(1960-) Synth player, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter for several influential New Wave bands. As a young man, Clarke played guitar in several bands in the Essex, UK area in the late 1970s. He was inspired to take up synthesizer after attending a concert by the synth-pop band OMD in 1980. He joined with Martin Gore and several others in a band which became Depeche Mode; Clarke, in addition to playing synth and guitar, was the band's singer until David Gahan joined and took on that role. Depeche Mode released its first album, Speak & Spell (named after an early electronic children's toy) in 1981, containing several songs written by Clarke including the single "Just Can't Get Enough". However, Clarke soon found himself at odds with the direction that Gore and Gahan wanted to take the band, and he departed.
Shortly after, Clarke responded to a classified ad placed by singer Alison Moyet, and the duo formed Yazoo (which was known in the USA as "Yaz" due to a name conflict). Yazoo achieved instant success with their first album Upstairs at Eric's in 1982, with Clarke performing all the music with synths and drum machines, and also providing backing vocals. The band released the song "Don't Go", which became a hit in the UK, but in the USA something unexpected happened: the single's B-side, "Situation", became a club hit and was subsequently released separately in that market.
However, Yazoo lasted only two years; after a tour and recording a second album, Clarke and Moyet went their separate ways. Both have since acknowledged that they lacked the maturity to deal with the problems that inevitably cropped up as a working band, plus the fact that success had come so quickly that the two had never had an opportunity to get to know each other all that well, Moyet went on to have a successful solo career, while Clarke formed a short-lived project band called the Assembly. This released two singles, but an album was shelved and not released until years later. Clarke and Moyet did a Yazoo reunion in 2008, but Moyet has stated that she has no interest in additional Yazoo performances.
After the unsuccessful Assembly experiment, Clarke formed another duo, this time with singer Andy Bell, and the two dubbed this band Erasure. The two scored an instant hit with the single "Who Needs Love Like That", and have become a perennially popular band in Europe. They are still together as of 2018 and have compiled an extensive discography. The musical arrangements follow the same basic plan as Yazoo; Bell sings while Clarke performs all the music on synths, drum machines, and occasional guitar. Clarke still retains his interest in doing one-off collaborations and has released a number of such albums and singles, in addition to his Erasure work. He also works as a prolific remixer and has remixed both Erasure songs and songs by other artists; his list of released remixes numbers in the hundreds.
Clarke is known as an avid collector and user of vintage synths. He still frequently uses vintage equipment in his studio recordings, preferring to use CV/Gate interfaces vs. MIDI for sequencing, in order to achieve tighter timing. He has increased his use of computers and soft synths, though, owning to a period in 2004 when his studio was being moved and he did not have access to any of his equipment. Almost every model of synth made in the 1980s and 1990s has passed through his hands at some point. He prefers to use polyphonic synths.