Erasure’s Vince Clarke Speaks About His New VCMG Collaboration With Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore
That Vince Clarke left Depeche Mode before they achieved massive international superstardom has hardly left him with a scarred psyche. He went on to immediate and not inconsiderable success with Yazoo (called Yaz in the U.S.), and then hooked up with Andy Bell to form one of the most massive dance pop acts in history; indeed, Erasure has sold more than 25 million records. (Depeche have sold more than 100 million, but who’s counting?)
Clarke reformed Yazoo for a feverishly lauded reunion tour in 2008, clearly a nostalgic journey. But his recent reconnection with old Depeche Mode chum Martin Gore now sees them revisiting the futurist impulses of their youth. To wit, their austere, groovalicious new techno album Ssss, under the acronym VCMG (get it?), manages to strike a perfect pose between icy, laboratory precision, and smoldering sexuality.
Clarke explains, “I had not much knowledge of minimal techno music; but I was asked to do a remix for Plastikman. Then someone introduced me to the website Beatport, and I was completely amazed at the sounds people were using. I thought it was really exciting, and that’s what kind of ignited it.”
He points out that he and his former band mate had remained on affable terms since the split from Depeche all those years ago. And Gore, who was legendary in his appetite for all night dance clubbing, had trawled the best techno dens from New York to Berlin — so needed little convincing to agree to the immediately-headline-grabbing collaboration. They began swapping files electronically (they were never in the same room together), and an EP, Spock, emerged in late 2011 to rapturous acclaim.
Ssss, released this week on Mute Records, is their debut full length; it’s an exceedingly au courant and utterly exhilarating collection of stark electro dance music. Opener “Lowly” mixes industrial muscle with considerable sexual charge and a beat that should be packing dancefloors from London to Ibiza (a band-approved fan video is like some gothic Helmut Newton photo shoot come to life), while the edifyingly titled “Windup Robot” harkens back to the Depeche classic “Behind The Wheel.” Slinky but thunderous tracks like “Single Blip” and “Flux” will also thrill fans of La Mode’s more muscular electronic work. Throughout, embellishments are renounced in favor of the primacy of the beat, the sleek tunes all underpinned by a floor shaking wallop.
Not that anyone would have been expecting them to be trotting out guitars and trumpets. But it was a truly bold move, Clarke and Gore dispensing with their venerated pop hooks — especially as they were already working without the sensual croons of Andy Bell and Dave Gahan that have graced so many of their biggest hits.
“I love pop music,” insists Clarke. “This was just something different to try out. Usually when you write a pop song, you give it an emotional pitch by using a lyric or chord change. But with techno dance music, the emotion comes from building up and up and up. And there are no rules, there’s not any sound you can’t use.”
The newly minted minimal techno mavens have no plans to tour the record. But Clarke hints that he and Gore will likely embark on a series of DJ gigs, before returning to the embrace of Erasure and Depeche Mode, respectively — with both bands planning to record new albums this year.
Clearly, they’ve got the balance right.