Andy Bell's world

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday September 6, 2011
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According to Andy Bell of Erasure, "there was quite a lot" going on in the four years between the release of the duo's 2007 Light at the End of the World album and their new one, Tomorrow's World (Mute). In-between, Bell released his second solo disc, 2010's Non-Stop, and promoted it "a little bit," while Vince Clark "was building his studio in Maine, and getting it all finished and the synthesizers installed." But the wait is over. Tomorrow's World, produced by rising electronic musician/producer Frankmusik, has arrived, and it's sure to please the duo's many fans. Fighting a cold, Andy soldiered on for this interview, which took place in late August 2011.

Gregg Shapiro: The world figures in the titles of 2007's Light at the End of the World and the new Tomorrow's World. Does that have particular meaning to you?

Andy Bell: We were trying to think of a title for the record, then Vince came up with Tomorrow's World without thinking that the last one had World in the title as well. It sort of ties them both in, really. I think this one is much more optimistic than Light at the End of the World. That album was more throwaway, old-style Erasure. But Vince says he's very optimistic about the way things are turning out. It seems that the world is getting smaller and smaller, and we're having these huge weather patterns all over the place. We're all becoming one community. We're learning how to care about each other by our own suffering. We're morphing into these lab-created people with fake hearts and skin and eyes. We're creating our own versions of ourselves.

That truly sounds like tomorrow's world. Not to belabor the subject, but the phrase "be with you" appears in both the song of the same name and "What Will I Say When You're Gone?"

I think it's probably because I'm on the cusp of a burgeoning new relationship. "Be with you" is the essence of wanting to be all the time with the person!

How long have you been together?

One year.

You still have that nice fresh bloom on the relationship.

Oh, it's lovely.

You and Vince co-produced the preceding Erasure discs, but on Tomorrow's World, you worked with producer Frankmusik.

I think it was about time. It was good for us to relinquish our control, to see what can happen. It's been very healthy, and Frank has done an amazing job. His musicality in the studio was really inspiring. In the end, the record company was over the moon about how it turned out. So it's nice when things work out.

The single "When I Start To (Break It All Down)" was originally a beautiful ballad, but he made it into more of an ELO [Electric Light Orchestra] type of song. "A Whole Lot of Love Run Riot," which is one of my favorites because it's so clubby and disco and kind of Euro, Frank made it that way.

In "I Lose Myself" you sing, "I'm not concerned about the bitch I've been." It's hard to imagine that's the case, being the nice fellow that you are, but have you had to be a bitch to some people?

I think what I mean is feeling the bitch inside and suppressing the bitch, not letting the bitch out, which isn't very healthy!

2011 also brought the expanded anniversary edition of Wonderland, and an expanded reissue of The Circus. How did it feel to revisit the material for the reissues?

It was strange in some ways. Especially on Wonderland, I can hear my naivete completely. I always had such faith in my voice, I thought I was as good as Elvis Presley, and then I hear my voice on that and I think, "Jesus, how could you have ever thought that?" That's just the folly of youth! At the same time I made a song such as "Oh, L'Amour," which has endured. And then you hear songs such as "Push Me, Shove Me," which we're doing live now, and you think, "Oh my God, this really sounds fresh. It stands the test of time."

As one of the most influential artists in the electronic music realm, what do you think of the current crop of practitioners?

There's lots of people that I like. I love Royksopp. I love Robyn and MGMT. I was doing an interview and somebody asked me if I'd heard the band Hurts because they sound like Erasure. I said they look kind of pretty, the boys [band-members] do. People always say things sound like us, but I think it has more to do with the music than the singing.

Well, there's only one Andy Bell.

Yeah, there's only one me! That's it! And there's only one Vince, as well. It's very hard to have that rare combination.

Erasure will perform on Oct. 4 at the Fox Theatre in Oakland.