If you’ve visited a dance floor in the last three decades, odds are good that you’re familiar with Vince Clarke. Clarke is perhaps the most successful electropop artist of all time, having co-founded Depeche Mode with Martin Gore before moving on to create both Yaz(oo) and Erasure.
Electropop's Godfather Returns To Austin
The godfather of electropop returns to Austin: A talk with Erasure's Vince Clarke
The godfather of electropop, Vince Clarke, returns to Austin
While his time with Depeche Mode was limited, it produced three early hits — “New Life”, “Dreaming Of Me” and the show-stopping “Just Can’t Get Enough.” Clarke again struck creative gold with Alison Moyet in Yaz(oo), penning perennial favorites “Only You” and “Situation” during their brief but wildly successful creative partnership. He went on to place a classified ad that would find his lifelong foil in vocalist and songwriter Andy Bell. The two started Erasure in 1985, and went on to headline arenas, record No. 1 albums, and develop one of the most fervent fan bases in pop music. With 25 million albums sold and 40 (!) hit singles, the band could easily tour on the catalog, but instead continue to write and create at a rapid clip.
Erasure return to Austin for two shows at ACL Live this weekend in support of their just-released and critically lauded The Violet Flame. CultureMap talked with Clarke earlier this week to discuss the surge in electronic music’s popularity, his history with Texas audiences and how he keeps busy while on the road.
CultureMap: Since the two of you live in different cities, how do Erasure write songs in 2014?
Vince Clarke: This time around, I had some material and ideas prepared already. Andy was keen to do a more dance-oriented record, so I had a number of things ready. I actually flew to Florida and then we spent three weeks there writing the record.
CM: What inspires your writing now? Does the process get easier or tougher with time?
VC: I like to think that every time we make a record, we try different things. There was nothing thematically we were trying to do this time. Andy and I often go into new albums with a blank sheet of paper — we don’t have a lot of preconceived notions. It’s really just Andy and I sitting down in a room and seeing what happens.
CM: You’ve done three albums in three years and toured extensively. How did Erasure become so active of late?
VC: I think it’s just circumstance. A lot of it depends on what Andy and I have planned both outside of Erasure and in our personal lives. The Christmas record was quite easy to do, in that we didn’t have to write all the songs. That record came to us so easily that it was the encouragement we needed to go on and make this newest record. I’d say we’re consistent, really — if you look at it, we tend to do a record every two years — it feels like the right thing to do.
CM: You're on a lengthy fall tour. How do you fill the hours and stay sane between shows during this travel?
VC: It changes a lot from tour to tour. For this tour, I’ve got a small recording studio set up so I can work and be creative during my free time.
CM: Just since your last tour, Spotify has become very popular. Does this translate to more of your concert audience being familiar with your newest material?
VC: I don’t think so. I think people look up songs after they’ve seen the concert. We have a strong live following, and quite a good reputation for putting on a good live show, so I think people that come are mostly interested in that live experience — not necessarily in checking out the setlist on Spotify.
CM: Electronic music in the U.S. is as popular as it’s ever been. Do you find that to be a good thing?
VC: I think the whole electronic scene in America is incredibly exciting right now. There are really innovative bands out there doing interesting things. It’s much healthier than it was, say, 10 or 15 years ago. There are also simply more people pushing boundaries in electronic music right now. So I think it’s all good. It’s shocking, really. It’s a real turnaround.
CM: Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode and Erasure have all played to big and sold-out audiences here recently. What is it about '80s electronic artists that has made their fan base so loyal for 30 years?
VC: For us especially, we’ve just been touring here for so long — that’s a big part of it. When we first came, we played very small clubs and it just kept getting bigger. There’s been good word of mouth. I can say our Texas fans have been very loyal. I still see faces I saw 20 years ago. That’s very inspiring.
Erasure play ACL Live at The Moody on Saturday, October 18 and Sunday, October 19 with support from Superhumanoids. Tickets ($39 plus fees) are still available for Sunday’s show at acl-live.com.