2015 sees one of the UK’s most enduring award-winning songwriting duos, ERASURE (Andy Bell and Vince Clarke), mark the 30th anniversary of their first release. Next year Andy Bell will also embark on the next part of his critically acclaimed show ‘Torsten the Bareback Saint’. I recently caught up with Andy Bell to find out more.
Hi Andy what have you been you been up to?
Andy: Today I just went down to do a sound check, but there was nobody there so I came back. I’m doing a PA this evening for a club called ‘Friday I’m In Love’, it’s called ‘The Common People Prom’, and I’m going to do ‘A Little Respect’ and ‘Sometimes’ with a band. Apart from that I just got back from South America after doing ten solo shows with a couple of dancers a drummer and a keyboardist. We did ten shows in 9 countries over about 2 and half weeks, so I’m just relaxing really.
After the extremely popular ‘Torsten the Bareback Saint’ shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, no doubt you are busying yourself to get things perfect for March 2016’s run of ‘Torsten the Beautiful Libertine’ shows in London.
Andy: We have done the recordings already so I’m kind of just listening over them, and then we have got a rehearsal, workshop kind of thing the last week of September and the first week of October, which I’m really looking forward to. The show is not until March so I’m hoping it’s all going to sink in and I don’t forget it before then.
How will the story carry on from the first instalment?
Andy: I think it’s more settled than the first one, the first one was quite schizophrenic I think, even though it was a song cycle I think it was difficult for the listener to get a grip of what was actually going on, because it was quite sporadic, so this one is much more settled even though some of the songs are older they are more melodic and it gives you a bit more of an insight into Torsten’s background and things that he has done as a teenager.
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Can we expect any dramatic change in musical styles to the production?
Andy: Yeah, it sounds more accomplished to me. There are still some quite gritty songs in there but it sounds much more musical to me than the last one and it seems to be a bit more coherent. We are doing a warm up in Manchester just one date, I’m hoping it can travel around but it depends on Erasure because we are supposed to be doing some shows as well next year but I’m sure they won’t be until later on in the year. We are going to test it out to see if there is a demand for it.
Your second single with Dave Aude is rumoured to be released soon. Have you any other details on its release?
Andy: Yes its imminent! we have all the mixes coming in and a fan of ours is just working on the video. It’s called ‘True Original’ and I’m really happy with it. I just saw him (Dave Aude) a couple of weeks ago. After we played Mexico City, we went up to LA and I had a meeting with him and just played through some of the songs that we have got. We probably have got an albums worth of material, so we are releasing ‘True Original’ and then maybe another track in the new year with an extra track, then maybe an EP after that and just see how it goes. We are testing the water and seeing if we can build a fan base with that as well.
You have had such a busy 18 months on your solo projects and it looks set to continue with the next ‘Torsten’ album and Dave Aude single. What drives you as a person to work so hard on these projects?
Andy: Nothing is really planned; I have been working with Dave for the past 2 years. Anytime when I’m in America if I have got any spare time I just go over to LA and do some stuff with him. He has just given me a couple of new tracks to work on. I will be going back in December and January so hopefully I’ll get to see him again. It’s all kind of organic; I just take it as it comes really. The second part of ‘Torsten’ was already written; I did that in July – August time. Everything seems to slot in so it just having release dates for everything, it all seems to come out at once.
This year you and Vince Clarke celebrate 30 years of Erasure, who would have thought?
Andy: I know, again there was nothing planned, even Vince and I would be working together for all this time. I was just employed for the first album to be a singer and because it didn’t go that well in the UK, I thought Vince might look for somebody else, but thankfully he had faith in me and we just started again from scratch, then we became song writing partners. I think he met the person that he was looking for. For me he was a real hero and someone who I wanted to work with. I thought of all the people then he was probably the coolest person to work with so I felt really lucky that I got the chance to meet him and do the audition.
How were you able to keep hold of Vince when other bands couldn’t?
Andy: (Laughs) It’s a total equal partnership and we have been song writing together since the second album and working on the melodies together. We really feel like we have total respect for each other, we haven’t had any skirmishes or anything like that. I think it’s a really good solid partnership, so there is no reason why we shouldn’t continue working together.
‘Always – The Very Best of Erasure’ is released at the end of October. Who decided what tracks went on the CD, was it yourselves or the Record Label?
Andy: Mute got bought again by BMG, the Erasure catalogue is a bit spread out because we have been with so many different labels in the US and different parts of the world, so we don’t necessarily get the publicity or the big promotion that other bands might get, but at the same time it’s given us a certain amount of longevity. Now that BMG is on board again they wanted to re-release the catalogue because its 30 years.
Did you have a list of favourite remixes to include on the deluxe package?
Andy: No, they asked us in the beginning, they asked if we had any recommendations. My partner, because he is in nightclubs he knows loads of people who do remixes. I put a name forward which was one guy from ‘Thunderpuss’ but BMG wasn’t into it , so we just left it to them to choose who they wanted.
What sort of material can the fans expect in the box set?
Andy: I don’t know it depends on which part of the catalogue they own, obviously they are going to put hit singles on the first one but it’s a bit tricky for us choosing which of the more recent ones to include, there has been quite a few but people might not necessarily know them. The second CD has remixes that I particularly liked from the past and there were ones that Vince reworked for the ‘Violet Flame’ tour that were based on mixes that I really liked, so they are including some of those and a few new ones.
I think before it was going to be a B-Sides thing, but they seem to think that a B-Sides project is for when the band has broken up. They keep trying to repackage things and give a certain amount of fresh material included that fans haven’t had before or were only available on a vinyl issue or a ’12 inch. People seem to like when they repackage things and put it in a nice box now.
I have heard rumours that the next Erasure album is going to be an Erasure MK 2 concept album, is that right?
Andy: Yes that’s right; I think it would be a great idea. I love the stuff that Vince does when we are not thinking of writing pop singles, when he is just creating music. I really love that. Especially film type music and the stuff with Martin (Gore) I know that was different but he is kind of given free reign, I really like that, so I said to Vince, “why don’t you do your version of a classical album that would be just like a musical piece and then I’ll have a listen to it and if there is any parts where I think I could enhance the music by having choirs or verses or choruses or whatever, then I’ll do that.” It’s just a different approach to writing really, rather than sitting down and thinking of writing a 3 minute pop song. I think it’s more about the art of creating music than just sitting down and thinking ‘let’s write a hit’ because that kind of gets a bit predictable.
It’s very similar to the way you approached the ‘Erasure’ album in the 90s.
Andy: Yes, I thought that would be great, that album is 20 years old now. I thought it would be really great to do a part 2 of that, but you can’t really be sure until it’s finished whether it’s going to go together, it might be something on its own. I have no idea yet how it’s going to sound or what it’s going to be like or anything but I suspect Vince is working on it at the moment.
You said that you and Vince wrote the Violet Flame purely electronically rather than your previous methods of acoustic guitar/piano. Will you continue like this on the next album?
Andy: Yeah I think so, for me Vince is like a classical artist like Beethoven or somebody like that, I know it sounds bit high brow. I just love him to have a free reign and be really creative and to do what he wants and feels like doing, and just see what comes out of that.
Your last two Erasure albums were produced by Richard X. Have you any plans for a trilogy with him or will we see a different producer next time?
Andy: I’m not sure I’m not going to say no, but I think we might have used that already. We tested it on the ‘Snow Globe’ album which we were really pleased with, I love that, and then the ‘Violet Flame’ album. We would have liked it to be a bit more experimental than how it turned out. It was straight down the line pop music which is not a bad thing but we would have liked it to be a bit more ‘Deep House’ or something.
It would be interesting to hear another Erasure record produced by Mark Ellis (Flood) again.
Andy: Oh right! That’s a good idea; we have worked with him a few times. I loved ‘Loveboat’ the album, it was not very well received but I really like it.
Do you enjoy the interaction with fans on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter etc. Do you get any strange questions/requests?
Andy: Not really, there are a few people who are quite crazy, they send me photos of all kinds of things. You have to be civil but keep them at a distance you know (laughs). I love going on Twitter because it’s very immediate and very personal, its one on one, I’m not such a fan of Facebook or anything else. I just go on Twitter every now and then. I like to have certain anonymity and a personal life I think Vince is the same; he is more guarded than I am. It’s just one of those things that part of the way things are done now. I feel sorry for the new pop stars now because every single thing is on there and every single movement they make. It’s almost like they have to make a pact with the press, its warts and all, I don’t think I could live with that constantly.
If you and Vince were to start erasure now, do you think you could survive?
Andy: No! I don’t think we would stand a chance we would be eaten alive; I much prefer the old school (laughs).