Martin Kemp: ‘Fame and celebrity aren’t all that’
Spandau Ballet musician Martin Kemp on turning 60, and working with his son and ‘best friend’ Roman
He may be approaching 60, but Martin Kemp has never been more in demand. From his appearances on
Celebrity Gogglebox alongside his son Roman, hosting
Weekend Best – again with his 28-year-old boy – and his new show on Greatest Hits Radio, The Mix Tape, he’s as busy and popular as ever.
Martin’s extensive career, which started in the ’80s as a bassist for
Spandau Ballet, has spanned over 40 years and includes his award-winning villainous turn in Eastenders, starring in The Krays as gangster Reggie opposite elder brother Gary as Ronnie, and finishing third in the 2012 series of Celebrity Big Brother. Martin – who also has 31-year-old daughter Harley Moon with wife Shirlie – talks to us about his 32-year marriage, music and his forthcoming milestone…
‘I’m really cool with being 60’
Are you enjoying your new Friday night show, The Mix Tape, on Greatest Hits Radio?
It’s wonderful. Friday night is the best night of the week. It’s the most exciting night for me, and I want my show to be a lift-off platform for the weekend.
Does Shirlie tune in?
Of course! I play songs she loves and everyone from my era loves. My music taste isn’t just from the ’80s, but I think it’s one of the best musical decades for years. My musical taste goes back to the ’70s when I was a kid, so I play some of my favourite David Bowie and Elton John songs, as well as tunes from the ’80s and ’90s. It’s a real party mix.
You’ve been with Shirlie for over 30 years. What’s your secret to a happy marriage?
I don’t know if there’s a secret. You love each other, but you have to look after the bedrock and that’s friendship. In the same way I wouldn’t want to hurt my friends, I wouldn’t want to hurt my friendship with my wife. And if you look after that, love grows.
Did you know she was The One when you first saw her?
I fell in love with her after seeing her on TV on Top Of The Pops as Wham’s backing singer. Two weeks later, I met her and gave her my number and asked her to call me. She didn’t call me for three weeks, until George Michael dialled the number and gave her the phone.
Who does the cooking?
I’m not a great cook. Shirlie will do the cooking and I’ll do the washing up really well. We split the chores.
Could we see you two together on TV again?
It’s something we could do one day if the timing and the project are right. I do Gogglebox in my office and a couple of times I’ve seen Shirlie walk past the door. I call her in, but she walks past even quicker to avoid it! The only one who wants to come into the room when we’re filming Gogglebox is my little dog.
You’re turning 60 in October. How do you feel about it?
I’m really cool with it. I have had the most incredible life and the most incredible 60 years. I appreciate how lucky I am every day, so I’m more than happy to reach 60.
How will you celebrate your birthday?
It’s up in the air at the moment. I’m one of those people who never plans anything. My life is always Lastminute.com. But I would love to spend my birthday with my family. My family are my best friends and they’re the people I’d like to be with.
What’s on your wish list?
Oh man! I collect 12in vinyl from my favourite bands when I was a kid. I am obsessed and I love them, so they would be on my wish list. At the moment, I’m collecting Bob Dylan – ’70s rock takes me back to being in my parents’ house listening to Your Mother Wouldn’t Like It, Nicky Horne’s 9pm show on Capital Radio, with Gary on the carpet.
I thought you were going to say vintage cars or watches…
I’ve done all that. They’re just a pain in the neck.
How do you keep looking so young?
Oh, I don’t know if I do! I work out nearly every day. I use one of those Connect bikes with some American woman shouting at me to “keep pedalling” through my laptop. I love it! These things aren’t just about making you exercise and pushing you on, they’re about life as well, like Soulcycle. I love that, so I try to use it every day.
Do you have famous friends?
No. The whole celebrity circle has never been a part of mine and Shirlie’s lives. We like to get away from that. I have ordinary, everyday friends, who have nothing to do with the business and I quite like it like that because they don’t treat me any different. Shirlie and I see ourselves as ordinary, not celebrities, and even with my famous friends, I try to forget we’re celebrities. I’ve been in the public eye since I was 18, when I signed my first record contract with Spandau Ballet, which led to this incredible worldwide fame. After experiencing it on that scale, fame and celebrity aren’t that attractive.
You and Roman have become a hugely successful double act. Was that a surprise?
It’s funny how things have worked out. It started off with us doing Gogglebox during lockdown. When Ro asked me to do it, I said no because I didn’t think us working together was healthy. But he really wanted to do it and I thought that’s the only way I’ll get to see him during lockdown. It’s worked out really well. Ro and I have so much fun together – what you see on TV is how we are in real life. We take the mickey out of each other, we laugh and giggle over the stupidest things like schoolkids, and I think that comes across on screen. I love working with him.
You’re a DJ, a TV star and have a radio show. What else would you like to do?
I don’t know if I can fit anything else in now. There’s a lovely show I’ve got coming up called Rock Of Ages with the BBC, where I put a band together. I’m really looking forward to that. • Kick off your weekend with Martin Kemp on Greatest Hits Radio this Friday from 7pm – Greatesthitsradio.co.uk
‘I love working with Ro’