Jim and I don’t think we’ve managed to crack anywhere near the level of songwriting we should do says Simple Minds’ Charlie Burchill
- Credit: MATT KERFANTE / PAUL COX
Simple Minds come to Colchester next weekend. We spoke to the band’s Charlie Burchill.
When done well, music documentaries can be a window into a performer’s heart and soul. Notable recent releases include Gary Numan Android in La La Land, Grace Jones Bloodlight and Bami and Almost Fashionable – A Film About Travis. You may soon be able to add Simple Minds to that list reveals Charlie.
“We’ve never really done anything like that. If we do, we want it to be really good. The Gary Numan one was interesting. We know him well and you know, the trick with a documentary is to try to make it not just the usual ‘they did this, then they did that’. You need to try to get something a bit more in-depth where you can reveal something people would like to know about,” he says.
Speaking to Numan a couple of years ago, he told me he didn’t like Android in La La Land, which followed the ups and downs of him starting a new life in America, his relationship with wife Gemma and give an in-depth look at the making of Splinter, his first album in quite some time.
“In a way that should be your reaction to a documentary, because at least that means you know you’ve allowed a lot to come out rather than direct and control it the way you want it to be... ours will probably be the most boring thing you’ve ever seen in your life,” laughs Charlie, heading to Colchester next weekend with the rest of Simple Minds and The Pretenders.
The Grandslam tour marks the first time the two have shared the same stage since Live Aid. They have history. The last time they toured together frontman Jim Kerr ended up marrying frontwoman Chrissie Hynde with whom he has a daughter. They divorced nearly 30 years ago.
“They’re real great friends and see each other a lot. I have great memories of touring with The Pretenders, I’ve watched them every night. I learned so much and I’m genuinely excited to see them because there’s just so much great music. (Special guest) KT Tunstall is brilliant as well, she’s an amazing person and has so much energy... she’s so bright.”
Writing and recording can be both good fun and a slog, but playing live is always amazing.
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“Of all the things we do, touring is really important. I think (it’s) the best thing. A lot of bands can’t deal with it but it’s never been a problem for us. You get a great buzz every night. We love playing, it defines us.
“The travelling and all that is one thing, but when you go on stage it’s a great feeling,” adds The Wee Man, as he’s known to Kerr.
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Forty years on, they’re still rocking while many of their contemporaries have fallen by the wayside. He says the trick is keep yourself interested, which transmits to others.
“Until maybe two years ago, when people started mentioning we’d be coming up for 40 years, it never crossed our minds once. Because of the way it’s unfolded it’s just hard for us to believe it’s been that long. There were periods where you tough it out because the market isn’t yours and whatever, but it doesn’t change what you’re doing because that’s what you do.
“Then, suddenly there’s a period where people go ‘oh, Simple Minds’ because you’ve been there so long, and you start getting very positive stuff. It’s been like that for as long as I can remember and that’s the way we go through our lives. It sounds corny, but Jim and I don’t even think we’ve really managed to crack anywhere near the level of songwriting and stuff we should. Every time we make a record we go ‘that was great there’ and ‘we missed that one’.”
While some artists try to reinvent themselves to stay current, Simple Minds have stayed true to themselves.
“Nobody can put a finger on how you translate your experiences into music but whatever’s going on in your life or has been going on for a few years between records will definitely inform what you’re going to do next. Its not a question of having a look around and what’s going on out there and trying to be like that.
“Sometimes when you work with a producer that’s maybe their thing to think like that but when you try to do that you’re inevitably going to fail, you know? People can smell it, you’re far better just doing what you feel is (right). If your instinct is sharp that’ll come out.
• See Simple Minds and The Pretenders, plus special guest KT Tunstall, at Castle Park, Colchester, August 26. Simple Minds’ latest album, Walk Between Worlds, is out now.