Dream Giver - Simple Minds Online Unofficially Jim Kerr - BBC Interview (Undated)

A musicians relationship with new technology

Int: Do you think of what's happened, the Internet, the technology, the changes - is this something we could be optimistic... the musician can be optimistic about?

JK: I would say so. One of the things that's got me initially excited about this whole new media thing was a relation to our formulative days. We started as a punk band. And the great thing about punk was for the first time there was this notion that you could do your own label and there was this great network of fanzines, enthusiasts that could bypass, initially, the sort of traditional thing - signing to a major record label which was this monumental task. You didn't have to be excepted if you had a few quid - you could get your record out there.

JK: To an extent, I think the whole MP3, Internet to a musician has magnified that by a million times. So in terms of communication, in terms of getting rid of distribution channels that seem to weigh everything down. You've got to say if you and I sit just now and come up with a piece of music that song could be ready for a potential audience to hear in an hour's time. You've got to say it's an exciting thing.

JK: How the audience would find it etc. is of course another debate. And how the audience would pay for it, if you were trying to sell it. I don't think this is what it's all about. It's about distribution, rights, and so on and so forth. But, yeah, it's an amazing channel to publish. Whether it's music or writing or short films or whatever. It's a fantastic means of communication. Albeit in the very, very early days.

Int: Is that as exciting for the consumer? They've used been told, in a way, what to look for, where to buy it, so it's a completely new sphere, a new way of working. Is it as exciting for a consumer to ...

JK: I just like having the options. Is it better that the traditional route? Again, if we're to believe there's a generation of, say, college kids in America now who would now think - would have to think about going into a record shop and going down that channel. The very fact - my own communications on the Internet, I wouldn't think twice about downloading a newspaper article that was pertinent to something that my and I friend were interested in. I would download that, e-mail it to him - that's a great, great thing and I think and it's also exciting. And that friend could be anywhere in the world. I think there's a generation of kids in America doing that with music. And I'd have to say that for them it obviously is exciting.

Int: How easy is it for people to use - for yourself, as a user?

JK: It's an absolute bummer [Laughs]. I'm too long in the tooth. I mean, hands up, I was given MP3 last year for - as a birthday present. The sort of realplayer and such. And after faffing around for an hour, I thought 'Come on!'. But again, I'm one of the guys in our band that needs the roadies to change the batteries in my walkman. [Laughs]. So it's kind of - you're not really dealing with a technical genius.

JK: But having said that, as we were saying earlier, I don't need to know how the telephone works. I just want it to work. It works - it's great. I don't need to know how television works. It just kind of works. It's out there and the things you can do with it etc. are immensely powerful and fundamental to the way we live.

Int: That brings up the question of exactly how radical you see the change. We used to have records. We have CDs. And now we have something else. It's a progression. Do you see it that way or is it something fundamentally different which will allow, for example, the people in the broadcast industry who broadcast one-way, one-to-many, we're now talking about communication many-to-many.

JK: It is fundamental but at the same time, I think it's part of an evolving - I mean - we were talking last week to a kid and he was asking about our own band and when we wrote our first songs how we do it. And I was telling him about - you know - it was in the bedroom and - Charlie Burchill, my partner, his parents were more tolerant than mine and we would be up there, finding our way around the chords and then we'd go back the next day and he'd say 'What - did you just tape it on a walkman or something?' And I said 'There was no walkman.' And he was like 'What'd you mean? There wasn't a walkman?' and the whole idea of these tiny cassettes .

JK: No, we had to memorize it really. That was twenty five years ago almost. But we had to memorize it. And the biggest arguments with us were 'That's not the right chord.' 'It was a minor'. 'A major'. 'No, we changed it to the major.' But now you'll have a 48-track. Was that recorded? Shall we do it twice? Have you checked that? Have you downloaded? Have you saved? Or that stuff. I think the changes are fundamental. They're are part of a sequence.

The future of technology

Int: When you say you think this is just the beginning, how quickly do you see the changes coming in? Is it just the tip of an iceburg?

JK: Well, I've enjoyed being here, listening to the crystal-ball gazers. I'm not one of them. I don't know. Again, we were talking, and someone was talking about 'how far in are we? Were we 10% there. Were we 20% there with this technology.' How far to what? What's the end-game? I'm very much, though my life, making it up as we go along - trying to make sense of that day. 'All right. Here we are. We're in a room. The gear's here. What can we do?' in terms of 'Should be hold for five years' or whatever. Having said that, with our own band for instance, contractually, we're at the end of our record deal and I think the potential for us now is to - we can perhaps go with another major record label, do the old way or we can brave the whole thing with new technologies. That's why the whole Napster argument/debate is. I'm probably quite unusual inasmuch as I'm both an artist and a suit [Laughs]. Usually we're one or the other. I'm intrigued by the views of the others. But I don't have the crystal ball myself.

Int: I was with Douglas Adams, we were surfing though the Internet and we came across a site where they were playing out Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. And he looked at it and listened to it and said 'Hmmmm, I haven't heard that episode for about 20 years. This is so easy, where's it going to end?' Intellectual copyright wasn't something that he, personally, could worry about. Do you share that?

JK: [Break-in-recording]. Again, with our band, because we're such a live band, such a touring band, we have this audience who thankfully have this great appetite for most of the things we did, an album every couple of years wasn't enough for them, so the volumes of bootlegs - which are illegal recordings for those listening who don't know - we were probably one of the more bootleg bands. And we always felt that - we were quite chuffed about that. We felt flattered in a way. We never thought it would harm sales of our next albums. In fact we felt it helped the mythology of the band. When we weren't active, the fan base was active, and there were these things bubbling around. And sure, and often the quality was awful and there was dark and shady characters making a lot of money from pretty inferior products but, at the time, we would never get upset about that. Tony Wilson put it quite succinctly yesterday when he was taking his view on the Napster debate. For instance last week NME said 'It's there. The music's free. Who gives a toss whether they're getting paid or not?' And he said the last time that attitude was there it was to the black guys who invented rhythm and blues. They invented the things. Didn't get paid. No-one gave a toss.

JK: The thing is, it has to even out. The notion: you're either an artist or a businessman. But even in our mad punk days, our first ever gig, we had to hire a van which is, say 10, we had to hire a PA which was 15, we had to give the roadies 5 - so 30 quid. We got paid a fiver. [Laughs]. Now it was business. 'How's this going to work out?'. Someone had to sit up at night FRETTING how we could make the next gig or who's dad would going to come around, or who's brother had won the racing that weekend. But it was business. It has to pay for itself. Unless you've got some rich kids who've got access to rehearsal rooms, technology and instruments - how is that all going to get paid for if it's just free? So something will have to happen there. It can't be free. Although I do think it's ironic that the music industry is up in arms about this because my take is in their hunger to promote music now, they've almost cheapened it. If you went to any magazine store, you'll see half a dozen magazines with free CDs with music on it and you think 'I can get it anywhere.'

JK: Every generation's attitude to music changes. Yesterday I was listening to Peter Jenner who was involved in Pink Floyd, Ian Dury and Billy Bragg. But he was talking from his generation and how they value music and such. My own son, for instance, he's 8 years old and if we're going for a long drive somewhere he'll say 'What are we listening to?' and I'll say we'll pick a dozen CDs for the car. We'll have this and that. But if I was to say to him in the house 'We're just going to sit and listen to some music' he'll go 'What? We're gonna sit and listen to music? What else? Where's the pictures? Where's the experience?' And that to me is absolutely a colossal change from when I was listening to music or, I'd imagine, Peter Jenner. You know, you sat in your room examining the record sleeve and the notes etc. To my son it's - intrinsically he can still feel a great sense of joy when he listens to it. I can see him change. 'I love this!' But he won't go into 'Well, what's the artist all about.' It's just a thing. And whether it's an ad or the theme song from a movie or whether it's the backing music to a video game or whether it's the new single from Placebo. Each generation's relationship to music changes as well as the technology. Maybe as a result of.

Int: Do you think it makes the interest in music somewhat more superficial?

JK: The first artist I was into were people like David Bowie and Roxy Music and such. I don't think I'm going over the top when I say that it was a completely virgin experience for me. I'd never seen anyone look like David Bowie. I'd never heard within a musical context those images, those lyrics, those sounds. You'd never seen a hair style like that. I had no source of reference. And the effect on me at that age, 13-14, you are going through these changes in your life and you're trying to get your own identity. But the interesting thing is that I'd never see another picture of them until the new album. It wasn't sort of pop columns, nor your mum and dad bought you tickets for the gig and that stuff - in fact your dad was 'Who's this freak. What are you listening to?' I don't things are allowed to be underground so much any more. I think things then used to incubate more.

JK: My ex-wife, Chrissie Hynde, she said when she got Bob Dylan's first album, she didn't read another thing or see another thing until his next album. That was the only thing she had. And as a result of that, she had this great, mysterious atmosphere about him and I think all of that has changed. Music is probably much more of a commodity - it always was but it's much more so a commodity now. When I went to a store in London a month ago, I went in with my kids, my daughters are 16 and 18, and I think the place was called 'The Inventory' and the sound system in the place was fantastic. The music was - it was my taste, I don't have a clue as to what it was. Completely anonymous. Will probably never hear it again in my life. There's a great vibe in the shop. No-one hustled you 'Can I help you sir' or something. There was a tribe of kids there. You could also eat. You could listen to records. The whole thing was - when I came out I wasn't sure whether I'd been in a club, or a shop, or a restaurant - it was all these things. But what it was was a sort of experience and again whilst this generation would take that as normal, for us that was, you could've never thought things could be like that.

Int: Do you think the Internet, they move it away from being a commodity in a way because young people can do it themselves, make music. There's creativity there through the Internet.

JK: I can't see things really reversing... I think everyone's just gonna find their own way of how to use it, how to value it, and so-on-and-so-forth. I'm not saying on Saturday night after the football match, I had to sit with my mum who's now got Open and we're going through the e-mail and she'd only got it the week before and she was 'I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to do that." She was intrigued by the whole thing and on Saturday night she was e-mailing some people in Italy she'd met on holiday - my mum is mid-sixties. It's not going to fundamentally change her life right now but you can see it's getting to every age group now.


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