Scottish rocker Jim Kerr often had been warned to plan early for retirement. So nearly two decades ago, he pounced on a remote property investment deal, thinking his panoramic art-rock outfit Simple Minds was winding down.
There was just one logistical problem. “The band wasn’t coming to an end, it was just a bit of a fallow period,” says the 59-year-old, who — along with founding guitarist and childhood chum Charlie Burchill — brings the rejuvenated ensemble to town this week, behind its triumphant overseas comeback, “Walk Between Worlds.” Nevertheless, he is now the owner-operator of the Villa Angela hotel in Taormina, Sicily, with a jaw-dropping view of Mount Etna.
Kerr is often on site — he has a hillside apartment nearby — and Villa Angela’s web page features his glowing personal introductory letter, explaining what first attracted him to the truly gorgeous location.
“When I bought the land, everyone said I was mental — everyone,” he says. “My accountants in Scotland wiped their hands of it, saying, ‘You don’t know what you’re doing; Italy is the worst place in Europe to invest in, and Sicily is the worst place in Europe!’ And I was like, ‘OK, OK, I’m not doing it.’ But then I turned around and the next week signed the papers. And I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Becoming a hotelier wasn’t easy. Kerr’s business partner bailed on him, taking local contractor contacts with him. Still, during Simple Minds’ down time over the past 15 years, he has transformed 29 suites into a profitable tourist destination.
“The view is just cosmic,” he says. “I’ve traveled the world and been some amazing places, but when you’re looking at Mount Etna, it’s just amazing. It got under my skin and became a part of me.”
It’s also a great retreat after even the most successful tours, like Simple Minds’ hit U.K. run this summer with Kerr’s ex-wife, Chrissie Hynde and her Pretenders. The couple’s adult daughter Yasmin dropped in backstage, Kerr’s grandchildren in tow.
Simple Minds started on a punkier sound before hitting its elegiac stride with 1982’s “New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)” and the signature hit “Don’t You (Forget About Me).” But today Kerr’s voice is as sonorous, and Burchill’s guitar as majestic on sharp-hooked new songs on “Walk.”
The music doesn’t concern most of his Villa Angela guests, who rarely recognize him even when he’s lunching right next to them. But that way, he explains, “You can get into a chat with people, travelers from all over the world. And I’m much more interested in their stories than they are mine.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Masonic, 1111 California St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 25
Tickets: $35 to $75
Contact: (415) 343-7582, www.ticketmaster.com