Kula Shaker are back! With Shanghai in sight (Interview with Crispian)

Written by Jade Bremner

Nearly everyone in Britain during the 1990’s had a copy of their multi-platinum selling record K featuring the hit single Govinda. The energetic psychedelic Brit-pop foursome with their Indian obsession and traditional sitars, tambura and tabla percussion have reformed. This month they are releasing a new album called Pilgrim’s Progress, and are looking to perform in Shanghai.

Remembered for his velvet suits, being the grandson of Sir John Mills and his strong opinions – front man Crispian Mills got in to a sticky situation with the British press over his comments regarding the bands usage of the Hindu swastika during the peak of their career. Arguably, this is what brought about the demise of the once highly regarded rock band.

The Independent ran a front page story over 10 years ago alleging Crispian had Nazi tendencies after his comments about the swastika being a “brilliant image,” (his context surrounding Hindu spiritualism) in the NME. Crispian also commented that “democracy doesn’t work” in Melody Maker magazine, a statement which became one of numerous that the papers proceeded to castrate Kula Shaker with.

Crispian later claimed that, with working class Oasis at the forefront of the band scene, there was a “massive class-based inverted snobbery and the papers interpretation was that he had some deep routed extremist views.”

Now in 2010 he wants the slate clean and for people to simply listen to their music, we caught up with him to find out more about what Kula Shaker now have to offer…

Why did you reform after so long?

Because we were excited to make music. There are two types of reforming bands. One type of reforming band is doing it just to play live, and that’s fine, I completely understand the love of playing live and the money that you can make, you know the profession to have that job. Also you can reform because you have new music, you still have creative life. And that’s why; we knew we had the record in us, that’s why we’re still going. That’s our vision, is to keep making records.

Music chose me, I didn’t choose music. It’s like you get taken away, you get almost abducted.

How do you think the reform of Kula Shaker has been received and are you happy with the response?

Well we took a very unglamorous response which was to record it quietly, to release it quietly with an independent label. We didn’t want the pressure of a Brit pop band making a big comeback because that’s not how we wanted it to be received. Maybe we were just a bit shy, maybe we needed to show-off more. But I think that this band essentially, creatively is quite fragile, and it needs a bit of room to develop and so we gave ourselves that and in the long run it worked better because this album we just made was progress, the band is really growing again.

Back in the 90s people were crying out for Brit pop and a feel-good vibe during the Thatcher and John Major era. Well, the Tory government is back in: do you think this is good for your music?

Yeah, I think you can’t calculate these things, you know being in the right place at the right time is luck and liberty and all of those things. Certainly I think music has to thrive on passion and not complacency so maybe you’re right.

That that Tories provoke good music?

Erm I don’t know, I’m not really interested in politics, they all look the same to me.

You’re a serious vegetarian, follow Hare Krishna and have strong views which were brought into the public eye. Are you more careful with what you voice now?

I think when you’re very very young you come across as being very opinionated. I think that maybe the truth of it was I’m not so interested in having an opinion as I love ideas. I’m still fascinated by ideas that make people strong, and believing in themselves and believing in life and believing in possibilities. It is ideas I’m interested in, not opinions.

How would you describe your new sound?

We’re inspired by the 60s, also by India and the sounds of Jupiter and Mars.

What should we expect from Pigrims Progress? Any banging tracks like Hey Dude on there?

It’s personal work. It’s more laid back than some of our other albums. It’s inspired by fairy tales and stories and good old fashioned rock n’ roll.

The last album was more of a light we recorded very light. This album is more of a studio record and it’s more about story telling, fairy tales, ghost stories. It has lots of rock n’ roll moments, but it’s much more radical, innocent, strange record. I think the record we’ll make after this will be full-blown secondary, Indian, sort of lively.

You’ve collaborated with some big names on your previous album Strange Folk [Sam Williams (Supergrass) and Chris Sheldon (The Foo Fighters, Pixies), among others]. Should we expect the same sort of collaborations for Pilgrim’s Progress?

We did collaborate, but essentially for this one we were working in an ancient forest called London forest and we kind of got whisked away into the fairy tale land and we were really working in our own little world that we were living in.

What personal aspects are on the album?

Mainly relationships. And there are themes like relationships, childhood, love, sacrifice, death, things that really touched on what we were able to explore. Maybe we’re just getting old.

We weren’t even allowed a sneak peak of the new album. But we’ve heard Peter Pan R.I.P your first single, what’s it about?

It’s a poem. It’s a really deep, constructive poem. It’s partly about J.M. Barrie, the man who wrote Peter Pan and the story of him, which he wrote for children that he kind of took too, who loved their mother and it talks about love. I can’t really explain that. It’s a shame that journalists can’t see a record before the interview. It’s becoming more the case, but you just wouldn’t have a job anymore because everybody could download it pre-release for free.

Do you think this release will elevate you back to where you were in the beginning?

No I don’t expect that at all. I think we’re where we need to be now and where we’re supposed to be now, exactly the right place. I don’t think that Brit pop has past; this is the right place for now. We’re very happy.

When are you coming to China?

We’re making more time, I think we are coming to China actually, I heard some really cool stuff about it. Actually my grandmother was born in Shanghai, my grandfather worked there for years and my great grandfather was a missionary who lived and worked in Shanghai and died in Shanghai, he was buried there.

There’s a long long family connection and a deep love of China, but I’ve never been.



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