Interview: Andy Bell, singer, Erasure

Andy Bell
Andy Bell
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‘I FEEL that Erasure has definitely earned its stripes,” says Andy Bell, the snyth pop supergroup’s flamboyant frontman, ahead of their visit to the Corn Exchange on Saturday.

That’s an understatement. In a partnership that’s lasted a quarter of a century, Bell and musical partner Vince Clarke have sold more than 25 million albums, enjoyed more than 40 chart hits, and have played sell-out gigs all over the world, including a record-breaking eight nights in a row at the Edinburgh Playhouse back in 1992.

Despite having been at it so long, the double act still get a thrill out of being in a band. “I love it,” enthuses keyboard maestro Clarke, a man who is often referred to as the Benjamin Franklin of synth music.

His bandmate nods in agreement. “Yeah, I feel like that as well,” says Bell. “You kind of feel like we’re in for the long haul, you know. Nobody can say, ‘Oh, I thought you broke up years ago’. No, we love it.”

After more than 25 years of hits, one of the biggest dilemmas the duo face these days is deciding on what songs to put into their set list when they go out on the road.

“It’s hard,” says Bell. “When you’re doing the pop hits tour, that’s one thing, because that’s what people expect. And then other times you’re promoting one particular album, so you’ll play most songs from that.”

The singer says he prefers the tours when he can choose whatever songs he likes from whatever album, though he admits that doesn’t always go down well with fans.

“Sometimes the customers aren’t happy when you do that,” he smiles, “so you have to sprinkle a few things in there that people are familiar with, you know.”

Fans can rest assured that when Erasure bring their latest tour to the Capital this weekend, all the big hits including A Little Respect, Blue Savannah, Ship Of Fools, The Circus, Love To Hate You and Oh l’Amour will be played alongside the best bits from their latest studio album, Tomorrow’s World.

“We got the album title from the programme Tomorrow’s World, which was a science programme that started in the 60s and I was a big fan of,” says Clarke, who has flirted with the futuristic for his entire career, having been a member of both Depeche Mode and Yazoo before meeting Bell in the mid-Eighties. “It was all about future technology and they would feature things like cell phones, you know, phones without wires and microwave ovens, but you know when they were brand new. So, we just thought it was an apt title for a record.

“The record itself took about two years and we did writing in London and New York and in Maine,” he adds.

In making their 14th studio album, Erasure handed over production duties to electro-pop songwriter and producer Vincent Frank, who works under the Frankmusic moniker and counts Lady Gaga, Pet Shop Boys and Ellie Goulding among his clients.

“Frankmusik really came about, I think, as an instinctive choice in the end,” explains Bell. “We had some other producers mentioned but, when it came down to it, the fans really wanted Frankmusik and secretly, I wanted him as well, so, that’s what we got.”

Turner was born in the year Erasure formed, 1985, so what kind of influences did the young gun bring to the album?

“Well his sound is quite different from ours,” says Clarke. “I mean, he’s all electronic. His sound is much bigger than ours.

“We tend to produce very minimalist sounding records and his take is more like a wall of sound, so it was quite different for us making that kind of record,” he continues.

“So, that’s what he brought onto the record, I think. And also, having a producer there as someone to hopefully keep Andy and I in order, and who will make us work quite hard.”

Despite being far more experienced than their producer, the duo say it wasn’t difficult for them to let Turner do his own thing in the studio. “He was doing stuff that I would never have dreamed of doing, so for me it was a learning process as well,” says Clarke. “You know, I was happy to see him do his thing.

“In fact, when he was at my studio, in the first instance, he thanked me for allowing him to do his thing and not be too you know, over the shoulder and saying, ‘Well, maybe you could do that,’ and, ‘Maybe you could do that.’

“I think it’s kind of worked to both our benefits,” he adds.

Erasure have been touring the record for a few months now and they say the shows are going really well.

“We’ve been on the road since the beginning of June and Andy has almost learned all the words now,” smiles Clarke. “It’s all been really good. We haven’t toured for four years and the reaction pretty much everywhere has been really positive, surprisingly.”

The duo’s live shows are well known for their big productions and visual razzmatazz, so what have they planned for Saturday night’s gig?

“Tomorrow’s World is kind of based on a destroyed city of future - that’s the vibe,” says Clarke. “So it’s kind of like the future, but it’s all very grim and miserable - but hopefully we’ll lighten it up with some of our happy tunes.”

Erasure, Corn Exchange, Newmarket Road, Saturday, 7pm, £30, 0131-477 3500