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Jim Kerr: 'Life only makes sense to me when making music'

The Conversation

By Adam Jacques

The Scottish rocker on his council high-rise, his love of hiking, public transport and the Ikea in Sicily.

Q: Will there ever be another band like The Who again?

A: I grew up with their music, and when I saw them recently (as part of a run billed as their last big tour) I felt emotional because I realised that it really is the end of an era for them - and for bands such as Simple Minds, as well. They came from a time and a place and a mentality that is not there any more. So when I heard them pounding out of the PA, I felt tinged with a sadness.

Q: You lived in a high-rise council flat in Glasgow - what was that like?

A: I was happy living in that flat up until our sixth album. We were on tour most of the time anyway, so I wasn't there much. I certainly didn't take any girls I met back there, though. I went to theirs instead - you don't want to blow the illusion. Nowadays, the only material thing that I really don't want to lose is my house - I don't want to go back to that flat.

Q: What are you proud of?

A: The fact that we never gave up. In the Nineties, when the wheels came off Simple Minds, we'd pass a stadium we had once filled - on our way to a club we had half-filled - and I came perilously close to quitting. After a comparatively short space of time, I had a feeling that I had nothing left to give. But I learnt about why I was doing it - not to be popular, nor the rewards and riches. I realised that I did it because it was who I was, and it's only through that prism of making music that life made sense to me. And in the past 10 years we've made several more albums.

Q: I hear you have taken up walking? What do you like about it?

A: Hiking is the antithesis of a life on the road. When I'm touring, everything is so structured and I'm surrounded by people all the time, so I love walking on my own in the open air in the countryside. The two places where I spend most of my time are Scotland and Sicily. In Glasgow, sure you've got to put up with the weather, but I'm just an hour from being in the middle of nowhere.

Q: Has the world lost its sense of wonder?

A: Like most people, I love the convenience of budget travel. But it's all easier and all on demand, so there's less of that sense of exhilaration. You land at Catania airport, at the very top of Sicily, and you see an Ikea. And everyone there is buying the same lamp that you bought in Glasgow last week. Though I'm well aware I'm part of that globalisation, too, as we make music and try to get it adopted in every part of the world.

Q: Which country in the world exhilarates you?

A: Going to Turkey. If I'm sitting in the middle of Istanbul and I see the Bosphorus, see the skyline and see where East meets West - that still gets me excited.

Q: Is the world a more dangerous place now?

A: We think everything is going to get us. I remember getting a call two years ago from my son's mum (the actress Patsy Kensit), when he was 20. She was asking if it was okay for him to go to some dance festival in Croatia, saying: "He's going to go on a bus to Croatia, they crash all the time." I was like: "Get over it - my father was bombed in Sicily when he was 19." We all watch 24-hour news that tells us all these monsters are out there - and they are. But you've got more chance of winning the lottery.

Q: What winds you up?

A: Bad manners on public transport. I was on a train recently and there was a guy sitting on the phone the whole way, rabbiting away. I had to say: "Do we have to listen to you the whole journey - give us a break." He could have punched me out.

The plug 

Jim Kerr (56), is the lead singer of Simple Minds, whose upcoming UK tour runs from November 26 to December 1 (

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