Out and HIV-positive pop star Andy Bell has logged more than a quarter of a century as the charismatic vocalist of Erasure, one of electronic music’s most enduring and groundbreaking duos. Notorious for his dance moves as well as his penchant for eye-catching costumes – ranging from elaborate to skimpy – Bell has recently released a couple of solo discs and made a name on the DJ circuit.
He is currently at work in a London recording studio making his 15th album with Vince Clarke, Erasure’s other half. I spoke with him in May.
Erasure marked its 25th anniversary a couple of years ago. Looking back at the early days, did you ever imagine that you and Vince would ever celebrate such a milestone?
I knew that I was a massive fan of Vince Clarke, and it is a massive pleasure to work with him. Every day that we are all here is a blessing! I never imagined we’d still be here 25 years later, because I tend to take each day as it comes.
Do you have favorite Erasure memories?
There are so many and too numerous to mention, but I loved the fact that we were part of the True Colors tour with the amazing Cyndi Lauper. Her voice and personality are phenomenal, and of course the ultra glamorous Miss (Debbie) Harry. Also being part of a South American Tour with David Bowie and No Doubt.
I’m so glad that you mentioned Cyndi, because I recently read her memoir and she mentions Erasure in writing about the True Colors tour. Do you have any interest in writing a memoir?
My only fear is that I’d have to be brutally honest, and I don’t think I’d like people to know about my warts and all (laughs). But who knows, perhaps it could be semi-autobiographical (laughs).
This is probably like asking a parent to pick a favorite child, but out of the more than a dozen Erasure recordings, is there one album that’s your favorite?
“Erasure,” the album, and “Chorus,” because they are sonically very beautiful.
You are currently in London recording the new Erasure disc. How is that process going?
It’s going amazingly. Vince and I are very inspired at the moment. My voice is stronger than ever. Also, it’s great to be working with Gareth Jones at the Strongroom, once again.
What will the title be and how many songs are on the disc?
Secret title (laughs). There’ll be, in all, about 16 tracks.
When will the disc be released?
The run-up to Christmas.
Erasure has a reputation for putting on great live shows. Is there a tour in the works for the new record?
Not as such, but I have my finger in a few pies, so we’ll be popping up here and there.
Amid all the Erasure activities, you found time to release a couple of solo albums. What did you like the best about that experience?
I think the difference is it’s nice sometimes just to work outside of the parameters of Erasure, because when we record an album there’s generally a tour and heaps of promotion. Your life is pretty much planned out at least for a couple of years.
You have also gained a reputation as a DJ. What do you like best about that?
I like the randomness of DJing. You never really know what it’s going to be like or the crowd. I love getting to play all of my favorite tracks from the ’80s up to the present day. Sometimes it goes horribly wrong (laughs) and other times it’s spot on.
You have a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter. How do you utilize social media?
To be honest, I just like the one-on-one interaction. In some ways I hope that it doesn’t get too big, because you kind of lose the personal touch.
I saw you in March at the South Florida AIDS Walk in Fort Lauderdale. How often do you take part in such events?
Every now and then it’s good to do a few Prides and HIV-related events. It’s good to have a general picture of what’s going on at a local level and how people are getting on!
The last time we spoke you were headlining Atlanta Pride. On June 7 you are headlining Pridefest Milwaukee. What do you like about playing Pride events?
I think it’s a bit of a tradition, to be honest, from London in the ’80s through to the present day. I love meeting people and I suppose it keeps me in with the kids. Most of the young ones won’t have a clue who I am (laughs)!
While you are in Milwaukee, will you have time to sample any of the city’s delicacies or take in any of the local sites?
I sure hope so. Cocktails at dusk (laughs)!
Andy Bell headlines Milwaukee PrideFest on June 7 at 11 p.m.