One new album in a seemingly infinite number of variations
For its fourth album, the English group Kaiser Chiefs posted 22 new songs on its website and let fans assemble and purchase their own 10-track “bespoke” versions. The band, best known for the songs “I Predict a Riot” and “Ruby,” assembled its own iteration last year for release overseas under the title The Future Is Medieval. Yet another version is out now in the U.S., titled Start the Revolution Without Me (with a new track, “On the Run”) and boasting production by hallowed names like Tony Visconti and Ethan Johns. Bass player Simon Rix took the time to explain it all for us.
Why all the track listings?
We didn’t want to be a group of moaning musicians complaining about how record sales are down, and this idea was totally different. It separated us from everyone else. One thing that we really hated was that the third album [Off With Their Heads, 2008] leaked a month before the release date, so you have people talking about it before it was even out. An album can be dismissed before it’s out. That annoyed us. The way we did this meant that couldn’t happen, because we kept it secret. We just released the tracks all in one day.
What did you learn?
To some extent, we learned there’s a big group of people who like to just have the album. There were people who were panicked by the choice, which is not what we were expecting at all. I think next time we would do the CD at the same time as the “bespoke” thing. We gave everyone a minute of each clip, because we thought it was too much to give them whole tracks. But by giving them just a minute, we made it so that the most instant songs were the ones that got chosen.
Why add a song for the U.S.?
As soon as we got told that we were going to do the CD in America differently, we thought it would be great to have an extra song. We had “On the Run,” which we had been thinking of releasing as a stand-alone single. It’s about how everybody wants to know everything about everything, with Twitter and Facebook and all these other things—which I think is good, but it does mean everybody knows what everybody’s doing 24 hours a day. “On the Run” is about getting away from all that. The “bespoke” album was heavily dependent on people talking about it on social media, so it seemed quite funny that the next song would be anti-social media.
How was recording with Visconti?
In the buildup to working with Tony, we rehearsed and wrote a lot so that when we went in there he’d say, “These guys are a great band.” We were so ready that it went really quick. He had a few ideas about sound, which is why we wanted to work with him in the first place. He has his sound, and he knows how to create it. But we had three weeks in the studio and we finished in about a week.
How about Ethan Johns?
Ethan got the bum job, in that the last thing we did was record with him. Some of the songs we had nailed and some we needed to finish off, which he helped us with. But there were a couple of songs that we had from the beginning of the record that we couldn’t quite get right. We knew there was something in them, and we had been trying to work out exactly how they should be recorded. So Ethan got the difficult tunes we’d been struggling with for a year. But he did it, and we were very pleased with the results.
–Eric R. Danton