Marc Almond, singer, songwriter and musician, chats with Kevin Cooper about working with Tony Visconti, performing with Jools Holland, their latest album collaboration A Lovely Life To Live and his forthcoming tour of the UK.

Marc Almond, OBE is an English singer, songwriter and musician. He and Dave Bell formed the synthesiser-based duo Soft Cell in 1977. Their hits included Tainted Love, Bedsitter, Torch, What! and the club hit Memorabilia.

In 1981 Soft Cell released Tainted Love, a cover of a Gloria Jones Northern Soul classic, which went to number one in many countries around the world, and was in the Guinness Book of Records for spending the longest time in the Billboard Top 100 chart in the US. The song also won the best single award at the 1981 Brit Awards and went on to sell over one million copies in the UK alone. Almond has gone on to sell over 30 million records worldwide. In all they enjoyed a string of nine top forty hit singles and four top twenty albums in the UK charts between 1981 and 1984.

He has also had a diverse career as a solo artist. His collaborations include a duet with Gene Pitney on the 1989 UK number one single Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart. More recently he has been working with Jools Holland.

Almond spent a month in a coma after a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 2004 and later became a patron of the brain trauma charity Headway. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2018 New Year Honours for services to arts and culture.

Whilst rehearsing for his forthcoming tour of the UK he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Marc how are you today?

I’m really well thank you Kevin, how are you?

I’m very well thank you and before we move on let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

It’s always a pleasure.

And I have to ask, just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Life is great at the moment. As you are no doubt aware I have just finished the tour with Jools Holland which covered over fifty dates since last year.

You and I last spoke prior to the release of your last album Shadows And Reflections. Were you happy with the fans reaction to the album?

The fans response was so generous. I am really proud of the album and I think it contains some of my best vocal performances.

I was fortunate to review and photograph you at the Royal Concert Hall here in Nottingham on Tuesday 31st October 2017 on your Shadows And Reflections tour. Did you enjoy the tour?

Yes I did, I really loved the tour.

From where I was sitting it looked as though you were having far too much fun.

That’s the trick. But in all honesty I do have enormous fun when I’m playing live. It is of course a cliché but I feel entirely comfortable performing on stage. Some people say that I even act like I’m on stage when I’m not (laughter).

I had better be careful as to what I say otherwise you will be thinking that you have a stalker. I then saw you on Thursday 15th November 2018 when you were the special guest on the Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra Tour. You really did appear to be enjoying yourself then. Is it as much fun for you as it is for the audience?

(Laughter) yes it is. I love performing with Jools; he is such a gentleman and an amazing pianist. The album we did together was so much fun and I am privileged to count him as a great friend.

As a vocalist I have to ask you, just what makes Ruby Turner so special?

You just have to listen to her sing; her vocal range and ability are extraordinary and she is one of the sweetest people in the world. What is not to love about her?

Whenever I hear her sing I have to say that it really is the hairs on the back of your neck kind of moment. Would you agree?

Absolutely. Ruby really does have the most amazing emotional delivery.

On the subject of Jools Holland you and he recorded A Lovely Life To Live last year which you released on 23rd November 2018. Just how did that collaboration come about?

It came about because we have worked and toured together for so long on and off, that it just seemed the obvious thing to do.

The album received a mixed reaction from the fans. Were the two of you personally happy with it?

Yes we were, very happy. You have to remember that you can’t please everybody all of the time, and shouldn’t try to.

There really was a strange mix of songs on there from Tainted Love to When The Saints Come Marching In. How did you and Jools decide what songs would finally make it onto the album?

I let Jools take the lead, after all it was his album, released through his label, so I felt that it was only right that he made the choices.

I personally love the title track A Lovely Life To Live.

Thank you, I am really proud of that song and love the response it gets whenever we play it live.

Is there a volume 2 lurking in a desk drawer anywhere?

(Laughter) let’s just say that you never know.

What about a new Marc Almond studio album; is there any news regarding that?

Well it’s funny that you should ask me that because I am recording it presently with the amazing producer Chris Braide, and it is scheduled for a release date in February 2020.

You are going back out on the road in May here in the UK. Do you still get excited at the thought of touring or is it now a necessary evil?

Of course and though this is a small tour, it will be intense.

The tour opens here in Nottingham at the Royal Concert Hall on Monday 6th May; just what can we expect?

The audience in Nottingham are always amazingly warm and generous. They can expect a night of hits and surprises. It will be great fun.

Do you enjoy your time spent here in Nottingham?

I love it. A lot of people don’t know this but I actually lived in Nottingham when I was a teenager and it still holds a special place for me.

Last year saw you and Dave Ball reunited as Soft Cell for one final show at The O2 in London on Sunday 30th September 2018 to celebrate 40 years of Soft Cell. Was that the perfect time for a reunion?

I think so yes. I really do think that it was and also what a way to bow out.

How did you find the experience of being back together with Dave on stage in front of a sell-out crowd?

To be honest with you, it really was very emotional. I found it both touching and surprising whilst at the same time it was absolutely terrifying (laughter).

Will the two of you ever work together again or was this really a case of ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’?

At this moment in time I really would have to say no, there is absolutely nothing on the cards. We finished on a great high and I personally don’t think that we could ever top that so, as they say, always walk away when the going is good.

You were appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2018 New Year Honours for services to arts and culture. That must have made you feel good?

I had absolutely no idea about it and was so honoured and surprised. It is overwhelming to be recognized and I never thought it would ever happen to me. I really was truly moved by it. And Prince William was so kind on the day.

You have been active in the music business now for 43 years. Have you enjoyed the ride?

(Laughter) well what can I say except that it has been an absolutely amazing ride.

What was it like working with Tony Visconti on The Dancing Marquis album?

Tony is an absolute living legend. I couldn’t believe it that I was finally going to get to work with him. He was responsible for so many of the hits that shaped my youth and then to actually be working with him was just a dream come true.

Do you have any regrets?

(Laughter) agreeing to this interview when I saw just how many questions you were going to be asking me. Well you did ask (laughter).

(Laughter) I’m sorry but you don’t get to interview Marc Almond every day of the week. Moving swiftly on, which period of your career has given you the most satisfaction?

For me that has always got to be the present day. That’s the way to approach life. That material abundance and wealth are worthless. You should live for now and only pick the specific goal based on values; not wants.

Here in the UK we are absolutely obsessed with putting everyone into a pigeon-hole. You are quoted as saying that being pigeon-holed as “a ‘gay artist’ enables people to marginalise your work and reduce its importance, implying that it won’t be of any interest to anyone who isn’t gay”. Do you feel that your sexuality has hindered your career within the music business?

Yes it has and it hasn’t. The homophobic times I grew up in are unimaginable to a young gay person of today. But at the end I am an artist who happens to be gay; surely our sexuality should only be a part of who we are, not the singular definition of ourselves.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

That’s easy, it’s the fact that I am still able to work, record, and more importantly, to perform.

In 2013 you were awarded The Ivor Novello Inspiration Award. How did that feel?

Again, I never expected it. Whenever you get these things they fill you with a sense of pride and humility.

If you could change one law, what would it be?

That animals have the same rights as humans.

Who are you currently listening to?

At this moment in time I am actually listening to the Sleaford Mods. I watched the film entitled A Bunch of Kunst and they are just brilliant. They are funny, warm and smart. They really are just great.

With the state of the music industry today, if you were just starting out, would you bother?

Of course because in the end you do it firstly for yourself and then there is that holding onto that belief that there are enough people out there who think like you.

If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you would be doing?

Working for the council, and doing it badly (laughter).

What next for Marc Almond?

Who knows? Isn’t that the best thing about life, none of us know what’s in store. Just make sure that you enjoy the ride, and remember that it’s always easier downhill (laughter).

On that note Marc let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been interesting.

Thanks Kevin, it’s been a pleasure, if not a little longer than usual (laughter). You take care and I hope that you enjoy the show when I get to Nottingham. Bye for now.