Sunday, May 17, 2015

Fashion Designer and Musician - Central Saint Martins, BA (Hons) Fashion, 1986

The fashion designer and musician talks exclusively to the Alumni Association about how his student years moulded him, his collaboration with David Bowie and taking the world by storm through being a risk taker.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp Remembers ’80s Fashion

Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp Remembers ’80s Fashion

from WWD issue 05/13/2015  By Jean E. Palmieri

Gary Kemp could have been a fashion historian. But he had another career in mind.

Kemp was the brains behind the Eighties supergroup Spandau Ballet. The band, which was formed in London in the late Seventies, emerged as one of the most successful of its time, racking up 10 hit singles, including “True,” “Gold” and “Only When You Leave,” and charting eight top-10 albums.

Spandau Ballet’s career is being chronicled in a new documentary called “Soul Boys of the Western World,” which had its premiere last week.

Although their music was part of the Eighties London scene, Spandau Ballet was just as well-known for its fashion. The band members — who include Kemp’s brother Martin Kemp, as well as lead singer Tony Hadley, Steve Norman and John Keeble — helped ignite a major fashion moment in the U.K. along with Duran Duran and Boy George.

Called New Romanticism, the movement traces its roots to the nightclub scene in London around 1979 and is alternately known as Blitz kids. That reference comes from a popular underground club called the Blitz, where the Spandau Ballet boys spent their time and developed their style. It helped put London fashion back on the map in a way it hadn’t been since the Swinging Sixties.

But Gary Kemp’s interest in fashion started much earlier than Blitz.

“My dad was a teddy boy — he was a rock ’n’ roller,” he said. “He spent all the spare cash he could, as a young man, buying or finding clothes.”

It didn’t take Kemp long to follow in those footsteps. 

“Your education wasn’t your statement; your job wasn’t your statement; your clothes were your statement,” he said.

Kemp said kids at that time were “looking for tribes,” and by hitting clubs such as the Blitz, they could find like-minded people. “There’s a line where pop culture and youth culture go hand-in-hand that goes back to the beginning of rock ’n’ roll in London,” he said. “For example, The Who represented Mod culture. It was a very English thing, with club kids dressing up in Italian suits, riding scooters,” he said. “It was acquisitive, aspirational.”

That moved into psychedelics with “the peacock look,” he continued, “and that would have been represented by Pink Floyd.” From there, it was the punk-rock-inspired outfits designed by Vivienne Westwood, for the Sex Pistols. “Punk was really an art-school-designed cult,” Kemp recalled.

But the real “seminal moment” for Kemp was when David Bowie emerged onto the scene with his “Glam Rock” fashion. “That’s when I came in really. I wanted to look like him. I wanted my mom to make me some pants that made me look like Bowie.”

He cut his hair and wore makeup and embraced Bowie’s androgynous look. “We’d all grown up with Ziggy Stardust,” he said. “But there were no stores to buy it. In a way, it was a mix-and-match dressing-up, stolen from history.”

Kemp said it was all about “looking outrageous, looking different, standing out from the crowd. It was definitely a combination of gay and straight, working-class and middle-class art student. We weren’t inventing clothing to be in a band, we were kids wearing those clothes and then stepping up onto the stage. This was youth culture inspiring pop culture,” said Kemp.

Once their careers took off, the Spandau Ballet boys became the trendsetters. “We were drawing the attention of news reporters and photographers and High Street stores. Princess Diana was wearing Pie Crust high-collar shirts and knickerbockers. Designers were looking to the street and Soho, and we were the focus of fashion coming out of Soho.”

During the band’s “True” tour, in 1983, their fashion changed and became dressier.

“Whatever we did became High Street, so we started to do something else.” Specifically, zoot suits.

But Kemp said he actually preferred the look that came after, during the group’s “Parade” tour, around 1984. “It was much more Baroque. I think what happened is that as we became a successful touring band, we were no longer those kids in the street, we were no longer going to those clubs. Even though London is an exciting place, all of those poor Blitz kids were becoming rich kids because they were becoming successful.”

So Spandau Ballet embraced the start of the designer movement, turning to Jean Paul Gaultier, Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons.

So what does Kemp think of fashion today?

“I’m disappointed at the homogenization of looks. You don’t see young kids coming up with many ideas of their own. They can create their identity on their Facebook page or their Instagram site. They don’t need to create it on the street. They don’t need to find their tribe by going out in a uniform and going to a club. They can do that on the Internet.”

But he still remains hopeful.

“I’d love to go to Soho and see a bunch of kids come around the corner dressed like they just walked out of a Dickens novel or something like that.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2015



White make-up, pop music, club nights. Countering the economic recession and cultural bleakness of the 1970s, London in the early 1980s saw the emergence of a hedonistic, drug-infused subculture centred around a club night run by Steve Strange. In walking distance to St Martin’s school of art, the Blitz Club soon became notorious as a place of escapist utopia and the breeding ground for a new revolution in British youth culture. Keanan Duffty, ex-St Martin’s student and guitarist/songwriter of the New Romantic group Wonder Stories, looks back at a time when style was about more than appearance.
Ella Wolf: What was your path to Central Saint Martins?
Keanan Duffty: We all know that Alexander McQueen, Sade, John Galliano and others studied fashion at CSM at one time or another. Lesser known (though equally important) figures including Blitz Kid fashion designer Stephen Linnard, future GQ style journalist Chris Sullivan and editor Dylan Jones were also students within the hallowed halls of St Martin’s Charing Cross Road. Here was a way I could make it to the bright lights of London and everything I craved: getting a further education, making music and wearing funny clothes at Her Majesty’s Government’s expense.
“We were all on a mission to live like it was Studio 54: thrift store chic and cut price Kraftwerk.”
Blitz Kids were part of the New Romantics. How did this movement relate to or differ from Punk?
1977 was the most explosive year in British popular culture since the summer of love. Sex Pistols, Clash, Banshees, Slits and Buzzcocks blew the cobwebs away and ushered in a new generation whose anti establishment stance provided a soundtrack for the new rebellion. Thrash ruled, melody was considered mediocrity. Almost over night punk rockers appeared on the street. Girls carrying kettles as hand bags. Boys in tight plastic trousers and ‘jelly’ sandals. After the Sex Pistols imploded there was a strange intermediate stage between new wave and the futurist New Romantic period. This ‘in between time’ saw the rise of acts like Toyah and Gary Numan. Spiky pop with chunky analogue keyboards and a bit of a David Bowie.
So your group Wonder Stories formed in that ‘in-between’ stage?
Wonder Stories began in the winter of 1980, with hasty rehearsals in my dad’s garage. We were a dandy band of merry men in pixie boots, out to rob the riches of the music industry. Dennis had been to London’s new romantic Blitz club and had passed the test of style enforced by the club’s promoter and doorman Steve Strange whilst simultaneously facing down the catty remarks of coat check boy George O’Dowd. Now we were all on a mission to avoid the drab conformity of our Northern English town and live like it was Studio 54: thrift store chic and cut price Kraftwerk.
Was the emergence of New Romantics a response to the economic recession of the late seventies? 
It’s a simple analogy: The late 1970s were black and white. The early 80s seemed to transform the world into vibrant colour. The 1960s had been swinging, but only for a few hundred lucky people. By the 70s it was pretty bleak. Punk offered an alternative but its nihilism hit a brick wall. The Blitz Kids embraced a more positive upwardly mobile politics.
“The point was to fail magnificently, thereby creating the ultimate success.”
You speak about politics. The New Romantics, however, were sometimes accused of being purely about appearance and style and not about a political message. 
The New Romantic movement has been maligned for being shallow, self obsessed and meaningless cult. It was and that was the point. Rather than wallow in the pessimism of post punk they chose to focus on fun, fashion and dance music. Malcolm McLaren told me once that the Sex Pistols knew they would fail – it was only a question of time. The point was to fail magnificently, thereby creating the ultimate success.
What role did club culture play at the time?
Club culture evolved from a series of small independent ‘one nighters’ that created a model which exploded by the end of the 80s. Here was a training ground for musicians, DJs, designers, promoters and drug dealers. Here was a nightlife laboratory where like-minded souls could meet and make plans.
“I looked like a discount Andy Warhol”
A parallel universe?
I had to live down the howls of laughter and disapproving barbs from the neighbours as I waited at the bus stop looking like Little Lord Fauntleroy in crushed velvet, eyeliner and Cuban heeled winkle pickers. I didn’t care. In my mind I was walking down a catwalk, not the high street. Every day was a voyage in a parallel universe. I looked like a discount Andy Warhol. The Man Who Fell To Earth had landed in Coronation Street.
What did London mean to you then? Was it about escaping suburbia?
Escape? Yes! The audience at the New Outlook Club contained a strange bunch of style misfits all fleeing from the mundane: a male nun, a Cossack, a Che Guevara look a like, a bloke in a wedding dress and the Chip Shop King of South Yorkshire, looking like he had escaped from a Game Of Thrones. It was all about creating a fantasy and dreaming our way out of suburbia.
Were hedonism and drugs a big part of the Blitz Kids mentality? 
Many in my crowd were indulging fully in an alcohol fuelled frenzy and maybe a bit of speed in order to stay up all night. Drinking was a big part of the culture and the thought of be-frocked men in make-up drinking pints of warm beer is pretty hilarious in hindsight. Fights always follow booze: feathers flying, boas bowling. It wasn’t until the Acid House explosion that I fully explored a hedonistic bent.
What does Britishness mean to you?
‘Britishness’ at that time meant ‘cocking a snook’ at commercialism, embracing creativity and humour. It meant subversive and sexual ambiguity. To me it still does, though Britishness has also embraced a more multicultural, global view point.
The V&A recently devoted an incredible exhibition to David Bowie. Why is he still so relevant?
One thing that cannot be overlooked is the influence he has had on literally millions of people. To say I am a fan of the man is an understatement. I would consider myself a disciple who has learned much of my creative craft by studying this man’s moves and I am not alone in that. However nobody comes remotely close to the real thing. Bowie hit the Blitz Club in London, handpicked a few regulars, including promoter, Blitz founder and nascent pop star, the late Steve Strange. Bowie put them all in his ‘Ashes To Ashes’ video thereby cleverly co-opting the new style ahead of the kids who were actually creating it. He created a blue print that Madonna followed in the 80s and many other music artists adhere to: Co-opting the underground. But Bowie did it first.
The Blitz Kids became known for crossing gender boundaries through fashion.
In 1980 that was absolutely true; any budding ‘Blitz Kid’ who wore black clothes, frilly shirts and make up could result in ‘the fashion victim’ becoming an actual victim of lager louts who cruised around town sporting ill fitting clothes and beer bellies. That is exactly why an underground club culture exploded: An escape from danger and a doorway to a secret world.
“Youth culture styles often start with a mission to rebel against the mainstream but ultimately fail to reach their goals and are derailed by the commercialism of the mainstream acceptance.”
How did AIDS change the scene?
We were unaware of the AIDS epidemic until after the whole New Romantic circus had left town. By the mid 80s panic ensued and governments did literally nothing to help those affected, until it was too late.
Would you say that subcultures have died out as they became absorbed by mainstream culture?
Subcultures were once inspiration for change in global style culture emerging from the streets of London, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo. From the Beatniks of the 50’s to the Mods, Rockers and Hippies of the 60’s, Glam Rockers, Skinheads and Punks of the 70’s, B Boys and Acid Ravers of the 80’s and the myriad of youth subcultures since. Youth culture styles often start with a mission to rebel against the mainstream but ultimately fail to reach their goals and are derailed by the commercialism of the mainstream acceptance. With the rise of the internet it now seems unlikely to me that fashion subcultures will emerge in the world without immediate over-exposure. With exposure often comes acceptance, and by the mid 1980’s some of my subculture heroes had joined the mainstream.
Besides the rise of the internet, the rising living costs and gentrification in London are also affecting the creative scene. Could something like the Blitz Kids ever happen again? 
I believe that every generation’s creative force is able to conjure the ‘Sex, Subversion and Style’ that McLaren held dear. I hope that today underground cultures can happen globally, in Thailand, India, Shanghai, away from the media microscope. Then something can grow undisturbed, like a culture in a laboratory.
Do you feel nostalgic about the past?
The honest answer is yes. I have fond memories of that era as in retrospect it seems joyfully naïve. Anything seemed possible. I recently saw the biggest line up of hideous outfits on near naked celebrities at New York’s Met Ball and I was appalled by the sheer lack of subversion and provocation. We have come to an impasse in contemporary culture and the sheer vacuous nature of contemporary celebrity culture makes the New Romantics seem like intellectual giants.
Words by Ella Wolf
Images courtesy of Keanan Duffty
Keanan’s music is available on iTunes and Spotify

Monday, May 11, 2015

Dare : David Laurie

by David Laurie, MD of boutique record label, Something In Construction

Concerning my book, on the subject of David Bowie's not inconsiderable influence upon Synthpop, the olde worlde and the new and all of us...
PUBLISHED 21.06.15
DARE is the 1st book from David Laurie, MD of boutique record label, Something In Construction.
It’s about Synthpop and how David Bowie, Kraftwerk and cheap synths displaced rock'n'roll, forever changed what it meant to be "in a band" and invented Modern Pop:   It focuses on 1979-1982.
Something In Construction [aka SIC Records] is celebrating its 10th year in 2015.  SIC has released music by AIR FRANCE, MEMORY TAPES, THE CONCRETES, LONEY DEAR, ANR and more recently HOLY STRAYS, ENJOYED, PIANO WIRE and the legendary SHAUN RYDER.  It has been nominated for a Grammy and developed into a management company and now a music publishing company (in partnership with Beggars).
A fresh look at how the arrival of synthesizers fuelled an incredibly creative time for Pop Music and why the "plastic music" of the early 80s is so very durable and influential. 
Go on, I'm  listening....
DARE  focusses on 1979-1982 and takes a look back to the dizzying excitement of this time in Pop Music. 
After the endless drab and grey of the 70s - microchips were suddenly everywhere: in the home, on your wrist and powering the Synthesizers that changed everything in Pop.  

The Top Twenty filled up with all kinds of weird and wonderful hits, week after week. Each new Smash Hits and the Top Of The Pops was an unmissable feast for the eyes and ears.

It really felt like the sic-fi future was finally arriving.

How so, David?
A handful of ambitious electronic albums from David Bowie and Kraftwerk in the late Seventies, coupled with newly affordable computer technology, forever changed what it meant to be "In A Band" and taught Pop Music a whole new language. 

 This is the tale of how Synthpop rendered Rock’n’Roll redundant almost overnight and how Britain fell in love with the Bleep. 

 The unprecedented genius of The Human League, New Order, Simple Minds, ABC, OMD, The Cure, Japan, Duran, Depeche Mode et al achieved what Punk had failed to.  A massively successful and largely British musical revolution, packed with freaks and weirdos that redrew the generation gap and took Pop on a much needed quantum leap into the future. 

 This New Pop reached its dizzying creative peak in 1982 as band adfter band rocketed from the relative obscurity of a John Peel session into the flashbulb glare of Top Of The Pops. These Pop peacocks were splashed in brilliant technicolour over the covers of both Smash Hitsand NME and soon set their sights on America...but at what price? 
 This very entertaining book describes how the exotic and enduring records of this incendiary Year Zero changed everything and continue to inspire your favourite new artists today.

Are you in the book, then?
No. Not really.  OK, a little bit.  Music has been my life and this period changed everything for me.  I was 14 in 1982, living in an endlessly damp, grey South Wales. This glittering New Pop music blew my mind week after week and led me down the rocky path to becoming an A&R Man and running my own record label, SOMETHING IN CONSTRUCTION.  

I'll tell the story of this computerised musical revolution, examine the records and the effect they had and continue to have.  I'm an "insightful Music Biz veteran" now, with a fresh perspective on the art and business of Pop, but still addicted to buying new records every week and still very much in touch with that wide-eyed teenager. 

01. “HEROES”   1974-1978:  The Back Story Of Modern Pop Music. 
 02. DAWNING OF A NEW ERA  1979-1982: After the grey Seventies, dour English eccentrics start to reach for the fun, the colour and the glamour. 
 03. THE SOUND OF THE CROWD  1979-1981: Synthpop arrives. Pop Music takes a quantum leap into the future. 
 04. TEMPTATION  1981-1982: Funk Gets Serious, Disco Is Exhumed. How Synthpop, Funk and Disco hypnotised all the cool guitar bands 
 05. MAD WORLD  1982: The floodgates open; brilliant new Pop groups spring up all over Britain. Smash Hits bounces them into the Top Twenty.
 06. GHOSTS 1982: The Top Twenty welcomes all sorts of odd things. How did these non-singles become massive hits? 
 07. FLOORSHOW  1980-1982: Even Goth’s moths are drawn to the bright light of the Top Forty.
 08. DUCK ROCK 1981-1982: Punks import Hip Hop and Electro from New York. Black culture freshens up Pop music. Again. 
 09. NEW GOLD DREAM  1982-1984: Rejecting Rock’n’Roll, The Big Music, Shimmering & Modern. The new European Canon tilts at stadiums. 
10. AVALON 1982-1985: In Pursuit Of Production Perfection. Months in Montserrat. Luxury as commodity. The real Eighties kick in. 
11. THRILLER  1983-1985: Economies Of Scale. Kajagoogoo vs Prince. Corporate Pop, CDs, Now That’s Not What I Call Music. 
 12. MANY HAPPY RETURNS  1980-2014: The persistence of Duran Duran and the perpetual Eighties revival 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Adam Ant to release Dirk Wears White Sox live DVD

Classic Pop Magazine  May 7th, 2015 

Adam Ant is to release a live DVD of his 2014 performance of Adam And The Ants’ debut album Dirk Wears White Sox, Classic Pop can reveal.
Released on May 18, the DVD was filmed in April 2014 at Hammersmith Apollo to mark the album’s 35th anniversary, which reunited Ant with original Adam And The Ants drummer Dave Barbarossa and bassist Leigh Gorman for the first time since the album’s original tour in 1979.
As well as the album’s 11 songs played in its running order, the DVD features performance from the gig of 1978’s single Zerox and its B-side Whip In My Valise, plus the B-sides Red Scab and Physical. It also features a 10-song semi-acoustic performance recorded the following week at London’s intimate 100 Club, again featuring Gorman. 
100 Club songs include covers of Johnny Kidd And The Pirates’ Shakin’ All Over and Zodiac Mindwarp And The Love Reaction’s Prime Mover, as well as Adam And The Ants’ debut single Young Parisians. 
The package is rounded off with a booklet featuring sleevenotes by Ant about the concerts, which folds into a monochrome poster taken at the Hammersmith show.
Alongside Barbarossa and Gorman, the Ants’ line-up at Hammersmith included Morrissey guitarist Boz Boorer plus Ant’s current touring band of guitarists Will Crewdson and Tom Edwards, drummer Jola Rodowicz and keyboardist Peter Olive. The 100 Club show featured guest guitarist John Ellis of The Vibrators.
Ant finished touring earlier this April. A gold 7” featuring Kings Of The Wild Frontier and Antmusic was recently released for Record Store Day, which heralds the reissue this autumn of Adam And The Ants’ chart-topping Kings Of The Wild Frontier album from 1980.
The current issue of Classic Pop features an interview with Adam Ant, who is the first winner of our Lifetime Achievement award.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

30th Street Guitars Is Musicians’ Haven - New York Times


Guitars Galore

Continue reading the main storySlide Show

Guitars Galore

CreditPiotr Redlinski for The New York Times 

To the uninitiated, the anonymous blocks surrounding Pennsylvania Station might seem an odd place for a quirky music shop like 30th Street Guitars.

But hidden within the tangle of Midtown office buildings and roller-bag-toting travelers is New York City’s prime rehearsal-studio district. And wherever there are musicians bound for a session, there are guitars to set up, amplifiers in buzzy disrepair and a nearly constant need for picks and strings.

Since 1995, Matt Brewster’s shop has served as a musicians’ haven. Mr. Brewster, a soft-spoken 51-year-old, started playing guitar at age 4 and in the 1980s and 1990s performed in several bar bands and frequented the CBGB stage. When he decided to open a guitar shop, he envisioned a place that eschewed the pretense and exclusivity that so commonly plague hobby-oriented stores. “I modeled the shop after the one I grew up going to, and later apprenticed at in my hometown of Ossining,” Mr. Brewster said. “I wanted to recreate that same friendly, low-key vibe in New York City.”

From the street-level display window, an expansive, floor-to-ceiling wall of specialty electric and acoustic guitars beckoned. Inside, a new student perched on a stool to work out chords on a vintage Telecaster. Nearby, a huddle of longtime professional guitar wranglers stood by the counter, trading stories of gigs and gear.

In the back of the store, rows of gig bags fitted with work tags lined the floor of the in-house repair shop. “I usually have about 100 repairs going at once,” Mr. Brewster said. Even so, Eric Bradley, 47, the technician who fixes amps at 30th Street, said customers are never “just a call tag number, and they can sense it.” This family-oriented approach has made Mr. Brewster’s store a favorite for amateurs, Broadway pit regulars and touring bands on their way to Madison Square Garden. (The 30th Street shop includes legends like Clapton and Costello among its clientele.)

“Matt is a wizard at complicated repairs,” said Benny Landa, 48, a performer and session guitarist who was won over after Mr. Brewster fixed the strange static emanating from his 1993 Gibson Les Paul. Dennis Scott Kelly, 52, a bassist and songwriter, said, “It would be cliché to call him a guru, but I always trust his opinion.”

Mr. Brewster, who called himself a “lifelong tinkerer,” also makes a line of custom guitars called Rust, which he sells exclusively at 30th Street, to the clamor of clients. “After playing it, people offer to buy mine from me all the time,” Mr. Kelly said. “But it’s not going to happen. It sounds too good.”

If musicians flock to 30th Street for the expertise and the inventory, they stay to talk shop. “Sure, I get stuff fixed here, and send students here to buy tuners and picks, but I also like to head over whenever I have free time,” said Vinnie Demas, 46, who teaches guitar across the street. “I run into a lot of other players and friends.”

Mr. Brewster and his team encourage the shop’s alternate identity as a community gathering spot. “Everyone who works here is here because we love the music and everything that comes with working at a guitar store,” Mr. Bradley said. Despite the constant workload that could easily keep him cloistered with repairs, it is not uncommon to see Mr. Brewster at the front, making jokes and introducing longtime customers to one another. “Since becoming a dad, I can’t do the late nights that come with performing much anymore,” he said. But thanks to 30th Street, the preshow hang now comes to him.

A version of this article appears in print on May 3, 2015, on page MB3 of the New York edition with the headline: The Shop of Good Vibrations .