The Many Projects of Vince Clarke
A closer look at all of the different bands and artists the former Depeche Mode member has worked with.
In the 1980s it was next to impossible to escape Vince Clarke’s influence on the popular music of the time. Over the decades, he has worked with so many different musicians and still is as influential and revered now as he was when he first became known as a member of Depeche Mode. We decided to take a closer look at all of the different musical projects that he took part in – including the more popular ones as well as the ones that remained a bit more under the radar.
Depeche Mode (1980-1981)
The initial lineup of Depeche Mode in 1980 consisted of Vince Clarke, Andrew Fletcher, Martin Gore, and Dave Gahan. They had a classic 1980s electropop sound and released their first album, Speak And Spell in 1981. Vince Clarke put his songwriting abilities to good use with this release but left the band shortly afterwards. He has never given a definitive reason but has stated that he was uncomfortable with the publicity that success brought him, and that he found touring and interviews difficult.
Clarke’s next bandmate was another old-school friend, Alison Moyet. This incredibly successful duo had a very popular synthpop sound, with “Alf’s” instantly recognisable voice powering a number of enormous hits including “Only You”, “Don’t Go”, “Situation” and “Nobody’s Diary”, among many others. Despite the duo’s success, Yazoo was also short-lived, disbanding in 1983, after which Moyet embarked on a solo career and Clarke went on in search of a new project.
The Assembly (1983)
That project turned out to be The Assembly, with Eric Radcliffe, a recording engineer, and producer. They planned a series of singles, each with a different lead singer. The only one which saw the light of day was the song “Never Never” with Feargal Sharkey, formerly of the Undertones, on vocals. It was a success though, going top 5 in the UK charts on release in 1983.
The Peter Pan Effect (1983)
Turning record label owner and producer himself, Clarke founded Reset Records with Eric Radcliffe and then spent the next few months producing a series of singles for singer and musician Robert Marlow. They also worked on an album, subsequently released as The Peter Pan Effect in 1999.
Vince Clarke’s longest standing project, the one for which he’s definitely best known, is his musical partnership with Andy Bell in Erasure. The two met when Clarke put an advert in Melody Maker for a singer. Andy Bell replied, and told Clarke he was a fan of his earlier work. According to Clarke, in the beginning Bell was so shy that he barely spoke in the studio. Erasure’s early output is now considered classic. Their most played songs include “Oh L’amour”, “Sometimes”, “Stop!”, “A Little Respect”, “Blue Savannah”, “Chorus”, “Love to Hate You”, “Always” and several others.
Their career is still going strong over 35 years later, with their latest album Day-Glo (Based on a True Story) released in August 2022. That makes it their 19th studio album. Erasure have also released six live albums, nine compilations, seven box sets, 13 EPs, 62 singles, 14 video albums and 49 music videos, at the time of writing. That’s a pretty hefty back catalog, to be honest.
The Clarke and Ware Experiment (1999-2012)
Not all of Clarke’s collaborations have been with singers. In 1999 Vince Clarke and Martyn Ware of Heaven 17 released the album Pretentious, followed by Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle in 2001. This second album was made using 3D music technology designed for headphone listening. Their shared interest in sound technology led to a decision to found Illustrious Co. Ltd., a company aimed at creating a 3D sound composition. They work with artists, schools, performing arts organizations, and corporate clients worldwide. In 2012, The House of Illustrious was released, showcasing the work they were doing with their company.
Not content with several decades of global success with Erasure and many collaborations along the way, Clarke decided to collaborate with his former Depeche Mode bandmate Martin Gore. In 2012, thirty years after their original work together, they produced the album Ssss, as techno duo VCMG (Vince Clarke & Martin Gore). This was supported by several EPs released in 2011 and 2012.
For this project, Clarke got together with another well-known synthesizer player, who was non-other than Jean Michelle Jarre. This collaboration produced the two-part track “Automatic”, which was included on Jarre’s album Electronica 1: The Time Machine. Both musicians share a love of analogue synthesizers, so there must have been some serious geeking out going on during the recording. Like Jarre, Clarke has an impressive collection of analogue and soft synths. They both own an EMS VCS3, a Korg M1, an ARP 2600 and an ARP 2500, several flavors of Moog and Roland plus many other vintage synths.
Over the decades, Vince Clarke has worked with many other lesser-known musicians as well as the high-profile duos and groups listed above. He has contributed music to television shows, produced, or had input into, dozens of remixes, performed DJ sets, and written songs for other musicians. Apart from the musical exploits in his own right, Clarke is probably best known as a remixer of repute. His remix discography covers songs by The Happy Mondays, Betty Boo, The Time Frequency, Sparks, Simple Minds, Rammstein, The Saturdays, Polly Scattergood, Franz Ferdinand, Goldfrapp, Dido, Blancmange, Future Islands, Nitzer Ebb, Ladytron, Soft Cell, OMD, and Tiny Magnetic Pets, to name a few.
Whether as a musician, songwriter, collaborator, producer or remixer, Vince Clarke is highly respected and known for his quality work. His musical resume includes working with some of the best in the business for the last four decades and counting. Even better, with Erasure’s new release out in August 2022, he shows no sign of slowing down just yet.
Featured Image by Andrew Hurley