Given the success enjoyed by the Kaiser Chiefs over the years some might be surprised to learn the band still meet and rehearse in Leeds.
Ricky Wilson, 44, and his bandmates have three BRIT awards, an Ivor Novello award for Album of the Year and have sold over 8m albums worldwide. But when they are active they meet at Old Chapel Music Studios in Holbeck - this is where the band invited LeedsLive to discuss their huge upcoming arena tour.
The studio is referred to as the "base of the Kaiser Chiefs". At the Old Chapel, there’s even a special chair reserved for lead singer Ricky.
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“We’ve been in this building for over 20 years. This very chair, I’ve sat in for that amount of time,” joked Ricky.
“It nearly got thrown out, which I was devastated about.”
The Kaisers, who came to fame with debut album Employment, in 2005, are one of this generation’s best-known bands with a string of hits to their name. Undisputed calling cards include Ruby, I Predict a Riot and Oh My God with those and more all prompting raucous singalongs during gigs.
Fronted by the Ricky there’s also Simon Rix on bass, Andrew ‘Whitey’ White on guitar, Nick ‘Peanut’ Baines on keyboards and drummer Vijay Mistry. Nick Hodgson was previously in Kaiser Chiefs before leaving in 2012.
Simon, who is known for putting together the setlists for the band’s live shows, told us about the importance of the Old Chapel to the band. Simon explained: “We were in this old building pre-smoking ban and then it was a smokey traditional style rehearsal room. Ruby was number one and we were getting here and we’d get set up and have a chat, do some songwriting and pack it all back in the cupboard.
“It was only 10 years or so ago we got our own room which we felt was important. We all, apart from Ricky who is showbiz, live in Leeds and this is the base of the Kaisers. Ricky is on exchange or something.”
Clearly, despite being a band together for 20 years the camaraderie between the bandmates still remains. Ricky, who has been a coach on The Voice and presented a number of radio shows, interjected: “I parachute in, f**k s**t up and then go again.”
Ahead of the band’s big arena tour, which will see them play Leeds First Direct Arena on Saturday, November 12, Ricky confirmed the band will be in the Holbeck studio working on new material. Ricky explained: “We are always looking towards new music - you don’t stop. It isn’t something you turn off and on. We are always doing something new and there will be something new for November.
“Hopefully, it will be finished. Booking a tour helps us into gear and you will hear something new before the show.”
The charismatic lead singer and his bandmates have seen the process of making music change dramatically over the last two decades. The instantaneous way we now tend to consume music is something Ricky favours.
He said: “Making music is a lot more flexible than it used to be. It used to be all about deadlines and hitting targets. Now you can do what you want when you want which suits us down to the ground because we are either very productive or very lazy. We haven’t hit the middle ground yet. We are inconsistent as we have been for the last 20 years. You don’t mess with the format.”
As most will know, Kaiser Chiefs are steeped in football folklore taking their name from South African club Kaizer Chiefs - inspired by the history of Leeds United icon Lucas Radebe. They are some of Leeds United’s most famous fans. Back in 2019, the band headlined a packed day of music performing to over 16,000 people at Elland Road to celebrate Leeds United’s centenary.
This is a memory which holds a special place in the musicians’ hearts. It saw football icon, and former Whites star, Chris Kamara introduce Kaiser Chiefs to the stage.
Bass player Simon said: “That show feels so long ago, like it was 10-years-ago, but I always think that show was really weird. We planned that show as a celebration of Leeds United and our album was going to be out - so it felt like a moment of celebration.
“What actually happened was Leeds didn’t get promoted and our album (Duck) didn’t come out until September. There was a brief ‘what’s the point of this gig?’ which then became obvious.
“The point was to cheer everybody up. We got on stage and it felt amazing. It was a celebration of Leeds and that triumph over adversity with everyone being a bit upset about not getting promoted.”
Simon, who like many Leeds United supporters was sad to see former manager Marcelo Bielsa recently leave the club, joked about the Kaisers’ role of inspiring Leeds United’s Premier League return under the adored Argentine. He said: “I’m giving us lots of credit here but that felt like the start of everything. Us and Bielsa, we were the most important people.”
Humour is an underlying theme throughout this launch for the band’s latest tour. When asked about the significance of a homecoming gig, Ricky asserted: “You don’t tend to worry about the show but you are more worried about auntie June saying she’s at entrance B3 talking to a man with a moustache who doesn’t know where the seat is. You are left there going ‘neither do I’.”
Kaiser Chiefs are most certainly Leeds’ band and it is evident that’s something the group are incredibly proud about but it doesn’t come without pressure. Simon said: “It is the hardest gig. For example, if you’re playing in Brighton, you’ll go there, have a nice time and play a show. But when we are in Leeds, it is one of the best gigs because of the crowd but you’ve got to sort out the guestlist, see your mum and dad."
Keyboard player Peanut added: “There’s this huge expectation we are going to arrive in a spaceship in Leeds. We want every gig on the tour to be great but equally when you come home to Leeds you know you’re home.
“I’m terrible for this but I think we should turn our phones off. We’d have a much better gig and tell people if you haven’t sorted out your guestlist, you’ve f**ked it.”
Last year, the band returned to playing live to crowds after the coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a halt for so long. One of the Kaiser Chiefs comeback performances was at The Piece Hall in Halifax.
Simon explained: “It was really nice to get back to playing. From being in this room or at Halifax Piece Hall, for us to play together and do what we enjoy doing. Halifax was about the third weekend we did after the first set of restrictions went down and it felt like everybody was desperate to have a good time.”
Peanut added: “We get good crowds anyways but you could feel it was an extra level up from everybody - us included. You walk out in front of the crowd and you’re feeling ‘there’s something extra special here’.”
To those catching the Kaisers in Leeds, later this year, they’ll be treated to all the big hits, a few new songs and possibly a rare airing of lesser-heard album tracks. Paying tribute to those in Leeds and across Yorkshire, who love the band, said: “We can’t do it without you and it would be a really empty experience without you there. Any gig is a thank you to the support the fans give us.”
Finishing on a Joke, Ricky, in deadpan-style, quipped: “We probably know 75 per cent of the audience (coming to the Leeds show) anyways. So, if there’s a message for them it is ‘probably don’t ring us after 5pm’.”
If you’d love to see Kaiser Chiefs on tour then they are playing lots of UK venues later this year. As well as Leeds, you’ll be able to see them play in Birmingham, Glasgow and Liverpool among other locations.
Fans look set to enjoy sets filled with classic songs and the band are currently also working on new material. You can see the full list of tour dates below:
- Swansea Arena - November 2
- Cardiff Motorpoint Arena - November 3
- The O2, London - November 5
- Newcastle O2 City Hall - November 7
- Hull Bonus Arena - November 8
- Liverpool M&S Bank Arena - November 10
- Glasgow OVO Hydro - November 11
- Leeds First Direct Arena - November 12
- Brighton Centre - November 14
- Plymouth Pavilions - November 15
- Bournemouth International Centre - November 17
- Birmingham Utilita Arena - November 18
- Nottingham Motorpoint Arena - November 19
If you want to see Kaiser Chiefs on tour then you’ll be able to get your hands on tickets soon. You can buy them from 9am on Friday, March 25.
You’ll be able to get tickets from Gigs and Tours as well as Ticketmaster. You can visit our What’s On homepage for the latest big gig news.