Well after I had my accident I wasn’t able or in a position to write new songs but it was important to me to get back into the studio again as soon as possible, I just thought that this is the moment to do my album of cover songs… I always planned to do one at one point, although I didn’t really plan to do it so soon!
What I thought I would do was to give the album some sort of a theme and try to make it a musical of my life, starring a version of me… or a series of different me’s over the years. I decided that this was going to be an ‘eyeliner album’; a glamorous pop-production with orchestras and everything, an emotional and positive sounding album, and that was it really!
I went into the studio to start recording nearly two years ago when I was really going through my recovery – I still am to an extent although I am much more improved now – and so it was gradually over the last two years that I started to work on this record, and it was great to work on a record like this… I haven’t made a record like this since ‘Tenement Symphony’, something with this level of production and the orchestras and everything. It’s a very glamorous sounding album I think…
It was really difficult! I listened to hundreds of songs and all sorts of songs, just going ‘yes’ and ‘no’, but I did have a few songs that I always wanted to do… but I thought it was important for this record not to just be an album of obscure favourites… if I just made a record of my favourite songs then they’d be quite obscure and most people wouldn’t have heard of them. I wanted to do an album that would really cross-over to some different people, and pick some songs that even if people hadn’t actually heard them before they’d be very much Marc Almond songs.
Something like ‘Stardom Road’ for example – which was done originally in the seventies by a group called Third World War – most people won’t have heard that song, but it’s a very ‘Marc Almond’ song. And then there’s things like ‘I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten’ and ‘Strangers In The Night’ which is a very dodgy one to do because people have very strong preconceived ideas about, but is one of my absolute all-time favourite songs, and it was a real challenge for me to do it.
I wanted to make an album that was the bridge between classic songs that people would know but would also be looked upon as sounding like very typical Marc Almond songs…
I would change my mind every week! When I first started it was going to be a very simple album, very much torch songs with just piano, bass and drums… very small and simple, but the album just escalated and different people came on board and got involved; the producer Tris Penna bought Marius de Vries in to do some production on the album – Marius has worked with everyone from Bjork to Madonna – and it became this very much bigger thing, but the budget also grew, we got more of a budget so we could use orchestras and the project just developed so we were able to pick songs that needed more production on them… songs like ‘Kitsch’ for example…
It is a lot of peoples’ favourite… it might be the next single I think… but it was always on my list of songs that I would like to do – I don’t know if you’ve heard the original of it but it came out in the late-sixties, early seventies by Paul Ryan and it was a big hit in Germany – but you need orchestras on the whole song which is somehting I could never afford to do, it’s just not a song you can do with just an acoustic guitar! So it was great to be able to do songs like ‘Kitsch’ and give them the over the top treatment!
I wanted for every song for the people to listen to it and say ‘that makes sense, that’s a Marc Almond song’, and even songs like ‘Strangers In The night’, with me singing gives it another slant… a sleazier slant to the song, and I think that was important. I always like to stamp my identity on all the songs I do, it’s never about just doing a cover song you know? You’ve got to make it so when people hear your version of it they’ll forget the other versions of it…
It was probably hardest doing ‘I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten’, I was very daunted by the idea of doing a Dusty Springfield song! It wasn’t originally my suggestion, it was suggested by Tris Penna, the producer, when I was looking for one of those big sixties ballads and he suggested it, it’s not one of Dusty’s most well-known ones but other people had suggested it in the past too. There’s a couple of bits in the song where I was worried that I might not get the key to it and I thought about making it a duet and that’s when we brought in Sarah Cracknell from Saint Etienne, Sarah is fantastic and has such a great voice, and it works very well as a duet. I have sung it since as a solo song but the version where she’s singing a duet with me I think is just fantastic.
Loads! There was a song written by a songwriter called Janet Dean called ‘Stars’ and I recorded that – I think I put it up on my MySpace for a while, which is where I sometimes put demos or unfinished songs that are interesting – so there was ‘Stars’, there was a song called ‘Strangers In Paradise’; a very old song that my grandfather used to sing to me when I was young and he used to walk with me on the beach… he was this big Norwegian man and he used to sing ‘Strangers In Paradise’ which is a song that loads of people did, Tony Bennett did it, Matt Monroe, I think even Frank Sinatra did it… I was even going to do songs by Pulp and Suede at one point because there was nothing there that really represented the nineties, and they are two of the groups that I like the most from the nineties. I picked a couple of their lesser-known songs but I decided that their versions are already too stuck in people’s minds and it would be difficult to really bring anything different to them…. but I might still do something with them, you never know!
Yes, I thought it was very important to finish the album with an original song. Because it was really my recovery album – the album I recorded through my recovery – I think it was important at the end to show that I was starting to write songs again and I had this song – ‘Redeem Me’ – going round in my head – it’s a very optimistic song and I’m very proud of it, it’s a song about being true to yourself and being the person that you are, while also being prepared to grow in life and move on… I just thought I’ve been through a very dark period, people go through very dark periods of their lives and they want this period of light, and I wanted to appreciate the beautiful things in life – it’s quite self-explanatory in the song actually, but it expresses all that optimism moving forwards…
That’s very hard to say because I think that in every unlucky situation you have to find the luck; you always have to get something positive out of every situation, even if it’s just the way it makes you look at life, and I this coincides with the fact that I’m fifty this year as well so I’m ready for a different kind of life – I look back to me in the eighties and I did have a fantastic time then, it was wonderful and I’ve been so lucky to have had a really brilliant life, a very exciting life you know? I’ve had my ups and downs, and some very, very bad things have happened to me as well as some great things, but I can’t be that Soft Cell person again because you have got to move on, you have got to reinvent yourself and adapt. The accident made me realise that I have been through these things and I can face anything.
I like to have fun in my life and I like to appreciate every day and do different things all the time. I’m grateful that I can keep working and I can get back up on stage which is what I love doing more than anything else. But if I hadn’t had that to focus on then I don’t know how I would have got through to be honest… there are doctors who thought it was a miracle that I came through it, but I had music to focus on – fantastic family and friends of course – but it was the music I focussed on to try and get me back.
Yes, I started doing a few little guest spots with people over the past couple of years but I couldn’t perform for a while so I went and did some DJ-ing but I did find that was very bad for my ears after a while… when I DJ-ed I played electro dance music and stuff because I felt that’s what people were enjoying – and that is what I like too – I still really like electro music, whether I choose to do it in my own music of not…. I still like making the occasional electro track with an underground producer or something – but I’ve had to give it up for this year at least while I concentrate on my album and I have to be very careful with my ears since the accident because both eardrums were punctured. They have healed now but it has affected my balance a bit. but now I tend to try and just treat life as a bit of an adventure and I don’t have any big plans as such… now I’m getting back onstage to do full concerts again and I’m doing a tour in a few weeks time including my fiftieth birthday on the 9th July at Shepherds Bush Empire!
I don’t really have ambitions these days, I just tend to take things as they come. I like to see what the surprises are in life, and one thing the accident has taught me is to never plan too much in advance because you really never know what might happen from one day to the next; on the day of my accident I went to an art exhibition, I went to have dinner, and then on the bike on the way home everything just changed – the next thing you know is you haven’t been back to your flat for three months – although thankfully someone looked after my parrot! But I don’t like to plans things too far in advance now, I like to keep an element of surprise and it’s bad enough that I look at my diary and see that I’m booked up for things until Autumn, which is great in its own way of course… I don’t have any grand plans!
Well unfortunately since the accident I have had to put writing on hold really… to be honest with you I don’t think that there will be another book. What I would have loved to have done was to write a novel, but certain complications since the accident have made writing a little difficult and I don’t know whether that will really happen. I just want to concentrate on music now – I’m really happy to have that back, but it’s taken me two and a half years to get out this album and I don’t know that there’s really time to even think about things like books at the moment. I’m really glad that people enjoyed ‘Tainted Life’, and ‘In Search Of The Pleasure Palace’ which funnily enough sold more than ‘Tainted Life’ which really surprised me!
Since we came back together again the last time it has never officially stopped, at the time of my accident we were set to do a twenty-fifth anniversary tour but obviously that didn’t happen. I’m not sure if Soft Cell shows would be so easy for me to do now because they require a lot of energy, but I would say never say never. I would like to write some songs with Dave again – even if it was for another project or a film or something – that would be really nice, but at this point I can’t see at this point us doing another Soft Cell album but I wouldn’t rule out some sort of little project or something!
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