Ahead of The Mission’s date at the O2 Academy, Getintothis’ Banjo chats to Wayne Hussey about life, Liverpool and looking forward.
Wayne Hussey can be said to be something of a well travelled soul, both musically and geographically speaking. Moving from Bristol 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 they became a huge live draw, headlining Reading Festival twice and selling out Wembley, tearing around the world on a diet of drugs and Blue Nun wine.
While Hussey‘s old band 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 where 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 their singer, guitarist and songwriter.
Hussey has an immediately recognizable voice. Anyone who was even vaguely into the 80s 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.
His questions are mainly around which of his old Liverpool haunts are still standing and how his old group of friends are faring. He also has an infectious laugh that peppers our conversation, adding further to the good-natured atmosphere. It is 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“, he says. “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 now”
Getintothis: Do you still feel any connection with Liverpool, given that you spent some of your formative musical years there?
Wayne Hussey: “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]”
Getintothis: No, I can assure you it isn’t sunny all the time.
WH: “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”
Getintothis: What are your main memories of that time?
WH: “Well, obviously I used to go to Eric’s. It was kind of the epicenter for our generation of musicians. When I say our generation of musicians, I mean the alternative musicians, not the ones who would play the nightclubs and pubs 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”
Getintothis: So how did punk affect you when it first broke?
WH: “Well I was still in Bristol and I saw The Damned supporting T Rex in 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”
Getintothis: So that would be [late 70s Liverpool band]Ded Byrds then?
WH: “Yeah, that was Ded Byrds. Bloody hell, you’ve done your research! [laughs]”
Getintothis: Well I saw Ded Byrds there a few times, I saw your gig with Ultravox. In fact, I think I have your autographs somewhere.
WH: “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”
Getintothis: That must have been really frustrating.
WH: “Well, I don’t know. You never know what course you would have taken if things had been different, maybe the Ded Byrds would still have been around and we’d be playing The Masonic [laughs]”
Getintothis: After all these years of playing music, what’s in it for you these days?
WH: “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”
Getintothis: 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?
WH: “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. So 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]”.
Getintothis: Bloody hell, it cost me a quid to see Ded Byrds.
WH: “[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”
Getintothis: Which is what made the music that came after it so interesting I think.
WH: “Yeah, absolutely. Without punk there wouldn’t be 95% of the bands that are around today”
Getintothis: So, what records are you listening to these days?
WH: “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 Impala, 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”
Getintothis: So why did you settle in Brazil?
WH: “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”
Getintothis: So you kind of write by email these days?
WH: “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”
Getintothis: We recently ran 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?
WH: “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”
Getintothis: But at the same time, you’ve never really rested on your laurels, you’ve always created new music and moved it forward.
WH: “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”
Getintothis: So what’s next for The Mission?
WH: “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 Mick need it too. So we’ll finish the shows this year and take a little time out.
“Also, I’m writing my autobiography”
Getintothis: Well that should be a good read.
WH: “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”
Getintothis: One last question Wayne. How easy is it to get Blue Nun these days?
WH: “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 Bristol 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.
The Mission play Liverpool O2 Academy on May 19