Andy McCluskey - Conversation taken from TTA1 - SS2011
Interview Martin Hossbach
Photography Michael Kominek
Andy McCluskey is the singer, bass player, and one of two songwriters for Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, also known as OMD. Andy and his musical partner Paul Humphreys founded OMD in 1978 and released their first album in 1980. Together with Depeche Mode and Human League, they formed the so-called “First Wave.” Three more albums followed and it was only 1983 ...they continued writing together until 1986, then parted ways in 1989 while McCluskey carried on alone. He stopped in 1996. In September of 2010, McCluskey and Humphreys released their fantastic new album “History of Modern” – their first combined effort in more than 20 years.
How are you, Andy?
I’m okay Martin, but I’ll tell you what – I’ve forgotten how busy it is being a pop star. Last time I was a pop star I didn’t have a wife and two children.
Do you find your life a bit too busy now?
I’ll get used to it. One of the reasons I retired 15 years ago was that my son was born and I knew I couldn’t be a 100% pop star and a 100% father. Anyway, I’m enjoying it. I’m glad that we have the opportunity to be pop stars again. It’s nice that we’ve made a record people want to talk about instead of running away from because they think it’s shit...
You and Paul used to live in the same city, in Liverpool. Paul’s now living in London, so does being in OMD these days mean that you have to travel a lot just to see each other?
When we were first talking about working together again, we assumed we could make use of modern technology and let the Internet do the travelling for us, sending digital music files to each other. It does work, and we have done some effective work with it, but in the end we realized that in order to be creative it’s a lot faster and better to be in the same room, bouncing ideas off each other.
Which mode of transport do you use when you want to meet?
We generally try to take the train. The motorways in England are really not much fun at all. They’re painful. The train takes two hours and eight minutes, which is half the time a car would take.
What do you do whilst on the train?
I tend to boot up my computer and try to start working but then always think: “Oh, I hate this...” I love to daydream out the window. Also, whenever we’ve finished a record and are about to start promoting it, being on a train helps me think about the things that I can say in interviews. You know, people always ask questions like – “Why did you write this song?,” “What does the album title mean?,” “What’s that lyric about?” – and you have to have an answer to these questions. The real answer of course is, “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time and it just came to my head,” which clearly doesn’t make for a good printed interview. Taking the train and daydreaming out the window helps me to verbalize answers and reasons. Well, to be honest, it gives me time to make up some bullshit.
When you go on tour, who chooses the hotels? I assume you’ve done a fair bit of travelling and know many decent hotels...
We look at the touring schedule and ask our tour manager whether we can stay at a certain hotel in a certain city. But, generally, the tour manager and the travel agent get together and make a deal with a hotel chain because that’s cheaper. In England, for example, we always stay in the Malmaison hotels, which can be a bit confusing because most of them are black and purple inside. So on the tour, at one point, all hotel rooms become just one big purple vision...
I assume you prefer your own home to a hotel.
Of course, I love my home and my family. But I have to say: I like hotels. I’ve always liked being in a band. I like travelling, I like doing interviews, I like playing gigs. You must remember, Martin, I was a very working-class boy who came from a family with no money. So for me, travelling around the world and staying in nice hotels was really quite exciting when it first started. So I still associate travelling and hotels with the anticipation, excitement and euphoria of being 20, 21, discovering the world. Staying in a hotel for me is always a happy, nostalgic recollection and it reminds me of being on tour again. And now I actually am on tour again – and for 15 years I wasn’t!
Did you ever leave the UK as a child or teenager?
Only once. I went to France on a school holiday on a bus when I was 14.
Where exactly did your parents take you when you went on holidays?
My father was Scottish so we always seemed to drive around Scotland. My memories of my holidays go basically like this: Day after day after day after day, sitting in a caravan with my family with the rain hammering down on the metal roof, playing cards or Monopoly with all the steam and all the condensation on the windows so you couldn’t see out. It just always rains in Scotland. If you ask British kids to tell you about their summer holidays quite a few of them will answer: “Sitting in a caravan with the rain hammering down on the roof.”
And what are your favorite holiday destinations now?
As a typical married man with children, my holidays are often built around them. Although, having said that, my wife is more of a Disney freak than my children are, so invariably Disneyland features greatly in our holidays. I must admit that my wife is a private member of a club called “Club 33,” which is a private members-only club in Disneyland that nobody knows about! It’s in the New Orleans Square section, next to a restaurant called the “Blue Bayou.” And there’s this little door that just says “33” on it. You can have dinner there, and it’s actually the only place you can get alcohol in the park!
And you can sit on the balcony and watch all the tourists sweating and walking around whilst you’re in your private club. That’s my idea of a holiday in Disneyland, haha!
That’s a good question. I don’t know why it’s called “Club 33.” It was originally Walt Disney’s private apartment in Disneyland. And when he passed away, they turned it into this club. My wife just wrote to them, and I don’t know what was in the letter...but they gave her a membership! The other members are people like Nicolas Cage and Madonna, and, of course, Michael Jackson used to be one. How my wife got in there, I don’t know! These days you have to wait 20 years to become a member. My wife is threatening to take me to the Disneylands in Tokyo and Hong Kong, where she hasn’t been yet. She wants the full set!
What about your children then?
My children and I have a list of places we want to go to. My daughter wants to go to Egypt to see the pyramids and my son, since he was 10, has wanted to see Easter Island.
Does money help when you travel?
I have very nice memories of being on a Scottish beach, petting a sheep in the fields or discovering a “lost castle” in the woods, which didn’t cost any money at all. Two of my greatest holidays ever certainly were fairly expensive.
Where did you go?
Stuart Kershaw, who was in OMD in the 90s, joined me for a road trip across America. We hired a car in Washington D.C. and drove 6,500 miles, three-and-a-half weeks, zigzagging across the country until we got to L.A. We went north to Gettysburg, then back down all the way to New Orleans, then to NASA and to Tucson, Arizona...it was fantastic. When we got to Las Vegas we’d already done 5,500 miles and the valet guy wanted to take the car away: “I’ll get this washed for you, Sir!,” he said. We asked him not to, of course, as we wanted to take a picture of the dirty car once we had made it to L.A.
What was the other “greatest holiday ever” like?
In 1994, when my father was 70 years old, I flew with him into Tashkent, in Uzbekistan, and spent a couple of days with him there and in Samarkand. Then we took a train across the border into China, through China and all the way to Singapore. We spent two weeks on that train. Actually, it was something I had promised my father, who was a communist and worked on the railways with steam trains when I was a kid: “If I ever become rich, I’m gonna take you to China!”
What happened between you and your father on that journey?
When I was young, I didn’t see my father that much. He was always working. And when he wasn’t working, he was out wasting his money on Greyhound racing. When you become an adult, you reassess your relationship with your parents. This was my opportunity to go away with my father as an adult, one on one, and talk to him about us, about his history, to learn something about him. I’m glad I did it. He was 70 then and died when he was 79. If I hadn’t done that trip with him, I would have thought that something was missing between us.