Interview - 2000 - Promo Interview CD

Erasure Information Service 2000 - 2003

This interview was conducted in August 2000, intended for an interview CD to be used to promote the 'Loveboat' album and a source for promotional quotes.

Why the was there such a long gap since your last album, 'Cowboy' [1997]?

Vince: Well, we wrote the new album soon after the release of the last album, but we just didn't get round to recording it. I don't know why.

So the songs on this album date back a few years?

Vince: Yeah, they do. I mean, we actually wrote, I think 15 or 14 songs. We had kind of prepared up to a point - they were like rough sketches. But then Andy was in Spain, so we just didn't get round to recording.

Have you been up to anything since Cowboy?

Andy: Vince has.

Vince: I've been doing some bits and pieces; I did an album with Martyn Ware for the... Museum of Modern Music in Sheffield, which was quite interesting.

Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do with this album?

Vince: It was very natural. We wrote some of the songs in Spain and some of the songs in London, in our usual style with a little micro cassette and a guitar. It was very easy. I mean, it was still a joy - the best thing about this business is just writing songs.

Andy: I think one thing that people don't believe, or probably find it hard to believe, is how a group - like Abba or something - becomes complacent after a while. When you've been in a band for a few years and you've done a few albums, you become bored with the rigmarole of the whole process; you begin to do disservice to yourself and to the people that come to see you. But recording the 'Loveboat' album it felt like the spark was revived, you know. I was speaking to Flood and he said that when he heard the demos of the 'Loveboat', he still felt that we weren't quite enthusiastic enough, so that's what came out of working with him in the studio - the enthusiasm.

Right. So Flood produced the album?

Andy: Yeah.

Vince: Well, it was a co-production thing. We worked with just engineers in the beginning and then Flood was involved in the mixing, but the mixing also included re-recording and changing things around, which was an inspiring way of working.

Why did you bring in an outside producer when you can produce yourselves?

Vince: We'd worked with Flood before on our very first two albums, and we had sworn that we wouldn't work together again, because it had got a bit tense and I didn't want our friendship to deteriorate because of us being precious about what we were recording. But this time round, Flood's been doing lots of other things, and we were up for someone to actually manipulate the recordings, which is what he's quite good at. So in other words, it wasn't us saying, 'Right, this is how it should sound, this is what we want you to do'. He would come in and radically change stuff and we were up for that. It's like getting older, I suppose, you become more open to people's criticisms, and them saying, "Well, actually, you know, I don't hear it like that, I hear it a completely different way." So it was very productive, in a sense.

Do you have an interest in being near the cutting edge? Do you have an interest in being anywhere within sight of it?

Vince: We're nowhere in sight, we never have been.

Andy: I think we're sort of one of those bands that's so far away from it...

Vince: That we are it!

Andy: That we are it, yeah. We're one of those bands that are just conveniently ignored.

The album's title, 'Loveboat, reminded me of a musical. Was that a deliberate reference?

Andy: Not really. It was one of those names that just kind of sprang out. We went to look at the album artwork and it was just a working title that the design company had come up with and so I said, 'Oh yeah, that's really good', so we just stuck with it.

Vince: The art company that did the sleeve found this guy who had done brochures for the biggest ocean liner ever built. It went out, and it came back after a month because the engines broke down. And he'd done an original brochure for those people, which he did on a computer for the advertising campaign - it was a really beautiful, stylistic almost like an art deco picture of a boat. And we thought, 'A boat? 'Loveboat'? Yeah, that'll work.'

When you're writing songs, do you find yourself falling back onto the same stock phrases? Do you use a rhyming dictionary?

Andy: I've got one, but I didn't use it. But you do get certain phrases turning up. 'No word of a lie' comes up over and over again like in different songs. But I think, well, if it's good enough for Motown and if it's good enough for Burt Bacharach...

Vince: The times that we've tried to write about anything important - not that love isn't important - but those times we've tried to write about something important it doesn't sound like a poem. It sounds like we're trying too hard, almost. And I think for me there is an endless fascination with songs that talk about how sad love is. And if you can get that across in a song, especially if you can make a man think about the lyrics and get him to think, 'Yeah, I know exactly how you feel, mate,' then you're on to a winner.

When you're arranging the music, do you set out to reflect the emotions of the lyrics?

Vince: Well, when you're making the music, you don't set out to do anything in particular. I mean, part of the reason for getting Flood in was because we knew that he could roughen it up a bit, you know. The danger for us is that we might end up repeating ourselves, and so to have someone in to put a bit of an edge on it makes a big difference.

Now that you have started incorporating guitars into your music, do you think you will stop being known as a synthesiser band?

Vince: No. It is just as electronic as all the other albums we've produced. There's a lot of manipulated guitar stuff that I've recorded and then sort of fucked around with to get a different sound. It's been very interesting, because initially, the idea was just to use a guitar and a stylophone!

Andy: I didn't know that!

Vince: Yeah. It features very heavily on the backing tracks. It's almost a challenge, because you've got this one sound, which is a guitar, and then you have to try to fuck it around and change it and see what you can do with it. So that's quite a challenge. When you've got an array of synths, which I have anyway, it's almost like you're spoilt for choice and then you don't make a decision, so that's why we started off with just guitar and stylophone. Maybe half the sounds on the album are just guitar and stylophone, but they don't sound like they are.

Do think that British pop has become too manufactured in recent years?

Vince: I'm not sure. It's weird, because there seems to be like two cultures. You have the club culture, where the records go into the charts without being played on the radio, and then you've got the boy band and girl band thing. Have things changed? I think there's still diverse stuff out there, so I wouldn't say that things have changed particularly. It's all very well people saying how terrible all these boy bands are but if I was in a boy band, I'd be very pleased with myself, you know what I mean?

Well, you are in a boy band!

Andy: I think pop has always been manufactured, you know. It's a bit like the 1950s again, I think, with these bands singing other people's songs. But it's good to see a boy band or a girl band survive, because I think the way the industry works now, they're always trying to predict what's going to be the next big thing and try to make it happen. But every now and then something comes along that they haven't predicted, like when electronic music came out. Soft Cell and those other bands came out of nowhere. I think that's one thing that's kind of lacking at the moment.

Are there any current bands that you like?

Andy: I don't know many of them, but I do like Aqua.

What do you do to stop the whole Erasure thing becoming a routine job?

Vince: We just don't do it very often!

Andy: Yeah, it is more like a hobby! It is more like a hobby now.

Vince: It is like a hobby. We're very privileged that we can just dip into it when we like, you know.

Andy: It's quite funny being considered Old School, though. That's really weird.

Do you feel old school?

Vince: It's funny. I was driving in the car today, going to this photo session, and thinking, 'I shouldn't be doing this'. It seems really silly to be doing this at my age. My niece did a photo session, for 'Hollyoaks', she was doing an interview for them. They were looking for new actors and actresses, so she had a photo session done for these people. They're really fantastic photographs, but she's 15 for Christ's sake, you know.

Andy: I must be quite sick, then, Vince, because I was getting really excited last night...

Vince: You are sick!

Andy: I was looking forward to doing it again, you know. It's a bit like the Hollywood star system, but with pop music instead.

In what way?

Andy: Well, because there's so much money at stake, it's all become so safe and clean, like being in 'Hello'. It's a bit like McCarthy-ism or something.

You mean that it's difficult to get anywhere unless you're very mainstream and corporate?

Andy: Yeah, all the pop programmes and stuff on the TV have all been bought up by conglomerates like Pepsi Cola. So if you don't play their game, you're not in there.

So you would you say you were deliberately being non-conformist?

Andy: Well, I like to think that we've been subversive, unintentionally, by just being ourselves. We're very normal people, but we're not perceived as being normal.

Why do you think that is?

Andy: Well, just because of silly things like wearing a rubber leotard and a ringmaster's coat on Top Of The Pops. It's like when we go to America, they say, 'Oh, you're the guy that wears dresses' and it's like, 'No!'

Do you think you've pushed the camp element of the band too far?

Andy: I don't think we've ever pushed it too far. Not ever far enough! But the problem is that people always think there's some strange motivation behind it. Like whenever there's a biography of like Liberace they always make out that he did it because of some sort of inner self-loathing. But it's never been like that for me, I've never felt that about myself. But that's the thing you want to put in people's faces, you know, when you're on tour. If people think that homosexuals are camp because they hate themselves, then it's like, 'Look at how much I hate me!'

Vince: It's all bollocks

Andy: And quite boring.

Would you say there was a camp element to the music?

Andy: Not really. I think our music is quite straight, really

Vince: Yeah, I don't think there's anything camp, lyric-wise or music-wise. I don't think there is such a thing as camp music, is there?

Andy: I think the Pet Shop Boys are much more camp than we are.

Thinking about the first track on the album, 'Freedom', I was trying to imagine how you would try to describe it to someone. I came up with the phrase gospel techno.

Andy: Well, it's quite funny because on 'The Innocents' album there were quite a few Gospel kind of songs and because we called it 'The Innocents" and because we had a stained-glass on the front of the album cover, people thought that we were a Christian band. I think it's good to have as many outlets as possible. Even if they find out that actually the singer's a fag and they decide to pull the record, at least you got a bit of airplay in the first place, you know!

Are there any current bands that you admire?

Vince: What was the album I liked recently?

Andy: You liked er... Mercury Rev

Vince: Mercury Rev.

Andy: Their first album.

Vince: It wasn't their first album. I think it was their second or third album. The one with that great single on it.

Andy: It came out about five years ago or something.

Vince: That album really inspired me. When I spoke to the producer, I said, 'I don't want that sound, but I love the anarchy in that sound.'

Andy: A musical sore!

Vince: All that Theremin stuff and lo-fi sound. And I think Flood's achieved that on this album. It's not a clean sounding album, you know.

Andy: When we were thinking about album titles, I thought that might be quite a good one: 'The Musical Sore'.

Vince: Yeah, but you can see the reviews, can't you? 'It makes my fucking ears sore as well!'

If you had to choose another musical partner, who would it be?

Vince: Brian Eno. No? What do you mean, as in an artist or as a producer?

Just if you had to make music with somebody else.

Vince: I can't imagine really. We have a really nice little relationship and have a really good time when we're writing stuff. I don't think there's anybody could replace that.

Andy: I'm mostly a fan of singers, so I wouldn't want to replace myself with somebody else!

Vince: You're so thick, you probably would, wouldn't you?!

Andy: I'd like to write a song for Diana Ross.

Would you say that your relationship has changed over the years?

Vince: I think that we are more open to each other's ideas, more and more open. I mean, we're pretty open at the moment and it's not a problem for either of us to criticise the other. For instance, we can say, "Well, actually, that's not working, let's try something else", because we understand each other so well, you know. It's been so long, you can almost predict your partner's move.

Andy: I think it's just good to have a lot of leeway. I think it's good not to become so adamant about your ideas that you shut the other person out, you know.

So you have a good working relationship?

Vince: Well, neither of us get precious about our ideas, you know. There's always the next song to write.

Andy: And if we were like that, Flood would just put it on the floor and stamp his foot on it. Yeah!

Are you songs informed by your personal life and experiences?

Andy: I think only as far as being as singer, and trying to bring in that emotion. I've always been into Motown and Elvis and Country & Western and gospel singers, singers who have a some soul in there. I don't think there's that many singers around that do it. So you're always digging deeper and deeper; I mean, you can still sing it like a superficial pop song, but if you can delve down and bring some emotion to it, then it makes it easier to sing. So my personal experiences would affect a vocal performance, yes, but not necessarily the song. Maybe we might change a few words around, but that's it.

When you're not working as part of Erasure, would you say you have a different, separate personality outside the identity of the band?

Andy: Well, I think when the band's going on, I'm more difficult to live with at home. But I'm quite boring really.

Vince: And I live on my own, so it doesn't matter.

But would you say you have different personas, public and private?

Andy: Vince does put on his pop business hat, yes.

As you get older, do you think it becomes more difficult to write straightforward, commercial pop songs? Is there a tendency to become more serious and meaningful?

Andy: Well, it's quite weird, because people only know if you've written a pop song if it gets in the charts, like they would know 'A Little Respect' and 'Blue Savannah' and those kind of songs - and I think they're great tunes - but we've had other great tunes on the albums, other more serious stuff, that hasn't had the same sort of success commercially. But before I started working with Vince I loved Phil Spector and all the old records that my parents listened to, and those songs were already out of date, they weren't contemporary, so I don't think being contemporary matters that much. And they're the songs you hear over and over again that become classics, and I like to think that sometimes you get that with some of our songs. They're songs that you'll hear over and over again, and maybe they won't be covered for another twenty years, but they're still there. It's not like we've made albums full of trash, you know.

When you're recording a song to be a potential single, do you make a conscious effort to make it sound commercial?

Vince: I don't think you can make an album like that. You can't think, "Oh, we're going to make this for the radio" - I mean, if that was the case, we wouldn't know where to start. What you try to do is write a good song that you like, that makes you think, "I'm pleased with that." That's all that you can do, and then you just get lucky or unlucky on whether the radio decides to play it or not.

Andy: In some ways, you get to feel like your job's already done by just making a record that you like. Everything else is superfluous.

When you started out, synthesisers were still a relatively new thing. Does the technological aspect of the recording process still interest you?

Vince: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. We're still synthesiser-based, you know. We've manipulate natural sounds a bit more for this album, but my hobby is still synthesisers, for sure.

Do you have a big collection, then?

Vince: Yeah, definitely.

Andy: I find it quite strange with Vince, because before I met him, he was hailed in NME and all the other music magazines for the stuff he did with Alison, but then as soon as Erasure came along, it was like the complete opposite.

Andy: You were so naff, you know. But Vince is still an electro folk hero in Sweden!

Vince: In Sweden!

Andy: It's not considered here at all, because all the new ones come along and they're all the latest hip people, you know.

So would you say that Erasure has a different sort of appeal in other countries? Is that something your aware of?

Andy: Well, you pinpoint it or anything, but it is quite strange, the different reactions in different countries.

Vince: I mean, there's some territories where we've never done very well in, ever. Places like France and Belgium.

Andy: And we don't do very well in latin countries at all.

Vince: But then we have done really well in those countries with some of our most obscure tracks!

Andy: It's really bizarre. Because we're not seen as being contemporary and we're not seen as being dance, and because we don't use guitars, we're never seen as being credible, you know. We're never included the lists of 80s or anything...

Vince: Bitter!

Andy: ... or lists of duos or anything...

Vince: Bitter!

Andy: But we're not bitter!

Do you think the approach to music was more naive and optimistic in the 80's?

Vince: It was more exciting then, because synthesiser music was fucking revolutionary. I still believe that it was, whether we could lay claim to being a part of it or not.

Andy: I think pop affects you most when you're a teenager, when you're going through puberty and stuff. You kind of like latch on to the records at that age and that happens like over and over again, with each generation of teenagers that comes along.

Do you feel part of the 80's revival?

Andy: I think it's quite good that we're not included in it and seen as being an 80s band, because our first record wasn't out until '86, so that's sort of like the tail end of the decade. And then we were popular up to, like, 1994, you know.

Vince: We were popular in 1994! That's the quote of the interview!

Do you see people from back then at all?

Andy: No!

Vince: What, you mean like the other bands?

Yes.

Vince: No, because musicians don't mix with each other. All musicians are unfriendly towards each other. They're all jealous and bitter, unfortunately. Or fortunately, perhaps, I don't know.

Andy: I'm amazed we don't look old! Loads of those bands look so old when you see them now, you know.

Vince: Don't say that, Dinger! You haven't seen our photos yet!

Andy: But they do look old! It's true!

Vince: Don't say that!

So what's the secret of your longevity?

Andy: I think it's because we've never been pigeonholed.

Vince: Well, we've never been 'cred', and that helps.

Andy: Yes. We've never been part of a fashion or a movement or anything like that.

Would you say that you were still hungry for fame and fortune?

Vince: No.

Andy: Well, not for Vince, but for me, yes. It's like an illness!

Vince: You can't help it. You just love it! I love it!

So you're still competitive?

Andy: Not so much 'competitive' now, because you can get really cynical about things, and it's a very destructive thing to do, to put yourself up against somebody else. I don't like that. But I do love it when people come and ask for your autograph and things like that.

How long do you think you'll be making music as Erasure?

Vince: Forever. Which is sad, really! We just keep on making records.

Andy: We're not sad. We're like Queen.

Vince: Like Queen?

Andy: Yeah. Each person can go away and do their own thing, but Erasure's always there in the background.
Vince: Yeah, we'll never split. Sorry, folks! But that means we'll never have to do reunion gigs either, because we'll never have split up!

Andy: We'll never do a comeback tour. More like a 'never were' tour!

And just to finish off. Your famous bottomless chaps. Whatever happened to them?

Andy: They're probably in a cardboard box in storage/

Vince: In a box somewhere.

Andy: In a box somewhere. Festering, probably.