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Wayne Hussey Interview: ” still get a big kick out of making records and writing songs. When it kicks into place there’s nothing quite like it”

Wayne Hussey

Wayne Hussey can be said to be something of a well travelled soul, both musically and geographically speaking.  Moving to Liverpool in the late 70s, he was involved with the scene that sprung up around the famous Eric’s club and joined ex-Penetration singer Pauline Murray in The Invisible Girls, later being snapped up by Pete Burns and Dead or Alive

From here he joined the Sisters of Mercy and moved to Leeds.  When The Sisters fell apart, he formed The Mission, where success took him to London.  Later in life, love took him to Brazil, where he now lives with his wife. 

It is fair to say that The Mission has been his most enduring and successful band, still active over thirty years later. 

The band rode the crest of a wave as, for want of a better term, goth started to flourish and became a huge live draw, headlining Reading Festival twice and selling out Wembley, tearing around the world on a diet of Blue Nun wine.    

While The Sisters have become what is politely referred to as a ‘Heritage Act’, whereby they tour old material to a nostalgic audience, effectively becoming their own tribute act, The Mission seem to have reached a perfect balance whereby they cease operations almost completely between albums and tours, coming together again when their muse strikes. 

Outside of The Mission, Hussey has released solo albums and collaborations, testament to his creative drive and desire to continue making music. 

Ahead of The Mission’s latest Liverpool gig at the O2 Academy on May 19, Getintothis caught up with Wayne, to discuss life, love and Liverpool.

Hussey has an immediately recognizable voice.  Anyone who was even vaguely into the 80’s goth scene will have come across The Mission and, more than likely, seen them live.  His voice has an almost jovial quality to it and, unusually for an interview situation, he asks almost as many questions as he receives, turning the whole thing into more of a chat than any kind of formal question and answer session. 

He also has an infectious laugh that peppers our conversation, which adds further to the good-natured atmosphere.  It is also easy to tell that Wayne has done many interviews over the years, and chooses his words well, not being afraid of pausing to search for the right word or phrase to best express himself. 

As Wayne was a Liverpool resident for some years, this is naturally where our conversation starts. 

It’s been a while since we played there actually.  We have been busy, but considering that I lived in Liverpool for six years, it’s always nice to go back.  I think it must be getting on for ten years actually

Do you still feel any connection with Liverpool, given that you spent some of your formative musical years there? 

“I have very, very fond memories of living in Liverpool.  I moved there when I was just turned 19 and left 83/84, so I was there for five or six years.  I remember it just being sunny all the time, but I know that’s not right because I’ve been to Liverpool since [Laughs]”

No, I can assure you it isn’t sunny all the time.

No, but that’s how I remember it.  It must have had something to do with the drugs at the time I guess [laughs].  I lived in the Tuebrook area, but moved to Sefton Park, as you did then when you were in that kind of crowd

What are your main memories of that time? 

Well, obviously I used to go to Eric’s.  It was kind of the epicenter for our generation of musicians.  When I saw our generation of musicians, I mean the alternative musicians, not the ones who would play the nightclubs and clubs but the more…..punk musicians I suppose. 

Not that I ever considered myself to be punk.  But I saw a lot of bands at Eric’s, I was even in bands myself who supported big bands there.  It was a good time. 

And I’m still obviously a big Liverpool supporter.  When I was a kid, football was my big passion, but then in 1972 I saw T Rex and Bowie, so that changed the course of my life” 

So how did punk affect you when it first broke? 

Well I was still in Bristol am I saw The Damned supporting T Rex on 76, I saw The Clash, Television supported by Blondie before I moved to Liverpool.  And then once I got there I met some people who told me about Eric’s and I saw a lot of gigs there. 

We supported The Pretenders, the original Ultravox, Joy Division supported the band I was in

So that would be [late 70s Liverpool band] Ded Byrds then? 

Yeah, that was Ded Byrds.  Bloody hell, you’ve done your research [laughs]

Well I saw Ded Byrds there a few times, I saw your gig with Ultravox.  In fact, I have your autographs somewhere

Bloody hell [laughs] You must have been the first person to ask for my autograph. 

I think there were too many egos in that band.  When we supported The Pretenders, Seymour Stein was at the show, as he’d just signed them for America, and he saw us and loved us, so we signed to Sire, we were about to go on tour with The Ramones, then we just had a fight and split up

That must have been really frustrating!  

Well, I don’t know.  You never know what course you would have taken if things had been different, maybe the Ded Byrds would have been around and we’d be playing The Masonic [laughs]

After all these years of playing music, what’s in it for you these days?  “Well, I love music.  I love listening to it, I love sitting down with a guitar and trying to play along to somebody else’s record and seeing if I can play it. 

And if I can’t then I just take what I’ve worked out and write my own song [laughs]. 

From the time I first started playing guitar I could never play anybody else’s song, so I listened to records and tried to assimilate what I could and end up writing my own song. 

Which has actually stood me in pretty good stead I think, and I still get a big kick out of making records and writing songs.  When it kicks into place there’s nothing quite like it

I remember Billy Duffy [Guitarist from the Cult] saying that punk stopped him from listening to a lot of older rock music, and that when his punk conscience let him, he discovered that he really liked a lot of it.  Was there a similar thing for you at any time? 

Not really, because I was into a lot of music before punk came along, so I was into Bowie and T Rex from the tail end of 71/72, and then Roxy Music.  So I was kind of one of those weird kids at school who moved from pop music into rock. 

I got into Black Sabath and Pink Floyd – Pink Floyd were actually the first band I ever saw live.  Pink Floyd cost me a quid [laughs]”. 

Bloody hell, it cost me a quid to see Ded Byrds. 

“[laughs]  Billy was a few years younger than me, but what punk did for me was it made me realise that anybody could get up and play, it wasn’t about being a virtuoso, it was about having energy and good ideas.  And an attitude as well. 

Although I have to say the a lot of the punk music at the time, particularly the English side of it, was a little too non-musical for my tastes.  I preferred more the New York end of things, Talking Heads, Television, that kind of vibe. 

For an 18/19 year old, it seemed a bit more musical to me.  So I never had that, but I do think that when punk came along there was a degree of de-learning. 

By then I’d been playing for three or four years, so I was already of a certain proficiency on the guitar and I think I had to kind of, not dumb it down, but to approach it differently, and to de-learn. 

With punk you had to throw the rule book out of the window” 

Which is what made the music that came after it so interesting I think

“Yeah, absolutely.  Without punk there wouldn’t be 95% of the bands that are around today

What records are you listening to these days? 

Well I don’t go out and actively look for new things to listen to, but I read reviews and if there’s something that sounds interesting I’ll search it out.  Or if someone recommends something I’ll have a listen. 

But someone said that when they look at my Facebook page, I’m always recommending bands!  They said you recommend Tame Impale, you recommend The XX, Laura Marling, or The Smoke Fairies.  I said I suppose so, but I considered that I just went backwards into more and more older music. 

But I still like to hear new things and I think there is a lot of good music out there, I’m just not particularly exposed to it out in Brazil”

So why did you settle in Brazil? 

“Well my wife’s an actress, so she needs to be there for her work, where I can pretty much do mine anywhere in the world.  I do miss the interaction I have to say, when there’s a group of you in the studio playing, I do miss that”

So you kind of write by email these days? 

“Well throughout the band’s history I’ve kind of written the songs and then taken them to the group.  It kind of gives me license to say that this is how it goes.  Sometimes I go in with very strong ideas and sometimes with almost no idea at all and we bash it around until we find something we like

I wrote an article on your fans and the lengths they would go to follow you around and go to your gigs and they still do to this day.  You have the most dedicated fans I think I’ve ever known, what do you put that down to? 

I don’t know really, to be honest with you.  I’d like to attribute it to some kind of integrity that the band have, but I don’t think we’ve got more integrity than anybody else. 

I think there are a whole load of bands from the 80s who benefitted from the fact that the fans were young at that time and have stayed with them.

I’m not sure that the same thing applies to 90s bands.  I think that, whether we like it or not, nostalgia is a big seller and I think that people come to shows not just for the visceral moment of being there, but also they come to relive something, to remember something” 

But at the same time, you’ve never really rested on your laurels, you’ve always created new music and moved it forward

Well there is that, but I would say that’s been more detrimental to us really.  There are some bands that haven’t made records for years and they still command a very loyal audience. 

There are bands that make the same record over and over again and are huge.

I think with us, my boredom threshold is very low, so I like to make records that challenge me as well as challenge the audience

So what’s next for The Mission? 

Well we do these shows, then we have some more in November playing with Alice Cooper and then after that we’re going to take a break.  I think we’ve been back together since 2011 and I’m just starting to feel a little bit bored with the rock band format. 

And I think that with the last album we did I kind of tied up a lot of loose ends in my own little mind and I think it’s just time to do something else. 

That’s not to say that we won’t get back to it at some point, but I think it’s time we all had a little break from it and did something else.  And I know that Craig, Simon and Mike need it too.  So we’ll finish the shows this year and take a little time out.  Also, I’m writing my autobiography” 

Well that should be a good read

Well we’ll see [laughs].  It depends on what I decide to keep in or edit out.  But I’m having fun writing it that’s for sure.  It’s amazing how you can remember one thing and it opens up a load of other memories. 

And it’s quite interesting, even when I’m talking with Craig and Simon, and we’re talking about a particular incident we all remember it completely differently.  So this will be my take, my memory of things

Well, one last question Wayne.  How easy is it to get Blue Nun these days? 

I haven’t drunk Blue Nun in years! Somebody brought a bottle to a show two or three years ago, and we opened it and tried it and, aw God man, how did we ever drink that stuff [laughs]. 

I’m on the red these days

And with that we say our goodbyes.  Wayne Hussey has come a long way since the Ded Byrds, and even a long way from his time in The Sisters

From Liverpool to Brazil and from cheap white to a (presumably) more classy red.  He sounds like that rarest of creatures, a musician who is at peace with his past, is enjoying his present and has an eye on his future. 

We wish him well and we’ll see him from the mosh pit soon.

Banjo

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Travelling fans: “Food and drink wasn’t always a priority. I could live on a pack of Marlboro Reds, some coca cola and whatever passed for speed in that town.”

How far would you go for your favourite band?  Buying all their albums?  Maybe a tattoo? 

How about following them around the country and abroad when they tour, hitching between gigs and sleeping rough for a few weeks or even months? 

No?  Well back in the 80s/90s, this was what a few dedicated fans did, and nowhere was this more popular than Liverpool.

Common mostly within the early Goth scene, the dedication of fans was almost boundless.  Liverpool had a very healthy Goth scene in the early/mid 80s, centering around the infamous Planet X, although other clubs such as Steve Proctor’s System also played tracks by many of the bands emerging at the time. 

Before the scene was perhaps pigeonholed with the ‘Goth’ tag, it was not uncommon for the likes of The State and Macmillans to play tracks by Sisters of Mercy or The Cult before segueing into some of the latest electro or funk cuts. 

As happens at the best clubs, those meeting on the dancefloor formed lifelong friendships.  Groups of people came together and went to gigs and clubs all over the country, such as the Planet X coach trip to see The Cramps at the Hacienda.  Fans were devoted to this particular type of music, and this gave rise to groups of people following bands on whole tours. 

These travelling fans were even given their own gang name, so The Mission’s followers were The Eskimos, New Model Army had The Militia and Play Dead were followed all over Europe by the Stay Dead Crew

But what drove fans to up sticks and endure the hardships of life on the road?  The good folk of Getintothis have asked some of the Liverpool road warriors to tells us the whats and the whys.  This is their story.

So firstly, why put yourself through all this? 

Debbie Evans: “Aside from the love of live music, following bands meant freedom from the constraints of home at a young age and membership to an elite club, part of a gang, all with same goals…to secure a guest list place, drink until you could drink no more and membership to the mosh pit with guaranteed protection. 

I would only admit it now but as a teenager there was nothing better than walking to the front of the queue at the Astoria in London and saying “guest list”

Debbie also followed this up with what seems to be a common theme among those who embraced life on the fringes of society – belonging.  “In secondary school I always felt like an outsider.  Following New Model Army at 17, I finally fulfilled my desire to be a part of something that mattered.”

Scouse Ali: “I went to see The Mission at The State Ballroom in 86 and was totally hooked so went to a few more gigs and I that was it I was hooked with life on the road, hooking up with mates

David ‘Ramone’ Woolsey: “It was a social thing back when I was a teenager. Whole new genres of music were opening up to me via John Peel and through friends.

Bands would come to Liverpool but then you’d see that they were also playing Manchester, Stoke, Leeds, all relatively close by. So we’d go by car or National Express who used to run very early morning services that got you back home by 6am. 

To be honest , 80% of the fun of following a band was the experience of getting there and meeting up with people beforehand and not knowing where you were staying that night. The bands almost became secondary

So where did you sleep while travelling?

Debbie: “In the early, novice days the sleeping arrangements were primitive. We once slept on a platform at the top of a slide in a kid’s park.   One of us didn’t even have a sleeping bag just a scabby grey army blanket, he was bloody frozen! 

On the Claytown Troupe European tour we slept anywhere and everywhere, train stations, shopping precincts, doorways of apartment blocks, the homes of kind hearted German students who took pity on us and the occasional hostel. 

Some of us even slept in a bedroom that was being used as a cannabis farm – they wouldn’t let us switch the lamps off all night!

Martin Atherton: “Where did we sleep?  Car Parks, Train Stations, Subways.  After one gig, we decided that the photo booths in Victoria Station were our best chance, so my friends got in one booth and I got in another, sat on the cold floor with my knee’s up willing myself to get some rest

Ramone: “Everywhere, from multi-story car parks in Leeds and Zurich, a train in Dublin, Bus stations in Stoke, Arye ,Toilets in Rome, A museum in Glasgow , an empty double decker bus in Munich and, occasionally, the bands tour bus or hotel.”

How could you afford it at that age? 

Debbie: “Guest lists were essential, so ligging on a massive scale had to be done! And if you could get some of the rider even better!  

I would save up my wages if a big tour was coming up.  For the European Claytown Troupe tour I sold the first All About Eve EP and the first Stone Roses 12″ to raise some funds. 

Food was never really a priority on tour – I came home from Europe weighing 6 ½ stone!”

Ali: “I worked every hour I could to get the money to follow The Mission, I even spent the driving lesson money I had on following them.  I still haven’t learned to drive and don’t regret at it one bit

Once, at The Mission’s end of tour party in Nottingham, the band gave the following £100 as a thank you. We spent it on crates of Stella and ciggies.  Very rock n roll!

Ali is still following her favourite band: “Last year was The Mission’s 30th Anniversary so I’ve been doing this for31 years this year.  I wouldn’t change a thing, life would have been pretty boring had I not decided to follow The Mission. Roll on the next tour in May!” 

Ramone: “The Majority of us were on the dole and I went everywhere with my Post Office savings book. I’d cash my giro and put it all in the account and then simply draw it out when needed.

But food and drink wasn’t always a priority back then. I could live on a pack of Marlboro Reds, some coca cola and whatever passed for speed in that town.

Did young girls ever feel they were in any danger on the road? 

Debbie: “I don’t recall ever feeling at risk, it was all just a big adventure. Although looking back we put ourselves in some very vulnerable situations, but we were always in a large group, travelling with people from all over the country and we all stuck together.”

Martin: “Girlfriends and female friends were all in our party, it wasn’t just a male preserve and we all looked out for each other.

Ramone sees this happening in the present day, as manager of Evil Blizzard.  “I see what it’s like from the other side of the looking glass. Being asked for guest list, times, gossip, news, money off merchandising, etc. We must have been real pain in the arse pests with tour managers and bands back in the day!

Martin Atherton also saw this from both sides, as a fan on the road and as guitarist in Liverpool’s Scorpio Rising

Did this influence the way he saw and treated his own fans?  Martin: “We did become friends with our followers with regards to Scorpio Rising. How could you not after having done it yourself, it was a proud feeling that people cared enough to make the effort and we in turn shared what we had, van space, rider and such like.”

Are you still in touch with your fellow road warriors? 

Ramone: “Oh yesEvil Blizzard not only contain friends from then but are also followed by some of the same people I used to go to gigs with back then
Ali: “Thanks to Facebook we’ve all near enough been reunited and a few Eskimos still follow The Mission

Would you do it nowadays if you were the same age as you were then? 

Ramone: “I’ve often thought about this scenario. Life is so different for this generation. Going to see the bands we followed was a lot more financially achievable.

Tickets were a maximum of £5 and we hitched everywhere. These days’ bands seem to be catapulted from small venues to the main room of the 02 in a heartbeat and the ticket price follows. Nowadays you book hotels, tickets, time off work, trains and a single show can run you up to close to £150 – £200, which was my entire budget for a whole month on the road in 1986 with the Mission. 

I don’t travel as much as I’d like to today, with work, mortgages and other financial commitments. Going to see bands is not as frequent as back then. We occasionally go and see bands out of sheer nostalgia.. The Mission, Spear of Destiny, Chameleons and even the Sisters of Mercy,who were awfu!

But it’s just not the same. – Must be an age thing.” 

Martin: “I still go and see a lot of live music, but these days I prefer small venues where I can see what the musicians are playing

The travelling fan seems to be a phenomenon very much of its time.  It is likely that this is because those brave enough to take it on were at the right time in their lives, with youth and resilience on their side and before bills, mortgages and jobs took precedence. 

And, perhaps more importantly, they were lucky enough to be at this stage of their lives as a brand new music scene was emerging in front of them.  If this is the case, they were lucky indeed to have wrung so much enjoyment and passion out of their youthful years. 

As Martin Atherton put it “I’m so glad that we made all that effort and put up with the freezing, sleepless nights, because we made the most of those times. Which was just as well, because they were the best times to be young

Banjo