RETURNING to the classic Spear of Destiny album, One Eyed Jacks, was more than a nostalgic trip down punk’s memory lane for frontman Kirk Brandon.
“It was emotional,” he says. “The music transported me back to when we recorded it and, lyrically, back to why I wrote those songs. Some of them were very personal, highly personal.
“Don’t Turn Away was one of the most personal songs I’ve written. It brought me back to when it started, the reasons why that record existed.”
The 1984 album, which also included songs like Liberator, Prisoner of Love and Young Men, came at a time when the singer was going through relationship difficulties and the band was constantly on the verge of breaking up.
“It was an incredibly difficult album to record because it was touch or go whether it would ever get finished,” recalls Kirk, who also fronted Theatre of Hate and The Pack. “It was me and (long-time bass player) Stan Stammers, plus our drummer Dolphin Taylor who had just left the Tom Robinson Band, and it was just us three really.
“We were in a studio in the West End and it was a struggle every day. It also made it weirdly exciting. Is it going to work? And who are we kidding? Mostly it did work, although maybe not in the way I envisaged it.
“The production was very ’80s, it’s not the best. Also, it’s not a rock production, which I would have much preferred. The record company were looking for a pop band and that’s not what we were.”
To celebrate the 35thanniversary of One Eyed Jacks, Spear of Destiny are heading out on tour to play the album in full – and they’ve re-recorded it, with Kirk saying: “We’ve tried to do it justice.”
If you have an original 1984 copy, you’re lucky as it’s been unavailable on physical formats for years. The frontman says he decided to give the songs the once over, as the band had to rehearse them – and he was unhappy with what was available as a download.
“What’s available on iTunes is all very questionable,” he says. “Whatever mastering process they used on it sounds terrible. It’s just been slung out by the record company. So we decided to do it again and we should have it available for the gigs.
“It was a bit of a test in a way. You’re going back to something that in some people’s minds is a classic of its time. In some people’s eyes it was a legendary album and you think ‘Can I do this justice?’ You don’t want to ruin those memories. I hope we’ve done a decent job.”
Although Spear of Destiny have continued to record – they released the Tontine album last year and Kirk says his all-time favourite is 2005’s Loadestone – he doesn’t mind looking back on his career highlights. He toured earlier this year with his first band. The Pack, which formed in 1978.
This revival came about when he was approached by original bass player Jonathan Werner and he explains: “It wasn’t my idea to do it, It was Jonathan’s and he really wanted to do it. He said ‘We’re all going to be dead soon’ and that convinced me. The thing is it had to be a different band to Spear of Destiny – some of The Pack is really quite complicated music and the timing’s outrageous. I’m glad I did it. I enjoyed it immensely, it was a blast.”
And the 63-year-old shows no sign of letting up on his touring and recording schedule. “Music has been my life, it’s what I do. It’s what I enjoy doing. If I stop enjoying it, I’ll give up. Music makes sense of life, well it makes sense to me. It is life for me.”
Spear of Destiny’s One Eyed Jacks tour will bring them to the Undercover Festival, which takes place at the Fiery Bird in Woking over the weekend of 13 and 14 September. The line-up also includes Towers of London, Menace, Rubella Ballet, Wonk Unit and Zounds.