Kaiser Chiefs Interview
Squinting my eyes in the bright sunlight, I sat outside of Berbati’s
Pan, waiting to do my interview with the Kaiser Chiefs as they
soundchecked. Located in the Burnside district of Portland, Oregon,
this venue has an atmosphere all to its own. Populated by junkies, the
homeless, and assorted loons, any foray into Burnside is bound to be
an interesting experience. I have only been here for an hour, and I am
already making friends – without trying.
“So are you like Spider-Man?”
I blink. A young man is standing in front of me, having struck up a
conversation by asking what I was doing there. When I replied that I
was a journalist, he made the Spider-Man connection.
“You know, because Spider-Man was one of those people…you know, who, uh…”
“Yeah! A writer!”
(However, the gentleman I was speaking to seemed unaware that Spider-Man was, in fact, a photographer, not a writer.)
This is the glamour of music journalism in Portland.
“It’s my kinda town!” says Ricky Wilson, who is very far away from
Leeds. Lead singer of the Kaiser Chiefs, he has traveled all over the
US on tour – this is his fourth time in America. And now, he is
standing outside of a place called “Voodoo Donuts” as we begin our
interview. Ignoring the various ne’er-do-wells lingering on the
street, I ask Wilson where they started this leg of the tour.
“We landed in, uh…I’ve no idea. Somewhere south of New York. New
Jersey! It was weird. It’s a deserted seaside town.” But this
northerner is having no trouble acclimating to the west coast. “I love
Portland!” he proclaims, telling me about his shopping trip up
Burnside. He says the rest of the band bought guitars in a local
music store, and has no idea how they’ll get them back into the UK.
“We shop a lot,” notes guitarist Andrew “Whitey” White. “You get more
for your money.” His first impression of America was “Very big, very
cheap – not the people, just the money. And everything comes with
Getting used to American eating has been tough for Wilson. “It’s still
too much. I always seem to end up having ribs, which is really bad for
me. I’ve gone up a trouser size!”
Harder still for Wilson is spending so much time away from his
girlfriend. “It’s hard on both of us. But it’s what I’ve wanted to do
for a long time, and she understands that it’s important. Maybe in a
couple of years time I’ll be able to buy her very expensive things,
and then she won’t be crying anymore.”
And how about his statement on the band’s official website, saying
that one of his goals was to be recognized on telly by all of his
“Now I have been, and it’s kind of embarrassing. I don’t like it. It’s
not as fun as I thought it’d be.”
Nick “Peanut” Baines, keyboardist, had the equally worthy goal
of acquiring groupies. Has that been as successful?
“No groupies yet,” admits Wilson. “I talk about my girlfriend too
much. I put up a steel wall!”
Despite the steel wall, there are many would-be groupies on the
Internet. Fansites and messageboards dedicated to the band are
plentiful, with fans converging to discuss everything Kaiser Chiefs
related. One of the most recent topics of debate for the fans has been
Wilson’s recently grown beard. “Have they? Do people not like it? I
like it. It means a lot less stress for me,” Wilson says, obviously
not a fan of razors.
Despite the fanbase’s division over Wilson’s facial hair, there is one
thing they can come together for – their love of Peanut’s pork-pie
hats. Does Peanut realize that there is an entire community online
dedicated solely to his hat?
“Really? Where?! I am quite vain, I do look for things about myself on
the Internet.” He asks if it’s “In kind terms,” and I reassure him
that the fans love his hats greatly. Apparently, he already has his
own diary on the site where “Peanut’s Hat” is hosted
(Livejournal.com), so you can be sure that determined fans are
searching for it as we speak.
But the inquiring fan must know: how did Peanut get his name? Why not Walnut?
“It was my nickname from school – from when I was 10 years old. We had
to draw a picture of ourselves in class. I’m rubbish at art, so I drew
it, and the head looked like a peanut. I even threw it away, and [yet]
someone found it, and that was it. That was nearly 17 years ago now.”
That must have been quite the self-portrait. “Yeah, maybe it was a
Despite his art career being short lived, Baines is having much better
luck with his musical forays. And 17 years later, the peanut-headed
boy from Leeds is in glamourous America – or at least Burnside.
“I like it round here,” says Wilson, as we finish our
interview. Saying goodbye and promising to wave to me during the show
later that evening, Wilson crosses the street and walks into the
Cheifs’ tour bus, parked by a dumpster and homeless cross-dressers.