Only Yazoo

A computer-programmed synthesiser duo? With a blues singer who wants to perform like Kate Bush? “It’s all true,” says Neil Tennant.

Take two happy people…
Vincent Clarke. Wears a leather jacket. Pushes back a shock of straw-like hair from his brow. Knows his way around a micro-composer. Still lives in Basildon. Doesn’t like it but doesn’t mind.
Genevieve Alison Moyet. Known as Alf. Laughs a lot. Very friendly. Full of enthusiasm. Sings as though she means it. Still lives in Basildon. Still likes it.
Take two…Yazoo!

“I’m not afraid of success, really,” says Vince. “It’s just that I need to be more careful to keep things in perspective. Making the music we’re doing and the stuff we’ll be doing on stage take priority over the bits and pieces that come – or might come – with success.”
Several months after leaving Depeche Mode because he never expected that band to be so successful, Vincent Clarke has another band and another chart success. But he’s not worried.
“It’s not so much what you do as how you view it, placing the right amount of importance on the right things. Then you get satisfaction out of what you’re doing.”
“I’m enjoying the way that we work – I feel we’ve got a lot more freedom to do what we like.”
Y’Know, give someone with an ounce of creativity the oppertunity to use it, and you can bet your life that he or she will be demanding “freedom” ten minutes after tasting success. But what, exactly, does this “freedom” mean?
“Well, for instance, with our record company (noisy old Mute Records), if one week we were to produce a commercial hit, the next week they won’t make us produce another commercial hit. If we want to produce an uncommercial noise, we’ll be able to do that.”

Be warned: they have.
“Because they like what we do, they believe in us, so we’ve got freedom in that sense. In the environment we’re in now, we have freedom in so much as we haven’t anything to live up to. We can please ourselves.”

Vince smiles: freedom makes people happy. The other half of the “We” who can please themselves is also smiling. Meet Alf. Who is she and what does she want?
“I’ve played in millions of different bands on the Southend/South Essex circuit, never breaking out, never getting on to the London circuit. My main love was blues and when I advertised for a ‘ritzy blues band’, Vince answered.”
“Before this, I was at the College of Furniture in Aldgate East (London) studying musical instrument technology…”
“I specialised in pianos and pianos are pieces of furniture… Basically, I was studying to be a piano tuner and technician but it takes years to become good at it and I never even finished my second year.”
The smile gives way to a deep friendly chuckle.
The musical marriage of an ultra-modern synthesizer-player and a blues singer from South Essex— it’s certainly not a marriage of convenience
“Well, the stuff we’re doing isn’t blues,” admits Vince. “Alf just happens to like blues.”
“It comes out in my interpretation of songs,” she interrupts. “He doesn’t tell me how to sing and I don’t tell him how to lay down the tracks. Both of our styles come into it.”.”

Depeche Mode brought a new warmth to cold electronic pop: Yazoo will give it some soulful passion.

Later on. I get to hear a few of the songs Yazoo have been recording. One of them in particular, “Midnight”, proves perfectly how both Alf’s and Vince’s different styles can harmonise – even more than their fab hit, “Only You”.

“Midnight” features a deep, breathy, bluesy vocal by Alf, accompanied by sensitive Vince-style electronics and a powerful beat. Frankly, I was impressed. Depeche Mode brought a new warmth to cold electronic pop: Yazoo will give it some soulful passion.
Alf’s not a pretend singer like so many of today’s specialty vokalisers – she’s a real, old fashioned singer with tone and tune and more than oe vocal mood. “Midnight” represents only one Yazoo sound.
“We’re going in millions of directions – I think every song is totally different,” claims Alf. The name Yazoo reflects this. “It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t commit us to anybody or to any style – because our music isn’t any one style. There’s so much variation.”
There are pop songs too and…. uncommercial noises!

We sit in the dark and listen to what Vince calls “our psycho song – it’s dead scarey.”
“I find it dead funny,” retorts Alf.
Actually it’s sewered voices taped, cut up, and spliced together again with synthesizer bursts here and there and manic screams of laughter. A bit art school, really. More to my taste is the disco-funk of “Goodbye Seventies”. It has the strong dance beat which could become a trademark of Yazoo discs.
Vince writes most of the songs and plays all the instruments – or rather he plays the computer and the computer plays all the instruments.
“I work out various synth lines – a base line and a lead line etc – and program these into the micro-computer, plug the computer into the synths and the computer plays them for me accurately.”
In other words, it’s more “Tomorrow’s World” than “Young Musician Of The Year” but you still get “Top Of The Pops” afterwards.
The computer will be accompanying Yazoo onstage when they start to play live, leaving Vince and Alf free to concentrate on singing and visuals.
“People with synthesizers seem to think you’ve got to look serious and manic – but it doesn’t have to be like that,” says Alf. “Just because we’re using synthesizers doesn’t mean the way we act on stage is necessarily going to be different from someone like… Kate Bush!”
Vince and Alf both laugh. It’s hard to imagine Alf singing “Midnight” inside a plastic bubble a la Bush.
“Synthesizer bands do get into this rut of having to look dead cool and composed, whereas we intend to make complete idiots of ourselves.”
Who else would dare to bring some blues into a computer world?
Only You… Yazoo.

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