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03.08.12 MusicWeek 11


Why do you still make music? And are they the same reasons that applied when you first started? Neil Tennant: I think it is the same reason, yes. When Chris and I started writing songs and making records together just over 30 years ago, we did it because it was fun and exciting. Well it’s no different now. And I think you can hear that in our records. I mean we’re already working towards the next one. Our albums are quite often reactions against the previous ones, I think, so we’re going to do something quite dancey.

And that’s because this new record is…? NT: It’s quite warm, it’s quite deep sounding, physically it’s got a lot of sub-bass on it. I think our music has become more sophisticated. And writing things like Battleship Potemkin and The Most Incredible Thing has had an impact on the way we write.

You’ve described the album as ‘negotiating life at our age’. What are those negotiations about and how are they going? NT:Well, it’s an album written by two guys in their Fifties who are making pop music and it reflects our perspective on life. It reflects growing old and all that that implies and it reflects being in a pop group now. So, there’s a funny song called Your Early Stuff, which is a compilation of things that taxi drivers have said to me in recent years. [Chorus: ‘You’ve been around and you don’t look too rough/I still quite like some of your early stuff ’. Sample lyrics: ‘I supposed you’re more or less retired now’; ‘What’s in it for you now, do you need the money?’; ‘You got ripped off back in the day’]

I was going to ask, surely no one’s ever actually said those things to you? NT: Every single remark has been said to me directly.

And were you ripped off back in the day? NT:We weren’t actually, no. Chris Lowe:Well, someone did let us down…

Who was that? NT: Harvey Goldsmith. Harvey Goldsmith nearly bankrupted the Pet Shop Boys. In the late Nineties he was promoting our tour because we’d stuck with him, although we had an offer to go with another promoter, and then he went bust, owing us an awful lot of money, plus we got landed with this arena tour which we were suddenly promoting and paying for ourselves.

Invisible is another track that deals with growing old – and is a recogniseable, rather sad sentiment for anyone of a certain age. But does it apply to internationally renowned pop stars? NT: [Laughs] Well no, if I’m honest it probably doesn’t and I thought about that as I was writing the lyric. It doesn’t totally apply to me, but it could do. There comes a day when you’re not one of the beautiful young things anymore. It’s just a fact. I read an article years ago in which a woman said

you reach the age of 45 and from then on when you walk into a room you’re invisible. And I wrote the word ‘invisible’ down as a title. I thought that was interesting… and it’s also sort of true.

“It’s an album that reflects on growing old and all that that implies... There comes a day when you’re not one of the beautful young things anymore” NEIL TENNANT

any filters? Plus things like Twitter have a tendency to be inherently ‘me, me, me’... NT: There is a much greater awareness and acceptance amongst younger artists of the whole marketing and promotion process. We started in an age where, yes, you had to do tons of promotion, but you were trying to put across an idea of a pop group, rather than talking about your personal life, emotional life, sex life, relationship status, what car you’ve just bought or whatever. Pop music, generally, now represents the mechanics of someone’s life. Which, y’know, works for people. So Cheryl Cole’s album is taken as being a commentary on her marriage breaking up. That didn’t used to be the case. Not only that, but there’s nothing else it would

be, nothing else you would do. Actually, that’s not totally true, I listened to a few tracks by Ed Sheeran and he tells little stories that aren’t about him – but that’s quite unusual.

We just did an interview with Attitude and the

guy said it’s what happens for a gay man – I said quite honestly I think it’s the same for a straight man really. So yeah, it’s something you have to deal with, and a lot of the album is about dealing with life at a certain stage. It was also interesting in the evolution of the

album because it was a piece of music that Chris had written before there was a lyric attached and I thought there was a parallel with it and Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak. So it was one of the things that led to us working in LA with Andrew Dawson [who worked on the Kanye album]. We wanted to go over there and get a different

angle. American engineers famously do things differently to British engineers. There’s a bit more dryness to the sound. Not everything is smothered in vast reverb – much as I love that. CL: And the weather was good.

So did you enjoy the process and would you do it again, or was that your LA adventure? CL: I think we’d do it again. I’ve always liked the way Americans work. NT: They’re hard workers. CL: Yeah, God, Andrew Dawson is. He was working ridiculously long hours.

Who is Ego Music [a delicious dig at self- obsessed, vacuous, pretentious, cliché-spouting pop stars] about? NT: It’s not one particular person, it’s a composite. It’s just a satire about some pop stars these days. It’s much more ‘me me me’; people write about themselves in a very direct way more than they used to. And they talk to their fans in a way that we find… patronising.

Is that simply because they are talking more directly more often to their fans these days, through social media, rather than going through


How significant is the title, Elysium? CL: It actually came about because we went for a walk in Elysium Park in Los Angeles. We also wanted something that sounded different, and didn’t sound jokey. NT:We didn’t want it to be Pet Shop Boys: Probably; or Pet Shop Boys: Potentially. We wanted something that said this album’s actually quite beautiful. Elysium’s a sort of idealised afterlife, and that fits in with some of the songs as well. And it says ‘this is something different’.

How important will chart positions and reviews be to you after all these years? NT: Well sales are important, certainly.

Elysium is released on September 10

Are they? Because a lot of pop stars, particularly ones that have little to prove, say they don’t concern themselves with such grubby commercial matters… NT: I don’t believe them. I think they do. I do think that when you get older you can think

‘This is the statement we wanted to make, we’re really proud of it and we really enjoyed making it’. But at the same time, it would be incredibly frustrating if you thought all that, released it, and it was roundly ignored. Also, if you’re an established artist, you’re fighting against that thing we reference in ‘Your Early Stuff ’: Pet Shop Boys? Yeah, I quite like their early stuff. I don’t think that’s fair, because often your

appreciation of a record is tied into the circumstances in which you hear it, so maybe you fell in love for the first time, or you were leaving school and starting work, or just being 16.

But we’re also of a generation that believed pop and rock music should be made by young people. Did you believe that yourself as young man? NT: I don’t think I thought about it because it was just a basic cultural assumption. That was the way of things. What was supposed to happen was that you liked pop music then you grew up, got married and stopped liking pop music. You liked Mantovani, or easy listening, or ‘proper’ music, like jazz, or world music. But that didn’t happen for us. I remember my mother saying to me once ‘I always hoped you’d grow out of David Bowie’ – and

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