FORMERLY REMEMBER THE EIGHTIES.COM
ABC (MARTIN FRY) INTERVIEW [2005]

Taking some time out of rehearsals for his forthcoming UK tour with Tony Hadley, ABC frontman Martin Fry answers some of the questions that RememberTheEighties.com readers sent in for him… from the gold suit and film scripts to the burning questions about a new album and an ABC reunion…

‘THE LEXICON OF LOVE’ IS RECOGNISED AS ONE OF THE GREATEST ALBUMS OF ALL TIME, HOW DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL NOW, ALL THESE YEARS LATER, TO LISTEN TO THAT ALBUM?

I listened to it recently for the first time in years. It sounded pretty current in a funny kind of way. For many years it was a source of frustration. I’d be standing there holding ‘Zillionaire’ or ‘Alphabet City’ and critics would say good but not as good as ‘The Lexicon of Love’. I don’t feel like that these days. It was great assisting Daryl Easlea on the recent Universal reissue ‘The Deluxicon’. It felt great performing ‘The Look of Love’ along side Trevor Horn at the Princes Trust show at Wembley Arena. It would be nice to turn ‘The Lexicon of Love’ into a stage show some day. It has a life of it’s own. I’m honoured that people hold those songs in high regard all these years on. I never ever take that for granted.

WHICH IS YOUR PERSONAL FAVOURITE OF THE ABC ALBUMS?

They’re like my children. I love them all. I play ‘Up’ more than any other. I like ‘North’ on that. ‘Skyscraping’ for ‘Love Is it’s own Reward’ or ‘Light Years’.

OF ALL THE SONGS YOU’VE WRITTEN, WHICH ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF LYRICALLY AND MUSICALLY?

‘All Of My Heart’ is a joy to perform. It’s a real tear-jerker. In any show it always provokes an emotional response, there’s always someone wiping away a tear. Outside of the big hits there are album tracks like ‘Paper Thin’, ‘North’, ‘Unzip’, ‘Rolling Sevens’, ‘Fear Of The World’, they fall into that category. Some songs kind of unravel as the years go by and reveal their meaning…

This is a tough one to answer! As soon as they’re recorded the songs become public property. There was a song called ‘What Colour Is The Wind?’ that we never finished during sessions with Frankie Knuckles prior to releasing ‘Abracadabra’. I loved that. ‘Spellbound’ worked for me whereas a lot of that record suffered.

TELL THE TRUTH, HAVE YOU EVEN WORN THE GOLD SUIT OUT IN PUBLIC?

Not too often. Maybe I should.

IN THE LATE 80′S, EARLY 90′S, IT’S FAIR TO SAY THE BAND WAS PRODUCING ‘CLUB’ OR DANCE MATERIAL THAT DOESN’T SOUND OUT OF PLACE TODAY, DO YOU CONSIDER ‘UP’ TO BE AN ALBUM THAT WAS AHEAD OF ITS TIME?

‘Up’ wasn’t ahead of it’s time particulary. It reflected the time it was made – 1989, Shoom, The Hacienda, Spectrum, Raves. I heard Derrick May’s ‘Strings Of Life’ on the radio this afternoon. A lot of great garage tunes came and went back then only to be rediscovered years later.

IF YOU WERE TO CHOOSE A SINGLE MOMENT AS THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOU CAREER SO FAR WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Hard to say. It was magical writing and recording ‘When Smokey Sings’ then meeting the man himself in Hilversum and later in LA. A lot of songs feel like wish fulfillment. You write about something you want to happen and it eventually happens. I suppose that’s why we did ‘How To Be A Millionaire’… only joking!

HAVING SEEN YOU RECORD THE LIVE DVD WITH TONY WHAT WAS THE HARDEST SONG TO SING?

The ones I’ve dropped! Probably ‘She’s Always A Woman’ – too many words. I love that song. I should try and record it but it’s gone from the set.

I’m rehearsing The New Radicals’ tune ‘You Get What You Give’ as we speak. Recording the DVD as our first performance was tough. Ask Tony! Funnily enough the DVD has turned out just fine. I guess it’s all done with smoke and mirrors! I have to say I’m really looking forward to this tour. It’s a different way of working. It’s great hanging and hearing Tony sing.

YOU HAVE BEEN A GREAT SUPPORTER OF HERE AND NOW TOURS AND HAVE ALWAYS PROVED ONE OF THE CROWDS FAVOURITE ACTS, IS THERE AN 80′S ACT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE ON A FUTURE HERE AND NOW TOUR THAT HASN’T ALREADY APPEARED?

Here And Now is wild backstage. It’s like being in a carnival or circus! It’s something I’ve enjoyed but it does get frustrating just performing four or five tunes as part of the bigger show.

I’ve made a lot of friends there; people like Kim and Ricky Wilde, Carol Decker. For a bill from heaven check Adam Ant, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Scritti Politti, Dead Or Alive, New Order, Tears For Fears, Sade. That could be a great show. Even better if you included ABC!

ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT DOING THIS TYPE OF SHOW WILL LIMIT ANY SUCCESS/EXPOSURE FOR NEW MATERIAL BY PIGEON-HOLING YOU AS AN ‘EIGHTIES ONLY’ ARTIST?

No. It enhances it. It is exposure. There’s an audience that only goes to this type of show. They love it. If they don’t like one act there are six more that they love. The 80′s aspect has never been a problem. When I toured with Culture Club and The Human League it wasn’t an issue. When we toured with Robbie Williams the same.

I’ve been pigeon-holed many, many times. It doesn’t bother me. You stand or fall on the quality of your performance, on the quality of your music. You become the singer and not the song.

I VERY MUCH ENJOYED YOUR APPEARANCE ON VH-1′S ‘BANDS REUNITED’. HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN IT BECAME APPARENT THAT YOU WEREN’T GOING TO BE ABLE TO PERFORM WITH THE ENTIRE ORIGINAL LINE-UP?

There was much discussion between the crew in London and the VH-1 bigwigs in LA at the time. They realised that despite the fact that Mark White and Stephen Singleton were a no show they still had a great ABC story to tell. I saw the possibilities and ignored the obstacles. I’m like that.

Climbing on stage with David Palmer was at the forefront of my mind. We owed it to the fans. We owed it to the memory of the songs. We owed it to ourselves to get it right and that’s what we did. It was brilliant playing alongside David once again. The whole experience opened up a box of memories. It made me realize how much I appreciate where I’m at today.

DO YOU THINK THAT STEPHEN SINGLETON AND MARK WHITE APPRECIATE OR UNDERSTAND THE IMPACT THAT ABC MADE IN THE WORLD OF MUSIC? IF SO DO YOU THINK THEY UNDERSTAND JUST HOW MUCH THE FANS WOULD LOVE TO SEE ALL OF ABC REUNITED?

I saw the whole ‘Bands Reunited’ thing as like a lunar eclipse; a door opened for a brief moment in time. Something that happens maybe once or twice in a lifetime.

I was open to the possibilities. Mark White wasn’t. David was. Stephen Singleton wasn’t. You can never turn the clock back. Why would you want to? Time passes. All you really have is the present.

I think Mark and Steve definitely valued their time in ABC, I think they do appreciate and understand the impact the group had. In fact I think that’s probably what they both found intimidating when it came to standing before an audience. Who knows?

WILL YOU BRING OUT NEW MATERIAL IN THE FUTURE OR IS IT JUST EIGHTIES REVIVAL SHOWS FROM NOW ON?

I’m cutting a vocal on ‘The Very First Time’ next week. A track I’ve been working on with David Palmer and Chuck Kentis. They’re in LA I’m in London and I’ve been using ISDN to finish the track. It’s time to make a new record. Other songs we’ve written are ‘Validation’, ‘Minus Love’, and ‘See Through You’ to name a few.

As you well know I start the tour with Mr. Tony Hadley next week. That is firmly placed in the present. I’m proud of all the work I did in back in the 80′s. I feel that a lot of great music has been overlooked from that era for way too long now. I’m happy to champion some of it. The music world changes every ten minutes and I enjoy that energy. 2005 feels good!

I READ ABOUT A NEW ABC ALBUM CALLED ‘STRAVAGANZA’ – CAN YOU TELL US ANYTHING ABOUT THIS PROJECT?

‘Stravaganza’s the name of the box I put my demo’s in. It’s a pretty big box these days!

WOULD YOU WANT TO WORK WITH TREVOR HORN AGAIN – AND DO YOU THINK HE WOULD WANT TO WORK WITH YOU?

It was fantastic hanging out with Trevor and a cast of thousands at the Prince’s Trust concert at Wembley in November. It was great performing with Anne Dudley too, and great to see Paul Rutherford with the Frankies.

Working with Trevor again after all these years could be very very exciting. Will it ever happen? I have no idea.

WILL YOU EVER TOUR INTERNATIONALLY AGAIN, ESPECIALLY IN (INSERT NAME OF PRETTY MUCH EVERY COUNTRY YOU CAN THINK OF HERE!)… IS THERE ANYTHING THE FANS CAN DO TO HELP MAKE THIS HAPPEN?

I just got back from Sydney, I played there with Tony and Go West. Dubai too. Played a couple of shows in New York earlier. Since Bands Reunited there’s been a lot of requests to play South America and the USA. There’s talk of an extensive tour of Spain too. We shall see.

WOULD YOU EVER THINK ABOUT DOING AN ABC ALBUM FULL OF COVERS OF SONGS THAT MEAN A LOT TO YOU?

I found it tough choosing songs to cover in the up coming tour set. Everything I initially chose ended up as songs I’d wished I’d written! Songs like ‘Regret’ by New Order. I’m still searching for songs. It did trigger me to start writing again. If I made an album of covers I’d go to one era, like 1989 garage anthems or punk classics or Cole Porter. It’s made me listen to a lot of stuff recently. I love Kraftwerk but I’d never cover one of their tunes!

MANY OF YOUR CONTEMPORARIES HAVE WRITTEN BOOKS (BOY GEORGE, MIDGE URE, TONY HADLEY AMONGST OTHERS), WILL YOU EVER WRITE ONE?

I’ve read Tony’s. Naturally. I loved Bob Dylan’s autobiography too. I think I’ll have a few more adventures before I write my story. I’d like to write a movie script first.

IS A REUNION WITH THE ORIGINAL ABC BAND-MEMBERS EVER GOING TO BE POSSIBLE?

You got me on that one!

Many thanks to everyone who sent in questions for Martin!

JANUARY 2005

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