Soft Cell happy to meet up and get back on the road
Tainted Love was number one while Torch, Say Hello Wave Goodbye, What and Bedsitter also became the top four records. The duo broke up in 1984, but reunited in 2001 to tour and release a new album before reuniting again in 2018. And now they’re back. Soft Cell will play a handful of dates in November, during which their classic album will be played in its entirety.
The closest performance to the West Midlands is at the O2 Apollo in Manchester on November 12, but Marc Almond says he hasn’t forgotten our region – he will be at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham for a solo date on the 7th April next year as part of his own European Tour postponed from last year. He also appeared at Shrewsbury’s Let’s Rock 80s festival at The Quarry in August, an event he described as a fantastic return to performing live in front of an audience.
Almond and Ball both look forward to the fall shows.
Almond says: “We plan to do two sets in the evening. The first set will feature the biggest hits, a few albums and fan favorites, as well as the preview of new songs live for the first time. The second set will be Non Stop Erotic Cabaret in its entirety and in track order with accompanying visuals and a few extras at the end. It will be a complete and exciting show.
There has been a quantum leap since their debut on the road in the 1980s. Entire generations have grown up fascinated by their music, which has inspired artists as diverse as David Gray and Nine Inch Nails. They recognize the differences in staging live shows now, over 40 years after previous concerts.
Almond says, “We now have better technology available and a richer catalog of songs that have a history and an audience that has grown with the catalog. We are able to explore the visual side a lot more and have more experience as musicians and performers.
Ball adds, “The main difference in the 21st century is technology. All of our visuals, lights and sequenced synths and drum machines are performed live from offstage computers, unlike the old Kodak projectors and Revox tape machines we used to use onstage.
“It makes it much easier to change set work orders and gives us a lot more control and clarity in the sound and visuals.
“I still play analog synths live on stage and we certainly don’t use the preset on Marc’s or backing vocals. One thing that hasn’t changed is that Gary Barnacle still plays a mean saxophone. . “
Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret caused a sensation. Released on November 27, 1981, it featured a cover of Gloria Jones’ song Tainted Love, which became the best-selling UK single of 1981. In the United States, the album received 200,000 pre-orders, due to the success of the single .
Almond is incredulous that so much time has passed. “If I sit down and think, it’s hard to believe that a small collection of songs has had such a long life, that people still listen to it and enjoy it. I’m amazed at how fresh and current it still sounds – and still lyrically relevant. I don’t feel like he’s 40 at all, but it scares me a little to think he is.
Ball feels the same: “What surprises me is how the non-stop erotic cabaret still rings today. I guess we were both 40 years younger, so Marc’s voice sounds younger and less polished than it does today and my synth playing and arrangements were more simplistic, although I’ve always tried to m ‘stick to my minimalist style.
Recording the album was a challenge. Ball says, “The funniest things that happened while recording the Non Stop Erotic Cabaret album probably didn’t happen in the studio, but generally when we were partying in New York City. We were generally very conscientious in the studio under the watchful eye of our producer, Mike Thorne, so we generally never had anything stronger than coffee when we were working – we saved it for the evenings when the chaos started. usually.
Soft Cell was a product of their time. The duo were originally from the North, around Leeds, and they first met at the city’s polytechnic in 1977. Their first recording efforts culminated in the EP, Mutant Moments.
Almond says: “I think being born in Lancashire in seaside towns gives you a Vaudevillian sensibility. It’s the home of cheap showbiz and die-hard performers, spooky cabarets, casinos, and pier shows. Seaside postcards, Coronation Street and The Beatles. Being born in the North gives you a tough survival instinct and the humor to deal with it. We really needed it with Soft Cell in the beginning because we were treated by some like the poor northerners of the cheap seaside.
Ball agrees: “We’re both from The North – Marc from Southport, me from Blackpool. I think our “crude from the north” was our sheer determination to succeed, against all odds. We probably wouldn’t have passed the Pop Idol or X Factor audition stages today – in our time that would have been Opportunity Knocks or New Faces. All the guitar bands in Leeds were laughing at us, it was the end of punk and the idea of a synth duo was unknown at the time, especially with a camp-like singer and a guy who looked like a bouncer on a funny electric organ. We remained convinced that we were on to something and luckily we were right; the British synth duo was born – Pet Shop Boys, Eurythmics, Yazoo, etc. quickly followed.
Staying relevant and moving forward is important to Soft Cell. A new album is expected to be released in the spring of 2022 – two years after the pandemic.
Almond says, “Covid really has nothing to do with it, other than maybe forcing my feelings about life. The world has been going to hell in a handcart for as long as I can remember – maybe every century feels the same and maybe happiness is nearly impossible to achieve. It does not come with the package. I have always known how to look at poverty with humor. Life is difficult, face it. And survive.
Ball agrees: “Happiness Not Included is very thoughtful and melancholy in part with some classic spiritual observations from Marc Almond on life. Most of the music was written before the lockdown, before Covid, so any reference to the pandemic would have been written later, after sending the audio files to the studio where Marc was working. “
Both men have enjoyed extensive, varied, and successful solo careers away from Soft Cell, but their new album is distinctly Soft Cell, rather than a solo release by Dave or Marc.
Almond says, “It’s just the recipe and the chemistry. Difficult to define really. I’ve sung on other electronic tracks, but Dave’s music has a great cinematic feel and a pop sensibility. It’s dark and menacing at times, but with suspicious villainy too.
“There’s nothing like it. There’s humor too. Dave and I are as different as chalk and cheese, but we share a dark, sardonic sense of humor and our musical tastes, well. that different, overlap in some ways.
“Ever since I heard Donna Summer sing on Giorgio Moroder’s cold and ethereal electronic backing track of ‘I Feel Love’, I realized there was a great recipe with an emotional singer mixed in with music. Cold electronics. Soft Cell tries to get a bit of that – electronic pop and soulful songs with happiness on the surface, but bitterness below. Like salted caramel. “
Ball adds, “We never worked together in the studio at all while recording. We wrote like that in the 80s – I would give Marc the tapes of my demos, he would go write the lyrics on his own and then we would get together and work together.
“Writing alone has always been quite normal for us. As for the subject of the lyrics, you will have to ask Marc how he wrote them all. I just provided the context.
“I always think of Soft Cell’s modus operandi in a cinematic way – I write the score and Marc writes the screenplay.
“Marc and I have worked on a lot of other projects outside of the Soft Cell Umbrella because I think we both enjoy collaborating with other artists. My other main band is The Grid, which is still an active unit – actually , there’s a remix of Grid from the next single from Soft Cell. Depending on who I work with, I’ll adjust my approach accordingly, so if I’m doing ambient solo stuff, I’ll work differently than working with The Grid. even if I’m working with Marc, I’ll put on my Soft Cell cap, which means I’ll have a set of parameters that are specific to us – certain sounds and chords that make up our sound. Like a signature I guess.