10 Questions with ... Spandau Ballet
September 21, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Having emerged from Soho's ultra hip Blitz Club in 1979 during another economic depression, Spandau Ballet formed at school in North London before becoming one of the most influential British bands of all time.
Spandau went on to sell over 25 million record sales, six multi-platinum albums and 23 hit singles. Music lovers all over the world will remember Spandau's career highlights which spanned from their pioneering early singles "To Cut A Long Story Short" and "Chant No.1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)", and the globe-trotting smashes "True," "Gold" and "Only When You Leave".
Their song "True" has been performed on North American radio five million times and has been featured in countless movies including "Sixteen Candles," "The Wedding Singer," "Charlie's Angels," "50 First Dates," and "Crazy Stupid Love." The song was featured in the Simpsons twice and an entire episode of Modern Family.
Spandau Ballet ballet's newest release, "This Is Love," is currently being played at AC radio.
While on a break from touring, Spandau Ballet's Martin Kemp took some time to chat with All Access about their newest music, their legendary career, and what's next for the iconic band.
1) In your 35 + career what is the one thing that keeps you getting back on stage and working together?
If you ask anyone who is doing what they love, they will always say the same thing. Because playing in a band, being an actor, a musician, or whatever you do, it's your hobby isn't it? So why would you ever want to stop doing your hobby?
I find it really odd when people ask the question, "Why are you still doing this?" Why shouldn't you do it? Because it's something that you love essentially it's your hobby and you're lucky enough to make money at it. I have this conversation with my kid and we talk about it a lot. Success isn't about making money, success is turning your hobby into your job and if you can do that then great.
2) I heard you learned to play bass in just three months when you joined Spandau Ballet is that correct?
To be honest, I was in a punk band. I was one of those kids, where punk had opened up the door to those who wanted to be in a band (who weren't great musicians) but just wanted the whole lifestyle of it.
Before punk came along, you had to be a great musician to play in bands like Yes or Emerson Lake & Palmer, and other prog rock bands and you had to be really good. Punk kind of opened up the door and you didn't have to be that good, you could learn thee or four chords and that's it! If you're in the band you're in the band.
I was in a punk band playing three chord songs. About nine months later, the manager of my brother, Gary's band asked me to be in their band, which was something that I'd always wanted to do. So when he said you've got three months to learn how to play the bass and learn12 songs it was a nice test and straight forward.
3) Was it easy to transition from the punk scene to Spandau Ballet?
Yeah. My brother's band, the school band that he had, was based around power pop. It was kind of like Generation X. It was that kind of style. So it was quite easy to go from what I had to playing in Gary's band.
The only problem was that Gary didn't want me to be in the band and have to bring his brother along. So I had to get around that. To do that, I had to talk to my mom and get her involved.
4) Fast forwarding, why did you decide to put out the documentary "Soul Boy of the Western World" and what was the process of making it like for you?
The process was quite strange to be honest, because it was one of those things that we kind of left in someone else's hands. It's not very often that Spandau Ballet ever does that. Even in the studio with producers we're practically doing it ourselves.
But with the film, we supplied all the material. And George Hencken, the director, took that and she cut her own story around that. The story that she came up with was the main thread and it was about friendship, and how friendship can be made and then lost. And then family, which I think is the most important thing about us getting back together. Because it wasn't so much about the band, it was about friendship.
Were you happy with the way it turned out?
Absolutely, the biggest cool out of all that (the master strike really) was getting a woman to direct it. She found the emotion inside the film. I think if it was a man it would have been more about facts and figures, and how many people went to the show, how many records you've sold, and how the crews put the equipment up. What George Hencken did was she found the emotion in the friendship and that's what made it an important film.
5) What was it that brought the band back together in 2009?
I think it was the fact that we all realized that Spandau Ballet was bigger than all of us. There was nothing that we could do in our lives that was going to be bigger than that.
And I think that you also realize how important for the audience, you know, your fans ... the people who had been listening to those song all those years. Some of those Spandau Ballet songs were the theme songs to the poignant moments in people's lives with so many of those songs like "Gold" and "True." You owe it to the audience to be to bring it back live?
Want was it like back on tour?
There was a moment that was kind of odd. In 2009 there was a kabuki curtain that would drop down in front of the band to reveal the band at the beginning of the concert. There were a couple of moments in that first very show in Dublin, when the curtain dropped we were all standing around. Because it was a moment that I never thought I'd experience again. For me that was the greatest experience (besides live aid and having your first record or your first #1) that was one of the most important moments that I love.
6) How is new single "This Is Love" different from most some of your other material
One of the things I was always frustrated with the band is the fact that we never really captured the sound of the band live on record. We're much better now live than we are on record. And I think this is the closest we've ever come to that. Even today, we play those songs live, and we are a standard rock band. But we have good songs.
7) Will the new album attract mostly your devout fans or new audiences?
It's funny, we're seven to eight months into a world tour, and every country you go to it's pretty much the same? It ranges from really young kids, to the guys who followed us in the 80s. It's the most cross the board audience I've ever seen at a rock concert, which has been really good. It's a very broad demographic.
8) Your song "True" has been covered and sampled many times. Do you have a favorite version from an artist that do you like the most?
Id' have to say my favorite is Modern Family where Ed Norton organizes an anniversary present for his wife and he sings it. That's my favorite version of it, but it's been covered so many times. It's something to be proud of.
It's a funny thing. We've played a short tour of America where it was like the national anthem of songs. But every country has a favorite Spandau Ballet song, if you go to Denmark it's "Only When You Leave Me" if you go to Italy, it's "I'll Fly To You," if you go to Britain ... it's the song "Gold." There are different songs that are more popular in different countries which makes it very interesting.
9) When the band wasn't together and you would see that did it stir something in you that we to get back out there and perform?
It wasn't really that, it was the underlying feeling that the band was bigger than all of us. When Ed Norton walked through the door in Modern Family and when "True" has been played in the States more than 8 million times in the U.S. there's an over riding feeling that you should be out there. And that's where the fun is!
When you're a young kid and you have those first thoughts that you want to be in a rock band, you don't have those feelings that you want to record an album, I want top use this producer or that producer, it's just that you just want to get out there and play live. The strangest thing with the band being big in the 80s, this is the biggest tour that we've ever done.
10) Where do you see Spandau Ballet going in the next 10-20 years?
When we reach the end of this tour which will wrap up at the end of September, we're going to take it to the Far East. We're going to start writing some new music and come out with a new album with 12 new tracks.
The thing is this time around, with the time that we had ... we had a choice. We could either make a film and documentary, or we could come out with a new album.
So we sat down and we decided that it's not every day that you have to make that documentary. And we felt that it was time to put that down. So this time we went for the film and not the new album.
We made three new tracks, but I'm glad we stuck to our guns and did the film this time because what the film has done is it filled in the blanks for people especially in the States. Many people just thought that this band came out with records like "True" and "Gold," and this documentary tells the whole story.
Are there any new artists that you really like?
There's a young band out there that I really like called Years And Years which is my favorite stuff.
But pop music in England at the moment is really healthy with artists like Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran. It's mostly singer songwriters, but it's really in healthy state. It reminds me much now of the mid 80s.
In the 90s there was that period where the DJs were remixing tracks or doing other people's tracks, so we lost that good song vibe. But if you look around now it's the closest it's been to the 80s or the mid 70s even. It's back on track.
How do you balance your acting work with Spandau Ballet schedule?
I kind of do a bit of both, and I like to think I can do both. In the last year I haven't done much acting. I've got a lot of scripts on my desk at the moment and they're really tempting.
But you have to become dedicated to one thing. But I'm really lucky to be able to do more than one thing. I love the whole bubble that's called entertainment. I love presenting stuff, acting, and being in a band. I can't believe sometimes that I've found myself in this position.
At the end of the day, out of all your accomplishments and everything you've done, what are you most proud of?
It's not really one thing that I'm most proud of, it's the fact that I've been in this business since I was seven years old and I'm still doing this today. I'm 53 now and I'm really proud of that.
*Special thanks to Leah Adams for conducting this interview.