Ends Covered Up
can say what you like about Erasure. Theyre one of those bands
you either love or hate. But whichever side of the fence you choose
to sit on, theres one thing you cannot deny: They have been consistently
making healthy chart impressions for the best part of 20 years and have
released their fair share of perfect pop songs along the
way. Vince Clarke and Andy Bell took time out to shed some light on
whats been going on in the Erasure camp.
AD: Its been some time since we last caught Erasure on the road.
Whats been going on?
The last tour was three years ago and it was quite a big tour because
we tagged on to the end doing a tour of South America supporting David
Bowie and No Doubt were on the bill and we were going round and swapping
running orders, depending on who was more popular in which country.
AD: I would imagine youd have a few stories to tell about that
point in your career then
VC: Well, I mean it was quite an adventure and we were working quite
hard, because we'd never been to those places before, so that meant
that we were doing lots and lots of promotion. I think we both found
it quite tiring, more so than most tours, because you're trying to pack
everything in and of course, at the end of the day you really don't
get the chance to see the different places particularly. And then the
worst thing of all was that the idea was to do this tour and then hopefully
get some action happening in those territories and there was the great
South East Asian collapse of the economy.
AD: You have chosen to release an album full of cover versions this
time around. Why?
AB: Well, the whole thing started out because I was toying with
the idea of doing a solo project and I was looking into doing a lot
of Phil Spectre songs and we were going backwards and forwards; I was
in Spain most the time and Vince came over and saw me and we had a real
heart-to-heart and everything and he said, 'Oh, why don't we make it
an Erasure project?' There's another guy involved, Gareth Jones, who
we'd been working with quite a bit and do it as a three-person project
and all come up with a CD full of songs that each of us would choose
and so we kind of went from there really. And it took probably about
half a year just to decide which songs we were going to do.
AD: You have done a similar thing before though, when you achieved
your number one single Abba-esque
AB: I think it's a bit more serious than the ABBA thing and I mean
the ABBA thing was going to be an album in the first place, but then
we were really glad that we didn't do that, because we were pretty swamped
by ABBA anyway when we did it, and, I don't know, it just kind of seems
not so throw away as the ABBA thing was.
VC: We thought about it a lot more. The ABBA thing was kind of done
on a whim, really, and this was more talked about and discussed. And
you know, we ditched a lot of songs as well, the songs that we decided
AD: Having been in numerous bands myself, I know that there are often
arguments where covers are concerned. Any disputes?
VC: I don't think there were disputes, because the ones that weren't
working we knew straight away. Most of the singing was done in the control
room, so it's just me, Gareth and Andy and the microphone and you knew
instantly whether that was going to work, whether there was some magic
in the track and in the singing and in the approach to the singing.
We tried lots of other stuff, lots of other songs that just didn't make
AD: What made you decide to record and release Peter Gabriels
VC: That was one of my choices and I just think it's a fantastic
record. The thing about that particular track that's right is that the
time signature's 7/8, which is pretty difficult to put a groove to,
so we struggled with that beat, myself and Gareth for ages and ages,
trying to make it sound groovy and it just wasn't happening. And we
just figured we'll make it 4/4 and then suddenly the whole thing came
together and of course all the riffs, all the parts all fit anyway perfectly
and hopefully the song has a bit of a groove to it now. That was quite
a moment. It was such a simple thing to do, but it took us ages to work
AD: Can you talk us through some of the other track choices?
AB: The song that started off the whole project was Youve
Lost That Lovin Feeling by the Righteous Brothers. We went
through a few versions of it and we ended up with the original vocal
that I did at Gareth's house, just on a live mic with the music in the
background. It was before all the Pop Stars started doing their Righteous
Brothers 'Unchained Melody' and I just remember when I was living at
home, I didn't realise how influenced I was by my parents' records;
just my mum was a huge Elvis fan and my dad was a Buddy Holly fan and
they had this Phil Spector Greatest Hits album and I used to listen
to that like every day, and I remember going out and taking it to the
two girls across the road and I said, "You've got to listen to
this. It's fantastic!" and I put it on and they weren't impressed
at all. But I had kind of taken it to my heart and I just thought, "If
only I could sing like that." And it was just like getting a Righteous
Brothers-ish feeling in the voice and I think we've got it quite close.
What's interesting about doing these cover versions is a lot of them
are really old; they're from the 1950s and its really weird that we've
done synthesised versions, but the vocals still sound sometimes almost
older than the original ones, just the effect of them. So it's quite
VC: Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) by Steve Harley and
Cockney Rebel was one of my records from when I was a teen that I loved.
We struggled over that a little bit, because at first we tried to do
an imitation, an impression almost of the original, but Andy's not Cockney
so it didn't work, so he just kind of sang it in his own style.
AD: So what have you got in store for us with the forthcoming tour
then? No more rubber G-strings hopefully
AB: We're going back to Edwardian time and then bringing it up to
now; we're going back to when the gramophone was first invented. From
sepia to colour.
VC: I'm kind of looking forward to touring, yeah, I feel a lot better
about myself generally in life; I feel more positive, and I'm doing
lots of interesting things, so I think if you've got a good spirit,
then touring is not as bad. I've been looking at the dates and thinking,
"That's going to be quite exciting."
AB: I just need to be out there, because I'm a performer and I really
AD: Once this album and tour have been put to bed, what are your
VC: Well, I think both of us are really looking forward. We've enjoyed
doing the cover songs album, but I'm sick of covers, actually I'm really
looking forward to doing our own writing again. We've started some writing.
Even though it's been really good, it's not the same; you don't get
the same emotional lift from when you write your own song, for sure,
that magic sort of tingle when it works and it's your own.
Transcript by Tone E
Thanks to Sarah at Pomona for this interview.