“Home house” dance music – Interview with Vince Clarke and his new 2Square album with Paul Hartnoll


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It has been many collaborations throughout the years for the immensely productive electro-pop maestro Vince Clarke. Taking a quick look through Vince’s discography, and disregarding his main contributions in Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Erasure, the list is long including acts like Jar, Gore, BT, Burns, Ane Brun, The Good Natured, Blamange, Radcliffe, Paul Quinn, and Family Fantastic. Perhaps the most interesting question is not who is gonna work with next, but rather why there has never been a solo album by Vince. A question that we will answer further down below.

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The new album 2Square is no exception when it comes to collaborative efforts and this time Vince has teamed up with Paul Hartnoll, more commonly identified as one half of Orbital. Neither Paul nor Vince need any further introductions, but it is clear that we probably haven´t seen the last flirt with the underground club scene from Vince as this collaboration with Paul comes as natural looking at Vince´s previous dance release together with Martin Gore (Depeche Mode). VCMG took many by surprise both from the fact that Martin and Vince once again teamed up after all these years, but also in relation to the choice of music they decided to produce together. 2Square is, thus, a natural successor to works of VCMG as the focus on dance music and techno influence beats is strong with this release.

Paul descibes the new record as: “home house” – dance music for living-room use, but with an old raver’s eye on “helping each other on to the dance floor to dance as only dads can”. “Vince approached me and asked if I wanted to work with him on some tracks he had demoed,” Hartnoll recalls. “I set about adding and fiddling around and then we both spent a week finishing and mixing the record in my Brighton studio. Between us we’ve chalked up more than 50 years of making electronic dance music, we’re both Dads, and it was time to hold out the hand of collaboration and help each other up onto the dance floor to dance as only Dads can.”

With its cut-up vocal samples, 2Square generally has more in common with Orbital’s festival-friendly rave music than the Andy Bell-fronted Erasure, although there a times when Vince Clarke’s pop sensibilities are brought to the fore, not least on the album’s poppiest cut ‘All Out’, the only number with complete verse-chorus vocals.

‘Better Have A Drink To Think’, featured video below, was the first release from Vince´s new label VeryRecords. The video was edited by the previously unknown Norwegian avant-garde film directer Vid Andersøn whose previous works include ‘Singing In The Snow’, ‘Il Mio Calzino Puzzolente’ and ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth And Hurt His Knee’.

Of course we at Stereoklang wanted to know all about the new album directly from the source so we contacted Vince to get all the essentials on 2Square, paired with some discussions on synths and machines.

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You have a new record out – 2Square – together with Paul Hartnoll – how did this collaboration come about and what was it that you wanted to achieve with this project?
I had started working on several tracks for a new album and decided I needed someone to help me complete the project. Paul and I met through a mutual friend and we hit it off straight away. The intention was always to make a dance record.

You and Paul have quite different musical backgrounds how did this impact the project with 2Square?
I think there Paul introduced a certain ‘rave’ sound to the record and my input was from a ‘pop’ perspective.

What is behind the name of the new album – 2Square?
It was a title that suggested all kinds of images and graphics. There is no meaning beyond that.

With both the collaboration in VCMG and this new one with Paul you are moving close to the contemporary club scene – what is your relationship to today´s club scene and underground minimal techno artists?
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I didn’t really know much about electronic dance music prior to working with Martin. It’s been amazing to discover a whole new world of new electronic sounds and rhythms. The underground scene has rekindled my fascination with synthesizers.

“Better to have a drink” feels to us like you are really making music outside your normal comfort zone. Choice of sounds (which feels a bit more raw than polished), new choice of instrumentation, and repetitive dance rhythms – it feels like you are really pushing the envelope – do you agree, and do you see that this adds to a wish to broaden yourself musically?
I don’t want to keep on making the same old record. I’m always trying to find new sounds and new ways of making albums. With instrumental dance music there are no rules. It’s like recording soundscapes to a beat.

You’ve also recently started your own label – VeryRecords – what is that you want to achieve with this label that you have not been able to do with other labels?
The aim of the label is to give exposure to more experimental electronic music. I also wanted to learn a new skill and collaborate with different innovative electronic music makers.

What is that triggers you in collaborating with so many different artists, is it the joy of collaboration in itself or that it is more of music exploration? 
It’s both. As I get older I find myself far more open to other peoples ideas and I’m always learning new things from those interactions.

Are there any other dream collaborations you would have liked to do / people you would have wanted to work with, can be either living or dead?
philip-glass-1.2015A track with Philip Glass would be cool  🙂

Note: Philip Glass is an American composer. He is considered one of the most influential music makers of the late 20th century.His music is also often controversially described as minimal music, along with the work of the other “major minimalists” La Monte Young,Terry Riley and Steve Reich.

You seem always to work together with other people. How come there has never (to our knowledge) been a solo album by Vince?
Because it would never get finished or be good enough.

Despite that you have been working on so many different projects and written music in many different genres you still maintain a distinctive musical identity. One can almost always tell that on this or that track Vince must have been involved, why do you believe this is so / what are the ingredients in your musical identity / how would you describe it?
I’m not sure. Perhaps because I prioritize melody over sound.

It seems like your creative process writing songs and designing sounds and arrangements are much separated processes? For many other artist these processes are integrated. Don’t you get inspired to write a song dialing in a great patch? And how are the writing process related to the arrangement process for you dance tunes?
Sometimes sounds or rhythms inspire but the technology can be a distraction when you’re trying to write a good tune.

Your arrangements of songs are always including many monophonic voices not unlike the arrangements for a symphonic orchestra. Considering you grew up with the 70s prog rock – you have never been tempted to try the symphonic format? 
The use of mono-synths was born out of necessity/budget. For me it’s more interesting and challenging to create a big sound from just a few elements.

In listing important albums from your perspective, and we know that strong melodies are a key part of your music contributions, you do not mention Beatles – why is this so?
There re some Beatles songs which I think are amazing. They’ve just never influenced the way I compose.

Do you still feel the magic from synthesizers after all these years and when they are so commonplace, everyone has them, and is being used all over the place? You did the unplugged tour & album e.g.
I think the magic is even greater today, especially with the EuroRack format. The possibilities seem endless.

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Speaking of synths – we know you have a collaboration with Analogue Solutions the Eurorack manufacturer – what is your role / contribution in this collaboration?
I helped conceptualize both units with my brother Mick (who is a genius). Then he did all the work making the ideas happen

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Finally, what is in the plans going forward, now during the summer and in the fall?
We’re recording a new Erasure album, I’m releasing the next VeryRecord with a new artist in October and I’m hoping to improve my Theremin technique.

Bonus: Video interview with Paul Hartnoll

Interestingly enough a new interview with Paul Hartnoll has also been recently released.

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Paul Hartnoll is a British writer, producer, and composer of music, widely recognised for his pioneering work with Orbital together with his brother Phil. Over the span of their 25 year career at the forefront of electronic music, Orbital toured extensively and released eight albums, culminating in a performance at the 2012 London Paralympics Opening Ceremony with Professor Stephen Hawking.

As Orbital, Paul scored and composed new material for movies and television, including “Event Horizon”, “The Saint”, “The Beach”, “xXx”, “Football Factory”, “Keen Eddie”, “Octane” and “Pusher”. His music for commercial campaigns includes clients such as Volkswagen, Range Rover, Rolex, Ralph Lauren, and Channel 4. Most recently, Paul scored Season 2 of the BBC Series “Peaky Blinders” and wrote music for the movie “American Ultra”. Paul has also released two solo albums, 2007’s “The Ideal Condition” and 2015’s “8:58”, featuring collaborations with Robert Smith, Cillian Murphy and Ed Harcourt.

In this portrait we see Paul’s rise to success in Orbital, and touch on subjects such as his creative philosophy, and what he’s learnt from a career as a successful musician.

In this portrait we discuss Paul’s rise to success in Orbital, and touch on subjects such as his creative philosophy, and what he’s learnt from a career as a successful musician.

 

About the new album 2Square:

01 Better Have a Drink to Think
02 Zombie Blip
03 The Echoes
04 Do-A-Bong
05 The Shortcut
06 Single Function
07 All Out
08 Underwater

For more information:

Announcing a Vince Clarke and Paul Hartnoll Collaboration…