Don’t do what you don’t have to do: if that was the drummers’ main rule, Simon Kirke would be one of the champions of this sport. Pushing forward the music, not himself, Si has been seen on the scene for good 35 years – first with FREE, the last great blues band of the ’60s, and then with BAD COMPANY, a group which seemed an antidote to what the ’70s hard rock ensembles had become. Still, only a drummer Kirke is not, his all-round musicianship keeping the man in demand from both colleagues and fans. Always on the road, we caught up with Simon on his way from Brazil…
– FREE were to be called HEAVY METAL KIDS, and there was the late ’70s band of that name? What was you reaction when you heard about them?
I was pleased that someone picked up that awful name, and our refusal of it in the first place was justified when group vanished without trace after a couple of years.
– What, in your eyes, was the main difference between FREE and BAD COMPANY – music-wise?
FREE had charm and was innovative, while BAD COMPANY were more professional and commercial.
– Andy Fraser, Tetsu Yamauchi and Boz Burrell – which of them was the best sparring partner in rhythm section?
Andy was a great player but we never really got on, Boz was a lot more fun, and Tetsu was the most precise… Over all, I would say Boz.
– During the “Merchants Of Cool” tour BAD CO played a couple of FREE songs, which you didn’t to before. But was there a special reason for FREE’s “Easy On My Soul” to re-appear on BAD CO’s single?
Not clear what you mean here. We never did “Easy On My Soul” with FREE. As I remember, we did “Wishing Well” and “All Right Now” on the “Merchants Of Cool” tour, cause we like doing them.
– Now there’s only two original members in BAD COMPANY, you and Paul, so is it BAD CO, then? You might have called it FREE as well…
Paul and myself were closer to BAD COMPANY-time-wise than FREE. We were just perpetuating BAD COMPANY’s legacy, although, quite honestly, I don’t see us working together again.
– When FREE broke up you decided to stay with Rodgers, not with Kossoff like the first time. Why? Did you feel Rodgers would make it big time while Koss wouldn’t get out of addiction?
Koss was not a leader, he was quite weak and frail at the time and was going through a bad drug period. Paul [Rodgers] was much more robust and, quite frankly, was more rewarding to work with. I was getting worn with Koss’s habit.
– There’s a question about “Shooting Star”. No, not about Koss, but about you hitting the rim instead of drum on the second chorus – well, it sounds like it. How did that come about?
Don’t know about a rim shot or a mis-hit… It was just one of those unplanned things. But as long as the feel is there, it doesn’t really matter.
– As I know, “Burning Sky” was a difficult album to do, but you seemed to be in good spirits – judging by “Knapsack”. Is there a story behind that one?
This was a light hearted moment on “Burning Sky”. Just an old Bavarian song from way back. I don’t know how it started but it raised a laugh.
– Are there any FREE or BAD COMPANY songs you played guitar on?
“Over The Green Hill Pt. 1 & 2” on “Tons Of Sobs” and “Common Mortal Man” on “Heartbreaker”.
– I can’t say of Rodgers-less BAD CO albums, but neither FREE nor BAD CO had a real fast song. Was there a special reason for that?
Not really, that was just the way we were at the time. We smoked quite a bit of dope as well which may have been a reason. “All Right Now” changed that, though.
– You and MOTT THE HOOPLE’s Ian Hunter were born at the same place. Did you know Ian in your childhood days?
I was born in Chelsea, London, but I didn’t know Ian Hunter was as well. So no, I never met him.
– In one of George Harrison’s songs is a line that goes, “Introduced to Bad Company”. Did you really meet him?
Yes, I met him a few times. He was a great guy.
– How did you feel drumming for Ringo Starr, another drummer who, like you, never showed off but did exactly what his band needed?
Ringo was great to play alongside. He still has one of the best ‘feels’ in the business.
– In Ringo’s band, you used to sing “All Right Now”. Isn’t it frightening singing the song after voice like Paul’s?
I was nervous at first, singing “All Right Now”, but after a few times I settled into it, kind of made it my own song in a way… But, hey, Paul’s is still the best voice in the biz!
You know your stuff, Dmitry… Yes I did those sessions out of friendship – plus a bit of money thrown in.
– Was working with Wilson Pickett a teenage dream come true?
I was knocked out to work with him. We ran through each song once and then made the take. He was wonderful.
– Could you, please, tell what the band was WILDLIFE?
They were a good band from the east of England. The Overland brothers on guitars and vocals, Phil Soussan on bass, me on drums, and a keyboard player whose name escapes me.
– You sing, play guitar and flute, and you drum – isn’t there a solo album round the corner?
I play all those instruments but not flute. I used to play sax but that kind of faded away. And one day I will do a solo album – but not yet.