Erasure’s Andy Bell, On His Own and Pissed at La Roux: The New Gay Interview
Andy Bell, though best known as the frontman for Erasure, has been a busy man. Besides being awesome (cuz he’s Andy Bell) he has found the time to both Grand Marshall this year’s San Francisco pride parade and put out a solo album. Called Don’t Stop, and released earlier this year, it came with two challenges. The first is obviously distinguishing such an output from the work of his storied duo, and the second was a record-company directive to change his sound enough to keep it distinctive.
I posted the video for single “Call On Me” below, so you can check the album out for yourself. As for Andy’s views on going at it alone, gay culture and his beef with La Roux? You can check those out for yourself.
The New Gay: So your solo record is not an Erasure album. How hard is it to keep your projects separate?
Andy Bell: Quite difficult, actually. Erasure, because we have such a long history, you almost feel like a married couple. You bring those things with you, all the experiences. I feel in some way that Vince has always been my mentor. I bring my work to him, especially my lyrics, and he says when there’s things he doesn’t like. This time I’m working with Pascal Gabriel. It’s quite similar, they’re both the same age, they both really love their synthesizers, but in some ways I feel more… free.
TNG: You also tried to make your vocals sound less “Erasure-y.” How?
AB: With different synths and things in the studio. The original material I had started writing for “Non Stop” was very Erasure-sounding melodies and things, and the record company didn’t want people confused between Erasure and my own stuff. Still, even on Facebook, some of the fans still think it’s Erasure, their really isn’t an awful lot you can do. As soon as people hear my voice and synthesizer together they hear Erasure.
TNG: Who is this record aimed at? New listeners, fans…
AB: I don’t think of things in those terms, really. I just wanted to make a dance record, and have fun doing it. I like doing DJing on the side, and hopefully other DJs would play this stuff as well.
TNG: You wanna hear it booming from a gay club?
AB: I love playing out. I love dance music, I love minimal electro. Especially hearing that in clubs, it’s a nod to that really.
TNG: There’s that club music and gay people connection, they go hand in hand..
AB: They do go hand in in hand. In the UK we have a North/South divide, and we’ve always been more popular in Scotland, and the further North you go. I don’t think it only gets played in gay clubs, a lot of the more straight-type places are really into dubstep, but I’m not sure if the music on “Nonstop” music in with that.
TNG: What makes it more popular in the North than the South?
AB: I think in the South they are more fashion-conscious, much more worried about their image and being cool. In the north they just want to have a good time, a party. Damn the consequences.
TNG: Is there a Blur vs. Oasis equivalent rivalry for you?
AB: I would say that the Pet Shop Boys is more for South.
TNG: What’s your relationship like with Neil Tennant? Is there a rivalry there?
AB: Not at all. I don’t see him very often. The last time was when Electric Blue came out, and I was in the nightclub Heaven, and I said I really loved their new song. My favorite song ever is “Being Boring.” When we were really popular they used to make it like a two horse race in the charts, but that doesn’t refer to us now anyway.
TNG: What are some contemporary artists you are liking the most right now?
AB: I haven’t got my computer with me, so I can’t tell you. I really like Lady Gaga and Ladytron, they are really early aughts. I really love Kelis. There is a band called Bootylove, they are kind of a bit like Beyonce. And I can’t think of many other things lately. Robyn…
TNG: What is it with gay people and dance music?
AB: I don’t know, I think it’s just an instinctive kind of thing that people have. It just goes along with being out and drinking and having a good time and hearing this stuff pumping in the background and just being able to parade up and down, dancing and showing off to your friends.
TNG: I was taken by how clubby this record was, as compared to an Erasure album. Are you changing your sound for a gay audience?
AB: I think it would be impossible for us to make a straight record, to try and make an Oasis record. The nearest thing we got to that was doing Loveboat in 2005, our indie guitar album, which didn’t do too well. You just have to follow your instincts and do what’s in your blood, that’s just how it comes out.
TNG: What would be a straight record, compared to yours?
AB: Most of the hip-hop people are very straight. I think Justin Timberlake verges on being gay, he gets gay airplay. Britney gets loads as well. If you’re male and you’re black you’re not going to get much play in a gay club.
TNG: Why not?
AB: Because there aren’t that many black, out gay musicians.
TNG: There’s Bloc Party. You like them?
AB: Haven’t heard them, I’ll have to listen to them now.
TNG: How have things changed since you started playing music?
AB: There’s been a cultural change, here in the UK especially. Since reality TV everything is much more celebrity-oriented, there are gossip magazines, people seem to be obsessed with every little detail. That’s why I’m so pleased that I’m not starting out now. I feel like we have some integrity and privacy in our life, we’ve never been hounded by the press or paparazzi. I feel quite happy it came out when it was much more about the music and less about the personality.
TNG: What does it mean today that it’s more about the personality?
AB: The music is more disposable. A lot of stuff you hear on the radio is like instant hooky pop, but I can’t imagine it being covered in the future by other artists. It’s really for themselves.
TNG: What do you think about La Roux?
AB: I think she’s ok. I thought her music was really good, and then she reviewed my single and called me “mutton, dressed as lamb.” So I thought you wait until 25 years time to hear what people say about you. But I do like her music. TNG
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