Kirk Brandon is post-punk royalty. A key player, from his punk outfit ‘The Pack’ in 1978, then with his bands ‘Theatre of Hate’ and ‘Spear of Destiny’ he’s scorched a trail of passion and power for almost forty years. I caught up with him between studio recording sessions and preparations for a UK tour at the end of this month, and found a humble, erudite and passionate musician…
B.M. – So, Kirk, you’ve been very busy of late. Theatre of Hate gigs..Spear of Destiny gigs earlier this year, and you have a UK tour later this month with Sam Sansbury on cello. can you tell us a little about that?
K.B. – Yeah, it’s something we’ve been doing for the last couple of years…It was just an idea. Sam used to be a lead cellist in an orchestra, and he’d run the family business – which went out of the window, and he wanted to go back to doing what he wanted to do, which was playing music. A friend suggested we give it a go together, so we did and it really worked well. I didn’t know how my songs would work out with a cello, but he put lots of different parts on it, not just doing the lead guitar lines you know, and it really came to life under its own steam. It was like “Wow!” It’s quite emotional…when you hear it through a P.A. it’s very overpowering.
B.M. – And I believe you’ve been in the studio recently, recording some of that material?
K.B. – Yeah, we’ve done the second album , which is ‘Cello Suites Duo’ (laughs), which I’m reliably informed means two…as opposed to uno! And we’ve developed it a stage further than the first album, with Sam playing his own parts…and we’ve put three new songs on it, so it’s not just the good old tunes, there’s some new stuff on there too. But alongside the old classics – ‘Young Men’, …stuff like that, so there’s a lot of great tunes on it, and funnily enough, we listened to the playback and I thought “You know what I’ve got here? I’ve got a bloody protest album!” It’s not just sitting back and wandering about, it’s something pretty strong.
B.M. – For me, Spear of Destiny, when you first emerged, was dare I say it, a poppier more diverse outfit than Theatre of Hate, but still retained the intensity with songs like ‘Liberator’ for example. What’s your take on the differences between the two bands?
K.B. – Well, I think Theatre of Hate was pretty unique. It was a set of songs hanging around since I was a teenager, and it all came together with that band. A unique set of riffs – I wrote the riffs for ‘Legion’ when I was eighteen, so it goes back a way, it was my young life. Whereas the Spear of Destiny thing was experimenting with styles and arrangements but in a very different way. The Theatre of Hate stuff was unclassifiable, some people said it was like avant garde music, post punk avant garde, so I would say you’re right actually, pretty much.
B.M. – I was just listening to the ‘Westworld’ vinyl album before calling, and you’re right it is avant garde.
K.B. – Yeah, when Mick Jones produced it, he pulled us together in a musical sense. Some people said it lost the raw energy of the singles, and I would say to some degree, yes, but it also gave it its own identity, that album…which, a lot of people regard as a classic now. But live it’s exciting, it really is. Performance, a Rock ‘n Roll show, and it retains that left-field thing.
B.M. – That brings me nicely to my next question. You first came along in an era of intense, very commanding frontmen (and women) and performers, alongside people like Ian Astbury, Peter Murphy, Siouxsie, Jaz Coleman and the like – to name but a few. Do you think, amongst today’s new bands, are they lacking that? Or is there anyone you’ve encountered recently, that has that fire?
K.B. – That’s a hard one that, really hard! I dunno…I think that era was a very unique time, and it produced really extreme people, and today a lot of what you hear is…homogenous, is that the word? I’m waiting for something to come along and shake me up, give it to me between the eyes. Someone who’s that fired up, you know? But in a way I feel it’s wrong to criticise the modern people, because this is a very different era. They don’t have those motivational forces that we had growing up. Today it’s a very different industry; and that’s not to say that I know it all, I really don’t. I hear so much music and think what the hell’s that?
There’s so much stuff that sounds generic…I’ll tell you what, I heard something on the last tour, in a soundcheck, and it was a band called ‘Triple X’, I think or just ‘XX’? (B.M. – possibly Wandsworth indie band ‘The XX’) and that was alright actually. It was instrumental and it went off into something else, quite dreamy. Sorry, I wish I could say this person or that person…no, but here’s a funny one for yer. I watched recently a couple of shows on TV, and Liam Gallagher was on, and I’ve always been a bit yeah, no, yeah, no about that band (Oasis), and I watched what he was doing, and I thought “You know what? This guy is motivated!” He was actually really good, and it was so not what all the other bands were doing; they were playing a game, just being commercial, and he was just up there singing, with a real saucy old attitude on his face, and it was kind of “Hello! We’ve got a Rock ‘n Roll singer here! There’s a punk rocker! (laughs)”.
B.M. – Final question. Are there any plans in the pipeline to come to Belgium or Holland?
K.B. – Yes, there are. I’m not exactly sure when. October or November, we’re hoping. There’s also some stuff being lined up in Poland and Italy.
B.M. – OK, thanks Kirk, and good luck with the tour.
K.B. – Thanking you.
Kirk Brandon’s tour kicks off on the 23rd of August in Sheffield. Dates below.