all these lifetime achievement awards that are handed out nowadays,
I think its about time Marc Almond got one. After all, hes
provided us with some astonishingly good records with Soft Cell, and
released some equally fine solo output, so I was delighted when he agreed
to have a chat with me about his recent album (full of enchanting Russian
romance songs) Heart On Snow, as well as his inception as
the granddaddy of Acid House, false eyelashes and
AD: Hi Marc. Im sure youll be delighted to know that Ive
just been on a website thats dedicated to finding out What
kind of Marc Almond are you?
MA: Oh no! Those kind of things scare me. I NEVER visit those sites
they can be like traps and the next thing you know, youre
sitting in a whole nest of vipers.
AD: It wasnt too bad actually. Not incriminating in any way.
I was Non-stop Erotic Cabaret Marc
MA: Haha, well
good for you
I think! Hmm..maybe
I SHOULD go on this site find out what kind of Marc Almond I
AD: Go on, you know you want to! Anyway, moving along to the proper
interview questions: Russia seems to have become something of a second
home for you lately. I think your recent Heart On Snow album
was a brave project to take on, but to my ears you seem to have made
a marvellous job of it. What convinced you to take the idea on in the
first place, and what was it about these songs that made you want to
MA: Ah. Well, that was all down to my extremely persistent producer,
Misha Kucherenko, who badgered me for a whole year about it; Misha was
a friend who I met in Russia whilst I was touring, and he gave me a
CD of Russian romance songs. It really intrigued me, because the songs
were often so decadent; there were many about the war and they were
all great singers with so much soul, so when Misha suggested I should
do an album of these songs I thought it was a fantastic idea. So I said
yes. Then I began to have reservations about it and I kept thinking
How will this work? and wondering whether I had the time
or the energy to do it; but in the end I was just pestered so much that
I gave in and agreed to have a go.
AD: Were you more restricted where artistic control was concerned
though, as opposed to if you were making a solo or Soft Cell record?
MA: No, I had just about as much control as I could have done. The
fact is though, that I wanted to use all the Russian musicians anyway,
because I wanted it to sound Russian through and through. It was very
economical as well! I had the chance of working with all these incredible
native musicians and it really was just amazing. I had a full naval
choir in St.Petersburg for instance, and a Russian gypsy singer. Those
are experiences that Ill never forget; but as far as artistic
control was concerned, I was still able to say Yes I like this
or No, I dont like that and was part of the paring
down program at the end. Maybe we lost some of the fine potting that
way, but I think it worked.
AD: I agree. So what reaction have you had from the Russian public
MA: Its been mixed, but on the whole, better than I expected.
There is a thought process that runs through the Russian music press
along the lines of Why would he do this? Why hasnt he worked
The thing is though, if I wanted to do a dance record, I COULD do a
dance record, but when youve got the choice between that, and
doing a duet with some of the oldest remaining Russian artists
really theres no contest. I suppose doing something with TATU
would have had a kind of camp, kitsch value, but I think I made the
right choice being in the presence of a man whod been pretty much
the voice of Soviet Russia for the last 40 years or so, dont you?
AD: Id say that saved you from commercial suicide, yes
MA: Thank you
but yes, there is quite a bit of snobbery and
cynicism in the Russian music press, but the public liked it enough
to make it 4th best selling album in Russia when it was released. I
made it more for a Western audience really to give them a sample
Its certainly going to inspire a fair few people into taking a
MA: I hope so, yes. I hope Ive brought the right level of
emotion to songs like The Stork, and conveyed the sense
of loss from war that you cant help but feel when you visit here.
Of coure there is so much incredible architecture here as well. Theres
a song on the album too by a chap called Boris Grovensikov, who lost
his job as a lab assistant over here and had to work cleaning the streets.
Its about his disillusionment and disappointment in his own country.
AD: If we can just go back to the early days for a while, I always
thought that Non-stop Erotic Cabaret was one of the best
album titles ever, because it seemed to be poking fun at, what was back
then, really quite a conservative music industry. Did you see yourselves
as an antidote to that?
MA: We hoped we were, yes. We didnt feel like we quite fitted
in with the electronic scene, and neither did we fit with your Duran
Durans or Spandau Ballets. We were kind of like the seedy underbelly
of the North. We were what you found BEHIND the glamour, behind the
façade - we were the peep show sleaziness that existed at that
time. I think its because Dave and I came from very much a post
punk background and bands like Cabaret Voltaire.
AD: So was it much of a surprise to you when Tainted Love
became the best selling single of 1981?
MA: Oh we were shocked! Numb even. It was great to have the success,
but on the flip side, we just became obnoxious brats after that! I mean,
we found ourselves on the cover of Flexi-Pop wearing party
hats for goodness sake, and that was exactly the kind of thing wed
been rallying against!
AD: Ill never forget sitting watching you on Top of the
Pops with my parents, and my dad going What the hell is
this? Whos that poof? Is it a man or a woman?
MA: Hahaha, that must have been the Say Hello Wave Goodbye
video, where I was wearing my false eyelashes under my dark glasses!
I remember the tabloids all condemning us and saying we shouldnt
be such a bad influence on teenybop kids, and all these uptight record
company people and journalists fully grown adults squirming
in their seats when they saw us. The great thing is that the right people
AD: Of course, you went on to make Memorabilia, which
is widely regarded as the first ever techno record. How do you feel
about being the Godfather of modern dance music?
MA: I think it is just great to be a part of something thats
influenced so many other people. It was the next kind of linear record
Acid House with a rapping bit over the top. Its weird though,
because the amount of records Ive bought over the last ten years
that have sampled Memorabilia
well, its just
and flattering of course!
AD: Youve worked with an incredible range of artists over your
career if you could pick one shining moment as the highlight,
which would it be?
MA: Gosh! Theres so many! Well, I loved working with Gene
Pitney, because I remembered watching him on Ready Steady Go
when I was younger, so when I worked with him, it was such a special
thing. Plus, the first time I met him was in Las Vegas I think
he put about one dollar in a slot machine and won 8,000 dollars from
it immediately! Id love to relive that moment, although I like
the old Vegas better than the newer part. Id suggest to anyone
that visits to go and see the old, run down part.
AD: I heard your appearance in Mexico recently was rather shambolic
MA: Oh God yes. I dont like doing PA performances where you
sing with a tape anyway, and the fact that the whole system packed up,
and the microphones stopped working
well, that was just really
embarrassing an utter fiasco and disaster.
AD: A bit of an All About Eve moment, by all accounts
MA: Oh yes, I love that film. (NB I got the impression that Marc
didnt realise I was referring to that infamous TOTP appearance
here, so I moved on
AD: One thing Ive always had an interest in is great lyrics,
and not long ago you had a book published called The End of New
York featuring your favourite prose and poems about the citys
nightlife. How important do YOU regard lyrics in your own music?
MA: Oh, VERY important, because Ive always regarded myself
as a storyteller as well as a performer. When you write
a song, its all about the right lyrics. Its all about convincing
people. You do need that structure, and there has to be something interesting.
When I write, I go through the process of cutting away any needless
excess lyrics afterwards I like simplicity you see. I dont
like to be too oblique.
AD: Whenever I try to write poems they turn out pretty silly. I cant
MA: Oh yes? Give me an example
AD: Well, I wrote one called This Is a Masterpiece
MA: Now thats ASKING for trouble!
AD: Its very silly
do you want to hear it?
MA: Go on then.
(Tone clears throat) Ahem: This is a masterpiece, this painting
just here/ the one titled Self Portrait With Bandaged Ear/
Whats that you say? Its been done before?/ You mean its
for nothing I inflicted this gore/ on myself when I artfully cut my
ear off?/ and you tell me NOW that some bloke called Van Gogh/ has beaten
me to it? To critical acclaim?/ What about these Sunflowers?/ WHAT?
Hes done the SAME?/ I might as well just point this gun at my
head/ and hes done that TOO? Oh well, thank f*ck HES dead!
MA: Hahaha! Thats fantastic! Excellent! You shouldnt
be so hard on yourself!
AD: Thank you for the compliment, and thanks very much for the interview
MA: No problem, I really enjoyed talking to you. Bye.
And that was that. Well, actually thats not true Marc
was such a nice bloke that I had enough output for 5 interviews! But
I wont bore you with that (though, given the guys excellent
sense of humour, I doubt if it WOULD have bored you), and Ill
just say this: if you want a sophisticated, wonderfully chilled out
and beautiful record, you need look no further than Heart On Snow.
Go get it.
Interview and transcript; Tone E