Songs you hear on the radio … sing in the car … kick off your favorite playlists? Simon Kirke played drums on some of the best. As the original drummer for legendary bands Free and Bad Company, he’s played on classic songs that have long been a part of popular culture.
Still touring and playing music, Simon – and the rest of Bad Company – will play Green Bay on October 27th at the Resch Center. This show, with Femmes of Rock and Cheap Trick, is one of only four shows Band Company will play in the US this year!
WM: You’ve been in two extremely successful and well-known bands. Does it ever get old playing certain songs over the years?
SK: In Bad Company we don’t play any Free songs. But when I played with Ringo Starr I sang “Shooting Star” and “All Right Now.” So “All Right Now” is really the only song from the Free days that I play. I still love playing it, it’s a lovely beat to play along to. It’s tricky because it’s not a straight beat all the way through. And it brings back very nice memories for me.
WM: How old were you when you recorded that song?
SK: I was twenty-one, and I was the oldest in the band! (laughs) Paul Rodgers is six months younger than me, and we were the oldest in the group. We were a very young band.
WM: So a lot of these songs you’ve been playing for decades. Are there certain songs you would like to never play again?
SK: Wow… I have to be careful here! (laughs) We play about sixteen or seventeen songs in our set. Honestly, pretty much all of them I still enjoy playing. There are certain songs that are physically hard to play. The end section of the song “Bad Company” is really quite exacting. Especially down south on a summer night, where the air is very humid. But there’s nothing that I wouldn’t play in our set list … that I don’t mind playing.
WM: Last year you put out a solo release called All Because Of You. How did that come about and what’s the response been to it?
SK: I’m tooting my own horn a bit, but I’m so proud of that album. Most of the songs I wrote by myself. It didn’t do very well but I did it as a labor of love. I did not tour behind it because I’m not really a solo artist. But before I leave this mortal coil I would love to do a full-fledged tour.
WM: There are multiple streaming services that play many of your songs. What your viewpoint on streaming music?
SK: It’s a sign of the times. The whole landscape of our industry has changed pretty dramatically in the past twenty years with the advent of the internet. The only thing that hasn’t really been affected is live performances. There’s still a huge demand for live shows, thank goodness. But the record industry as you and I knew it is pretty much gone. But with that said, I get a pleasant check every month for streaming royalties from iTunes.
WM: Your music has been on pretty much every format: vinyl, reel-to-reel, 8-track, cassette, CD, digital files. What’s your favorite format?
SK: We’ve been on everything but the old vinyl 78 format, we’re not THAT old! (laughs) That’s actually a very good question. Every generation has their own music format. When I was a teenager it was 45s (records). When I was a little older it was cassettes. I loved cassettes. You could throw twenty or thirty of them in your suitcase and off you’d go. CD’s came along and you could put a hundred of them in your backpack. And now streaming. As I’m talking to you I could order the latest Paul McCartney album and it will be on my iPhone in sixty seconds. It’s unbelievable! But my favorite is a sentimental choice of cassettes.
WM: Other than drums, what other instruments do you play?
SK: I play guitar, piano and bass. I love them all. I’ve been playing guitar as long as I’ve been playing drums, which is about fifty-five years.
WM: Do you have a personal preference to any band role?
SK: I actually like singing lead. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing drums. When I’m done talking to you I’m going to a little studio and play drums for an hour because I love playing percussion. But I did all the vocals on my solo album and loved it.
WM: Any plans in the future to do another solo record?
SK: Well I have a bunch of songs and am under contract with BMG to do another album. They are some really good songs! I’m going to be seventy next year, and there has to come a time where touring is going to dissipate. As much as I love playing to different people all over the world, I understand those artists that hang it up eventually. It’s not the playing, it’s the traveling. I’ll always make music but I just can’t take the travel much longer.
WM: The show coming up at the Resch Center on October 27th is being put on by Red Rock Productions. For all of their concerts they donate a portion of the proceeds to different non-profit organizations. Are there any of these organizations that you personally support or feel strongly about?
SK: Oh yeah, the ones that deal with addiction. I’m personally involved with two organizations that helps kids and musicians with that. One is called Right Turn in Massachusetts. The other is called Road Recovery which is down in New York City where I live. We help kids deal with not only substance abuse but with depression, sexual abuse … all the things that kids go through now days. Because I’m in recovery myself, it helps me keep on the straight and narrow.
WM: That’s awesome! Some of the organizations that will benefit from your Green Bay show are the Red Cross and their efforts to provide relief to those affected by Hurricane Florence; the American Cancer Society; the Brown County Heroin Treatment Court; and the Miracle League of the Lakeshore that gives children with disabilities the chance to play baseball. Do you see much of this in touring today, where some of the profits are given back to the community?
SK: No, I don’t. There’s the occasional show where that does happen. But by in large, the money normally goes to places other than charity. But in a way, it should. Especially when it comes to addiction, which is horrific. More people died from opioid overdoses last year than were killed in Vietnam. And that’s just from opioids like heroin. Forget deaths by other substances. Addiction is terrible, but it is wonderful that this company Red Rock is giving back like this. We are looking forward to it!