Interview with Whitey Kaiser Chief!

I managed to catch up with Leeds! Leeds! Leeds! finest guitar man, Whitey, since Yorkshire rockers Sisters of Mercy brought Gary Marx and Andrew Eldritch to the world, in the middle of yet another day’s lonesome touring – sitting in a hotel room in the middle of the American Midwest Minnesota wasteland.

The mundane donkey work of touring the world means that our Whitey has been in his native Leeds for a mere two weeks in a year. Some may say this is a blessing, I’m not sure how he is coping without being able to track the pedestrianisation of the Headrow at close quarters.

Still, touring out of town arenas with the Foo Fighters and Weezer must have perks, such as bulk buying boxes of crisps from the Walmart at the ubiquitous retail “park.” I asked Mister White whether the response to their support had been positive so far:

“We’ve had a surprisingly good response, at every gig there have been 200-300 people there to see us and who leave after we finish. I Predict a Riot has been really getting people going for it – it has been on the play lists of quite a lot of radio stations over here for a while, so people know us.

“The tour has been a good way for us to play to large numbers of people, 10-15,000 fans, and to give us the chance to try and convert them and expand our fan base. We supported the Ordinary Boys a while ago and did the same then. Hopefully now those people will like what we do and buy our records.

Has this tour given you a glimpse of what might be? Do you think Kaiser Chiefs could crack America and do you even want to? “I think that the way to get popular in America is to tour and tour and tour. I think that the more you tour over here the more exposure you get and that way you slowly get more popular. We might be doing a full tour ourselves over here next year, but I don’t know if we can really be bothered to slog our guts out in America.

Do you like playing these big venues? “I miss playing all the small places, I like to see the whites of people’s eyes but then it is really cool to look out and see thousands of people. To be honest though, at these massive venues I spend most of my time looking down. It would be nice to play in small clubs again but these days before we even start we have to pay people about £5,000 just to get everything organised so it is really difficult.

But of course you get to stay in glamorous hotels and see the world… ”of course, we do, but today we’ve got a day off but we’ve been booked into a hotel in the middle of nowhere.” What are you going to do this afternoon? “I’m going to get a cab and go and buy some fags. There is nothing else to do out here.” What else could commend the life of a rock and roll star more than that? I suppose one could just remain a student.

Kaiser Chiefs were nominated for best new album and best new act at the Q awards 2005. I asked whether being nominated for such awards is the sort of recognition a band strives for. “It’s obviously nice to get nominated and receive some critical acclaim but it is not everything. Other things matter too, perhaps one day when I’ve retired and I’m old and fat I’ll be able to get a 10 year Leeds United season ticket. At the moment I never spend any time at home as we’re always on the road. Last October (2004) I moved house and I’ve only spent two weeks there in a year.

At least you will be getting some time off from touring at Christmas. “Yeah, I’m looking forward to that, I’m not actually going back to Leeds then, I’m going to India”

Leeds has been on the slide football wise recently, but do you think that you are helping to build a reputation for the city as a musical hotbed to rival Manchester? “Musically I think that Leeds is getting more attention than it was, hopefully we can make our mark and create a small music scene in the years to come. That would be a good legacy to leave. It is difficult though as there aren’t really any good music venues in Leeds.”

I think that some of the Kaiser’s magic dust is being scattered around the city. My sister was a student in Leeds and one of her friends who still lives there told me that his eight year old cousin was asked at school to name his hero. He chose Ricky from Kaiser Chiefs. “That’s a bit of an eye opener, sometimes you don’t realise how far your name has gone and how many people actually know you.”

Finally I thought it best to tick some of the PR boxes and ask about the Kaiser Chiefs DVD, which is due out soon, with everyone’s favourite Brit-actor, Bill Nighy narrating. Why did you choose Bill Nighy? “He’s a really cool guy. That’s basically it. A lot of the film was shot by us, we’ve had a camcorder with us since the start, for the last eight years, so it’s going to be really good for us to be able to look back at it all. It’s also going to be the only place that you can see our special promo-show in San Francisco.” Buy it.

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