Tag Archives: erasure

Andy Bell shares his Pride with Milwaukee

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)!

On stage

Andy Bell headlines Milwaukee PrideFest on June 7 at 11 p.m.

PrideFest expands stages and programming

The organizers of PrideFest Milwaukee say they’ve expanded this year’s event to include a new stage along with a broader array of activities and performances than ever before. 

Last year PrideFest – North America’s largest LGBT music festival – broke 25 years of attendance records, drawing 28,137 people to the Summerfest grounds. Near-perfect weather and a strong lineup of headliners brought the event’s books back into the black after a disappointing turnout in 2011 left PrideFest’s future imperilled, said PrideFest president Scott Gunkel.

This year’s star-studded event promises to be another great success, if Mother Nature cooperates.

Out pop icon Andy Bell of Erasure is the Miller Lite Mainstage headliner on opening night, June 7. He’s the first male, opening-night headliner in the event’s history, according to Gunkel. Other first night performers include Sophie B. Hawkins and ABBA Salute.

On June 8, the legendary duo Indigo Girls hits the mainstage, and on June 9, outspoken LGBT and women’s rights supporter Amanda Palmer closes out the festival. She’ll follow a performance by Dangerous Muse, featuring electro-pop dance sounds and sexy stage theatrics never before seen on the Miller Lite Mainstage, according to a PrideFest press release.

Other artists performing over the weekend include God-Des & She, Beverly McClellan, Big Bad Gina, DJ Grind, Bad Romance, Something to Do, and Wisconsin’s own first lady of rock, Ronnie Nyles. 

The festival’s popular dance pavilion will be enhanced this year with more sophisticated sound and lighting equipment. Gunkel said an additional $60,000 worth of lighting effects will raise the dance experience to a new level of razzle-dazzle.

Numerous events are scheduled throughout the weekend, ranging from fireworks to drag shows to a leather/fetish show.

Last year, PrideFest launched Wom!nz Spot Lounge and Café, a successful new stage area toward the south end of the festival grounds. The venue, which offered poetry readings, acoustic performers, women artists and dancers in a laid-back atmosphere, “was packed all day long,” Gunkel said.

“We trademarked it and we’re bringing it back,” he said, adding that men are welcome to join the wom!n.

It’s another year, and there will be yet another new stage – The Riviera Maya Stage. Sponsored by La Nueva Ritmo, the stage will highlight the multicultural dimension of the LGBT and allied community.

“This multicultural stage is dedicated to presenting musical groups from diverse backgrounds,” board member Francisco Araiza said in a statement. “We wanted a place to showcase different nationalities, ethnicities, languages and religions, and by showcasing our diversity, we hope to find the commonalities that make the fabric that forms one worldwide LGBT and straight community.”

The stage will open on Friday night with oldies from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s spun by Kim from Club 219 and BJ Daniels from The Factory – both iconic DJs from Milwaukee’s disco era. “It’s kind of a reunion thing,” Gunkel said.

Saturday night will feature Latin music acts and DJs, and Sunday the new stage will put hip-hop under the spotlight.

The revitalized Milwaukee LGBT Community Center plans to have a high profile at PrideFest 2013. The group is taking over a two-story structure on the south end of the festival grounds near the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse Stage and the Wom!nz Spot.

“We’re sort of taking the community center on the road,” said board secretary Martin Palicki. “Everything you’d find at the center, we’re taking to the grounds.”

Palicki said the center will offer an alternative for attendees who want to spend some time at “a quieter place, where you can talk to people.”

The center will host seminars on such diverse topics as housing, retirement and gardening. There will also be a virtual gallery featuring artwork the center has exhibited and a videographer on site to record visitors’ coming-out stories. 

The center also will host family-friendly activities, including an inflatable slide for kids of all ages. An alcohol-free area for young people ages 13-24 will have a DJ and dancing. 

“There’s been a family explosion at PrideFest,” said board member Denise Cawley. “When we (she and her partner Anne) first had our son, we counted like two babies at PrideFest. Now he’s 6 and there’s been a baby explosion.” 

Cawley’s son Aidan looks forward to PrideFest, where he particularly enjoys the roasted corn, the hot dogs – and having his picture taken with drag queens, he said. 

When purchasing tickets at the gate, PrideFest visitors will be offered the opportunity to add $1 to be donated to the center.

One of the most novel features about PrideFest is that a volunteer, unpaid staff runs the elaborate event, which is the first major festival of the season.

“Every year, these folks come back and dedicate hours and hours of volunteer time to organize, and run this three-day festival,” said festival director Pete Minns. “And every year, it’s a great time.” For more information, go to pridefest.com.

Indigo Girls to headline at PrideFest Milwaukee

PrideFest Milwaukee announced the Indigo Girls will headline at the three-day LGBT celebration, performing on the Miller Lite Mainstage at 10:30 p.m. on June 8 – the second night of Pride at the Summerfest grounds on the lakefront.

A news release said, “With a recording career spanning 25 years, the Indigo Girls stand tall as one of the longest-running female folk-rock acts in the country. A long-time community favorite, the Girls last visited PrideFest Milwaukee in 2008, where they played to sold-out reserved seating crowds.”

PrideFest Milwaukee president Scott Gunkel stated, “We are excited to have the Indigo Girls at PrideFest Milwaukee. Their outspoken devotion to social issues, including marriage equality, anti-discrimination laws, and legal protections for LGBT families, is as commendable as their musical talent.”

He continued, “PrideFest Milwaukee is proud to host and showcase these icons of our community.”

PrideFest previously announced the performers for the first night of Pride on June 7. They include: Andy Bell of Erasure, God-Des & She, Sophie B. Hawkins, ABBA Salute, Big Bad Gina, Bad Romance, the Wisconsin Royalty Drag Show, the Windy City Beauties, Furrlesque, Chicago legends DJ Teri Bristol and Psycho Bitch and more.

For details on tickets, which go on sale April 15, go to www.pridefest.com.

The organizers plan on offering festival-goers an opportunity to add $1 to the ticket price to support the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center’s greatest needs fund.

For more information about volunteering, sponsoring or serving as a vendor, email  or call 1-414-272-3378.

Andy Bell’s world rocks with a new release – and a new love

Andy Bell of the duo Erasure was one of the first pop stars to come out – first as gay and later as HIV-positive. I spoke with Bell in late August, shortly after the release of “Tomorrow’s World,” Erasure’s latest disc.

Gregg Shapiro: The “world” figures in the titles of 2007’s “Light at the End of the World” and now “Tomorrow’s World.” Does that have particular meaning to you?

Andy Bell: We (he and Vince Clark, the other half of the Erasure duo) were trying to think of a title for the record and then Vince came up with “Tomorrow’s World,” without really thinking that the last one had the word “world” in the title as well. It sort of ties them both in really. I think that this one is much more optimistic and real-sounding than “Light at the End of the World.” That album was more throwaway, old-style Erasure. It seems that the world is getting smaller and smaller, and we’re having these huge weather patterns going around all over the place. We’re all becoming one community. We’re learning how to care about each other by our own suffering. We’re all morphing into these lab-created people with fake hearts and skin and eyes. We’re creating our own versions of ourselves.

The phrase “be with you” appears in both the song of the same name as well as in “What Will I Say When You’re Gone?” Is there significance in that?

I think it’s probably because I’ve been working so much, and I’m on the cusp of a burgeoning new relationship. “Be with you” is the essence of wanting to be all the time with the person (laughs).

How long have you been together?

One year.

There’s still that fresh bloom on the relationship.

Oh, it’s lovely.

You and Vince co-produced preceding Erasure discs, but on “Tomorrow’s World,” you worked with producer Frankmusik. Why?

I think it was about time. I think it was good for us to hand over, to relinquish our control, in order to see what can happen. I think it’s been very healthy, and Frank has done an amazing job. His musicality in the studio was really inspiring for me. I think it works out in the best possible way.

Where is Frankmusik’s handiwork most evident on the album?

I would say on the single “When I Start To (Break It All Down),” which was originally a beautiful ballad, but he made it into much more of an ELO (electric light orchestra) type of song.  And “A Whole Lot of Love Run Riot,” which is one of my favorites, because it’s so clubby and disco and kind of Euro. Frank made it that way.

In “I Lose Myself,” you sing, “I’m not concerned about the bitch I’ve been.” It’s hard to imagine that’s the case, being the nice fellow that you are. But have you been a bitch to some people?

I think what I mean is feeling the bitch inside and suppressing the bitch and not letting the bitch out, which isn’t very healthy (laughs).

“Wonderland” and “The Circus” have been reissued. Can you believe it’s been 25 years?

No, I can’t! It’s funny, when you see young fans who weren’t even born when they came out hardly, and they’re holding the collection like it’s their first record or something. It’s so weird. It’s nice to have the reissues, it’s really amazing.

As one of the most influential artists in the electronic music realm, what do you think of the current crop of practitioners?

There’s lots of people that I like. I hear snippets of things. I love Royksopp. I love Robyn and MGMT. I was doing an interview and somebody asked me if I’d heard the band Hurts, because they sound like Erasure. I said they look kind of pretty – the boys (band-members) do. People always say things sound like us, but I think it has more to do with the music than the singing.

Well, there’s only one Andy Bell.

Yeah, there’s only one me! That’s it! And there’s only one Vince, as well. It’s very hard to have that combination, that rare combination.