After 30+ years together, forward thinking optimism is all but required, and luckily for Erasure that’s a default. Crafting their seventeenth album the duo do just as they’ve always done, while trying to shift things sonically. We talked with member Vince Clark (formerly of Depeche Mode & Yaz) about staying positive, keeping things fresh and even about Robot Unicorn Attack.
Northern Transmissions: 17 albums deep how do you keep managing to find a way to keep things fresh?
Vince Clarke: The way we work is we set aside a time to start writing a record and in this instance we were writing in London and Florida and New York. We’ll go into a room with no ideas at all (laughs) none. And then the magic is that an hour or two later we come out with a song and that’s probably the main reason we still love doing it. There’s still an element of shock and surprise and something does happen. We keep it fresh because we don’t know what we’re doing, every time. We’re not relying on clichés or formula, we just have no idea.
NT: How do you keep finding inspiration?
VC: As far as lyrics are concerned there’s so much going on in the world that there were loads of things to talk about. We’re not an overtly political band but at the same time all the stuff that was going on couldn’t be avoided. That’s there in some of the lyrics. The last couple albums have been kind of dance orientated so we wanted to make something different this time around. We had an album years ago called Erasure that was all kind of slow-ish songs and Andy thought it might be cool to do something like that this time around so we wanted it to be atmospheric and vocal heavy. So hopefully it will sound different than anything we’ve released previously.
NT: With that in mind how were you hoping to push yourselves musically?
VC: You’re always trying not to repeat yourself. Having said that I’m using synthesizers still and the singer’s still Andy so that gives us a certain sound I guess. I try to keep the music kind of minimal and I’ve been listening to The Orb and Martin Gore’s solo record which is instrumental so that had some influence on my production.
NT: How did you tap all the talent for the Love You to the Sky EP?
VC: It’s generally the record company, they send us ideas and then we make a decision on whether they should do it. Andy also made a couple of suggestions as well about people who would make the remixes. I’m the only remixer that didn’t get paid. It was a bit weird actually because I’m close to the original you know, and we spent a lot of time doing that, so I had to think hard about how to make the remix different. I guess it’s a bit ridiculous but I wanted my remix to sound more electronic.
NT: What did you enjoy most about working with Matty Green?
VC: He’s a really easy-going guy and the reason we wanted to work with him was that Andy and I produced this record, and when you write it all yourself you often lose perspective. It’s always the case that we’ll get a third-party at the end because they’ll have a different take on what we’ve made. It was mixed in LA and I was down there for a couple weeks to finish and he did a great job.
NT: What did Matty bring to the record?
NT: You’ve been fighting for human rights for years, between Trump and Brexit does it feel like you’re spinning wheels and getting tired?
VC: Not really. I’m generally an optimistic person. I think these things happen in waves, I hope they do. In my lifetime I’ve seen some amazing things take place in the world, the end of apartheid, the end of the IRA and the Berlin Wall coming down, all these things it seemed would never happen but they did. Now we seem to be on a down-curve but I think they come in waves. I have to be optimistic though because I have an eleven-year-old son.
NT: What keeps you hopeful?
VC: I was born an optimist and more than Andy. I always try and see the good in things, the positive in my life and my family’s life.
NT: Did having your 30th anniversary and releases around that make you want to change things up?
VC: The 30th anniversary came as almost a surprise for me because I hadn’t realized we’d been going for that long. The record company had this idea of doing a massive retrospective on our careers. It’s all about the next thing with us because you make a recordm and then it’s done and you’re moving on to tour or the next record. We always look ahead and not spend too much time reminiscing. The only time I listen to our old records is when I’m preparing for a tour.
NT: You’ve collaborated a lot in recent years, do you find that work feeding back into Erasure or more just scratching itches?
VC: I tend to borrow tricks, like one I came up for a remix. It might suddenly appear on our record but that’s it really. I’m still learning all the time and most of my gear has no memory so you go to make a sound and you’re starting from scratch.
NT: Do you ever find yourself using older synths and tricks from the early days of the band if not before?
VC: 99% of my studio is old, analog. I have synthesizers that I use that I’ve been using since 1982. I like that kind of equipment because it’s unpredictable and fun to use. I’m not really a laptop kind of guy and don’t make my sounds on there. I like the sound of analog synthesizers, there’s a warmth that you can’t get from the digital sub-synths.
NT: I heard Selena Gomez did a downbeat cover of your Yaz song “Only You”, what did you think of it?
VC: It’s the highest form of flattery to be covered. I think she did a really nice job, it’s different from the original record. That one’s been covered quite a bit but it’s always a surprise and always flattering, so well done mate.
NT: How did you guys feel about the Robot Unicorn Attack using your track “Always?”
VC: I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’m as baffled as you are. The game is pretty bizarre as well, I tried to play it and I didn’t understand it (laughs). They asked me to do a remix of the song for the game which was interesting. Whoever came up with the idea to mix the two, I’d like to meet them, shake their hand.
NT: You have a tour coming up, is there anything else on the horizon?
VC: We have the big support tour with Robbie Williams and then our plan is to do our own tour, coming to America and Canada. We’re not using videos so much anymore, we’re both looking a bit old now so we try and avoid those.
Interview by Owen Maxwell