No more riots — Kaiser Chiefs get serious

by Alex Hoban

In a few short years, Kaiser Chiefs, the cheeky indie-pop five-piece from Leeds in northern England, have seen their success on home turf swell from zero (as pre-Kaiser incarnation Parva) to their rebirth as stadium-ready, worldwide superstars. For this they can thank a string of chart-bothering singles and their massive No. 1 hit, the satanically irritating “Ruby.”

With songs such as “Oh My God” and “I Predict a Riot” embedding them into the minds of anyone lucky/unfortunate enough to encounter them, the success of the band’s 2004 debut “Employment” propelled them on an upward career trajectory that has thus far shown little sign of slowing.

Yet with the release of their third album, “Off With Their Heads,” they find themselves in uncharted territory. Now that they are stars around the world, the eyes of all are upon them. Their latest offering entered the U.K. charts at an impressive No. 2 on Oct. 26 — only bettered by heavyweights AC/DC — but it’s been met with mixed reviews. They’ve consciously avoided writing big, hook-laden singles (or so they claim, in the album’s absence of having any) and have tried diversifying their approach by working with DJ and producer Mark Ronson.

The Japan Times caught up with Nick Hodgson — Kaiser Chiefs’ drummer and principal songwriter — to find out how they’re dealing with their current level of fame (clue: proud stoicism); coping with their newfound international lifestyles (benevolent stoicism); and making sense of their one Japanese superfan (perplexed stoicism).

How did you celebrate getting to No. 2 in Britain?

We didn’t do anything special. We were just doing lots of things like interviews and radio sessions. We were doing a French TV show and at the same time we saw Franz Ferdinand, Vampire Weekend and The Killers doing the same thing.

What was that like?

It’s nice to see all these other bands jumping through the same promotion hoops as you; it reminds you that what you’re doing is normal — it validates it a bit more. We’re not the only ones doing this crazy routine. To be honest though, we’re quite laidback about it. We’re in this game to take it easy. We just travel, promote, play gigs — we even enjoy doing interviews. We’re pretty much living the dream. We’re going to South America tomorrow, then North America, then we’re going straight to Japan — this is all in the space of four weeks!

It must be very different from when you were promoting your first album.

Not really; we don’t feel any more pressure. I guess we’re a little less naive now. Before, we thought putting out an album meant literally that — just releasing it. We were shocked by all the attached promotion and touring. Then always being in the air, never at home, in all these new countries — it was shocking. But now we’ve got used to it and we’re good at it. The Kaiser Chiefs are happily international.

You’re being very modest — do you not feel a sense of achievement at having charted one below AC/DC?

It’s true, four years ago, if I was told Parva — as we were then — would eventually be in the running with AC/DC, I never would have believed it. You can’t be disappointed by going to No. 2 against AC/DC. . . . But for us it’s not about getting the No. 1 anyway. This whole game is more about doing lots of traveling!

How is “Off With Their Heads” different from your previous efforts?

We wanted the album to be a grower that you listen to from beginning to end, that seeps inside your brain and becomes your favorite album. We knew we didn’t have (a track like) “Ruby” on this album, and we were quite happy with that.

How did Mark Ronson’s contribution to the album inform its creation?

He is a DJ, and we wanted an “indie dancefloor” feel. We didn’t get that much on the second album, so we wanted to return to the indie dancefloor of the first album. It worked very nicely. With Mark, you don’t have to explain anything to him; he always knows it intuitively. He’s tuned in; he gets all the reference points.

Are you mates with him on Facebook?

No, I’m not on Facebook. I don’t want to communicate with people I barely know — it’s awkward enough when you see people you barely know in real life, why would I do it on the Internet? Me and Mark talk on the phone instead. But he’s got an American mobile, so it costs a lot of money. He’ll be around the corner in London and I’ll ring him up — it’ll get sent all the way to the USA and back again!

What do you remember of past Japan jaunts?

Once when we were walking down the street in Shibuya, we saw a coach arrive carrying a Korean boyband. They were mobbed; the noise was terrific. I’ve never heard anything like it. It’s nothing like that when we turn up! We do have one Japanese superfan though — she followed us around every single show we’ve just done on our U.K. tour and was in the front row every time. She’d come all the way from Japan just to see us — she wasn’t already living in England or anything; she came specifically to follow us. That’s dedication.

“Off With Their Heads” is out now. Kaiser Chiefs play Nov. 25 at Akasaka Blitz, Tokyo (6 p.m.; ¥6,000; [03] 3444-6751).