What first got you into music, specifically forming a band?
I imagine it was the turning away from education, as in my school. Classic ‘I don’t fit in with anyones thinking about who or what I should be’. Forming a band meant to me, I’ve got a self-expression machine… trouble is, I was pretty clueless as to what it was I wanted to articulate. Young, slim and dim. A lot of insecure feelings pointed in no particular direction.
Which artists did you like when you first got into music? Are they different to the ones you were into when you first became a musician?
Initially it was Blues, The Free, Sabbath, Van Der Graaf Generator, The Groundhogs… then Punk Rock happened and the world was turned upside down. It meant people could express themselves in an anti establishment way and think for themselves. Amongst all this, I was growing up doing a whole host of doss house crummy jobs going nowhere. Punk spoke to a lot of people. It was a ‘state of mind’. It vanished quick enough but, there was enough residue to father a whole host of bands from the Pistols through to Nirvana or Green Days.
Which of today’s artists do you like? How do you think they compare to your earliest favourite artists?
I heard the XX and enjoyed listening to their album recently. It didn’t smash me in the fave but was cool just have play. I hear things all the time, I think I’ve gone eclectic. Heard Howling Wolf the other day and as good now as then. Many things nowadays seem to be fourth or fifth generation generic in this so-called Babylon… so many voices, all speaking in hidden tongues. Perhaps it’s just I’m waiting for a bit of pure bravery.
If you had to describe your music to someone who had not heard you before, what would you say?
Often called Post Punk, but transcended that while it died off. Angry, end of days music, loves labour lost
What songs or arrangements of your own are you most proud of, and why?
There’s many for all different kinds of reasons. ‘Iceman’… ‘Propaganda’… Judas’…’Sputnik’… Titanium Man’ They all come with very different approaches to them. Their difference I’m proud of. No two the same. Some are sweeping in context, either anti-establishment or almost dream state. ‘Sputnik’ is a requiem, ‘Propaganda’ is anti-establishment, ‘Judas’ was someones betrayal of me, ‘Iceman’ is the 5,000 year old man they found in the ice on the Italian border in the mountains, ‘Titanium Man’ is simply the Russian doomed anti-hero who was an enemy of Ironman, betrayed by his own regime.
How well did you cope with fame at an early age?
Fame at 25 took my head off. I never ever imagined it could have possibly have happened. It was impossible. When the covers of magazines came along and 3 times on TV in two weeks… It would be a complete lie to say, yes I took it all in my stride. There was no one there to help/advise me, the management assumed it would nose dive at any moment. What I/we needed was proper guidance, not smash and grab thinking as the Titanic was going down. It turned out I wasn’t going down. There are lulls to all careers.
Which person has had the most significant effect on you? Why?
My daughter Siff. She has made sense of life in a very fundamental way. This is her world now, not mine. I’ve had my time. She and her generation have the unenviable task of walking forward into a very insecure, unstable future. She has to be brave all the time.
When touring/visiting, which country had the most profound effect on you, and why?
America. I lived there for almost 4 years. There are certain freedoms over there that are unique. It has to be experienced. For all the negative things going on over there, there is an opposite amount of great things. Every state is a country virtually. There are thinkers over there that broaden mankind’s perspective, and I don’t mean the gold diggers of silicon valley.
If you could backtrack through your career, what would you edit, if anything?
I’m afraid I am the product of all my own stupidities and follies. For better, for worse. To erase one might erase the other. Sometimes I’m all the fools I never wanted to ever be, sometimes and just sometimes, I do something right. Don’t wait up…
Which invention or piece of art would you like to have prevented coming into being?
Undoubtably the Bomb and its descendants. It was brought into being by a group of scientists who raided Einsteins mathematics and knowingly did the unspeakable. They gave it life ever after.
If you were to meet yourself in your early twenties, what advice would you give yourself?
Complicated. Find a lawyer that understood what was or was about to have happen to me. Or as the late great Trevor Ravenscroft quoted to me ‘To Thine Own Self Be True’
Theatre of Hate
Westworld De Luxe Edition
(Cherry Red Records CRCDMBOX31)
Cherry Red’s welcome re-release of Theatre of Hate’s sole studio LP, ‘Westworld’ comes expanded with some bonus alternative tracks, and two juicy extras; a disc of BBC sessions, and a live concert, from Vienna.
At a distance of 34 years, we may at last be able to get some perspective on Theatre of Hate’s individual take on post-punk rock. The band, here consisting of singer and songwriter Kirk Brandon, bassist Stan Stammers, sax/clarinet player John ‘Boy’ Lennard and drummer Luke Rendle, took on the serious issues of war, politics and propaganda, and set it to galloping martial music. The sparse, desert-like landscapes of Spaghetti Western soundtracks are never very far away, the wailing sax often providing a spectral atmosphere, and over it all, the soaring voice of Kirk Brandon. Produced by The Clash’s Mick Jones, the LP arrived like a hot spark out of the fire, amid the low pop and polished adult orientated rock of 1982, doing respectable business into the bargain.
The thunderous abandon of ‘Do You Believe in the West World?’ opens, with the band galloping over the plains, Kirk in full throat in what surely deserved to do better than the top 40 single place it ended up with. This is tempered by the shimmering cymbals and funeral trumpet of ‘Judgement Hymn’ and the trip beat of ‘G3’. ‘Love Is a Ghost’ has a tension about it that saves it from being merely a mournful lament, and ‘The Wake’s tense, anxious tones take the listener places he may not want to go. ‘Conquistador’s sleek gallop and rising voice reflect the danger and excitement in the lives of these notorious figures from history, and ‘The New Trail Of Tears’ open, plain-like vistas evoke the cinematic West of legend.
‘Freaks’ may not add much to the canon with its standard TOH beat, but is followed by the shiver-inducing lullaby of ‘Anniversary’. ‘The Klan’ is a suitably nightmarish evocation of antagonism and terror, the imploring vocal shredding the air over an unnerving piano roll. The 7’’ and dub versions of ‘West World’ follow the former a triumph, the latter something of a let-down, with its attempt at a ‘club’ sound hampered by its sheer attack. The alternative take of ‘Propaganda’ shows improvement on the original cut, with stronger beat, and closing track ‘Original Sin’s fear-response guitar and oriental feel making a surprising, late addition to the palette.
The BBC CD offers up much the same basic material, and in almost every case, the studio takes for the John Peel show and ‘Top of the Pops’ are far superior to their original LP versions. The music is tighter, the vocals more assured, and the overall feel is that of a band who were surely going on to bigger and better things. The ‘Live in Vienna’ CD showcases the band’s winning sound for all to hear, and again, it exceeds the studio LP on almost every cut. We now know that Theatre of Hate would split with little to show for their efforts, and so the strident sound of the live CD and the punchy, engaging BBC sessions are ever more valuable artefacts for those who found the general run of 1982’s pop a little tepid for their tastes. BUY HERE!