SXSW interview: Spandau Ballet

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SXSW interview: Spandau Ballet story image
By Valerie Tapia

AUSTIN, Texas -- At SXSW this week, I had the chance to sit down with Gary Kemp and Tony Hadley of the legendary '80s group Spandau Ballet to talk about their new documentary “Soul Boys of the Western World” premiering this year at SXSW.

Spandau Ballet is one of the most successful British bands to emerge in the midst of the New Romantic era of the 1980s, scoring an enduring hit with their single “True.”

When asked why a documentary today, after more than 30 years, Gary responded with the fact that he felt they had a great story to tell.

“5 friends basically met at school in the '70s, was projected onto this bigger stage...and how did their friendship cope with that and in our case at one point it doesn't and in this film it's really warts and all,” Gary says.

Talking about how they grew up on a diet of Bowie and Sex Pistols, Gary and Tony talked about the glory of being in on the ground floor of a fashion-driven '80s world, and having the opportunity of being in an exciting time for fashion and music.

Tony responded with chagrin to the film's poster, featuring a 1980s-era Spandau Ballet photo taken in the middle of New York City. “I'm looking at this photo saying wow, did I really dress like that?”

Gary, on the other hand, talked about how proud he is of the fact that most of their fashion inspiration came from shopping at second hand stores, and how in the film you'll see how they even inspired Princess Diana's sense of fashion, also adding that “Tony had the best Bowie haircut.”

“Soul Boys of the Western World” is an archival documentary film detailing the beginnings, in-betweens, endings and re-spark of Spandau Ballet. Talking about the downfall of the group, Tony says, “It's tough watching it...from our point of view.”

When talking about the roller coaster ride familiar to many successful musicians, Gary reminisces. “It was my other family, really. It's like all families, you can have breakups, but it's great when you get back together. We wanted a film where you didn't really have to be a Spandau Ballet fan to get something out of it. It's basically about friendship.”

Excited about re-grouping for a performance on American soil for the first time in nearly 30 years, Gary and Tony talked bout how they still keep in touch with other icons of the early '80s music scene, including the likes of Boy George, Paul Young, ABC, Go West, and Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran.

Being a musically driven individual myself and also a huge fan of the '80s music era, I found it fascinating to sit and speak to the core of '80s music at it's best. When asked about the uniquely Austin experience that is SXSW, Gary responded that SXSW is a great platform for them and “a great place to come back to America because not only...have we got the film out but we're going to play here as well so it's a film and a music convention...so it couldn't really be better.”

“Soul Boys of the Western World” premieres Wednesday, March 12 at 2pm at the Paramount Theatre (713 Congress Avenue) in Austin,TX. Spandau Ballet will then perform at Vulcan Gas Company (316 Congress Avenue) after the film's world premiere. The gig will mark the band's first U.S. performance since 1985.SXSW interview: Spandau Ballet
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