Q&A :: Kaiser Chiefs
Last June Leeds rockers Kaiser Chiefs released their fourth album The Future Is Medieval but something differentiated it from the bands previous records. The band uploaded twenty songs to a website, allowing fans to select ten of the tracks and make their own albums, complete with different artwork and track ordering. Was this an attempt to subvert the traditional album releasing model, or just a neat new trick? One year on from the album's release John Balfe spoke to the band's keyboardist Nick 'Peanut' Baines about how it all went down.
Q - I spoke to Simon Rix (Kaiser Chiefs' bass player) before your show last summer in The Olympia and he was saying how excited he was about the concept of the last album release. Now that the album is behind you, how would you evaluate the pros and cons of releasing a record in such a way?
A - A year on, it's kind of like "well, we've done that now". We're the band that made the world's first bespoke album. Done that, ticked that box. Then you just get on with the tour and realise that the reason you release records, be it CD, download, vinyl or whatever, is so that you can play them to the fans. It doesn't really matter how the songs get out there just that, once they're out there, people want to hear them.
It sparked a lot of interest, a lot of curiosity. That was one of the things that we were hoping would happen. When we were planning it we were apprehensive about whether or not it was going to work but once it's out you realise that the reason we did it was just to do something different. Hopefully we've inspired other people to think a bit differently. We tried to bring different facets of what we like about music, and how it's changed, and bring that into the digital age.
Q - Do you think it introduces an entirely new element to the album releasing process?
A - I think so but at the end of the day you still have music, you still have songs. But if you can make the process of owning it, purchasing it and downloading it more enjoyable then I think more people will do it.
Q - Were you able to keep track of statistics like the most downloaded songs and could that in turn influence the thinking behind setlists and future single releases?
A - Yeah, it was interesting. We put up a minute preview of each of the twenty songs online, which is quite a good glimpse of a song, but what we realised in hindsight is that any songs with instant energy or instant chorus were the ones that were catching people's attention. There is a song called 'Problem Solved' which we never really considered playing live and then in the first week of the downloads we saw that it was one of the most popular songs so we put it in the setlist straight away.
You're always trying to second guess the crowd and wonder which songs so when you get a little insight into their minds, it's quite a privileged thing.
Q - I'm sure you saw also that certain songs would show up on the majority of the album downloads too.
A - Yeah, you start spotting patterns and then you realise that this is what research people do for a living. It's like a Pandora's Box, you didn't really want to open it and have a look but once you do you can't stop looking!
Q - Would you have any reservations about returning to a more standard album releasing format in future?
A - Our singles collection Souvenir has just come out and that's a normal CD, no months and months of designing a website and a computer system that can handle sales. It's difficult to think what's next because when you change the rules once people continue to expect that from you and that's impossible to continue. We'll always be thinking alternatively, thinking about what we can do differently. It depends on how we feel at the time and if another idea grabs us as much as it did that one.
Q - How is your summer looking? I know you're going to be up in Donegal for Sea Sessions at the end of June. What else do you have planned for the summer?
A - Yeah, we're going all over Europe. We're going to Russia as well, to Moscow and St. Petersburg, T In The Park, Leeds and Reading. We've done Australia, we were out there at a travelling festival with Public Enemy. We've actually got a bit of time off before summer festivals start in late June, so we're back in Europe now for a busy summer. There has been a few little gaps but we've managed to cover a lot of the world.
Q - Did you get to spend any time with Chuck D?
A - Not really, we had one plane journey where we were all sat together and Nick got to sit next to Chuck D and have a little chat. But I can confirm that Flavor Flav does were the clock even on a plane!
Kaiser Chiefs will play Sea Sessions Surf & Music Festival on Friday June 29th. Their singles collection Souvenir is out now.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Friday 22nd June 2012 | Music
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