Musician, songwriter and actor Gary Kemp will be taking part in our event, Poptastic: Music in the 80s (Thursday 27 September 2012) along with lead singer of The Selecter, Pauline Black and chair of the event Robert Elms. The event is part of our Back to the 80s series and Gary shares some of his thoughts on the 1980s music scene ahead of the event this Thursday.
BI: The new romantic era is sometimes written off as a time of flamboyant fashion, but was there a more serious/political side?
GK: If working-class kids dressing aspirationally is political, then yes. We are all divided by culture which classes us. The Orwellian view of the working classes in cloth caps, or the middle-class rock writer shunning soul boy culture while praising the Rasta, was being threatened by what we were doing. My father wore a tie everyday to go to the factory, we were just following in the well-shod footsteps of the history of working-class vanity.
BI: The influence of the 80s can certainly be heard on contemporary acts like The Killers, Lady Gaga, Hot Chip etc. Why do you think today’s musicians draw so much on the electronic heritage of the 80s in their work?
GK: I'm convinced that the fashion for it's glamour is because we are in another recession. During our last boom-time bands and youth culture looked purposefully dreary, it seemed to me, looking more like the ticket touts outside than something to aspire to. Youth culture has always operated in a dialectical fashion. Strangely up until the nineties and bands like Oasis, there was no looking back. Have we run out of musical ideas, or are we just archivists now? Maybe the frontiers of youth culture are no longer in music.
BI: Who were the influences on your music at the time?
GK: Bowie, certainly, in all his incarnations, and of course Roxy Music. But Spandau were an eclectic amalgamation of the best of the seventies: the fun, gang-like mentality of the Faces; the cultish ambitions and blueprint of the Sex Pistols; the glamour and pop of Generation X and the Rich Kids, plus the soul scene with all it's fashion, dance culture and 12' remix adventures. Add to that the new German electronic sounds, blessed of course by who else but David Bowie.
BI: Who do you think are today’s influential musicians and why?
GK:The sound of U2 has permeated everywhere, most especially on Coldplay, with it's anthemic mood music. Radiohead set a musical style that has also been very influential. But it's American pop music, especially R&B that is the biggest influence now on the UK. This is the first time, surely, since Elvis and Chuck Berry that it's been that way round.
BI: Spandau Ballet recently did the Reformation Tour. How does gigging today compare to back in the 80’s?
GK: It's the same but now it's where bands make most of their money, as opposed to selling records. I think Youtube has taking the mystique out of live shows. Those early Spandau shows were unfilmed and word of mouth created an enormous buzz about them. If it had happened now it would have been posted on Youtube and derided by trolls in days!
BI: Music aside, what do you think are the other lasting legacies of the 80s?
GK: Wow! Let me think about that... Alfresco dining?
Find out more about all our Back to the 80s events.