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 2009s CD/DVD
box set, Total Pop! The First 40 Hits, from Rhino Records.
While promoting Erasures 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-52s 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
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.
What is your most memorable travel
experience mixing with the locals?
Like the film Lost in Translation, it was Japan.
Youve got no idea where any streets are, and you
cant 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 theyre 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 [Erasures 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, its 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 theres 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 fishermans 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 cant
have a stroke on the plane. And theyre 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 challengeredo
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. Youre not really
allowed to go to the USA if youre 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 its
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. Its their
job and as long as youre courteous youre
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
In Johannesburg, South Africa, I had mealy grubs
with chili sauce. Theyre quite sort of chewy.
They wouldnt be anything without the chili sauce.
Same goes with snails. Theyre lovely with garlic,
but I cant really forget Im eating a snail
because they look like
Is there an Erasure song or album
that brings back a specific memory of traveling or a
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, hes 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.