Simple Minds have just put out a new album… and it’s their best since the band’s heyday in the 1980s. From the striking cover to the upbeat tunes and sometimes dark lyrics, Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill explain how ‘Direction Of The Heart’ came together, as well as reflecting on their enduring friendship and the 40th anniversary of their 1982 classic, ‘New Gold Dream’

Jim Kerr’s place is something else. Perched high on a hill on the east coast of Sicily, the deep blue of the Ionian Sea stretches beyond the horizon to the left and there’s a breathtaking view of the snow-capped Mount Etna, one of the largest and most active volcanoes in the world, straight ahead. The building is made of Sicilian stone and the decor is understated luxury, with paintings by local artists dotted about. As well as a sunny swimming pool, there are terraces and walkways and no less than 27 bedrooms.

Yes, you read that right. Twenty. Seven. Bedrooms. I mean, that’s virtually a hotel, right?

As it happens, Jim Kerr’s place is a hotel. The Simple Minds frontman built Villa Angela from scratch a couple of decades ago, since when it’s become a prime destination for those seeking a four-star Italian boutique experience. He doesn’t live here himself, though. He has an apartment down the slope in nearby Taormina, an ancient town with a history dating back almost 3,000 years. Charlie Burchill, his long-time partner in Simple Minds, also lives in Taormina. A pebble’s throw from Kerr, in fact.

“We moved to Sicily shortly after Brexit, but we’d planned this for ages,” says Kerr. “I had been coming here regularly for a lot of years, even before I’d got the hotel up and running. Charlie had been coming here on and off too – he’d been living in Rome for a while – and we had always said, ‘Hey, when we’re old guys, we’re going to live in the south of Italy’. And then one day we suddenly went, ‘Hang on, we are old guys…’, so we thought we’d better get on with it.”

Kerr and Burchill have known one another for more than half a century, their friendship enduring through the band’s countless records, tours and line-up changes. It’s intriguing that two guys who grew up living down the road from each other in Glasgow in the 1960s should now be living down the road from each other in a small town in Sicily in the 2020s. Actually, it’s more than intriguing. It’s a bit weird, isn’t it?

“It is weird…” begins Burchill, giving a big smile and then pausing for a moment or two, as if he’s thinking about rowing back on that answer. “Well, OK, yeah, it’s weird… but it’s great.”

And his smile, which rarely leaves his face during all the time that I spend with him, gets even bigger.

Simple Minds have just released a new album. It’s called ‘Direction Of The Heart’ and it’s a terrific record, upbeat and brimming with confidence, jam-packed with huge waves of synths and razor-sharp guitar lines. The group have put out some pretty strong material over the last decade or so, their 2018 album ‘Walk Between Worlds’ rightly reaching the UK Top Five, but this trumps anything they’ve done in a very long time.

Before we get to the contents of ’Direction Of The Heart’, we need to talk about its striking cover – a black, sinister, military-style gas mask covered in flowers. Look closely and you’ll see other little elements too, including some butterflies, a golden Cupid blowing a horn, a bird’s nest with three eggs in it, a scales of justice keyring, a plastic model of a kissing couple, and a ringed planet reflected in one of the eye lenses.

Ahead of my interview with Kerr and Burchill, the group’s press officer hooks me up with the sleeve designer, Stuart Crouch, so I can email him a few questions. Crouch, who has worked with everybody from Kate Bush to Iron Maiden and has created several Simple Minds covers in the past, tells me that every track on the album is represented in the image in some way. He says the starting point for the mask was the Covid pandemic and he mentions ‘Logan’s Run’, Michael Anderson’s 1976 sci-fi film, in particular the scene where Logan comes across the abandoned city of Washington DC, where the streets and buildings are choked with trees and vines and other vegetation.

“I was really interested to read Stuart’s email to you,” notes Kerr. “To be honest, we didn’t have too much dialogue with him on this, other than talking about the key idea for the album, which was to make a feel-good record. I was kind of shocked when I saw the artwork, but it felt so right I didn’t even think to ask him for an explanation of it.”

“What Stuart said was news to me too,” admits Burchill. “But I loved the image from the first moment I saw it. I liked the fact that it threw up so many questions. There’s often a tenuous link between artwork and music, isn’t there? You can make ideas fit, but it’s a gut thing – you like it, you don’t like it, you think it resonates – and with this one, as soon as we saw it, we thought, ‘Well, we don’t know where he’s got this from, but it’s brilliant.”

“I’ve never seen ‘Logan’s Run’, but I understand the reference to it,” says Kerr. “I mean, everyone was thinking about the lockdown as like being in a science fiction movie. There was no other way to rationally explain it. There was that idea of nature taking over as well, you know, you could hear the birds singing and people were seeing deer in their back gardens. So in that sense, something good came out of it. The world had a chance to rest.”

And while the pandemic meant a lot of bands had to work remotely via the internet, Kerr and Burchill were left to their own devices in Sicily. They were able to see each other and work together on the tracks for their new album on a daily basis.

“We were very lucky to be in this beautiful place,” says Kerr. “We had blue skies and nobody to trouble us. Looking out at Etna every day had an impact on us too. It has a menacing presence, but it also has a benevolent presence. It’s continually throwing out volcanic material, it’s like a sand, and the land is so fertile as a result. It goes back to when Sicily was the bread basket of the Roman Empire. The locals look on it as being like a mother, because it feeds the island. When you look at something of that stature, of that power, and you dwell on it for a couple of minutes and realise how this thing has seen it all, that puts everything into a different perspective.

Photo: Dean Chalkley

“Something else we reflected on during that time was how it had been for us in the early days of the band. We were 19 or 20 years old and the only thing in our lives was music. There was nothing else we wanted to do. Music meant everything to us and we did it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And guess what? The pandemic made us go back to that. Because you couldn’t see the kids or the grandkids. Friends weren’t dropping in. The restaurants were shut. The football was cancelled. So the only thing we had in our lives again was the music and I think this album has really benefitted from that.

“On the downside, I had to close the hotel when the restrictions kicked in. So never mind all that stuff about ‘Logan’s Run’. For Charlie and me, rattling around this empty hotel looking for any bars that still had peanuts in them, it was more like the fucking ‘Shining’.”

‘Direction Of The Heart’ is the 18th or 19th or possibly even 20th Simple Minds studio album. It depends how you count them. Is the 1981 combo of ‘Sons And Fascination’ and ‘Sister Feelings Call’ one album or two? Should ‘Our Secrets Are The Same’, the disc of fresh material included on their 2004 five-CD ‘Silver Box’ collection, be on the list? Answers on a postcard, please.

The new album begins with a supercharged synthpop track, the euphoric and infectious ‘Vision Thing’. It’s a deeply personal song for Kerr. The lyrics are a tribute to his dad, who sadly died in 2019.

“My dad was my best pal,” he says. “He worked in construction, he was a builder, but he regularly went to the theatre and he was always in the library. He had this endless curiosity, this voracious appetite for learning. He had a massive influence on me and he was a great champion of the band too. He gave me £100 for us to do our first demos – and he was fond of reminding me I never paid him the money back.

“Charlie and I were writing songs in Glasgow when we found out that my dad was very seriously ill. I was distraught, but after a couple of days my dad insisted we got back to work. So we carried on working during the day and then I’d go up to the house and sit with him, chatting late into the evenings. Charlie would sit with him as well. And while I was there, he’d ask me to fetch him things from the attic. When I was in there, I found lots of press cuttings about the band and about me that my mum and dad had collected over the years, all these interviews with me as a young person. It was interesting how reading some of those made me feel.

“So ‘Vision Thing’ is about my dad and it’s also about this young guy that I used to be. I guess it’s essentially a celebration of life. And even if I say so myself, I think it’s a wonderful song. We’ve been playing it live this year and it’s been going down well – and it can be hard on a new song when you play it alongside material that everybody knows. It’s been fantastic to see people leaping about to it, to see they’re feeling the joy in it.”

‘Vision Thing’ is followed by the post-punky ‘First You Jump’, another song with a positive message – “First you jump / Then get wings” – and oodles of oomph. But while the energy of the first two tracks is maintained throughout the album – expect head-nodders and foot-tappers from start to finish – the lyrics sometimes edge into darker places.

Kerr has never been afraid to tackle political and social issues, which he does here with tracks such as ‘Human Traffic’, ‘Who Killed Truth?’ and ‘Planet Zero’, the latter with its repeated refrain of “I saw a whole world of fire”. From climate change to dodgy politicians to the global economic crisis, he’s been spoiled for choice in recent times. To which we can now add a war raging in Europe and the renewed threat of nuclear conflict, making the mask on the record cover even more unsettling.

“Everybody is struggling to digest what’s happening around them, because it seems to be coming in a perfect storm,” says Burchill. “I think we captured some of it on the album, although it feels like it has got even worse since we finished the record. A song like ‘Who Killed Truth?’ is definitely of its time, you know, with all of the bullshit we have to deal with from these liars who don’t even care that people know they’re lying.”

‘Human Traffic’ is also notable because it features Sparks singer Russell Mael on guest vocals. Kerr and Burchill first met Mael when he suddenly popped up backstage after a Simple Minds gig in Los Angeles.

“We started working on that song four or five years ago,” says Burchill. “We loved it, absolutely loved it, but it wasn’t ready for the record we were making at that time. We hadn’t got it quite right. But when Jim came back to it and said, ‘We need to do something with this track, we can’t just leave it’, I agreed with him. I’d always thought it was really innovative. It didn’t sound like anyone else, with the exception of Sparks. Whenever we worked on it, I kept saying how it made me think of Sparks.”

“I’d always felt that there was something missing from it, but I wasn’t able to articulate what it was,” notes Kerr. “I felt it needed an almost cartoon element. I mean, you’ve got this punchy chorus, but the lines are ‘The whole world circles round and goes back again / It’s high on fumes and misery’, so how do you make people feel good about that? Charlie and I have been fans of Sparks since we were kids – Charlie’s elder brother Jamie, who was the cool guy on the housing scheme where we grew up, had turned us onto them even before they had their first hit – and there was something about Russell that always made me feel good. We were delighted when he said he was happy to be involved.”

“I was really blown away by what he did,” adds Burchill. “He came up with a ton of stuff for the track. It was incredible. It wasn’t like he had simply sat down and sung the vocal parts. He had quite an intricate plot going on and we ended up using lots of it because it worked so well. It was so in sync with what we were trying to do.”

Photo: Dean Chalkley

The idea of mass movement that’s explored here and in a couple of other places on the album seems to be something that Kerr has returned to many times over the years.

“They say most artists only have two or three themes – even the greatest ones – and movement has most definitely been a regular theme for me,” he acknowledges. “So, yeah, people on the move, the world on the move, and why that might be happening. People running from what? Running to where? Sometimes it’s a riff on those ideas, so it can be a bit abstract, but ‘I Travel’ is still the song that sums it up better than anything else. Charlie and I have always enjoyed travelling and visiting loads of different places. We started hitch-hiking when we were 16 and we still love the feeling that anything could be over the horizon.”

It’s interesting that Kerr mentions ‘I Travel’, the opening cut of the band’s acclaimed 1980 album ‘Empires And Dance’, with its references to evacuees, refugees and marching men.

“Looking at the newspapers now… Jesus Christ, there are stories about armies fighting and right-wing extremists being voted into power in European countries,” he says. “Perhaps when you get to a certain age, you realise it’s always the same thing over and over. I mean, we’ve recently started playing ‘Belfast Child’ live again. A lot of people like it, but we hadn’t played it for 25 years because I’m not that keen on it myself and we thought the story was done. Belfast was fine. The song was no longer relevant. But actually, it’s not only about Belfast, it’s about war and violence in general. And guess what? That’s all very much back again.”

‘Human Traffic’ is not the only track on ‘Direction Of The Heart’ that goes back a number of years, but then a lot of Simple Minds’ songs seem to have a lengthy gestation period. Whereas most bands are generally quick to dump material that they feel is not working and lock it away forever, Kerr and Burchill frequently revisit and refashion unreleased tracks, sometimes again and again, to get them where they want them to be.

Why is that?

“Songs need to find their moment,” declares Burchill. “So we don’t often think, ‘That’s not cutting it’, we’re more likely to think, ‘That’s not right at this time’, and everything’s still possible when you take that view. We can return to a track and say, ‘OK, let’s try it again, let’s see if it’s relevant now’, and then it will come back into the frame. If you can figure out what’s wrong with it, or maybe what’s right with it, then you’ll know where to take it. Mind you, even when we’ve nailed something, we’ll sometimes ditch it at the last minute and it will go back into the cupboard.”

So is there an extensive archive of unfinished material waiting for you to still delve into?

“I suppose there is quite a bit. Well, yeah, there’s loads. We always start from scratch when we’re working on a new album, though. And then what tends to happen is Jim will come to me and say, ‘I’ve been listening to some of that old stuff…’. And then I’ll go, ‘Oh no…’.”

“It can get a little intense when we are busy working on a record, a little claustrophobic, so we have what we call ‘free weeks’, where we play around with an idea we’ve set to one side, or try a cover, or do something that’s just for fun,” elaborates Kerr. “I’ve read that Pablo Picasso often used to go back to old works he had done. Oh, listen to me, comparing us to Picasso. Anyway, he’d turn paintings to the wall and leave them for years before turning them back. And Martin Scorsese used to have scripts going back 15 years.”

One of the tracks on the album that has come to fruition through their “free weeks” is ‘Act Of Love’, the original version of which dates back 45 years, to the earliest days of Simple Minds. The song was written by Kerr and Burchill after the pair’s short-lived punk outfit split up in November 1977, supposedly on the very day the group released their one and only record. Johnny & The Self Abusers’ ‘Saints And Sinners’, a seven-inch single on Chiswick Records, is currently £35 on Discogs, by the way.

‘Act Of Love’ was the first song that Simple Minds played at their first gig, which took place at Satellite City in Glasgow in January 1978. A small club space situated in the upper regions of the cavernous Apollo, for a brief while Satellite City was Glasgow’s equivalent to The Electric Circus in Manchester and Eric’s in Liverpool. Elvis Costello, Magazine, The Rich Kids, Sham 69 and the UK Subs were among the bands that played there.

“We loved that place,” says Burchill. “It used to be the Green’s Playhouse and it was always an iconic venue. We’d been to see so many shows there, even before they called it Satellite City. I still remember that first gig of ours clearly. Like it was yesterday. We were supporting Steel Pulse that night. How’s that for a bill?”

Not too shabby. Especially since, as well as Simple Minds and UK reggae stars Steel Pulse, the line-up also included a band called The Nu-Sonics, who evolved into Orange Juice a year or so later.

“‘Act Of Love’ was an easy track for us to go back to,” continues Burchill. “I took a very irreverent approach to it. I was quite prepared for it to sound nothing like the original. There were some parts of it that sounded like it was written by two 15-year-olds, but the core element is the guitar riff and that’s still all the way through it. I always think if you’ve got a great guitar riff and you can put it into an electronic context, you kind of get the holy grail.”

“The guitar on ‘Act Of Love’ is incredible,” adds Kerr. “By nature, I think I’m pretty modest, so when people ask me if I ever thought we were going to make it big in the early days of the band, I always say, ‘No, it didn’t dawn on me’, but that’s not quite true. Because the first time I heard Charlie play that riff, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, David Bowie would want that riff, AC/DC would want that riff… that’s a killer riff’. I also remember thinking, ‘Charlie’s got the goods’. Whether or not any of the rest of us had the goods, the jury’s still out, but Charlie had the goods.”

Kerr and Burchill present themselves in notably different ways during my conversation with them. Kerr wears his sunglasses throughout and remains relatively static. He is very engaged with the process, listening carefully to my questions and offering lengthy and detailed replies, generally speaking slowly and deliberately. In marked contrast, Burchill is far more animated, fidgeting in his seat, his eyes darting around him, his hands waving about. He laughs a lot, cracking a couple of jokes along the way, and there’s that big smile of his too. You can’t help but smile back at him.

Something else that strikes me is how much Kerr and Burchill each talk about the other. In fact, they seem to talk more about their bandmate than they do about themselves. It really is astonishing that they’ve been friends since they were eight years old, their mutual love of music strengthening the bond between them and adding cement to their relationship when they reached their early teens.

“Charlie was the first kid on our street to have a guitar,” says Kerr. “You know how you used to get cigarette coupons back in the day? And your mum and dad would save them up and then send away to get a new hairdryer or some new saucepans or something? Well, Charlie’s mum sent away all their coupons and got him this guitar.”

“She used her Embassy coupons,” laughs Burchill. “But I’m not sure you could call it a guitar. It was more like a cheese grater with strings. My eldest brother could play a bit, so he taught me a couple of chords and helped me to get started.”

“And within a month, he could play anything,” says Kerr. “We’d see him out in the street with the guitar and we’d say, ‘Come on Charlie, play something’, and he would. He was brilliant, even then. So that was pretty special.”

“I remember Jim starting to push me after I got the guitar,” says Burchill. “It was almost like he was my manager, you know, encouraging me and getting on my case – but in a good way. After a while, he started writing lyrics and I soon realised he wasn’t just having a wild stab at this. What he was doing had some depth to it and you could tell that when we were 13 or 14 years old. The other thing about Jim was he was very charismatic and there was something about the clothes he wore and the way he carried himself. I don’t know what it was, but he always looked like he was in a band. He always had that thing about him.”

Photo: Dean Chalkley

How would you describe your relationship now? How has it changed over the years?

“To think about it in a black-and-white way, I’d say we’re like an older and younger brother, with Jim as the older brother,” answers Burchill. “Funnily enough, I’m the youngest of three boys and Jim is the oldest of three boys, so it’s strange how these kind of real dynamics come out. And looking back on it, I don’t think much has changed since the beginning. We both do exactly what we have always done. Jim does the lyrics and the conceptual side of things, he has the ideas and he works with the management, whereas I deal with the music side of it. And then whenever we can, we sit in a room and play songs together.”

“It’s a bonus that we have so much in common,” says Kerr. “I mean, if I’ve not seen Charlie for a while, you can guarantee we’ll have bought the same books, or seen the same films, or developed the same thoughts on something. But because our roles and our personalities are so different, we never cross over. I have zero interest in getting involved with the music and he has zero interest in getting involved with the lyrics. So when he does something, he comes with his own chemistry set, and I’ll go, ‘Wow, listen to that’, rather than going, ‘Oh, that’s a G and that’s a B minor’. Similarly with Charlie, he’ll say, ‘I can’t believe you came up with that lyric because that’s precisely the atmosphere I was thinking of’. It all works really well like that.”
Do you argue much? Have you ever fallen out badly?

“We have a colossal fight every year or so, with screaming and borderline violence,” chuckles Kerr. “It’s usually because one of us says a word that’s just the wrong fucking word. But it’s forgotten by the next day, which I believe is unusual. And when we do argue, I think it shows how passionate we are about what we’re doing… and that’s true even at this stage in the game for us. We both care about the band so much that it’s worth the grief whenever there is grief. I think that’s made us the kind of marathon men we are, whereas the other people we’ve worked with over the years, as great as they were, they were sprinters.”

After some fairly pedestrian albums either side of the new millennium, two things seem to have given Simple Minds a boost in the early 2010s. The first was the addition of bass player Ged Grimes to the group. Grimes, formerly of smooth pop-rockers Danny Wilson, has co-written ‘First You Jump’ as well as another song, ‘Solstice Kiss’, on ‘Direction Of The Heart’.

The second thing was their ingenious ‘5X5 Live’ project in 2012, a series of 16 live shows at which they performed five tracks from each of their first five albums – ‘Life In A Day’, ‘Real To Real Cacophony’, ‘Empires And Dance’, ‘Sons And Fascination’/‘Sister Feelings Call’ and ‘New Gold Dream (81-82- 83-84)’. A selection of the shows were recorded, with the best renditions of the 25 songs released as a double CD at the end of the year.

“I’d agree that doing ‘5X5 Live’ helped to rebuild our confidence,” says Kerr. “It acted as a sort of bridge and gave us some leverage going forwards. It was our manager’s idea and we weren’t sure to begin with. In the old days, it would have been one of those half-two-in-the-morning discussions when we were stoned. Then you’d get up the next morning and say, ‘What the fuck was that you were going on about last night? Five tracks from five albums? Don’t be ridiculous’.”

“It made us think a little bit more about the art,” adds Burchill. “We were able to get quite forensic with the material, making sure we kept faithful to the originals. For something like that, you don’t want to interpret the songs differently. That would have been a bummer. And everybody who came to the gigs knew what was happening. They knew they wouldn’t be getting ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ and if we played a track like ‘This Fear Of Gods’ then it would be eight minutes long.”

What’s your view of those five albums now?

“I think I’m able to say this without feeling, because it’s been such a long time…” begins Kerr, trailing off and struggling to find the right words. “I think those young guys… I mean, what an amazing thing, you know, to have that sort of imagination. We were learning every day and we were just going into the studio with our imaginations and desires and fantasies and wilfulness. I see those records as being important on lots of levels.”

This year is the 40th anniversary of ‘New Gold Dream’ and I suspect many of the group’s fans would probably say it was their favourite Simple Minds album. Is it their favourite?

“No, it’s not mine,” says Kerr. “My favourites are ‘Empires And Dance’ and ‘Sons And Fascination’. I see them as the storm before the clearing, which was ‘New Gold Dream’. But I love ‘New Gold Dream’ for what it did and I loved the process of making it. It rolled, it was beautiful, and there were very few things that needed to be wrestled to the ground. Coming out of the speakers, everything about it felt right. When you’re a young band, you take all of your influences and that’s the soil in which you are hopefully going to be able to grow something that’s intrinsically you. And by ‘New Gold Dream’, I think it was intrinsically us.

“That album was also totally of its moment. For me, there was something special about the musical landscape of the period. I remember first hearing ‘Love Action’ by The Human League… that intro was so great. And, my god, The Associates, they were just, ‘Wow, what is this?’. Then there was The Cure… I could go on and on. It was a new kind of pop music and these bands were getting on the cover of both NME and Smash Hits, whereas it would have been one or the other before then. ‘New Gold Dream’ was the record that enabled us to do the same.”

“To be honest, I believe we lucked out on ‘New Gold Dream’,” says Burchill. “I don’t think we had a clue what sort of record we were making, but it ended up being very cohesive, something that was quite gentle and quite wonderful. I find it difficult to compare our albums, but for my money some of the most interesting music we’ve come up with is on ‘Sons And Fascination’ and ’Sister Feelings Call’. A lot of the stuff on those albums is really out there. I wouldn’t say that they’re the best songs we’ve ever written, but I love the whole vibe of them.

“I’m not sure about ‘New Gold Dream’ necessarily being the fans’ favourite album, though. For a lot of people, ‘Once Upon A Time’ and ’Street Fighting Years’ were enormous records, particularly outside the UK. ‘Real Life’ too, which came out in the 90s. Some places didn’t get all of the British 80s music at the time, so they picked up on the bands much later. When we do shows in Spain and Portugal, for example, people go berserk when we start playing ‘Let There Be Love’, which was a single from ‘Real Life’. It’s like we’re doing ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’.”

Photo: Dean Chalkley

Simple Minds have flirted with various different styles of music from one album to another, but there has usually been a place for electronics in their sound. Even when they edged into more obviously guitar-based material in the late 1980s, at which point they were in full stadium band mode, they were never a rock outfit.
Not a conventional one, anyway.

“I hate power chords and we come down hard on ourselves if things start getting too rocky live,” declares Burchill. “I try to make music that’s melodic and colourful and atmospheric, so beyond the chords it’s about looking to create more space in the tracks. But, yes, the electronic side is a big part of what we do. I’ve got lots of fantastic pieces of synthy gear – VCS 3s, an old Elka Synthex, old Rolands… I’ve collected loads of it over the years. To be honest, I always wanted to be more of a keyboard player than a guitarist.”

“By its very nature, a guitar pulls you into the rock world,” says Kerr. “The language around it can get kind of clumsy, but I think we’re an art-rock band at our roots. I think you’d have to be an art-rock band to come up with songs like ‘Vision Thing’ and ‘Human Traffic’.”

Unlike many of their contemporaries, Simple Minds have never stopped recording new material, the longest gap between their studio albums being 60 months. They’ve also never stopped touring, taking to the road most years since 1978. The live band currently totals seven people – including sometime Heaven 17 keyboard player Berenice Scott and former Faders drummer Cherisse Osei – and they have clocked up more than 80 gigs this year alone, performing a set that lasts two-and-a-half hours. Jim Kerr’s description of himself and Charlie Burchill as “marathon men” seems very apt. Forces of nature and then some.

“Thankfully, Jim’s a monk,” laughs Burchill. “He doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t drink, he looks after himself, he sleeps all the time…”

What about you?

“Well, I do like my whisky,” he grins. “But it’s about managing yourselves.When you’re touring, you feel you’ve got to go out there and get a win. People who say they don’t experience that, I don’t think they are telling the truth. Even if you have a partisan audience, you’ve still got to get that reaction and then keep the levels up, so that becomes your drive.”

“One of the things we’ve been blessed with is energy,” states Kerr. “And when you think about it, it’s really all about energy – creative and physical – and desire. The desire to go somewhere and the energy to do it. Some people have said it’s the Protestant work ethic, but that’s not right because we are both Catholics. But it is true that, when Monday morning comes around, I’ll always be thinking, ‘OK, what are we going to do now?’.”

“Bang goes my free time,” sighs Burchill.

“The thing is, if you have a 40-year career, there’ll be times where you’re up and times when you’re down, when the energy isn’t what it once was, when no one’s interested in you,” continues Kerr. “I remember my dad asking me about this. I remember him saying, ‘How long is this going to last?’. And I said, ‘Look, if you’re lucky enough to be in a band that’s had success, you’ll probably get it in the neck when the next generation comes along, and it’ll be time to go away when everyone’s had enough of your schtick’. Then I said, ‘But if you can hang in there and not do anything too desperate, people might re-evaluate what you are doing, and maybe they’ll fancy you again, maybe they’ll be up for it again’. So my dad thought about that for a few seconds and then he went, ‘A bit like Hush Puppies?’.”

At which point, Kerr laughs so much, he can barely get his words out.

“I said to him, ‘Well, yeah, a bit like fucking Hush Puppies’. But he did sort of have a point. You know, nobody wants to touch them for years and then someone in Greenwich Village decides, ‘Hey, you know what? Hush Puppies are the thing’. So I suppose there’s some of that going on with Simple Minds. There’s a bit of Hush Puppies about us.”

Something else that has never stopped is Kerr getting on Burchill’s case. In a good way, of course.

“I’ll be sitting in my apartment and the call will come in,” says Burchill. “It’s like John Lennon and Ringo Starr when Paul McCartney was calling them all the time. I’ll be like, ‘Oh no, it’s him on the phone again’. It’s the same as it was when we were kids, you know, but this is how it works with us. So we’ll finish a tour, we’ll leave the band at the hotel, and Jim and I will have an early flight to Italy. We’ll be sitting on the plane at seven in the morning and he’ll turn to me and say, without any hint of irony, ‘You’d better get started on the next album when we get back’. And I’ll be like, ‘Hmmm’. Jim can see my apartment from his apartment, so I have to lay low when we get home, otherwise he’ll be coming round or calling up and saying, ‘I’ve had an idea…’. That’s usually how it starts.”

I suggest to Burchill that he needs to keep his blinds down.

“I know. I think I might need to get some sunglasses and a wig too.”

‘Direction Of The Heart’ is out on BMG

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