Erasure’s Andy Bell to celebrate Gaybor Days 2010 on July 4
Taking a hiatus from Erasure, front man Andy Bell has released his second solo album, aptly named Non-Stop. At 46 and with a 25-year career behind him, he’s shown no signs of slowing down.
Bell will promote his latest endeavor and make a few personal appearances, including a stop at The Honey Pot in Tampa on July 4 during the Third Annual GaYbor Days celebration.
Still very much a part of Erasure, Bell assures us there will be a new album, scheduled for November, and a tour to follow.
“I love being with Erasure,” Bell says. “But I felt I needed to shake the cobwebs off and spread my wings a bit.”
His solo album provided a liberating platform for his more clubby, nocturnal, disco-glam side. Co-produced by Goldfrapp’s Pascal Gabriel, Non-Stop is a lavish, glam-pop collection of exquisite dance floor confessionals from one of the most acclaimed and beloved singers in British pop. Bell also collaborated with Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction, whom he met during the True Colors Tour.
Despite his extensive and successful career, Bell has faced a bit of ageism in the UK. A couple of the songs on Non-Stop were released recently as singles under the name Mimó.
“That was the record company’s idea,” Bell says. “They wanted to see if we could catch radio play on its own merits, which did happen. But once they found out it was me, my age became an issue. For some reason, if you’re over 40, you’re not deemed in the demographic for Radio 1, which plays dance music and is a lot of young people.
“But the issue is that my music isn’t middle-of-the-road enough for Radio 2. Daniel Miller, the boss of Mute Records, says once you’re over 50, you’re fine. But right now I’m at that difficult age.”
Even though Andy Bell’s first solo album, 2005’s Electric Blue, was well-received, he wanted to release another album because he felt the first really didn’t send the message he tried to convey.
“It was a bit rushed. I didn’t know I was going to do it,” Bell explains. “What started out as just an EP ended up being a whole album.”
Non-Stop infuses facets from Bell’s life, experiences with the media and even his love of Debbie Harry. While writing the song “DHDQ” (Debbie Harry Drag Queen), he drew inspiration from “the Queen of the underground scene in New York,” as he refers to her.
“It wasn’t initially going to be about Debbie Harry,” Bell states. “I know she’s not a drag queen but the melody was just so Blondie-ish, that the first words that came to mind were, ‘I love the way that you do your hair, it’s so beautiful’ and then the rest just followed.”
Although excited and relieved about the completion of his second solo piece, Bell says it wasn’t easy. It took a few years and two sets of tracks. His first set of songs, co-written by Steven Hague, with whom he had worked on The Innocents, were seen by the executives of his record label as too similar to Erasure. Luckily, his long-time partner and collaborator, Vince Clark, supported and inspired him throughout his journey.
“He’s been so sweet. When I got down in the dumps, especially about the first set not working out with Steven, Vince would say, ‘Don’t worry, Andy. You’re a true artist. I believe in what you’re doing,’” Bell recalls.
Theirs is a partnership that has been going strong since 1985. Bell still gleams with pride when talking about Vince.
“I think it’s because Vince was my hero in the first place,” Bell says. “When I was a teenager, Yazoo was one of the coolest bands on the planet, really. Before I even met him, I’d thought of all the people doing pop music, he’d be the coolest one to work with. When I answered an ad for an audition, it happened to be for him! I never dreamed I’d be his song co-writing partner for 25 years.”
Bell doesn’t think of himself as an icon or influential and credits bands of the early 1980s as his influences. He says he was a fan of Human League, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode and Yaz long before becoming part of Erasure.
“It’s strange really,” Bell says. “I feel like I just came along. Vince already had a career and I kind of just tagged along. Erasure didn’t have a hit until 1986. We were at the tail end of the 80s but we are summed up with the 80s sound. While I’m grateful for it, I also feel caged.”
A modest icon
Despite his modesty, Bell has been an icon on many levels. Bell was one of the first pop stars to come out as gay and later one of the first pop stars to announce his HIV-positive status. In doing so, he said the disclosure was his first step in a larger plan of speaking out and educating young people about HIV and AIDS. He is especially concerned about the lack of sex education in the UK.
“The older generation seems to be more educated than the young guys,” Bell conveys. “I’m not an expert, but I see so many sex clubs. Yes, they promote safe sex, but I feel there’s a kind of Russian roulette type deal happening especially with the younger guys. It seems they feel that because those of us who have HIV are taking medicine [and living longer lives] that it’s ok to be reckless. I don’t think it’s drummed home enough that it’s not ok [to have unsafe sex.”]
Bell is involved with the National AIDS Trust in UK, the London Lighthouse Hospice. On Dec. 14, he will perform at a benefit in Cologne, Germany. He did a gig with Jimmy Sommerville a few years back for Food Chain, which delivers food to people with HIV.
Besides music, Bell has also explored his other talents. Most recently, he was the guest editor for Magnet Magazine. In 1991, he sang the role of Montresor in the opera The Fall of the House of Usher by Peter Hammill and Judge Smith.
Bell has a wish list of recording projects. One of them is to record a duets album with mainly female singers, like Barbara Streisand, Debbie Harry and Annie Lennox. He would also like to do an orchestral album.
Spending time in the theatre world is also not out of the question. Bell is intrigued by the thought of a stage production based on the Erasure songbook, a la Green Day’s American Idiot.
“I’ve got a list of some of my favorite songs from Erasure that I think are very theatrical and do tell a story,” he says. “It would be case of weaving a narrative through the lyrics, but I know that’s not just a walk in the park. It’s a monumental task.”
Originally published by Watermark Media, Inc.