The Mission’s fearless leader ponders punk, happy accidents and the benefits of creative dictatorships.
Got my first real six-string…
“[I remember] seeing Marc Bolan and T-Rex on television and thinking, ‘Hmm, that looks like a good job!’ I think, like millions of kids, I got the tennis racket out of the cupboard and stood in front of the mirror with that.
“Then at some point, I think my mum and dad probably felt sorry for me and bought me a Spanish acoustic classical guitar, with an action about a foot off the fretboard. But you know what? That was the start. They still have it apparently.”
Punk in drublic
“Punk really opened up the idea that you don’t need to be a virtuoso to play. That attitude is still prevalent today. I think that’s the greatest achievement of punk. The industry is getting to the point where we need another punk. Not necessarily a musical movement, but kids need to be creative and fearless again. So many of the new kids coming through are very conformist and very safe. They look great on YouTube but it sounds quite homogenous really, a lot of it.”
You spin me round
“When I was in Dead Or Alive, with Pete Burns, I borrowed a Roland SH-101 synthesiser and I thought, ‘I wonder what would happen if I put my guitar through this?’ All of a sudden it went ‘chukka chukka chukka’ and I thought, ‘That’s brilliant!’ We started messing around with that sound, which ended up evolving into the club/disco direction. I ended up doing myself out of a job with that because Pete ended up buying a sequencer and programming all of my guitar in on the keyboard, so I suffered a bit for that one!”
I think I can see how you’re pinned…
“When I joined The Sisters Of Mercy, I was using an electric 12-string guitar, which became something of a signature sound for me. That became another eureka moment, but the reason I started using it was because if you break a string on the six-string you’re a bit buggered, but on the 12-string, if you break a string, you’ve still got 11! I know it sounds daft, but you could still play what you needed to without having to re-string it.”
“We played a show we did in Reno, Nevada about 10 years ago. We were playing in a casino and we literally were in the casino - you could see people playing on the slot machines! There must have been about 10 people who had actually come to see us.
“When we played Butterfly In A Wheel, which is kind of a slower song for us, all of these middle-aged couples got up and danced together! You were looking out, singing Serpent’s Kiss and there was someone playing the one-armed bandit!”
Tower of strength…
“I think amongst some people I have a reputation for being hard to work with, but I don’t think that at all. I will always listen to an opinion from someone I’m working with and respect - I won’t always act on it, but I will listen. Bands can’t really work on a democratic basis, not in my experience. We’ve tried it, but basically it falls apart. You do definitely need someone who’s the ‘glorious leader’.
“No matter what you do there’s always people that are going to moan about it, people that are going to not like it, so you’ve got to be able to live with what you do yourself. You’ve got to be able to sleep at night with a clear conscience.”
The Mission’s latest album, Another Fall From Grace, is out now.