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Can't Erasure the Past

Eight24.com's Scott McDonald celebrates Erasure's near 30 years of music making ahead of their Wednesday show at Humphrey's Concerts By the Bay

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    Erasure frontman, Andy Bell, seen here playing with LCD Soundsystem, comes to Humphrey's Concerts By the Bay on Wednesday. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)

    I feel strange even typing the words: Erasure is almost 30. It's hard for me to believe that Depeche Mode/Yaz keyboardist Vince Clarke and singer Andy Bell debuted their first synthpop single in 1985, but it's true. Perhaps that's because the London-based duo has never really taken an extended break in their nearly three decades together.

    Their sixteenth studio album, "The Violet Flame," was released last month. It cracked the UK Albums Chart Top 20 for the band's first time in 11 years, and it also made its way onto the Billboard Top 50 for their first time since 1997.

    While the seemingly tireless pair didn't expect the overwhelming response they're getting, it's been a welcome surprise and has infused their current tour -- which makes a stop at Humphrey's Concerts By the Bay on Wednesday, Oct. 22 -- with newfound energy. SoundDiego recently spoke with Bell about it all.

    Scott McDonald: How are you?
    Andy Bell: Very good.

    SM: You're in the midst of the U.S. tour. Then it's the UK, Germany, Denmark and then back to the U.S. for New Year's Eve. Seems like you're working more than ever.
    AB: At the beginning of the year, I read that 2014 was the Year of the Horse. And one of the things it says is that you have to work. So I said, "OK." But we love being on tour. We're really enjoying ourselves. There's a great vibe every night, and we've got a great team of people. It's such a great job.

    SM: You just released "The Violet Flame," and the response has been pretty amazing. It's always great to release new music, but is it extra special when it does this well?
    AB: It's fabulous. It's been over 10 years since we've had this much excitement surrounding a record. It's nice to know that you can still cause a stir, you know?

    SM: And you worked with [producer] Richard X again on this one.
    AB: "Snow Globe" [Erasure's 2013 holiday album] went really well. So it was easy to want to work with him again. He's just so easygoing and enthusiastic. He's also 10 or 15 years younger than we are, so he has a great ear for modern sound but is still able to keep the character and integrity of the band. And I think it was important to follow up "Snow Globe" somewhat quickly. Otherwise, I think people may have thought that we were resting on our laurels or something. I was relieved that we were able to get back writing that fast and produce an album like "The Violet Flame." We've been lucky.

    SM: You recently did theater when you starred in and did the soundtrack for "Torsten the Bareback Saint." Did you enjoy being a part of that world?
    AB: It's great nourishment. And it's very good discipline. Really, I just love being in the theater. Well, I guess you'd call that experimental theater. Because that's what it is, really. A lot of the songs are gut-wrenching and bitter, but they tell it like it is. And I love singing those songs because they tell it like it is. There are no apologies, and I love that.

    SM: And you've got the solo thing going on as well, right?
    AB: The track I did with Dave Aude last year [“Aftermath (Here We Go),” which hit No. 1 on the dance charts] has turned into an album's worth of material now. So we're going to get that done very soon. And I'll be doing some new Torsten shows and hopefully bring it to the U.S. as well. It's just one of those things where when the work's there, you just have to grab it. You never know what it's going to be like the next day.

    SM: Wow. And I'm still having a hard time believing that Erasure has 16 albums now.
    AB: I know. And that's not even including the solo ones. I think it's 21 in 29 years. That's pretty good going. But then, when you look at the back catalog of other artists, especially country artists like Johnny Cash or something, they go into the hundreds.

    SM: Is it too early to talk about the future? Have you and Vince spoken about what's next for Erasure?
    AB: We haven't. Not yet. I mean, we've had conversations about what we'd like to do. And I think we'd quite like to do a deep house record.

    SM: Wow. But that's just in conversation, right?
    AB: Right. It's hearsay at that this point.

    SM: Well, congratulations on a great run, nevertheless. It just doesn't feel like it's been 30 years to me.
    AB: I know! Not at all! It goes by so fast. And that's why we live in the moment and for the next thing that's coming up. We're not a nostalgic band, really. But I love being in Erasure, and Vince is a great guy. Long may it continue.

    Blogger Scott McDonald covers music in San Diego for a few different publications and is the editor of Eight24.com.