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Interview with the Pet Shop Boys

Aired February 17, 2010 - 16:49:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For many, The Pet Shop Boys epitomize '80s pop, with a synthetic beat and dance vocals, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe helped define a generation of electronic music.


ANDERSON: Unforgettable hits like "West End Girls" and "It's A Sin" won them numerous awards and four number one spots on the U.K. charts. And their flamboyant outfits and style became instant trademarks.

But few would have guessed that this duo would still be going strong after 25 years.

NEIL TENNANT: And we were probably slightly worried that we'd be a one hit wonder.


ANDERSON: Over the past two decades, they've sold more than 100 million albums. Last March, they released the album, "Yes," to rave reviews.


ANDERSON: And the DVD of their hit London concert, "Pandemonium," has come out just this week. From dance pop pioneers to cult classic, The Pet Shop Boys are our Connectors of the Day.



ANDERSON: And I spoke to the electronic pop duo, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, better known as The Pet Shop Boys. And I began with a question a lot of you want an answer to -- what's your upcoming Pandemonium Tour schedule looking like?

Loads of you wrote in for that from all over the world.

Here is what they had to say.


TENNANT: Well, we've just announced some more tour dates and we're playing some more dates in Britain in July. And we've announced our first festival appearance, which is in Barcelona at the end of May. There will be some more. We're under discussion about whether we're going to play Australia, because we get -- we get letters from Australia about when we're playing there.

LOWE: But we don't really have a huge audience in Australia, is the fact for us, and it's a long way to go. So...

TENNANT: To play to two people.

LOWE: To play to two people.


LOWE: We should just invite them over here.



LOWE: It would be cheaper for everyone.

ANDERSON: Belize, Bangkok, Jordan, the Middle East...

LOWE: A lot cheaper for everyone.

TENNANT: But, actually, we're looking into doing -- we haven't done the Middle East or Southeast Asia yet or Australia and that's all under discussion for later on in the year.

ANDERSON: Chris Jones writes in. He says: "Anyone now can make electronic music, even on the iPhone," he says. "Do you think that it will reveal more talent than when it was harder and more expensive to make music?"

TENNANT: That's a good point because when electronic music was very difficult to make, when we first started making music, sequencing stuff was very, very, very complicated. And stuff would happen because of accidents of programming. So I -- I'm in two minds. I -- I think it's great if you can facilitate people making music because people with no musical training often turn out to have songwriting ability. And this enables them to do that.

ANDERSON: Aaryn Fuller writes in: "When you started out, guys, did you ever imagine you'd become an act quite like this one, nearly (INAUDIBLE)?"


ANDERSON: He says, "each time recreating yourselves as pop comedians rolling with the changing times?"

TENNANT: Now, the standard answer to a question like this is we've never really looked that far ahead. So when we started in the early '80s writing songs together, it was like a hobby and then we just made a record then everything sort of developed from there. But we weren't really thinking of where we were going to be in 25 years time. We were just thinking it was a good play while it lasted. And I -- I still think it's great while it lasts.

ANDERSON: Jordan Christopher writes and he says: "You've had a fantastic 2009. What's next for The Pet Shop Boys?"

LOWE: A fantastic 2010?

One hopes so.


LOWE: Well, we'll do some more dates. We're writing a ballet. We should be performing this out at Sadler's Wells next year. And see if any more offers come through for any more dates around, you know, the world, so.

ANDERSON: Lots of questions about the ballet.

What more can you tell us at this point?

TENNANT: Well, we were asked -- we were -- a friend of ours called Ivan Putrov, who is a principle dancer with the Royal Ballet, asked us if we'd write a short ballet for him to appear at Sadler's Wells in the summer with the Royal Ballet on -- onstage. And at the same time, Chris phoned me up and he'd read a -- a book of stories by Hans Christian Andersen. And he thought one of them would make a perfect idea for a ballet. He said, that's really funny.

Ivan just called me up and said, would you write a ballet?

So we decided the synchronicity meant that we had to do it. And so we went and met Sadler's Wells and they liked the idea.

ANDERSON: One of our viewers actually writing in to us: "Would you ever perform that in the States?"

TENNANT: We would if we were asked.


TENNANT: One of the great misconceptions people often has is that a band just decides they're going to do something and that it happens. Actually, all of these things, you're reliant on people approaching you and saying would you like to do such and such in such and such a place?


TENNANT: It's like we mentioned Australia before, Australian promoters aren't falling all over themselves to -- to put The Pet Shop Boys.

ANDERSON: Tony says: "I've been a fan since "West End Girls. What keeps you going after so many years?"

What do you do to maintain your energy and your enthusiasm?

TENNANT: I think writing music is a pleasure, otherwise we wouldn't be doing it. I've often said it's like playing. It's -- it's like a game. It's -- it's fun making something out of nothing. And sometimes it's frustrating, as well (INAUDIBLE). But the basic joy of it is what keeps you going and then everything follows on from that.

Then thinking what you can take to present it, etc. But what keeps us going is the love of the songwriter.

ANDERSON: There's a question here from Steve Fisher, who just says: "Will you please, please, please, please" -- and he says it about 18 times -- "release "It Couldn't Happen Here" on DVD? Thank you."

LOWE: Yes. I don't know why it isn't.

TENNANT: It could (INAUDIBLE) in here, in case you don't know, if the film we release...


TENNANT: -- in...



TENNANT: -- in 1988. And it was funny, because we never started out to make a feature film. We started out to make a sort of a video album, which is the kind of thing that was done in the '80s, with every track. And, anyway, this turned into, miraculously, us having a feature film released all over Britain. And it's this sort of surreal adventure.

But it has its followers. It eventually will come out on DVD. It's - - I don't know, it just seems to take a while.

ANDERSON: Patty asks: "When creating a song, is it the music that comes first, then the lyrics, or vice versa?"

TENNANT: They happen together. But often, you -- you think of a -- you've written a piece of music and you think well, oh, ho, and it comes in your head with -- with words attached to it, which is really bright.

ANDERSON: There's another question here from Laura. And she asks, from Laura: "Hi, Neil and Chris. How do you survive the last minutes, hours before a concert, in particular, the first concert of a tour?"

TENNANT: Well, we -- we know what you do.

LOWE: Well, I generally...


ANDERSON: Should we know?


LOWE: (INAUDIBLE). No, I don't really sleep then wake up and have some (INAUDIBLE) and it's -- and go on.

ANDERSON: Do you get nervous?

I mean I -- I guess that's the question that everyone wants to know.

TENNANT: The first day of a tour you might be slightly nervous. It depends on what (INAUDIBLE).

LOWE: It's nerve-wracking sometimes, though, simply because the equipment can fail and it's pretty embarrassing when it all just stops.


ANDERSON: That would be embarrassing.

The Pet Shop Boys, absolutely delight.