Change of direction, but Ricky not predicting a riot for Kaiser Chiefs

It’s a big year for Ricky Wilson. He’s off The Voice and Kaiser Chiefs have a new album, writes Andy Welch.
Change of direction, but Ricky not predicting a riot for Kaiser Chiefs

Ricky Wilson was standing in his kitchen the first time he heard Kaiser Chief’s latest single, Hole In My Soul, played on the radio. As the opening bars sounded out, he started to shake.

It’s a reaction he says he’s not experienced since the band’s very early days, when the Leeds quintet’s 2005 debut was on its way to becoming one of that year’s biggest-selling albums, and their singles, such as Oh My God and I Predict A Riot, were riding high in the charts.

“I poured a lot of energy — a lot of emotional energy — into this album,” he says of Stay Together, the band’s most recent album, which was released in October.

“We finished it in April, and I remember how excited I was having a copy of it when no one else did. I feel very proud about the album now, if you can feel proud of a short collection of songs.

“But I feel very good about it and I want other people to feel good about it too. I want people to like it.”

The album was made with Brian Higgins of production outfit Xenomania, perhaps better known for producing slick pop for the likes of Girls Aloud and The Saturdays than indie-pop bands like Kaiser Chiefs.

It might sound unlikely, but when you consider the band’s penchant for a catchy tune, it’s not a completely ridiculous pairing.

It came about after Higgins went to a Kaiser Chiefs gig some years ago and, chatting afterwards, told Wilson he loved their anthemic songs and their slower ballads, but thought they were lacking in the songs-to-make-people-dance department.

“That was a really interesting to hear,” recalls Wilson, 38. “So we started meeting Brian, and by the end of the third meeting at his house to talk about maybe making music, we all went away with things we’d recorded on our phones to work on.

“Brian had the passion that’s needed. There’s no point making records because it’s your job, and that goes for bands as well as producers. We needed that passion, and he basically joined the band for six months.

“He’s incredible; you think of him as this pop impresario, for want of a better word, and you think he might work in a very clinical way. But it was more about jamming, and he had a very relaxed way of working. He captured something we hadn’t before.”

Among those things are, in fact, duff notes from Wilson, which in the past he’d have insisted on re-recording — but as far as Higgins was concerned, it merely added to the emotion the frontman was trying to convey at the time.

“I’ve always tried to edit out that sort of character before because it’s embarrassing or whatever, but it’s actually what draws listeners in, I’ve come to realise,” Wilson admits.

The resulting album, to be played live alongside hits from their catalogue when they tour in February, sees Kaiser Chiefs’ traditional guitar, bass and drums set-up augmented by synthesizers, to create an altogether more sophisticated sound than they might normally be known for.

Talking of changes, Wilson, of course, used to be a judge on TV talent show The Voice, but decided to leave when it moved from BBC to ITV, and concentrate fully on Kaiser Chiefs.

“I suppose I did a Mel and Sue before Mel and Sue did it,” he says, referring to the former Bake Off presenters, who declared they were stepping down after it was announced the BBC favourite was moving to Channel 4.

“It came up when we were in the thick of making the album, and I can’t really do two things at once. I really enjoyed it, but after two years, it’s time to get back to Kaiser Chiefs and not be on The Voice,” he adds.

“If in the future something comes up and I can do it, then I will. Tom Jones is doing it, so why wouldn’t I?

“I learned a lot from him and from doing the show,” Wilson admits, “and I know I’m going to be jealous of whoever is on it, that’s my nature, but it’s not for me at this moment.”

  • Kaiser Chiefs new album, Stay Together, is out now

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