❉ Ange Chan catches up with Kirk Brandon of Spear of Destiny, who have reworked their classic 1985 album.
“I believe we have succeeded in doing this album justice, finally, to how it was meant to sound…We have played songs from this album for decades and I knew on this occasion, we would all step up to the mark with its re-recording… I back this album 100%. It’s definitive, I think.” – Kirk Brandon
“It’s a joy to hear each part re-recorded and put together using today’s technology and sounds. I’ve really enjoyed listening to it.” – Rusty Egan
The lockdown period has enforced creatives to look at their work from a different perspective, and whilst this has generated a lot of exciting new projects, it has also allowed some artists to review their earlier catalogue and re-imagine previously recorded work.
This has been the case with post-punk pioneers Spear of Destiny who have reworked their classic 1985 album World Service during lockdown for its 35th anniversary.
Kirk said, “We took a decision a few years back to re–record ‘Grapes of Wrath’ ‘One Eyed Jacks’ and now ‘World Service’ is now released. It came from something Springsteen said a few years back about re-recording old material. Viewed through the lens of experience, perhaps today, we in fact know more or at least understand more of the reasons/motivations of songs we wrote in our younger days. This isn’t true of all an artiste’s music but some songs, yes“.
Despite being commercially successful and reaching number 11 in the album charts on its original release, lead singer Kirk Brandon was never fully happy with the sounds and mix on the original album. In July 2020, Brandon took the time to recreate and re-imagine the album, with big sounds, gutsy guitars coupled with distinctive vocals and keyboard treatments, taking their amazing songs to new heights.
Spear of Destiny had ten UK single chart entries but only four made the Top 50 and only one track, their 1987 song Never Take Me Alive made the Top 20. They were more successful in the clubs, and their songs Do You Believe in the Westworld (originally by their previous incarnation, Theatre of Hate) and Liberator were songs that filled the dance floors of clubs such as Blitz and Camden Palace attracting the pre-Goth/post-punk crowds.
The album was originally recorded at both Trident Studios and RAK Studios in London, and was the third album by Spear of Destiny. The original 1985 recording of this album was produced by DJ Rusty Egan of Blitz/Visage fame and coincidentally an investor in Trident 2 Studios. Adam Moseley was also a co-producer but for some unknown reason his name was never printed on the cover sleeve. Rusty openly acknowledges Adam’s involvement as his co-producer and says that the album wouldn’t have been the same without Adam’s input.
Meanwhile in the music press, both critics and fans have cited Egan’s efforts as bringing a certain unknown quantity to the 1985 album, thus making it an instant classic. Rusty recalled of that time “I’m proud of that album (World Service) and the revisit of it has inspired me to do the same with Visage’s first two albums.”
It always was Kirk’s intention to re-record this set of songs so that they are much more in line with what he felt they were originally written for, much more of a rock album, as opposed to a pop album:
“With the original recording there was a lot of compromise, which to my mind today meant the albums worth of songs was never done the justice it deserved. I’m not trying to re–write the past, I’m trying, and I believe we have succeeded, in doing this album justice, finally, to how it was meant to sound. I can only thank my long–standing band members, for helping me to achieve this with their sympathetic ears. We have played songs from this album for decades and I knew on this occasion, we would all step up to the mark with its re-recording. The proof is in the pudding“.
Rusty added, “it’s a joy to hear each part re-recorded and put together using today’s technology and sounds. I’ve really enjoyed listening to it.”
Stan Stammers, an original founder of Spear of Destiny (with Kirk), left the band the year after World Service originally came out, to work on his own material and to start up a new band, Crazy Pink Revolvers. Stammers’ history with both Theatre of Hate and then Spear of Destiny is well-documented, and his contribution to both bands is respectfully recognised.
The album itself is a masterclass in post-punk, which is only enhanced by its re-working. Offering a rejigged track order from its original counterpart, the anniversary edition starts with the title track, World Service, an anthemic track which opens with raw vocals with a piano accompaniment before bursting into a strong powerful guitar and drum-led song.
The next track Cole Younger is one which was not included on the original album but as the B-side to Come Back, and has the same raw, honest, balladic feel as Stagger Lee by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The album spawned three singles; Come Back, All My Love and Mickey. The first two reached 65 and 61 respectively in the charts whereas Mickey didn’t chart at all.
However, through an album of strong often vivacious songs, there are tender moments in the political, melancholic no-holds-barred song Mickey and with its B-side Up All Night, both songs are pleasingly included on the reworked version. Additionally the song Harlan County offers a tenderer moment with picked guitar accompaniment.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the highlight of this album as each track has something valuable to offer. It’s an energic album which showcases how Spear of Destiny are both masters in studio and live on stage. Their sheer energy and songwriting ability is second to none.
We Are Cult caught up with Kirk this week, prior to the album’s release and asked him a few questions about World Service 35 and other news.
Kirk, Are you well these days after your heart surgery a decade ago?
Yes thank you. Two bouts of heart surgery has as yet failed to kill your olde KB. I’m back cycling so, I must be OK.
Are you fully happy with WorldService35 or is there anything, in retrospect that you wished you’d done slightly differently?
No. Everyone wants to spend more time mixing their albums but I’m aware of ‘overcooking’ it.
Do you feel it now has your personal stamp of approval?
Yes, I back this album 100%. It’s definitive, I think.
What’s your favourite track on the album, and why?
It has to be Mickey. This was how I’d always imagined it to sound. It’s a rite of passage song of a young lad coming from some forgotten part of England taking the King’s shilling and his journey taking him all the way from the English backwoods to the Falklands.
I love so much about this recording and the singing, there can be no better rendition I think. I finished the last take singing it with tears on my face. ‘There is no more to give‘, I told the engineer…. and walked out of the studio. Done!
The album has been issued in silver and gold vinyl formats; what was driving the decision behind that?
The formats are for the collectors really. We have quite a few maniac collectors and it’s always fun to spin a coloured disc on your player as I seem to remember. If you’re releasing actual 12 inch records, you want to make the most of it and offer different options for people. Just makes it more interesting.
Who do you consider to be your peers in the music industry?
Difficult… Segs Jennings and (Dave) Ruffy from the Ruts, Peter Hook, Wayne Hussey, Billy (Duffy) and Ian (Astbury of The Cult), Bruce Watson, Pete Wylie, Jake Burns, Mark Burgess from the Chameleons, Siouxsie.
2020 marks your 40th anniversary of being in the music industry. Apart from the World Service 35 re-issue, do you plan to mark this occasion in any other way, and if so what?
We are trying. Unfortunately the pandemic keeps making us, as others, keep cancelling their plans. Having said that, we are releasing a new Theatre of Hate album very soon to celebrate 40 years since the band started.
Are there any socially distanced events or online events planned to help promote the album?
So far we haven’t brooked that particular bridge but as ever, we are hopeful, as is everyone involved.
What else have you been doing during lockdown?
Cycling quite a bit. Songwriting. Tying up a few loose ends. Recorded ‘World Service 35‘, mostly down the web, and the same for the new Theatre of Hate album to be released called ‘A Thing Of Beauty’.
Is there anything else lined up for Spear Of Destiny, Theatre of Hate or Dead Men Walking in the future than fans can look forward to?
At some point the World Service tour will happen. I can promise you that. So too, a tour celebrating Theatre of Hate‘s time on the planet and all the material that we’ve managed to release over the decades. Like all bands at the moment, the pandemic has shut us down from playing the normal venues we’d be doing.
We are in discussions about a Dead Men Walking Tour at this very moment, as it looks viable in theatres again and larger venues.
Exciting news! Thanks for your time Kirk – it’s been great chatting with you.
❉ Recorded during the lockdown in July 2020, Spear of Destiny – ‘WorldService@35′ was released 26 October 2020. Available as a digital download, Double 10″ Gatefold on Silver Vinyl and Gold Vinyl CD in Gatefold Digipak: CLICK HERE to order from kirkbrandon.com
❉ Ange Chan is a freelance writer, having produced two novels and six volumes of poetry. She was also prolific contributor in the anthology collection Me and the Starman, (now available by Cult Ink on Amazon) and is a lifelong lover of music, having first been published in the 1980s music press. As well as being a frequent contributor to the pop culture website We Are Cult, she is working on her long-standing third novel Champagne Flutes and Pixie Boots.