Marc Almond Interview

Sep 11, 2017, 05:48 PM

Marc Almond is an internationally acclaimed and successful artist. He has sold over 30 million records worldwide and is an icon and influence to a generation of musicians.

He was born in Southport, a seaside town in the north of England, in 1957. After an unsettled childhood of moving to Harrogate, Leeds and back to Southport, of illness and learning difficulties he finally left school at 17 with few qualifications. As a teen he worked in Southport Theatre and on Southport fairground while singing in a local band, covering hits of the day. After school he spent five years at art college including a three year Fine Art BA course at Leeds Polytechnic where he left in 1979 with a BA Honors. At art college he developed his style of mixing experimental performance and cabaret pop with music and film studies. He began visiting London and worked in Soho during college breaks, documenting his experiences in his early performances; Zazu, Twilights and Lowlifes and Glamour in Squalor. It was at Leeds Poly that he met David Ball and together they formed the internationally successful 'electro duo' Soft Cell in 1979.

Soft Cell were signed to Stevo's underground label Some Bizzare and licensed to Phonogram as part of the new electronic music phenomena. They went on to record four albums; three in New York including the iconic seminal Non Stop Erotic Cabaret, and had a number of top ten hits including the international classic Tainted Love. Tainted Love broke all records as the track that remained the longest in the US Billboard Top 100 and received a Brit award for best single of that year. Soft Cell's arrangement of the track has been covered many times by artists as diverse as Marilyn Manson and The Pussy Cat Dolls and has been sampled by a generation of dance producers for artists, notably Rihanna's SOS.

Soft Cell parted amicably in 1984 to pursue solo projects. Marc had already branched out with Marc and the Mambas, a loose collective of musicians, and recorded the innovative influential double album Torment and Toreros which Marc has called 'a nervous breakdown put to music'. Mambas shambolic and florid musical shows put Marc in a unique musical place that had one foot in mainstream and the other in the underground. Marc has always been one of very few artists able to comfortably move from one to the other. Torment and Toreros was influenced by Spanish Flamenco, Marc has always used World Music influences in his music from Turkish torch songs to Brazilian Macumba and Russian folk. The Mambas use of a full string section inspired a young Antony Hegarty later of Antony and the Johnsons. Antony has always openly cited Marc as the person that without whom it would not have been possible for him.

The Mambas started Marc on his path as a chansonierre troubadour, a singer of the songs of others that he would make his own, Jacques Brel, Scott Walker, Lou Reed, Juliette Greco, Nico, Syd Barrett - all early influences of Marc. Marc has said that his style comes from Jacques Brel and Marc Bolan glam with a bit of Aznavour and Johnny Ray thrown in, add some 60's Joe Meek and Orchestral Pop and some 60's Northern Soul, a pinch of Music Hall and you have something approaching Marc. It is this mix of styles that have made him hard to pigeonhole, but also totally unique. He has been called over the years The Judy Garland of the Garbage Heap, The Acid House Aznavour, Jim Reeves of the Bedsit Generation, Marc Bolan and Juliette Greco's love child and Britain's own Piaf.

A diverse and acclaimed successful solo career followed with over a dozen albums including Vermin in Ermine, Mother Fist and Her Five Daughters, Enchanted, Open All Night and Stranger Things, and a number of solo chart hits including Tears Run Rings, Stories of Johnny, A Lover Spurned, Adored and Explored, Jacky, The Days of Pearly Spencer and Child Star. In 1989 Marc had another number one, a duet with 60's legend the late Gene Pitney, a cover of one of Gene's hits So...