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Back to the future

Kaiser Chiefs
Kaiser Chiefs

After a few years away, Kaiser Chiefs came back refreshed with an idea that could change music. It turns out Kent had a part to play in their rejuvenation, as Chris Price found out.

After five years of recording and touring, the Kaiser Chiefs resolved to take a hard earned break. It worked wonders for the five-piece from Leeds, as they came back with an idea that could revolutionise the way bands make music in the future.

Their fourth album, The Future is Medieval, gave fans the chance to create their own 10 track record on the band’s website, from a list of 20. Those who downloaded it could also put their version on the band’s website and earned £1 for every time someone bought their compilation.

Set to release The Future is Medieval in the US next month and in the middle of their first UK tour since 2009, the Kaiser Chiefs are certainly on a roll. The recharging of their batteries is in part thanks to Kent, as bassist Simon Rix explained.

“One of my favourite places in the world is Dungeness,” he said, having spent some of his time off on days out there from his home in London, during the band’s hiatus.

“I went there the other day. It is very surreal but I enjoyed it. Also my girlfriend and I went to Ramsgate for the last bank holiday weekend. It was excellent. My girlfriend is from the seaside so we really like traditional English beaches.”

Although digital sales of their fourth record where a success, making it a top 10 album, physical CD sales were lower than hoped for the band, whose hits include Ruby and I Predict A Riot.

“In the end, although we always planned to release a CD, it would have been better if we had released both at the same time,” said Simon.

“The reaction to the website was amazing. We had amazing coverage in the New York Times and NME said we had 'changed music.’ They were amazing articles.

“It is hard to stand out from the crowd and that was what we were trying to do. It was brave and I admire everyone on our label for saying it was a good idea and getting on with it.

“It was a gimmick in a way but it also wasn’t. It was a marketing thing – we knew if we did something massive we would get big headlines.

“But that is only part of it. It was also a creative thing to do. The website we made was cool and different. Without the idea for the release we wouldn’t have written the songs in the same way. It was a way of inspiring us to make songs.”

After performing in Kent on their UK tour, the Kaisers have less than a fortnight to gather themselves between their last gig at London’s Hammersmith Apollo and setting off to the US for 13 dates.

Yet the American issue of The Future is Medieval, out on Tuesday, March 6, has been retitled Start The Revolution Without Me and will include five new tracks and new album artwork.

Shunning the accusation the band are indecisive, Simon insists the revamp is an opportunist move, making a positive out of the fact their original record label in the US went out of business shortly before the UK release date nine months ago.

He said: “It felt strange releasing the same album again so we came up with the idea of refreshing it. It gave us the chance to redo the artwork and give it a once over.”

Passing control to the fans

Although lauded by many critics as revolutionising the way fans can download music, the Kaiser Chiefs accept their first attempt at a build-your-own-album website was far from perfect.

“The website was good because it was unique but if we did it again we would not do the whole thing where you can export the album and sell it on for £1,” said Simon.

“A lot of people didn’t do it and that cost the most money to sort out. Because the website was so good, everyone just did their own. We thought it was a good idea but you only find out these things by doing it.”

Kaiser Chiefs perform at Folkestone’s Leas Cliff Hall on Sunday, February 19. Tickets £26. Box office 0844 871 7627.

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