John Marshall from the UK local radio station Lincs FM recently interviewed Vince Clarke who is currently touring with Alison Moyet on the Yazoo Reconnected tour. Available below is a transcript of the full interview, plus audio streams.
John Marshall: Back together again after all these years, how's it all going for you?
Vince Clarke: It's going fine. It's early days and there are a few parts of the set that need to be tightened up, but it's kinda getting better.
JM: Well getting back together again after all that time I suppose that's going to happen. It's a pretty long tour, was that always the plan?
VC: No. The intention in the beginning was to just try out a few dates and to see how the ticket sales went. The response has been pretty good, so they just extended it.
JM: It's gone very well, did that surprise you? Where you optimistic?
VC: I wasn't optimistic, no, I was very surprised, especially for the dates in America. We have toured before in America, I think we played two dates in our careers, and to be selling tickets in places like LA and San Francisco that was quite a surprise.
JM: Fantastic. When you compare the Yazoo material to the most recent stuff that you have done with Erasure, do you see a big difference in your personal skills?
VC: Yeah.. I mean, it's my skills [laughs]. There's a huge difference, I haven't actually listened to the Yazoo tracks for 25 years. I never listened to the albums or anything. When I was listening to the multi tracks and preparing for the tour it was quite shocking how simple they were...
VC: ...and how straightforward the tracks were. I think with Yazoo there was a lot of experimentation that we did in the studios, whereas I think with Erasure it's been more of a song writing collaboration and us thinking about pop music, whereas in Yazoo it was just kinda throw everything in the pot and see what comes out.
JM: How about the technology? I was watching a YouTube clip of you the other day which you may have seen, well you were there at the time(!) which was explaining how the BBC micro and explaining how you would put a track together on their, technology has moved on an awful lot since then.
VC: It's amazing. Especially for live. When we did the Yazoo tour we were using machines called 'Fair Lights', which are basically huge, huge computers and each song was held on one 12" floppy disc, and the reason why we had two machines was that whilst one song was playing, it would take that amount of time to load up the second song. And now of course everything is on the laptop, it's moved on thousands of miles.
JM: How about twenty five odd years on and you come to prepare these tracks ready for live, tell us a bit about the technique involved in that? How would you do it? Do you have to recreate everything from scratch, or take from the masters? What do you do?
VC: Well it's a bit of both, I couldn't use all of the masters, I wanted to because I wanted to make the sound, sound as near / true to the album tracks as possible. Just because it's not as if we've been performing the songs for 25 years and I think the people would possibly be a bit disappointed if we suddenly did remix versions of these songs.
So I used a lot of the original material but what it entailed was really just tightening everything up. The original records were recorded on tape obviously, and there is such a thing as tape stretch, so everything kinda through time threw those out of time, so they had to be tightened up.
Lot of donkey work actually.
JM: Right. And if you and Alison get round to possibly, there has been talk of doing some new stuff, would you get out the old 80's drum sounds again or would you be tempted to modernise the sound of Yazoo?
VC: Well I don't know. At the moment I'm still in the process of building a new studio in the states, and that will incorporate all of my old gear that I used to use back then and have used since. So it's not like I'm suddenly completely converted over to the digital domain.
So for future recordings, whatever I'm involved in it will be an amalgamation of both technologies.
JM: That sounds like an awful lot of equipment, I've seen the current studio, that's an awful lot of equipment to get over there. At are you transporting it or buying it again?
VC: It's actually all in storage in New York, so it was shipped over in an container, and I should hopefully have the studio finished by the end of this tour actually.
JM: I was wondering if you perform 'Happy People' on this tour, because that's you on the vocals, that's a rare thing Vince!
VC: And for that reason no!
JM: [laughs] Oh right, ok! It's a pretty good vocal actually. Now officially Erasure are on a break, Andy is doing a solo album we hear. Does he like to run his stuff past you as he working on that?
VC: Well he does. Actually I emailed him today as I haven't heard the new stuff that he has been writing, I think he has been writing with a guy called Stephen Hague in Hastings, who produced one of our records many years ago.
And I'm really eager to hear what he has been up to. We write in a very specific way and we have done all our careers. For him it's an opportunity for him to work in a different way in such that someone will produce a backing track and he'll try and work out a top melody, so it's a completely different style. And it's always interesting to see what he's going to come up with.
JM: How about with his previous solo album, would he run it by you and say is this ok Vince?
VC: He doesn't run it by me no, as he's not that lacking in confidence! [laughs] He knows it good. But he does send the stuff to me to listen to.
JM: Right. Has he been to any Yazoo dates yet?
VC: No, I'm hoping he's going to come to Brighton, as he's actually living in Hastings now, so Brighton would be a good gig for him to come to.
JM: Ideal yeah! And how about Erasure, change the topic from Yazoo for a little bit. When you do get round to a new record, have you got any plans for what you would like that to be?
VC: Well I don't know. I think that working on this stuff, this old Yazoo stuff I think it will inform our next record.
It's very intriguing the way that everything was so stripped back then and still sounds quite strong and powerful I think, so we may well adopt that approach for our next recording with Erasure. Stripped back and something a little harder.
JM: Interesting. And when Vince?
VC: We'll probably start writing again in the middle of next year.
JM: Right. I'm a big Sparks fan as well, you probably know they are doing there 21 albums in 21 nights. Did you know about this?
VC: No, tell me?!
JM: Well you've answered by next question. Well they are doing all of their 21 albums from their career in 21 nights so that they're performing the whole album all the way through, and then the next day it's the next album and so on. Does that idea appeal to you?
JM: Too much work! They've had to learn 256 songs I believe for the tour
VC: I still look at chord sheets now, so I don't suppose that's going to happen with us.
JM: The reason why I was going to ask you that they did do the Plagiarism album which you did the 'Amateur Hour' remix for, and they kind of pulled a few musicians together, I thought you might have had a call to see if you would turn out for that!
JM: You were in Manchester for Yazoo though
VC: No, I didn't have the call - but who knows!
JM: Interesting! Well good luck for the future and enjoy tonight! Thanks Vince.
VC: Enjoy it yourself and thank you very much!