INTERVIEW: Simple Minds in Dubai

Although most readily associated with their 1980s, floppy-haired, arm-waving, sing-along power pop, Simple Minds were actually one of the most innovative and interesting bands to emerge from Britain in the post-punk era. Blending punk, soul and early synth experimentation, and with Jim Kerr’s abstract lyrics and avant garde imagery, the Glasgow quintet crafted a unique sound that eventually exploded to global prominence.
While “Don’t You Forget About Me”, the song from teen emo-a-thon The Breakfast Club is their most famous single, their extensive back catalogue has been heralded by the likes of the Manic Street Preachers and Moby. Ahead of their show at the Dubai Tennis Stadium on Thursday, lead singer Jim Kerr told Shortlist how they’ve managed to come full circle.

You’ve just finished a tour. What’s next for you now?
We’re actually doing a lot of writing for the new album. We’ve probably written something like 16 to 18 songs, so it’s a case of getting in the studio to work through them. We’d love to have something out by 2017, which will be our 40th anniversary.

Has the process of making music changed at all?
Well, you have to realise that when we were 18, 19, we were doing it all on the hoof, making it up as we went along. We didn’t try to create music to fit into any template or any sound. Sometimes, you went into the studio and it just clicked and a great song appeared – which a lot of the time you have put down to sheer luck!

You experimented on the early albums, like Sister Feelings Call. When did it all crystalise for you?
I’d say New Gold Dream (1982) and Once Upon a Time (1985) were the most focused albums, when there was a purpose to what we were trying to do. They’re the most cohesive. I loved Sparkle in the Rain (1984), but it was maybe a bit more uneven.

You were known for your abstract lyrics, things like “Sweat in Bullet”. What were you trying to conjure?
I knew I wasn’t interested in a Bob Dylan-style of song writing. An early influence would be The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm”, which sounded aloof and exotic. That’s what we were aiming for. You heard David Bowie and David Byrne, and they both had their own language – and so we tried to come up with our own lingo. Someone told me other day they heard a phrase that sounded like a Simple Minds lyric… so I guess we succeeded!

At your commercial peak in the mid-80s, you were lumped with U2 and fellow Scots Big Country in some kind of Celtic thing. Musically you weren’t close, though…
Well, I didn’t think so. I thought we came from different places. I probably listened to the same records as Bono growing up, The Who, Bowie, that kind of stuff. We were also from similar backgrounds and had similar ambitions – we wanted to fill stadiums, we wanted to see the world. So I understand why the music press put us together.

Talking of the music press, they weren’t particularly kind to you following Once Upon a Time. But we’ve seen a bit of a critical reappraisal recently, particularly of those early albums.
A bit? I’d say it’s been huge! I honestly never thought I would see it. Ten years ago, we were in Alaska critically, but it’s been incredible receiving awards from Q magazine and Billboard, and being written about in the NME and The Guardian. It’s a very nice surprise.

So, what can we expect from you in Dubai?
A lot of the hits, of course, but mainly just a really good show. We’re all really looking forward to coming out and playing for everyone. It’ll be a good night.

Tickets: AED225,

Simple Minds Live in Dubai

When: Jan 28
Start: 19:00

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