The Godfathers of Pop: Steve Bronski interview
David Burke meets Steve Bronski, namesake and keyboardist to synth-pop group Bronski Beat.
Synth-pop outfit Bronski Beat – Steve Bronski, Jimmy Somerville and Larry Steinbachek – became a mouthpiece for gay issues with their 1984 debut album, The Age of Consent and the hit singles, Smalltown Boy, Why? and It Ain’t Necessarily So. Somerville quit the group the following year to become frontman of The Communards and was replaced by a number of different vocalists until Bronski Beat’s demise in 1996. Bronski is now the only remaining original member, alongside Ian Donaldson and Stephen Granville. A new and expanded version of The Age of Consent was released by London Records earlier this year.
How important was The Age Of Consent to gay rights?
It was quite important, as very few pop acts were speaking out about the struggles of the gay community in their day-to-day lives.
How difficult was it to be gay in Britain at that time?
For us, it was a lot easier living in London, since there was a thriving gay scene compared to other parts of the country. The press didn’t help in their approach to AIDS.
Did you explicitly set out to be the advocates for the gay lobby?
Not at all, we were just three openly gay men writing songs about our lives. A lot of people in our community just happened to relate to our songs, which was amazing.
Were you ever aggrieved by the representation of gay men within the entertainment industry?
Not at all, as we were an openly gay band from the start. I think it was a lot harder for those who were afraid to come out of the closet, for fear of persecution from the press and possibly record companies telling them it could affect sales for fear of losing some of their fanbase.
You shared a flat with Jimmy and Larry before Bronski Beat – is that how the band came about?
Larry and myself were making music and heard Jimmy singing a song called Screaming. We decided to do the music for the track for fun and it just took off.
Why did you decide to break Bronski Beat up in 1996?
We never actually split up, we just had an extremely long break! I lived in Thailand for many years, then Amsterdam, and Ian was DJing in London, as well as gigs in Russia, Brazil and Europe as Sordid Soundz.
What was the thinking behind The Age Of Reason, essentially a reworking of The Age Of Consent?
Originally, the thought was to make backing tracks for the old songs with the idea of using them for live shows. Then when we got Stephen Granville in, we decided to record his vocals. Barney from Cherry Red Records heard the demos and decided we should put it out as an album to reintroduce the band with our new vocalist.
Are we living in an age of reason when it comes to LGBT rights? A Flower For Dandara, the tribute to Brazilian transsexual Dandara dos Santos, would suggest we don’t…
We should be living in an age of reason, although in certain parts of the world the discrimination has got worse. People are regularly being tortured and murdered.
Are you sad that Smalltown Boy and Why? are as relevant today as when they were first released?
I believe certain music and songs are timeless, and the fact that Smalltown Boy and Why? are seen as relevant today would say that they meant something to somebody and maybe helped them.
What, in your opinion, are some of the most significant issues facing the gay community in Britain now?
I guess it’s still scary for the younger generation today to come out, but it’s definitely a lot easier nowadays, with so many out celebrities and role models on our TVs. We are now allowed to marry and adopt, so we’re getting there.
Are there any plans to release new material? If so, when – and what can we expect?
When we decided to start working together again, Ian suggested I listen to Stephen as they had worked together before. When
I heard his voice, I thought he would be perfect for the band and we all got on so well, we just clicked. We are actually in the process of writing new material, which will be released next year. Expect the unexpected!