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Kaiser Chiefs

Current Members

Ricky Wilson, Andrew "Whitey" White, Simon Rix, Nick "Peanut" Baines, Nick Hodgson

Sometimes the greatest success stories sprout from the tiniest of ambitions. When Kaiser Chiefs formed up in not-so-sunny Leeds around the summer of 2003, their aim wasn't to conquer stadiums and change the world. Instead, these five Britpop-obsessed oddballs began plotting a rather more modest plan. In the shadowy corners of clubs and venues across the city Ricky Wilson (lead vocals, owner of stylish blue and orange suit), Andrew "Whitey" White (guitar), Simon Rix (bass), Nick "Peanut" Baines (keyboards and modeller of impressive pork-pie hats) and Nick Hodgson (drums and vocals) decided to form a band that would harness the awesome capability of being able to, erm, bag an early slot at the following year's Leeds Festival.

Impressive, eh? They achieved it without breaking sweat, naturally, but with it came a whole lot more. 18 months down the line and the boys have gatecrashed the proper UK singles charts, laid waste to huge crowds as far away as Moscow and played triumphant support slots with Franz Ferdinand.

Kaisers story actually begins some time before they'd decided to name themselves after a successful South African football team. School friends Simon, Peanut and Nick had been playing together in various bands since the age of 15 before spying art school graduate and restless-ball-of-energy Ricky singing with a Rolling Stones tribute band. Initially Ricky refused their invitation to join the ranks, but eventually he relented. "I don't know why," laughs Nick. "We didn't have any songs at the time."

After immersing themselves in the buzzing Leeds scene, Ricky and Nick started hosting legendary electro-punk bash Pigs, which pulls in an assortment of stylish freaks each month. It's a night that's passed into Leeds folklore: wild-eyed regulars still recount tales of stage invasions, drunkenness and how the bouncers banned Nick from finishing a night with Motorhead's Ace Of Spades because it was inciting too much carnage (it's a rule they swiftly broke). Of course, being at the core of this country's most vibrant local music scene made the band realise they had to raise their game musically. And so, after a particularly heated crisis meeting, they agreed that, if they were ever to secure that Leeds Festival spot, they had to start afresh.

They rapidly went about changing everything, which meant a new name ("It was the only one suggested that we didn't all hate") and ditching all their old songs. "It was like seeing the light," says Ricky. "We'd been trying so hard to fit in that we'd lost sight of what we were best at, not fitting in." "Not fitting in," it seems, involved crafting world-beating pop songs about lout-filled city streets at closing time and relationships-gone-wonky. Songs that could only have been written by observing the peculiarities of life in Northern England, and songs whose sound sparkled with the sound of Madness and The Kinks to Roxy Music and Blur.

"We just got fed up of all these dreadful bands coming over from abroad" says Nick. Ricky nods: "We stopped singing about working on a railroad and going to high school proms and starting writing about being broke in Leeds, Hyde Park." It struck a chord.

First, the self-financed single, on indie label DrownedinSound, "Oh My God" made number 66 in the charts despite the fact it was a limited release recorded in Nick's bedroom. The follow up "I Predict A Riot" (their first proper release after signing to B-Unique) shot straight to the fringes of the Top 20. Elsewhere they inked US and Japanese deals with Universal, and became one of a handful of UK bands playlisted by influential US rock radio station KROQ.

Even their beloved Leeds United started blasting them out of the stadium speakers. With all this going on, it's hardly surprising that they were picked to open the NME Awards Tour 2005: a slot that's previously helped set bands like Coldplay and Franz on their way to stardom. Right now, everybody wants a piece of the Kaiser Chiefs. Blur producer Stephen Street was so bowled over he offered his services for debut album "Employment."

A barrage of bouncing art-pop brilliant, it's scheduled to soundtrack 2005 from the minute it hits stereos this March. But with all these achievements behind their belts already, and acclaim oozing from the media on both sides of the Atlantic at the start of the New Year what could be next for the Kaisers? "I won't stop until I've got an apartment in every major city in the world," reckons Ricky. "New York. Helsinki. And Harrogate. Also, I want all my ex-girlfriends to recognise me on Top Of The Pops. But above all, I want to get a new filling for my tooth." Ask 'em again in 12 months and you can bet it'll be time to start making even loftier plans. (Tim Jonze)


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Kaiser Chiefs is not currently touring. Check the Tours Section for previous Kaiser Chiefs tours.


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in UK: paddy@badmoon.co.uk
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