You might not know this, but in 1978, Glasgow, Scotland, was a desert.
No, it wasn't covered in sand dunes, but according to Simple Minds' frontman Jim Kerr, if you were a musician in the country at that time, you were thirsty and with few options.
Kerr tells Q104.3's "Out of the Box" with Jonathan Clarke that one of the wonders of the Information Age means bands don't have to leave home anymore to make it. But that wasn't the case when he was coming up. He says Simple Minds learned early on that if the band wanted to make it, it had to find an oasis: for Kerr that meant moving to London.
"I say this very proudly: there's a lot of great music to come out of Scotland in the past decades, but then it was a desert—there was nothing," Kerr says of his humble beginnings. "Back then...the [music] industry wasn't decentralized like it is now. You had to go to London. So anyone that was in Glasgow or Manchester or Liverpool or Sheffield, they had to go to London. And when you got to London, not only was the city you left a desert, quite a few of the acts would break up."
Kerr recalls growing up not knowing anyone who was in an original band. He says most of the bands he saw growing up played covers in pubs. He wanted more.
"The idea that you could write a song, get a record deal, see your sleeve in a record store window, you had more chance of being an astronaut—or the odds were probably the same," Kerr says.
While London represented a land of opportunity for many artists, it also wore down plenty of talented bands. Kerr and Simple Minds might have been similarly chewed up were it not for inspiration they got from punk rock.
"It was game on for everyone," Kerr said of the punk Renaissance. "It wasn't that anyone could [make it in music], because you do have to be pretty good, but anyone could at least give it a go."
With punk came a rise in independent artistry the likes of which had never been seen before in the U.K. Simple Minds forged ahead and eventually got a break.
Forty years removed from its first gig, Simple Minds has released its 18th studio album, Walk Between Worlds, a modern, cinematic and diverse take on the band's signature new wave sound.
Kerr says the sound of the new album has a lot to do with that of its predecessor, 2016's Acoustic. After watching guitarist Charlie Burchill pull off classic Simple Minds songs on an acoustic guitar, Kerr said the band was determined to push the guitars on the new album.
"The Simple Minds sound...is so layered, that quite often Charlie would be doing something and you would think it was a keyboard. On the Acoustic thing, because there was space, you could really hear him fly. I thought, 'We have to make sure on the new album that Charlie's positioning really comes out.'"
The new album includes Burchill's longest-ever guitar solo on the song "Barrowland Star."
"It's his best, it's like three guitar solos in one," Kerr raves.
Walk Between Worlds is available now. Get all the tour dates here.
Here's the official music video for the song "Magic":