“After years and years of living with repression and religious guilt, I had finally shaken off those shackles to become the clichéd licentious, degenerate, promiscuous rock star – everything my mother had feared I’d become.”
I’ve met Wayne a couple of times now. Once all the way to Dublin to see them rehearse before touring in support of their last album, Another Fall from Grace. Wayne was a sedate, convivial host with a wicked sense of humour and a quiet core of confident self reliance.
To square that with the hell-raising front man of stadium touring goth rockers The Mission was a challenge. To imagine him at the right hand of Eldritch, crafting the rich riffs that define First and Last and Always, arguably the most iconic period of The Sisters Of Mercy, was nigh-on impossible.
Very early on Wayne addresses the contradiction he presents, describing his first adventures onto stage and deciding that “the most interesting rock stars are the wall flowers”. The ones who were quiet and sensitive as children and have grown up with a burning urge to prove themselves to the world.
This level of self-reflection, even introspection runs through Wayne’s writing and paints a deeper picture of what we perceive as a character – a caricature – of the Goth scene. A very self-aware caricature as well, quite without illusion or delusion.
He quickly identifies the seeds of rock and roll being sown, including watching T-Rex supported by The Damnned in 1977 with the charisma of Marc Bolan having a major impact on the young Hussey. Sadly though, there is no record of what he thought of Dave Vanian!
There’s also many painful acknowledgements of his Mormon upbringing which clearly caused him such conflict. The mandatory account of losing his virginity is tarnished by the horrendous guilt that sends him fleeing the scene immediately afterwards – clearly rooted in his subconscious, bathed in religion. Hussey is candid about his realisation of his own mental demons, and he ensures he apologises to the wounded other party, and is humble to note she still thought fondly of him long after!
Like many contemporary musicians Hussey goes from band to band, often following the classified adverts in Melody Maker. In 1981 he is aligned with Pauline Murray and The Invisible Girls. His trip to the North East to record the single Searching For Heaven is his first (and last) encounter with the legendary producer Martin Hannett. He’d made a fearsome reputation creating the iconic sound that defined Joy Division – and now he was going to create an iconic rock and roll rebel by passing a bank note and a few lines of cocaine to Wayne Hussey.
“Within ten minutes I was asking for more lines to be chopped out. I was easily seduced and readily corruptible. I surrendered unhesitatingly to taking the first steps on the road to ruin; that dark, alluring, mythical place where caricature and rock’n’roll cliché exist.”
Dissolute excess notwithstanding, the band commit to recording the single. One night Hussey is recording a guitar part and Hannett obliges the atmosphere by lowering the lights. After four or five takes, our hero thinks he’s nailed it – but the track keeps rewinding and he starts again obligingly. By a herculean ninth or tenth take he finally pokes his head into the darkened control room. Martin Hannett is comfortably asleep under the automated mixing desk! Hussey rallies bravely and the resultant single appears at a modest 83 in the charts, his first – but far from last – appearence.
Well known to his fans but perhaps overlooked by others, Wayne next turned his talents to Dead or Alive in Liverpool, helmed by the outrageous Pete Burns. When Pete passed in 2016, Hussey freely admits he cried for his old singer. His reflections on his time with the band are a recollection of superb playing and writing, and above all else the withering sense of humour and prodigious talent of Pete Burns. He also reminds us that pre Dead or Alive, the band were visibly Gothic Rock before the term had even been created!
This chimes with the memories of John Keenan, the formidable Leeds promoter who ran the successful Futurama festivals of the 1980s amongst many other alternative events. At a panel he recalled the dark splendour of Pete Burns and company and mused on the influence that could have had on a younger Andy Taylor…
Let’s follow that thread shall we? Eldritch himself picked up the phone to recruit Hussey after his unpleasant departure from Dead Or Alive. So will begin one of the most formative periods of Hussey’s career, and a collision course with arguably the most revered and reviled character in goth rock.
Hussey’s entrance exam in particular consists of a trip to Village Place in Leeds 4, the dark heart of the Merciful Release empire. After chats, tea and lines of speed, the guitarist is dispatched back to Liverpool with an armful of Sisters records he must scrutinize before deciding if he can join… as well as pending approval by Eldritch himself. Of course he gets the job, recalling
“I had passed the audition without playing a note, though I suspect my skill with a blade and powder may well have had something to do with my appointment.”
What follows is a raucous account of his first trip to the USA, producing the first album, and touring in support of it. I don’t want to spoil any of it, and firmly encourage you to enjoy it yourself. Many anecdotes fly by, such as the awful reason he bought his first broad-brimmed black hat, where exactly he left a wardrobe from a hotel room, and quite what he got up to in the back garden of Gary Numan’s house so long ago!
Sadly these anecdotes are summed up in just a few lines, probably a casualty of the celebrated excess he and bassist Craig Adams – dubbed the Evil Children of the Sisters – indulged in during those heady days. It’s a shame really as I could have enjoyed far more detail on each and every sordid encounter… but I understand the price paid for even these hazy memories!
Of even more interest to the goth scholar, or gossip merchant, or more likely a combination of the two, is his perspective on Andy “Spiggy” Taylor, aka Andrew von Eldritch, svengali of The Sisters of Mercy, reluctant architect of goth rock imagery and sound, and arch-denier of the cause. It’s fascinating to note when – with unbridled honesty – Hussey admits how he and Adams earn the ire of their bandmates through debauched shenanigans. He does not evade responsibility and whilst not an outright apologist, certainly seems to regret some of the chancier choices he made!
Equally, the guitarist is unrestrained in recording the complexities of working with the universally acknowledged control freak that is Eldritch. Appearing more and more as a detached, morally ambivalent overlord the accounts of recording First and Last and Always are fascinating and infuriating in equal measures.
The meticulous-to-a-ridiculous-degree mixing of the first album seems to jar with the difficulty reported in producing and recording the lyrics, and Eldritch’s illnesses during ’85 are well known – exacerbated, Hussey recalls, by his intake of chemicals along with his twilight exile inside studios and rehearsal rooms (although never at the same time as his bandmates!)
Yet despite his comments to meet about having no regrets over reopening old wounds, and his willingness to stick it to the “bigoted, sour bunch” of the Sisters audience who still see Hussey as the villain, there’s some heartfelt reflection in there about recording one of the most distinctive tradgoth albums ever.
“As my health and sanity suffered with recording Mission albums so did Andrew’s with FALAA. I’ve been left spiritually and emotionally bereft after recording albums as I’m sure Andrew was with FALAA. Rightly or wrongly FALAA is perhaps a work that has been held up to scrutiny much more than anything else I have done before or since.
Everything I have done since has been judged against it. It’s a long, long time, more than 30 years since its release, to live with the nagging notion that maybe, just maybe, FALAA has been my life’s best work.”
At moments like this I absolutely treasured Wayne’s personal, open, ‘to a mate, over a pint’ style of writing which I can report is very similar to his actual manner of conversation. He brings the reader in close and speaks earnestly and truthfully – and it resounds in your mind brilliantly.
From this point out, his memoirs are tinged with melancholy and resentment. The band loses founding member Gary Marx, with the task of informing the guitarist falling to unluckly ‘new boy’ Hussey, who attempts to carry out Eldritch’s orders with grace and dignity – and is met with relief by Gary, who had been estranged from the lead singer since prior to Hussey ever joining.
There’s the Royal Albert Hall gig of ‘Wake’ fame, which is preceded by the casual rock’n’roll tale of Hussey headed out to see Killing Joke with Ian Astbury and Lemmy, and meeting a wrecked Jimmy Page along the way. There’s the filming of the videos, including the infamous Black Planet video that all but heralded the end that was screaming towards The Sisters of Mercy.
The final clash takes up the final page and a half. Craig Adams, soon to be the bassist in The Mission, explodes after attempting to play along with the demos produced by Eldritch for the next album. After a four-word tirade, he storms out, and later in the pub confides in Hussey that he’d rather play the music Hussey had written.
The very next day, Wayne Hussey – soon to be the guitarist and lead singer in The Mission – informs Andrew Eldritch that he is leaving The Sisters of Mercy.
“As I pondered the future, I couldn’t help feeling that the last two years had been merely a diversion, not a destination.”
Roll on the Memoirs of The Mission!
You can also read my interview with Wayne ahead of his tour of SALAD DAZE over here!