Godfathers of Pop: Kirk Brandon
By Classic Pop | August 1, 2019
Kirk Brandon rose to fame as the frontman of post-punk rockers Theatre Of Hate, who enjoyed their biggest hit with Do You Believe In The Westworld in 1982.
He went on to form Spear Of Destiny, who reached No.14 in 1987 with Never Take Me Alive and released further acclaimed singles including Come Back and So In Love With You. This summer, Brandon is playing on different dates with Spear Of Destiny, Theatre Of Hate and his pre-fame punk band, The Pack.
How did you come to get The Pack back together?
Jon Werner, the bass player, had been after me to do it for about six years. I’d always been busy, but one day he said, “If not now, when?” And I thought, “He’s right.” Simon, the guitarist, who was Jon’s brother, has been dead for eight or nine years and the drummer was unavailable so it was only me and Jon who could do it. We got Steve Grantley from Stiff Little Fingers, and Warren ‘Woz’ Wilson – a guitarist I’ve played with a few times – and set the wheels in motion.
Did it feel like getting back to your youth?
It was definitely a big trip down memory lane. The music, emotions and feelings of the time came flooding back and it was kind of overwhelming for a while. It was also a major effort, because that music is quite difficult to play. The Pack didn’t release a lot of material, but we went through what we could salvage from live tapes and it was shocking how much the music evolved in such a short period. It’s not like every song is similar in format and arrangement – far from it. Things like Machine World and Brave New Soldiers were so far ahead of their time that I look back and think, wow, how did we work that one out in 1979?
Did you aspire to get in the charts at that point?
Absolutely not. The mainstream was so far away in those days. It was the world of disco in the 70s: Barry White and Earth, Wind & Fire. Then along came this monster from the graveyard called punk rock that destroyed everything. At the time, no one thought for a minute that punk would do anything or have any influence. It was only 10 or 20 years later that you started to see what a colossal influence it had.
The gigs must have been quite violent in those days.
I suppose when you’re younger, you don’t care when the bottles come flying. You think it’s funny, although you knew that if they hit you it wasn’t gonna do you much good! They were violent times. It was electric. There were always people fighting in the audience and glasses getting thrown, even into the 80s with Spear Of Destiny. We did the Keep The GLC Working For London festival in Brockwell Park in 1984 and everybody got bottled. It was after that show that Captain Sensible left The Damned. A bottle hit him on the nut and he said, “I’ve had enough of this!”
How did it feel to get onto Top Of The Pops with Theatre Of Hate?
It was an incredibly exciting time in our lives. The BBC was, and still is, the establishment channel, so to be on there was amazing. But it was that strange kind of time when you could get on there. Today, you’re either on Jools Holland’s show or you’re not on television at all, whereas we had everything on Top Of The Pops then – The Banshees, New Model Army… Think of a band and they were on it.
There was a lot of cowboy imagery in Do You Believe In The Westworld. Were western films a big influence on you?
Yeah, we all watched cowboy films as a kid, didn’t we? That western mythology was always there. But the actual question in the song – do you believe in the westworld? – is such a big question, perhaps even more so today, that I think it’s that phrase that people connected with. The song is really about Ronald Reagan, the Russians and nuclear war. Most people that I came up with assumed that one day the mushroom clouds would go up and that would be the end of it.
What about Spear Of Destiny’s biggest hit, Never Take Me Alive. What was the inspiration for that?
The inspiration was some people I knew that were very desperate. They did a robbery and it all went wrong for them, in a very comical way. But the song moved on very quickly from there and became about a guy who killed someone and goes on the run. It’s a desperado song, really.
What does the future hold?
When we were rehearsing for The Pack tour, we recorded everything and when we played it back I thought, “This is pretty amazing”, so we decided to put 13 songs on a new album, Salford Sessions. We’re also about six tracks into a new Theatre Of Hate album.
For Kirk Brandon’s dates with Spear Of Destiny, Theatre Of Hate and The Pack, visit kirkbrandon.com