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Simple Minds’ Dundee bass player Ged Grimes on why the band’s new album looks back to look forward

Ged Grimes on stage with Simple Minds in Verona. Image: Simple Minds
Ged Grimes on stage with Simple Minds in Verona. Image: Simple Minds

As Simple Minds release their 18th studio album, Michael Alexander speaks to Dundee-born and bred bass player Ged Grimes about being part of the band’s ongoing story and working again with former Danny Wilson bandmate Gary Clark.

Ged Grimes remembers being “obsessed” with the release of the seminal Simple Minds album New Gold Dream in 1982.

He and fellow Dundonian Gary Clark were living in a squat in London at the time and struggling to make it as musicians.

Mindful that Simple Minds were hitting the big time with management based in Scotland, it inspired him and Gary to head back up the road themselves – a move that saw them form Dundee band Danny Wilson and find commercial success of their own with Mary’s Prayer in 1987.

Gone full circle

Forty years later, Ged laughs that things have gone full circle.

For the past 12 years, he’s been the bass player with Simple Minds.

He laughs that this makes him the longest serving bass player Simple Minds have had in their 45-year career.

But as Simple Minds release their 18th studio album Direction of the Heart on October 21 – the third Ged has worked on since joining the band – he’s also delighted that his old Danny Wilson bandmate Gary Clark contributed to its recording.

“Gary supported Simple Minds when he did his solo stuff in the early 1990s,” explains 60-year-old former St Saviour’s High School pupil Ged, who grew up with Gary in Dundee.

“Jim Kerr is just a huge fan of Gary’s voice and obviously because me and Gary have got so much history, when we started talking about what would work on the record, Jim said ‘do you think Gary would do some backing vocals on some of the songs?’ I said ‘absolutely’!

“So basically me and Gary worked in Dundee on quite a few of the songs during lockdown.

“Jim’s got such a distinctive voice but for me, Gary’s voice is just off the scale, always has been!

“But he’s also brilliant at contributing colours with his voice as well.

“Basically you could call it backing vocals but really it’s just the beautiful colour that comes in behind Jim.”

Creative reinvention

Dundee-based Ged, who’s worked on computer game soundtracks in recent years including The Bard’s Tale, is no stranger to creative reinvention.

Ged Grimes rehearsing with Holly Myszor and Lana Houston at Big Noise Douglas in Dundee in 2019

After the break–up of Danny Wilson – who found themselves signed to Virgin Records at the same time as Simple Minds in the 1980s – Ged joined Deacon Blue, and even supported Simple Minds during that period.

One thing led to another and, as Ged puts it, he got the chance to “join the big school” and become part of Simple Minds in 2010.

Having known the band since he was a fledgling musician, he says it “just feels right” to be part of their ongoing story.

To go full circle and find himself working in the studio on a Simple Minds record with Gary added to the sense that the path they are on is “meant to be”.

Ged Grimes in action with Simple Minds.
Ged Grimes in action with Simple Minds.

But just as New Gold Dream took him to a “different place” and made him think about “possibilities and horizons and travel” as a young musician, it’s something he thinks the new Simple Minds record has got in spades too.

Energy and drive of Simple Minds

He puts this down to Glasgow-born founders Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill’s ongoing energy and drive to “knock doors” and to reinvent themselves and the band – something that Ged can totally relate to.

“I’ve worked with many musicians and obviously Danny Wilson was my main thing in the ‘80s,” he says.

“But I’ve never known a feeling like with the Minds. Maybe it’s just a symptom of them being around for such a long period.

Simple Minds on stage at Slessor Gardens in Dundee in September 2018. Image: DCT

“The kind of overblown days of the ‘80s with MTV and music and Live Aid and all that that the guys played at.

“The passage of time makes you realise and be really grateful for what you have and the life that you’ve chosen.

“Jim and Charlie’s first record was when they were 18/19. The drive to actually make anything happen, I can totally relate to.

“When we’re on the tour bus, Jim, Charlie and I are talking about our individual stories, and their collective story is very similar to me and Gary’s collective story – even though we came later.

“But that whole thing of ‘we won’t give up, we’ll keep knocking on doors, we will keep pursuing things, we believe in it’.

“That’s such a fundamental core thing for any band to kind of push through when you are faced with adversity.

“Although Simple Minds have been around for 45 years, they’ve not always been hugely popular.

“There was a period maybe 15/20 years ago when the band were particularly unfashionable. People were like – ‘ach, Simple Minds, are they even still together’?

The latest line-up of Simple Minds. Image: Simple Minds

“But you have to keep reinventing yourself and I think one of the things I love about Jim and Charlie is that they are always prepared to take risks and it’s paid off I think over the long run.”

Story of the new album

Direction Of The Heart is Simple Minds’ first album of new material since 2018’s UK Top 5 album Walk Between Worlds.

Throughout its nine tracks, the new album finds the band at their most confident and anthemic.

The story of Direction Of The Heart spans several years, and various locations, in Germany, Italy, and the UK.

Album opener ‘Vision Thing’ was created by Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill at the former’s father’s house, when Kerr senior was terminally ill.

Looking through early band cuttings his parents had kept, it became about Jim looking at his father as a version of him and looking at his younger self.

The song is a celebration, but with sad tones in the words.

‘Human Traffic’, a spangly hand-jive bop, was inspired by JG Ballard with a vocal cameo from Russell Mael of Sparks.

Simple Minds new album Direction of the Heart. Image: Simple Minds

Another notable collaboration is album closer ‘The Walls Came Down’, written in 1983 by kindred spirit, the late Michael Been, whose band The Call supported Simple Minds in the US, and whose ‘Let The Day Begin’ was covered on 2014’s Big Music.

With an apocalyptic techno-rock arrangement and prescient lyrics, the song was originally an attack against Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

Ged, meanwhile, co-wrote ‘First You Jump’ – described as a “classic transcendent Simple Minds anthem, one about the anxiety of the times and how we will rise above them”.

It’s an album that sounds like “classic Simple Minds” while pushing the envelope of relevance and creativity.

However, when Ged reflects on the album as a whole, what strikes him most is that it is something positive to come out of those difficult days of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Impact of Covid-19 lockdowns

Simple Minds were just eight shows into a 120-date world tour when Covid-19 struck and their gigs had to be cancelled after Copenhagen on March 8 2020.

With the main strength of Simple Minds being their live shows, Ged admits there was that existential crisis when “the mind plays tricks” and at times he wondered if they’d ever get back to it.

Despite the band members ending up “fragmented”, however, he made the most of the positive opportunities to focus on creative things.

As well as recording for the album with Gary Clark in Dundee, he was able to revisit The Bard’s Tale in his studio and learn how to orchestrate the vocals.

Once the restrictions started to ease up, they had a “good head of steam” on the new album, thanks to remote working technology, and it “came together really well”.

Back on the road

Delighted to have got back on the road, Simple Minds have been “pumped up” by the new album and have not long finished 80-odd shows across Europe over five months.

And while the legacy of tracks from Simple Minds’ back catalogue have been as popular as ever, the new songs they played went down well with audiences too.

Staying positive is important to Ged – particularly with everything going on in the world right now.

It’s more important than ever for people to stick together.

Music remains one of the “great escapes” for people.

Dundee born and bred

He remains forever grateful for the support of the wider music community in Dundee, however, and will always “big up” his home city whenever he can.

Ged Grimes

“The amount of music that’s come out of Dundee from Billy Mackenzie to the Average White Band, to The View, and of course Danny Wilson – there’s been so many different styles of music really,” he says.

“The thing I love about Jim and Charlie and the band is they are always asking me about the history of Dundee.

“They are like ‘see in our early days we used to come up and play Dundee University and we loved it. We loved being in Dundee’.

“Even the fact that on the tour bus, we always have this ongoing kind of debate about Glaswegian phrases versus Dundee phrases. I’ve got to explain to them in Dundonian what’s happening!

“For me, when we played Slessor Gardens with The Pretenders and KT Tunstall in 2018, that for me was like you know what, what a special moment!

“And they realised that as well.

“They were kind of like – ‘wow, look at the changes in Dundee since we were last here.’

“It was incredible!

“I think Dundee’s always been pivotal to who I am. I’m born and bred, I still live here, even though I’m away a lot.

“So when I come back there’s the feeling – especially in the musical community and everything – everyone supports each other.

“Everyone’s got everyone’s back.

“When Danny Wilson had our first success, the amount of people that we’d meet that were like ‘you guys are doing great, brilliant, maybe my band can do that’.

“There was very little rivalry or jealousy. It was all about supporting people from Dundee.

“I think no matter what walk of life you are, people love to see success stories I think.

“Especially because Dundee is not the size of Glasgow and doesn’t have the same sort of cultural infrastructure.

Ged Grimes. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DCT Media

“It’s got something different. But we’ve also got something that’s just as good in many many ways.

“I’ve always loved the fact that no matter what style of music you are into, you can pursue that creatively in Dundee with the support of the community around you.

“I still think that exists today and I’m really proud of it”.

Where to hear the new album