Martin Kemp and director George Hencken talk about Soul Boys of the Western World.
“Every generation has their best decade, and for a lot of people now, that’s the ’80s, so it’s the perfect time to tell our story,” says Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp of Soul Boys Of The Western World, an archive based documentary charting the Brit band’s rise to fame, acrimonious break up and eventual reconciliation, being sold in the market by Metro International.
The idea for the film came about during Spandau Ballet’s 2009 come back tour when they cut together some old footage from Kemp’s Super8 camera, (bought with his first Spandau paycheck of £60) to play on the big screen behind the band as they performed.
“It was such a success that we thought, why don’t we make a whole movie of it, so we put out a call for anybody who had any film of the band to come forward and we ended up with something like 350 hours of film to cut down,” says Kemp who, together with his fellow band members, is in town for the launch of the documentary.
“I wanted to make a film that would appeal to people, whether they were fans of the band or not,” says George Hencken, who despite being a first-time director, was brought onboard to direct thanks to her work with documentary filmmaker Julian Fellowes.
The documentary includes home videos of the band members in the 60s, a Battle of the Bands showdown with Duran Duran and a colourful sequence showing the five young band members arriving in St Tropez to perform their first international concert.
“I was imagining these five guys from Islington, the furthest gig they had ever done before that was Basildon and suddenly they were in St Tropez, surrounded by topless sunbathing, and bars, and you can just imagine what an incredible experience it must have been for them,” says Hencken, who jokes that she’s “lost count of how many breasts there were in that sequence.”
For Kemp, the chance to revisit the Spandau story – which is done in the film via a series of voice overs as opposed to talking heads - was “the most cathartic experience I’ve ever had, like therapy.”
“If you’re in front of the camera you’re more conscious about what you’re saying, but because it was into a microphone in a dark room I felt safe saying all these things.”
The film doesn’t shy away from the band’s messy break up, which resulted in three of the band – Tony Hadley, John Keeble and Steve Norman taking fellow band member (and Martin’s brother) Gary Kemp to court over royalty payments.
“When we broke up, I got rid of all my guitars, I didn’t buy a record for six years, it made me feel sick thinking about music. Now time has passed I can’t wait to get back in it. Especially hanging out with the other guys, because we have a story that only we share,” says Kemp who went on to star in the Krays with Gary, and has now turned his hand to directing, with his latest project, Top Dog, also in the Cannes market, to be released in the UK by Universal.
Soul Boys world premiered in Competition at the SXSW Film Festival in March, where it went down well with US audiences. “It’s a film about friendship, about five guys growing up together whose dreams come true but they lose each other in the process. That’s got broad appeal,” adds Hencken who admits that she wasn’t a Spandau Ballet fan in her youth. “I was a professionally moody adolescent who liked bands from Manchester and Sheffield. Ex school friends say that of all the people that don’t deserve to hang out with them, it’s me,” she laughs.
Kemp and the gang are clearly no strangers to yachts, parties and champagne – so will they be trying to recreate their youth here in Cannes? “I’ve been a couple of times, and I have promised myself this time I won’t have the same hangover as I have done before here. But it’s hard not to, with all the parties.”