(Interview by János Janurik – Photo by Phil Sharp) Erasure is going to release their 18th studio album, ‘The Neon’ on 21st August. Their first single has already made it clear for the fans that Vince Clarke and Andy Bell are still world champions and hit guarantors in the synth-pop genre. Let’s forget about the Corona crisis and the shadow-side of life for a while now, let’s turn on the NEON lights and let our hearts and souls warm up in their lights! The boys are back in town! Vince and Andy joined Janos Janurik / our co-editor for an exclusive interview. Enjoy reading!
JJ: It’s been more than 3 years since our last online interview. On the one hand, nothing has changed – and I am referring to international politics here; on the other hand, we have to face all the harshness of this Corona pandemic. One might think that the follow-up of ‘World Be Gone’ (2017) would be an even gloomier record. However, even after the first single (‘Hey Now (Think I Got a Feeling)’) we knew that the new sound would be something ‘optimistic, more upfront’ – as you described it yourself. I also think that this is exactly what the fans – their ears, souls, hearts and minds – currently need to enjoy a bit of the beautiful side of life with the help of your music. The album will be released at the end of the summer, but still gives the listener the impression of a little bit of sunshine. Have you appointed this release date in order to help the fans go through these difficult times? Could you please tell me some words about the “Neon” online album launch party?
Vince Clarke: The release date was chosen by the record company. It was put on hold for a while but then they thought, despite the lockdown, that the fans would appreciate some new music. It’ll be an opportunity to chat about the new record, answer some fan question and talk to some of the people from Mute, involved in the “Neon” process (and drink beer).
JJ: Let’s stay with this first single release topic. Although the song was written before the Corona era its lyrics could not even be intentionally more up-to-date. ‘Walk through the city singing Hallelujah, wish for a lover’s touch’, ‘Head for the city feeling kind of lonely, I gotta play the part’. Andy, you also mentioned on your online video chat on the 1st of May that you were living far away from your spouse at that time. In another interview you also mentioned that you could also interpret the song “Nerves Of Steel” – which will be the second single and will surely become an absolute fan favourite – in a way that you can do anything and survive alongside a beloved partner. How has the pandemic affected your private life? I suppose these times have also taken on your ‘nerves of steel’. How can you protect yourself emotionally as a highly sensitive artist right now?
Andy Bell: I think for Vince & I it was very fortuitous that we got the album mixed & the photos just right before the pandemic broke. Of course it is very sad & frustrating to be away from your partner especially when you could do with some help, but really he was a great inspiration in all honesty when I was writing the lyrics in Atlanta. I have never lived on my on ever since leaving my childhood home so this is a very good exercise in independence & it proves that I can look after myself though I prefer to be with someone. London has been a completely different place without all the cars & people it is slowly coming back to life but I prefer it to be quiet.
JJ: Vince, in that sense, you’re in a better position to have your wife and son right next to you. And if you want to experiment with your synthesizers alone you just go to your basement where you have your own home-studio. On the new album you grabbed more for classical analogue stuff that added more warmth and 80s’ flair to the new songs. I really like those space-like instrument parts in songs like “No Point In Tripping”, “Shot A Satellite”, “Diamond Lies” or “Careful What I Try To Do”. For me, this is one of the true essences of Erasure’s music, why I’ve been your fan for over 3 decades now. They guarantee goose-bumps and make the fans of the classic analogue synth sounds happy. What can you tell us about the development phase of the musical basis of the new songs? Was it a pure coincidence that you just picked these synths (like Sequential Circuits Pro-One and Moog) out of your huge collection? Is there a favourite synthesizer the sound of which you like best?
VC: I never have a really clear idea of how the songs should sound in the beginning. My process has always been about experimentation. I do have my favorite synths but I try and incorporate as many different machines as possible. It’s more interesting for me and hopefully results in less predictable sound.
JJ: The new album is full of potential hits. The fans already know the pre-released single “Hey Now (Think I Got A Feeling)” and the song “Shot A Satellite”, released as an appetizer but there are several more that are sure to become fan favourites. Let’s think of the beautiful mid-tempo song “Nerves Of Steel” or of “Fallen Angel”, which is an energetic up-tempo song and immediately lures you to sing along. Another absolute favourite of mine is the synth-disco-anthem “No Point In Trippin”. “Diamond Lies” with its catchy oriental motifs is also a highlight of the album. Radio stations should play these songs in heavy rotation. Do you already have personal favourite hits from the new album? Which song is going to be the next (third) single?
VC: My personal favorite is “New Horizons”, cos I’m an old romantic at heart.
AB: My favorite is “Nerves of Steel” I just keep playing it over & over again it’s sounds like electro rock to me & I can`t wait to perform it live hopefully next year. It is a song about the grit & determination that it requires for a relationship to last. It is a celebration of world lovers no matter in which form. The last single will be “Fallen Angel” which is a roller coaster ride of emotions.
JJ: What I am also very happy about is that after a long time we finally have an Erasure ballad with piano underpainting again. “New Horizons” is definitely one of the most beautiful Erasure songs ever released. The music, Andy’s voice and the lyrics – everything fits perfectly! The song caresses the soul and gives new hope. Do you believe in the healing power of music? Which song touched you emotionally for the last time?
VC: For me, music has always been a comfort. I think that’s especially true right now. I’m not sure music is a healer but it certainly gives us hope. “Life In A Northern Town” is my current favorite comfort song.
JJ: The end track “Kid You’re Not Alone” also goes straight to the heart and brings the album to a nice conclusion. It reminds me of such crowning album closing tracks as “Because You’re So Sweet” or “I Bet You’re Mad At Me”. I am sure that fans will choose the brilliant ‘Neon’ album – which is colourful, warm and brings light to the world, just like its title – as their favourite. The only thing missing is a tour to have the work well done celebrated together. And then we, ‘kids’ will ‘not (be) alone’. I know that it is very difficult to plan live appearances at the moment, but is there a chance to see you at least on the Internet until live shows are considered safe?
VC: There might be a couple of small events happening soon but there are no plans for a full concert, especially because Andy and I are 3000 miles apart.
JJ: Please tell us a few words about the successful artwork which beautifully completes the musical content. Fans who have pre-ordered the special edition are sure going to be happy about the coloured NEON design.
VC: The artwork was inspired by a photo shoot we did at “Gods Own Junkyard”. A museum dedicated to the history of Neon.
JJ: In addition to Erasure, you also have your side projects such as Andy’s Torsten trilogy or Vince’s new discoveries on his VeryRecords label. Not to mention his radio program about the magical world of synthesizer music with Reed Hays. What releases are still to be expected from you until we can see you on tour again? Andy recently put an interesting playlist of his favourite mute songs together. I’ve also heard rumours about Vince’s possible collaboration with Neil Arthur of Blancmange. What does your musical life look like outside of Erasure?
VC: There is a new Alka album coming out soon on VeryRecords. The Neil Arthur collaboration is on going. It’s nearly finished but at the moment there is no release date.
JJ: Erasure are not only in the studio but also on stage in top form. As I mentioned before, these times are not necessarily favourable for tours. But Andy spoke in a radio talk in May about a possible US tour starting next March and about further UK/EU concerts in the autumn of 2021. Are you looking forward to meeting the fans? What would your message be to your fan community?
VC & AB: We are both really looking forward to begin a tour next year and properly showcase the new album. “Hang on in there” would be our message to the fans.
The new Erasure album can be (pre) ordered at Mute.
Erasure – “The Neon” tracklisting
- Hey Now (Think I Got A Feeling)
- Nerves Of Steel
- Fallen Angel
- No Point In Tripping
- Shot A Satellite
- Tower Of Love
- Diamond Lies
- New Horizons
- Careful What I Try To Do
- Kid You’re Not Alone
Editor’s Note: I’m giving this album a 5 star rating.
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