FEATURE MARC ALMOND
Days of the Pearly
MARC ALMOND is bored of singing with 70-piece orchestras and has returned to the more glam electro-club sound of old. He has kicked drugs and conquered agoraphobia and is about to embark on his ﬁrst live tour in three years. He told Damien Love how much he’s'looking forward to it.
Adored and Explored: the return of a brashor, glammer Marc Almond
6 ’ve always tried to not be part of a category. and I think that a lot of the time I’ve stood out pretty much on my own. which has sometimes kind of frustrated people. because they like to file you . . . “This is Marc Almond. this is what he is. this is
how he sounds. this is how he looks . . ’
Thankfully. the boy‘s come back again. That dwarf—exploiting. sleaze-deviant of tabloid lore who. incidentally. has been responsible for some of the lushest. darkest. shiniest. brightest. most exotic moments of poetic pop melodrama conceived over the past decade and a half.
Perched. pale and gangling. on a Top Of The Pops stool. Marc Almond presented an unforgettable creature when first he waved a microphone in our direction back in 1981; a thrill-seeking character straight from the seedy. staggering daybreak back-streets of the London club-scene that Soft Cell documented with an electro-cabaret pulse.
Following that duo’s amicable demise (keyboard-playing partner Dave Ball continued along the electric pathway which has resulted in recent successes with The Grid). Almond‘s muse led somewhere very different. This was to be in the direction of the dramatic. debauched balladeering characterised by twin obsessions Scott Walker and Jaques Brel — from the alleys of London to scouring for diamonds in the gutters of Paris.
1983’s Torment and 7})reros LP pointed the way. This was a sweat stained. fevered flamenco night of a record (including a desolate version of Walker’s break-up break-down lament ‘In My Room’). 1987’s gorgeous dark catalogue of beautiful losers. Mother Fist and her Five Daughters — considered by some to be the quintessential Almond album — caused his then label Virgin to get shirty when they realised that the sea-shanty title track was in fact a Capote-inspired paean to the joys of onanism.
becoming the ultimate torch singer. each subsequent release saw Almond’s powerhouse vocals framed by increasingly intricate
orchestration. culminating in 1993‘s Tenement Symphony. While we thrilled and swooned.
From here. seemingly locked into the idea of
however. the singer was becoming frustrated. ‘I think I’d gone as far as I could with that. really.‘ he says. ‘When you‘ve worked with Trevor Horn and 70-piece orchestras and choirs. y’know it’s taken to the extreme. I thought I was getting lost in the music. too over-produced. I’ve always liked a slightly raw edge to the music. that’s the music that excites me most.
‘I was really getting lost in the idea — and though I do love songs like “Jacky” and “Days of Pearly Spencer" and felt they were great- sounding records — I began to find there was a little lacking in the soul and heart of some of
‘When you’ve worked with Trevor Horn and 70-piece orchestras and choirs, y’know it’s taken to the extreme. I thought I was getting lost in the music, too over-produced. I’ve always liked a slightly raw edge to the music, that’s the music that excites me most.’
those tracks. I think it reflected around a time of my life I was feeling at a particularly low ebb, and felt I was easily manipulated into doing things that I wasn’t whole-heartedly behind.’
The new single. “Adored and Explored”. heralds the return of a brasher. glammer Marc Almond. and, with its economical. electro- intluenced club feel marks the completion of some sort of musical circle in his career. ‘lt’s more from my soul.‘ says Almond of the forthcoming album. ‘much more what I’m about’
This month also sees Almond’s return to the live stage for the first time since l992’s Royal Albert Ilall extravaganza. the forthcoming club dates putting him in intimate contact with an audience again.
‘The Albert Hall thing was a tying-off of an era really — it was like a greatest hits show. I hadn’t really done a tour in years because I had various drug problems and things which I’ve sorted out. and I’d developed really bad agoraphobia and found it difﬁcult to perform on stage. That show was incredibly difﬁcult for me. suffering from agoraphobia and memory problems. but I’ve now conquered that, come through the other side. This tour is. really, breaking things in for me: the new songs. getting back to performing. getting back to being on a level with and seeing my audience . . . and having some fun. I think, as well.’
Checking into rehab to beat his tranquilliser addiction brought Almond back into the sights ofthe tabloid press that had so enjoyed spinning fables of the singer’s exploits at the height of his chart successes. With so many to choose from. have there been any Marc Almond stories which have managed to impress their subject?
‘l’ve read one or two things about myself that have horrified and quite annoyed me, but I’ve learned you have to take things like that in your stride. If you try to ﬁght it, then it often backﬁres on you. I’ve read some quite bizarre. quite ridiculous things about myself in the tabloids. but I’ve often taken that and put it in the context of songs and things. and kind of mirrored it (here the line “swallowing oceans is my speciality” from “Traumas Traumas” leaps to mind) so I don’t take myself too seriously. I think it all adds to the story. it all creates some kind of myth, in a way.’ CI Marc Almond plays The Tunnel, Glasgow on Mon 15 May.
14 The List 5-18 May 1995