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A Life In The Day Of – Vince Clarke of Yazoo


Vince Clarke computer keyboardist of Yazoo gives Sunie his day's program. Pic by Andy Rosen

“My radio alarm wakes me up; what time depends on what work we’re doing. About a month ago we’d run out recording time and had to squeeze in some mixing in the early morning, which meant getting up at four or five am. But that’s not normal. I don’t lie in bed, I just get up when I wake up. I have a cup of tea, smoke a cigarette and set off for wherever I’m going.

At the moment that’s usually Gravesend. Eric, our engineer, has a temporary studio for emergencies at his house there; a couple of speakers, and he hires a mixing desk. I drive over at about 11. My car? A Toyota Corolla, P reg, with the little end knocking!

What I’m doing at Eric’s is programming for our tour. I’ve got my Fairlight computer there, and basically what I do is first, type all the notes for the different parts of all the songs into the computer – by letter. Then I program the sounds. You can use samples; play the machine a sound and it’ll copy it. Or you can draw the sound as a wave form, with a lightpen, and the machine makes that sound. The range of sounds is pretty well unlimited. You can say, take the wave form that a guitar sound makes, then modify it; called additive synthesis. Then I program the drum machines as well, to complement the music.

Eric’s mum makes me egg and chips, and loads of tea – enough tea to drown in. They’ve got a mad dog that I sometimes play with, or if there’s something really good on telly we’ll sit and watch it. I like it there; it’s on the outskirts of Gravesend and it’s really quiet. You don’t get anyone coming round, and I get fewer phone calls than I would at home.

The little kids round hereknow it’s where we live; they whisper “that’s where Vince Clarke lives” or go by singing ‘Only You’! Or sometimes you hear this tap-tap-tap up the steps, then a knock on the door …

I finish work at about 11, come home and go to bed. Boring, innet? Some days I have to drive up to London, to the Mute office (Mute Records, Yazoo’s record company headed by the kind of anxious Daniel Miller). Driving up through East End in the rush hour – I hate it.

Sometimes Alison’ll be with me, like if there’s something we have to approve, a sleeve maybe.

We don’t have a manager. Now we’ve got a tour on, we’ve hired a tour manager, to do all the planning and budgeting and that. She books hotels, transport, lights and PA, and does the sound too. If there’s something she needs to know, like how many cars were taking or do we want a minibus, she’ll ring me and Alison to see what we think.

Does Daniel take me to lunch? You’re joking! Actually, he’s in the studio at the moment, so he’s not around. Come to think of it, he used to take us out to dinner sometimes … But it’s usually when there’s something to discuss. Oh, he would if you asked him. He’d do anything for you, Dan. I don’t eat at classic restaurants; there’s a Wimpy and a Macdonalds over the road from Mute, so that’s usually it. But the Macdonalds hasn’t got any seats, so that’s not much good.

The vegetarian round the corner’s OK for a cup of coffee, but as for the asparagus quiche – ! Wendy burgers are me favourite, when I’m up in London.

I try to see as many people as possible in one visit. There’s Chris Littler, the bloke who’s doing the slides for our shows, and Gabrin-Mill, who’re doing some film editing for us all as preparation for the live stuff, which is mostly what occupies us at the moment. Then I might speak to Neil Ferris, our plugger, or Claudine who does the press. They may have interviews they want us to do. Dan’ll give me a ring, say how-you-doing.

In between, I’m driving myself around London; I don’t like it much, but these things have to be done. Most of my days are planned; I’m pretty good at being organized. I come away at about seven, having tried to miss the rush hour.

Then there’s the whole evening ahead … I watch telly. ‘Minder’ was me favourite, but that’s not on anymore, is it? I watch anything, really. Even the news. I’ve started taking an interest in it – must’ve reached that age. Sometimes we go up the machine arcades in Southend, spend a few pounds on the Space Invaders and that sort of thing. I don’t like pubs; sitting round drinking is really boring.

We might go and see Blancmange play, or visit Steve from Blancmange. He cooks us great dinners in his wok. It’s always a treat to see Steve. Me dad lives a few roads away, me mum lives the other side of town. Me best mate is just across the road. See all of them occasionally. Sounds terribly boring, doesn’t it? Boring.

We do the odd TV show abroad, in Europe. I do enjoy it all, you know! Before this I’d never had a job that I enjoyed ever in my life. I was a labourer, lorry driver, civil servant, worked for British Rail, postman. Working in offices is terrible.

Now, like when we did this TV show in Portugal, I might find myself in a dressing room full of hula-hula girls, all taking their clothes off … Actually, I was so embarrassed I went purple.”

First printed in [unknown] on August 28th 1982. Reprinted without permission for non-profit use only.

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