Interview - 2002 - Other People's Songs

Erasure Information Service 2000 - 2003

Q1) What have you been up to since the last tour and album?

AB: The last tour was three years ago and it was quite a big tour because we tagged on to the end doing a tour of South America supporting David Bowie and No Doubt were on the bill and we were going round and swapping running orders, depending on who was more popular in which country.

Q2) Were there any particular highlights of that tour, if you were going round all these different places?

VC: Well, I mean it was quite an adventure and we were working quite hard, because we'd never been to those places before, so that meant that we were doing lots and lots of promotion. I think we both found it quite tiring, more so than most tours, because you're trying to pack everything in and of course, at the end of the day you really don't get the chance to see the different places particularly. And then the worst thing of all was that the idea was to do this tour and then hopefully get some action happening in those territories and there was the great South East Asian collapse of the economy.

Q3) Why did you choose to do an album of cover versions rather than another album of your own songs?

AB: Well, the whole thing started out because I was toying with the idea of doing a solo project and I was looking into doing a lot of Phil Spector songs and we were going backwards and forwards; I was in Spain most the time and Vince came over and saw me and we had a real heart-to-heart and everything and he said, 'Oh, why don't we make it an Erasure project?' There's another guy involved, Gareth Jones, who we'd been working with quite a bit and do it as a three-person project and all come up with a CD full of songs that each of us would choose and so we kind of went from there really. And it took probably about half a year just to decide which songs we were going to do.

Q4) So did you abandon the idea of just doing the Phil Spector numbers and it spread out?

VC: It's quite interesting, because when you choose your favourite songs it's not necessarily the song that's going to work when we record it as Erasure, because my favourite songs are sort of set in time and history and they're to do with my youth and so sometimes some of the songs that we did that I thought, 'Oh, they're fantastic songs,' didn't necessarily work, because we couldn't reproduce anything better than the originals. So between the three of us, you know, we came up with this huge list and whittled it all down to the ones that worked.

Q5) So what was Gareth Jones' role in the project?

AB: Well, when I started out I didn't have anyone to do the music and because I can't do it, I kind of got together with Gareth and went over to his house and we started out on a couple of tracks - "Do I Love You" by The Ronettes and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by The Righteous Brothers, and we started to get the project going, but we stalled a little bit and then that's when Vince came in and he's always good at getting things done and getting the ball rolling and everything. And so Gareth is kind of a third member.

VC: It's someone else's opinion, which is good, because obviously we get stuck up our own arses thinking how great this is and Gareth just has a different perspective on it, I think. He's worked with Andy extensively doing vocals. Myself and him actually have never worked together, so that was quite interesting. I think I can just about do a few more tunes on the keyboard than Gareth, but Gareth was quite good at taking an overall view on the thing and keeping it in check.

Q6) So what's Gareth's history?

VC: He actually worked with us on the "Wild!" album; he was co-producer on that, and prior to that he was working with Depeche Mode, in the days just after I left the band.

Q7) "ABBA-esque" was all cover versions. Is "Other People's Songs" a similar thing?

AB:I think it's a bit more serious than the ABBA thing and I mean the ABBA thing was going to be an album in the first place, but then we were really glad that we didn't do that, because we were pretty swamped by ABBA anyway when we did it, and, I don't know, it just kind of seems not so throw away as the ABBA thing was.

VC:We thought about it a lot more. The ABBA thing was kind of done on a whim, really, and this was more talked about and discussed. And you know, we ditched a lot of songs as well, the songs that we decided weren't working.

AB:I think it's been quite refreshing for us, because I think we felt like we were in a rut after the "Erasure" album in '95 and then "Cowboy" and then "Loveboat".

It's not that you lose the spark, but you forget about what pop's all about and how inspiring music can be to you, when you kind of feel like you're on the treadmill doing stuff, and you get a bit boring and it gets to be like rote, and you're doing stuff on auto pilot without really having a zest for it, and I think this has cleared lots of cobwebs.

Q8) Is there a danger that Erasure might become thought of as a covers band?

VC:We've only done the ABBA thing - that was four tracks - well, we've done B sides, I suppose, and extra tracks of cover songs, but out of 12 albums this is just one album of other people's songs.

Q9) What would you say was the secret of doing a good cover version?

AB:The interesting thing about doing other people's songs and other people's choices of songs is it's not necessarily songs that I would have picked and the easiest songs to do are songs that are from your teenage years that said something to you as you were growing up.

They're easier to get under the skin of the song, because they gave you goose bumps in the first place, so it's like trying to relate that in your own way and then doing something else like "Solsbury Hill", which I would never would have chosen, because Vince really likes the song, you just like kind of take it and not listen to the original too much. So that song, I think, is like doing completely our own style and it sounds almost like another record; it doesn't sound like the Peter Gabriel song. And I kind of like think of, 'cause I know that he's he was quite close with Kate Bush, I took her as my inspiration for that song rather than him

Q10) What was the process of selection for the album and were there any disputes?

VC:I don't think there were disputes, because the ones that weren't working we knew straight away.

Most of the singing was done in the control room, so it's just me, Gareth and Andy and the microphone and you knew instantly whether that was going to work, whether there was some magic in the track and in the singing and in the approach to the singing. We tried lots of other stuff, lots of other songs that just didn't make the mark.

Q11) The first single from the album is Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill". Why did you choose to cover that song?

VC:That was one of my choices and I just think it's a fantastic record. The thing about that particular track that's right is that the time signature's 7/8, which is pretty difficult to put a groove to, so we struggled with that beat, myself and Gareth for ages and ages, trying to make it sound groovy and it just wasn't happening. And we just figured we'll make it 4/4 and then suddenly the whole thing came together and of course all the riffs, all the parts all fit anyway perfectly and hopefully the song has a bit of a groove to it now. That was quite a moment. It was such a simple thing to do, but it took us ages to work it out.

Q12) I'd like to ask you about specific songs on the album. "Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime" (Korgis): why did you record this song?

VC: That's me again. That's just a fantastically sentimental, slushy song; I love it. And it's such a nice, simple chorus-riff-chorus-refrain, only got one verse in it; it's a pretty perfect ballad/pop song. And Andy sang it kind of quite soully when he did it in the studio, so I don't think Andy even understood the song or knew anything about the song particularly, he just sang it as he felt he ought to sing it and it sounded great so we decided to include it.

AB: That's one thing about when songs aren't your choice or your choices and you just come and sing them off the cuff sometimes and it just comes out of nowhere and you sort of like... you can't believe you just did it

Q13) What about "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" (Righteous Brothers)?

AB: That was the song that started off the whole project. We went through a few versions of it and we ended up with the original vocal that I did at Gareth's house, just on a live mic with the music in the background.

It was before all the Pop Stars started doing their Righteous Brothers 'Unchained Melody' and I just remember when I was living at home, I didn't realise how influenced I was by my parents' records; just my mum was a huge Elvis fan and my dad was a Buddy Holly fan and they had this Phil Spector Greatest Hits album and I used to listen to that like every day, and I remember going out and taking it to the two girls across the road and I said, "You've got to listen to this. It's fantastic!" and I put it on and they weren't impressed at all. But I had kind of taken it to my heart and I just thought, "If only I could sing like that." And it was just like getting a Righteous Brothers-ish feeling in the voice and I think we've got it quite close.

What's interesting about doing these cover versions is a lot of them are really old; they're from the 1950s and its really weird that we've done synthesised versions, but the vocals still sound sometimes almost older than the original ones, just the effect of them. So it's quite bizarre.

Q14) What about "Come Up and See Me..." (Cockney Rebel)?

VC: That was one of my records from when I was a teen that I loved. We struggled over that a little bit, because at first we tried to do an imitation, an impression almost of the original, but Andy's not Cockney so it didn't work, so he just kind of sang it in his own style.

Q15) What about "Everyday"?

AB: That's Buddy Holly. I suppose I'm quite a softie, but that was my dad's song and I feel like I wanted to do songs that they would like.

Q16) Tell us about "Video Killed The Radio Star" (Buggles).

VC: Well, I knew that Andy wouldn't like to sing this one particularly, so I asked my brother Mick to get the computer to sing it for us, which is what we did. And the computer sings it and Andy does backing vocals on that particular track. And it's the perfect pop song; that's the reason I chose it.

AB: It was like the reason I didn't want to do that song, and there were some other suggested songs as well, where I felt, "Oh no, I can't do that," because I wanted it to be like a singer's album, with a kind of like Dusty Springfield vibe, but instead of like 'Dusty Goes To Memphis', "Andy Goes To..." somewhere else. And with the vocals I just thought, "You can't sing that, there's nothing to grab onto." But now I feel quite melancholic and nostalgic towards it, because I quite like the little robot voice singing it, because it's really sad.

Q17) What about "Walking In The Rain"?

AB: That was mine. That was from the Phil Spector album and I got the box set and was going though all the CDs and the only other track from those CDs was 'Do I Love You', which is kind of a Northern Soul kind of song, which we didn't do. But the only other song was that song 'Walking In The Rain', which just gave me goose bumps when I first heard it and I just thought, "We can do a really good dance version of this."

Q18) And "Goodnight"?.

AB: I only know a version by Buffy Saint Marie, who I love, which was written by Cliff Eberhardt and I know he's really famous, but I don't know what else he's written, but he's done loads and loads of song like ones that Alison Moyet would do, like "Je Regrette Rien" or something. But it was just one of those songs which is on her Greatest Hits collection and I just thought it would be a nice thing to her really.

Q19) And "Can't Help Falling In Love"?

AB: I really wanted to do an Elvis song and it was quite difficult to choose which one of his to do; we'd done a version of 'Wooden Heart' before for a German TV show, which I love, and it wasn't because it was his anniversary or anything, but I don't know, just that was just the one.

Q20) What are your plans for the live show?

AB: We're going back to Edwardian time and then bringing it up to now; we're going back to when the gramophone was first invented. From sepia to colour.

Q21) Are you looking forward to touring?

VC: I'm kind of, yeah, I feel a lot better about myself generally in life; I feel more positive, and I'm doing lots of interesting things, so I think if you've got a good spirit, then touring is not as bad. I've been looking at the dates and thinking, "That's going to be quite exciting."

AB: I just need to be out there, because I'm a performer and I really miss it.

Q22) Which songs are you looking forward to performing live?

AB: I'm looking forward to The Korgis one, maybe "Come Up And See Me", "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and "Goodnight", because its a sort of a show song.

Q23) What music are you both listening to at the moment?

VC: I haven't been listening to a lot of other stuff. I've been doing a lot of ambient music with Martyn Ware recently and I find that quite interesting and exciting. It's completely the opposite to what we do, because it's just really, really repetitive and goes on forever. It's kind of like Philip Glassy-ish, with weird time signatures and repeated sequences.

AB: I was getting quite hyped up when the Fischerspooner single came out and then I went and bought the album and I was really disappointed Then I saw the reviews of the live shows and I thought, "Oh, we did that," you know.

Q24) Finally, what are your plans after "Other People's Songs"?

VC: Well, I think both of us are really looking forward. We've enjoyed doing the cover songs album, but I'm sick of covers, actually I'm really looking forward to doing our own writing again. We've started some writing. Even though it's been really good, it's not the same; you don't get the same emotional lift from when you write your own song, for sure, that magic sort of tingle when it works and it's your own.