80s synth-pop star still enjoying sweet success
EIGHTIES synth-pop band Blancmange are celebrating the release of their new album by touring not once... but twice!
They are undertaking their own headline tour of the UK and then, straight after, they are touring England alongside Heaven 17 on The Tour Of Synthetic Delights 2.
Blancmange emerged in 1982 with their first hit God’s Kitchen / I’ve Seen The Word and over the following four years the band – Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe – had nine more hits, including Living On The Ceiling, Blind Vision and a unique take on Abba’s The Day Before You Came.
The band is still fronted by Neil Arthur, but Luscombe has had to leave because of health issues. Neil tells me how the band started.
“I was at art college in London and met Stephen there. We got together and did some pieces of experimental music. Stephen sang – if you can call it that – and I played guitar. We begged, stole and borrowed other stuff.
“It was all for fun and then we got an opportunity to record some of our stuff and it got into the hands of Stevo Pearce, who was setting up Some Bizarre Records and included one of our tracks on a sampler album which also had Depeche Mode on.
“This album was well-received and we ended up touring Japan with Depeche Mode.”
Neil tells me how they came to record the Abba song The Day Before You Came.
“Vince Clarke was in the process of leaving Depeche Mode and a few of us went on holiday to the Canary Islands. One of the tapes we took with us as Abba – The Singles and it was one of the tracks.
“Vince was wanting to record one of the songs and we said to him, ‘No, we’re doing that one.’ I was a big fan of Abba and we got a letter from them saying how much they liked it. They even let us use their videos with ours.”
Fast forward to 2017 and Neil has just released Unfurnished Rooms.
“It represents my thinking on music and observations of the things around me. I’m not writing pop songs, I’m expressing myself. I’m very pleased with the reviews and I’m looking forward to touring it.”
Alongside Neil on stage will be old friend David Rhodes.
“David has played on most of the things we’ve done and was in the band in Japan. There’s also Adam Fuest and Oogoo Maia who plays synths and vocoder.”
Neil says that he has worked with Heaven 17 before.
“We’ve done quite a number of shows with them and we go way back. When we were making our way we worked with Martyn Ware. In fact, he produced one of our demos and put us up in his house.”
As with many musicians, Neil is not a fan of the travelling these days.
“We always enjoy the gigs but not the travelling. The gigs themselves and then chatting with the fans – I always come out after the show for a chat – is rewarding.”