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BLANCMANGE (NEIL ARTHUR) INTERVIEW [2014]

FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PEOPLE READING THIS INTERVIEW, THE NEW ALBUM 'HAPPY FAMILIES TOO' IS A REMAKE OF THE DEBUT BLANCMANGE ALBUM 'HAPPY FAMILIES'. WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO REVISIT THE ALBUM IN THAT WAY?

I was asked to tour 'Happy Families' and I didn't want to simply repeat what had been done 30-odd years ago, and I needed to update the whole album in order for it to be performed. As I began to deconstruct each track to re-learn all the elements I was able to document the process, which became the re-interpreted recording 'Happy Families Too...' which was something new to offer the fans. I wouldn't have been happy just to tour the original album as there's a need to look to the future even when I - as we all do - make references to the past!

WHAT WAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH 'HAPPY FAMILIES' LIKE BEFORE THE WHOLE UPDATING PROCESS, AND THEN AGAIN AFTER YOU'D MADE AND TOURED 'HAPPY FAMILIES TOO'?

Before this whole process, looking back from 2013, it was very much a part of my past, something that would sometimes get unlocked, for example friends texting to say it's your round tonight as we just heard you on the radio! I didn't ever think about the album in isolation until I started to re-record it. But that process unlocked a huge amount of memories, the more I dissected, the more details and memories revealed themselves. For example, as I worked on the drums for 'I've Seen the World', I could remember the exact moment we programmed the original on the LinnDrum!

WHEN YOU WERE MAKING THE ALBUM HOW PRECIOUS WERE YOU ABOUT WHAT YOU KEPT FROM THE ORIGINAL SONGS AND WHAT YOU GOT RID OF OR CHANGED?

All the elements on the new album are new, nothing from the original album was kept. The only thing I didn't change, apart from 'Living on the Ceiling', was the tempo, and I was slightly obsessive there, 'Feel Me' is 112.919 bpm. I'm not sure why!

A LOT OF THE ARTISTS I INTERVIEW FOR MY WEBSITE ARE KIND OF CAUGHT BETWEEN THEIR PAST GLORIES (WHICH OFTEN PAY THE BILLS!) AND THE THINGS THEY WANT TO DO CREATIVELY NOW, IS THAT A STRUGGLE FOR YOU AT ALL?

We all need to pay the bills. Most people aren't questioned about the possible self-struggle and justification issues. I think initially, when 'Blanc Burn' came out, I was concerned about how to go about mixing the old and the new, but I didn't complain when Berocca used 'Living on the Ceiling' in their advert but in an ideal world we wouldn't have bills to pay. The fact is that people in general feel more secure with memories and reminders of the past, which is maybe a reflection of their collective worry of an uncertain future. I am happy to look forward to the future while referencing the past, meaning no, I don't struggle with it!

WHEN YOU REFORMED BLANCMANGE A FEW YEARS AGO YOU RELEASED A (GREAT!) NEW ALBUM 'BLANC BURN'. NOT TO OVERSHADOW THE RELEASE OF 'HAPPY FAMILIES TOO' BUT IS THERE THE POSSIBILITY OF MORE NEW MATERIAL IN THE FUTURE?

Thank you for that, I'm glad you liked it. After 'Happy Families Too' there will be a fifth Blancmange album. It is already 'in the can' as the film-makers used to say...

TALKING OF REFORMING THE BAND, I'M NOT SURE THAT I KNOW WHY BLANCMANGE ORIGINALLY SPLIT UP. WHAT WAS THE STORY WITH THAT?

We got bored! There were too many other things we needed to do, and music for film and TV became one of them. To a certain extent we also became a victim of the machine that was the 80s record industry where you are only as good as your last hit. Top be honest we never thought we'd have one record out, never mind a number of top ten hits, but the pressure - some of it self-inflicted - was destroying our friendship, so we called it a day to preserve that.

AND THE NATURAL NEXT QUESTION IS WHAT WERE THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT CAUSED YOU TO START WORKING TOGETHER AGAIN?

We both said yes! Before that point we hadn't wanted to work together, but then I had some songs and Stephen liked the ideas, and we ended up with 'Blanc Burn'.

I HAVE A THEORY THAT NONE OF THE PIONEERING BANDS OF THE LATE SEVENTIES AND EARLY EIGHTIES COULDN'T HAVE EXISTED WITHOUT PUNK ROCK, GLAM ROCK (ESPECIALLY DAVID BOWIE AND ROXY MUSIC), KRAUTROCK (ESPECIALLY KRAFTWERK) AND DISCO... AM I CLOSE? HOW FAR DID THOSE INFLUENCES IMPACT ON BLANCMANGE?

I think your theory holds up very well, and would add to that Captain Beefheart, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Fats Waller, Elvis, Pere Ubu and Frank Zappa. I'd say punk and it's DIY culture was the most influential single thing in music for me. Punk released us all from the misconception that you had to be a multi-talented instrumentalist in a cape with four guitars around your neck, playing eight songs at once, to be able to make music. Punk gave rise to the non-musician as an artist which was perfect for us.

A VERY INTERESTING PART OF THE 'HAPPY FAMILIES TOO' ALBUM IS THE SELECTION OF REMIXES AT THE END WHICH UPDATE THE TRACKS EVEN FURTHER, ARE YOU A FAN OF REMIX CULTURE IN GENERAL?

I would say that I am a fan of remixes. I like to hear people's take on the original.

HOW DID YOU GET THE REMIXERS INVOLVED AND HOW MUCH OF A FREE REIGN DID YOU GIVE THEM?

I simply gave them the stems and they sent the result back! Actually, Greg Wilson did ask if I would change the first few lines of 'Feel Me'. I didn't!

AND TO CLOSE, WHAT'S NEXT FOR BLANCMANGE?

The new Blancmange album, the fifth, will be out later this year, there are more remixes in the pipeline, including one by Applebottom, who also happens to be my son! There will be live dates in the Autumn and I'm playing in the Over-50s World Cup out in Italy...

BLANCMANGE - Happy Families Too... (2014)

Blancmange will release the 'Happy Families Too...' album on April 7th 2014.

APRIL 2014

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