Wayne Hussey Interview: “It was interesting to me to find out about my own story”

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Wayne Hussey

With an autobiography just publised, Wayne Hussey reflects on his life to Getintothis’ Banjo and tells us about living in Liverpool, feeling blessed and, erm, being a twat. 

Wayne Hussey has lived an eventful life.

He moved to Liverpool to find fame and fortune and, as luck would have it, joined Dead or Alive, writing and playing on some of their greatest material such as the epic Misty Circles.

From there he moved to Leeds to join the Sisters of Mercy and then when that all proved too much, he formed The Mission.  All of this is detailed in his first autobiography, Salad Daze.

The book takes us from Hussey’s childhood to when The Sisters split up, with a few hints about the glory days yet to come in volume 2.

Salad Daze is conversational in tone and is an engaging and compelling account of growing up in post-punk Britain, told from the viewpoint of someone who was determined not to idly watch from the sidelines.

Hussey charts not only the evolution of ‘alternative’ music but also documents the lifestyle of someone who was completely wrapped up in that world.

As somebody who was at least partly responsible for some of its shifts and its evolution, Hussey is in the perfect place to tell this story.  His time in Liverpool is recounted in great detail.

Hussey jokingly puts this down to it being ‘before heavy drug use”, but it is obvious from his writing that he is deeply fond of his time here and that it was an important time for him.

An autobiography seems to be a time for self-reflection on a grand scale.

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So how did Wayne Hussey find this process?

Wayne Hussey: “I actually really, really enjoyed the process.  I took a lot longer than I expected it to take, but I had a good piece of advice from Johnny Marr in the beginning.  He said ‘If you look at it, it’s going to look like climbing a mountain, but don’t look up.  Just keep taking little steps each day and you’ll soon find yourself near the top.’

Getintothis: Did writing it put you back in touch with any of your old friends?

Wayne Hussey: “Yeah it did.  People like David Knopov and Jon from [Hussey’s old band] Ded Byrds, and Ambrose Reynolds, I hadn’t seen them since the early 80s.  I also met Hambi, and Nasher.  And Francesco [Melina] is another.  So it was great in that respect.”

Getintothis: It sounds like we missed out on a Ded Byrds reunion!

Wayne Hussey: “Knopov and Denise were interested, but you know…. Maybe one day.  I don’t know if I could play those songs anymore!

Wayne Hussey

Getintothis: Are they too fast now?

Wayne Hussey: “Yeah, I think they might be!  [laughs]”

Getintothis: Did it make you reevaluate yourself or your actions?  It sounded like you did a bit in the way you speak about Dave Wibberly leaving Dead or Alive.

Wayne Hussey: “Not really, I always knew I was a bit of a twat.  When I need to be.  I make no bones about it in the book, I was always very ambitious and I was quite prepared to do what it took.  You need that ambition really.

Saying that, I never wanted to be nasty to anybody along the way. It was quite cold what I did to Dave, but it was best for the band at the time. We’d got to the point where we’d been together for a year, eighteen months and we were getting quite good, rehearsing a lot. 

I felt that we’d all got better as a band, but Dave wasn’t really improving.  Which might have been unfair but that’s the way I remember it.”

Getintothis: And I suppose that the way you left the band was a symptom of this ambition for the band to do well, that for them to progress down the road they were taking it was necessary for you to leave.

Wayne Hussey: “Well it was better for me not to be in the band because I was a guitar player, and I wasn’t really getting to play the guitar. 

I wrote a lot of the music and spent hours inputting it note by note on a keyboard into a sequencer.  I kind of introduced all that into the band, but in the end, it did me out of a job. But that’s what we were into at the point, that musical direction.  And as a by-product of that, I was kind of made redundant creatively.”

Getintothis: You seem to remember your time in Liverpool really clearly, is that because this is where you came of age?

Wayne Hussey: “Yes, it was that, but also it was a very, very exciting time for me.  I feel that in many respects it was my favourite time of my life. 

That sounds a bit crap, because I’ve had loads of great times since, but what I mean by that is that at that point I was learning so much really fast and also, there was no cynicism in me, there was no expectation in me other than I knew at some point I was going to be a pop star. 

I just look back at those days and I remember it being sunny in Liverpool pretty much all the time.  I know for a fact it wasn’t because I’ve been back since!”

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Getintothis: One thing that comes across in the book is that it’s been a hell of a journey for you, from being a kid in Bristol, the religious upbringing, to Liverpool and Leeds and you’re still a successful musician and now an author.

Wayne Hussey: “It has, I’ve been very lucky.  I’m very lucky that I’m still able to make music for a living.  I’m not a millionaire, far from it, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to afford to have the lifestyle that I have here in Brazil if I was in Britain. 

I’ve got myself into a situation where I’m pretty happy.  I just need to go out once a year and do a few shows, keep my hand in and pay for some dog food.

I’ve been very blessed, because I don’t look back at my life and think ‘that was a really horrific time’.  There were bad moments sure, but when I hear what other people have had to endure, I know I’ve been fortunate.  I’ve not always got what I wanted, but then who does?   

Sometimes there have been financial hardships, but everybody has that in their life, regardless of what they do for a living. I do feel blessed.  Here I am, 61 years old, I can still make music for a living. I’ve just written a book, last year I did a soundtrack for a play, which was great fun, I loved doing that. 

And I get to live very well. My parents are still alive, as are my brothers and sisters, touch wood.  So I haven’t had any of those great traumas that other people have had in their lives. My first marriage failed, that was a tough moment, as was being estranged from my daughters for a while, but in the overall scheme of things that’s not too bad.”

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Getintothis: In your book, each chapter has a playlist.  What made you include them?

Wayne Hussey: “Well I sent the book to a friend a while ago, and he said ‘while I’ve been reading this chapter, I’ve made a playlist on Spotify of all the songs you mentioned’, which I thought was a great idea. So I nicked that idea and kind of ran with it. 

Spotify don’t have all the songs I wanted to use, but on YouTube I managed to fond all of them and more.  I just thought it was a nice addition, I’d never seen anybody else do it before.”

Getintothis: It really helps to set the scene, music jolts the memory better than anything else and can really put you back in that time.

Wayne Hussey: “Yeah, and I know myself that if I’m reading a book and somebody mentions a song, then I really want to hear that song.”

Getintothis: Following your move to Leeds to join The Sisters of Mercy, one of the things that comes across is that you’re quite respectful about Andrew Eldritch, where a lot of people haven’t been.

Wayne Hussey: “All joking aside, Andrew was, and probably still is, very good at what he does.  Just because we didn’t always see eye to eye…  I mean he came from a very different background to me. 

We generally gravitate towards people we have something in common with, and I didn’t really have a lot in common with him.  I mean, for fuck’s sake, he supports Man Utd for a start!”

And he went to public school and was university educated and I was a council estate boy, comprehensive school, I wasn’t a smart kid.  And Andrew was difficult to get on with.  But, that aside, when it worked between us as a band, it was fucking great.

And in some respects, you can endure that shit in your life if the end justifies the means, if the end is something like Marianne. But at some point, you become tired of it and you think ‘is life really worth all this?’ And I’d rather have people around me that I get on with. 

I’m glad you recognised that respect or even a fondness for Andrew though Banjo.  Most people don’t, they just see where I’m having a go at him.

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Getintothis: Would the two of you ever work together again?

Wayne Hussey: “I’d definitely like to get in a room with him and just see how we are with each other. 

About three years ago, I got an email from Billy Corgan, saying he was a big fan of my guitar playing and he loves the early Sisters records and we started corresponding. 

And then one morning I got an email from him saying ‘I’ve had this thought, how would you and Craig [AdamsSisters bass player] feel coming to Chicago and us playing Sisters songs?’ and he said that if it worked we could maybe go out and play some shows as The Sisters, with Billy taking the role of singer. 

So we went to Chicago and Billy had a warehouse full of gear, so whatever we wanted he had.  And we rehearsed in his house and the whole experience was pretty amazing. 

It took Billy probably the best part of two days to find his own voice, he started off trying to sing like Eldritch in the phrasing and in the way that he delivered the songs, but by the end he was singing like Billy Corgan.

Unfortunately, it came to nothing in the end, apart from a friendship with Billy, but it was great fun for me and Craig.  And Craig and I have talked about it since and we’d love to do it again. 

It made me listen to First and Last and Always in its entirety again for the first time in, what, 30 years.  And I thought ‘it’s quite good this. But with all the shit that’s gone on between us throughout the years, you don’t sit down and listen to your old records.  I don’t do that.”

Getintothis: The Sisters were a huge influence at the time.  They were the first band I’d seen since Punk who dared to grow their hair long.

Wayne Hussey: “Well our influences were more early 70s than punk, things like Iggy and the Velvet Underground more than the Pistols.  But we were always on tour and we could never afford haircuts.  [laughs]”

Getintothis: And that’s where the black clothes came from I presume?

Wayne Hussey: “Exactly, when you’re on tour, black doesn’t show the dirt does it!”

Getintothis: So what can we expect from book number two?

Wayne Hussey: “Well I intended that this would all be in one book, to cover the whole of my life.  But I started writing and by the time I’d got to where I’d left The Sisters, I was already on 130,000 words.  Omnibus only wanted 80 – 90,000 words. 

By this point I’d already written five or six chapters of The Mission as well, and my friend who was reading the book said that I should finish it when Craig and I left The Sisters, because that makes a really good book in itself.

He said that each band I’d been in was kind of like a stepping stone, each one nearly making it but never quite getting there.  And all this was before The Sisters really broke big, we were on the verge of it and then we split up.

And I had a deadline looming that I wasn’t going to make, so I went back to Omnibus to suggest two books and they said ‘yeah ok’.

But who’s to say that there’s only going to be one more?  [laughs]

Getintothis: Well I’m sure there are plenty of stories left to tell.

I actually think the next one is funnier.  It’s better than the one I’ve just written, I kind of got into the swing of writing the further I got into writing the book. 

In fact, the very first chapter in the book is the very last chapter I wrote.  Because the whole thing of me being adopted by my father was a family secret, even my siblings didn’t know about that. 

I’ve never made it public and I was very reluctant to do so, but then whilst I was writing it in thought that the person I’ve become is probably partly due that what happened to me when I was born.

So I spoke to my mum and dad about it and they  said ‘yeah, ok fine, we’re 80 years old now, it’s not going to hurt now is it.’  Because they’re still church goers and they’re from that generation where was a stigma to it really.  So I ended up writing that last. 

I actually interviewed my mum for that, which was novel.  Because we’d never talked about it, I didn’t really know about it. It was interesting to me to find out about my own story.”

And that is how Salad Daze reads.  The story of an interesting life told with great enthusiasm for and fondness of that life.  It is one of those autobiographies where, at the end of it, a reader really feels that they know the subject better and, importantly, like them more.

Wayne Hussey may have arrived at a stage where he is happy and even contented.

But he’s had a strange ride getting there.

 

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