Ricky Wilson reflects on the past: “The Kaiser Chiefs were obsessed with achieving success. I wish I still had that drive within me. We weren’t even that talented.”

Ricky Wilson reflects on the past: “The Kaiser Chiefs were obsessed with achieving success. I wish I still had that drive within me. We weren’t even that talented.”

Ricky Wilson, a musician and broadcaster, was born in 1978 in West Yorkshire. He holds a master’s degree in graphic design and previously taught at Leeds College of Art and Design. In 2000, he formed Parva, which later became the successful band Kaiser Chiefs. Their hits, including “I Predict a Riot,” “Everyday I Love You Less and Less,” and “Ruby,” led to their rise as a top-charting and stadium-filling band in the mid-2000s. From 2013 to 2016, Ricky served as a judge on The Voice and currently hosts Virgin Radio UK’s drivetime show. On March 1st, Kaiser Chiefs will release their eighth album, entitled “Easy.” Ricky resides in London with his wife, stylist Grace Zito, and their twins.

This photo was taken on New Year’s Eve in 2001 at my house. The popped party popper suggests it was after midnight, and me and my friends would have walked the streets of Leeds after. Great fun. The army hat was a gift from my mate Tim. I like putting things on my head. Always have done.

The group was out of focus in the background during this photo. This was before we became known as the Kaiser Chiefs, when we went by the name Parva. While not busy organizing club events or playing with the band, I also worked as a bartender and art teacher. However, I only lasted in that job for a year because I wasn’t very good at it.

If you were to inquire about my childhood aspirations with my mother, she would say: “You always talked about joining a band.” However, that is not entirely accurate. When I was young, my dream was to pursue a career in advertising or become an animator. The idea of being in a band appealed to me mainly because it felt like being part of a group – being the frontman was never my goal. During my lunch breaks in school, I spent a lot of time in the art room and was not considered confident or popular. Even after school, I was not considered cool – the only time I was cool was for a brief 15 minutes in 2004. In reality, I was slightly shy and kept to myself. But when I attended art college, something clicked and I realized that I could be whoever I wanted to be. I could create my own persona. So I thought, “Why not try to be more outgoing for a while?” And it stuck.

Our group was fixated on achieving success in a peculiar way. We strongly believed that with enough effort and time, we would eventually reach our goals. I sometimes wish I still possessed some of that determination. Despite our lack of talent, we held onto this belief.

When Kaiser Chiefs finally started gaining success, we were so relieved that we didn’t feel the need to put on a facade. We would receive invitations to events like the NME awards, where everyone was trying to act cool by wearing oversized sunglasses and pretending not to care. But we would show up in our V-neck jumpers, full of energy and excitement as if it was the best night ever. I was always in awe of the other artists too – at festivals, we would lock ourselves in our dressing room and watch as they arrived. One time, Shane MacGowan even came into our dressing room. He was incredible. He asked for an apple from our rider and I thought, “Good for you, Shane, getting your daily dose of fruit!” Little did we know, he was going to use it to smoke crack.

As we gained more success, Kaiser Chiefs became an easy target for criticism. Perhaps we were too relaxed and didn’t quite fit in, so people felt comfortable saying negative things about us. This began to take a toll on me after a while. I didn’t mind when other bands turned against me, as that’s just part of the industry, but the media’s harsh words were particularly hurtful. At the time, it seemed like the NME’s job was to be especially cruel – some of the writing from the early 2000s was incredibly politically incorrect and downright vicious. But the worst part was when we went from being featured in music publications to being covered by tabloids. While this transition may have boosted record sales, it was damaging to our self-esteem. It was hard to read articles from the Daily Mail referring to me as “the chubby pop star” or the “chubby-faced frontman”. However, it did motivate me to make some positive changes in my life. I started running and eating healthier.

When the band first started, I struggled with performing live because I was scared. I would get very nervous before going on stage, so my bandmates would chant for me backstage. Their chant was: “Everybody thinks he’s cool! Everybody thinks he’s cool!” The chanting would get louder and I would join in by saying: “My name is Rick! And I am cool!” This was the only way I could psych myself up to perform. Once I was on stage, I discovered that moving around a lot helped distract me from my nerves. My thought process was: “If I keep moving, no one will notice any mistakes.”

Alcohol also became a coping mechanism for my fear of performing on stage. Many people in bands develop a habit of using it as a pre-show superstition. It can become a dangerous dependence, as you may find yourself unable to perform without it. What started as a fun ritual turned into a realization a few years ago that performing while intoxicated and trying to hide it can lead to negative consequences. It hinders your ability to give a good performance. It’s a balancing act – fans want you to embody the rock’n’roll lifestyle, but not to an extreme. As a result, I have stopped drinking before shows. However, we do have a disco session before going on stage where we blast songs with dance routines in the lyrics, such as Black Lace’s Superman.

Ignore the promotional newsletter.

I was constantly seeking opportunities to increase the band’s popularity, so when the opportunity to appear on The Voice presented itself, I knew I had to take it. The level of fame that came with it was strange. I even had a tabloid reporter rummage through my trash once. While others may have been worried about finding something scandalous, like drugs, my biggest concern was that they would discover I didn’t recycle properly. The thought of the headline “Breaking News: Ricky Wilson fails to properly recycle his yogurt containers!” was genuinely frightening.

During the height of tabloid frenzy, I was pursued by a paparazzo on a scooter while driving to the airport. Years later, I encountered the same man while walking in Soho. He exclaimed, “Hey! I was the one on the scooter!” I offered to take a picture with him, but he declined. Fame is fleeting and only lasts as long as one remains in the spotlight. The day after the finale of The Voice, my life returned to its usual routine.

I now have two nearly two-year-old twins. The only skill I have transferred from my time in a band to parenting is the ability to sleep anywhere. My daughter Grace is envious of this. Even in stressful situations, like being in the hospital, I can easily fall asleep in an uncomfortable chair. In the 2000s, we worked tirelessly and traveled non-stop – to the point where Nick Hodgson (who left the band in 2012) once tried to unbuckle his seatbelt at a restaurant, mistaking it for a plane. It was exhausting and I wouldn’t be able to handle it now. However, it was great preparation for being a father.

The twins have a habit of putting things on their heads, which is quite amusing. It could possibly be classified as a compulsion, although it has not been officially diagnosed.

Source: theguardian.com