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Erasure: Covers, Cocaine, Drag Queens & Ibiza

Author: Jonty Adderley
Saturday, November 30, 2002
"I'd been to an audition a year before and I'd seen Vince by chance at the studios; he was the first famous person I'd ever seen in London. When I went to the audition I immediately felt that this was meant to be and when they called me to say yes I knew it was them on the phone. They put me on a retainer for £150 per week (US $230) and that was it."

15 years before TV programme auditions became the defining characteristic of British pop, aspiring stars would scour the pages of rock weekly Melody Maker which was how Andy Bell ended up joining Vince Clarke's fledgling new band Erasure. With Clarke an established producer from his days with Depeche Mode and Yazoo, the gig appeared to be a golden passport to fame, fortune and success and so it would proved, as Erasure went on to sell over 10million records. 15 years on, though, Erasure's significance is less assured, their brand of accessible, uplifting though saccharine flavoured electro-pop sitting somewhat uncomfortably alongside the karaoke fodder fronted by the likes of Robbie Williams and Gareth Gates.

Sitting in a penthouse suite of a surprisingly low key budget hotel, however, to discuss Erasure's upcoming covers album Other People's Songs, Andy Bell is both friendly and unpretentious and more than happy to laugh at himself.
Discussing a recent visit to London gay bar the Cock (where he met fellow 80s scenester Jonny Slut from Nag Nag Nag), he admits he was delighted to be ignored by the age conscious clientele.

"It was quite weird going out to the gay bars again because a lot of the kids don't know who I am and you get this real London attitude, exactly as it used to be when I first moved here," he chuckles. "I found it really refreshing."

Skrufff (Jonty Adderley): As its title suggests, Other People's Songs is a whole album of covers, was it a relatively easy album to make than usual-

Erasure (Andy Bell): "It was quite easy, though I was getting a little nervous from time to time because some of the versions we were doing were a little slower and less groovy. I was also initially a little concerned about some of the song choices, thinking 'how on Earth am I going to sing Solsbury Hill-' or the Cockney Rebel song Make Me Smile (Come Up and see Me) because I wasn't a particular fan of those songs. But doing them taught me that it didn't matter- I gained a fresh perspective and sang them as me. I did the Cockney Rebel song in a mockney (fake cockney) style, for example, then slowed it down and Solsbury Hill came out really well too. I'm really pleased generally with how the vocals came out. I still have this ego thing of wanting to be known as a singer and that was the idea of the album in the first place- to have a Dusty Springfield vibe. Though now it's an Erasure project, I'm sure we'll get people saying Erasure are shit, and not really mentioning the vocals because they hardly ever do."

Skrufff: Your press release talks at length about today's manufactured pop stars and your website is mobilising your fanbase to buy the single on the same week, do you see yourself in direct competition with them-

Erasure: "We can't really compete with them head-on, our fan-base is never powerful enough to create a car crash. All of our last three albums have stalled and we put so much in to them, which is hard. When an album doesn't take off you start blaming yourself rather than marketing campaigns, anyway. We're not like Geri Halliwell, we don't do OK magazine or plant stories in the media so our only hope is being on the radio and TV shows. You never know how albums will perform. I'll be really disappointed if this one doesn't do well, though you have to be prepared for that eventuality."

Skrufff: During the 90s I understand you embraced the rock & roll lifestyle, how excessive did it get-

Erasure: "It was wild, I genuinely can't remember lots of the experience. I do remember playing London's Dockland's Arena in 1991 when the venue was brand new and<