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Andy Bell
by Lawrence Ferber
As half of the iconic British synthpop group Erasure, Andy Bell has brought flamboyant queer style and distinctive shimmering vocals to dozens of hits, including “Who Needs Love Like That,” “A Little Respect,” “Breathe,” as well as an EP of ABBA covers. All this and more can be savored on 2009’s CD/DVD box set, Total Pop! The First 40 Hits, from Rhino Records. While promoting Erasure’s 2004 Nightbird album, Bell revealed that he was HIV-positive and doing well on combination therapy. A year later he stepped out as a solo artist with Electric Blue and is currently recording its follow-up, which features a guest turn by B-52’s Kate Pierson. Recently, Bell stopped by the VIP Lounge.

What is the best city for pop music lovers, and where should they go to catch current local acts?
London, really. Especially if you go to a club like NagNagNag or The Cock. Sometimes they have a new electro band playing. At this bar in Camden called Barfly, you can see bands like Cantankerous, which is electro-metal.

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What is your most memorable travel experience mixing with the locals?
Like the film Lost in Translation, it was Japan. You’ve got no idea where any streets are, and you can’t speak [English] with taxi drivers. I would try and find the gay area, Shinjuku Ni-chome. You have to show a piece of paper [with Japanese writing] to the taxi driver. I was walking around looking for this bar and they’re all in these tall apartment buildings. There are no signs, you go up and down in the elevators and knock on doors. I knocked on one door and walked in and all these guys were playing poker or mahjong. It was not a gay bar at all! And [Erasure’s other member] Vince Clarke and I experienced an earthquake. We were having dinner at our record company and the building started shaking. I was trying to eat a live prawn and said, “Oh, it’s a tube train!” [Then] I realized we were on the 14th floor!

You currently live in the UK seaside town of Hastings, East Sussex with your boyfriend of three years, Dave. What is one thing we absolutely must see or do if we visit?
In the town center there’s a castle on top of a hill. Go for a walk and take the little Victorian lift that goes up from the Old Town to the West Hill. The views are incredible from up there. You can see all the little fisherman’s huts and boats on the beach, and you can stop and have an ice cream.

Have you ever had a humiliating or horrific travel experience?
One time we nearly made a crash landing in Washington DC in a really bad storm, and the plane was rattling and shaking. This guy next to me was praying, even my hands were sweating. We were coming down so low through the clouds and all you could see was skyscrapers. Even before 9/11, you always had this thought of the last way I want to die is to crash through a skyscraper.

Your number one travel tip?
I always wear DVT socks that come right up to your knees and I always take half an aspirin so you can’t have a stroke on the plane. And they’re not very flattering but I always wear Crocs because you can take them off so easily and put them through the security machine. That would be a great Project Runway challenge—redo the Croc.

What tips or advice would you proffer for HIV-positive travelers?
Always take enough pills to last you twice as long as you need. I put some pills in my carry-on baggage in case my suitcase gets lost. You’re not really allowed to go to the USA if you’re HIV-positive. On the immigration forms it always says, “Do you have any contagious illnesses or diseases?” and I just put “no” because I think it’s not contagious unless you sleep with me, and we have unprotected sex. I have been stopped [by customs agents] before and they asked, “What are these?” and I said, “My combination therapy,” and they just let me go. But some people they keep from going in. I have respect for customs people. It’s their job and as long as you’re courteous you’re going to be fine.

If you could own any hotel room in the world, which would it be?
A suite in the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, just outside Puerto Vallarta. You get your own personal plunge pool and everything there.

What is the strangest local delicacy you’ve sampled?
In Johannesburg, South Africa, I had mealy grubs with chili sauce. They’re quite sort of chewy. They wouldn’t be anything without the chili sauce. Same goes with snails. They’re lovely with garlic, but I can’t really forget I’m eating a snail because they look like…snails.

Is there an Erasure song or album that brings back a specific memory of traveling or a destination?
The Love Boat album, which we did in Dublin so we stayed there for a while, and I totally loved it. I have a drag queen friend there, he’s quite old, named Mister Pussy. He used to have a café and U2 would go there. He got busted because he was serving alcohol in teapots after hours. The other would have to be Hamburg when we recorded the Chorus album. I was living there for a while and had an apartment quite close to the lake. There were no curtains on the windows, just all glass, and the sun blazing through in the morning would do my head in.

If you could pay $50 for any one convenience on a flight, what would it be?
I would say a private room you can go into with somebody else. No questions asked. The official Mile High $50 Suite.

[Published: June, 2009]

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Sou fã do Erasure desde 1987 tem um bom som, pena que aqui no Brasil o trabalho deles tem pouca divulgação.
- Nei Pêgo , Pça Antonio Dias - 40 - Centro - Angelândia/MG - Brasil

Andy is the numer one inspirational person alive on earth.....we love you're the best ever...Hope to see you on stage pretty soon!!!!
- Carlitos , Yucca Valley, Ca.

Andy I loved reading your travel stories, hints &tips. I'm yet to have the pleasure of seeing Erasure play live but I look forward to the day. Perhaps a lotto win to travel overseas or maybe a visit to our sunny shores "down-under" will come to fruition?
- Gayle G. , Perth, WA Australia

Andy, you are always welcome in Dublin and Mr.Pussy misses you I'm sure.Don't forget us when you tour again, we had to travel to the UK the last two tours, but boy were you worth it.
- Clive Lynch , Dublin,Republic Of Ireland

They'll always be my favorite.....I've been to about every concert since seeing them by chance in the club "Heaven" in London in the early 80's
- Steve Greenbaum , New York

Andy, your a star, keep up the good work and come back to Belfast soon, had to wait 27 years to see you's at the Waterfront, couldnt wait that long again lol Take Care & God Luck
- Pearse O , Belfast, Co Antrim, N.Ireland

Can't wait to hear your new album next year and to see you live again, as I am hitting 40, in january, so it seems like it will be your best year yet. Always been a loyal fan.
- stephanie harris , wellingborough, northants, eng

I love reading everything about ANDY & ERASURE! Thank you so much!
- lauren bliss , san carlos ca usa

Hilarious! I'm sure Andy (and Vince) have had their fair share of adventures traveling as Erasure for all these years, and personally during the off years. Good to be able to read about some of the memorable ones.
- Tiffany Pham , California, USA

Great to hear about your travelling stories and tips,but please come home and give all your fans a new album!!,the wait for the follow up to Electric Blue is well ... electrifying!,good luck with the new Erasure material see you at a gig-Mark.
- Pughie , Leamington Spa,Warwickshire EN

Love Andy and when he said PUERTO VALLARTA is a great place to be, make me feel so glad cause Puerto Vallarta is in Mexico...Love and Respect for U Andy.... Your friend and YourBigBigFan.... CarlitosDjChimeo
- CarlitosDJChimeo , Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, Mexico./C

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