Lorraine Wilson

Those of us who were teenagers when Marc Almond appeared on Top of the Pops, eyes heavily kohled and wrists creaking under the weight of studded leather cuffs, could never have envisaged a collaboration between this new emperor of Soho-inspired synth pop and the crazy-haired creature from our hippy sibling’s Jethro Tull albums. Is that a flute? Why is he standing on one leg?

However, with his tendency to keep us guessing, Marc Almond invited Ian Anderson to collaborate on the single Lords of Misrule, released late last year.

“I was and still am a huge Jethro Tull fan!” Marc says. “I’m pleased to still work with interesting, great producers and musicians – and that includes Ian Anderson. Maybe it’s because I’m older and I’ve been around so long that I don’t feel such a pressure to have hits.”

Lords of Misrule was taken from Chaos and a Dancing Star, Marc’s new album, released yesterday. The title is inspired by a quote from Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”

It’s a statement that he wants placed on his gravestone, the message that every artist must embrace their individuality and experiences to create a unique work of art.

Recently, however, he has teamed up with a 21st century hitmaker, Chris Braide, who has worked with the likes of Sia and Lana Del Rey. They wrote most of the album in Los Angeles, where he was inspired by the faded glamour and slightly seedier side of old Hollywood. The first single from the album was Hollywood Forever, which even references that famous cemetery to the stars. “Beneath the sunshine and beautiful people, there’s a dark, decaying side, particularly to its dark history.”

From the early days of Soft Cell, Marc’s writing has never shied away from darkness. A brush with death following a motorcycle accident in 2004 has perhaps given him more thought than most of us about what lies beyond. Once he recovered from his injuries to work, he had the zeal of a man given a second chance. Collaboration is an important part of what he does now.

“Meeting Chris Braide, who I wrote and recorded both The Velvet Trail and the new album with, was a creative re-boot and revelation at a time when I needed new inspiration. I’ve worked and written with my guitarist Neal X for longer than any other collaborator, although, when I worked with Dave Ball again recently it was great to find that we still had a chemistry.”

The album is as lush and melodic and dramatic as we have come to expect from Marc, who has worn his influences proudly on his often-flamboyant sleeve. Scott Walker and Jacques Brel are among the best known, but his love of chanson extends to others. “I’ve forever been a fan of Charles Aznavour, who sadly died last year in his nineties. He was singing until the last – what a truly great performer. I saw him many times and it was always a masterclass. I’ve also covered a few of his songs, What Makes A Man and I Have Lived on Stardom Road, and Yesterday When I Was Young on the Absinthe album. I’m talking with his ex-manager and family about doing a tribute show.

“Away from those kinds of influences though, Chris Braide and I are also talking about doing a Marc Bolan project. There’s also an opera in the pipeline, so lots of exciting and challenging things for the future.”

That doesn’t extend to writing for other people, however. “I’ve tried, but it rarely works out because my songs are written in my voice and for my world. David Gray covered Say Hello Wave Goodbye wonderfully though. He made it his own so much so that when I sing it sometimes, people come up to me and say ‘I love that David Gray song you do but he does it better’!”

With more than 30 million sales, there has been a clever straddling of the mainstream and the underground during his 40-year career. Following Soft Cell, there was Marc and the Mambas, duets with Gene Pitney and Jimmy Somerville and, inspired by the time he spent in Russia (he had a flat in Moscow for several years) he recorded Heart On Snow in 2003, a collection of his interpretations of traditional Russian romance songs followed in 2009 by Orpheus In Exile, songs by the late singer, dissident and gay icon Vadim Kozin.

Marc has also produced three books of verse: The Angel of Death in The Adonis Lounge, A Beautiful Twisted Night, and The End Of New York. There has been a natural gravitation towards theatre with Ten Plagues, which won a Fringe First Award in 2011, and taking the role of Seneca in the Théâtre du Châtelet's rock adaptation of Poppea.

However, Marc is happy to roll out the hits and perform to the day-glo clad crowds at 1980s festivals. “I really enjoying doing the festivals, knowing I’m not reliant on doing them. They’re great fun and I love to see the familiar faces and catch up. We were all rivals in the 80s – there was a lot of showbiz bitchiness – but that was then, and we’ve all grown up. I never take for granted that I’m lucky enough to have an album’s worth of big hits and great singles that I could live off forever should I so wish… and it’s great that people come to enjoy them. I’ll be back in Scotland at the end of the year doing a hits and singles tour.”

He started the year in Scotland too, in Edinburgh on Hogmanay. “It was one of my best career experiences – after all Scotland invented the New Year celebrations and it’s where everyone wants to be at that time of year. Yes, it was cold, but to see more than 75,000 people, really as far as the eye could see, was amazing.”

He acknowledges that playing live is important for many older artists, as there are few musicians, and usually only the flavour of any particular month, who will sell records in any real quantities. It seems there’s more of an appetite for spending money on seeing favourites live.

“We don’t live in the same world as the 1980s, even though sometimes it feels that it’s never gone away. We only had a few TV channels and radio shows, but we did have Top of the Pops and artists sold millions of singles and had huge hits. That was great but there was always record company pressure for more of the same.

“Having had a number of big hits back in the 80s and 90s has given me a platform and financial security to do more of what I please. Also, there are several different outlets where as an older, whether you call it heritage or vintage, artist you can promote yourself in different ways and take advantage of the social media platforms.

“I like to take on different things that challenge me and excite me. As long as I’m always working on something interesting, I’m happy.

“I feel I’m having another golden age.”

Chaos and a Dancing Star is out now.