I think my younger self would be more amazed to know I was doing an interview for ‘The Spectator.’
— Gary Kemp

Born within the sound of St Mary-le-Bow’s bells on October 16, 1959, Gary grew up in Islington on the Essex Road. He started playing guitar and writing songs at the age of 11, the result of a Christmas present from doting parents Frank and Eileen. Two moments made him decide to be in a band. Watching Bowie throw his arm around his Spiders from Mars guitarist Mick Ronson and sing about a starman one July Top of the Pops in 1972, and witnessing The Sex Pistols electrify The Screen on the Green in the tinderbox summer of 1976.

The first band he formed with Steve Norman, John Keeble and Tony Hadley, his fellow upper and lower sixth alumni at Dame Alice Owen’s grammar school, was called Roots. They would change their names three more times – The Cut, The Makers and Gentry – before becoming Spandau Ballet. They would also add a charismatic bass player, Gary’s little brother, Martin Kemp.

Inspired by London Soho’s pioneering new underground nightclubbing scene at Billy’s and Blitz, Spandau Ballet led the way, playing electronica and new white funk with UK Top Five hits To Cut A Long Story Short and Chant No.1. As one of the most successful British bands of the 1980s New Pop generation, Spandau enjoyed global success with timeless hits like True, Gold, Only When You Leave and Through the Barricades and appeared as part of the historic Band Aid and Live Aid line-ups.

After 19 years apart, Spandau reformed with all five original members in 2009. There followed two sold-out world tours including five nights at London O2 arena. Their story was documented in the critically acclaimed archive-based feature film “Soul Boys of the Western World”, directed by George Hencken, which world premiered at SXSW, Europen premiered at the Royal Albert Hall in 2014 and screened at numerous film festivals including Rome, Ghent and NYC doc

Gary released his first solo album, Little Bruises, on Sony Records in 1995 produced by Gary and Bow Wow Wow member and Malcolm McLaren producer Leigh Gorman. His second solo album, INSOLO, was released on Columbia Records in 2021. It was produced and mixed by Gary and long-time collaborator and keyboard player Toby Chapman. The first single Ahead of the Game broke new ground for Gary as a Radio Two playlist favourite.

Gary’s most recent band musical project is as guitarist and vocalist with Nick Mason’s psychedelic rock group, Saucerful of Secrets. He was invited by the Pink Floyd drummer to help ‘capture the spirit’ of the early music of the legendary outfit. The band made their live debut in May 2018 in front of an invited audience at Dingwalls in London followed by three shows at The Half Moon, Putney. Due to overwhelming demand European, US and Canadian tours have followed in 2019 and, post-pandemic, in 2022. A worldwide top five live album and film Live at the Roundhouse, was released in 2020.

In September 2020, Gary and Saucerful bass player and legendary session musician Guy Pratt launched their Rockonteurs podcast, talking to iconic artists about the real stories behind their music. Their first guest was Nick Mason and those that have followed range from musical contemporaries like Gary Numan, Kevin Rowland, Boy George,  Billy Idol, John Taylor, Toyah Willcox, Joe Elliott and Adam Clayton to Gary and Guy’s own musical idols like Alice Cooper, Hank Marvin, Peter Frampton, Marianne Faithful,  Mick Fleetwood, David Crosby, Glen Matlock, Phil Manzanera and a memorable encounter with David Coverdale.


Other collaborations include writing music and additional lyrics with Guy Pratt for Bedbug, a reimagined adaptation of the Vladimir Mayakovsky play with lyrics and book by Snoo Wilson, which was presented at the National Theatre in 2004 and revived there in 2016. And another musical, A Terrible Beauty, also with Pratt and Oscar nominated book writer Shane Connaughton based on the life of WB Yeats and Maud Gonne.

Gary’s earliest acting experiences came courtesy of Anna Scher’s Children’s Theatre drama club. He played the lead in the 1972 film Hide and Seek with Roy Dotrice which was given a Royal premiere for the Children’s Film Foundation’s 21st anniversary. Gary was interviewed by Film ’72.

His first adult role was playing Ronnie Kray in the 1990 biopic The Krays with brother Martin as Reggie and Billie Whitelaw as the twins’ mother Violet. Hollywood beckoned in 1992 as Gary appeared as music business PR Sy Spector in The Bodyguard alongside Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. Other roles include argumentative band-leader Jake Woodward in The Larry Sanders Show in 1993, and Oliver in heist movie, Killing Zoe, directed by Roger Avary and produced by Quentin Tarantino in 1994. Gary and his brother Martin starred in the BBC Four Rhys Thomas created spoof documentary The Kemps: All True in 2020.

On stage, Gary took the role of Serge in the West End production of Art in 2001. He played corrupt copper PC Collins in the revival of Lionel Bart’s musical Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be at Theatre Royal Stratford East in 2014 and Teddy in The Homecoming, directed by Jamie Lloyd, at Trafalgar Studios in 2015. This was followed by two more Pinter revivals, Party Time/Celebration, for the Pinter at the Pinter season in 2018.

Gary co-wrote and presented the documentary Kick Out the Jams for ITV’s Perspectives about the arrival of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and the YBAs.  He also co-wrote Passions: Mick Ronson by Gary Kemp for Sky Arts in 2017 and has presented various radio documentaries on musical heroes David Bowie and guitarist Mick Ronson for BBC Radio2 and BBC 6 Music.

He has written a critically acclaimed autobiography, I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. London: Fourth Estate and contributed articles to GQ, The Times and the Evening Standard.

Gary lives in London with his wife costume designer Lauren Kemp and three sons, Milo Wolf, Kit and Rex. His fourth son, Finlay, is from his first marriage to Sadie Frost. Gary is a keen cyclist and mountain walker and a collector of the furniture of architect -designer Edward William Godwin.