Ricky Wilson and the Kaiser Chiefs | Mob Mentality and Fashion

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It's all lies. It's that kind of lynch-mob mentality that always wants someone's head to roll—that's the angry mob. And, to be honest, it just sounded really cool."

 

It is the case when covering musicians that there might be a moment when you want to be them. This is probably not cool to admit, but I trust you, dear reader. Last year at Austin's annual romp in music overload, South by Southwest, I wanted to be Ricky Wilson. No question: Wilson, the lead singer for the Kaiser Chiefs, was the height of cool. Employment, the band's debut album was just hitting the States—hard. His band played a series of shows at large venues, small venues, and on any plank that could be considered a stage. Wilson, who was working with a badly sprained leg, held the stage and crowd in his grip as he pogoed across the stage, leapt into the worshipful audience, and received the ultimate compliment of hearing his band's songs echoed back to him from the adoring mob. Charming, the most popular guy in any room, great songs…who wouldn't want to be him?

One year later they are in the less enviable position of having to follow up that success. Now, with the release of Yours Truly, Angry Mob, Wilson sounds no less confident; in fact, he sounds downright cocky about the new album. "Yeah, it's fucking brilliant," he says, "and I can say that with all honesty and conviction, because I think any band that wouldn't say that their record is fucking brilliant shouldn't be in a band."angrymob

Wilson's somewhat manic patter comes across the phone with his Leeds-bred accent making him sound like a throwback to an earlier time in British music history; you can almost picture him in black and white. Cocky, yes, but what about the pressure of following up an album that won a large audience and many prizes?

"We knew that people were going to have their knives out for us, especially reviewers. When you sell a lot of records, the natural impulse is to want this to fail." According to Wilson, the band mostly felt pressure from within and wanted to do better album than their first. Once they started the recording process and worked through the songs, they knew they were on the right track. "The pressure," Wilson says, "was off then, and we just enjoyed it."

The Kaiser theory, according to Wilson, is, "As long as we keep making better albums than the last, we'll keep doing it. I don't think we'll ever do it just because we have to. No one told us we have to make a second record." Wilson pauses for a second to consider the statement and adds, "Well, there probably is some kind of contract somewhere, but they're not going to sue us."

2006 had been a year of consolidating the Chiefs' stature as one of the premiere English bands. "We did really easy tours last year. Just smacking around, really—some festivals on the weekend." Wilson mentions their stadium tours and the festival circuit that includes Glastonbury and T in the Park, noting he was especially fond of the lighter schedule. This way, the band was able to take some time to rest up from the previous year's nonstop touring and prepare for this year's brutal schedule (which Wilson assured me he did not want to know the details of or he wouldn't go).

Drummer Nick Hodgson gets an outsized amount of credit for writing songs on the first album, a fact that Wilson is quick to contradict. "No one can really get that we all do it together. Nick's like the idea man; he comes up with the core of the songs. That's like a starting point and that's where we all come in with our bits. I come in and write the words."

Angry Mob songs in hand, the band went in to the studio for a 40-day stretch. With a hugely successful debut album, the Chiefs might seem to have whatever they want when it comes to recording. Wilson points out, however, that their label "was actually tight with our money. It's piss-piss. What we do is we rehearse and we rehearse and rehearse when we write until we can play the songs like we've been playing them for years. Then we go to the studio and we just play them as live as possible, then do some overdubs, then do the vocals."

The title of the album seems to be a continuation of the story started by the previous album's hit, "I Predict a Riot." Wilson explains that the idea was Hodgson's and the joke was that it was a lost Smiths song. "The angry mob in question are the kind of people, which I'm kind of guilty of in a small way, who believe what they read and get whipped up into frenzies by the media. It's like those headlines, in some way, are going to affect your life and we're all gonna die because of some pumped-up event." Wilson, who has had his share of media frenzies over the last year and a half, is quick to add, "It's all lies. It's that kind of lynch-mob mentality that always wants someone's head to roll—that's the angry mob. And, to be honest, it just sounded really cool."

Ricky Wilson is truly animated in conversation and his caffeinated demeanor soars when we bring up football. I, of course, had to bring up English football superstar David Beckham's move to the U.S. to play for the L.A. Galaxy. This elicited a surprising disdain from the singer. "I couldn't give a crap, really. He's a very handsome man and he'll end up making movies, probably. I don't really see the point. Seems like a big money-making exercise to me."

Not that moving the subject to his hometown Leeds team was any better. They were (and are) performing mightily bad and have fallen precariously in the rankings. In commenting on their performance, Wilson relays this lovely analogy. "Leeds, at the moment, are closer than—if you could imagine the top team in the top division and you imagine me playing football in the park—Leeds are closer to me playing football in the park than being the top of the Premiership. That's not a nice place to be at all." I suggested that he may want to play football instead and perhaps lead that team to victory. "I am amazing at football! In fact, the only reason I don't play football is because I make other footballers look a bit stupid. I got the jumps—you need them in football. I've got the legs—I've got goalie's legs—and, yea, I'm an all-arounder… Well, not really. I'm a bit shit. I do enjoy it, though. I think I'm far too aggressive to play football."

Leeds United's laid to waste, I asked Wilson about the one thing he was assured of: fashion. The singer, known for his sense of style (making prep school jackets popular once again for the first time since Angus Young stalked the stage), offered up these suggestions for your spring wardrobe. "Spring wardrobe? Well, it's spring, so I'm thinking flowers are gonna be big. Bright colors. I'm thinking it's all gonna be about the hair this season. All about hair. So get a good hairdo and that's about it. And T-shirts!  Youcan never go wrong with a good band T-shirt to show who you're affiliated with. I'm actually wearing a band T-shirt at the moment for the band Au Revoir Simone. Ever heard of them? Three girls from New York City. It's a very pretty t-shirt. Au Revoir as in French for goodbye and Simone as in the female Simon." With that, Wilson's last tangent is complete, and he's off to contemplate limos in New York and football in England.

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About Jim Dunn 126 Articles
Jim Dunn grew up in NY in the 70s and 80s. Even though that time in music really shapes his appreciation it does not define it. Music, like his beloved history is a long intermingled path that grows, builds and steals from its past. He lives in Colorado with his lovely wife and a wild bunch of animals.

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