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INTERVIEW: TONY HADLEY, ex-SPANDAU BALLET

| 19 February 2020 | Reply

INTERVIEW: TONY HADLEY, ex-SPANDAU BALLET 
By Shane Pinnegar

On the late December day designated for our chat about ex-Spandau Ballet frontman Tony Hadley’s forthcoming solo tour of Australia he is staying at a prominent Sydney hotel doing tour promo, but they are making talking to the New Romantic pop legend rather difficult. Multiple calls are cut off before they can even reach Hadders’ room, and with the clock ticking down on our allotted time, prospects for the interview going ahead are like a chubby dude on a hunger strike: looking slimmer by the moment.

After ten minutes and a dozen failed attempts, I finally get Mr Hadley on the phone, and he instantly charms with good natured banter, apologising profusely and expressing his own frustration at the hotel staff. Thankfully he has a little extra time despite the late start, so he lets us chat for longer than our originally allocated fifteen minutes, and just as well – he’s a likeable, chatty and witty bloke, and there is much to discuss.

Tony Hadley: Is that Shane?

100% ROCK: It is – FINALLY we’re connected!

Hadley: Bloody hell, they’re bloody useless on the switchboard! You’d think in this day and age, we’ve got probes going to bloody Mars, and they can’t put a phone call through! Anyway mate – sorry, how you doing, alright?

100% ROCK: You must have a very busy schedule at the moment, so thankyou for making the time for a chat.

Hadley: It’s pretty mad, yeah. I was on tour in Germany before I got to Australia, so literally, I got home for a day and a half, put my washing in the washing machine – with the help of my wife – then came to Australia. I get back on Thursday mornin’, then I’m back out the Germany on Saturday, and it’ll be another session to the laundry room [laughs]. So, just busy all the time, really. When I get back from Germany there’s a load of Christmas stuff, we’re doing some charity concerts – Wembley Arena, a big Christmas concert for charity, then I finally get home on the 27th of December, and that’s it ‘til the 6th of Jan. And we might have a big New Year’s concert in Italy… I’m not much for New Year’s Eve, to be honest, so I’m happy to work. I absolutely love Christmas – can’t wait, no emails, no phone calls: brilliant. But New Year’s Eve I do have a bit of a problem with, so if someone’s willing to… [laughs] to pay me, I’m happy to work it!

100% ROCK: I totally agree! It must be interesting this life where you’re in demand, going this way and that, jet-setting here and there. Is it precious when you do find the time to spend with family?

Hadley: Yeah, I mean I am trying to sort of work out the, you know, the work-life balance. I mean, I think we’re all, to be honest, I think everybody I know is working their nuts off. Um, you know, even if you’re doing an ordinary job, everyone’s working harder now than I think they ever did. And I remember years ago when I was a kid – I was a union official when I was a young lad, and I remember the guy there said, with new technology people will have an easier life and it will be much simpler. But it’s not – now it’s the opposite. You know, you get an email and if you haven’t replied instantly then someone’s on the phone saying, “you haven’t replied to my email”! The whole music business has changed, obviously – people buy records now or CDs or albums more as a piece of merchandise to put on the shelf, and use their phones for Spotify or iTunes and stuff like that. So the whole thing has just changed beyond recognition. Is it better? I dunno… the jury’s out.

100% ROCK: I was talking to friends about this last week and, you look back to when we were 18 or so – I’m in my fifties now – back then we had so much free time. We could make mix tapes, we could just go down the pub and hang out. It just doesn’t happen anymore.

Hadley: Well, we sorta live in a weird society at the moment – it’s like you almost feel guilty for having free time! People expect things to be done instantly. I’m meeting young people and they say, where’s this year gone? And they’re young people and even they think time is running away, you know. So I think we all need to take a step back and just not, you know, just not be so crazy. I mean, I remember when I was touring when I signed the record contract with the guys [Spandau Ballet] – we’d be in Italy for instance, and you try and phone home from Italy in 1982 – it was virtually impossible. Try phoning home from Australia all those years ago in the 80’s – there’d be a delay on the phone and what you’d do was just, “Bye darling”, and that was it. You wouldn’t phone for another week ‘cos it cost you a fortune. So things are just kind of really fast now, but, hey – it is what it is and you have to deal with it.

Spandau Ballet live in Perth 22 May 2015 by Maree King

100% ROCK: You’re coming back to Australia in 2020 for your solo tour… it’s been a few years in between tours and this time you’re returning as a relatively newly minted EX-singer of your rather famous band… has it been energising to shift the focus entirely to your solo career again?

Hadley: Well, the thing is that I was solo for longer than I was ever in Spandau Ballet anyway. After much deliberation on my part – I was kind of the last pin – we got together in 2009, and we buried a lot of angst between us and that saw us through to 2014/15, which was the last time we were in Australia, and we had the film Soul Boys Of The Western World… and I thought everything was pretty hunky dory, I have to say. Umm, it’s never going to be the same. It’s, you know, it’s a bit like when your wife runs off with your best mate and you get back together again [laughs]. So, you know, but we were on a level and, um, and then the wheels came off again. They know why I resigned, and they’ve tried to sugarcoat it on TV and I’ve seen them, and I’m like, come on guys, just be honest. And so I… it got to the point where I just thought, I can’t do this anymore. Life’s too short. It was something that affected my family and people around me, and, and so I finally quit the band for good. Then they got another lead singer [Ross William Wild] and hey, they fired him on TV, I think [laughs wryly].

100% ROCK: Was it a surprise to you that his tenure didn’t last particularly long?

Hadley: Well, I think the problem is, um, I mean Freddie Mercury… for me, I’ve never seen a show with either Paul Rodgers or Adam Lambert taking his place because I’d feel slightly disloyal. I understand it because the other guys want to carry on and do it, and you know, Freddy’s dead – but I’m not dead. And if they hadn’t taken the course that they did, then 2020 would have been our 40th anniversary and no doubt we would have toured. But the course of action they took caused me to resign and, um, and that’s it. So, I’m out on my own again. That’s it. If you want to hear True, Gold, Through The Barricades, Only When You Leave, Lifeline, sung by me, you have to have me… and that’s just it – and I know that’s a little sad for some of the fans, and there are some fans that have maybe been a bit angry with me, but they don’t know the full story, and if they did, they’d understand. But I’ve never spoken publicly about it – it’s just one of those things that I keep to myself. I move forward and I’ve got the new album, Talk To The Moon. I’m trying to establish myself in Australia and certain other countries, you know, as Tony Hadley. It’s different from Spandau because Spandau is such a powerful brand, but hopefully we’re doing well. Most of the shows are already sold out, and the other main reason for being here as well is promoting the new album, which we’re going to release the single off in the new year. So, yeah, it’s exciting stuff.

100% ROCK: I will talk about the new album in just one moment. You mentioned the documentary movie that was released in 2014, Soul Boys Of The Western World, which was a fascinating exploration of the history of the band. I found out a lot about Spandau Ballet that I didn’t know about.

Hadley: So did I!

100% ROCK: Right!! I actually interviewed Martin Kemp a few years ago and he said much the same. He said the first time you guys were hearing a lot of that stuff was when you were watching the movie. Having made that film during the period of the band’s reunion, did that make that reformation worthwhile in itself?

Hadley: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh… [pauses] yeah. Yes, it did. Sometimes getting back together brings up more problems than it solves [laughs]. I mean we… we had a great time, we had a great tour. I can’t watch the film anymore – I can’t watch it again. There’s too much stuff going on, stuff going on within the band that I can see [now] that was going on all the way back then. Plus, you know, my dad is in it and he’s dead now, my grandad is gone and my father in law, so there’s all these people – Steve Strange and other people that were close to me that are no longer with us. So I find it upsetting from that point of view. But yeah, I mean, we had a pretty good tour, we had some fun times. We managed to sort of get rid of some of the anger and the angst that we had between us. And then unfortunately the wheels came off again. So, um, maybe we were just destined to not be together at the end of it at that stage [chuckles]. So we all move on, we all take our own careers and we go where we go.

100% ROCK: Well, interestingly Martin [Kemp] has come out and said that he’s pretty much waiting for you so that the band can tour together again.

Hadley: Well, he did… and, well, my answer to that is they should have thought about their actions before they forced me into the situation I was in. You know… come on guys, you’re not that stupid!

100% ROCK: His statement seems totally contradictory to what he was saying literally 12 months before.

Hadley: Well, yeah, I suppose in some ways I… you know, I actually wished Ross William Wild the very best. I said, ‘watch your back, but listen, good luck to you mate – I don’t have a problem [with him fronting the band].’ And, you know, they gave it the large one and went on TV saying, ‘we’ve got a better lead singer,’ and this and that, and I just thought, ‘fine, okay.’

100% ROCK: It got a bit bitchy really, didn’t it?

Hadley: Well it did. They gave it the large one and then sacked the poor fella on television. I’m like, ‘really?!?’ And then they said, ‘we’re not going to get back together again until Tone rejoins the band.’ And I thought, well, I felt for Ross William Wild, I thought it was pretty, pretty tragic actually. But there you go, you move forward.

100% ROCK: You have to! Your new solo album Talking To The Moon – I believe that the title refers to your fascination with the night sky. Is that correct?

Hadley: Yeah, I’m a bit of a, ‘are there aliens out there?’ [kinda guy]. Me ad Kim Wilde – she’s into that as well. I just, I just love looking at the sky. Where I live in the country, we have no streetlights or anything like that. So my little dog, Martha, when she goes out for a little wee at night, I do, we get beautiful skies, clear moons – and I think we’ve all looked up at some point in life and wondered what it was all about, what we’re here for. And, although I’m not crazy, I just thought Talking To The Moon was quite an evocative title really.

100% ROCK: I can picture you wandering around at night with your puppy and just sort of looking upwards and having a chat with the moon now.

Hadley: Yeah – well I think we all do. Don’t we all look at the stars and the moon and the planets and wonder, you know, what else is there and what we’re about. I think the older you get, you, you sort of question more as well because we get to an age where we start to lose people and family and friends and things and, really, start to wonder what it’s all about. So that’s why I chose the title. [As an aside, laughing] God, Tone’s gone mad – talking to the moon!

100% ROCK: You’ve enlisted some pretty talented songwriters to help with the record. Toby Gad, Blair Mackichan, Peter Cox & Richard Drummie, Mick Lister – did you reach out to who you thought would be, quote/unquote ‘hitmakers’ or were these people you knew organically and decided you wanted to write a song with?

Hadley: Well, most of ‘em I kind of knew. Toby Gad, we met up in America. Beyonce, Leanne Rimes are on the wall [sings snippets of their hits together] so he’s brilliant, amazing. And I’m going to go back to L.A. to do some writing together next year for the next album. Then one of the producers – Mick Lister – we wrote Unwanted together and What Am I? He’s super cool. Rob Davis, who used to be in Five Star, and he did a lot of the Kylie stuff as well. So yeah, we wrote as a band, I wrote with songwriters. Sometimes, I do write completely on my own, but it’s nice to have a little bit of a collaboration and get somebody else’s input. I’m not one of these precious songwriters who say it’s got to be me, me, me! But I’m really pretty pleased with the album. It’s quite powerful. It’s quite sort of grand, a bit of James Bond thrown in there for good measure on Take Back Everything. Yeah – I’m very, very happy with it.

100% ROCK: It’s been getting some really good reviews already. I must admit I had a chuckle because I read one review and it coined the phrase ‘sophistipop,’ which I’d never heard of before and I liked a lot. How does that one sit with you?

Hadley: Oh, that’s pretty good actually. Well, it’s pretty funny cause I’m a bit of a rocker at heart. Really, I should have been in a rock band! A lot of the stuff that I like, I mean I LOVE – some of my favourite bands are The Kaisers, The Killers, AWOL Nation, Panic At The Disco, that kind of stuff. But then I’m also into things like Chainsmokers and 21 Pilots and you know, and so I listen to a lot of quite diverse music and we we’re already working on the new album, with Mick Lister again and Gary Stevenson, the producers. I was around Gary’s studio the other week and he said, ‘have you got any song ideas?’ I said, ‘yeah, let me play you some,’ and he said, ‘I really love ‘em.’ He’s got a whole team there, like a real kind of modern production scene and they’re working on the songs while I’m away. And he played some stuff down the phone. I was like, ‘oh yeah, I like this!’ One is very James Bond. One is like kind of Roy Orbison. Another one’s sort of like The Chainsmokers. So, you know, I think it’s important. I mean, I can carry on doing all the old songs – True, Gold, Through The Barricades – which I love, I’m up to sing them, but I think it’s important to keep your mind open and your attitude to music up there with everybody else, and do new stuff as well. I think that’s really important.

100% ROCK: Absolutely. Just look at someone like Robbie Williams who’s transcended the old pop career and he had, he can do swing one minute and the rock and roll the next and pop in the same heartbeat. That’s gotta be the goal if you’re chasing a diverse repertoire.

Hadley: I think so. I don’t think there are any rules anymore. Music’s diversified now. You know, I played Billy Flynn in Chicago on [stage in London’s] West End, I’ve made a swing album, made live albums, made a covers album – and now with this new album, completely original material. So the rules don’t apply anymore, not like they used to. You used to be rock or a punk rocker or a pop person. People cross over and diversify them much, much more than they ever did, really.

100% ROCK: The tribes are blurred a lot, I think.

Hadley: Yeah, you know, people talk about the ‘80s with fondness and stuff and it was an incredible era, both politically and economically, world changing, but also the whole fashion thing really meant a lot. I suppose kids fashion [now] is their phone, what they do on their phone. It’s not about what they wear, it’s about what they’re listening to or what games they’re playing. And you know, I mean this world game thing – what’s it called? Midnite or something? People from all over the world playing this online game. I don’t play games – I use my phone to answer calls, reply to calls, and you get the odd text, I don’t use it for anything else. Keep it simple!

100% ROCK: Like many, many others, my wife used to have posters of you plastered all over her wall in her bedroom. [Hadley laughs, says ‘Sorry’ with great affection] Mortals such as myself can’t really fathom the feeling that that adulation must give. Is it unusual to you after all these years to be viewed like that?

Hadley: Well, yeah… I mean it’s funny cause I’ve just been a radio station doing an early morning acoustic session and we did Gold, and anyway, so I was in the loo doing all my vocal warm-ups and all of a sudden this woman knocks on the door. ‘Oh my God, it is you, it is you!’ And there’s a couple of ladies of a certain age in the corridor taking pictures with me and everything else. I’ve never taken it too seriously, if I’m honest. You know, I’ve got a strong family, my mates are still pals I had when I was a kid. And I’m not one of these people that embrace celebritydom – if that’s a word – you know, I don’t really do the red carpet. I don’t really like having my picture taken. I’m really just happy singing and making music and I love being in the studio. That’s good fun. I like being on the road, [though I] miss my family. But yeah, I don’t really… when I look at some of these kind of pop people, I mean, what’s this thing with Taylor Swift recently? Crap! [Hadley is referring to Taylor Swift’s claim that her former record company refused to allow her to sing her old hits on the American Music Awards show – read more here https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/can-taylor-swift-be-banned-from-performing-amas-big-machine-913150/ ] I’m like, darling, do you really need the extra publicity? Just get on and sing the bloody song. No-one can stop you singing live, that is absolute nonsense what she’s talking about. I just think sometimes people seem so desperate for a bit of publicity [laughs]. She’s actually getting a real backlash off of that because her fans are thinking, ‘that’s really terrible, that’s shocking – you’re not allowed to sing your songs,’ but everyone in the music business says, ‘don’t be stupid – of course you can sing your songs, ANYONE can sing your bloody songs,’ just go down to a karaoke hall and sing the songs, you know! Anyway, sorry – I digressed!

And with that, and a cheery “bye bye” he was off, presumably to tackle the hotel switchboard renegades for his next interview. Tony Hadley and band tour Australia this month.

TONY HADLEY – LIVE IN CONCERT 2020
Tuesday 25 February – Adelaide, The Gov
Thursday 27 February – Brisbane, The Tivoli
Friday 28 February – Sydney, Metro Theatre
Saturday 29 February – Melbourne, The Forum
Monday 2 March – Perth, The Astor

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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