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Interview with Manhattan Clique


Any Bell invited hot young production duo Manhattan Clique to co-write and produce his solo album "Electric Blue." This was the first time for Philip Larssen and Chris Smith to work on a full-length album project. Up until now, the two have mostly focused on (remix) productions for artists like Goldfrapp, Lighthouse Family, Kylie Minogue and the B-52's. Arjan spoke with Chris Smith to learn a more about the collaboration with Andy Bell. If you're curious to hear "Electric Blue," visit VH-1 to stream the record.

How did you get involved with Andy Bell?
We did a few remixes for Erasure around their "Other People’s Songs" album, which led to Vince & Andy inviting us on tour with them, which we did and had a great time. We got on really well with Andy, and ended up inviting him round for dinner a few months later. We gave him some backing tracks, and suddenly things started to happen very quickly – we recorded demos for 3 songs in the first week alone, including the first single "Crazy."

Were you always an Erasure fan? What's your earliest memory of Erasure?
I was an Erasure fan from when I was about 13 – I can remember seeing them on a really bad UK TV show and loving the first single.  They came to my home town, Bradford, in 1988 when I was at school, and I think I convinced most of my class to come along  - they were just becoming big league and it still rates as one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to.

When you started this project with Andy what was your muscial vision? What did you want to achieve?
Our vision was to combine classic electro sounds with current studio production techniques.  As electro is really popular again, we thought it would be ideal timing.  It was also really inspired by clubbing – we've all had a lot of late nights over the years, and we wanted to make an album that would make us remember dancing our tits off in a sweaty nightclub at 5am!

(More after the jump, including details about Bell's collaboration with Jake Shears)

Was it an objective to have the album sound differently than Erasure?
We knew we'd get the inevitable Erasure comparisons, so we really tried to write tracks with Andy in styles that he might not have explored before, as well as pay homage to our own inspirations from over the years.  It's our first album project, so we really felt like we could do whatever we wanted, so that really helped. At the same time, it was the first proper opportunity for Andy to spread his wings without Vince for an album project, which was a big change for him as we work in a completely different way.  And as the last few Erasure albums have been more reflective, and often slower in tempo, that made things easier for us as well.

Much has been written about the duet between Jake and Andy. Can you describe how the chemistry was between the two? How was that time in the studio with the two?
The Jake duet was actually done transatlantically – Philip and myself recorded the backing track, Andy came in to do a rough vocal, and then recorded the master with Jake while Erasure were playing in New York. Once he’d done that, it was sent back to us to finish.  The other duets on the album were recorded with Claudia Brucken, from Propaganda, who lives very near our studio, so that was much easier, and we had a lot of fun drunken nights recording the duets.

What is your favorite track on the album and why?
I love "Jealous" the most  - it has a lovely groove to it, and I think Andy’s lyrics really come through as some of his best writing.  We recorded around 20 tracks, and it was so hard to whittle them down to 14, but but I think we chose the right ones. And least I hope we did.

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