Legendary 80s synth-pop band Blancmange talks to The Star ahead of Sheffield show at The Leadmill
and live on Freeview channel 276
Following the release of the latest LP, Private View, Blancmange’s Neil Arthur took some time out of his busy schedule to sit down and talk to Chris Hallam ahead of the upcoming Sheffield gig at The Leadmill later on this month.
In their post-punk early days, Blancmange made tape loops and experimental sounds with kitchen utensils, before developing into one of the definitive chart-topping British electronic pop acts. Since reforming in 2011 (Luscombe had to leave shortly after for health reasons) Arthur has harnessed a duality of experimentation and seamless pop melody to release a staggering 10 albums in the last decade.
“As usual I’m playing with double meanings and domestic references. Can you take me, in terms of the unpredictable aspects of a personality, or can you literally take me to our favourite place by the sea? And also how much does someone have to “take” before a relationship breaks down? How many times can your partner be expected to accept repeated mistakes? Where is the tipping point?”
Across the album, there’s a deft marriage of futuristic electronic sounds, Arthur’s unmistakable vocal hooks, and songs that veer from buoyant and joyful to dark and brooding. Benge has returned as one of the key collaborators on this project, and David Rhodes (Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Scott Walker) also comes back once again as the guitarist — having previously performed with the band on 1982’s debut Happy Families (as well as several other Blancmange albums).
“I don't know whether I'm on a roll but I feel something in me has been released,” he says. “I used to hold back and I didn't trust myself. While I'm still full of self-doubt I'm now quite comfortable with it. This is it. We’ve only got one time around the block, so make the most of it.”
The past is used as a trigger to create new ideas and build fresh momentum, not as somewhere to linger. “A lot of people are frightened of the future and are quite happy to have a repeat of something that was done before,” he says.
“But it's just not for me. Looking forward you've got a hell of a world to try and navigate through at the moment. We're all moving forward - so we've got to try and find some answers.”
Listen to our conversation in full right here or you can subscribe to the Chris Talks Music Podcast here: https://anchor.fm/chris-talks-music
Private View is a record that manages to seamlessly capture an artist who is potently in the moment when it comes to creating new work, while also being able to draw on 40 years’ worth of knowledge, experience and built-in intuition.
“I'm really lucky to be able to make the music completely on my own terms,” Arthur says. “Within myself there are no limits, there’s a massive palette inside and I will try anything.” And this is something that comes across with aplomb throughout the the album, most notably on the synth-driven and electro-eerie tones of What’s Your Name that thumps with what can only be described as a ‘glam stomp.
The first single from the LP, Some Times These, features a crunchy guitar from Rhodes that incorporates the melodic synths alongside Arthur’s vocals. How to describe this? Take those propulsive guitar notes, add in a hook-heavy piece of music, yearning vocals and you’re left with a long-lingering example of 80s-laced, post-millenial, electronic art pop goodness.
Private View captures the uncertainties of modern life but without being too on the nose. “Even though it was written in lockdown,” Arthur says.
“I wanted to have something that looked beyond that. There is going to be a future and it's going to be difficult but we have no choice but to face it, so I had that in mind quite a lot.”
Private View is a record that manages to capture an artist who is potently in the moment when it comes to creating new work, while also being able to draw on 40 years’ worth of knowledge, experience and built-in intuition. “I'm really lucky to be able make the music completely on my own terms,” Arthur says. “Being able to just continue being creative...that's when I'm happiest.” As he said before: “within myself there are no limits.”
40-years on you could be forgiven for thinking that this genre of music has its distinct place in time, but as shown time and time again, Neil Arthur has delivered a new project that acknowledges before while irrefutably embracing the now and what’s to come next… whatever that is.
Blancmange will be performing at The Leadmill, Sheffield on Friday, 25 November, 2022. You can buy tickets here: https://www.seetickets.com/tour/blancmange-private-view-tour
Private Eye is out now on all streaming platforms and is also available to purchase from all good record stores… as well as here: http://www.blancmange.co.uk/
Follow Blancmange online: