By Bob Merrick
As he was taking a break from tour rehearsals, I had the chance to speak with Andy Bell from Erasure about the band's new album, Nightbird, their 20-year legacy, and his courageous decision to come out publicly about his HIV status.
Out: First off, I love the new album. It's a more grown up version of the old Erasure like Wild and Chorus. Was that a conscious decision to return to that sound?
Andy Bell: It was kind of a conscious decision, but not too conscious. I said to Vince [Clarke, the other half of Erasure], my favorite album of ours is Chorus, so let's make it like that, because it is kind of minimal, but quite rich.
Where does the title come from?
We were gonna call it Snail, but the record company thought that was too slow. But me and Vince thought of it in the way of a little creature with his house on his back that can just get squashed with one foot. That was quite sad really. We thought of a lot of different words and then Nightbird was taken from my insomnia, which I get every now and then.
Which song from your catalog are you most proud of?
I really like 'Siren Song' from Chorus and I love 'Tenderest Moments,' which is going to be on the acoustic album we just did.
And what is the acoustic album?
I've always been harping on Vince to do a country-western style album. So he arranged this whole thing with a friend of his from Brooklyn to do versions of our own songs that we thought would've been good tracks that were missed from albums. Using a lot of slide guitar, violins, cellos, oboes, those kinds of things, it is really beautiful. It's all new recordings, but of our old songs.
What song would you love to never have to sing again?
I get a bit bored with 'Love to Hate You' and 'Heavenly Action' I suppose. We have so many songs now on the new tour that by the time you get to 'Love to Hate You,' you're worn out.
If you could do a duet with anyone, who would it be?
Debbie Harry. I love her.
Which song do you wish had been a bigger hit?
Probably 'In My Arms.' But I think it's much better to have released a classic and not have it be a hit than to have released something that was crap.
Definitely. I heard through the grapevine that Vince got married and moved to New York. How is that affecting your collaborations?
Well, actually, he just moved to Maine, but it was quite good because I would get free trips to New York when he was there. I haven't been to Maine yet, but he has already checked out the gay bars for me and he's a real gentleman when you stay there. He does your washing, cooks your meals, and his wife is real lovely. She's really brilliant. And it works quite well when I am here, since he is on farm hours and I am the nightbird, so we kind of criss-cross with our Atlantic hours difference.
Erasure's music was the soundtrack to my coming-out years. How did you decide so early on in your career, and before it was even remotely accepted, to come out as an openly gay performer?
Well, I decided when I was a teenager that I was so good at lying, that I just didn't want to lie anymore. My thought was, 'To tell the truth would be easier.' So the fact is, I just gave up lying at an early age.
How do you think that being out has affected your career?
Well, I think if I hadn't been gay, we wouldn't have gotten any press at all. I feel welcome wherever I go and there's always somewhere I can just go and hang out and I don't know that I would have necessarily had that if I had just been kind of a regular musician, y'know?