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ERASURE (ANDY BELL) INTERVIEW [2002]

HOW ARE YOU FEELING NOW THAT THE ALBUM IS DONE AND YOU'RE BACK IN THE WHOLE SWING OF THINGS? YOU'VE GOT PROMOTION TODAY, A GIG IN BIRMINGHAM TOMORROW, A NEW SINGLE, A NEW ALBUM, A TOUR...

Well it feels all right! It feels really good and I'm just glad that people are still interested to be honest!

OH I THINK THEY'RE INTERESTED... I'VE JUST COME OFF THE INTERNET AND ALL THE ERASURE FAN SITES AND CHAT GROUPS ARE ABSOLUTELY BUZZING ABOUT THE FANCLUB GIG TOMORROW TONIGHT!

Oh my god, how brilliant... I hope I'll be able to sleep tonight now!

I THINK A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP IS JUST WHAT YOU'LL NEED! WHEN DID YOU LAST PERFORM?

Five years ago... supporting David Bowie in South America and South East Asia, with No Doubt as well!

AND I WOULD I BE RIGHT IN ASSUMING THAT YOU ARE SOMEONE WHO QUITE LIKES PERFORMING?

Oh yeah, I love it! I really miss it when I don't get out there... I was just starting to look around for other things, I was thinking 'what can I do? should I join a jazz combo or something, or join in a musical somewhere?'... so this has all happened at the right time for me!

LISTENING TO THE NEW ALBUM IS QUITE A BIZARRE EXPERIENCE...

Yes it is!

...BECAUSE ALTHOUGH ALL THE SONGS ARE COVER VERSIONS, THEY ACTUALLY ALL SOUND A LOT LIKE ERASURE SONGS!

I know! I know, I was really surprised by that, we kind of made the record, and as you make it you just hear it in bits and bobs and when it finally comes through... it's not until you've got the actual finished copy in your hand, with the artwork and everything, and you listen to it, it's the first time you can listen to it objectively, and I just thought 'Oh my god this sounds like a brand new Erasure album!'

HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT THAT WHOLE PROCESS OF ACTUALLY CHOOSING THE SONGS?

Well it was quite hard...I wanted to do something with a Dusty Springfield vibe you know, and I thought 'How can I do that? I can either go to Nashville and meet some people and do a country and western album...'

WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN FUN!

Oh yeah! I would love to do that, one day... I'd love to do that! Or I thought about having a string quartet and doing torch songs like from the 1940's sort of thing, so I was very envious when I saw people like Robbie doing his show album and that sort of stuff, and I just thought that's what I should be doing, that's where I belong... I only need one spotlight!

So I started thinking about doing an album of Phil Specter songs, and I started doing that with Gareth Jones who did the 'Wild' album with us, and the 'Erasure' album, and we did 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' together, and 'Do I Love You?' which is another track from the Ronettes, and we weren't getting very far with it because I don't know many musicians and I was having to field the work out to people... saying 'can you do the drums, can you do this, can you do that' and everything...

SO ORIGINALLY IT WAS AN ANDY BELL SOLO PROJECT THEN?

Yeah! I don't know if I would have been able to persuade Vince in the beginning, to do a whole album of cover versions, that's not really his thing, so once I got it started he came over to Spain, and we were getting quite sentimental and stuff, and he was saying 'I just really want to do something, why don't we make this an Erasure thing and we'll choose from both our favourites?' So we both made CDs of all our favourites, and there were some really bizarre mixtures on there!

IT MUST HAVE BEEN A LOT OF FUN JUST GOING THROUGH YOUR RECORDS AND CHOOSING THEM...

Yeah! There was Kate Bush's 'Running Up That Hill', and 'Love Of My Life' from Queen, and 'Over The Rainbow' which we've done live anyway. There was even a Led Zepplin song, 'Black Dog', so there was a whole bizarre mixture, and the list went down and down and we were left with about eighteen songs - maybe fifteen - and the songs on the album are the twelve we thought were the best of them!

IS IT INTIMIDATING TO APPROACH SONGS THAT ARE SO WELL KNOWN TO EVERYONE ALREADY?

It's both things because when you start off on a thing like this the world is your oyster because there's hundreds of songs you can choose from and you think it's all going to be fantastic and you're going through this whole wad of songs, and when you actually start doing them some of them won't work out, and some of them do, but the difference here from doing the Abba thing is that those songs were all written by the same people, in the same kind of style of music, and this one has different feet in different camps kind of thing, and they even change from era to era as well, so it was fun having synthesizers to do things because loads of these songs didn't have synthesizers to usein the first place, and also the reason why I chose some of them... like the Righteous Brothers one, the reason I chose that one is that is that even though only one of the Righteous Brothers could sing - that's what I found out - they pretended it was the two of them and I just though 'Well I can do that by myself!'... I wanted to get the same intonation, something I get from the album is that some of the vocals sound older than the original ones with modern music under them... it's quite strange, to me it's kind of like time travel...

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU FOR THIS ALBUM TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN COMMERCIAL TERMS?

Well it would be nice! It does all help... the more flops that you have the bigger the hole is that you have to dig yourselves out of, and now it's quite deep you know! Although it has been very different promoting this album than it was promoting 'Loveboat' which feels very strange because 'Loveboat' is all original material, but it was a much harder job for us, and more doors seemed to be closed to us last time than this time, and I think that might be another reaction to all the pop idol things, and people are thinking 'Here's this band Erasure who have been around all this time doing really good stuff, why not give them another chance?', so it's all swings and roundabouts really!

DOES IT SURPRISE YOU THAT THERE HAVEN'T BEEN MORE COVERS OF ERASURE'S WORK?

Not really, but I do think there's a whole treasure trove there waiting to be plundered! But maybe when we get this out..

THE COVER AND THE ARTWORK IN GENERAL FOR THE ALBUM AND THE SINGLE, LIKE THE SONGS, SEEMS TO BE VERY SIMPLE AND VERY STRIPPED DOWN AND THE PICTURES KEEP YOU BOTH QUITE ANONYMOUS...

Inside the booklet? Yeah, it's all supposed to look very homemade, they're all just photos we took in the studio and just put them into Photoshop or something...

THE FIRST SINGLE IS GOING TO BE PETER GABRIEL'S 'SOLSBURY HILL' - HAS PETER GABRIEL HEARD YOUR VERSION?

No he hasn't heard our version yet, but he was the only person of everyone who sent us a handwritten music manuscript, and a note saying 'please don't use it on any tacky adverts', so we promised that we wouldn't! But I'm sure he'll like it because it is very pop...

THERE'S ALSO A SHORT FILM ON THE DVD SINGLE FORMAT ISN'T THERE? WHICH FEATURES YOU ACTING AND A SCRIPT BY VINCE?

Well I don't know if you'd call it acting... it's more slapstick! I'm a very good silent movie actor when I don't have to talk, and I've done a few bits before, but I find it all very weird - from the very first video I saw myself on, the video for 'Who Needs Love Like That?' how slapstick I actually am! You always think you have to be very animated but whenever I see my expressions they're always more than they need to be you know? Not like stage-school child but...

LIKE MUSIC HALL?

Exactly, like old-school music-hall performances, and I think 'Oh god, you've got to tone it down!', but on the DVD because there's no sound on it it all works really well! But I love that whole music hall thing though, for the whole tour, and for the first song I wanted the whole stage to look like it's in sepia with all these black and white visuals going round, with the words of the song... it's still in the planning stage but that's what I hope is going to happen.

I HEARD THAT YOU'LL BOTH BE IN EDWARDIAN COSTUMES TOO, IS THAT RIGHT?

It is yeah, mainly because that's when film first started, but it's also an excuse to dress up...

ALTHOUGH I SUSPECT THAT YOU, OF ALL PEOPLE, DON'T REALLY NEED AN EXCUSE TO DRESS UP...

That's true!

YOU'RE OBVIOUSLY LOOKING FORWARD TO TOURING, BUT HOW DOES THE PROCESS WORK WHEN YOU START TO PLAN A TOUR AND YOU HAVE A BIGGER CATALOGUE WITH EVERY ALBUM, AND YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE THE SET-LIST?

It's really weird... what's hard about it is trying to marry up some of the older tracks with some of the new ones so that you don't play all the old ones on one clump and you just sort of mix them around a bit... and then there's getting the pacing of the show right so that you don't start too fast, and you start down-tempo and then kind of go mid-tempo, and then have some up-tempo ones so you don't get bored too quickly, and then put in some serious ones afterwards when you've got the audiences attention.

HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHAT TO PLAY AND WHAT NOT TO PLAY?

Well, the ones that we leave off tend to be the ones that we don't like, so that's 'Heavenly Action', 'Drama', 'Run To The Sun'... what else... 'I Love Saturday', we're not doing that... we're not doing 'Who Needs Love Like That' but we're going right back to 'Oh L'Amour' right through to the present day including five from 'Other People's Songs' so it's quite a mixture...

ARE THERE SONGS THAT YOU COULDN'T LEAVE OUT?

'Sometimes' is a song you can't leave out, you just can't... probably 'Blue Savannah' - I would really miss that...

WILL THE NEW TOUR HAVE ALL THE THEATRICS AND COSTUME CHANGES THAT WE'VE SEEN YOU DO BEFORE?

No, it's all too much - it costs too much for one, and the venues are very small so we've just made the dress big! Just one costume change this time!

WILL IT BE GOOD TO BE PLAYING SMALLER VENUES AGAIN?

Yeah, I love playing the small places, I do prefer them. When you play the NEC and stuff; the Milton Keynes Bowl and places like that, I just don't feel like I'm there because you're just a spot on the horizon. Iit's so big that it's really hard to know what the reaction is because the cheers are so dissipated because it's such a large area. When people are close enough to you that you can see their faces then it's one on one almost...

IS THE FANCLUB GIG YOU'RE PLAYING IN BIRMINGHAM TOMORROW TYPICAL OF THE KIND OF THINGS YOU'LL BE DOING ON THE TOUR NEXT YEAR? WITH EVENTS AND STALLS AND A QUESTION AND ANSWER SECTION - THAT SORT OF THING?

No, not so much, although what we might do - we're talking about his at the moment - is whether we should do it in two segments... although last time we did that was with the 'Phantasmagorical' tour and Andy Fletcher from Depeche Mode said you had to bring your sandwiches to the show it was so long!

I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU AND VINCE HAVE ALREADY STARTED WORK ON THE NEXT ERASURE ALBUM TOO...

Yeah, we've just started writing some songs, we've done about four tracks now so it's by no means complete. Vince is living in New York now so I'm going to be commuting back and forth...

IT MUST BE TRICKY WORKING LIKE THAT SOMETIMES...

Well we do meet up quite a lot, and everything is on CD anyway so you can send that backwards and forwards, and we're all hooked up to Audio Logic so we're all compatible with each other, but we do meet up a lot! We've done quite a lot at Vince's studio, quite a lot of mixing at Mute and Gareth came to my house and I did some vocals on my own so there's all sorts of things you can do. It's all very portable so it's just a case of wherever you want to go to.

WHAT'S THE WORKING PROCESS FOR ERASURE?

Usually, if we're writing songs from scratch then we'll meet up at Vince's house or my house, we write on guitar or piano - Vince plays guitar and piano and he'll keep playing all these different chord combinations until there's one where we go 'There! That's really good!' and we'll stay on that one and I'll come up with a tune and we'll get four or five pieces of song together that we think will join up nicely and decide what's going to be a chorus, a verse, or a bridge, and then I'll go away and write the words, Vince will do the basic programming for the music and then we get back together to make a kind of demo of the song and go from there really...

IS THERE ANY IDEA OF A MUSICAL DIRECTION FOR THE NEW ALBUM YET?

A direction? Well, we're hoping that this 'Other People's Songs' album will help put us in good stead for songwriting because we've got sort of lazy about songwriting - we do the minimum amount we can get away with! So now we're going to write and keep writing because like anything it's practice, so we're going to do that, and I think that it going to be good with Vince living in New York, because I think it's going to rub off on him musicwise with clubs and things like that, so hopefully he pick up some of that vibe which I love, and we'll just see what happens!

DECEMBER 2002

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