Interview: Vince Clarke of Erasure
Exciting, exuberant, electronic pop duo Erasure have chosen Dublin as the city in which to begin their sell-out European tour. Tickets for three consecutive nights in the Olympia Theatre were snatched up in mere minutes, leaving legions of fans – myself included – disappointed. However, for those lucky enough to have acquired one of those coveted golden tickets, Erasure promise deliver an extravagant, high-energy spectacle. I spoke to Andy Bell’s less ostentatious bandmate, the super cool Vince Clarke about the band’s history, their newest album and their Irish shows.
Gigging NI: Vince – congratulations on the album and the upcoming tour which kicks off in Dublin. The tour has sold out venues all over the UK and Europe; and of course, Erasure’s signature synthpop sound is legendary with albums like The Circus and The Innocents having entered the pop canon. But how have you managed to keep sounding so fresh for 30+ years and how can you account for the lasting appeal that Erasure have which has evaded so many other ‘80s acts?
Vince Clarke: It’s probably partly because we never split, we never disbanded, we’ve always just kept going, so hopefully people see us as more than just a throwback band. You know you make new material, you write new songs, you create new albums. And also, we have an amazing fan base who always seem to be interested in what we’re doing currently as opposed to just what we did in the past.
GNI: World Be Gone is your seventeenth studio album. Mojo have called it “A triumph of achingly beautiful pop protest music”. Would you agree with that summation of the record, and against what are you protesting?
VC: I think that’s very nice actually. I think this is the first album where we have looked more seriously into discussing political views. We have always been a bit nervous about doing that, you know? But because there is so much shit going on in the world right now there are amazing lyrical opportunities.
GNI: You collaborated with the ambient Belgian orchestral outfit Echo Collective on this latest album. What was the appeal of working with these innovative young musicians and what do they bring to the Erasure sound?
VC: Well they’re quite left field I guess – in a musical sense – and they seemed to understand and get what we were trying to do. And you know, they were very, very nice people, and also very accomplished. It wasn’t like someone just approached us in the street, some violin player saying, “ I can do a really good classical album”. They’ve got this record already of doing this kind of stuff; they’ve worked with pop artists or rock artists in the past, so it was a very nice collaboration.
GNI: Erasure have always been extraordinary role models for the LGBT community, picking up the Icon Award at the 2017 Attitude Awards. Do you see that as a responsibility that you and Andy need to take seriously or is it not something that you think about too much?
VC: I think it’s very serious – well perhaps serious isn’t the word. I mean Andy has never looked at it very seriously because Andy is who he is, you know? I mean from the start he was always very honest about his sexuality and about the whole gay environment and about AIDs and about all of that stuff so it’s always been quite natural to us. It’s just not a big deal or anything.
GNI: Speaking of Andy, you have always spoken with such admiration of his vocal talents. And Andy once said that your relationship was like that of an old married couple. How has your personal and working relationship changed over the years and is he still the best frontman you could ask for?
VC: Oh, he’s the best person I could possibly work with; I mean he’s the only person I could work with for this amount of time. We have a very close relationship, it’s very spiritual, it’s almost mind reading especially when we write songs; because writing songs with somebody else is a very personal experience, you’re kind of baring your soul a little bit, and you can only do that with someone you really trust I think. And the other thing is that when Andy says, “You know what, that’s not a very good idea”, I then can say, “Let’s drop it and move on” and vice versa. So, we know each other inside out.
GNI: Vince, you have been personally responsible for the distinctively unifying sound of so many bands. I know that you managed to persuade Fergal Sharkey to join Erasure on stage a few years ago for a rendition of The Assembly track “Never Never”. What are the chances of a reunion with Alison Moyet or Dave Gahan or any other past associates in the future, or do you prefer not to look back?
VC: Well, Alison and I did a Yazoo reunion tour about five or six years ago and that was quite nice. It was quite good because it was an opportunity for me to get to know Alison because I didn’t really know her. We weren’t mates or anything, it was sort of like we were thrown together really by the circumstances. So that was nice – but that’s it really, as far as looking back is concerned.
GNI: How did you manage to get permission to cover the Abba tracks when so many artists were denied? And were you surprised by how pretty you an Andy both looked in the full garb in the “Take a Chance on Me” video?
VC: Well, permission-wise, we were surprised because we changed the lyrics slightly and you’re not really allowed to do that with copyright laws and so on, but for some reason they decided it was okay. I guess they liked the tracks. And as regards to dressing up as Abba, you know I think we did a pretty good job!
GNI: Gorgeous, both of you!
VC: Well, you’re very kind.
GNI: This week marks the start of the European leg of the tour, what have you got in store for audiences? Will the shows be as high-octane as Erasure fans have come to expect?
VC: Well, there’s a lot of dancing, there are some ridiculous costumes, and hopefully a bit of humour.
GNI: You will spend three or four days in Dublin this week. What do you think about Ireland and the Irish fans and what are you plans while you’re here?
VC: Well actually, this morning I went to Grafton Street just to look around at the shops which was nice. I mean people are so nice here so it’s not a scary city or anything, it’s always been the same for us. There was a time about ten years ago when it got a bit weird, when everything was really expensive and the property prices went crazy, and you felt that weird sense, things were definitely different for a while. But now I feel very relaxed here and the people are über friendly. And I am as polite as I possibly can be because you’re in a different country, and I really enjoy it here, I’ve had a great time.
So it sounds like the good people of Dublin and beyond have much to look forward to. There’s no doubt that this capital city will be a little bit more fabulous for the next few days and I for one am green with envy of those of you who get to experience it for yourselves! Spare ticket anyone?
Erasure postponed their three sold-out performances in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre due to illness. These are yet to be rescheduled.