Spandau Ballet's Tony Hadley: The Culture Brats Interview

On January 23rd, Spandau Ballet will embark on their first US tour in thirty years. We were lucky enough to catch up with singer Tony Hadley to discuss the tour, Band Aid 30, and which Guinness World Record he'd love to have his name attached to.

In about ten days, Spandau Ballet will begin its first US tour in 30 years. What did we do to you guys to make you stay away so long?
It's what we did to ourselves. We had a twenty-year fallout which was pretty acrimonious. In our film, Soul Boys Of The Western World, it's all documented there. A pretty painful breakup, really. Sometimes bands keep going because they think they have to. If I'm looking back on it, Through The Barricades should've been our last album, we should've taken five years off from each other, and then probably we would've survived. But unfortunately we pushed it too far and for various reasons, we just weren't enjoying it anymore and so we ended up taking a break from each other for twenty years and ended up in court which was very nasty. It took a lot of soul searching to get ourselves back together again. We got back together in 2009 and 2010 and I said at the time that carrying all that baggage, all that nasty energy, doesn't really do anybody any good. There I was on television saying, "No, we're never getting back together. We don't like each other." It doesn't do you any good. It took a long time, but we finally managed to rekindle our friendship.

I don't know why we didn't tour the States back in 2009 and 2010. I think we made some mistakes with America. I think maybe we were too clever. We certainly spent lots and lots of time in Europe and especially in places like Italy and Spain and Germany. What I think people forget, or what we forgot as a band, is in America there's so many great bands and so many great musicians, you've got to tour. You have to keep going back. You have to prove to people that you can cut your chops as a musician. Once you do that and once you get a following, and Duran was very good at doing that, then you've got your place in America and American pop. We unfortunately for one reason or another didn't do that and we needed to.

After thirty years, [we're] coming over to America with a very short tour. There's already talk about coming back in the summer and doing some festivals and outdoor shows. I toured there as a solo artist several years ago which was great. I toured small clubs, it was great fun. I enjoyed it. Hopefully this is the start of coming back to America on a much more regular basis.

We were in Austin, Texas for the SXSW film festival. We did the premiere of Soul Boys Of The Western World, but we also did a small club gig while we were there and the reaction was fantastic and I think that was what spurred us on to say, "Right. We're definitely going to come back and play some shows in the States."

What will the shows be like?
We've been in rehearsals for over a week. The one thing about the States is it was "True" that was the big hit. That was the thing that broke us in America. Previous to that, I'm sure that some Americans are not even aware that we were a culty band. We were a synth-based band that came out of this massive music and fashion explosion in London called The New Romantics. There were songs that were really kind of synth dance stuff: "To Cut A Long Story Short," "The Freeze," "Reformation," "Mandolin," all these songs before we ever got to "True." We're going to be looking at some of those songs, which are sounding great actually. And obviously "True," "Communication," "Lifeline," "Only When You Leave," and stuff that hopefully the American audiences are going to love and know. We did three new songs for the new album as well and we'll be playing those, too.

Will the songs be true to the originals or will you be doing any new arrangements?
Pretty true to the originals. Obviously you update sounds and things like that, solos might be different, although the "True" solo is written in stone. That never changes. Steve's sax solo, that can never change. You might introduce slightly new elements into the songs, but what I've always found as an artist is if you detract too much from the original, the fans don't like it. I've seen other artists try to be too clever and it just doesn't go down very well with the fans. When we play "True," everyone's going to know instantly that that's "True." We're not going to be too clever.

I've got to tell you I watched your performances on Kimmel and your voice, it still sounds amazing.
Cheers, mate!

Do you have to follow a crazy routine to keep it sounding so great?
I'm sort of lucky that I've always had a strong voice. I took it seriously from an early age. I've always been touring. I've toured with orchestras all over the world. I've sort of been singing all the time and I think the most important thing about any singer... It's when you stop, I think you've got problems or if you don't sing correctly, then obviously you've got problems. Touch wood, I've always been pretty lucky. I think that I'm singing better than ever and musically, I think the band is playing better than ever.

The Jimmy Kimmel show, bit of a weird one really in lot of ways. Spandau Ballet, where have you been for twenty-eight years? Well, we don't really care. So to get a chance to be on the Jimmy Kimmel show, and everyone was so gracious and kind and all the fans were there and they were all crazy. It was like, "Wow. This is good. This is nice." It was a great opportunity for us and hopefully the fans will be equally as kind when we come over to play next week.

You alluded to this earlier, but last you released the greatest-hits package called The Story and it contained three new tracks. Were these tracks from the vaults or were they new songs?
No. We spent so much time and energy on the film that Warners decided they wanted to release a greatest hits. They wanted two new tunes. We had a rehearsal and I went home and sort of wrote "Soul Boy" with a view to the film. If you listen to the lyrics, there's loads of references. "Died in your arms," which is Cutting Crew. There's song references in there as well. I went home and wrote that and Gary must've gone home and wrote "Steal" and "This Is The Love." We had probably half a dozen songs when we were there but we decided on those particular three. We had very little time in which to record and Trevor Horn was available which was fantastic. I was going on holiday. We had one day to do the vocals, one day to do the backing tracks. Went in, did three vocals in an afternoon and popped in the next morning to repair a couple lines and that was it. It was a very quick process, but sometimes that's the best way. We've spent time in the past when we've spent months going over stuff and rewriting. Sometimes, it's good to just fly off and be spontaneous.

Any chance there's a full album in the works?
Yeah, there is. We're doing a few dates in the States and then hopefully coming back in the summer. We've then got the rest of the world to tour. We'll finish round about September. Then I've got a new album I'm releasing, a new solo album. Then I'm going to be touring around the world. So it'll be I reckon in a couple of years. The good thing about Spandau now is we all love working together, but we've all got our own solo projects. So we'll go off and do our own individual things and give everyone a break from Spandau Ballet because they'll probably be sick to death of us by then and then get together and write a whole new album. So the next time we go out on the road, there will be a whole new album. There has to be.

Since you were one of the performers on the original "Do They Know It's Christmas?," I'd love to hear what you thought of the Band Aid 30 version.
The original is the original. You come out with the first Aston Martin car, it's a classic, it's a beauty. It's never ever going to be the same, whatever you produce after that, and that's the same with Band Aid. It was a very interesting decade, the '80s, and Band Aid was almost the birth of modern charity. It was the first time that music could really make a difference. Band Aid 30, I don't have a problem with it. I thought it was a pretty good version but the original is the original. From my own point of view, whatever those artists are doing, they're helping to raise awareness and make money and so I don't have a problem with it. I thought it was great.

You hold the Guinness World Record for "Highest Concert" for performing with Kim Wilde at 43,000 feet. If you could hold any other Guinness World Record, what would it be?
First pop musician in space.

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01.23.15 San Francisco, CA Warfield Theatre
01.25.15 Los Angeles, CA Wiltern Theatre
01.27.15 Denver, CO Paramount Theatre
01.30.15 Chicago, IL House of Blues
01.31.15 Detroit, MI Masonic Temple Theatre
02.03.15 Toronto, ONT Massey Hall
02.05.15 Boston, MA House of Blues
02.06.15 New York, NY Beacon Theatre
02.07.15 Westbury, NY Theatre at Westbury
02.09.15 Washington, DC 9:30 Club
02.10.15 Red Bank, NJ Count Basie Theatre

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