Wayne Hussey has been very busy during lockdown and has re-recorded The Mission’s 1988 anthem Tower Of Strength with the help of a mind-blowing cast of alternative rock artists, in aid of Covid-19 charities. In what’s been referred to as ‘Goth Band-Aid’, the ‘ReMission International’ collaboration features members of Bauhaus, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Twilight Sad, Gary Numan, Trentemoller, Billy Duffy, Midge Ure, Miles Hunt, The Smiths, Michael Ciravolo, Julianne Regan, Gene Loves Jezebel, Kirk Brandon, Evi Vine, The Soft Cavalry and more. Paul Grace catches up with The Mission’s frontman to find out more.
Hi Wayne, where are you at the moment?
I’m up in the hills near a town called San Pedro, in Brazil. We’re nice and secluded and doing fine. It’s five months into lockdown and, like for everybody, it’s been a period of adaptation, but we have space, and I have a studio so we’ve kept ourselves busy.
The president over in Brazil is a bit of a nutter, no?
Well, it’s a growing trend in the world, isn’t it? (laughs) He’s a dangerous nutter because he has power, but I don’t think he would have come into power if Trump hadn’t have done so in the US. Just look at the state of the world. There seems to be a trend of non-politicians coming to power because people have gotten sick of political speak and politicians never telling the truth. I’m not for one second saying I support Trump or Bolsonaro, but they speak the language of the people and folk find that refreshing. It’s just that what comes out of their mouths can be very dangerous.
Where were you when the Covid-19 lockdowns started?
We were on our European tour. We managed to play 10 shows before the tour got cancelled. Italy was the first to go and one-by-one the countries closed down. We’d already played Belgium and France, we went down to Valencia and then over to Portugal. By that point, we were definitely seeing a drop in attendance with people who had bought tickets but didn’t come to the shows. While we were in Lisbon we found out that Porto had been cancelled, then the remaining Spanish shows went the following day. We then decided to get home while we could so we raced the border closures and made it back with two days spare before they locked down the UK – it felt like we were in a film.
Did any of you get sick with Covid-19?
We don’t think any of our lot had it, but we can’t say for sure because nobody was tested. I had my usual tour cold, but that’s normal for me. A few family members had it. I lost an uncle because of it, but he was 82 and in a high-risk group. My brother and his wife had Covid-19. She had problems with her eyes which was a new symptom that the doctors hadn’t seen before so it seems to be evolving, and that’s the scary thing. Even though they’re working on a vaccine we don’t know how this is going to mutate.
Congratulations on the amazing re-make of Tower Of Strength (TOS2020). How did the project come about?
I was asked to sing on a couple of charity projects, but I didn’t feel very comfortable with what I was being asked to do because there’s always the risk of it looking a bit self-serving. I tend to be wary of that sort of thing with charities – especially now at the time of a global pandemic.
I was also contacted by a few people who work for the NHS who said they’d been playing Tower Of Strength on hospital radio because it had become a bit of an anthem for them. Some others suggested we re-release it because the lyrics were really pertinent for the frontline workers.
So I started talking to my friend Michael Ciravolo, who is the CEO of Schecter guitars and also curates the Beauty In Chaos project, and we came up with some ideas. We did look at other options which may have had a broader reach. Heroes by David Bowie is a great song but a song about the Berlin Wall didn’t fit lyrically. Tower Of Strength just felt like I could control what happened with it more.
I recorded the little drum loop, some acoustic guitar and a guide vocal, and sent it out to a whole load of musician friends and asked if they wanted to participate.
There were some very interesting takes on it but it did mean an awful lot of editing work. It was a labour of love but it was really great to hear what these people were coming up with. Budgie sent me a load of drums which I pieced together. Richard Fortus of Guns’N’Roses sent me 14 tracks of guitar riffs and I literally spent four or five days editing his stuff alone.
And those involved were friends/people you’d work with before?
Most of them I either already knew, had worked with or had socialised with. A few I hadn’t met before, like James Alexander Graham of The Twilight Sad. He’s a friend of Rachel Goswell and Steve Clarke, who hooked us up. I really like James’s voice. I love the fact that it’s so Scottish and he has a quality to his voice which is really lovely.
I’d also never met Kevin Haskins of Bauhaus but I know Pete Murphy well so that was an easy introduction.
Did Andrew Eldritch get an invitation?
No. I did think about it but I didn’t think it was the right thing – I can’t really picture him singing Tower Of Strength. It’s too positive a song for Eldritch! (laughs)
So you gave everybody carte blanche to what they wanted to do? Did you get people singing the whole song?
For sure. Midge Ure sang the first verse and chorus, whereas Miles Hunt, Gary Numan, and Martin Gore all sang the whole song. Julianne Regan sang two verses.
Evi Vine sent me 25 tracks of vocal which took me three or four days to edit but I’ve worked with Evi before so I know that’s how she works. She did some great harmony work.
The thing is it wasn’t a particularly an easy key for the girls to sing in. Rachel Goswell had problems and said it was too low and slightly too high but she sang it an octave higher and it worked really well tucked in with another voice. Julianne Regan just went in the middle and made up her own melody and her own phrasing which actually worked brilliantly. The second verse with the girls singing is perhaps my favourite verse of the whole song because it goes somewhere different.
You had four or five drummers and a similar number of guitarists – it must have been tricky working out who did what in the final edit?
Not really. Kevin Haskins was an exception to the rule because I gave him Budgie’s drums to play to and he just played tom-toms over the top of what Budgie had done.
It was a lot of work and there were times I didn’t know where to go, but it was a case of wielding the scythe and just chopping out some very good stuff. That’s partly the reason full-length version is nine and a half minutes long. I needed it that long to get everybody on it! (laughs)
Are you on it?
Well, I wasn’t gonna sing on it because there are a million versions of me singing Tower Of Strength but everyone said, “Oh but you’ve got to sing on it!”. So, in the end, I did a backing vocal with Martin Gore. And then I had the last word – the last line in the song.
Well, that’s your prerogative!
Haha – well I thought if anyone lasts long enough through this song I’d get the last word! I played a little bit of guitar too.
You got the Aston brothers of Gene Loves Jezebel to bury the hatchet and sing together for the first time in decades – well done!
Well, I wouldn’t say bury the hatchet. A little bit of conniving went on there though! Jay Aston is a good friend of mine and he’s toured with us a lot over the years. Michael Aston is a very good friend of Michael Ciravolo so we hatched this plan to get the Aston brothers involved but not tell them that the other was taking part. I invited Jay but didn’t mention that Michael (Aston) was also going to be on it and Michael (Ciravolo) did the same with Micheal (Aston). I asked them both to sing the same verse, which was the last verse and got both vocals in there working next to each other. But when it was all mixed and finished I felt we should level with them and tell them what we’d done. Credit where it’s due, they were both very gracious about it and said it was all fine.
It’s sad to see the brothers are still estranged. None of us really understand the dynamic of that relationship because we’re not in it. Maybe this will open up a line of communication between them – I’d like to think so. I really do like Jay and it makes me sad to see that.
Were there any particularly challenging parts to the process?
Well, I was pretty astounded at how many musicians of my generation really didn’t know how to record themselves at home on a laptop. Obviously studios were out of bounds, so I did lose a few potential contributors because of that.
Billy Duffy was struggling and in the end, I said, “Billy, look, you’ve got a phone, right? It records. Play the track in the background, record it on your phone. I’ll work with that”. So that’s what he did. It does sound a bit like it was recorded on a phone but we managed to make it work within the track.
And that’s what it’s about I guess; contributing in whatever shape for form?
Exactly. We’re doing a video too, which basically shares the same principle. I told them to send us whatever they wanted/whatever they had and we’ll use it to make a couple of videos.
Miles Hunt filmed it in front of his laptop with a beer and a ciggy in his hand. Robin Fink from Nine Inch Nails recorded himself playing the guitar in his basement.
We’re also doing a longer video for the full-length version, which is a kind of lyric video. It shows you who’s doing what throughout the track – like, this vocal is Kirk Brandon, etc.
We’re also planning on doing a video for the Trentemøller version. That will be a bit different – more of a contrast.
I love the Trentemøller remix – he’s managed to enhance the drama of the whole track. It’s quite haunting.
Yes, I’ve loved Trentemøller for years – he’s done a lot of great remixes and to get him on board was quite the feather in the cap. The introduction came through Rachel Goswell and Steve Clarke who both know him.
He jumped at the chance. We gave him the stems and within less than a week he got the whole thing finished which was brilliant. It’s taken it somewhere completely different and I love it. I like the way he’s taken it apart and then put together in a totally different way.
So how long did the whole process take, would you say, from start to end? I’m guessing a few months?
Yeah, I sent out the initial invite letters on the 24th of April, which was a Friday. I got the first few replies over that weekend. I think by the Tuesday, I already had the first audio tracks from Martin Gore.
Wow – that was quick!
Yeah, we get on well and go back a long way so he was keen. Most of the time was spent actually chasing everyone.
I can imagine!
Well you know, musicians as much as I love them, they can be a funny bunch – a bit tardy in replying! (laughs) But I was also aware that people were very busy despite having the lockdown. So we started on 24th April and we had the mixes and mastered by about the second week of July.
And there’s a remix by somebody called Albie Mischenzingerzen?
Haha – yes that’s me. My idea with that remix was that there are 23 or so people who sent music in, and in the main version, which Tim Palmer mixed, there are elements that aren’t really discernible. They’re not really audible. So I thought I’d use the elements that aren’t really audible in the main version for my remix; a bit like pandering to the ego of the musician because I didn’t want anybody to feel left out.
I think that primarily the difference is that I took out the original drum loop and also most of the guitars. And I then got Kevin Haskins playing the tom-tom’s and a loop that Lol Tolhurst had sent and kind of based it around that rather than the original Tower drum loop and guitars.
I also emphasised other instruments like Andy Rourke’s high bass, also some other keyboards and other stuff that Lol Tolhurst and Martin Gore had sent in.
It must have been good to be working with Producer Tim Palmer again?
Yeah. Even when we’re not working we can keep in touch regularly. He’s a big Arsenal supporter and I’m a big Liverpool supporter, so there’s always a little bit of banter.
Tim was one of the first people I told about the project and he signed up for it straight away.
Did you leave any of the original parts in the Tower Of Strength in the new version?
No, the only thing I’ve used is part of the drum loop from the version we use when playing live. Everything else was re-recorded.
And every contributing musician has nominated their own charity to benefit from the proceeds?
Yes. It’s been quite interesting to see what people ended up nominating.
The idea was to donate all the proceeds to charity, but the question was to which charity? We could have said the NHS in the UK but then I’m not sure how relevant that would have been to an American living in the middle of America. I think Richard Fortis lives in St Louis, so why would he want to do something that contributed to the UK NHS?
It was my wife’s Cinthya’s idea to come up with the idea. Some have gone for global charities. Others have gone for national charities, while others have gone for very localised ones right in the heart of their own community. Personally, I’ve gone for a little charity here in the little town where I live that looks out for animals that have been abandoned because there’s been a 40% increase in abandoned animals and pets during Covid.
it’s a little local organisation and I think anything that we can raise will help them. Whereas, what we raise will probably be a drop in the ocean to the NHS, for example.
What was Tower Of Strength originally written about?
Tower was a song I wrote for our audience. We were in the middle of recording the Children album, and as was the norm when recording an album I was plagued by self-doubts. There was one day, while everybody else was in the control room, I was sat in the studio feeling a bit glum and sorry for myself.
One of our guitar techs called Jez came into the studio and said, “What’s up, mate? You’re looking at a bit of glum, a bit blue?”. I said, “You know, I don’t know if I can do this, Jez. I don’t know if I’m good enough. I, don’t know if I can sing”, and all that kind of stupid stuff.
And he said, “Oh come on, mate. Just look, love what you’re doing. You’re a tower of strength to so many people, just look at all the fans”.
He talked me around and the song came from that very conversation. Tower Of Strength is for the audience. That bit about being true to the written word was a response to the shit that was being written about me in the music papers at that time. A lot of it was self-perpetuated, but also there was a lot of stuff that was unnecessary.
Yeah, it was just the cult of personality, I suppose, I was a bit of a big mouth. Most of the time I could deal with it – all I had to do was get drunk or take another couple of lines and I was fine. That was my way of dealing with it. Ordinarily, it would have penetrated my defences, but when you’re drugged up or drunk, you tend to be a little bit more impervious.
Its lyrics work really well as an anthem for the frontline workers.
Yes, and it’s actually been used in that kind of celebratory context quite a bit since its original release.
Tower Of Strength is always a live highlight and it’s amazing to see the fans create the human tower.
Yes, it’s always been a song of communion for me. Even on those nights when it’s not such a great show or for some reason it’s not happening, Tower can, more often than not turn those nights around into something very worthwhile and special.
I always look forward to Tower, not just because it’s the last song we play (laughs), I just like the feeling of singing that song and having the audience commune. It’s definitely the song of communion for us.
Tower Of Strength still works after all these years and I feel it was very much before its time with the tribal drum loop at the start. That sound is still very relevant and sounds still very fresh today.
It’s probably wrong for me to blow my own trumpet, but I always felt that in some respects The Mission got derided a lot for being 70s retro musicians. But I think there were times when we were ahead of the game, and Tower was one of those moments for sure. We were one of the first rock bands of that era to be mixing dance elements with rock elements. As good as the new version is and, and I think it is very good, with the way that we recorded it, it really could have been disastrous. But I think we’ve come up with a very worthy addition to the canon.
But I do have to say that the definitive version of Tower for me is still the original Mission version.
What else have you been up to during lockdown?
Well, I’ve been working with my wife Cinthya on some music. A few years ago I bought her a ukulele as a wedding anniversary present and she absolutely loves it. She’s been learning it all on her own with online tutorials because I’m away a lot and, if the truth be known, I’m not a very good teacher. We’d talked about recording her in the studio here at home but we’d never really been together for any length of time over the last few years. So one of the things we’ve done is record a version of Every Day Is Like Sunday, because she’s a big Morrissey fan. We recorded her playing the ukulele and singing to a click track and built it up around that. It’s a really beautiful version and we’re now working on the first song she’s written herself.
I think at some point she’d like to release an EP. I knew she could sing because I’d heard her singing in the shower but I’ve been very taken aback by her voice because it has a really lovely quality to it.
The other thing that I’ve been working on is getting all my original demos of Mission songs together. I’ve found lots of little gems and I’m going to put together a collection of all the original demos.
And obviously The Mission have rescheduled tour for next year. And then there’s my second book too.
The second part of your autobiography. Salad Daze part two?
Well, it won’t be called Salad Daze part two because salad days is about youth, your wild days, you know, I’m not quite sure what to call it yet.
Have you started writing that yet?
I’d already written six or seven chapters when I was writing Salad Daze, but I’ve done very little to it since, and certainly since I’ve been home this year my frame of mind hasn’t been right in the sense to reminisce. I think to maintain the tone of the first one, you know it’s not a serious work. There’s a degree of levity to it.
There’s great humour throughout the first one for sure.
And I wanted to maintain that in the second book and what I’ve written so far, that humour is there, but that was written at a time when there wasn’t a worldwide pandemic.
Whether we like it or not, I think this all does have some kind of psychological effect upon us.
How was the feedback for Salad Daze?
Yeah, it was great. I think that most people that read it seemed to enjoy it. The publishers, Omnibus, took the option on the second book pretty much in the first month of release. I think in a couple of places it was book of the year.
Any new records from The Mission on the horizon?
Not yet. it’s a weird thing. I sit down at a piano or sit down with a guitar and I come up with little tunes and things, and I think there’s an album coming. In what form it will take I’m not sure at this point, but I think in some respects, I feel like I have to clear the decks first.
Any plans for live streams or live shows with little platforms for social distancing?
I know you have to applaud the effort that people are making but I just don’t think it sounds great because so much of the live experience is actually about being there and the volume of the music. So sitting at home and watching it on your phone, I don’t know, doesn’t really work for me.
Any effort that’s being made to bridge the gap I think is to be applauded, but it’s not something I personally would feel comfortable with at this moment in time.
Do you think we’ll come out the other side of the whole thing as better people and more community-spirited?
When it first kicked off, I thought, “Yes, this could, this could be the way that the future unfolds”, but sadly, I think there has been evidence to the contrary. It’s been quite divisive in a lot of ways, certainly here in Brazil. You’ve got your politicians, your Bolsonaro’s dismissing it as a little flu. And there have been so many contradictory directives coming from the government which have really confused the population.
Then in America, you get the demonstrations against lockdown. You also get people that are going to the beach in their thousands and not social distancing. I also generally feel that the world’s become toxic with the introduction of things like Twitter. I think with the internet is a great resource and it’s great for many, many things, but it was also given a platform to every idiot in the world and there’s so much toxicity out there.
I think some people have reappraised the way that they’ve approached their life before. There are people that are now spending more time with their families and appreciating that, while there are other others that are spending more time with their families and hating every second.
So. I don’t know. The long term effect? I’d like to think, better of humankind, but I’m not a hundred percent convinced.
And of course, it would take everyone to play ball and that’s not going to happen.
Exactly even now there are so many people saying it’s all a conspiracy to change the balance of power in the world but just look at the figures. People are dying. And as long as this pandemic is around people will die. Its a constantly evolving virus so we don’t know what lies ahead of us. We may get a vaccine for what it is now, but how on earth are you going to vaccine the whole population of the world? And then what happens when it mutates and the vaccine no longer works?
I don’t really want to get on a plane or tour bus and put myself and my bandmates, the people who work for us, and our audience at risk until it’s been eradicated, or until it’s safe to do so.
You’re still speaking regularly to Simon Hinkler, Craig Adams and Mike Kelly? Are they doing okay?
Yeah, we have a WhatsApp group and we’ll have a little chat every couple of weeks to make sure everybody’s all right. They’ve been very supportive in the whole Tower project. Even though they’ve not been involved, I had to persuade them to give up their publishing on this particular version of Tower, which actually took no persuasion at all. They were well up for it.
For full details and all pre-order information please visit the TOS2020 website: www.themissionukband.com
TOS2020 will be released in multiple formats:-
Digital download – available now
12” gold coloured vinyl and CD – release date 2nd October
There are also bundle options available so you can give full support to the nominated charities (listed below) plus an option to donate a little more if you are feeling like you’d like to give more to these very worthy causes.
All bundle versions include an additional re-mastered version of the original Tower of Strength exclusive to online orders.
Produced by Wayne and co-produced and mixed by Tim Palmer except * remix by Trentemøller and ** by some bloke named Albie Mischenzingerzen.
TOS2020 – ReMission International
Vinyl Side A (cat no: SPV 243541 LP)
1. TOS2020 (Beholden To The Front Line Workers Of The World mix)
2. TOS2020 (single)
Vinyl Side B
1. TOS2020 (Trentemøller Remix)*
2. TOS2020 (Albie Mischenzingerzen Remix)**
CD (cat no: SPV 243542 CD-EP)
1. TOS2020 (Beholden To The Front Line Workers Of The World mix)
2. TOS2020 (Trentemøller Remix)
3. TOS2020 (Albie Mischenzingerzen Remix)
4. TOS2020 (single)
Digital Bundle (cat no: SPV 24354D)
1. TOS2020 (single)
2. TOS2020 (Beholden To The Front Line Workers Of The World mix)
3. TOS2020 (Trentemøller Remix)
4. TOS2020 (Albie Mischenzingerzen Remix)
5. Tower Of Strength (original newly remastered) – The Mission (free bonus track with bundle only)
TOS2020 nominated charities currently include:
NHS Charities UK
St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Memphis
Music Venue Trust UK
Covenant House, New Orleans
Disasters Emergency Committee
Liberty Hill Foundation
The Shrewsbury Ark
Memorial Sloan Kettering Center, NYC
Prostate Cancer UK
The Teddy Bear Clinic
Help Musicians UK
Venice Family Clinic
The Anthony Walker Foundation
Projeto Cáo Communitário
The City Of San Francisco Covid-19 Fund