January 12, 2017 Interview – Simon Kirke of Bad Company
Through life’s ups and downs, there is always a beacon of light for everyone. For some, hope is found in love, for others it is in artistic impulses. For famed Rock-n-Roll Drummer Simon Kirke, music has always been the the focal point of his very being. Highly accomplished, Kirke is most often associated with Free and as the longest standing original member of Rock legends Bad Company.
Behind the kit for over five decades now, Kirke’s talents do not begin and end with drumming. Also a well-rounded songwriter, Kirke is a multi-instrumentalist as well with a bounty of original material up his sleeve. Anxious to release his newest solo album, All Because of You, on February 10, 2017, Kirke is set to impress beloved fans with a collection of songs straight from his heart. Recently we caught up with the busy Kirke to talk his career in music, the longevity of Bad Company, the work behind his new album, overcoming addiction, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in Rock-n-Roll professionally now for nearly five decades now. From your time in Free to Bad Company, you have attained a mass of success. Tell us, what has this fantastic journey been like?
Simon Kirke – My goodness, it has been pretty much everything I ever dreamed about when I was a kid in England. It has taken me all over the world. I have gotten to play with many wonderful musicians. I made some money, I lost some money, but it has always taken me through some dark periods. I have had a fifty year career, but the pluses outweigh the minuses many, many times.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it is easy for someone on the outside to look at a musician’s career, such as your own, and think it has always been a success, but that is not the case. This took you a lot of hard work through many years of ups and downs. What kept you driving forward through the more difficult times?
Simon Kirke – I love what I do, I love music. I think I am very lucky in that my career was not just limited to drumming. Although drumming is my first love, around the early ’70s I started playing piano. I have also always played guitar, it is a story I will try and put into the thumbnail sketch, but when I was a kid playing drums in the country, my neighbors started complaining about the noise. My family had to go to court and the judge said I could only play a half hour a day after I did my homework (laughs). Only practicing a half hour a day on the drums wasn’t enough for me. My brother, who was in the army, who was home on leave, had a little guitar he brought with him and I started playing that because it didn’t make any noise.
I have been playing guitar a long time and the bottom line is my music career expanded by learning piano and guitar. Through that I started to write songs. I think that gave me a longevity that wouldn’t had been quite as long if I hadn’t learned those instruments. I think I might have drummed myself out by my mid fifties, I don’t know. Learning those other instruments, and starting to write songs, has really helped me over the years.
CrypticRock.com – Diversifying is very important in any portion of life, and it absolutely appears to have helped you through the years. Bad Company are perhaps one of Rock’s most recognized bands of all-time. Through it all, you are in fact the only member of the band to be there from the beginning to present day. That said, what do you think has kept Bad Company alive all these years later?
Simon Kirke – I think, along with a handful of other groups from that era, a lot of people, not just in America, but all over the world, have grown up with us. We provided the soundtrack to a lot of people’s lives along with The Who, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, etc. There was that golden decade, from 1965 to 1975, where there was just the most amazing outpouring of groups and solo artists; I don’t think that decade will be replicated again. We are lucky enough to be in that decade.
We also have a lot of songs that people really love; “Shooting Star,” “Can’t Get Enough,” “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” “Movin’ On,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy,” and “Ready For Love.” If a band can cite two songs that people know and love, they are lucky. We have about seven or eight songs that people really know and love, we are very lucky; I think the songs are really the backbone of Bad Company’s success. We also have one of the best singers ever, Paul Rodgers, and we put on a pretty good live show, really good. We just finished tours of America and Europe and the live playing was some of the best I have ever experienced.
CrypticRock.com – That is great to hear. Agreed, it is the songs that stand the test of time. Beyond Bad Company, you have also toured with other acts in the past and are also an extremely accomplished songwriter. You now are set to return with your new solo album in February. What inspired All Because of You?
Simon Kirke – It is a tip of the hat to my fiance, Marie, who I met a few years ago. I was playing with Ronnie Wood at the Cutting Room in Manhattan and I was there for three nights. Marie was working there, I met her, and we fell in love. A lot of the songs on the album were inspired by her, hence the title, All Because of You. It shook me up, that was my main muse.
I had also written with a guy called Rob Taube; he is a New York songwriter, he contributed three songs we co-wrote together with another couple of songwriters from Nashville – Mark E. Barnowski and Judy Klass. It is a sort of mixture of songs taken from various aspects of my life. I went to Chicago and I met the Empty Pockets, it was a marriage made in heaven. We knocked the album out in less than week, maybe six actual recording days. We recorded eleven track, and here are the results.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds very exciting that you had that inspiration. One can imagine it is difficult to put aside the time to record an album when you are busy with other projects and touring as much as you have. Is it safe to say this album is a long time coming for yourself?
Simon Kirke – If I never made another album, I would be happy. I did two albums before, but they were kind of homespun. The first one was Seven Rays of Hope, which was recorded twelve years ago in my house in a little studio. They were kind of like demos, but I wanted to get them out, sort of like an exorcism. Then Filling The Void, which was done around six years ago, was a little better because I had musicians from New York to play on it. Once again, it was a little homespun, but I am very proud of it, I am very proud of both albums.
All Because of You was a departure, in that I used a complete band to back me up. I had the backing and blessing of The End Records and BMG. I managed to forge a Gospel choir on one song, spring quartet on another, various session musicians, Warren Haynes played on one track. That was a real album properly done by professionals, I am really proud of it.
CrypticRock.com – It will be interesting hear fans’ reactions to the record once it is released on February 10th. Seeing you did touring with Bad Company through the summer of 2016, is there a chance you will be hitting the road with the Empty Pockets to tour this collection of songs?
Simon Kirke – Absolutely, I am so looking forward to it. I know the venues will be a lot smaller than I am used to playing in Bad Company, but it doesn’t matter. I am fully committed to publicizing this album. I did a few shows with the Empty Pockets already, they are a wonderful band, they are a lot younger than me, but a lot of people are a lot younger than me nowadays (laughs). That doesn’t matter, they are all amazing musicians, we get along very well, and they complement my playing.
They taught me how to sing, my singing has always been ok, nothing special, but I really tried on this album. I am really proud of my vocals on this album, thanks to Josh, the leader of the Empty Pockets, and his wife Erika, who are very accomplished singers. They gave me some vocal exercises and warmups to do before each vocal sessions and I am very pleased with the results.
CrypticRock.com – You do a very fine job with the vocals on the record. Amidst the tracks, you do a very interesting version of Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love” on a ukulele. What inspired this rendition?
Simon Kirke – I bought a ukulele in middle of 2015 and I was just playing around with it. Out of the blue I started singing the verse to “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” Maria, was in the apartment and said it sounds nice, what is it? I told her it was a Bad Company song. She is a bit younger than me, so she wasn’t really familiar with the original version. She said, “It is lovely, you should really do it on stage.” I said, “Whoa, hold on, this is one of Bad Company’s iconic songs, do it in a Reggae version?” She said, “I don’t care who did it, it is really good and you should do it on stage.”
I sent an Mp3 demo to the Empty Pockets and they loved it. Then we did a treatment, the treatment you hear on the album. Then, of course, I had to send it to Mick and Paul who wrote the song to get their blessing, they both liked it and said, “Go ahead.” That is how it came about. I was a little reluctant because it is such a popular song by Bad Company. To give it a Reggae treatment, I was sort of crossing my fingers. I am actually very happy with it.
CrypticRock.com – It is a different take and it came out wonderful. It certainly gives the song a new dynamic. Outside music, you have also reached out to help teenagers recover from addictions. How did you become involved with this project?
Simon Kirke – I am in recovery myself. Around nine years ago, someone put me in touch with Road Recovery, which is based in New York. We help, not just teenagers, although most the people there are youngsters, between their twenties and thirties. We have meetings and after the meetings we sit down and play songs. A lot of them have musical talents, even the ones who don’t, we give them a tambourine or give them something to sing. The results have been pretty amazing. We have other musicians on the board, Kirk Hammett of Metallica, John Taylor of Duran Duran, Peter Frampton has helped out, Slash has helped out. It is a wonderful little organization.
The other one I am involved with is Right Turn, which is up in Watertown, Massachusetts. We deal with more, older patients, not just restricted to artists or musicians, anyone who needs help. That is Right Turn.
CrypticRock.com – These are very important organizations to be a part of. In the culture we live in, many people suffer with addictions. It does not just need to be limited to substances. As a modern culture filled with excess, there are many addictions people are suffer with.
Simon Kirke – True, especially here in the northeast. The explosion of opiates addiction is shocking. It is something we have to live with. Every generation has their cross to bare, it seems my generation, the new generation, and today’s generation has the same cross and monkey on their back. There is no rhyme or reason why it happens. We had lost one of the greatest musicians earlier in 2016, Prince. It was a complete shock he had become addicted to fentanyl and percocet out of the blue. One of the great minds of this generation circumed and he was found dead in an elevator. It just shows you how quickly this disease, and it is a disease, can strike anyone, regardless of race, creed, or religion.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it is very true. It is great that you and others are taking steps to help one another battle through addictions. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of these genres, what are some of your favorite films?
Simon Kirke – Quite honestly, I am not very big Sci-Fi or Horror lover. My knowledge of those films is very limited. I liked 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). I was never really into The Texas Chainsaw Massacre genre, so I can’t really help you out there, I am sorry.
CrypticRock.com – The genres are not for everyone. Do you have any particular type of films you do enjoy?
Simon Kirke – Not really. I remember, years ago, I think Miles Davis said there are two types of music, good and bad. I think that relates to movies for me, there are two types of movies, good and bad, regardless of the genre. I do want to see La La Land (2016).