SSO:

So, new album! What can we expect?

Andy Bell:

It’s very fresh. Very Erasure still but quite clean. It almost sounds like a new band.

SSO:

How’s Vince [Clarke, the other half of Erasure]?

AB:

I haven’t seen him since February. He’s got married so he’s very happy. He can’t leave America because he’s applying for his Green Card.

We did the vocals in February and I was there for about six weeks. It’s taken a while because I had my hips done. I had them both replaced.

The tops of my thigh bones crumbled and they can’t work out why. It was quite painful. On the last tour I was going through that, but I don’t think people noticed.

SSO:

Can you still hippy hippy shake?

AB:

Yeah. I’m fine now. I just have to be careful not to overdo it and I have some lovely little Js on my little bum cheeks. I look like a violin.

SSO:

And there’s a tour -¦

AB:

The tour starts in March. We did an acoustic album as well, which is really beautiful, but we thought we can’t release it or people will get fed up but we might release it as an anniversary record.

It’s 20 years next year. And I’ve done a solo record. There’s one song with Jake Shears [from Scissor Sisters].

He’s great. He came to see me when he was 12.

SSO:

What’s the difference between the Erasure stuff and the solo stuff?

AB:

It’s more free and much gayer. Much more about letting your hair down and having a good time. Very clubby.

SSO:

Have you got a new look for this?

AB:

I can’t do looks. I’m hopeless.

SSO:

You get someone to invent one for you. Don’t you know anything about being a pop star?

AB:

No. It’s all very homeboy this time.

SSO:

How’s Paul [Bell’s long-term partner]?

AB:

He’s fantastic as well.

He’s finishing his book. It’s called Happiness Is The Best Facelift, which is from a Joni Mitchell song, and it’s his story of growing up in the 50s in California, being a beach bum, coming from a poor family, losing their house in a game of poker, living in a skip, drug culture, moving to the UK.

SSO:

Are you in it?
AB:

Yeah.

SSO:

You’ve been in the papers recently, haven’t you? Apparently, you’ve admitted you are HIV positive!

AB:

I admitted it, did I? I’ve known since 1998, all my friends are HIV-positive as well and for us it doesn’t seem like anything. I thought the more the merrier really. And it’s like there’s a burden off you when you share it.

SSO:

Has everyone been all right about it?

AB:

They seem to have been. I haven’t had the press camping out or anything like that, whereas 20 years ago they would have been.

SSO:

How were your family about it?

AB:

They all know privately but I don’t know how they are now but they should be all right. It’s all so different from the witch-hunt days of the past.

SSO:

What made you want to get tested?

AB:

I had my appendix out quite a few years ago and they did a test then and it was fine but because I was having a few opportunistic infections and then when I had the pneumonia it was putting one and one together, really.

SSO:

Did you go to get the test with Paul?

AB:

Yeah, he was there. He found out he was positive in 1990.

SSO:

Was it a trauma?

AB:

It was when Paul found out he was but not for me. When he found out the doctor said, I’ve got some really bad news: you’re going to die. Some quack. Even one of my local doctors says things like, Have you had AIDS?

SSO:

So have you shed a single tear over it?

AB:

Not really. I was all right with it.

I didn’t go out to get it but for me it was a bit like a gay tattoo. I know that sounds bad but it’s wanting to belong to groups of people: being gay then taking coke then being HIV-positive.

I just feel like I want to be myself. I’m no martyr or anything like that. Some people have a hard time of it.

SSO:

So, what’s this we hear about you getting sucked off by Jimmy Somerville on Hampstead Heath back in the day?

AB:

Yeah, but he wasn’t sucking me off. I was wearing a dress shirt for some reason that night and he was pulling it out and it was really long and I think he thought I’d stuffed my trousers ’cause I didn’t have anything down there.

He got bored and left. I knew it was him so I froze, then ran after him and we laughed our heads off.

SSO:

Have you had anyone else famous?

AB:

No. I’ve never even met George Michael, I’ve only seen Elton once. I think they like their own.

SSO:

Are you still a dirty little perv?

AB:

I’m in training. I want to do leather next. I want to be in a sling and all that stuff. I love daddies. And bears. I feel like the chickens are too young and I get a bit scared because their skin’s too beautiful.

And if I was a slave I’d be too manipulative. Actually, I’m into anything. I’m not choosy.

SSO:

Who was the last person you did?

AB:

A Hungarian rent boy in Berlin. Last week. He was all right. He was a man until he took his clothes off and then he was a girl.

SSO:

So you don’t mind doing rent boys?

AB:

No. It’s only my second one. My first was in New York. It’s not my usual thing but I just think, when you’re bored and you can’t be bothered looking round for it, well then I’ll just go and pay.

SSO:

What do you think about how it worked out for George and his toilet scandal?

AB:

I think it’s worked out really well. I’d be really pleased. It must be a huge relief. And you don’t get crucified for doing stuff like that any more.

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