Godfathers of Pop – Blancmange
Here is our exclusive Godfathers of Pop interview with Blancmange, taken from Issue 1 of Classic Pop Magazine…
Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe met in 1978 and a year later, Blancmange were born. The duo recently reunited for a series of live dates, augmenting classics like Don’t Tell Me and Living On The Ceiling with some critically acclaimed new tracks. In July, they released a new compilation, The Very Best Of Blancmange – the first time the band, rather than their record company, have done so.
Hi guys! Blancmange have had greatest-hits collections out before, so what’s different about this one?
Neil The difference is that we’re involved with this one. We were asked by the record company if we wanted to contribute, so, for starters, we got involved with the artwork. The front-cover art is from the very first photo session we did, with the picture taken by David Corio, and the back cover is from the second photo session. Once that was sorted out, I decided to make use of modern technology – I went on Facebook and asked the fans what tracks they’d want to see on a compilation. And that’s basically what we’ve given them, plus a brand-new song called Making Aeroplanes (Without Victoria). Stephen It was nice to be involved because we normally just get them [“Best of…” CDs] in the post with a note saying “Thanks very much, lads.” We were very grateful to be involved, and it’s almost an anthology. It’s the end of an historical loop in the life of Blancmange.
Was it easy to get the old tracks from the record label?
There were several songs that proved elusive but, surprisingly, they eventually surfaces. The version of Waves is the original, prior to the strings being put on, and there are also a couple of tracks from John Peel sessions that we did.
When you look at those two fresh-faced individuals staring at you from the back cover, do you wonder where all the time has gone?
Stephen No, we can’t think like that – it’s silly. We’ve recently been watching the [Rolling] Stones on telly, and it’s been 50 years for them. So that makes us feel young! Mick [Jagger] was saying it’s still fun and, even though he’s older and more crinkly, he wants to carry on. And it’s the same for us – we still enjoy it.
Blancmange were experimental back in the Eighties, and we understand you still are…
Stephen We were part of an era where, suddenly, we had access to new technology, added to the influence of art-school people such as [Brian] Eno, [John] Lennon and [David] Bowie – the experimentalists. They brought rock ‘n’ roll into a new, experimental dimension, with a smile on its face. It wasn’t just She Loves You and stuff like that. You had punk as well – that was a real DIY job and that spurred us on, too.
Who were your contemporaries? Did you feel similar to them?
Neil We were all using synthesisers but we were like the maiden aunts of electro music, slightly off to one side. Stephen We had the useful conduit of John Peel. We’d listen to his show and pick up sounds or inspirations from the likes of Gang of Four, The Human League, Throbbing Castle and Cabaret Voltaire. Then They were thrown into the mix and we’d see what happened. Our American contemporaries didn’t really do that. It was the experimental edge that gave the British the advantage, really.
To what extent are Blancmange an ongoing entity?
Neil Somebody said to me, “You have to remember, you’ve got a legacy,” and some of the songs are 34 years old. Sad Day was written in 1978 and recorded in 1980. I got [the version for the compilation] off a tape I had at home! Stephen The idea of having a future intrigues me more than dwelling on the past. At one of our recent gigs in London, I was struck by the mixture of generations in the audience. And they all knew the words to our songs! Neil That encourages me because there’s a lot of electronic music available.
Finally, what does the future hold?
Neil There are new songs being written, which we hope will form a new album in 2013. Stephen and I are creative minds, so, hopefully, with the new technology we’ll come up with some exciting music. Stephen We’ve done lots of things over the years involving different media, such as film, theatre and televsion, and it all informs what we do now. Even when it came to the last album, it felt like we’d never been away. It was the same dynamic but with new experiences added on, so we felt confident that we could bring out something unique. That’s what we’ll do for the next album, too.