Interview: Wayne Hussey
2016 marks the 30 year anniversary of goth rock legends The Mission. They celebrate with the release of a fantastic new album, Another Fall From Grace, which sees them revisit their classic original sound. Paul Grace caught up with front man Wayne Hussey to chat about the making of the new album, laying ghosts to rest, and plans for the anniversary tour.
Hi Wayne, where do you now live?
São Paulo in Brazil where I’ll have been living for 13 years come this December. We’ve an apartment in the centre with a fantastic view overlooking the city, and we also have a place in the country up in the hills where I’ve got a studio and 5 dogs. I love it out there and it’s the first place I’ve lived since I was a kid which really feels like home.
2016 is the 30 year anniversary of The Mission. Congratulations! You guys were renowned for a life of excess back in the 80’s. Are you surprised that the Mission have made it this far?
I’d have never put money on it that’s for sure! It definitely wasn’t something we’d envisaged, and funnily enough I was only speaking to Miles Hunt the other day as The Wonderstuff are also about to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Miles had a long-term plan but I couldn’t really see beyond the end of the following week! To even anticipate the one year anniversary was beyond me so, yeah, 30 years is a real accomplishment.
Is it true that Melody Maker ran a bet on which member of the band would die first?
Ha! Yes it’s true and they all lost their money! Mick was due to die first and I was second favourite. We’re all still alive but there’s still time of course!
What’s been the highlight from the past 3 decades?
Well the fact that we’re still making records and playing great shows is a real accomplishment. The highlight though was definitely the Liverpool Hillsborough benefit show in ’89. Halfway through the power failed and the whole building was pitch black. The audience lit their cigarette lighters and we all sung “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. That was definitely one of the most emotional moments of my life.
Oh plenty but I’m not going to tell you! Funnily enough there’s a line on the new album “There’s many things I’ve done of which to be ashamed, but I find so hard to regret…”.
You’ve described Another Fall From Grace as “the long lost missing link between the Sisters Of Mercy’s First & Last & Always and The Mission’s God’s Own Medicine“. Was it a conscious decision to revisit that sound or did you naturally gravitate back to it?
It was a natural gravitation. A year or so ago Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins got in touch and revealed he was a big fan of my guitar playing, particularly on God’s Own Medicine. So we chatted about First And Last And Always too and I told him that I hadn’t actually played that since I left the Sisters so he suggested I did. I had to drive into São Paulo one day and dug out God’s Own Medicine and First And Last And Always and played them in the car and thought they sounded amazing. On First And Last And Always Andrew’s singing is great and the guitar sounds are great. Now the thing that linked those 2 albums was my use of the electric 12 string, which I’ve actually neglected the past few years. So I pulled it out from storage and started writing songs with it and that immediately informed the sound and tone of the record, and it grew from there. I also wanted to approach the drums differently so decided to use a drum machine as opposed to real drums. Mike still plays a lot of course, like the tom toms, cymbals, some snare overdubs and hi-hats but the main drum rhythms are drum machine. When you’re recording guitars you can record overdubs, so why can’t you do that with drums?
So it was Billy Corgan who influenced your approach to “Another Fall From Grace”?
Well he was definitely a catalyst. Craig and I went to Chicago earlier this year and we hung out with him for a week and spent a lot of time just playing together. Craig was on bass, I was on guitar and Billy was singing and we played a lot of the old Sisters’ songs. It was really great just to be the guitarist again and not have to worry about singing! Both Craig and I loved it, and using the drum machine just felt like how we used to remember it.
Earlier this year you released a haunting piano interpretation of the Sisters’ classic ‘Marian’. Was this another part of the past you wanted to explore?
Well there was a lot of bitterness between me and Eldritch for years and I tended to neglect that part of my life, but I’ve now come to terms with that whole period and think that what we did back then was pretty damn good. I think this album is my attempt of dealing with the past and also re-owning my guitar sound style, which I guess was a starting point for this record, and as it evolved it became broader.
A catharsis of sorts?
In a sense it was me coming to terms with my past, being comfortable with it, and then using the past to be able to move on. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some of the comments online from some Sisters’ fans which are quite sour towards me saying things like the new songs sound like the Sisters, but of course they’re going to sound like the Sisters because it was me playing guitar on those records! Besides, how on earth can you plagiarise yourself?
How did the recording process work and how has it been working with him Tim Palmer again?
I did most of the recording in Brazil at my home studio. I came to Brighton in April and recorded some of the drums with Mike, Simon did his parts from home, and when the songs were finished I sent all the parts to Tim and he started mixing. I then flew to Austin in Texas and spent a week with him finishing the mixes off. It was great working with Tim again.
What do you feel Tim brings to your music?
There’s definitely a chemistry. I think he gets me and he gets the band. I always love the sound of the guitars when Tim mixes them. He came into the process quite late; it was essential for me to have someone to bounce things off – like a guitar part or vocal – so it was great to have him there.
Do you ever hear from your original drummer Mick Brown?
I saw him about 5 years ago and he was loving life. We wanted him back for the 25th anniversary tour but he didn’t want to let us down as hadn’t played drums for 15 or 20 years so very politely declined. It was great to see him though and he was doing really well.
You have a number of high profile guests providing backing vocals on Another Fall From Grace including Gary Numan, Depeche Mode’s Marin Gore, HIM’s Ville Valo and All About Eve’s Julianne Regan. What do you feel these particular singers bring to the album?
They’re all long time friends of mine. When I was in the US in January I stayed with Gary Numan in his home in LA for a couple, I also stayed with Martin Gore in Santa Barbara for a couple of days, and we talked about singing on the record and it all just came together from there. Julianne always sings on every record I make ‘cos she’s just amazing. I could have done the backing vocals myself but I like the colour, contrast and texture another voice brings. They all have their distinctive voices too – you hear Gary Numan and you recognise him straight away, the same for Martin Gore and the others. Whereas Craig just sounds like an old drunk! Ha ha! Just kidding – Craig’s great too.
The first single off the new album is ‘Met-Amor-Phosis’ which contains a reference to David Bowie’s death earlier this year. He was obviously one of you major musical influences?
Bowie was omnipresent in our lives; he was there from when I first got into music back in 1972 and then Starman came along. I saw the rise of David Bowie. It was a shock and even now I still find it so hard to believe he’s gone. If you think about it there were tell tale signs he wasn’t well. I have a theory his death was assisted suicide, the way he engineered the album release on the Friday, then he died 2 days later. But who’d want to go through that much pain? His whole death was a work of art, just like his life. Then there was the cremation with no ceremony. Good on ya mate – what a legacy to leave.
Who else has influenced your music?
The Beatles and in particular Lennon. Zeppelin too and T-Rex were my first love. These days I love Radiohead and the last album was amazing, I think Thom Yorke has the voice of an angel. I’ve seen them play a dozen or so times and they always blow me away – definitely one of the best live bands. I also love that you never know quite what to expect from them. Another band I really love is Massive Attack. Their recent work is great.
Are you looking forward to the anniversary tour and do you have anything special planned?
Absolutely! I’m a bit tired maybe ‘cos the recording process was so intense but I’m really looking forward to rehearsing and getting on the road. We’ve got Evi Vine singing with us which is great, she’s better looking than Craig and her albums are beautiful! We’re also trying a different way of presenting the show.
Back in the 80’s/90’s you had an impressive core of faithful fans who followed you absolutely everywhere, called the Eskimos. Do any of them still come to your gigs?
Yeah they still come in with their zimmer frames! Ha ha! No but seriously, I’m still in touch with Ramone and he manages another ex-Eskimo Stoko and his band Evil Blizzard, and I love their concept of 4 bassists and a singing drummer!
What are your plans from here?
We have real no plans beyond the tour, the only thing I have which might be happening this year is acting in a film. I met up with a Brazilian Director and was expecting him to say he’d like me to do the soundtrack ‘cos that’s also an ambition of mine, but he said he wanted me to star in the film. I laughed but he explained the plot and the more I thought about it I thought it would be great to do something different especially at this stage in my life. The basic story is a reclusive rock star who’s a necrophiliac. Ha! My wife who’s an actress will play my wife in the film so it would be great to spend more time with her.
Do you think there’s any chance of an original Sisters reunion?
Well I think Craig and I would be really up for going out and playing with Andrew and Gary Marx. I’d actually love to play those songs again live.