It’s been 25 years since we last interviewed Kula Shaker. In a conversation with Nick, Crispian Mills reflects on Kula Shaker’s journey, the importance of timing in their success, and the significance of reuniting the original lineup. Mills also discusses the band’s connection with fans, their recent tour, and the role of family in their lives. The interview highlights the band’s appreciation for their loyal following and their dedication to creating music that resonates with audiences.

Nick:How has your perspective on maturity and the dynamics of relationships within the music industry evolved as you’ve grown older and experienced success at a young age?”

Crispian: “It’s very much like being an athlete, I guess. Not in the sense that the demands on your youth are extreme, but the music itself, the performing, the lifestyle, it’s all about being young. And the more I think, being really, really successful when you’re young, the education and the extreme element of it is actually all the people around you and how they’re behaving. There’s a moment where you realise there are no grown-ups around. I’m the young person expecting to be told, you know, how the world is. Actually, I’m surrounded by people who have a sort of emotional age of about eight, and it’s a shocking thing, it’s a coming-of-age moment where you realise there are very few grown-ups.”

From Corporate to Independence

Crispian continues: “And I think because you’re in… we were with a record company, so we were with a corporation. And the world is run by corporations. And the kinds of people who will excel and achieve in corporations are people who have personality disorders or people who will thrive in that kind of impersonal environment. And it was killing the spirit of our band. So I just pulled the plug because I was ready to retire at 24. And it’s a bit like… you know, I always think of prizefighters or, you know, athletes, where it’s an insane age to be kind of peaking, but actually, all that was needed was a few years to, I think it was six years in the end, to let the dust settle and to regroup and to start again from almost from scratch as an independent. And that’s what we’ve done.”

“And we’ve built it up slowly, amongst other things, having families and other pursuits, other projects, as writers with other people or producing with other people. And we just slowly, slowly sort of rebuilt Kula Shaker as an independent force. And, you know, I think we proved gradually over the years that we’re still just as vital as we were then. But timing is everything.”

Nick: “Yes, it is, and I can see that this has really worked for you. I know some artists wouldn’t, but it really has because, you know, I’ve been playing the new album and everything, and you’ve come back with probably your best stuff. I mean, it’s a great album.” 

Crispian: “I think there’s something about the music you play and the atmosphere that you’re in, the environment you’re in. You know, certain songs, certain music, it can connect and hit a nerve depending on where people are at in the world and the general kind of conditions. You look back at movies like Star Wars and you think, well, if it wasn’t the end of the ’70s, that movie wouldn’t have hit in the same way it did. And the Beatles or whatever, you know, music, arts, creative things, fashion, so much of it is about timing. And sometimes you just feel like, oh, this is a good time for us. This is a good time for Kula Shaker, actually. What we’ve always been about and our approach to music and our connection with the fans, it’s a good time now. Now is the time to sort of appreciate it. We all appreciate it within the band.”

Nick: “It’s amazing that you’ve got the original lineup. So, this will be the first recording since ’98 with the original lineup. So, what happened to Jay? Because Jay’s Hammond sound is so fantastically part of what you do. Did he get kidnapped by Oasis after Knebworth, because he seemed to disappear after that for a while?”

Crispian said, “No, he didn’t disappear after Knebworth. When we took a break, everyone pursued other endeavours. He was offered that job, leading to a different adventure. He joined Johnny Marr and Zak Starkey in The Healers. Meanwhile, Jay was with Oasis, and I was involved with a band called The Jas. Additionally, I was working on film projects.”

“I made two films, and Paul was collaborating with others, while everyone else was focusing on their families. When we began making music as Kula Shaker in 2006, I reached out to Jay. He was like, ‘I’m in Kuala Lumpur,’ indicating it wasn’t the right timing. There were no hard feelings; circumstances had shifted. We had a fantastic Hammond player in the meantime. However, the chemistry and magic of playing with childhood friends are unparalleled. Reconnecting with Jay for our latest record was exhilarating; it’s not just about the music but also the camaraderie. In a band like ours, the primary audience is each other. We feed off one another’s energy and dynamics, creating a special bond.”

Touring and the Importance of Timing for Kula Shaker

Nick:It must be amazing to perform live again, especially considering Sunday was the first date of the European tour, wasn’t it?”

Crispian: “Yeah, we’ve been touring with Jay for over a year now. It’s been quite fulfilling. We started playing with Jay again in December, 2022, and began working on the new record with him live. It’s been really good, that special chemistry that the band was built on, it’s there, it’s back.”

Nick: “I see you have a good following in Japan. You must have a strong fan base there since you’ve played some Japanese dates. Japan holds a special place in my heart; my uncle has lived there for 40 years and now resides in Okinawa. Japanese fans are known for their enthusiasm, aren’t they?”

Crispian: “Yeah, they’re truly remarkable fans, renowned worldwide for their enthusiasm and loyalty. 

Nick: “I heard a great story about The Manics about the fans. One of them showed up at his gate in Wales, only to discover a couple of Japanese fans at the bottom of his garden. They had travelled all the way from Japan just to say hello.”


Nick:So, how was the first gig on Sunday?” 

Crispian:Because we were associated with a corporation boasting global reach, we quickly became a priority for them. We were promoted worldwide, from Malaysia to Hong Kong, South America to North America. If we could reach Brazil or LA, we could perform there. It’s a privilege to have had that opportunity. However, it’s much tougher as an independent label; you have to cover all costs yourself. Yet, the joy of making the records you want, having control over timing, makes it worthwhile. So, this tour is part of our ongoing journey as an independent band, and playing all this new natural magic sounds great alongside Tattva and other tracks that we’ve written over the years. You know, it all feels fresh together and the band is on fire.”

Nick:It sounds like it, and I can hear lots of influences right away in the album. There are tracks with a bit of Dylan, a bit of The Monkees—I can pick those out. The Beatles, Dylan, even George Harrison in his Indian phase—I think he would love your work. There’s some good stuff there. I noticed that on Sunday you finished with “Groove Is in the Heart”. Now, that’s an interesting cover. As a DJ, I love it; it’s a banger. I’m looking forward to hearing your take on it.”

Crispian:Well, we just always keep ourselves engaged. It depends on how you play it, you know. You can lead it with the guitar, and the riff is pretty powerful. So, I was ready to not play it last night, but we have the swanee whistle. We’ve got the one that they used on The Clangers. So, when that came out, the crowd knew there was something else on the setlist, and I had to play it, and it was worth it.”

Nick:So, are you looking forward to the Camden gigs? The Electric Ballroom is a venue I’ve actually been to before. I lived in Camden for a bit, and that should be really, really, really good fun. I bet you’ve got some energy coming for that!”

Crispian:I’ve never played there. I know I’ve done a shoot there. I did a photo shoot there once, but never played there.”

Nick:Did you know that the Pet Shop Boys are playing at the other end of the road the same night at KOKO?”

Crispian:Interesting. I’ve played at Coco before. I think our audiences are probably very different. But I mean, my favourite size venue is kind of between 1,800 and 3,000. I think that’s actually the ideal. You get a lot of excitement from the crowd, but you don’t lose that connection. You know, you get the size, but you don’t lose the connection. I think when you get past 3,000, it starts to get harder, and it becomes more about the size rather than the direct connection with the band.”

Nick: “The Roundhouse probably fits in with that.”

Crispian: “I agree. We decided to do two nights in London rather than just one at a bigger venue, just to change it up a bit. My cousin has just been to see Fish, the American band, at this new venue called “The Sphere,” which is this holographic bubble. It’s a trip to be in the room, but the band seems miles away.”

Nick: “That isn’t similar to what U2 have done, is it?”

Crispian: “I doubt you two could take the sphere on tour; it looks like a big holographic, a lot of technology. I don’t know whether you’d be able to travel with that, but the point is that the spectacle of these big gigs becomes about the event rather than the connection with the band. The greatest gig I ever saw was The Who at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. I managed to see a warm-up show, and it was so exciting to see a band who are great, a great exciting live band making that noise from, you know, 50 yards away.”

Nick: “It’s going to be fun on Friday. I’ll be down for Friday. Do you still get your family coming down to gigs? Do you still get your mum doing the proud mum bit?”

Crispian: “Yeah, yeah, I do. Yeah, if she’s around. Yeah, everyone does, we have family in London, we have got some family in Gateshead on my in-law’s side. Jay’s got some family down here in Bexhill, actually in Hastings. So, yeah, Lolz’ got some family in Wales, and Paul’s family tends to be in the West Country. So, there are different pockets where the different mums and brothers and uncles and cousins turn up.”

Nick: “It’s such a positive album, and as you say, it’s all about love and connection. I think it’s a good antidote for everything that’s going on in the world at the moment. There’s just so much bad stuff. I mean, we won’t dwell on it, but it would be great to go to a euphoric gig on Friday, and hopefully, you can be that gig.”

Crispian: “Everything that’s happening around you is an opportunity to turn it into something positive. Sometimes you look at something awful, and it wakes you up. Not just to all the terrible things and the terrible people there are in the world, but also to the flip side of that, which is that not everybody is like that. Actually, you know, there’s a different way, and there’s a different way of being. Yeah, that’s always what we’ve been about from the very, very beginning. And to be fair, our core audience who’ve supported us, they get it, and that’s why they’ve stuck with us. Yeah, they get it.”

Nick: “Music has been my escape from everything, especially music and culture. If I don’t go to a gig in any one week, I’m slipping”

Crispian: “Well, that’s good.” 

Nick: “So, I better let you go now; we’re sort of running over time. But, um, do you still have any more rehearsals before Friday?”

Crispian: “No, we have a gig now. I’m about to go and get the catering. We’re going to rehearse the set soon.”

Nick: “I hope everything goes well. I hope you’re on top on Friday, and I’m sure we’re going to have a great time. It’s been 25 years since I last saw you, and you’ve got a great new album. I’m excited to hear it.”

Crispian: “We’ll make sure we try not to disappoint.”

Nick: “I’m sure you’ll have a great gig tonight, Crispian. And I’ll see you on Friday. Thank you so much for the interview.”

Kula Shaker – Natural Magick