Kaiser Chiefs: A riotous assembly

Kaiser Chiefs' first album made the Leeds band overnight stars. Now a 'scrapbook' reveals what was happening behind the scenes. Charlotte Cripps reports
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The new Kaiser Chiefs scrapbook, A Record of Employment, is a cut-and-paste photo-journal with words, documenting the life of the band over the past 18 months.

Kaiser Chiefs' singer-songwriter, Ricky Wilson, says his favourite snap is of him standing next to Madonna, at the Brits 2006, as the band collected three awards [Best British Rock Act, Best British Live Act, and Best British Group]. "Madonna looks like she is holding me up because I was pretty drunk at the Brits," says Wilson. "We have never made a good acceptance speech, which is something we should do because we are always winning awards. But when I went to make a speech at the Brits, Nick [Hodgson, the Kaiser Chiefs' drummer] took the microphone and he said something rubbish."

The scrapbook, with photographs taken by Peter Hill, is full of vital information from the early days, such as when keyboard player, Nick "Peanut" Baines wore his white scarf, and how Wilson would threw up on stage every time he went on and off because he was so nervous. The band talk about memories of early gigs in London - "made worse because we had these stupid day jobs... but it was exciting because we were getting a team together and getting some fans together," says Wilson. It covers the recording of their first album, Employment, which has sold more than 1.7 million copies, the release of their hit single, "I Predict a Riot", playing at the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia as one of only two British acts to perform there, and Glastonbury, along with titbits from music industry insiders.

The"annual" as Wilson calls it, is also bursting with photographs of the story so far, including Wilson in a wheelchair after stage diving and hurting his ankle. There are scribbled lists of songs and potential band names, pictures of the bass player, Simon Rix, posing in a red Porsche sweatshirt ("Simon hopes that one day this top will get him a free Porsche'" says Wilson), while Andrew "Whitey" White plays guitar: "I knew we had made it when Whitey got a plectrum holder. Actually, I knew we had made it when he got a spare plectrum," says Wilson. There are the usual snaps of screaming girls: "I actually once had teeth marks once where I'd got bitten" says Wilson.

Kaiser Chiefs went back home to Leeds in February 2006 to write their second album. Until then, the band had been on the road for most of the time. "It has been pretty exhausting really," says Wilson. "The fact that this year we came back to a rehearsal room in Leeds and wrote a second album, it was like nothing had changed. We had been around the world. We had seen a lot of things. It had opened our eyes. But when it was just the five of us alone again, it was really nice writing songs together. In London, New York and Tokyo, we are pop stars. When we are at home for Sunday lunch, we are not pop stars anymore."

The first entries in the scrapbook show the band wearing stripy blazers. "The climate has certainly changed since we first started. Indie bands are now in the top five and have top-selling albums. Two years ago indie bands were hovering around the Top 30," says Wilson. And have his nerves got better? "When you play live all the time for 18 months, you stop worrying about it so much." Wilson always believed success was going to happen, so it has not been a shock. "We can be playing in front of 50,000 people in an arena and I'm thinking about Peanut wearing a scarf, rather than how amazing our journey as a band has been. Instead of getting awestruck, you get a new level of reality. We are still the same normal five boys from Leeds." Being on the road can be mundane. "It is a myth that you get met by screaming fans at airports," says Wilson. "My worst memory is returning from Australia. We sat on the runway for seven hours waiting to take off and then we were taken off the plane and put in a hotel overnight. It was a nightmare."

Wilson is super-confident that the new album (the name is top secret) is even better than the first. The band have been trying out some of the new songs at festivals over the summer, including "Everything Is Average These Days" and "Heat Dies Down". He is now very excited about playing at Leeds and Reading festivals. "I take things in my stride, otherwise it would be very difficult for me,' he says. "If I was gobsmacked by every good thing that happens, I would send myself barmy."

'Kaiser Chiefs, A Record Of Employment' is published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Readers of 'The Independent' may order copies for the special price of £11.99 (rrp £14.99) including free postage and packing (UK only, overseas add £1.60) by calling +44 (0)1903 828503 and quoting ref no JA89

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