The Cutter’s Noel Draper meets the heroes who adorned his teenage badroom wall to discuss their latest work and Blackburn Rovers.

Many, many years ago I bought a now lost album by various up and coming synth pop artists called ‘Some Bizzare’. It was a hotch-potch mix of songs from unsigned bands you have never heard of, and never will, to bands you should have heard of such as Soft Cell and Depeche Mode. Quite why I bought it I have no idea, probably something to do with my cool slightly older cousin I expect, but I’m glad I did because it introduced me to another band you should have heard of – Blancmange.

Blancmange were, and still are, Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe. They made, and still do, simple electronic music with catchy beats and slightly down to earth lyrics. I was hooked. Sure I liked other bands/ artists from that era but for some reason Blancmange became my band. My schoolmates all had their own bands as well but I stuck with Blancmange. I bought their records, watched them in concert, even when they supported other bands. I recorded them on Top of the Pops and I even got my artistic girlfriend to paint one of their album covers, Happy Families, onto my bedroom wall.

They had a few hits, from the catchy ‘Living on the Ceiling’ with it’s incessant Indian rhythms (although the video was bizarrely set in Egypt) to the beautiful and haunting personal favourite ‘Waves’ so it was a bit of a shock when, in 1987, they stopped being Blancmange and went their separate ways, still in touch, still friends, but not making music together. I was, of course, slightly miffed. They hadn’t even asked.

My “play one Blancmange song a day until they reformed” vigil lasted around a week due to a vicious hangover and that was that. I solaced myself on the aforementioned Depeche Mode, forgave them slightly and moved on.

So you can imagine my surprise, when, 24 years later, a bit of internet searching one drunken evening resulted in the astounding news that they had reformed and were about to release a new album, Blanc Burn, and tour. I excitedly fell down the stairs and informed my wife of this fantastic fact. The vacant look I got back I took as mild excitement and proceeded to book two tickets to see them live.

The album was great, I expected as much, the Indian influence was still there in songs like ‘The Western’ and they had kept the simplistic electronic style that I loved, especially in the lovely named ‘I’m having a Coffee’ but the big surprise was seeing them live. A sort of last minute keyboardist to replace Stephen due to illness that is still ongoing should have dampened my mood but it didn’t. Nor did the collection of farmers each wearing a Fez jumping around like loonies in front of us whilst shouting “Do that Egypt song” repeatedly because they were there, my band, on a stage again, playing old and new songs, reminding me why I had loved them in the first place.

Blancmange: Back in the day.

Which brings us neatly to the present day. Blancmange have recently finished another tour, joining Heaven 17 on the aptly named “Tour of Synthetic Delights”, sadly still without Stephen, and are about to release a new album called Semi Detached in March. I caught up with Neil to discuss all things music and his other love, Blackburn Rovers.

After so many years away, I make it 24, what made you come back?

Nothing made us come back to make Blanc Burn, we decided independently of time and space. We did other things and then over a period leading up to 2011 recorded the fourth album, simple as that.

What was the inspiration for the Happy Families album cover (loving copied by an artist girlfriend of mine onto my bedroom wall!)?

The illustrator Louis Wain was the inspiration, along with 1930’s table cream ads.

Has the song writing process become easier for you over the years?

No. Sometimes it’s easy but other times it’s like waiting for a bus, nothing for ages, then four come along at once.

What is your favourite Blancmange song and why? 

Sad Day (original ‘some bizzare’ version) – first structured song. I remember precisely why, where and when it was written. It’s a recording of that memory.

Who were your musical influences growing up and who do you listen to nowadays?

Then – Roxy Music, Eno, Kraftwerk, Bowie, The Velvet Underground, The Beatles, The Stones, Fats Waller, Neu! Captain Beefheart, Hot Chocolate, Can, The Carpenters, Roy Orbison, Leo Sayer’s First album (Silverbird), Johnny Cash, Joy Division, Young Marble Giants etc…

Now – Actress, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Caribou, LCD Soundsystem (still), Kraftwerk, Can, Arca, Neu, Metronomy, The Rutles, Matthew Dear, Nicholas Jaar, planningtorock, Yacht, Darkstar, Gazelle Twin, Komputer etc…

What was it like touring with Heaven 17 recently and are you planning to do it again?

We had a good time as the audience seemed to have. Great people so never say never again.

How much input does Stephen still have musically given his illness restricts him from touring?

Stephen was not involved in the production of the album. We remain in close contact and who knows, one day we may be able to work together again, health permitting.

What can we expect from your forthcoming album, Semi Detached?

I hope structured songs with some/ plenty of interesting sounds and lyrics.

What are you future plans after the album release?

Writing more material for future projects and there’ll be a tour to support the new album

Turning to your other love, football, what was your first Blackburn game?

I think it was Keith Newton’s testimonial.

Who is your favourite Blackburn player, past or present, and why?

Noel Brotherston and Tugay. Both in their own ways wonderful to watch. Brilliant.

What is your favourite moment from the Jack Walker era?

When the Walker Steel Stand was opened in 1977! Ha ha, no, it was of course winning the Premiership in 1995.

What’s your opinion on the Venkys?

I like most other people was very surprised, then shocked when the Venky’s were sold Blackburn Rovers and what ensued in the aftermath of that takeover, but as a fan of football for many years, when I take a look around and see what’s going on, or rather I read between the lines of what’s going on behind the wood panelled walls of the boardrooms of football clubs in general, nothing surprises me. We the supporters and fans never seem to get transparency, probably because we are only a small part of the picture in terms of what football has become, a big money business.

If it were possible for more clubs to be owned by the supporters, then it would and should change. As for the Venky’s, I didn’t agree with the sale and I fear for the future of the Rovers. I’ll also add that considering what has been going on, that we are aware of at Blackburn, Gary Bowyer, in my opinion, has managed (for that is his job) to get some young lads playing football without expecting the earth and moving us in the right direction (generally), hopefully up the table.

Find out more about the band and their music here

Follow Neil on Twitter here

Blancmange bring their bitter-sweet electronic songs to Cherry Red Records with their new album, Semi Detached which will be available on four formats – CD, Ltd Edition Deluxe Double CD, Vinyl LP and digital download. Due out on 23 March 2015, the tracks are shot through with lyrics inspired by Neil Arthur’s instinct for surreal juxtapositions and abstract wordplay.