Martin Kemp tells us about life in one of Britain’s most iconic bands
Utter the words Spandau Ballet and chances are anyone who was born in the past 50 years or simply owns a radio, will know the British band’s pop electronica hits. The iconic group have sold more than 25 million records, scored multi-platinum albums and had 23 hit singles worldwide since launching onto the London club scene in the late 1970s. For anyone doubting their level of success, ‘The band was like One Direction. The whole of those years from 1983 to 1986, we just felt like we were living a hard day’s night,’ says Spandau bassist Martin Kemp. But unlike One Direction – who are now on a break after five years together – Spandau lasted a decade before splitting in 1990. After nearly 20 years apart the group reunited in 2009, and a year later they were performing in Dubai alongside Rod Stewart at the Sevens Stadium. Now, the five-piece band are set to return to the city with their ‘Soul Boys of the Western World’ tour at Dubai World Trade Centre on Thursday September 17.
‘2009 and 2010 were about us trying to see if the audiences were still interested. We were looking to see whether or not we could even work together. We had had such a long time off away from each other, it was like us trying to stick our tongue in the water,’ explains Kemp. Along with Duran Duran, Wham! and Sade – all of whom grew out of the new romantic scene at the end of the ’70s – Spandau were one of the super-groups of the ’80s. From the nightclubs of Soho and Ibiza to Hollywood and Australia, the group, which included brothers Gary and Martin Kemp, Tony Hadley, Steve Norman and John Keeble, were the poster boys of designer pop. Known for their elegant and often bizarre dress sense (think frilly shirts, colourful tuxedos and heavy eyeliner), Spandau left a legacy with hits including ‘Gold’, ‘True’ and ‘To Cut a Long Story Short’. ‘It’s all about good songs. When we play those, it’s like they are the theme songs for people’s lives. So you have to give them respect. It’s a thrill every time you walk on stage, whether you are performing to a new audience or an old one,’ says Kemp.
These days the band are looking more clean cut – the hoop earrings, silk shirts and unruly mullets have been replaced by conservative tailored jackets and jeans. And it’s not just the fashion that they’ve left behind, but the dramas too. In 1999 three of the band’s members – Hadley, Norman and Keeble – launched an unsuccessful court case against Gary Kemp for a share of his song-writing royalties. ‘Nobody won the court case so it was an experience that deserved to be left behind. There are certain issues you don’t want to address. Some things are better just left as, “You know what, it happened; let’s leave it behind,”’ says Kemp.
Last year the band released the critically lauded Soulboys of the Western World, a film documenting the group’s story – their rise to fame, split and fallouts – as well as The Story, a greatest hits collection that included three new songs produced by legendary record producer Trevor Horn, including ‘This Is The Love’ and ‘Steal’. ‘Getting back into the room for the first time, it was kind of weird. It was as if time never happened. It was just one day into the next. We were just older. The band really started coming together the minute we started playing music.’
Since splitting up at the end of the ’80s, brothers Martin and Gary Kemp established themselves as credible actors in The Krays – the 1990 British drama film about the lives and crimes of English gangster twins Ronald and Reginald Kray, often referred to as The Krays. So with yet another film about the notorious twins set to be released in Dubai cinemas on October 1, Legend starring British actor Tom Hardy in a double role, what does Kemp think about all the hype?
‘I never really enjoy any film with the actor playing two parts; whether it’s a comedy, action film or whatever, but I’m sure if anybody can do it then Tom Hardy can. He’s a great actor.’
After the brother’s success with The Krays, Gary went on to star in The Bodyguard alongside Whitney Houston while Martin became a household name in Britain for his role in the BBC soap EastEnders. Despite spending the past year touring with Spandau, the 53-year-old hasn’t turned his back on acting and has four film projects set for release next year. A new Spandau album may be on the horizon. ‘We are in an incredible position at the moment. We’ve been apart for 16 years or something. I thought I was saying goodbye to that part of my life, so I think we’ve been very lucky. I have no regrets,’ says Kemp. With their Dubai concert looming and gigs in Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines on the horizon, it looks like Spandau Ballet’s glory days are far from over. Dhs300-650. 7pm. Thursday September 17. Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.doneevents.com (04 439 0900).