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Andy Bell is famous for being the frontman of iconic 80’s band Erasure and now for his critically acclaimed solo material. He’s always been a music pioneer, pushing the boundaries of anything from genres to social norms.

He chatted to Dylan Jones about his new album, his musical theatre project and more.  

 


Hello Andy! So first I’d like you to tell me about your new album, “ Torsten, The Beautiful Libertine.” Who’s Torsten? Is it an alter-ego?
I wouldn’t say it’s really an altar-ego. He’s a character created by Barney Ashton, the writer. Barney used to live in Norway a long time ago, and speaks Norwegian. So he had this idea for this Scandinavian-type figure. Barney’s about eight years younger than me, but our experiences on the gay scene seem to resonate with each other. We’re both quite shy and stuff. So a lot of the character is based on that angst of living on the gay scene and stuff. Torsten is polysexual anyway so he’s not necessarily gay. He’s all kinds of people.

I just watched the video for your new single My Precious One. I love it, where did you film it?!
Oh that’s out towards Stoneley. A little way out of London. They restore old phoneboxes for people in LA. They collect them and sell them off, and just keep them there! So we thought it’d be a great place to shoot a video.

What modern artists do you respect at the moment? If any.
I don’t know really! I haven’t heard a lot of modern stuff to be honest. I’m sort of stuck in the retro groove. I really like Hercules & Love Affair. I love Andy Butler’s voice. And Anthony Hegarty, he’s amazing. And I love that he’s like an anti-star. I like the less commercialised, in your face, all singing all dancing. I like the more subdued ones really.

Tell me about your musical at Above The Stag
It’s a dark comedy musical! It’s really good and it’s been really fun preparing for it. It’s so complicated though, I didn’t realise how much work it was gonna be! It’s a bit of a mindfuck, because I knew the songs already. So you have to kind of unlearn the songs, then sing them in a different way. Sort of drop out verses and rearrange the songs. Sometimes there’s prose in the middle of the songs too. And then you have to move around and remember where to walk on top of that. I don’t think both sides of my brain necessarily work that well at the same time! It’s written by Barney Ashton. It’s part two of a trilogy, so there’s a third one to come. For him it’s kind of a living soap opera. He’s very experimental, so it’s quite surreal. There’s not really a storyline. It’s just about how three people met.

Talking of Above The Stag, what do you think of the London gay scene?
I don’t really know it to be honest! I suppose I dropped out about ten years ago. But I still go to the odd place every now and then. I’ll go to the Vauxhall Tavern. I used to go to the Black Cap when I lived in Highgate. Now I’ve moved to Limehouse, so my local is The Old Ship and The Grapes. If I’m in Soho I’ll go to Friendly Society, maybe go for a drink at the King’s Head. Just little places that I know.

“Torsten is polysexual anyway so he’s not necessarily gay. He’s all kinds of people.” 

You’ve previously opened up about being HIV positive; what’s the reception been like from the public?
It’s been pretty good! To be honest, I’m glad we [Erasure] had quite a low profile when I started telling people. I wouldn’t want to be all blazing, going down the street and everybody knowing who I was and stuff. I really like the pace that it is at the moment actually. I just do talks every now and then, or songs for charities like the Terrence Higgins Trust and the National AIDs Trust. I’m also an ambassador for the Harvey Milk School in New York. So I go and talk to the students there. We talk about all kinds of things. It’s not necessarily just about HIV. It’s the same thing as being gay though, you don’t want that to be all you’re known for. It’s just part of who you are. All you can say at the end of the day really is which pills you take and how long you’ve been taking them, and that’s that.

What do you make of the role of gay men in society at the moment? Do you have any thoughts on chemsex and Grindr and stuff?
Not really, no. We were born in a different time. Part of our education was fighting for our rights, knowing the history of Stonewall and everything. And there were always the clichéd female singers that gay men like. Liza Minelli, Judy Garland, all that stuff. Now younger people have their own heroines. Beyonce, Rihanna, Miley. You can’t really expect people to act differently. For them, their rights have already been won.

Yes! Which is nice.
It is! I love it. I love going out now. The other night I went out to a fashion show. All the young people were hanging out afterwards, and it was just so refreshing speaking to them. Because it’s not even an issue, mostly.

Some people feel today’s young gay generation take it all for granted a bit…
No. That’s like your parents saying “oh you don’t know how hard it was when we were young” and all that stuff. People should be allowed to enjoy their lives!

 

• Andy Bell’s new album “Torsten, The Beautiful Libertine” is out on 4th March. His musical of the same name is at Above The Stag until 27th March.

www.abovethestag.com

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