WHEN IT COMES TO ONE TO ONE, COMMUNICATION CAN BE VERY DIFFICULT
A CONVERSATION WITH NEIL ARTHUR OF BLANCMANGE
I can’t think of many artists who consistently and frequently put out such high quality material. In fact, with each release, Neil Arthur keeps raising the bar for himself and others. As the second half of 2020 begins, the world is treated to a second Blancmange album release. Waiting Room – Volume 1 was released earlier this year and consisted mainly of leftover tracks from the last few Blancmange albums. Leftover does not mean lesser quality, they are songs that simply did not fit, for one reason or another, for the album at the time. Waiting Room – Volume 1 is a fantastic album. Now, Neil Arthur presents another Blancmange album, Mindset.
“I think I’m really happy when I am being creative,” says Arthur during our recent conversation. “With Mindset, I needed to do it. It needs to come out and I like that feeling. I am in my most comfortable place when I am being creative and trying to push myself to see what I can come up with, and also the opportunity to work with other musicians as well. Benge helped me with this, as he did on the last three Blancmange albums.”
As for the album Mindset, Arthur approached it a little differently. “I started writing songs that ended up being on the album, when we were on tour with Wanderlust. I don’t think I had written anything for the album before then. For example “Warm Reception” and “Not Really” were written whilst I was on tour. Newer songs, like “Diagram” and “Clean Your House” started coming up when I got back in the studio. I wanted to try and get a bit more pacier feel to the album. That was the intention to be a slightly more up than Wanderlust was. That’s why you end up with songs like “This Is Bliss”, “Insomniacs Tonight”, and “Anti Social Media”. I wanted something in the sound of instrumentation and BPMs to reflect that.”
For Arthur, he has three bands with whom he creates music, so it must sometimes be a bit tricky in sorting out what music goes with whom. Or, if you are Neil Arthur, it is not so tricky.
“I normally set off thinking, where’s this going to go. It is pretty early in that stage that I go ‘this is an instrumental it doesn’t need my bloody gob on it.’ It is half the work, and I am lucky enough to get involved with other projects. For example for Fader, we change instrumentation, but Benge sends me the music, and I put my lyrics to it, and we gussy it up a bit. For that one I am mainly doing lyrics.”
“There’s been a lot going on in the world and both, in a sense of how people are and the distance, society seems to be a little bit disconnected. We are very connected with social media, but when it comes to one to one, communication can be very difficult. That is what a lot of the album is about. The song “When” is a case in point. The receiver gets all those words and the emotions that go with it, but in actual fact, what I am hearing is not what this is about. What is really going on? The words I am hearing don’t justify the emotions I am receiving.”
Over time, Arthur has incorporated different styles of writing and production. “I saw a band, Young Marble Giants, and they were such a massive influence on me. I wanted to look at the music we had and see if Blancmange could do something that was simplified and yet carried a message in it, not just in the lyrics. Songs that came out like “Can’t Explain”, “I’ve Seen The Word” and “Waves”. By and large I still approach a song by picking up an acoustic guitar. I have a round of lyrics, and try to keep it simple. I try to keep things simple. I think we, Blancmange, overcomplicated things with our third album, and sometimes in the second. Although I am proud of that work, I think we could have stripped it back more. No I try and strip back and save ideas for another song.”
Arthur is preparing for a tour for 2021, and he keeps on moving. Right now he is discussing and promoting Mindset, but things are boiling in the Arthur studios, “Nil By Mouth III is currently a work in progress and I have about 20 songs.”