Gary James' Interview With Simon Kirke of
It was back in 1974, that this group enjoyed their first taste of success. Their single "Can’t Get Enough" went all the way to number 1, first in England, then all over the world.
Other hits followed - "Feel like Makin’ Love", "Good Lovin’ Gone Bad", "Movin’ On" and "Young Blood". By ’83 the group had split up, but by 1985, they had reformed. That group, if you hadn't already guessed was Bad Company
Drummer and original member Simon Kirke talked with us about the roller coaster ride he's had in Bad Company.
Q - When you recorded "Company Of Strangers", you had 35 songs to choose from. How does that selection process work? Is a Democratic?
A - No. We just spin the bottle. (Laughs). We have a very fine relationship with each other. We're mature enough to do things democratically and diplomatically. We had a day of listening to everyone's songs. A whole day in the office, where everyone brought in their cassettes and CDs and DAT players. We had amassed about 35 songs we do and we couldn't record any more than 13. A few stood out of immediately, but it was a very frank and understanding session.
Q - Being in a band like Bad Company today with a history of 24 years has got to be just a little bit strange and difficult. You've got people comin’ to see the band who have absolutely no idea that the members were previously in Free, Paul Rogers band, or Mott The Hoople.
A - It was absolutely nothing to them. Really we have to get through to them on our own musical merits. No one and gives a toss. No one in their mid-teens has ever heard of Free and Bad Company is just a distant memory that their mums and dads used to get on the sofa with. So, yeah, it makes it more challenging, but you know that's what we’re here for.
Q - Your guitarist Bucket says, "We all write songs. We all co write songs with each other. We go in and rehearse like a real band." Does that mean that everyone shares equally in the profits? There are some bands where members are put on salary.
A - Yeah, well we did have been situation several years ago when we had different management and a different singer. It wasn't a particularly pleasant arrangement. What we have now is strictly an autonomous group. We all hang out together. We all get along. Consequently, the music is that much more fresh.
Q - Is it correct then your first album was recorded in only ten days?
A - Yes. We actually took ten days to record all the backing tracks and overdubs and two weeks to mix. So, it was a total of 3 and a half weeks.
Q - Would you say it makes a big difference in the amount of time you spend in the studio?
A - Well, listen, what does an album consist of? 8, 10, 12 songs? What you do is you go in and rehearse those songs until they're ready for recording and you go and record them. It shouldn't take month after month. The reason some albums take months is because the material hasn't been written yet. They go in with half-baked ideas and nothing concrete, and things get changed in the studio and people will scrap that and start again. The bottom line is you should be prepared when you go in so it costs the least amount of money and you get the most amount of spontaneity.
Q - So, most groups come to the studio these days well rehearsed to ready to go?
A - Absolutely, unless they have hundreds of thousands of dollars to throw away.
Q - What does it do to a group when they're very first recorded product becomes a hit? Does it lessen the pressure on you or increase it?
A - It increases it.
Q - How so?
A - Well, because you have to repeat it, otherwise you’re a one shot wonder. (Laughs). It's great. Don't get me wrong. It opens up a lot of avenues, doors. A hit album is great, but you have to follow it up. You’re only as good as you’re last record. It does create pressure. But, if you can't stand heat don't go in the bloody kitchen. That’s what we're here to do is to make records and entertain people, and hopefully get paid well for.
Q - You said, "The pressure of doing arenas was intense. I think in a way it did a lot to crush the original Bad Company”." Why couldn't you have mixed up a little? Instead of all arenas, throw when some small theaters and clubs.
A - We’d done all that. To be honest with you, in our previous groups, we've worked the theaters and clubs for years and were only too happy to get involved in arenas. Bear in mind we were with Peter Grant and Led Zeppelin and they wouldn't dream of doing the theater tour, in the first years of a band's career. They wanted maximum exposure and that's how they got it . The actual size of the venues didn't have any pressure on us. It was the amount of venues, the high living we indulged in like all new rock groups that hit pay dirt. We went slightly mad. So, I'm not blaming the arena or that size venue. They’re fine. Anything up to about 8 - 10,000 is fine. It was that frenetic lifestyle we led for the first few years.
Q - What kind of a manager was Peter Grant? Was he more like Brian Epstein or Col. Parker?
A - He was more human than Parker. He was a very powerful man, but he had amazingly articulate side to him.
Q - Powerful in what sense?
A - Physically powerful. He managed the world's largest band (Led Zeppelin) so he had a lot of clout. He was amazingly shrewd and shrewd in the business world. He held the respect of all his peers. He was one of the best managers that ever was.
Q - Why, when Zeppelin was no more, does it mean that Bad Company was over as well?
A - Because, when Bonzo died, Zeppelin broke up. Swan Song went into incubation because most of the money at Swan Song was tied up in Zeppelin. Peter Grant had a drug problem and was unable to carry out his managerial duties. Bad Company was pretty well burned out from all the years of touring. So it was like the proverbial domino principle. Everything started falling away.
Q - What was Peter Grant's drug of choice?
A - Coke. (Cocaine).
Q - How many records has Bad Company sold? Any idea?
A - Between 20 - 25 million. Maybe 30. I'm not sure. With singles, maybe about 30.
Q - Mick Ralphs has said, "Bad Company is more important than any individual in it."
A - Absolutely right.
Q - What did he mean by that?
A - Bad Company is greater than the sum of its parts. That's the phrase isn't it? If the individual members of Bad Company were paid to strike out on their own, would have nowhere near the success that Bad Company has had as a unit. That's what it means.
Q - Rolling Stone has stated, "Bad Company proves that there is always a market for riffy blues rock." Is that the secret to your success?
A - That's part of our musical appeal, our musical makeup. We're not strictly riffy blues-rock, although that does play a large part of our music. We’re a bit more melodic than that. There's a certain softer side to Bad Company Our primary appeal could be based on riffy blues, but that is only part of it.