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press releases | neapolis | interview transcript

Interview CD


interview transcript

How come we are in Bilbao in Spain - how did you come up with this idea for the video?

'Well I guess it begins with the title of the song being the Glitterball - it's probably one of the expressions being used to describe this structure we're in but personally I find that this place defies any kind of description... but I guess the whole material they've used and given especially on a bright and sunny day it must be like some incredibly shining sculpture so when the idea came up - great idea - especially when it's been given so much attention - we never imagined that we would get the permission to use it as the backdrop to this particular fantasy.

What were the first thoughts and dreams that came into your mind when you saw this building?

'Well it was actually, you know, the cliches come to the forefront. It was awesome, I mean, fairly intimidated, we had been in the band and years we've spent travelling, we've probably got to see some of the incredible structures that the world's got to offer, whether you're in India as we were on our last album or in Australia or in South America and Europe itself as we know is absolutely creaking with museums and fantastic buildings, but this is, I think this really let's us know that we are 'post-futuristic' - I mean I don't know what the social reference would be - I don't know enough about architec!ure anyway - but there is no comparison. I mean, you can talk about Gaudi and then you can talk about Philippe Starck or you can talk about whoever but this - it really is quite something else.'

You mentioned just a few moments ago that this place would be like a glitterball on a bright and sunny day. How is it when you make videos when god's against you?

'Well I suppose we knew it would be like this - we'll blame it on Charlie - he brings the clouds wherever he goes. No. I can't blame it on Charlie - I went once to Ayr's Rock where there hadn't been any rain for 9 years and the afternoon that I arrived it rained for 3 days! I mean, what's amazing is that everyone gets in and gets it together while we get moody and depressed and get awkward.'

How is it for you to make videos? Do you find them good fun - do you like them or is it a thing that you can only do requisite of yourself as you?

"I find them very very difficult. Again. If you get a good team and you get some banter going it's most certainly... everytime I look past and see the video just like it is with the records you remember who was involved and who helped you make it etc. But in terms of the music and the performances, we're very much, you know, it's our vision but the videos... while you're doing it you can't really see what's going on and you're very much in the dark which is difficult. In other words, you're putting yourself in someone else's hands to try and capture or 'marry' the vision of the song - if that indeed is the goal. No - they're not something that I love doing although this is the prestige and the honour, the whole hip-ness of being the first to work inside this amazing place is... makes it that wee bit special.'

So videos are not your total domain as it were - the music obviously is. But Simple Minds, in my opinion, this album reflects quite a lot of feeling of the early Simple Minds but Simple Minds itself has changed - it's come back over the years in terms of the 4 of you.

'Yeah, it seems to be sort of a cyclical thing - it wasn't an attempt, you know a 'sit down and let's go back,' but I can definitely feel some musical flashbacks and in terms of the personnel, the fact that Derek Forbes is playing with us again and Mel is playing again, it does seem to have come some kind of a circle. But I think to go back and try and create the past - not only do I not really think it's possible, but it wouldn't have interested us. I mean. whatever we did is there - it's still there - you can stili get the records or the CDs or whatever and so much has changed - we've changed - every cell in your body has changed since we made New Gold Dream. Technology's changed - everything - but I suppose if you have a long history there are certain themes that are always there, the genetics, and at different times, they for whatever reason make sense again. Maybe it's just the fact that they become fresh because you haven't been in that kind of territory for along time or they become somehow relevant. It's the same thing with certain songs in the set, you know, you could drop them and think 'I could never play that again, it doesn't make sense,' and then 5 years later somehow it seems to make sense or strike a chord or something new is revealed from something that was indeed from the past.'

Where did you record the album and what effect did that have on the music because sometimes different places bring different feelings?

'This record was pretty much recorded on the move, I mean, the whole thing about our band is that every time you put out an album you are tempted to say that was a phase or this was a phase. that was another phase... but with Charlie and I things are much more seamless than that and we sort of began this band 20 years ago really. We were on a hitchhiking trip when the idea, or you could say, the determination to see it through began and in some ways that trip is still going on. I mean, we're known probably first and foremost as a live band and even in the making of this record we chose to be on the move and primarily most of it out of Britain. Our sense of timing again, when everyone's listening to Brit Rock and 'Brit' this and 'Brit' that and London's the place, we go to the South of Italy or Amsterdam or Paris or Dublin or something. These places, they don't have to be hip. they're always... there's always stuff going on, but it's hard to say it influenced us because of this or that but I'm sure the backdrop to wherever you are... if you feel good in a place then it is bound to come out in the music or is bound to be reflected in the music so it's not really a specific thing, it's more the thing that this is our way of life and therefore the music is obviously such a part of that.'

Is it called Neapolis because of Naples or to represent a new feeling or... ?

'Well, you know. Naples was where that particular journey ended. The album was taken out of our hands then, it was time to hand it over and I suppose for us it was almost like saying 'this is a postcard from where we are - here and now,' and with some albums a phrase appears that seems to tie it all up. You know, like the Street Fighting Years with songs like Belfast and Mandala and such, that was one example of a concept but it wasn't quite the case with this record. So, as I say, it was more a fullstop on the journey that we ended in Naples ..... and why not?'

Yours and Charlie's working relationship has been going for a very long time and in that time I suspect that your roles become defined without having to define them. You know each other so well that your roles are very well defined. How does that define itself? How do you keep it fresh... ?

'Yeah - it amazes me the fact that both Charlie and I for over 20 years, have been working together and we've never felt... for over 20 years Charlie and I have been working on different aspects of our music and I guess it's just the well's never run dry. I think when the well runs dry or when there's no ideas or when you feel jaded is when we're tempted to maybe break off or do something separately but I suppose with us we do know each other so well - we've known each other since we were kids and I think we also know how to have a space and there are areas that he is only interested in, there are areas that I'm perhaps only interested in and from that point of view, although we're so close, there's an element of separation and I think we've got so much in common with the music, we obviously both share a desire in terms of Simple Minds to make better music, to make more music, to become better songwriters, better performers etc,... and we've never felt the weight of our 20 year existence. When it's pointed out to us it's like 'wow - is it really that long?' but there seems to us so much more that we want to do and whilst we accept that hasn't been for everybody we've worked with, for us it's some sort of crusade. We've never put a name on what that thing is but it seems super-dramatic to say it's our lives but for more than half of our lives now this has been the main focus and it's that that we have in common.'

Is it odd to be in a position where when you start out you have all these peers in the music business who are 20 years older and have been going a lot longer and you're the new band and then suddenly to be the peers of all the new bands?

'Yeah, I think what we've found quite hard to understand is that we're obviously not, and haven't been for a long time, a sort of 'New Kids on the Block' but the people that were making music when we were kids are still making it so we're in this middling no-man's-land - too old to be the young guns and not old enough to be the out and out rock legends. I guess people like Neil Young and Lou Reed and such, they're the ones that really throw down the gauntlet. For my part, it's easy to get by and it's a pleasure to get by on the energy of youth but to take it to that other level that these Artists have done is quite incredible. And to see how they'll go through all sorts of peaks and troughs and deal with their music and deal with the ever changlng industry around their music is inspiring and it's that that we look to, I mean, compared to them we're sort of thoroughly 'wet behind the ears' and indeed not yet fit to lace their boots so that's the challenge.'

When you actually sat down to write the lyrics to the music - how does that work? Does Charlie actually give you some sort of sample of the music and then you take that and decide what the lyrics are or have you already thought of what you want to write about?

'Again, it's a funny thing, we're together but apart. Charlie will go off - he's a true musician in as much that, from my experience, as soon as he gets up in the morning if there's a guiter or piano around he'll be messing around - it doesn't seem like he's creating but he is putting the seeds of things together and then I'll get the form by ways of cassette of some of these seeds or structures... they're not songs and they don't have a lot of form to them but they'll have a pretty rich atmosphere and for me they'll usually have quite a strong emotion in them or certainly they'll strike a chord with me emotionally and I find the same emotion in the song as perhaps what I've been writing about. Recently, I was saying earlier, that we keep apart a lot but we also share the same tastes and not only in art but in literature or whatever books he's been reading he'll hand onto me and in some ways, the whole background, the other things that interest us... you know, to be artistic you also have to be taking a lot in, we'll be sharing them and probably the genetics of what the new album comes from is amazing and the conversations we'll be having about whatever alse is going on - even if it's what's going on currently in the news or something and I find these pictures will be in his music and it's my job to go into these musical landscapes and find a voice or put a face to the characters that maybe walk through these landscapes, I mean, it's not realy a spoken about thing - it just kind of happens..

If we take something particular - a track like War Babies on the album - what exactly is that about? It's not about war, is it about relationships?

'Yeah, I mean, you could say it had a very lonely melody in it, there was also something uplifting about it as well but there's something naive in the melody to me, something classical. And I suppose it's not a war in a sense of Bosnia or wherever, it's more sort of emotional warfare and yeah, I could see it as a relationship song .... there was something also intimate about it and it was my job to come up with a dialogue between whatever characters would be in this particular scenario, I mean, I also felt in this record... it was less of a rock record and more, I think the music had more cinema to it and if you were to say... to work in the movies it seemed like some of the songs appear to me like that don't really begin and end, it's almost like you're seeing part of a film you see part of a scenario - you don't know how it ends up - you don't know what led the characters to be this way but you're maybe grabbing just one scene and it just seemed to emerge this way.'

There also seemed to be like a reflective man's thoughts... looking at the titles; The Tears Of A Guy, Superman vs Supersoul, Androgyny, that's what the feeling is - it's much more reflective.

'Well there Is much more subtleness to the sound and the emotions. I think the fact that it's not a bombastic rock record... there's a quiet emotion to the record I think and so therefore it probably is true to say that it is reflective, I mean, part of the songs can be sheer fantasy, others can come from a direct experience and sometimes it's even hard to tell looking back what actually was a fantasy and what was a real real thing. I would very rarely write from a personal point of vlaw because not only would it be utterly embarasslng but I also feal that I don't have that much of an interesting story to tell, but I would say that our own psyche is in the music and our own thoughts and dealings and experiences are running parallel with the songs.'

For me Simple Minds always had a very sort of cool image and without knowing the band - not a band that I've seen to have so much fun as I've seen. Do you find that's sometimes the perception that your image is really a little bit away from you as people?

'Yes I do think that. I understand when people say to us, when people come into contact with us or work with us, they don't expect us to be so relaxed about things. I think it's something that irks me in as much that I don't think that our humour has ever come out in the music. I'm not sure why, but maybe we take the music too serious or more serious than we should but the music always seemed very dramatic and I guess the videos and the artwork and the stage presence would fit that bill. But thank god we have fun because if you can't have fun doing this there's really something wrong. It's the same when people ask us 'why do you tour so much?' or 'what else is there to do?' and such or 'would you like to do something else?' When I say 'no' it's not because we're one dimensional it's just that it is great fun, and yes sadly 'fun' isn't a word that's been used a lot in terms of Simple Minds but it doesn't mean to say it's not what we've been having and indeed still have.'

Being the front-person, fame and success is often centred on you and it's a very difficult thing to deal with. How do you think you've stayed so level-headed, I mean, that's what you appear, you're a very calm person and you don't come across with the ego of a rock star...

'... We've obviously had such a part to play within the industry for over the 20 years that we've been writing and performing but I also think it's almost like having one foot inside and the other foot out. I mean, we've never really gone to the award shows and the glamorous glitterati stuff, you know, it's not really happened although we've had a lot of the glamorous things around us and attracted a lot of the different types of press and such but I think we've managed to co-exist, thankfully. Because one day - who knows when - you'll wake up and say 'enough of this' and I think had you not managed to retain a foot outside it'd be very hard to get a grasp on reality. Someone was asking last week... they were talking about our contemporaries and we were talking about some people in particular and the whole thing came up about the rock and roll myth and they said 'did you never buy into it' and such, and I think we did but we bought into it for like 3 weeks at a time and had fun and then kind of went back home and thought 'let's address the other things in life.' I think we've been pretty sharp in attempting and pulling off having our cake and eating it. We wanted all of this, we wanted these existences, we wanted the limelight, we wanted our music to get across and get the attention - we wanted everything that goes with that - good and bad - but I think we only really believed in it when it reaUy suited us and the stuff that isn't so pleasant - whenever that's been going on - we just retreat back into the ark and you create your own world.'

A couple of final questions ... What has been the worst thing about the shoot and what has been the best thing about the shoot?

'The best thing about the shoot is getting the chance to come here and, you know, you could spend all manners of money in getting some of the most fantastic backdrops, but how could you ever beat this? That in itself has been a coup. The worst side again is having to wait to see it put together. When we play we get a direct response - when we're in the studio you can rewind the tape and hear instantly what you've done. Now we're still piecing it together and I'm wondering how it's all going to work out - 'are we going to be overshadowed. how's it going to fit in etc, is it going to have the right light and shade...?'

Press release distributed in the Neapolis round tin promo box-set.

The interview took place at the Guggenheim in January 1998 while the band were shooting the Glitterball video. Elements of this interview also turned up in the Neapolis EPK.