Andy Bell, one half of Erasure, chats with Kevin Cooper about the highlight of his career, how touring still excites him, his new album Torsten The Beautiful Libertine and his stage show of the same name.

Andy Bell is the lead singer of the English synthpop duo Erasure. He has also had a successful solo career, releasing two albums; Non-Stop and Electric Blue.

In 1985, whilst selling women’s shoes and performing in a band called the Void, he responded to a newspaper advert that was looking for a singer. That band included Vince Clarke, who had been Bell’s hero. He was successful in his audition and he and Vince together formed the group Erasure. During their career they sold over 25 million albums worldwide.

Having released a new solo album, Torsten, The Beautiful Libertine, Bell is now playing the lead in a show of the same name, which will be performed at Above The Stag Theatre in London.

Whilst busy rehearsing, he took some time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper, and this is what he had to say.

Hi Andy how are you?

I’m very well thank you Kevin.

Let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me.

That’s alright.

And just how is life treating you today?

All is fine thank you. We are just off for a rehearsal at Christopher Frost’s house. He is one of the musician’s working on Torsten, The Beautiful Libertine.

On the subject of Torsten, The Beautiful Libertine I have to tell you that I have been playing the album for a few days now and I think that it is fantastic.

Oh great, thank you very much.

I have to be honest with you however as I haven’t managed to hear the first album as yet but I am really getting into the second one.

It’s very different Kevin don’t you think?

Yes I have to agree with you and say that yes, it is very different. Are you happy with it?

I absolutely love it yes. I loved the first album and I am actually loving the whole project.

Now that the album is finished, are you spending your time in rehearsals for the forthcoming show?

Well I think that apart from the rehearsals which I am really going to enjoy because I haven’t really done any real drama since I did one show back in 1989 just for a week, and before that it was when I was still in school. So I am really looking forward to it.

With a release date of the 4th March, are you chomping at the bit to release the album onto an unsuspecting world?

Yes I am Kevin and everything is getting all very exciting.

Do you have a favourite track on the album?

I have two Kevin, The Slums We Loved and Bond Street Catalogues, especially Bond Street Catalogues because it is really dark and quite bitter. I love singing it. In the show it is a duet with Lana P and she is brilliant, she’s like a black Mrs Slocome (laughter).

Having listened to the album and also read the official release regarding Torsten, I have to ask you is it autobiographical?

(Laughter) I wouldn’t necessceraily say that it is autobiographical Kevin but I do think that the writer Barney Ashton has probably had similar experiences such as growing up and being a part of the gay scene here in London together with his shyness. I think that we are quite similar in that way. We both have that black humour to deal with those sorts of situations (laughter).

As well as the album launch you will be appearing in the musical stage show Torsten, The Beautiful Libertine at the Above The Stag Theatre in Vauxhall, London. How are things going in preparation for that?

We had our first read-through at the theatre with the producer last Friday and we have our first proper rehearsal on Monday so I am really looking forward to it. We have two weeks’ worth of rehearsals before the actual show so it is all very exciting.   The date for the album launch is also the same as the first date of the show when I am sure that there will be a few lines fluffed (laughter). However I am really looking forward to it. It is a very exciting period for me and there will be quite a few people coming along to the show.

Are there any more Torsten albums to come?

Yes there is Kevin. In fact Barney has already written part three. He keeps on dipping in to his notes and asking me what type of songs I would like and which characters I think can be developed. He did tell me that he wrote Torsten with a trilogy in mind. So it could go on longer; I don’t know but I am really enjoying it.

On the subject of the stage show, will you tour with it?

There are tentative plans at the moment because we have had some interest from San Francisco and New York. We did the first show at the Edinburgh Festival in 2014 so hopefully we will be able to find some sort of space in which to perform. We originally did the first show up in Manchester so I think that it would be good to go back there with the second show.

You have mentioned Edinburgh, were you pleased with just how warmly the first show was received?

Yes it was really great. We were very lucky to be able to get the reviewers in to see the show because there were just that many shows on that year. There were about four thousand shows per day up there and it was just after The Commonwealth games so a lot of the people were really skint. Because of that all of the shows were really struggling and so I was really pleased that we were able to get good numbers. We did manage to get all of the reviewers in to see the show which for me was the most important thing really (laughter).

I can’t speak to you without mentioning your other job can I?

My other job (laughter). What I can tell you Kevin is that me and Vince (Clarke) will be writing again in April. He has already sent me around fifteen tracks so it is up to me to get my backside in to gear. I did tell him that once the show is up and running I would be a bit more relaxed and listen to them a little more seriously.

I was fortunate to interview Vince last year and I asked him just what it was like when you and he get together to write. He told me that for a few days you are both extremely nervous but after that some kind of magic happens. Would you agree with that?

Yes I do, I really do Kevin. Firstly we have a very good laugh and I always liken it to meeting your ex-wife (laughter). Once we both get settled in we have a really good time. We have known each other now for many years and it is just like best friends meeting all over again.

Will the two of you be touring again as Erasure in the near future?

Yes we will but I don’t think that we will be able to get out anytime this year. I will be doing a few solo things this year so it will be probably next year when Vince and I manage to get out. It all depends upon his nibs (laughter).

You and Vince have now been together for thirty-one years. Could you ever have envisaged that when the two of you got together?

To be honest I never really think in those terms. I honestly just live for the day and that’s it. I do make plans on what I will be doing next week or next month and I will sometimes sketch out the coming year with gigs here and there and whatever but apart from that I simply take each day as it comes really.

When you sit down to write a solo album does it take a different mind-set from when you sit down with Vince to write an Erasure album?

I really don’t know Kevin (laughter). What I will say is that with each new album be it a solo album or an Erasure album you are always trying to change it. I suppose that you are trying to shake it up, whatever you think that mind-set is. It’s strange because when I first heard the new songs and the new tracks which Vince sent me, a flourish of words came out straight away. I didn’t really understand what they were about but a lot of it was quite political and stuff. But I’m not quite sure that that will continue onto the end. Everything can change depending upon your mood when you are doing it.

Does touring still excite you?

I love it. Whenever you have a new album being released you know that it is going to take two years out of your life with touring the album together with all of the promotion. It really does take a lot of preparation and I do have to psyche myself up for it. I have to go to the gym a bit because you really do need to be in shape. But touring is still very exciting but I have to be honest and say that we have sometimes gone slightly off the rails whilst we have been on tour (laughter). On of us has to draw the other one in (laughter). Hopefully we will all behave ourselves the next time.

You mention going to the gym and keeping fit, how are your hips now, are they ok?

They are absolutely fine Kevin, thanks for asking. I haven’t been to the gym for a while but I think that as you get up there in your fifties I think that you really appreciate your rest (laughter).

Who would you say has inspired you along the way?

To be honest I don’t really know. I have had so many heroes really people such as Elvis (Presley) but when you see the background story of his demise it changes your opinions of Elvis the man. I think that it is quite sad just how many fallen heroes there have been over the years. I just don’t want to end up like that you know.

What was the first record that you ever bought?

That would have been an EP by Lene Lovich back in 1981 which had Flex and You Can’t Kill Me on it. It was brilliant.

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

That’s easy Kevin that was Joe Jackson. I think that he is great.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I don’t really look at things like that. However supporting David Bowie in 1997 was quite good. I love performing in South America and Buenos Aires is my favourite place in the whole world. It’s crazy so that is why I love it (laughter).

What single event would you say has changed your life forever?

I would have to say going for the audition for Vince.

Did you have to be persuaded?

Not at all Kevin, I was looking out for it. Working with Vince had always been in my mind. I was just really pleased when the opportunity came along.

On that note Andy let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me.

You are welcome Kevin, thank you very much. I hope to catch up with you at The Stag Theatre.