The veteran rock’n’roll performer will make the festival the last date of his UK leg, teasing but not confirming other UK and European dates. We had a quick transatlantic chat, with thanks to Absinthe Promotions for setting this up, and I quizzed the Brazil-based goth-rock veteran on autobiographies, international politics and the meaning of true happiness.
The Blogging Goth: Hi Wayne! Have you been keeping busy?
Wayne Hussey: Well, the last few weeks have been spent tying up the loose ends like the cover art and photographs for my autobiography, which is due out in May of this year. I’ve read and re-read it so many times, I’m getting sick of it! I’m also wondering at some points if, you know, I really should be saying this! I’m worried that it’s going to ruin me!
TBG: This sounds exciting! Certainly you’re in a place where you can drop some pretty significant bombshells! Is there anything you can tease us with?
WH: Oh, I wouldn’t want to do that. I think people, over the years and through the various interviews, have come to know the kind of character I am, so I don’t think there will be anything that will surprise people.
There are some revelations in the book, but it does only go up to when Craig and I left The Sisters of Mercy [in 1985]. Even so, I managed to produce nearly 200,000 words, when they only asked me for 90,000… so there’s the possibility of a second book! I’m not committed to producing another one, but…
The truth is I’ve resisted writing an autobiography for years, because I was making music – that’s what I do, I don’t write. As much as I love reading, I never harboured a desire to be an author, although the lifestyle is pretty attractive! I never thought I had the discipline to do it to be honest – but I have.
TBG: Did you happen to read anyone else’s autobiography to prep you for this task?
WH: Oh, I read loads and loads whilst I was writing. I read a lot anyway, and I read a lot of other musician’s books, but I don’t know if my story is anything new really – it’s the cliched tale of a young lad who harboured dreams and went after them… and along the way got corrupted!
At the same time, I think it has my unique take and I think there’s some amusing interludes and tales that people will find funny.
TBG: Bearing in mind your history and former bands, is this book going to bury the hatchets… or reopen old wounds?
WH: [without hesitation] Both!
WH: To begin with I talk about my childhood and the first bands I joined in school. Then, when I moved to Liverpool and got into the Eric’s scene, bands like Dead or Alive, Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls… and obviously The Sisters of Mercy takes up a fair chunk thereafter!
There’s some, how can I say, urban myths laid to rest with this book… but at the same time, there’s some stories that will incur the wrath of the… how can I say – Sisters zealots!
TBG: (Hiding the poster of Eldritch on the wall) Well, it’s definitely not easy to avoid provoking them, so in for a penny – in for a pound!
WH: I feel I’ve definitely come in for some unfair stick from that lot over the years – so I’m getting my own back!
TBG: You’ve piqued my appetite alright! So, I’m hoping I’ll be able to take a copy straight off you when you come to the UK later this year?
WH: Oh definitely, as I say the book’s out in May so I’ll definitely have it.
I was offered a European festival date in the summer, but I turned that down… then another offer from Germany came in, which I was considering. Then, I had an offer from Absinthe Promotions to play at Tomorrow’s Ghosts festival on November 2nd – and I thought ‘why not do it, and get out of the house’?!
I’ll be going stir crazy, not doing anything, so I’ll put a European tour together. I’m anticipating now the Whitby show will be the end of the tour.
TBG: Great! Are there any other hints at other European dates we can see you?
WH: Mostly Europe, but possibly one or two other shows in the UK. Nothing I can confirm yet.
TBG: So you are back on tour and the high point will certainly be your show in Whitby for Tomorrow’s Ghosts. As I understand it’ll just be you, how do you hold court on a stage without your entire band?
WH: Ah well, I’m not sure about that. I’m toying with an idea of doing something different and special for that particular show – something I haven’t done before.
I won’t go into details at this point because it’s not confirmed, but it will be a line-up of instrumentation I haven’t played with before.
TBG: This is very intriguingly vague! Is this like a band?
WH: [Very cagily] Well… you could say it as there will be more than one of us! Nothing is confirmed yet, and I need to work out the finer details – but I certainly have people in mind.
It can be difficult performing a large venue, with perhaps some people hanging back from the stage who are talking… if I’m in the throes of a dynamic song and I want to go really slow and quiet with it, then all I feel like is saying to them “Will you shut up?!”
But these days, I think I’ve got the dynamic right to hold the attention of an entire audience.
TBG: As we’re talking Britain and Europe, I’ve got to ask – as a globetrotting musician based now in Brazil, what does it look like from the outside? Our whole political situation?
WH: I do go back two or three times a year, so I don’t feel I miss it too much. I do miss friends and family often, but then we have things like Skype and WhatsApp to keep in touch. I even seem to be watching more English football over here than I would in the UK!
But, I think Britain has always had an ‘island mentality’ even when we joined The European Union, we always thought of ourselves being separate – and that’s part of the problem!
We never really embraced the EU like other nations did, and that’s kind of why we’re in the pickle we’re in now. I think that in theory going out to the whole country and asking for there opinion, well it was a good thing but I’m not sure how well-informed people were when we went to a referendum.
I don’t want to point fingers but I know people who wanted to leave so they could close the borders, or stop people deciding what shape eggs we wanted! [He laughs] Well, they reap what they sow.
The thing is, you can’t go back and ask for another referendum! Although I think the answer might be different, it has already been done… and I’m worried that would set a very very bad precedent for the future.
TBG: I think you’re right – for better or definitely for worse, we’ve committed ourselves now.
WH: We have – I was going to say you have, but you know… we have!
TBG: Let’s put the politics to one side now. It’s interesting you’re looking back with things like the book, as it’s coming up on a lot of anniversaries – The Cure, Bauhaus and yourselves are all celebrating thirty year anniversaries of early releases.
How do you account for the longevity of the music in the alternative scene?
WH: I’m not sure – but if you could work it out, you could sell it to young bands! But there’s always been a need for nostalgia, and I remember 50s and 60s artists playing to my parents in the 70s and even 80s! I don’t know if our generation is any different, although we do seem to be more aware of it maybe.
TBG: So, there’s nothing stopping bands from the 80s reaping that success, and indeed recruiting new fans, I guess. There’s fans getting into The Mission now that weren’t alive when you released your first albums – it’s remarkable!
WH: [Immediately] It’s scary (laughs). I’m actually surprised a lot of us from the Eighties are still alive though.
TBG: Ah, is that because of the lifestyle, or…?
WH: Well – yeah! But, every generation has that type of person that immerses themselves in a particular lifestyle, and it was never a problem for me – I embraced it! But I never, ever felt addicted to anything… apart from cigarettes!
They’re still a temptation on tour though… they’re part of a ritual I seem to have, with a cig before the gig and another after.
It may seem strange for me to claim I’m quite shy, and I truly am, but one way I’ve learned to deal with that is my crutches – it’s been a lot of drink, in the past! I’ve gotten better on that score though!
TBG: Certainly your announcements via social media to fans attract an incredible amount of attention from them. It must be quite remarkable to be in direct contact with them?
WH: I must admit I see social media as a double-edged sword. It’s a great way to get information out quickly and directly, especially compared to when we first started out. I remember us relying on fan-club newsletters that were posted out – but for fans in Brazil the news might be four weeks out of date and useless! So in that respect, social media is great.
But in the same respect, I feel like a lot of mystery has been lost. I remember growing up, part of the attraction my favourite pop stars had was that I didn’t know very much about them, and not having access to them!
Now, I feel like that allure has been lost, thanks to Twitter or Instagram. I personally worry something has been lost to be gained due to social media.
TBG: I can definitely see that – the mystique of the singer silhouette in the smoke has been replaced by artists telling us what they had for breakfast that day!
WH: Exactly. Who cares if I had Weetabix or Shreddies today?
TBG: Spot on! Talking of musicians and singers though, I was wondering who you like to listen to when you’re not performing? I read online you saw Nick Cave when he came to Brazil recently and had an amazing time!
WH: That’s right – I was on the guest list as well, and I was really blown away. We must have played shows and festivals together sometime in the Eighties and Nineties, but I’m surprised I haven’t bumped into him sooner.
So I went along, to a huge gig with thousands of people – and he was captivating! The band themselves were kind of loose, but really together as well. They were really good, and Nick was funny, charismatic, I really enjoyed it. I’ve got to admit though, it didn’t actually motivate me to go and buy any more of his music, and I did find it surprising!
I have a couple of his albums already, and I do like them, but I can’t say I love them. I guess because I know what he sounds like recorded… but, I enjoyed this gig so much, I would definitely pay to go see him again.
TBG: That’s pretty high praise in itself. I’ve read you particularly admire Nick as a lyricist, is that the case?
WH: Yeah, absolutely, but the funny thing is I don’t really listen to the words of a song, although I’ll pick out particular phrases I do like. I don’t sit down and analyse lyrics like some people do though.
When we started [The Mission] I was really concerned about the lyrics I would write, but Craig [Adams, bassist with both The Sisters and The Mission] told me not to worry and just string any old bollocks together! It’s only journalists and other singers that worry about the words – and I found that was very sage advice!
I’ve found myself watching films with my wife, an actress, who was analysing a film in depth, and I said to her “Can’t you just watch it and say if you enjoyed it?” She asked me if I didn’t do that with the music I listen to, and I replied “No, not really!” I feel like I like particular parts when they stand out, but really I feel I can enjoy the whole creation without pulling it to bits.
I feel like it lessens your enjoyment in a way, if what you do is take it apart without taking it at face value?
TBG: I can see where you’re coming from there. Along those lines, is there anyone at the moment you’re enjoying listening to?
WH: I’ll tell you what, I’m listening to a lot of classical music. I don’t know if it’s an age thing, but I was recently asked to write some music for a play, and that was an incredibly interesting experience.
I often feel like the music I write has to demand the listener’s attention, whereas what I wrote for the play wasn’t the focus of attention. It had to support what the actors were doing, and so it had to be flexible and open as the performance changed from night to night. Their rhythms change from night to night you see. It was really different to write music that was supportive – and I really enjoyed it!
I saw it performed three or four times during the three month run, and it was great. I did find myself being hypercritical when I saw it, as the flow of the play was faster than the rhythm of the music – they might finish a scene too early and I think “We’ve missed the best bit!”
TBG: This sounds like a whole new direction you might want to go down!
WH: Oh, I’ve always wanted to do, but nobody has ever asked me! When I lived in LA in the 90s, I produced a couple of songs for a particularly awful film called “Shadow of Doubt”, in a last-minute request – literally over a weekend! I thought, ‘this is going to be my way into the movies’ so I did it… and then I never heard from them again!
TBG: I think we can blame the film rather than your soundtrack for that! Well, having looked backwards on what you’ve enjoyed doing – especially for a man who has completed his autobiography, can you tell me what you think the key to happiness is?
WH: Still having my own hair and teeth at sixty! Five dogs and a wife I keep falling in love with keeps me happy.
TBG: Congratulations, that sounds wonderful. I don’t think people imagine that’s what rock stars aim for – isn’t it all just sex, drugs and rock and roll?
WH: If you’d asked me that question thirty years ago, you’d have got that answer! I’m sixty now, so one night on the booze is me out for the count for the week – it isn’t worth it!
TBG: So we’re saying love, and dogs-
WH: And teeth and hair!
TBG: -yeah, are more satisfying in the long run?
WH: It absolutely is.
TBG: Wayne Hussey, it’s been a pleasure. We look forward to welcoming your tour SALAD DAZE to Europe, and to Whitby in particular when you headline Tomorrow’s Ghosts festival on November 2nd, 2019.
All photos reproduced with kind permission of Mel Butler Photography