Music

The Weekly interview: Erasure’s Andy Bell

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Andy Bell, left, and Vince Clarke, aka Erasure, contemplate tiny costumes.

Erasure always made music that qualifies as dance music, but was the sound of new album The Violet Flame inspired by the popularity of EDM and house music? I kind of lived my life in club and bars. Now my new partner has bars in Tampa, so [I’m] surrounded by [dance] music someway or another. I like the dance remix version of people’s tracks usually. With Erasure, we’ve been traditional songwriters and then handed our stuff to DJs for remixes. So in our own way, that’s been our radio … it’s important [to have remixes] for when people are out. We’ve never been ashamed of that, and especially in the gay scene, [that] music is important.

Did this material require a more energetic vocal? Not necessarily. I’ve been doing lots of lots of singing so my voice is in good shape. And the young people record it a different way than I’m used to: line by line then chorus by chorus … it was very fast. Sometimes I had a feeling if it wasn’t right—you get a feeling about it and do it again, and you generally know it’ll work or not. I trusted [Richard X] and like what he’s done with it.

You previously mentioned that Violet marks a point in your life where you feel renewed and have brand new horizons. Is part of that due to your partner, Steve, and the other part of it the confidence and perspective having a new relationship can offer? I think I’m at a stage in my life when I’m past being a spoiled brat. You get to 50 and, you’re right, you’re confidence comes into play. I have a lovely boyfriend, we have a dog, a girl lives with us—we feel like a nice little family. We fly between London and Miami ... he works in a nightclub, it’s very smoky and down home, he used to be a dancer in New York and had a jazz bar. It wasn’t like I was looking for someone, it just happened. We are a very good match. It was the perfect time in my life. [Bandmate] Vince [Clarke] was the same. This record caught us at a very good moment.

You found your muse and followed suit. You do that. I’ve been doing so many things this year, it’s been a whirlwind, with the Dave Aude track “Aftermath”…I did Torsten the Bareback Saint in Edinburgh...and then the Erasure album. I read that [people born during] Year of the Horse have to work work work! Now I’m at the end of tunnel, which is great.

Naturally, you’ve gone through the major downs and ups, but Vince writes the music in Erasure, too. How does he tap into what you’re feeling or going through so the songs have emotional consistency? Vince definitely has his downtime and demons, too. His struggle is just as hard but he’s more quiet. He puts it into his sound. He has a unique sadness sometimes in his instrumentation; some of the sounds he uses are very airy and [sound like] crying. I love that—like the intro of “Always,” it sounds like you’re in some wasteland and he has howling winds and drones that sound almost like whales. Vince is really in there but he won’t ever talk about his feelings...it’s like writing a story together. Like, say, “Make It Wonderful” from Snow Globe. He’s working on the music, and then I’d come into the studio—I hadn’t seen him in a few years. You get nervous, like meeting a girlfriend you haven’t seen for ages, but once you have a cup of tea and hear what Vince has been up to, you put [your vocals] on it—and you stare at each other blankly and laugh!

In the press notes, you speak of Richard X and making a true album as opposed to a bunch of tracks. Is that still important to you given that most of the people buying music on iTunes are just buying individual tracks? You can’t change, really. I was born in the age of record collectors, I love that whole thing. I have CDs and vinyl, I do have an iTunes library, but I dip in and out of it occasionally. When I DJ, I burn my discs. I love the physical formats. I can understand why people want to buy one or two songs but I am trained to buy albums so that’s what I like to make as well.

Las Vegas now allows gay marriage. What are you observations on the slow roll out of same sex marriage in the US? I think it’s going to put a whole new lease on life in Las Vegas. [Opposition to same-sex marriage] is like a house of cards you just wait to fall down. All these people who are anti-gay marriage are on the wrong side of history. Hopefully they eventually see that. All people are equal, full stop.

What would your Las Vegas wedding be like if you went for it? I’ve been married twice. My former partner had a civil partnership [with me], and with Steve we have a civil partnership in the U.K. We had a wedding-at-the-town-hall kind of thing—a registry office, that’s what we did. It would be quite fun to have a big wedding but I don’t see the point in it...it’s a bit naff to do that. It’s more of a private social occasion. As much as I like a party, I read somewhere that if you spend more than £12,000 on your wedding, it’s unlikely to survive.

Erasure hits the big 30 soon. Will you commemorate that? I don’t think so. It would be quite good—this year was the 25th anniversary of Wild! and it would be nice to re-release that. We might do another greatest hits [compilation]. I would quite like to see all the albums re-released together. I think Mute is back under the BMG umbrella, so it depends where the catalog is. It’s spread out so it’s tricky to do that with the licensing. I don’t know—maybe a b-sides album. We have no plans.

Have you played Halloween shows in the past? I can’t remember if we have—we must have. I’m sure everyone will be in good party spirits. I have some friends flying over from the UK. So it’ll be really good fun.

Any clues about your own costume, or will you stick to the tour wardrobe? I’ll have a tiny costume.

Any clues as to what kind of tiny costume? It’s got horns. (Laughs.)

Erasure with Brian Evans. October 31 (costumes encouraged; no masks or face paint), 8 p.m., $39-$79. Pearl, 702-942-7777.

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Mike Prevatt

Mike started his journalism career at UCLA reviewing CDs and interviewing bands, less because he needed even more homework and ...

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