Andy Bell says he's been a bit preoccupied with Madonna lately, so much so, that he decided Non-Stop, his second solo album, would feature a more disco-glam, clubby vibe. "I feel like, if she can do it, why can't I?"
Non-Stop was co-produced and co-written with Pascal Gabriel ( Kylie Minogue, Little Boots, S'Express, Debbie Harry ) and features a duet with Perry Farrell ( Jane's Addiction ) , a self-proclaimed huge fan of Bell's voice. Bell had originally started the project with synthpop producer Stephen Hague, but he pushed aside those recordings after someone at his label said they sounded like Erasure. "It threw me off for awhile," admits the 46-year-old singer, "but I actually had kind of a feeling in my heart that it wasn't working out properly."
In fact, Andy Bell ( one half of Britpop's legendary duo, Erasure ) purposely altered his vocal register for much of the new album, effectively leaving behind his soulfully electronic solo voice and his gleaming, glitterball Erasure vocals. The result is a lavish 10-track collection of dance floor confessionals and gold-plated disco grooves.
Windy City Times: One of my favorite tracks on the album is DHDQ ( aka Debbie Harry Drag Queen ) . You performed with Debbie Harry during the True Colors touryou must have just fallen head over heels for her.
Andy Bell: She's so gorgeous! It's a complete homage to her. Debbie Harry isn't a drag queen, she is the best of the best of them! For me, nobody's every really copied her because it's impossible. She's the queen of them all. And after all, Bananarama did a send-up to Robert De Niro with their song "Robert De Niro's Waiting…" and I thought, you know, Debbie Harry deserves one too.
WCT: Pascal Gabriel has worked with some amazing artistswhat was it like collaborating with him, Andy? Were there any discernable similarities between working with Pascal and working with Vince Clarke?
AB: It was a really, really good experience working with Pascal. He is really enthusiastic, which I like. And he's Cancerian, same as Vince, and they are quite similar, personality-wise. Pascal is actually quite camp for a straight man! I was in France for several weeks recording with him and it was wonderful. His wife is a vegetarian, so we had good food, and of course, we were in wine country, which was quite nice.
WCT: What are some of your favorite tracks on the new album, Andy?
AB: I really like the uptempo TouchI think it is the most punky song I've ever done. It feels like they are always asking me to be on these reality shows, like Big Brother, and that is what the song is about. It's not something I really want to doI don't want to make a spectacle of myself on television. I also really like Say What you Want, I like the metering of the verse on that one. I also really like Non-Stop, it's very robotic and perfect for the dance floor! It's about being fucked up on the dance floor.
WCT: Many of the songs on Non-Stop are love songs. Were some of these tracks inspired by your relationship with your boyfriend?
AB: I can't help myselfI'm always writing about relationships. Actually, we're really a bit off again, but that's down to me. We were going out for four or five years, and I've never been single, so I thought I would try that out for awhile. I feel like I jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire! Those songs are always about the dilemmas of relationships, right? And they question whether you really know who you are, deep down.
WCT: Now that you're single, I bet the boys are crawling all over you. I remember seeing you at International Mr. Leather here in Chicago, I think you were DJ'ing one of the events, and there were guys orbiting all around you.
AB: So far, there really haven't been! I was doing a short set in France in March, for European Gay Ski Week, and I had my first taste of ageism. I saw this guy, turns out he was 24, and I went up to him and said 'you are stunningly good-looking.' And he says, 'I thought you used to be good-looking when you were in Erasure.' And I thought, I still AM in Erasure. Then he went on to say that he really only likes to have sex with people his own age. I have never been an ageist person. My tastes are open to all men, I like all ages, all races, all kinds. I remember thinking is it me, and the fact that I am 45, or is the issue with this kid?
WCT: Speaking of age, you just had a birthday, right? How did you celebrate?
AB: Yes! It was last Sunday [ April 25 ] . We actually made a video for Call On Me the night before, and we didn't finish until 6 o'clock the next morning, so I slept in for part of my actual birthday. But we did have a lovely chocolate mousse cake.
WCT: What is the concept of the video?
AB: The songwhich features a backing vocal riff inspired by Diana Ross in Ain't No Mountain High Enoughis really inspired by my friends in New York City, and hanging out in the bars in the East Village. I've been told the video looks a lot like the new Ricky Martin video, actually, but I haven't seen it yet. I have a glass wall in my house, and I danced in front of the wall, and we had all these colored lights going off behind the wall. I think I look quite alien-ish ( laughs ) . Oh, and there's also a shot of me coming out of the steamer with nothing on.
WCT: What's your birthday wish for the upcoming year, Andy?
AB: I did have a birthday wish, but it was a bit personal. [ Pauses ] I want to find someone really nice.
WCT: Well, you're not gonna find someone hanging out with all these straight guys, Andy. Speaking of which, what is Perry Farrell like? Did he have any words of advice while you were in the studio?
AB: I was really thrilled, actually, to meet him. We went to Santa Monica, to a studio he borrowed from a friend, and we were there for two days. I had never met him before, I had only seen him performing in videos. It's really wonderful when you find you have an affinity for an artist whose work you greatly respect. He must have learned so much from his life. He is such a wise man, you can tell just by looking into his eyes. He was so kind. He told me to sing each and every word like I really mean it. I enjoyed being in the studio with him. He's also very eccentricI can just imagine him as a kind of Fiddler on the Roof or something. And his wife [ Etty Lau Farrell ] is the most stunning woman I have ever met in my life. Stunning! [ Pauses ] Well, apart from Debbie Harry. [ Laughs ]
WCT: I read that, incredibly, you are already working on the next Erasure project, and that you and Vince has some two dozen tracks going on at the moment.
AB: We've been recording tin the Mute/EMI recording truck in the car-park, which is great because its' in the heart of London. All I can really say at this point, is that I am really loving some of the tunes. What I really need to do is clear my mind so I can some lyrics going. I'm going to see Vince in a couple of weeks, he lives in Maine, on the North Coast, in Ogunquit.
WCT: What inspires you to write, Andy?
AB: Really, honestly, just life. It's really about imagining things, and things that are going on, things that wire me up. It's a bit like storytelling, isn't it?
WCT: What's on current rotation on your iPod?
AB: Well, I did buy a Kano album, which came out, like, in 1985. It sounds kind quite current, actually, very disco-sounding. I also got an Amii Stewart LP, do you know Amii Stewart? She did a version of Knock, Knock on Wood? I'm listening to the album she did with Ennio Morricone, Love Song. It's so beautiful. I wonder what Amii is up to these days? She sounds like Barbra Streisand on this album.
WCT: How are you promoting the new album? Will you be touring, doing appearances, DJ'ing?
AB: Hopefully, I will be making some appearances in the U.S. to coincide with gay pride.
WCT: You sell out shows here in America, even though you don't often get played on the radio. What is the number-one question you get asked by your fans, here in the States, or anywhere?
AB: Hmm. The number-one question I get asked by fanswell, it's really weird, but I can't think of any at the moment. I will say, though, that it is unbelievable the amount of support we get from everyone and I can't thank them enough. The very fact that we don't get played on the radio in the U.S., and yet all these people come to see us because we have a reputation for putting on a good show, is incredible to me. It's quite a feat on the part of the fans and on our part, I think.
Non-Stop will be released June 8.