right now, which has been going on for about two to three weeks, so we have about a week left. Then, we have a week off before we head back over to the U.S. This is our first time performing over in your area since about 2009, I believe. But we used to go over to the U.S. quite a lot, especially when we first started, so it’ll be great to be back.

Judging from the new material, you guys are amped and ready to bring not only your music, but your presence to the next level in the U.S. What do you enjoy most about coming over to this area, especially New York City?

Yeah, I think now we’re a lot more established and experienced from when we first started as a band, so that helps. When we first started touring, we loved to do all the touristy stuff, especially in New York City. Overall, I think New York is the most like Europe versus all the other American cities, so we got into it pretty quickly. But there’s this distinct difference in the general lifestyle and type of people. British people have a more relaxed outlook, I think, so that’s the big difference. It was a bit of an adjustment at first because it’s such a busy place, but I live in London now, so it’s a bit similar. In New York though, you’re in taxis, you’re driving down these big roads at an extremely fast pace, so it’s definitely hectic.

Are there any areas/hangouts you love most?

Each time we come to New York, it’s for touring, so we don’t get to explore all the time. It’s not the same as a holiday. But every time we do go to that area, we try to find a new place. Like, one time we went to the Bowery, which we thought was a great place to hang out, then we went to Brooklyn to explore, things like that. It’s like the more you go, the more you get to explore, which is great.

Well, it’s good you guys are fans of New York, because some people just can’t handle it. They can either take it or leave it. But in the U.S. in general, you guys are getting a lot of buzz for your new stuff. You did something really cool with The Future Is Medieval, where you allowed people to basically compile their own albums. Can you explain the inspiration behind this?

Nowadays, digital music is good, it’s definitely more accessible, but it also makes music a bit more disposable than it used to be. I mean, it used to be a big deal to go to a record shop every week to buy a new record. So, we wanted to try and bring a little bit of that back to music—that special experience. We figured an interesting way to do that would be to create a roster of 20 tracks, but then everyone could create their own albums, based on their favorite 10 songs. Then, listeners could sell their albums for £1, and buy it themselves, if they liked it.

We thought it was an interesting thing to do, and we also were reluctant to just make another CD. It’s our fourth album, so we didn’t want to just jump on the conveyor belts with everyone else, you know? We just thought it was better to do something different and unique, rather than people just downloading our music illegally. I also think that, creatively, it was a challenge for us to write the songs, develop the website and develop the concept behind how the model would work and operate. It made it a lot more interesting for us.

Definitely. And in a way, it’s creating a more compelling experience for your listeners. They’re more hands-on with the material, and they get to control what’s on their album. It’s turning the digital era upside down, in a way.

Yeah, we think listeners really want to be able to choose exactly what they want. So they can have that control. It’s also really cool because we had some record company issues at the time, so we were able to still make it happen in light of those issues, change the outlook, add new songs, and make it totally different for the U.S. release, Start The Revolution Without Me.

With that, you guys worked with some killer producers. Did you guys have a clear picture of who you wanted to work with for specific songs, or was it more of an organic process?

It’s interesting because we had a lot of time off. Within that time, we spent a lot of time writing and recording songs. There was no time limit—tracks were just ready when they were ready. One day, Nick was listening to (What’s the Story) Morning Glory in the car and he was just like, “We should send those demos to Owen Morris, he’s the man for the job.” Then, he came back with two songs—one was absolutely brilliant, the other was a bit of a disaster. But it didn’t matter; it was all about just a matter of experimenting with different people and just finding the best people for each of our songs.

Even Nick, our drummer, acted as producer and did a few tracks for us. It was just a matter of finding the perfect person to make a track the best it could be. Our song, “Heard It Break,” was done more electro, and Nick said he didn’t know what to do with it. He had all the recorded parts, all the instrumentals and vocals, it was just a mess. But we eventually just asked him to do whatever he wanted with it. We got it back, and it was like, “Yes!” It was great. It was a lot more different than what we would’ve done with it, but it was really good. There’s that element of freedom to experiment with this album, too, which was really great.

How did it feel to come together, collaborate and create these tracks?

Here’s the thing: We did a lot of touring and stuff during our career, we just needed to be home for a bit, do some normal things. Sometimes you just want to go to the pub, see your mom and dad, your girlfriend and just hang out. From 2004 to 2009, we were just basically touring and recording. After 2009, we just decided to do a break; a period with nothing in the calendar. It wasn’t long after that we started working again. Nick was writing songs still and doing bits and pieces. We had, like, 18 months off all together, but we only waited about three or four months before we started the process. There was really no break; just a break from the public (laughs).

Well, you bring up a good point. Is that hectic nature of being in a successful touring and recording band the most daunting thing about the industry?

I think when you do something every day, you sometimes take things that are really great for granted. You just need a break and a reality check—to not be a band, and just be a normal person. You actually start to complain when you’re not touring all the time, oddly enough. We’re lucky enough to be successful around the world and that everybody wants us to tour. So now we’re going to be pretty busy boys.

 

Kaiser Chiefs play Terminal 5 in NYC on Thursday, March 8. Their new album, Start The Revolution Without Me, is available now. For more information, go to kaiserchiefs.com.

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