Kirk Brandon on the re-working of World Service, vintage gear and Futurama

Spear of Destiny’s classic album, World Service, has been given a tougher, heavier re-work that Kirk Brandon feels is more in tune with his original vision. We had a word.

Hard to believe, we know, but it is true, Kirk Brandon has now been leading Spear of Destiny for over 37 years. And Theatre of Hate before that.

Those years have given Brandon the chance to re-think and re-work two of the band’s best loved albums. Last year One Eyed Jacks was re-recorded as a punchier, more aggressive version of the original. The band toured the album extensively around the UK, playing it in full and, pretty much, in order.

2020 sees a second re-recording, this time of World Service, to be released on 26 October 2020. This too, is designed as an exercise in Brandon recording a version that is much more faithful to his original vision than the 1985 release.

Again, there was a tour planned that would have brought these new versions of the songs out in the open. But, the dates have been shelved and then shelved again. Hopefully 2021 may see World Service played live, as intended.

This doesn’t mean World Service (nor indeed One Eyed Jacks) wasn’t right for the mid-eighties atmosphere, but design by committee usually means compromises. And Brandon feels that’s a bit like what happened here.

In anticipation of World Service 2.0, we had the chance to speak to Kirk Brandon about the project.

World Service

P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?

KB: Pretty basic, really. I’m down here in Brighton, doing the washing. It’s washing day. I’m going to Denmark tomorrow to see my daughter – she lives over there – and I’m really looking forward to that.

P3dro: You’ll obviously appreciate we want to talk about World Service. What was the motivation for re-working it?

KB: I’m not going to be critical of it, because I always say “Music is memory, memory is music”. You could hear a tune right now and it takes you straight back to when you were 18 or 25 and it’s right back there in your head. You have the feelings. It was probably a great time for most people – being young.

So I didn’t want to interfere with that in any way because it’s sacrosanct. But there are a lot of things about the original – a lot of swamped reverbs and the guitars tended to be on the light side.

The record company wanted a pop album. Or pop / rock at worst. I wanted it to sound much more like a rock album. I was using a 1963 Tremolux, a 1961 Gretsch, a 1951 Nocaster and I wanted [the album] to sound like these things, but it never did and they got kind of lost in there.

And there’s my voice. I don’t have that ridiculous three and half octave voice any more. I’m more just like a tenor now. Or a fiver, if you like. But I think the voice has a bit more gravitas to it now. I’ve spent a whole lifetime doing this and I think my voice has matured. It’s got richer, tenor tones.

I recorded the original when I was very young and the re-recording has a lifetime of experience going into it.

I also wanted to take things back. When we did “Mickey”, we had a whole string section in there, doubling up and then doubling up again. Whereas on the original there were two violins and one cello. I didn’t want to try and emulate that, I wanted a much more natural sound.

We managed to get a tin whistle in the key of B# [for the new version]. It adds a bit of the Irish thing to the song, which I really wanted to include in it. There are a lot of people in that song that I knew and there’s a lot of my life there. My mum’s Irish as well.

I think what we achieved was incredible. Obviously, we had to do the social distancing thing, so there was me and our drummer in the studio in Manchester recording. Then everyone else had to send their parts down the line. It took ages building it up from the basics, but we managed it and I think it’s a really good record.

P3dro: You did a similar thing last year with One Eyed Jacks

KB: But, with everyone standing in a room together.

P3dro: Was that a similar motivation?

KB: Yeah. I always wanted the albums to be much more rock, more guitar orientated. Even though the re-recording has a tin whistle, clarinet, sax and a couple of other instruments to colour it. And if I’m using vintage gear, then I want it to sound like vintage gear. I didn’t want it to get lost in the mix.

P3dro: Reading between the lines of the press releases for both albums, there seems to be an expression of some frustration with the record companies involved [at the time of the original recordings].

KB: Yes, there was immense frustration. So much stuff was missed.

P3dro: You’ve had to reschedule the gigs for World Service.

KB: Yeah, twice.

P3dro: Do you have any kind of feeling for the odds of getting those gigs going?

KB: They’re now scheduled for September 2021. We’re just hoping, really. We’ve blown out the whole [of 2020]. The band hasn’t played since January. So, we’re just like everybody else, hanging around thinking “what are we gonna do?”

P3dro: We’ve spoken to a few bands recently who have decided there’s nothing else doing, so let’s get some music out.

KB: Yeah, if you’ve got something to say, then record it. Put it out.There’s always room for more music.

P3dro: Coincidentally, this conversation aligns quite nicely with the announcement you’re going to play at Futurama. How did that come about?

KB: Well, we played at the original ones in the eighties.

P3dro: Yeah, we were there.

KB: Ah, sorry about that!

[I’m a great friend with] John Keenan [festival organiser], will always have a shot of Irish whiskey with him, have a laugh, or just talk wistfully, as old geezers do.

I think Futurama will be great. If it happens.

P3dro: You clearly see an album as a whole package. Where do you stand on the album v single debate?

KB: Today, its albums. Singles were always flagships for the album – that’s how it used to be. But I think it’s all about albums, a body of work, what you have to say in the many different forms and guises of 10 [or so songs] that make up an album.

If I’m really into something, then I want to hear an album and where they go with it.

P3dro: We agree with you, but maybe its a function of our age.

Can you recommend a band or an album you think we should check out?

KB: Pwoar. As Boris Johnson says, not that I like that idiot, ‘kin ‘ell. There was something I heard the other day that really knocked my head off was The Reverend Horton Heat. His guitar playing is kind of rockabilly, so good. I wish I could play like that, the band is really tight. And, he’s not a real Reverend.

Lead image – credit – Simon Drake

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