BlackBook Exclusive: Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr on His Favorite Destinations, From Kathmandu to Kyoto

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If you visit RocksBackPages.com (the singularly brilliant site founded by revered British journalist Barney Hoskyns, which catalogues six decades of notable writing on music) and you search “Simple Minds,” you’ll find no shortage of early ’80s interviews with the band’s frontman Jim Kerr. Several of which find him going on about traveling The Continent, with an infectious mix of wide-eyed wonder and thoughtful observation. His band even released a single in 1980 titled “I Travel.”

The once experimental and now legendary Glasgow group, as is well-documented, went on to sell tens of millions of records, before settling into a couple of decades of more low-key success. Which now includes the excellent Walk Between Worlds, their 18th studio album, released earlier this year. Tracks like the atmospheric “Magic” and the chillingly anxious “The Signal and The Noise” decisively recapture the genuine essence of Simple Minds, from their remarkable ability to create expansive and evocative soundscapes, to their inimitable way with an unforgettable pop hook.

 

 

Simple Minds will launch a 32-date North American tour in Bethlehem, PA on September 24, concluding in Orlando on Armistice Day (November 11). In the lead up to once again taking to the road, we asked Mr. Kerr if he would be so kind as to enlighten us on his most beloved destinations around the world. His answers, as expected, did not disappoint.

“Being in a rock band that has had the great fortune to tour the world many times,” he enthuses, “means that I literally have visited hundreds of cities. To choose five favorites is unfortunately a task that is somewhat beyond me. After all, not only a born traveller, I’m also one that seeks out the good wherever I land. And let’s be honest, almost everywhere has something notable about it: something worth seeing and experiencing, something worth contemplating.”

He continues, “I have therefore listed five spectacular destinations that I have turned up in whenever I have had a week or so break in the normal scheduled touring circuit. Those breaks allowed me to excitedly venture ‘off piste’ from the world’s major centers…and all presented sights and experiences I still dream about.”

 

 

Jim Kerr’s Top Destinations

Petra, Jordan

Some years ago, I did a seven day desert trek in Jordan. Sleeping out under the stars that shone like the shiniest steel, while cozying up next to the heat of the Bedouin campfires is a memory that will always live on. The highlight though was undoubtedly descending into Petra, on foot, on the morning of our last day’s trekking – described both poetically and accurately as “the rose-red city, half as old as time.” Words don’t come easy in trying to explain the sensation of setting foot in this historic wonder of the world. You would really need to experience Petra, and the sensation of traveling on the ancient Silk Road, all for yourself.

 

 

Kathmandu, Nepal

Enchanted by Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children, I became obsessed by the desire to visit India back in 1982. The magic realism that sets the backdrop to much of his epic tale, also seemed to permeate the air in many of the Indian cities I subsequently visited. Most of all Jaipur.
When an intended visit to the Kashmir region was deemed to be unsafe due to the local, violent, political clashes, instead I boarded a rickety and ancient looking airplane, and sat nervously as we took the flight path from Delhi to Kathmandu, Nepal. There is nothing in the world as majestic as the Himalayas, Mount Everest being the jewel in the crown, peak of peaks. Described as a city of beautiful chaos, the magical mayhem that I was introduced in Kathmandu enthralls me still.

 

 

Nelson, New Zealand

The oldest settlement of New Zealand’s South Island, fixed on the eastern shore of Tasman Bay. The small city of Nelson instantly captured my heart as soon as soon as I stepped off the tiny airplane that took us from the bustling, ultra-cosmopolitan capital of Auckland. The sunniest spot on the island, Nelson is set between golden beaches and windswept bays.
A most charming town, it is further spoiled due to its close proximity to three gloriously different national parks. The most famous, the Abel Tasman, starred as the otherworldly backdrop to the trilogy of Lord Of The Rings movies. For an earthly hiker like me, however, its endless amount of walking tracks and secluded coastlines made me feel that I was indeed in some kind of paradise. One in which I hope to return and spend much more time.

 

 

Kyoto, Japan

All those wondrous images that spring to mind when we think of Japan are probably encapsulated more in one place than any other. That place is Kyoto. Undoubtedly the cultural and historical heart of the archipelago, it is a must for me every time I venture to visit my relatives – who live a fairly short train ride away in Osaka. Jammed packed with historical temples, gardens and museums of all sorts, the absolute treat being on the occasions when I have secured tickets to Minamiza Kabuki Theatre.
Presumably I don’t have to inform you of the pleasures of Japanese cuisine. Which is just as well. My mouth is already watering recalling the quality of food that I have tasted in even Kyoto’s most simple restaurants.

 

 

Ubud, Indonesia

It was none other than Richard Branson who back in the very early ’80s raved to me about the island of Bali. Detailing that while some of the coast had already been taken over by mass tourism from Australia, the rest of the island remained dreamily pristine. A few years later while on honeymoon, I had the chance to experience it firsthand, and I immediately understood the force behind Richard’s enthusiasm. While that marriage never lasted too long – all these years later I remain a regular visitor to Ubud. I can almost annually be depended on giving the gloomy British winter a wide berth, by escaping for a few weeks to the “cultural heart” of Bali – that also just happens to be one of Asia’s top spa destinations.