Vince Clarke, one half of synthpop duo, Erasure chats with Kevin Cooper about the secret of Erasure still being together after 29 years, how he likes working with other artists, the release of their latest album, The Violet Flame and their current UK tour.
Vince Clarke is an English synthpop musician and songwriter. On hearing Electricity by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, he made the decision that he wanted to make electronic music, and that is the genre with which he has had his success.
Forming Depeche Mode, there was a chart topping album; Speak And Spell, on which Clarke penned some successful tracks including Just Can’t Get Enough, which was released in 1981.
On leaving Depeche Mode shortly after, he teamed up with female singer Alison Moyet to form the popular band Yazoo. Whilst very successful, Clarke’s next project was to team up with Eric Radcliffe to form The Assembly. They collaborated with a number of artists, including Fergal Sharkey to score a top five hit, Never Never, before he put an advert in Melody Maker for a singer, and one applicant was Andy Bell. The rest is history.
Vince took time out from his busy touring schedule to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.
Hi Vince how are you?
Hi Kevin how are you doing?
I’m great thank you, how are you?
I’m fine mate, thanks for asking.
Let me start by thanking you for taking the time to speak to me.
That’s fine Kevin, no worries.
So how is life treating you?
Great yeah, we are having a really great time. The tour has been going down really well so far, so everybody is pretty happy.
You have been touring the new album The Violet Flame since the 12th September, how has it been received?
Really, really good Kevin. On this particular leg of the tour we are doing four songs from the new record. The reaction to them has been really positive so we are really pleased.
I have been playing the album for a couple of months now and I have to say that I really do like it. My favourite tracks are Under The Wave and Be The One. Do you have a personal favourite?
Thanks for that Kevin, I’m glad you like it. My personal favourite changes from week to week but I guess that the one that I am into this week is Stayed A Little Late Tonight.
Is there any particular reason why that song is your favourite?
I couldn’t possibly tell you Kevin (laughter).
I see that you have a few days off from the tour towards the end of December. Will you be at home for Christmas?
Yes Kevin I will and I am really looking forward to the rest (laughter).
You mention a rest, after so long in the business, how do you still manage to keep touring fresh?
For an hour and a half; for the length of the concert itself, it is incredibly exciting. But the really boring thing is all of the flying Kevin. It is all of the travelling that gets you down really, and I’m sure that is true for every band that tours. But as I have said the hour and a half of the concert and being on stage, is very exciting and also very nerve wracking. To be able to see people’s faces and to see their reactions to the songs, both old and new, is absolutely fantastic. But all of the hanging around at airports can really get you down.
And on stage, do you mix and match the set list or does it stay pretty much the same for the whole tour?
Well we sort of adjust it slightly as the tour goes along. There will be songs towards the end of the tour which will be different from the songs at the beginning of the tour. We don’t mess about with it too much but we do like to add new tunes as we go along.
The album has been received really positively and you are halfway through the current tour, so what next for Vince Clarke?
I am currently working on a dance record Kevin and I am hoping to collaborate with various people on that so that is the next thing that I will be doing after the tour. I will probably take a couple of weeks off and then I will start recording again.
Is there anyone in particular out of the new artists that you would like to work with?
Well there are lots of people who I would like to work with, but it’s a case of organising it all. That hasn’t been done yet so you will have to wait and see (laughter).
You have successfully produced many artists over the years so why did you take the decision to let Richard X produce The Violet Flame. Why didn’t you produce it yourself?
Well it’s quite good to have someone on the outside listen to your music, just to get a different perspective really. When you are writing the songs, recording the songs, making the music and then doing the vocals, sometimes you lose direction I think. So to have someone on the outside to say ‘you have recorded enough and it’s time to stop’ then that is quite useful to us (laughter).
I have spent some time looking at the video for the track, Dead Of Night, trying to identify all of the old horror actors who appear in it. Did you have any input with that?
No, that was a real Record Company thing. We just knew that we didn’t want to be in it (laughter).
I have heard that Andy says that when the two of you get together to write new songs he gets nervous. Do those nerves help with the writing process?
Well I think that we both get a little nervous when we start writing. It’s not like we do it every week; we do it every couple of years. We get together and start writing and both of us are always a little nervous as you don’t know what is going to happen. I also think that at the start of a writing session you kind of wonder if maybe there are in fact any more songs to write. But once we get started it is fine, it is fun and it is exciting.
In the current climate within the music business people tend to come and go over a period of 18 months. What is the secret behind you and Andy (Bell) still being together after 29 years?
I don’t know really Kevin (laughter). I think it’s quite a wonderful thing to find someone who you can write with. You are baring your soul a little bit when you are writing songs and I think that to find someone who you have total trust in I think that has been the key to our longevity, and the success of our relationship. We both feel very much at ease with each other.
On the subject of longevity, it will be your 30th Anniversary next year. Do you have anything special planned other than releasing the obligatory 10 cd Box Set?
(Laughter) Andy and I don’t have anything special in mind as yet Kevin. Although I am sure that the Record Company will re-release and re-issue every single thing that has ever been released by us (hysterical laughter), and in every possible format (laughter). Andy and I are not sure; we don’t really have any plans as we are just concentrating on this tour at the moment.
You have remixed songs for other artists including, Goldfrapp, Depeche Mode, Dido and Blancmange. Is that something that you enjoy doing?
Yes I do and it’s a real challenge, which I like. I like the whole idea of digging into other people’s music as well as my own. People ask me to do a remix and if I am into it; if I am into the music or into the track then I will get involved. I do like it Kevin as it’s a different thought process.
I recently read that you left Depeche Mode because their songs were too dark. Is that true?
(Hysterical laughter) no that is not the reason Kevin. Do you know what; it was so long ago, we were just not really getting along, and that is the reason and only reason why. Obviously we both went on to do very different styles of music and it has all panned out well in the end (laughter).
On that note Vince, I will thank you for taking the time to speak to me and I am looking forward to the gig at The Royal Concert Hall here in Nottingham on Saturday.
Thanks a lot Kevin. I look forward to seeing you in Nottingham. Cheers mate, bye.