Kula Shaker’s Crispian Mills on that big ‘K’ reunion tour, Kendrick Lamar and revisiting his youth

It's twenty years since Kula Shaker released their classic album 'K'.

To mark the anniversary of their 1996 album, Kula Shaker have taken to the road, bringing classic 90s anthems like ‘Hey Dude’ and ‘303’ to venues around the UK. Frontman, Crispian Mills, tells us what it’s like to revisit his youth.

What made you decide to tour ‘K’? 

Well, we were touring with ‘K 2.0’ –  this year was a bit of an anniversary experience for us anyway – and then somebody suggested we tour ‘K’. Primal Scream had done ‘Screamdelica’ and people had enjoyed it. We weren’t sure about it to be honest, it seemed a bit too rooted in the past but when I saw that Carole King was doing ‘Tapestry’ I thought “that’s alright, I’d like to see that” and in a punters headspace, of course it makes sense. It was an album that was written to be played in sequence and we’d never played it like that and I don’t know why. We weren’t confident enough to do that back then.

Did you have concerns about how to do it in way that didn’t seem cheesy?

We just didn’t want it to be pure nostalgia which is what the idea felt like initially. But it actually fits perfectly with what we’re doing [with ‘K 2.0’] and we’ve had a lot of fun with it.

What memories has it unearthed? Did you find it hard to connect to the songs?

All that music was written at the dawn of my adult life. I was 19/20/21 years old and that’s the doorway into the world of grown-ups and the songs are all about that passage and the excitement and confusion and terror of having to go into this uncertain world. Going back to it now that I’ve got kids myself has been a very illuminating experience. You realise how much wisdom there is in that innocence. It’s taught me a lot and I really value those songs.

What has it taught you?

Well, it’s personal but it’s about that drive to understand your place in the world and see its meaning  – that’s really what life is about and it’s easy to let the responsibilites of adult life start to drag you into the mundane forget all of the magic and possibility of those years. You have to keep reminding yourself that life is a mystery and a miracle.

You have a new album. How was it getting back in the studio and what’s the response to it been like?

It’s really surprising because with the ‘K’ tour, I expected that at least half of the audience would be fans from the late 90s, there for the nostalgia. But it’s been much more of a complete Kula Shaker fan base.

It dawned on me that we’ve become the band that we imagined The Grateful Dead were, operating outside of the business and the mainstream, with its own hardcore fans and gigs with a very unique experience. We all fantasise about what The Grateful Dead were. None of us had ever been to a Grateful Dead concert but we liked the idea that there was this band that was very psychedelic with a communal experience at the gigs and that seems to be the way that Kula Shaker has developed over the years. Particularly since 2006 when we started our career again as an independent and spent 10 years rebuilding our identity.

Do you see that identity reflected in any new bands around at the moment?

I find it difficult to be objective about that. I’ve definitely noticed there’s a resurgence of a psychedelic scene. Tame Impala stand out as some of the better songwriters and have made some great-sounding records. That said, I don’t hear the same rock n’ roll spirit in new psych music which really challenges convention, asks questions and is at the forefront of the evolution of the human spirit.

In terms of new artists, people like Kendrick Lamar are a bit more interesting. Things are happening where people have a voice and have something to say but they’re quite rare. Most of the current psychedelic scene is a cosmetic thing rather than a movement or a mindset.

What’s next for Kula Shaker?

I have no idea. We planned to work really hard through 2016 and then take stock. ‘K 2.0’ is the completion of this circle. In a world bit in obsolescence and software, this was our reboot. We needed to have it to make sense of ‘K’ and these are our songs of experience to songs of innocence. It’s a nice companion. So whatever happens now has to be a real new chapter in the life of a band. I’m looking forward to it but it will take time, I’m sure.

Kula Shaker play the following dates on the ‘K’ tour:

16 December – O2 Academy, Newcastle

17 December O2 Academy, Leeds

18 December – O2 ABC, Glasgow

Get Kula Shaker tickets here.