EIGHTIES’ synth-pop band Blancmange have decided to celebrate the release of their brand new album by touring not once…. but twice!
During October and into early November, they are undertaking their own headline tour of the UK, and then, just a week later, they will be 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 next four years the band — Neil Arthur and Stephen 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 the band due to health issues.
Neil tells me how the band started.
“I was at Art College in London and met Stephen there. He had a mate on the Graphics course who had a band who played at the college bar, the band was called Miru.
“As well as guitar I played a Hoover — reversed — which was attached to a sax. It was all very experimental.
“Stephen and I 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.”
Much of the music was influenced by the main exponents of experimental electronic music.
“That’s right. We were influenced by the likes of Eno, Roxy Music and Kraftwerk.
“It was all for fun and we continued with our studies, 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.”
The band was signed by London Records.
“Yes, we got a deal with them and had those hits. Our third record, Living On The Ceiling was our biggest hit.”
Then Blancmange recorded the Abba song The Day Before You Came.
“Yeah. How that happened was that 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 have to say that 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, a brand new album.
“It represents my thinking on music and observations of the things around me. I’m hoping that people will enjoy listening to it. 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.”
And the album will feature in Blancmange’s setlist for the tour.
“Yes, I think we'll be playing about six songs from the album, the hits and a few surprises.”
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 Japan. There's also Adam Fuest and Oogoo Maia who plays synths and vocoder.”
Neil says that he has worked with Heaven 17 before.
“Flippin'’ ‘Eck, yeah. 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 he put us up in his house.”
As with many musicians, Neil is not a fan of the travelling these days.
“It’s all about the gigs. We always enjoy the gigs but don’t like the travelling. But the gig itself and then chatting with the fans — I always come out after the show for a chat — is rewarding.”
Not content with that, Neil has many projects lined up.
“There’s plenty going on. Some festivals before Christmas then next year we’re off to Scandinavia and mainland Europe then hopefully some more UK dates in the spring.”
Blancmange will be with Heaven 17 at The Foundry, Sheffield on Friday November 10.
Tickets are available from the box office and all the usual agencies.