Kaiser Chiefs returned with a bang when they announced their ‘create your own album’ idea. Bassist Simon Rix explains why his band want you to make their album for them.
On May 27 two words appeared on Kaiser Chiefs drummer Nick Hodgson’s Twitter: “We’re back”, with a link to a brand new song, Little Shocks. After nearly three years of silence, the band announced not only a new album, but twenty new songs and a unique way in which fans could get involved.
Twenty songs snippets were posted onto the Kaiser Chiefs website, along with a ‘Create your own album’ project, wherein fans could listen to the songs, order ten of them to their liking and create the album artwork. They could get then go through and purchase their self-made version of The Future Is Medieval and put it on sale for fellow fans. Each time someone buys a version, the creator makes a pound. Innovative or destructive to the concept of the album, bassist Simon Rix has a lot to say on the topic.
“One of the interesting things about the way we did it, is when we initially did the first interviews on the first day, everyone was focusing on the fact that we had destroyed even more the album concept, because we had given the creativity of the track listing to the fans,” he recalls. “Which actually could be a point but by giving them that responsibility and creativity, we’ve given them some ownership of the record and we think maybe people treat the record with a bit more respect because they see it as their record and they think they’ve made a record they like. But also when people were making the album, I know of people who were spending more than a day listening to the song miniclips and doing them in the correct order, so we made them really think about the album and how important an album is and how important the flow of an album is, all that sort of thing. I actually think for some people we’ve actually given them back the value of the album they didn’t realize, and people are putting it onto their computers and listening to it from beginning to end in the order they selected because they want to listen to their order, cause they think it’s the best one.”
The genesis of the idea itself is the answer to a number of their concerns, one of which is no doubt influenced by the leaking of their last record Off With Their Heads in 2008, three weeks before release.
“Basically Ricky (Wilson, singer) had this idea that about the ten songs, twenty songs, and choosing your own and it stems from loads and loads of different reasons,” explains Rix. “Personally from the band, from our side, we’d done the three albums and everyone was tired of touring the three albums and everyone was quite demotivated to make a new record. Recently Nick (Hodgson), who is our principal songwriter and our drummer, he’s got some family stuff , his dad is not well and he was very demotivated so we needed to do something different to reenergize and get ourselves going and creative about making another record, so that was one thing.”
“Another thing is obviously the music industry is going through a change and we all think that when we were young cds would come out and they were very expensive, they were something that you had to save up all your pocket money for and then you would get one and you would listen to it a lot and it would be pride of place in your bedroom. With digital downloads some of it is really positive, people can get a lot of music very easily, but obviously with illegal downloading people can get back catalogues for nothing… there are all sorts of problems with it. With the idea, is what we call it, it seems to tick a lot of boxes with things we did want to happen and things we didn’t want to happen. So it really works for us.”
Having been away for three years, the band also felt the need to remind the public that they were still around too, and considering the media coverage that ensued after the album was released, it worked.
“We also wanted to make a massive comeback, we didn’t want to come back with ten songs on a cd like everyone else, cause it’s pretty boring, so we wanted to do something totally different. To have one day a few weeks ago where there was no new Kaiser Chiefs songs out there and everyone’s probably thinking ‘oh no they’re finished’ or ‘I wonder what they’re up to now?’, then suddenly the next day to have twenty songs on the internet, all of them we think totally brilliant, and all of them a good enough standard to be on anyone’s album cause obviously there’s hundreds of different versions of the album out there, we thought it was a massive challenge but also made a massive statement about being back, and being good and all that sort of thing.”
The roll out of the album isn’t the only difference between this and previous Kaiser Chiefs records. One listen is all it takes to notice the band are delving into styles they’ve never touched on, and Rix attributes it to time given to mull over a day’s work rather than making a slap dash effort.
“For the second album (Yours Truly, Angry Mob), the day after we finished recording it we went on tour, it doesn’t give you a lot of time for reflection or spending time with it and making sure it’s everything you want it to be,” he laments. “We started working on this record from the beginning of 2010, so over maybe 16 months, we had a relaxed attitude towards this album which was great. It was very different to the way we’ve made an album before. Before what we’ve done is write the songs over say two or three months and then go record them for six weeks and then stick it out and that’s it, But this time we wrote a bit, recorded a bit, and because Nick had his own studio we could record ourselves and make some demos, and a lot of that made it to the 20 (songs) as well.
For the first time ever we rerecorded stuff we weren’t happy with… it was the first time we experimented with the songs a lot after writing.”