Andy Bell: this much I know

The Erasure singer, aged 50, on living with HIV, darts and predicting the future

I’ve always felt brave. Vince [Clarke], my bandmate in Erasure, has always said that I’m fearless. If someone’s going to smack me in the face I’d much rather go right up to them and say, “Go on then.”

From a young age, I learned how to hustle. Our house was crowded and I’d go and see my gran and tell her tall tales of how everyone was picking on me. She would do me a pan full of chips and give me 50p.

Once you find out you have HIV it’s like starting from year zero. When I was diagnosed [in the late 90s] I was so low that I wasn’t bothered if I was going to live or die. It took a lot to start rebuilding everything.

I came out to my mum in a letter. When I was 17, I had a girlfriend. I also had a boyfriend on the quiet. I told my mum I was bisexual – I’m not, I’m mostly gay.

Sometimes I think I was a greedy pig for all the drugs I took. I don’t regret it, though, because I was just being me. I was a mess and I did try therapy, but I can’t imagine I’m ever going to live my life in a way where if I’m out and I’m having a good time, I’m going to say no.

You can’t prepare yourself for losing someone. My partner of 25 years, Paul Hickey [who was also Bell’s manager], passed away three years ago. Watching his demise was so sad. He gave me 100% of himself and I took that for granted.

My parents were darts champions. When they played, they would often leave us at home, but they would come back with trophies and a carrier bag full of sausage rolls and chicken drumsticks from the buffet. Mum was very glamorous, in an evening gown with her hair all up. We loved it.

People who want fame want to be loved by everybody. They get the adoration and think, “Aha! This is the answer to all my problems.” Then all of a sudden it’s gone – and you’re left with a gaping hole.

A clairvoyant told me to get back into music. I had kind of given up on my career. I was living in Hastings, helping my partner at the time sell bread – we were thinking of getting a guest house. The clairvoyant told me to leave it all, so I packed my bag the next day.

If I had been a closet gay Erasure could have been much bigger, but I’m proud I wore my heart on my sleeve from the start.

I would have more plastic surgery, but I feel quite happy at the moment. I wouldn’t want to look too fresh for my age. In Miami, where I live now, surgery is like having a tooth out. It’s all about the body beautiful.

Erasure’s latest album, The Violet Flame, is out now on Mute. The new single, “Sacred”, is out tomorrow (erasureinfo.com)

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Candice Pires

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