Blancmange have released some terrific albums in recent years – and ‘Private View’ is up there with their very best. In a hugely entertaining and highly revealing interview, frontman Neil Arthur gives the inside story on the band’s latest record and also talks art, swimming, dead men’s suits, recycling, smudged bindis, inflatable whales, luck, love, loss… and how everything is connected

“I’ve told you all my stories already,” laughs Neil Arthur.

He’s got a point, but he’s being way too modest. It’s a sticky afternoon on London’s South Bank and we’re sitting outside a cafe round the back of the Royal Festival Hall. He’s had a shrimp burger and I’ve had something that sounded slightly posher on the menu but was essentially a cheese toastie.

By the time we go “on the record”, we have been chatting for well over an hour – about everything from the antics of his 16-year-old dog Audrey to Blancmange’s early 1980s tours with Depeche Mode and the chess-playing prowess of the late Andy Fletcher. Neil Arthur is a one-man anecdote machine. He is fantastic company. But all his stories? We’ve barely scratched the surface.

And here’s the thing. These tales of derring-do on the high seas of synthpop may seem unrelated at first, bouncing merrily between the past and the present, between the personal and the professional, but if you listen closely, you realise that Neil Arthur weaves subtle conversational threads through them all. He’s a veritable master at joining the dots. To quote the title of a key track on ‘Private View’, the new Blancmange album, ‘Everything Is Connected’.

There’s lots of noisy drilling going on outside the Southbank Centre, so we move inside. It doesn’t disrupt Neil’s flow, though.

We are talking about two Blancmange live performances in London, four decades apart. Three months ago, the present-day version of Blancmange played at the 2022 Meltdown Festival, an event curated by Grace Jones here at the Southbank. Although on that occasion, they probably asked the workmen to keep it down a bit.

“To be asked to perform by Grace Jones and to play on the same bill as John Grant… that was just incredible,” beams Neil. “We did a relatively short set on a very hot day. Liam Hutton was soundchecking onstage and he had a pair of shorts on. Finlay Shakespeare was also wearing shorts. I assumed they were going to get changed afterwards, but you couldn’t go into our dressing room because the temperature was in the 50s! We always do a little pre-show ritual before we go onstage… and I just looked at them both. I had my suit on and those two were dressed like they were going down the beach.

“But 41 years ago, Blancmange played with Grace Jones at Drury Lane. It was bonkers. At the time, I had a job as a graphic designer, just down the road from here. The phone rang and my boss picked it up and said, ‘It’s for you – make it your last call of the day’. I thought it was a mate having a laugh. Some bloke was saying, ‘Grace Jones wants you to support her next week’. Honestly, I said, ‘Fuck off’, and put the phone down. But then it rang again. ‘You! Never swear at me on the phone again! Do you want to support Grace Jones?’

“The boss never let me have time off, so I went straight from work to the gig. Stephen Luscombe [Neil’s original partner in Blancmange] was in graphics as well and we had to finish that day’s jobs before we left. So my girlfriend Helen, dressed to the nines in high heels and this beautiful 1950s outfit, borrowed her mum’s Mini Clubman and went round to our respective places to pick up our gear. She was thinking she’d knock on the stage door and someone would say, ‘I’ll take the gear in’, but they just ignored her and she had to carry everything in herself.

“Anyway, we set up a bit like Morecambe and Wise in front of the curtains. We ambled on and Stephen started the cassette player with the backing track. I was still playing guitar at this stage – ‘I Can’t Explain’ and all that stuff. We came off with a few people giving slow handclaps, but then we watched Grace Jones and our worlds changed. It was the best live performance I’d ever seen. She was climbing up the PA, changing costumes, balancing on a bar between the audience and the orchestra pit, wearing heels and this stunning blue suit…

“As we were watching, Stephen and I said, ‘Right, let’s learn a lesson from this. Tomorrow, we put suits on’. And we basically went to Oxfam and got dead men’s suits. After that, we felt we had this slight protection somehow, a sort of barrier, and in a way that allowed us to give a bit more. I’m sure we still sounded pretty ropey, but it was a big moment for us.

“After the show, we all ended up in the dressing room sitting on Grace Jones’ knee. She said, ‘Come here!’, and I sat on her knee for a while… then Helen had a go… and then Stephen had a go! Then she said she wanted to go clubbing, so we went to a place called Cha-Chas and did some gyrating. Bloody amazing.”

We’re both chortling away now, to the bemusement of the afternoon bar staff. But hang on a minute, we need to rewind a little. What’s the Blancmange pre-show ritual?

“Ah, that’s a big secret,” he says, wagging a warning finger. “We’ve done it forever.”

Are there props involved?

“No props.”

A chant?

“There is a certain noise.”

A bodily function?

“Nothing voluntary.”

The bittersweet story of Blancmange is like the plot of some great, unmade Richard Curtis synthpop movie about how Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe went from manipulating recordings of 1970s kitchen utensils to celebrating a string of 1980s chart smashes. How the band split as the hits waned and a fame-weary Neil retreated into film soundtracks before the duo reformed to make ‘Blanc Burn’, their highly acclaimed 2011 album. How Stephen, faced with spiralling health issues, was unable to join the subsequent tour but gave his blessing for it to continue without him. How the friendship between the two has survived – flourished, even – as new Blancmange albums have appeared at a relentless rate, with producer Ben “Benge” Edwards as Neil’s new collaborator-in-chief.

Neil talks about Stephen a lot. And his partner Helen, too. Yes, they’re still a couple. Richard Curtis is on his second side of A4 as we speak.

“Helen and I have had our ups and downs, but we’ve been together for over 40 years now,” says Neil with a smile. “Oh God, don’t mention that! Just say we’ve been together a long time! She’s put up with some stuff, I tell you.”

Photo: Helen_Kincaid

Elements of these experiences are woven throughout the new Blancmange album, ‘Private View’. And Neil’s lyrics, often intriguingly obfuscated in the past, are becoming decidedly less cryptic.

“I’ve always tended to leave a little ambiguity in there, but it is getting less disguised,” he concedes. “Still, I don’t really want the album to come across as being about me. Some songs are, and you can’t help that, but some are about other people’s experiences. There’s been plenty of ammunition over the last few years, hasn’t there?”

That’s true, but what’s great about Blancmange’s songs is they never feel like they’re self-consciously about big things. Even when they are, there’s a kitchen-sink approach. Take these lines from ‘Everything Is Connected’: “Hang the washing out / Do the washing up / Close the door and then lock it.”

“Yeah, it’s the bits in between,” agrees Neil. “The cracks. Sinks that need fitting and washers that need changing. I’m really into that.”

These same lyrics also sometimes take unexpectedly dark turns. The Lake District village of Coniston is mentioned towards the end of ‘Everything Is Connected’, for example, described as being “across two tabloid pages”. I ask if this is a reference to Donald Campbell, who was killed while attempting to break the water speed record on Coniston Water in 1967.

“The ideas in that song are trying to paint a picture and, yes, that line is about Donald Campbell,” says Neil. “I remember the headline from the Daily Mirror – ‘She’s Tramping, I’m Tripping, I’m Going’. He was narrating the end of himself. As a young kid, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this man has just told us he is about to die’. It was a shock to me, a significant moment for me, and I’ll never forget it.

“I’m always interested in what’s next, in what’s ahead of us. Here we are, moving along. We put the washing out, we bring the washing in. But I noticed that those ‘bits in between’ can apply to the past too. I’m 64, and lots of things have happened in my life, so I started thinking about how some of them were linked.

“I do it on the song ‘Private View’ too. I was thinking about the difficulties everyone is going through and about the people who aren’t here anymore. For example, when my father died, I was there. And as much as I loved my dad, I hated seeing him suffer. So I had this mantra, ‘You can let go…’.”

That’s very touching, I tell him. My own father is seriously ill and it’s an awful thing for a family to have to experience. You desperately don’t want to lose them, but seeing them cling on is heartbreaking.

“It is, but there won’t be one family that hasn’t been through what we’ve been through.”

He smiles reassuringly, then takes a deep breath as he hunts for the lyrics to the song on his phone.

“It’s easier for me to sing it,” he says. “They’re really simple words: ‘What could have been / What might have made you better / What might not have been / Let go, let go…’.”

For a few moments, he’s too overwhelmed to continue. He puts his hand over his face as the tears begin to flow.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “Obviously, it’s upsetting. This was years ago and I’ve lost my mum since then. But I’m not feeling sorry for myself. It’s what happens with life. Two things are certain – you come and you go. But then I move on in the song and I say, ‘You should grab hold of everything!’. You know, do you need to carry your shitty baggage around with you?”

He continues with the lyrics, but it’s clearly tough for him.

“‘Happy showers come and go / Migrating birds have my view / Have a pleasant trip…’ I’m sorry about this. It’s very embarrassing. Grief never leaves you, but what you have is the opportunity to learn to live without somebody. You won’t get over it, but you do have to carry on with everything. The song is called ‘Private View’ because it’s personal. I wanted it to be out there as an emotional thing, although I’ve disguised my lyrics a little bit. It’s not straight down the line. But somebody might pick up on it and go, ‘Shit, yeah…’.”

We’re both trying to compose ourselves now.

“I feel like a complete wally,” he says, shaking his head. “You need to get this stuff out of your system, but what you don’t want to do is burden everyone else with it.”

I ask Neil about his dad in happier times. What was his job?

“He worked as a foreman in a textiles factory,” he replies. “And my mum was originally a seamstress, but then she worked for a company called Walpamur, which became Crown Paints. She used to say she worked on the VD machines. I mean, what was going on in that paint factory? She meant VDU!”

And we’re laughing again. That’s another thing I love about Blancmange. Like our conversation today, the band’s songs are infused with a gritty sense of very northern humour. The ribald wisecracks of the factory floor, told with the earthy resilience of a man who has seen his fair share of dogshit in rusty Lancashire bus shelters, despite it being 45 years since the teenage Neil Arthur left his home town of Darwen for the moderately bright lights of late 1970s London.

“Yeah, it comes out, doesn’t it?” he smiles. “It’s ridiculous.”

Let’s get back to talking about music. Let’s talk specifically about guitarist David Rhodes. Forty years after he added subtle guitar lines to Blancmange’s 1982 debut album, ‘Happy Families’, he has brought equally tasteful textures to ‘Private View’.

“He’s a wonderful friend,” grins Neil. “I know he’s busy, so it was great that he was able to play on this album. He’s superb. And he doesn’t overdo it. That’s one thing I’m still learning – finding the confidence within yourself to think, ‘That’s enough’.

“Again, it’s about those bits in between. I learned this from working on film soundtracks. You don’t have music all the time in a film. And when it does come in, it serves a purpose. There are spaces when you’re writing songs too. When I’m working on the lyrics of a song, I usually start with a lot of words. But then I think, ‘You don’t need this… you don’t need that…’, and I end up whittling them down. I do the same with the music, often with the help of Benge.”

Oh yes, Benge – the de facto “other half” of the 21st century Blancmange and also Neil’s musical partner in Fader, the pair’s experimental side project. Given that these two outfits have identical line-ups, I am curious to find out how the respective Blancmange and Fader approaches differ. Quite profoundly, it would seem. His explanation offers further insight into the Neil Arthur school of lyric writing.

“With Fader, Benge will get together a load of instrumentals and send them across to me,” he says. “I’ll have a think, then I’ll start writing lyrics. Every so often, I’ll chop and change the arrangements as well, then I’ll send the tracks back with vocals on them. And that’s effectively Fader.”

He hesitates for a moment and then expands on this.

“The last Fader album we did was actually slightly different. Instead of Benge sending me something called, say, ‘Moog 105’, he sent me 10 pieces named after paint samples, because he was redecorating his house at the time. I used those as cues. There was one called ‘Porcelain’, so I thought, ‘OK, “Porcelain”, how about “Black Porcelain”?’. That made me think of a Black Maria, which in turn made me think about the miners’ strike and all kinds of other stuff from the 70s and 80s.

“Another piece that Benge sent me was called ‘Serpentine’, from which I wrote a song about me and Stephen. It sparked a memory of going to see Stephen and him taking me to Hyde Park. This was after he’d started struggling with his health. It was a beautiful day and we went swimming in the Serpentine. Nobody else was around and we just swam up and down. It felt brilliant.

“When we’re working as Blancmange, I start all the songs. Not that Benge doesn’t get involved with that, but I will usually have the song structures and the lyrics in place before I give anything to him. So Fader and Blancmange have fundamentally different starting points, even though it’s the same two people.”

Restlessly prolific since that 2011 comeback, the pandemic years pushed Neil into overdrive. He tries to count the albums by Blancmange and Fader on his fingers, starting from early 2020.

“‘Mindset’, then ‘Expanded Mindset’, then ‘Nil By Mouth III’, then ‘Commercial Break’, then ‘Nil By Mouth IV/V’, then the Fader album ‘Quartz’, and now ‘Private View’.”

It’s a hell of a run. Does he work office hours? He shrugs.

“I don’t go into the studio unless I’ve got something,” he says. “But this is a job and I do have to work. It’s not, ‘Ooooh, I think I might make another album’. There’s no great big fucking mansion I can just sit in. That never happened. I want to work, I have to work, and I’ll never retire.”

He pauses again and flashes a playful smile.

“I might decompose.”

Blancmange made their vinyl debut with the six-track ‘Irene & Mavis’ EP in April 1980. It was the one and only release on Blaah Music. The following year, they featured alongside Depeche Mode and Soft Cell on the legendary ‘Some Bizarre Album’, as a result of which they were snapped up by London Records. They issued three albums on London between 1982 and 1985 – ‘Happy Families’, ‘Mange Tout’ and ‘Believe You Me’ – and clocked up seven Top 40 singles in the process.

Amazingly, four decades on from ‘Happy Families’, ‘Private View’ finds Blancmange back on London. This is joining the dots on a truly grand scale.

“I’ve had to pinch myself!” laughs Neil. “I’d written the new album and sent it to Benge. At which point, my manager said, ‘What about letting other people hear this?’. So London had a listen to the demos and immediately said they were interested. To me, it made sense. And they are lovely people. With their backing, I’m hoping that gives us a better opportunity for the album to be heard and to be relevant.”

Back in the early 1980s, was it London that helped transform the experimental Blancmange into a bona fide pop machine?

“Yeah,” he smiles. “Once we’d signed, it was pretty slick and pretty sharp. But our meanderings before that were exciting too. Working with Stevo from Some Bizarre was great. And our friend Dave Hill using his tax rebate to help us make the ‘Irene & Mavis’ EP. We were young and we really enjoyed the journey.

“I can remember hearing ‘God’s Kitchen’ on the radio for the first time. We were driving down the M4 and it came on Peter Powell’s ‘5 45s At 5.45’ slot. We were on our way to the Brunel Rooms in Swindon to play in front of 50 people. When it came on, we went across three lanes of the motorway!

“And after that, of course, ‘Living On The Ceiling’ happened. BANG! We got the call to do ‘Top Of The Pops’ for that and we had to be there really early. I was so excited. I had a beer in the car on the way and I was thinking, ‘What am I doing? This is madness’. It was only half past eight in the morning, but for me it felt like it was seven in the evening and I was ready for a pint.

“Once we were in the studio, they did run-throughs for all the camera angles and I kept hearing somebody in the shadows singing along – ‘You keep me running round and round / Well that’s alright with me’. It was putting me off a bit. I thought, ‘Who the bloody hell’s that?’. Then the lights went up… and it was George Michael. He knew the lyrics better than I did.”

A couple of weeks before my meeting with Neil, he tweeted a picture of himself wearing the Indian-style linen tunic he’d first sported in 1984 in the video for ‘The Day Before You Came’, an Abba cover flavoured with the santoor and tabla of regular Blancmange collaborators Deepak Khazanchi and Pandit Dinesh. So was this similar to the “dead men’s suits” they had bought after seeing Grace Jones? Did the tunic help to make a slightly overawed 1980s pop star feel more at home with the trappings of celebrity?

“It did. Stephen actually got into wearing a sari onstage and Dinesh put a bindi on our foreheads. Talking about that makes me think of the time we played this incredible theatre in Paris. We were in the dressing room and someone said, ‘OK, we’re going on’, so we did the secret ritual, then they left me alone to gargle because I’d been ill. ‘I Can’t Explain’ started and that was my cue. I had to get onstage for the 14th bar. But I suddenly realised I didn’t know where the stage was! It was literally ‘Synth Tap’. I had to shout for help from the tour manager and I heard him yelling, ‘Arthur! Where the hell are you?’. I yelled back, ‘I can’t find the stage and I can’t find you’.

“When I eventually ran onstage, I’d missed my cue. David Rhodes and Pandit Dinesh were in hysterics, while Stephen was standing with his back to me in his sari. I thought, ‘Oh God, he is really pissed off with me’. Anyway, we got through the whole set, came offstage, and I said, ‘What’s the matter with Stephen?’.

Photo: Helen_Kincaid

Apparently, when everybody went on, all the lights were down and there was dry ice everywhere. He’d walked across the stage, tripped over his monitor, and knocked both his keyboards off their stands. His sari was only half-on and his bindi was smudged.”

See what I mean about Neil’s stories? He’s like the Peter Ustinov of electronic music. I’m guessing he must have made loads of friends in the business. We’ve already established that Depeche Mode’s Andy Fletcher was the undisputed chess champion of early 80s pop.

“Ah, but we beat Depeche Mode at swimming!” grins Neil. “That was in Guernsey. Bloody fantastic. I used to do a lot of swimming and Stephen was keen too, so we challenged them to a competition and we whupped their arses. There was only two of us, but we still beat ’em! We were good pals with Vince Clarke in particular. In terms of other musician friends, well, I knew a lot of people, but I also had the same group of mates from up north and other mates from college down here. And there was Helen, obviously.”

‘The Day Before You Came’ secured Blancmange another ‘Top Of The Pops’ slot. As one of the most popular synthpop outfits of the early 1980s, they were regulars on the Thursday night TV show. In fact, this was their ninth appearance in a little over 18 months. It was also their last.

“I’d go down to the shops and I’d walk around with people following me. I’d have people coming up to me on the street and in the pub. Some would say really nice things and others would say, ‘Are you looking at my girlfriend? I reckon you are’.

“When we stopped doing it, in some ways I was happy to be out of it. But there’s no therapy for the comedown. You don’t get any help. You make music for a while and, if you’re successful, there’s a tag that comes with it – you’re a ‘pop star’. But once that stops, what do you do? I was lucky because I had a friend who had just started directing and he offered me some film music work. But between jobs… well, there aren’t very many musicians who can’t decorate.”

Including Neil Arthur?

“Yep! Of course! I did it for friends and for friends’ mums. But you’ve just got to get on with it, haven’t you? I did find things quite difficult, though. Sometimes you’d still get recognised in a pub and you’d really rather that didn’t happen. I’d be going round the shops with Helen, picking up beans and toilet rolls, and someone would come up and say, ‘Where’s Stephen?’. I’d say, ‘It’s not the fucking Beatles, it’s only Blancmange…’.”

The conversation has drifted back round to Helen. She’s clearly his rock.

“There’s a pun in the title ‘Private View’,” he reveals. “Helen is a painter and we’ve got quite a lot of friends who are artists. When we lived in south London, one of my regular walks was to get off the train at Charing Cross and go across Trafalgar Square to the National Gallery. I realised you could actually walk straight through the gallery to the street at the other side. You could stop and have your lunch in there. When Helen was away in Barcelona – she was doing an MA in Fine Art over there – I’d often go and sit in front of our favourite painting, ‘Doge Leonardo Loredan’ by Giovanni Bellini. It’s an absolutely beautiful work.

“This was in the early 1990s, around the time I was getting some songs together for a project called Delirious. Neil Arthur is Delirious! David Rhodes was involved. So was Mark Nevin from Fairground Attraction. So was Graham Henderson, who I’d done film music with. And one of the first songs I wrote for the project went, ‘I sit before your favourite painting…’. After that I thought, ‘This is an interesting way of writing. You just write about exactly what’s going on. No more, no less’.

“Just before the album came out [’Suitcase’, credited to Neil Arthur rather than Delirious], ‘One Day, One Time’ got Single Of The Week from Chris Evans on Radio 1. They got me up to do an interview at half past six in the morning. Chris Evans said, ‘Really liking the single, mate!’, but it jumped when he played it. When he came back on air he said, ‘That’s a lovely new single from Neil Arthur, ex-Blancmange, but record company – please get a decent copy to me’.

“I think the radio interest in the record must have taken the label slightly by surprise. They didn’t have the stock in the shops to take advantage of it. And that was that. Your moment’s gone and it was back to the film music for me. No more photographs, no more interviews. But I didn’t mind. Things didn’t change until we got the songs together for ‘Blanc Burn’.”

What were his ambitions for the reformed Blancmange when they released ‘Blanc Burn’ in 2011? Did he expect to be sitting here a decade on, with another new album to promote?

“I was just hoping we’d be able to do a tour,” he recalls. “But although Stephen’s condition meant he was OK going into the studio to work on the record, it became clear there was no way he would be able to play live. So he told me, ‘Get out there and bloody well do it’.

“After the tour, I said to myself, ‘Well, what now?’. The logical thing was another album. We wanted to play some of the stuff on ‘Happy Families’ live, but I didn’t want to do that unless we had new songs to offer people as well. I don’t want to be living in the past. I want the risk. Some people don’t, and I appreciate that, but I want to keep moving forward. I do reminisce, though. I’m very happy to look back. Some things I’d change and some things I wouldn’t, but I wouldn’t change anything that happened with Blancmange. I’ve made greater mistakes in my personal life than any I ever made with the band.”

This last comment makes me think of the lyrics of ‘Take Me’, the final track on ‘Private View’. They seem pretty confessional – “This is hardly a honeymoon / Picking up where we left off / Clearing pieces after the battle” – and I ask Neil if we’re back to Helen again.

“I carry the weight of whatever mistakes I have made along the journey,” he says. “You’ve got to learn from them, though. Nobody goes through a very close relationship without making mistakes, but it’s a case of how many times will that person put up with it? And how many times will you put up with it? It’s a song from both points of view, really. There’s a bit of wordplay with the title ‘Take Me’ as well. There’s some sexual innuendo there. But then it’s also ‘Take me… somewhere nice’. To that dream world, to that perfect zone. And thank you for constantly putting up with me.”

Has he been that bad? I don’t believe it. I have a decent radar for a wrong ’un and it’s not even twitching.
“Do you want me to get her on the phone?” he jokes. “No, I’m a good lad, really, but I’m obviously aware of other situations I’ve read about or friends have shared with me. Everything gets stuffed into the Blanc blender! Everything is connected!”

He might be in his mid-60s, but Neil Arthur looks terrific. He’s lean and tanned, with his hair neatly cropped. As a mark of his fitness, he plays competitive football in an FA league for the over-50s. We discuss the fortunes of his beloved Blackburn Rovers, his current favourite album (“‘Waves’ by Low Altitude – it’s totally bloody gorgeous”), and his fascination with white plastic chairs. We also talk about the mysterious pixelated figure on the cover of ‘Private View’. It’s not Neil, as some people might assume. It’s actually his art student daughter, Eleanor.

Four hours have passed. The waves of lunchtime diners have come and gone. The tables have been wiped clean. It’s still roasting hot and they’re still drilling round the back of the Southbank Centre. Touchingly, Neil says he’s contemplating paying a surprise visit to Stephen Luscombe.

“I haven’t seen him for a while, but we’re always exchanging ridiculous messages,” he says. “He’s Irene and I’m Mavis, so when we message each other it’s ‘Hi Reen’ and ‘Love Mave’. We are like chalk and cheese, really. That helped us creatively, but I think Stephen would agree it can also be destructive. You get the best out of each other, but it ends up like a marriage. One of the reasons we stopped in 1986 was to save our friendship.

“I do wonder, with hindsight, if perhaps we should have got some help and carried on. We did a Greenpeace thing, standing with John Hurt next to an inflatable whale in Hyde Park – as you do – and then we went off to do a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. It was great to play there, but I was looking around thinking, ‘For some reason, I’m not enjoying this. Everyone we’re working with is lovely, but it’s lost its Blancmange-ness’.

“I suppose we were becoming a victim in the machine. The creative work was fine, we were certainly up to that, but it was the business side that got to us. It was my fault because I really should have been aware of it. It wasn’t easy to turn that off and I think I probably made it quite difficult for other people around me. When I walked away, it took a while for me to settle down. But I was very, very happy to remain friends with Stephen.”

How different is Neil Arthur in 2022 to Neil Arthur in 1982?

“When I was 24, I thought I knew more than I actually did. The one thing I’m certain of now is that I’m not certain! And I’m very comfortable with that.”

It’s the idea of whittling down again, isn’t it? I tell Neil that I’d recently come across an intriguing quote from Bruce Lee: “It’s not the daily increase, but the daily decrease. Hack away the unessential.”

“That’s good,” he nods. “Bloody hell. You know what, I went to the rubbish dump yesterday. I took a load of wood that had been in the shed for ages. As my dad would have said, ‘Oooh, that’s a nice piece of wood, that’. Anyway, I sawed it up and left it outside, thinking somebody might have it, but nobody did. So I took it down the dump with a bunch of other stuff, including lots of VHS cassettes of films I had taped over the years. Helen said to me, ‘Have you ever watched them?’. I said, ‘I’m never going to watch them’. She said, ‘So why are you keeping them?’. I said, ‘Er, I don’t know’.

“So we put this stuff into boxes and took it down the dump. It was brilliant. I chucked it all away, putting things into the right skips so they could be recycled. I felt like I’d lost two stone.”

He gives a chuckle, almost to himself.

“Someone said to me the other day, ‘Do you mind doing your old songs?’. And I said, ‘No, I’m into recycling!’. But there have been so many new albums since 2011… and that’s where I am.”

Everything is connected. All those dots, all those “bits in between”, and even the two seemingly separate incarnations of Blancmange, especially with the return of the group to London Records. But with the ever-busy Neil Arthur, there will always be more stories to tell. That’s guaranteed.

‘Private View’ is released by London

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