Songs of Preys sits down with post-punk legend Kirk Brandon of Theatre of Hate and Spear of Destiny. They discuss Kirk’s career, how he got into music, how the industry has changed and much more.
Written by Songs of Preys
(Songs of Preys questions in BOLD, Kirk’s answers in italics)
Before you became involved in the music industry, what music were you listening to?
A mix of blues, blues rock. Ranging from Howlin Wolf through to the Groundhogs, Free, Neil Young, Peter Hamill. Just about everything derivative from blues.
What was the main catalyst for embarking on a career in music?
Conventional schoolwork and exams I resisted throughout my younger years. I was rebelling against something I barely understood, if at all. Music however primitive, was my effort was a way of articulating what I felt or attempted to feel. It spoke the language I listened to. Music spoke to me. I had no option but to listen. Then one day Punk Rock roared around the bend and like so many others, it changed life and music forever. It was my generation speaking up.
How would you describe your current occupation?
Unemployed of Sussex. A singer of songs. Writer of left field music. Performer. Mad person. Political agitator.
What was your first major stumbling block on your journey into the music business?
First real stumbling block was Rough Trade Records refusing to print more records of the single ‘Westworld’. The initial pressing of 50,000 sold out immediately in a week. Their response was, ‘that’s all it will ever sell, we won’t be pressing anymore’. They were wrong, and it went on to sell well over a 100,000 copies in the UK alone. But the chart momentum was ruined. On sale one week, not on sale the next. On sale the following week. Such is life.
Quick question: Bowie or Iggy?
I suppose Bowie. Its the familiarity of his earlier albums.
What do you consider was your first major musical breakthrough?
Undoubtedly it was the Theatre of Hate single ‘Do You Believe in The Westworld’. This was a success around the UK and Europe. It opened a lot of doors. It put the band on the TV show Top Of The Pops and brought it to national attention. Also, we started to tour Europe extensively and put us on TV shows in each territory. It kick-started the band in a very big way.
Was there ever a time that you wanted to quit the music business?
I have been involved with Stiff, CBS, 10 Records and Virgin. Currently we operate outside the mainstream music industry. I honestly consider myself outside of the ‘Music Industry’, whatever that currently is.
Do you miss anything, at all, about the printed music press?
I can’t say I miss the NME. Obviously, the writers in recent years are a whole lot younger presumably and would only view me in the context of a ‘historical artiste’ at best, but nevertheless the narrative from them was always negative. Some of it clear libels.
I also think there were many genuine music fans in papers like ‘Sounds’ and ‘Melody Maker’. Call me old fashioned but I liked the old fanzines. Sometimes much more accurate than the mainstream papers.
There’s a huge revival in 70’s & 80’s music, in particular Rewind Festivals and online radio shows like Songs of Preys, do you think the music has stood the test of time, or do you feel it’s dated?
If we listen to all forms of music nowadays, then no. Nothing is dated. You could say something sounds ‘period’ but it would be subjective. We are all dated to the world ‘we belong to’.
Quick question: Vinyl, CD or digital download?
Vinyl any day! Its reproduction and ‘depth’ are better than any other format. My belief.
The downside is, you can’t realistically walk the streets with a record player gaffa taped to your head or your Y Fronts.
Do you think the music business has evolved or devolved in the 21st century?
You sign to a record label because you want them to throw money at advertising you. In the event of success, both parties ‘win’. In the event of failure to get up to number one, you will have had sizeable monies spent on your publicity. Your profile will be your ‘win’ from the situation. Alternately, the artiste does it ‘cottage industry’. Building up their own profile, brick by brick. The artiste has the right to define themselves throughout their career. Your success is, to a certain degree, in your own hands. All rights should remain in your hands.
Plus, there are many people out there trying to ‘evolve’ an extremely corrupt ‘ old Music Industry’. New ways at the artistes themselves getting their monies are being thought of daily. The sooner the better for all artistes.
It has been noted that in venues that host ‘alternative’ nights that they play a majority of music from the 80’s, do you think it’s the music that’s stood the test of time, or has the ‘alternative’ scene stagnated?
The scene has moved on so very far from its inception. We cannot judge what an 18-year-old would find brilliant by his or her standards. A bit like the fuddy duddys hearing Elvis Presley for the first time, not exactly Frank Sinatra.
There’s room for all. Music is by its very nature, timeless.
Following on from that, do you think the music of ‘now’ will stand that same 30-year test of time?
Some will, some won’t. If it’s good, it will be remembered.
If you knew then what you know now, would you still want to pursue a career in music?
Impossible to answer. It’s a game of roulette. At a table or with a gun.
What would be the ONE bit of advice you would give a new musician?
Be extremely careful who you place your trust in. There’s a million Judas’ out there waiting to score a fool. Don’t be that fool.
What music, if any, do you listen to when you are relaxing?
Classical! Anything without a drummer.
What you your ideal four-band mini festival line-up be of artists alive today?
Theatre of Hate
New Model Army
Peter Hook & The Light
Is there any musician alive today that you would love to collaborate with, or cover one of their songs?
Peter Hook…. Bez……. Justin Sullivan…….Also really looking forward to writing new songs with the current Dead Men Walking line up of Segs, Ruffy and Jake Burns.
Quick question: What was the last book you read?
‘The Paris Commune 1871’