Soft Cell 3

Soft Cell emerged from the twin backgrounds of Leeds Art College and Northern soul. Though first andforemost soulboys, they didn’t meet on the dancefloor but in a classroom at the aforementioned college where Marc was studying performance art on the same course,
coincidentally, as Indian rubber man Fad Gadget and David was just “fiddling about with synthesizers”.

Their performance training isn’t immediately apparent from their TOTP ‘Tainted Love’ show – David does the standing still quite well, while Marc twitches engagingly through a clumsy set of extravagant gestures barely in sync with the rods – but it was a valuable grounding.
“It instilled in us the need to be independent,” recalls
Marc, “because the course we were doing consisted of being put into a big studio with all these facilities and then being told: ‘Right whatever you do, go ahead and do it. It’s all up to you and you’ve got three years to make something out of it.’”

Marc performed, David produced the soundtrack.What they did then isn’t relevant now, says David. Marc,more helpfully, expands.

“For me, my performance art background is only important because it gave me the confidence to get out there onstage. It was just, like, exercising myself in getting up onstage and not caring if I make a fool of myself. After that, it’s just a case of looking back on things you did three years ago and feeling a little red faced about them, if only because your ideas improve a lot in the meantime.”

More telling is their apprenticeship in Northern teen disco – not the sophisticated clubs where the DJ plays a never-ending stream of jazz funk imports from New York that nobody recognises or indeed would bother taking home with them. Their roots in a poppier dance, in the tunes that occasionally make the charts;‘Tainted Love’ is their tribute to the teen dance.

“We both like Northern soul, ’60s music and the 12-inch record,”explains Marc. “We thought we would try to being that ’60s sound and style of song into the ’80s, but the problem was to how to do a 12-inch of ‘Tainted Love’ without doing the boring, very standard thing of stripping it all down to the bass and drums and re-editing the sound, which is putting me off 12-inches in a way.

“Then we had the idea of doing an instrumental bit in the middle and going into another song at the end, almost like a medley tribute to where we come from, those songs that made an impression on us. It was originally just going to include a few bars of ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ but we liked the way it turned out and included the whole song.

“And we even had a slightly tongue-in-cheek drum break in the middle – that’s the crashing of dustbin lids and syn-drums.”

Before talking to Soft Cell, it was easy to think that the radical leap in quality from the earlier ‘Memorabilia’’s Suicide-madepainless to the distinctive torch reading of ‘Tainted Love’ was more down to producer Mike Thorne than the duo. The wonderful segue,for instance, is a disco producer’s trademark. However, it becomes apparent that it was the duo who went in with the ideas and Thorne made them work. It wasn’t the production of ‘Memorabilia’ that was at fault, but the song itself. The duo still quite like it, though they acknowledge the sound improvements of their hit.

“We had liked Mike Thorne’s production of Wire,” says Marc,“and anyway he is a less obvious choice of producer than Daniel Miller (the Mute man who produced ‘Memorabilia’) for electronic
music, we’re very pleased the way things have turned with Mike and we’re going to New York soon to record a new single and LP with him.”

‘Tainted Love’ could mark the beginning of the end of their longstanding love affair with disco. Being a Friday night DJ at Leeds Warehouse, Marc Almond is fully aware of all its trends and innovations, its emotions and fl uctuations. But these days its appeal is wearing thin.

“You can’t go on forever on the dancefl oor,” admits Marc ruefully. “There is still some great disco coming out, but it’s coming to wear a little thin on me. I hate this new Latin music,
though the real Latin music is great. I mean, how can people who have no roots in Puerto Rico bring out this kind of music?”Disillusioned with the dancefl oor, where do you turn to from
here, Marc?

“To the bedroom, I think,” he giggles. “It’s getting to the stage where we’ve said what needs to be said about that, about going out and having fun… and then come the tears.

“Our writing is getting more personal, a bit deeper and a lot sadder. It’s about reaching into the stuff and writing things that you have to feel about.”

Soft Cell are one of the few units who have a genuine claim on the new cabaret, even if there is as much Batley Variety Club as the Berlin kind. Their entertainment is effusively emotional in
the showbiz tradition, ridiculously expressive, mildly satirical/ comical and hilariously self-indulgent. And in the best tradition of Northern variety it’s also a little grubby. For reasons known only to themselves, they’ve taken to having publicity shots done in sex shops with peculiar props.

David: “We like people to think that there is something shady or seedy in our backgrounds that nobody knows anything about.”
Have you?
“We’re not saying!”
“We’re not interested in being clean and goody-goody,”explains Marc. “ We like writing songs about sex and trash. We did that consciously to get a dirtier image really. The LP will be
called ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’.”
“We got one song from a News Of The World headline ‘Sex Dwarf Lures 100 Disco Dollies To A Life Of Vice’,” he laughs. “We felt it just had to be put down and immortalised.”
To the people who have to sell them Soft Cell are depressingly diffi cult to pin down.
“People tell us that we’re directionless,” admits Marc. “Well,if I had a plan and knew what I would be doing in three years I wouldn’t bother. It’s more exciting to be directionless – this it
the perfection that we’re aiming towards. We want to be aware of everything – people’s feelings, the media, trivia, deepness, everything! And if that’s being dilettante and directionless than
I am dilettante and directionless… and glad!”

Taken from Nme original 80s


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