As a result of a punctured lung sustained when he was younger, Kaiser Chiefs’ now departed drummer Nick Hodgson is unable to go up high buildings in lifts. He has to take the stairs instead. This was the inspiration for the line “trying to put the punk back into punctured lung” from the track ‘Saturday Night’.
The origins of Peanut’s nickname? “We had to draw a picture of ourselves when we were about 10 and I drew this picture and my head looked like a peanut,” explains the keyboardist, real name Nick Baines. “I threw it away and drew another one but someone found it in the bin and for the last 16 years I’ve been called Peanut.”
The first song Nick Hodgson ever wrote was inspired by ‘The Beano’. He sent it in to the comic book’s fan club with a view to it being performed by Dennis The Menace’s band, Dennis And The Dinmakers. The lyrics went: “Curly, Pie Face, Gnasher on drums/When Dennis the Menace Comes/Takes his mike and sings to you/And all the crowd goes Boo-ooo.”
Kaiser Chiefs are fond of feeding outrageous lies to journalists about the band’s origins. One story, faithfully repeated in many band biographies, relates how drummer Nick Hodgson first met frontman Ricky Wilson when the pair competed in a nightclub dance competition. “Like, I saw him across the room and I was wearing a white tuxedo and he was Mr Evil with a black hat on,” explains Hodgson.
At The Ivor Novello awards in 2006 Kaiser Chiefs were honoured to be introduced to cartoonist Rolf “Can you tell what it is yet?” Harris. “He was doing a sketch of [bassist] Simon [Rix],” drummer Nick Hodgson explains. “Everyone was gathering round, recording it on their cameras. That was bloody weird.”
Ricky Wilson is obsessed with cosy TV drama ‘Midsomer Murders’. So much so, he has produced a series of oil paintings of its star, John Nettles. “I love ‘Midsomer Murders’,” confessed the singer. “It totally relaxes me for two hours. I imagine it’s much like heroin.”
Comedian Peter Kay spared Kaiser Chiefs’ blushes at a 2008 gig at Manchester’s Academy 1. When guitarist Andrew White’s guitar cut out, the Bolton funnyman bounded on stage and distracted the restless audience with a foul-mouthed stand-up routine.
Kaiser Chiefs were once locked in a chart battle with AC/DC, with the veteran rockers’ album ‘Black Ice’ released on the same day as the Kaisers’ third effort ‘Off With Their Heads’.
Ricky Wilson never throws away the clothes that get torn while he crowd-surfs. Instead he takes them back to his mum for repairs.
Kaiser Chiefs guitarist Andrew White is notoriously publicity-shy. In 2005, when the band were enjoying their first flush of fame, he confessed: “Sometimes I miss my freedom. Someone tells me what to do all of the time. I find that quite hard as a 30-year-old man. Ultimately my life is on hold while the band goes on. I’m doing it to improve my quality of life when it is over.”
Ricky Wilson, pictured here backstage at Manchester’s Academy 1, once told NME he would “wank off a tramp for fame”. He has been trying to live it down ever since. “It was a joke,” he later protested. “Like that thing you do with your mates: would you eat sick for a pound? I didn’t ever seriously consider wanking a tramp off.”
Kaiser Chiefs have a pre-gig ritual that never varies: before taking the stage they stand in a huddle and listen to Paul Simon’s 1986 hit ‘You Can Call Me Al’. Here bassist Simon Rix is pictured celebrating his birthday backstage in Glasgow, October 2008.
Mayor Of London Boris Johnson is no fan of Kaiser Chiefs. In the wake of ‘I Predict A Riot”s chart success, the bumbling Tory penned a venomous yet astoundingly ill-informed editorial blasting the band as “weeds from Leeds” and decrying their rock n’roll credentials. The song, he argued, proved that the band lacked the violent streak that characterises great punk bands.
Kaisers drummer Nick Hodgson wasn’t interested in working with producer Mark Ronson until he hung out with him: “I wasn’t that keen on it really, until I met him and we had a good time with him. I thought he’d be all poncy and he wasn’t at all… We wanted a producer who wouldn’t make us feel as though we had a teacher there telling us what to play and when to play it.”
Kaiser Chiefs previous incarnation, Parva, were hamstrung by their desperation to sound American and grungy, despite coming from Leeds. “We would sing about high school in a really American way and you can tell it’s bullshit,” Wilson remembers. “I would try so hard to [make it] sound believable and it just didn’t.”
Jay-Z is a Kaiser Chiefs fan, according to Mark Ronson, who produced the band’s third album ‘Off With Their Heads’.
Kaiser Chiefs guitarist Andrew White has said that his band’s second album, ‘Yours Truly, Angry Mob’, released in 2007, wasn’t very good. “We wrote the wrong album at the wrong time,” he explained. However, it charted at Number One in the UK, as did its lead single, ‘Ruby’.
Despite living in Primrose Hill, which he describes as “paparazzi central”, Ricky Wilson never seems to get recognised by photographers. “I saw one pap I knew the other day. He was chatting to me and didn’t even bother taking off his lens cap. He goes, ‘Seen anyone famous today?'”
Kaisers frontman Ricky Wilson is known for his waggish sense of humour. In 2007, a French fan offered the vocalist a pad of paper and asked him to “draw whatever your emotions are right now”. Wilson responded by sketching a crudely drawn ejaculating penis.
‘I Predict A Riot’ contains the line “A friend of a friend he got beaten, he looked the wrong way at a policeman”. Kaiser Chiefs were horrified, then, to learn that policemen in Leeds had been blasting the song in their vans on their way to quell public order offences.
Kaiser Chiefs’ debut album ‘Employment’, released in 2005, spawned four hit singles, garnered three Brit Awards and sold almost 2m copies. “You do wonder who’s still buying it,” said keyboardist Nick “Peanut” Baines in 2007.
Girls Aloud once performed a cover version of ‘I Predict A Riot’.
Kaiser Chiefs are not interested in groupies. “Sometimes you might see the odd banner in the crowd that says, like, ‘Nice eyes!'”, Ricky Wilson explains. “And when we get back downstairs after a gig in our dressing room, we’ll crack open a bottle of beer and talk about someone in the audience we saw and say, ‘Didn’t she have nice hair?'”
There was once a bit of beef between Kaiser Chiefs and Oasis. In 2005, Liam Gallagher branded the band “a bad Blur”, sparking a war of words. “It just frustrates me,” Wilson later said. “I can’t go into an interview now without talking about it.”
Kaiser Chiefs take their name from a South African football team, Kaizer Chiefs. Lucas Radebe played for them before signing to the band’s local team, Leeds United. Kaizer Chiefs might sound like an obscure team but they are actually one of the biggest in Africa, with an estimated 16 million supporters.
Kaiser Chiefs have made no secret of their love of Blur.
Lily Allen’s involvement in ‘Off With Their Heads’ (she sings backing vocals on ‘Always Happens Like That’ and ‘Never Miss A Beat’) meant paparazzi descending on the studio. “They took pictures outside our studio with her, Mark [Ronson] and us,” said Nick Hodgson. “The next day in the paper we were cropped out of the photo – though they did mention removal men, who I think they thought we were.”
Owing to the relative failure of their pre-Kaisers incarnation, Parva, Ricky Wilson and co were regarded as “damaged goods” by record labels, and consequently struggled to secure a record deal. When they were eventually invited to appear on ‘Top Of The Pops’, Nick Hodgson threatened to adorn his drumkit with the legend, “Too old and used to be in Parva.”
Kaisers keyboardist Peanut (far left) is such a colossal fan of Marmite he once ate a whole spoonful of the stuff in one go. “It was intense,” he recalls. “It hurt but it was good.” He continued: “Bovril can fuck off.”
Pre-Kaiser Chiefs, Ricky Wilson found work teaching at Leeds College Of Art.