Kaiser Chiefs guitarist: Rocking prime-time TV, sure why not?

Kaiser Chiefs guitarist: Rocking prime-time TV, sure why not?
(From left) UK quintet Kaiser Chiefs’ keyboardist Nick “Peanut” Baines, guitarist Andrew White, frontman Ricky Wilson, bassist Simon Rix and drummer Vijay Mistry.

When a band's frontman receives the lion's share of the spotlight, cracks can appear in group camaraderie.

Just ask Paramore, Rage Against The Machine or Guns N' Roses, whose lead vocalists have been labelled attention hogs and egomaniacs by their estranged bandmates.

In the past year, Ricky Wilson, the 36-year-old spiffy, enigmatic singer of rollicking UK quintet Kaiser Chiefs, seemed to be headed down that same path, emerging as a major target of UK tabloids.

Earlier this month, The Daily Mail and The Mirror reported sightings of Wilson and sexy faux-blonde Brit pop star Rita Ora "flirting up a storm".

Wilson sure didn't help his own case, spouting remarks that Ora had "massaged oil" over his body.

In a phone interview with M, Kaiser Chiefs guitarist Andrew White, 40, laughed off watercooler talk of Wilson and Ora hooking up. Also - contrary to popular belief - the other Kaiser Chiefs didn't mind that Wilson was making headlines.

"We're very happy for Ricky to take all the spotlight, and even criticism," he said in an upbeat tone. "We're not jealous one bit."

But Wilson's behaviour has made fans question if the indie band were pandering too much to the mainstream.

Wilson transformed from unkempt musician to suave prime-time TV pin-up. He lost weight and fixed his crooked teeth after somewhat controversially signing up as a coach on reality singing competition The Voice UK in September last year. (Ora is a fellow mentor in the upcoming Season 4.)

His move surprised many.

After all, the Mercury Prize-nominated outfit, with their socially-conscious energetic anthems such as I Predict A Riot, Everyday I Love You Less And Less and Never Miss A Beat, were more critically-acclaimed than commercial.

BAND DECISION

White stressed that having Wilson on The Voice UK "was a band decision".

"You have to understand that guitar music in the UK is not very popular at the moment; the scene is dominated by solo artists and R&B acts," he said.

"When we create an album, we want to make sure everyone hears it.

"Ricky going on The Voice was definitely a good way to (get us more exposure). In an ideal world, we would not have done something like that, but right now, it's the only way to get our music out there."

It seems to have worked. Kaiser Chiefs' current album, Education, Education, Education & War came out in March. It debuted in the UK at Number 1 - something the band had not achieved since 2007.

White added that the band has struck a fine balance between mainstream pop and indie cred.

"I guess we kind of managed to get away with it," White mused.

Kaiser Chiefs also comprise bassist Simon Rix, keyboardist Nick "Peanut" Baines and drummer Vijay Mistry.

The band are often credited as one of the leading forces of the UK new-wave revival of the mid-2000s, along with other groups like Razorlight and Maximo Park.

These bands melded the sounds and aesthetics of 1960s garage rock and 1980s post-punk.

White acknowledged the movement's rise and fall, adding that he felt "fortunate" that Kaiser Chiefs "are still here".

"Between 2004 and 2007, there were so many guitar bands coming out from the UK. Almost all of them have disappeared now, except for us, Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian," he said.

"Movements come and go. We're happy that our music's more than just a movement."

DYNAMISM ON STAGE

Fans who caught Kaiser Chiefs at their last concert here in 2009 would remember the band's dynamism on stage and ability to send the audience into a sweaty frenzy.

As White tells us, playing live is highly important - even when crafting new tunes.

White added: "We never think of (how our songs sound on) the radio. It's more like, will the crowd go insane? We want to celebrate our songs when we play them."

In June, they proved themselves to be major-festival party-starters when they headlined the John Peel Stage at Glastonbury 2014 (175,000 revellers went to this year's festival).

Equally comfortable with intimate venues, they performed for just 200 fans at a surprise gig at New Adelphi Club in Hull earlier this month.

"We always remember where we came from, the days when the five of us were squeezed in the back of a van," said White.

"Almost every day, we talk about things that happened in the past.

"We play each show as if we have something to prove. We're still incredibly hungry, and there are lots of countries we want to visit.

Hopefully, we'll get to come to Singapore and play your stadiums!"


This article was first published on October 15, 2014.
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