It’s backstage at the AIM Awards and Erasure’s Andy Bell seems flustered. The band have just won Best Live Act – voted for by the fans – and despite his years of experience he seems for all the world like a man who absolutely, positively was not expecting to win a trophy.
“It’s fine!” he gasps. “It’s not that I’m used to winning awards or anything like that, because it’s few and far between, but it’s nice to be on tour and be recognised in the cities we play. In Miami Beach, for instance, we had the keys to the city, or San Francisco, or Buenos Aires. It just makes you feel really appreciative of people who are actually paying their money to come and see you, because it’s not cheap.”
The band remain a riveting live act, able to draw on one of synth pop’s core catalogues, a near peerless run of singles augmented by relentless futurism and a technological drive. Even after all this time, though, the singer feels apprehensive before going onstage.
“I get really nervous,” he admits. “There’s a point in the tour where it comes to a crescendo, it’s this hump, and you get over the hump… you know if you’ve got too many dates by the amount of drink you’re consuming at the end. So you have to temper your behaviour!”
Associated with Mute for almost thirty years now, Erasure have relished the freedom being independent can offer – moving from chart darlings to underground stars with ease. “I think it affords you your own creative path that you want to take,” he explains. “We were kind of seen as being a pop singles act in the early days, but then in 1995 we decided to call our album ‘Erasure’ and it was kind of an experimental album. It was our first supposed slot, which was 100,000 copies. I think any other label we would have been gone by then, we would have been history. They ride with the punches.”
“I think it’s great to allow the artist to experiment, allow them to fail… whatever that means! And to get back up again. It’s like any person writing a story, you can’t be doing bestsellers all the time.”
The label itself turns 40 this year, and is preparing a host of releases and events. Erasure, naturally, will be involved, with Andy himself taking time out to salute the label. “I think tthere’s an evening going on at the Tate. I’m supposed to be talking, but I’m not quite sure what I’m going to say yet! That’s coming up.”
“I met Vince and he’d had a career already,” he recalls. “I didn’t realise how far back I actually go with Mute. I thought I was a newbie. We’re very close, it’s all very close.”
The label was both an inspiration and a platform for Andy Bell’s career. “It’s quite strange because I love electronic music, it’s in my blood – as a teenager it was the breakthrough music in the UK,” he explains. “I’m not kind of in the synth boys club, because when they all get together and talk about their synths it’s like racing car drivers!”
As for Erasure, they are showing no signs of slowing down with more live shows and more material planned. “We’re going to carry on,” he says. “I’ve got a project coming up which is the third part of this opera trilogy that I’ve been doing. I’ll be finishing that and we’re probably going to be doing that in April next year, but Erasure will be writing in the meantime. It’s nicer as well to write not under pressure but just as you want to.”
Swapping ideas on email, the vocal takes are almost entirely done cheek to cheek, with the two remaining incredibly close creative partners. “I do like Vince to be there, because – it sounds corny – but in some ways he is my muse,” Andy chuckles. “It’s almost like he has to be there in order for me to show off and come up with a tune.”
Still causing mischief after all this time, Erasure are the glamorous electro pop core of British independent music.
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