Kaiser Chiefs and Bill Nighy write modern day anti-war poem for the World War One centenary

 

The poems of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves vividly depicted the horrors of World War One.

Now the actor Bill Nighy and Ricky Wilson of the Kaiser Chiefs have collaborated to create a 21st century “war poem” which aims to deliver a similarly poignant reflection on modern-day conflicts.

Inspired by the First World War centenary, Wilson, the Kaiser Chiefs singer and coach on BBC talent show The Voice, penned The Occupation, an allusive poem which references the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Upon reading the poem, which describes “the occupation of Damnation Eternal”, that “came at costs that would beggar belief” and includes Orwellian descriptions of factories pumping out weapons “into purpose built lead-lined white vans”, Nighy asked to record a narration of the verses.

The Occupation will feature as a stand-alone poetry track on the new Kaiser Chiefs album, Education, Education, Education & War – its title a reference to Tony Blair’s famous 1997 election pledge – released this month.

The poem is backed by an ambient soundtrack of battlefield noises, calls to prayer and a parliamentary hubbub. Nighy adopts a Blair-type politician’s verse for one verse.

The Occupation speaks of infidels dropping to their knees, pipelines which will “run the place dry” and “a plan to abandon the planet. One V.I.P at a time.”

Nighy, a Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan fan, said: “I was intrigued by the concept and I admired the poem. And I dig those crazy rhythms.”

The band, famed for their hit I Predict A Riot, admit that inserting a two-minute slice of war poetry into a rock album is a risk.

Wilson told The Independent: “When I was writing the lyrics for the record, the whole World War One centenary thing was flying around. So if you’re writing honestly, it’s going to leak in there.

“I wrote the poem as an exercise originally. The original story was an imaginary assault by a superpower – not necessarily the USA, trying to take over Hell. They are invading Hell, wiping out Hell. Then going ‘now what do we do, where do we go next?’”

The band’s artwork director Cally Callomon first showed the poem to Nighy. Wilson said: “I don’t think any of us could have recorded it. Bill’s voice is perfect, it has a lysergic quality.

“We got him to read it in lots of different ways – bored, excited, angry, smarmy. He switched round a couple of the lines. Cally edited it together as a mood poem.”

Wilson said the poem could be about “World War One, or Afghanistan or space travel. When you study poetry at school, you’re told what it’s about by your revision aid and you go ‘that’s not what I got out of it at all’. I want people to get out of it what they get out of it.”

Bassist Simon Rix added: “We wondered if we were allowed to do this on an album. We don’t know if people are going to turn off. But it’s powerful and it makes the album more than just a collection of songs.” Wilson said: “We’re in a rock band, we’re allowed to break the rules.”

The band hope to introduce a dose of politics back to the charts. They refused to share a Green Room with Ukip leader Nigel Farage, when they appeared on the BBC1 Andrew Marr show last Sunday.

Wilson said: “We weren’t going to drop a sheep on him. It’s not worth it. All we wanted to do was not to meet him and not to look him in the eye. But we don’t want to be politicians, we want to be rock stars.”

Rix said: “It’s good for us to make a statement. I wore a Rock Against Racism T-shirt after the Marr show and tweeted it. I don’t know if Farage is a racist, that’s for others to decide. We’re not just talking about drunken nights out in Leeds any more. We’re more worldly.”

The album’s lyrics mock the new Labour era, decrying leaders who “toast themselves with the blood of us all, Smashing regimes between courses, chanting ‘education, education, education & war.’”

Wilson said: “We’re talking about the same kind of things Russell Brand raised in that Paxman interview. It’s more about the futility of it all. We’re entitled to a feeling of unease with power.

“It might seem political but its more social observation really, what’s around us. That’s what bands that don’t write love songs do. We’ve shied away from it since our first two albums.”

The Occupation

The occupation of Damnation Eternal

Decreed by Commander in Chief

Won by the infantry, led by the Colonel

Came at costs that would beggar belief

As they marched upon the inferno

And the infidels dropped to their knees

Millions of civilians crammed in pavilions

Came to watch it on big screen TVs

The population of Damnation Eternal

Went from millions to thousands to one

The survivor then wrote in his journal

"Why on Earth did it take them so long?"

Within weeks we constructed a pipeline

Within years we'll have run the place dry

It'll just about last us our lifetime

So it's hip hip hoorays and high fives

On the factory floor there's a whisper

We built cannons before it began

But the engines still pumping its piston

And the turbine still whirring its fan

The assembly line spits out the surplus

Into purpose built lead lined white vans

Rockets stockpile as ministry workers

Fill their pockets with all that they can

Secret meetings are held in the senate

What to do with this excess supply

There's a plan to abandon the planet

One V.I.P at a time

So we get up each day and have breakfast

Read the news and the weather forecast

As we sit and we open our letters

And we pray that it won't be our last.

Words by Ricky Wilson, narration by Bill Nighy, production by Cally, published by Imagem Music Publishing

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster