Says Patricia Morrison, revealing the reasons beind her sudden departure from The Sisters Of Mercy,
The main reason for the rift between Andrew Eldritch and his ex-bassist Patricia Morrision seems to be the old favourites of control and musical differences - as with former Sisters Of Mercy Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams, who parted company from Andrew Eldritch in the summer of 1985 to form the offshoot Misson.
As Sounds exclusively revealed last week, Morrison is no longer in The Sisters Of Mercy, and hasn't worked with Eldritch since December. Until that time, the pair had been working with new Sisters, guitarist Andreas Bruhn (who had previously played in a series of German bands), on material for the Sisters' next album. Patricia says that she had "convinced Andrew to tour" and "didn't have any inkling that this was going to happen".
The trouble seems to have arisen when Patricia suggested that she was due for a wage raise - her salary was fixed at £300 a month (yes, a month). Eldritch replied: "All I need is somebody to hld the bass low enough - and you're out."
When, in a subsequent telephone conversation, Patricia took up on that comment, Eldritch said: "Did I say that?". But the pair failed to settle their differences and that was the last direct communication they had.
They did, however, agree to send a joint statement to the press. But last week the Sisters' record label, WEA, issued a statement saying Tony James had formally joined the band on bass.
Of the new sisters material, Patricia says: "I wasn't too thrilled with the direction the record was going in. There were elements I ddin't like that could have gone eitehr way, and now that Tony James is in I want nothing to do with it. It seems obvious what's going on - it's scan time..."
Irreconcilable musical differences was the main reason cited by Wayne Hussey when he and Craig Adams left the original Sisters.
"We got to doing the second album" he told Sounds in '86, "and Andrew said, I'm not singing any of your songs. That't what it boils down to. Craig walked out of rehearsals and a day later I did. He was listening to things like Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, Foreigner, and there was us listening to Motorhead or whatever. And it showed."
Eldrtich, who obviously dosen't need any tips from Tony James in the art of fleecing, is currently said to be rehearsing with James and Bruhn, and ws uncontactable at his Hamburg flat. Meanwhile, Patricia is continuing to work on her new project and leaving any further dealings with Eldritch to her lawyer.
Whatever happens next, The Sisters Of Mercy Mkll seems to have ended in similar circumstances to its predecessor. "In a way you feel betrayed," Wayne Hussey said four years ago. "You were working together and had a mutual goal and, in certain respects, I feel that Andrew betrayed us."
Eldritch has consistently refused to tour, with the excuse that it's bad for his health.
The Sisters Of Mercy have recruited a new bass player: Sigue Sigue Sputnik's Tony James. And the announcement of a full Sisters line-up has fuelled speculations this week that a long-awaited tour may be in the offering.
The surprise news came in a statement fom the Sisters' management. It stated simply: "Andreas Bruhn has joined The Sisters Of Mercy. Andreas Bruhn plays electric guitar. Tony James has joined The Sisters Of Mercy. Tony James plays bass guitar."
Any further enquirires were met with a tightlipped silence, and no one will disucss bass player Patricia Morrison's role within the new band.
Extraoridinary though the collaboration between Andrew Eldritch and Tony James may appear, the pair have been friends for a long time and Eldritch was once aksed to front Sigue Sigue Sputnik. They are now believed to be in Norway working on material for the next Sisters LP.
Ever since the success of 'This Corrosion', the Sisters' records company, WEA, have been trying to persuade the band on tour. Eldritch has consistently refused, which the excuse that too much touring is bad for your health! There have been no live dates since the original Sisters line-up, leaving Eldritch and Morrision as the nucleus of the band.
Eldritch spent most of last year writing material in Hamburg and The Only One's John Perry played guitar on the demos.
The recruitment of Tony James would apparently spell the end of Sigue Sigue Sputnik, although their spokesperson this week responded with a curt, "No comment."
Except for Ray Matthews' recent appearance in the nation press, where he complained of being broke and working on a building site, the rest of Sigue Sigue Sputnik have ben lying low lately.
Vocalist Martin Degville said this week: "I've been so busy on a solo project that I cannot comment on Tony Jame's latest activities."
The Sisters Of Mercy have announced a series of long-awaited European dates, including two London shows at Wembley Arena, either immediately after their continental shows in November, or in early December. And it looks likely that one more Wembley date will be confirmed, taking the latest incarnation of Andrew Eldritch's musical monster to greater heights than it has ever reached before.
There will also be a new album to conincide with the dates, currently being recorded in Denmark, as exclusively revealed in last week's Sounds.
The news ends months of speculation, following the February line-up changes in which Tony James replaced Patricia Morrison, that Eldritch was putting together a gigging line-up. It is now over five years since The Sisters' last gig at London Royal Albert Hall after which the band divided into the Sisters and the Mission.
As well as material from the forthcoming album, the live set will feature many popular Sisters songs, such as 'Marianne' and 'This Corrosion' for the first time.
The confirmed Eurodates are Switzerland Ludsqigsburg Forum November 12, Lausanne Hall Eighteen 12, Dienze Brielpoort 15, West Germany Hamburg Docks 16 & 17, Berlin Eissporthalle 19 and Dusseldorf Phillipshalle 21.
The London dates, ticket details and prices will be confirmed next week.
"I tried to tell her about Marx and Engels, God and angels, I don't really know what for... but she looked good in
ribbons" - Sisters Of Mercy, "Ribbons"
WONDERFULLY LUDICROUS. IT MUST BE ANDREW ELDRITCH.
"That's a brilliant lyric. And it's superbly delivered. Even if I say so myself. Because it's totally rational,
but undeniably psychotic."
To what degree are you smirking?
"Totally. To simplify it and make the less enlightened of us know where it's coming from - if Norman Bates was a
slightly better-read person, I can see him thinking to himself, before he opens the shower curtain: well, y'know,
I've tried, I've really tried, but I mean, she's never gonna get there! And then, everything turns red. I love that
line, I adore that line. No one else could possibly sing it and make it work."
Would you really start telling someone about Marx and Engels in the middle of a romantic liaison?
What-you'd say, "Hang on a minute love, move your elbow, what do you reckon to the Marxist approach to Stravinsky"?
"Yes, because sex and sensuality are tied up for me with intelligence, and also with violence. Now, most people
don't normally put all three together. But I see no reason why you shouldn't, I really like that. I've done all the
simple stuff! Let's get really offensive now. No, I think it's important. . . well, okay, no its not important, but
it's kind of exciting. It's part of the Anglo-Saxon psyche. Sex and violence and intelligence all rolled into one -
a perverse and wonderfully lethal cocktail."
But for many, Andrew, sex is a primal animal act, it's dumber than dumb. It's instinct.
"Elevating it to an art form requires the addition of a few extra elements. Be they Marx and Engels or razor wire.
Preferably all three at once. I'm just, er, expressing the views of the song's protagonist here, I don't want to end
up in court defending this stuff when some 10-year-old in Nebraska gets found. . . well actually forget that, people
in Nebraska don't matter."
Do you glamorise your life for the sake of The Sisters Of Mercy? Make it all sound a lot more exotic and racy than it
"No. It's all real. If I didn't think it I wouldn't be able to say it. I don't necessarily agree with everything
I think. If you see what I mean. It's my job to express these things. In my more wayward moments I might agree with
them. In my more balanced moments I might not. But you can't deny it's there. I think it's important to pull it out
and have a look at it before you either put it back or inflict it on someone."
THE Sisters Of Mercy, Mark Three I guess, are back, and facing up to reality like goth always did. The highly
confusing new line-up is Andrew Eldritch, Tony James (formerly of Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik), Tim Bricheno
(formerly of All About Eve), and Andreas Bruhn. There's a new single called "More", co-written by Eldritch and Jim
Steinman, and an imminent album, "Vision Thing". And a tour, the previous ones having been legendary; one recalls the
"farewell" fog-fest at the Royal Albert Hall in 1985. And anyone that covers Hot Chocolate's "Emma" deadpan is cool as
f***, let's face it.
The records are pretty much what you'd expect, "More" being a shameless rewrite of Bowie's "Cat People (Putting Out
Fire With Gasoline)", and the album, setting streets and streets of suitably dark and decadent imagery to every
Bowie/lggy trick in the book. As a listener I find myself subconsciously grafting further Bowie tricks onto it,
thus causing it to be a greater record in my imagination than it is in truth. I suspect most Sisters fans do the
same and have always done, because Eldritch has always very shrewdiy piled on the mystique and guessing games.
The Sisters' vinyl return is not bad at all - in fact it's probably about a 20th as good as Eldritch thinks it is.
HIS attitudes and motives are wholly commendable. Eldritch plays The Star from dusk to dawn. To interview, he's a
dream - smart, wry, laconic, erudite, deluded but not deluded, and just a little bit nasty. He may, however,
have underestimated popular antipathy towards his new collaborator Mr James. To most, he's that bloke from The
Sputniks who hung out with Janet Street-Porter.
It's difficult, nay impossible, to picture Tony James ascending enigmatically on a black cloud above Hades, a
veritable horseman of the apocalypse. The forthcoming shows will require large quantities of smoke and dry ice to
make that one wash. Enough smoke to hide the portable phone, anyway.
As if to hang himself, Tony James starts on at me about my review of the last Sputnik album, tells me Degville is
alter my blood, all that sort of stuff. I gaze at him in disbelief - now could any grown man defend that tosh? - so,
after a 20-minute lecture on the life-affirming merits of Sigue Sigue ("the first to do this, the first to do that,
we invented sampling, Prince said hello to me"), he comes round to today.
I tell him I came here as a Sisters person. I thought we were all being Sisters people. I thought that was the game.
He agrees to agree. He reckons the difference between him and Eldritch is that he reads GQ magazine and Eldritch doesn't,
though they both respect the erotic polential of gasmasks. James' guest list for the Wembley show was so big that another
night was added. This may or may not be a joke. Tony fixes up a date on the portable phone. He's going to see
"She was very impressed that l got tickets to a sold-out show," he says. "Cost me the proceeds of a
hit single, mind."
He thinks Mel Smith should play John Self in the film version of Martin Amis' "Money". I think maybe Tony should.
Tony is actually quite funny. He makes us all laugh. I just worry that laughing is not entirely what The Sisters
Of Mercy are all about. That being the willing Suspension of disbelief and suchlike.
"What do I do in this band?" James asks. "I'm in charge of going out. I'm the social secretary. No, you see,
you can have the misery and pain, that's him, and the fun too, that's my side; the two can coexist. We've known
each other years. It can work."
TIM Bricheno reckons he was always leaning towards the rockier side of All About Eve, used to be a Sisters fan, and
"never dreamed I'd end up being in them". Tim is sweet and ingenuous. Or maybe he' s just as jetlagged as everyone else,
their plane back from an LA video shoot for "More" (by a Nike commercial director) having landed this same day. Eldritch
doesn't know the meaning of fatigue. Or rather he possesses such an abundance of self-respect and willpower that he can
conquer it with ease. He soon relaxes his innate superiority complex. As the man was born in 1959 (a vinlage year) and
adores cats, women, drugs, and old Bowie records, we get along like a fairly warm house. After a few minutes he even
takes his shades off.
Eldo is fantastically, magnificently, mesmerisingly, withered, and talks like Michael Caine. So what's he been doing
after the "Floodland" album?
"Hamburg, I like the people. I like the cigarette machines that work. Where I live everything's open all night,
but not dangerously so, just civilised. With a little bit of an edge."
Would you get bored if there wasn't an edge?
"Yeah I would. I couldn't live in Holland or Sweden or any of those well-balanced places where everybody's
sensible and knows what they' re doing."
It look about nine months to take "Vision Thing" from nothing to completion.
"The writing seems to come in a wave. I just wait for it. I don't try to push it. I think if you've got
nothing to say for a while you should just shut up. I don't walk about constantly spouting stuff at myself,
as one imagines Wordsworth must've done every time he came over the brow of a hill."
Oh look, some more daffodils!
"I can't do that. Not that way inclined."
What does preoccupy you?
"Same as everybody eLse really. Women. Drugs. Newspapers. My attitudes have shifted a little. I'm drinking again now.
I spent a long time not drinking as a reaction. By the time we finished touring last time I was doing almost a litre of
gin a day. I'm keeping an eye on it this time cos alcohol's not very good for me. It doesn't turn me into a better person,
it just makes me fall asleep in public more. Or fall over."
WHY suffer the rigours of the road again?
"My life needs to be jolted a little. Everything was running very smoothly. With the women, the drugs, the newspapers.
A band's a silly thing to be in, but making records on your own is just as silly. Though for 'Floodland' that worked a
So now you "get on with the lads"? Surely The Mission ethos of "knees-up lads-all-together" repels you?
"They, ah, like to preserve that image. But the first thing they did was cut down their drinking and their drug intake
and go out and play tours like sensible people are supposed to, y'know? You try to get fit and go and see a vocal coach -
stuff The Sisters would never've done, stuff we always thought was totally pansy. And while they were off doing that,
ever so sensibly, and having someone put them to bed and wake them up, I was out doing rather wicked things I was actually
being more laddish in a rather singular way. Closet laddish, I suppose."
"I'm not an extrovert, but I have a good time inside myself. I have great suspicions about people who pretend to be
drunk a lot of the time, which certain people I was associated with made a point of doing."
"These are big shows, I feel a respnsibility to the team not tomake a complete arsehole of myself, so it's not going
to be as haywire as it was at the end of the last stint. Hopefully we'll have the good sense to stop on the edge this
time and not just that bit beyond it. The shows will hit like a thunderbolt. Like a good key change or a perfect twist
of a metaphor. Natuaral and God-given."
ARE you giving the punters what they want?
"Oh I hadn't really thought about that. I've alwvays taken the very enlightened view that what I want to give them
is what they need. What they want is neither here nor there. I know what's best for everybody. That's my job. And my
brief. To do what I want."
Is that the role of 'the rock star"?
"It's the role of a great one. That's not to say that anybody that does it is great."
Do you set out to enlighten and instruct, or pervert?
"I've never taken the view that any form of art is really to tell anybody anything they didn't know. Particularly in a
medium as wonderfully ludicrous as rock'n'roll, I don't think you can convince anybody of anything they didn't think or
When did you first think it was ludicrous?
"When they first put me at the front. When I was the drummer, I thought, 'This is allright'. And then I found myself
at the front after a very short space of time, probably because l was one of, the worlds worst drummers, and I thought,
'Oh dear, this is pretty uncool'. And, er, it's still pretty uncool."
You seem to have taken to it like a duck to water.
"No, it terrifies me. And the more people turn up the more terrified I get. I still go out there terrified.
And preferably out of my skull."
But you seem ...immobile in your calm. It's not as if you quake.
"Its like a rabbit in the headlights. Well... rabbits probalbly move, don't they? I don't know much about nature,
you'll have to tell me what the..."
Rabbits do freeze in headlights. Thats the line, anyway.
"Yeah? Okay, like a rabbit in the headlights. Only thing is I've got a steel core and when the car hits it comes off
So did you think, "Okay, I'm in the spotlight, let's use and abuse this scenario"?
"No. No normal person has that sense of control when they're there. l really distrust people who stand at the front
of a stage and act normal. That's not a sane reaction to an abnormal situation. I find it very contrived."
Where's the abnormality? People have gone to musichalls to be entertained since time immemorial?
"Not me. I have a schooling in a different form of theatre. How I got into Oxford was by knowing about post-war German
theatre inside out, and that works on very different principles, with which I'm more familiar."
You bring those into The Sisters Of Mercy?
"I hope so. This sounds outrageous, but I truly believe that you can tell how intelligent a woman is by the way she
moves her hips. I really do think you can. And I like a woman who moves her hips intelligently. And I hope there's
something about my hips that screams intelligence at 10,000 people every time I take the stage."
Like an end-of-the-millenium Elvis?
"Uh-huh. Elvis meets Kierkegaard."
ARE your criteria the levels of subtlety or crassness with which a woman moves her hips?
"You can tell by looking at her ankles what the rest of her's like. It's the same with horses. Again that sounds
outrageous, but I'm sure girls say the same thing about you and me. Well, maybe not about you."
Hey pal, only the other day the local fly-girl posse were comparing me to Desert Orchid. Unfavourably, but at least I was
in the running.
I don't think the feminists would approve of your assessment there.
"Yes, but I've seen how the average feminist walks, and I'm not impressed. I think sensuality is what we're talking
about, and that involves intelligence. I only like really intelligent women."
"And that's tied up with movement, I don't think you can separate it. I don't find that necessarily a chauvinistic thing
WHAT'S your ideal of beauty?
"Do you know, the record Company is still keeping me apart from Ofra Haza. I suspect Ofra Haza is probably it,
Joanna Lumley having maybe passed her sell-by date. Apart from which, Joanna is now sending postcards to Tony James,
which causes me great distress. Not that I'm jealous. I just, y'know, have other priorities right now."
Aren't women just the most beautiful thing on this earth?
Oh, Then what is? (Thinks: if of all things he says cats, I'll say the album's great.)
"I do generally find cats the most beautifui thing."
The album's great.
"You can't tell the intelligence of a cat also by the way it moves. It's the same kind of flowing grace when it's
just right, but with a kind of slyness in the greatest of cats."
So does beauty fade with age for you?
"Yes, but you can still tell in the eyes, Of cats and women. Beauty changes. It gets rechannelled. I mean if Joanna
Lumley walked through the door now, you'd be outta here in a flash, I can tell you."
Darnn right, she thinks it's my turn to doth ie washing-up. Do you get such preoccupations into the songs?
"Yes, all of them. Although I try very hard to make the songs non-gender-specific. Most of my friends are German women.
It occurs to me fairly often that must be quite distressing for then, all this gender-specific stuff which rock is primed
to. Which is why I love singing, 'Give me back my man' songs on stage. Although I'm not personally that way inclined."
Oo-er! Although rock offers more scope for androgyny than some fields of endeavour...
"Yes! I wish more people would use it. Particularly those that are that way inclined. It distresses me that some of
our leading lights don't really come clean. Certain Mancunians spring to mind."
I thought they were all dullard matey-boy thugs.
"I've not really been following that because of course it doesn't mean shit outside of England. Which is why I suspect
that it is too matey-boy and... well I was going to say football terrace,but when I go to football in Hamburg there's a
lot of women there. But yes, there is somerthing offensive about all that."
They're very undemanding. Isn't that almost one of the themes of "More"?
"Half the lyrics aren't there any more because they were... illegal. It was originally: wise up, motherf***er. Now
it's a hybrid of mine and Jim's, so I'm at somewhat of a loss when answering for it."
It's very "CatPeople".
Is that good, yeah?
'That's good. I love that song. That hadn't occurred to me. But I love songs that start off sensitive, then go BANG,
then go RAMMALAMMA for four minutes."
YOU keep referring to your "job". Is it a job?
"The writing of it and the making of the records is more of an urge or drive. But there are obvious things that
do constitute a job. Like talking to you; that's part of a job. That's not to say it's unpleasant, but I would have
to do it even if I did find it unpleasant."
Me too. Now then: 'Vision Thing", the title track, starts with "25 whores in the room next door..."
"No, 'Vision Thing' starts with a sniff."
Do forgive me. After the sniff, there's that line, which has tremendous dramatic impact, as you are no doubt fully aware.
You're not spicing this up at all?
"A lot of my friends are whores, as it happens. That's the way it is. Documentary."
But say there were 23, or 27, I bet you'd still say 25.
"Oh I'd say 25, yeah yeah yeah yeah. It's also a reference to the 25th floor, which is a way of saying: up there.
I haven't actually been and counted just how many or them there are during the rush hour. But there's quite a few.
Business being brisk. I don't have a problem with it. You've got to remember that Germans run everything very efficiently,
they're very business-like. As long as you don't make a total idiot of yourself it's not a dangerous environment.
It's well-policed. Well-lit."
Do you feel more of an affinity with nuns or with prostitutes?
"As far as my work goes it's all tied together. There's didacticism coupled with product management. And pipelining.
And all the other wonderful expressions we have for shifting units. I'm good at getting what I want, yes. I'm not great
at man-management. I have a rather brisk manner and very few social graces. But there are two types of people - the
ones I get on with, and the stupid bastards."
ANDREW Eldritch says he would be doing very nicely if he had joined the Diplomatic Corps. He'd have been "quite happy
under the volcano, or casually bombing the f*** out of some Third Worid nation".
He could be jingoistic if it were expedient. He doesn't think we're "keeping our end up very well" in the current global
"crisis", thinks that as our Prime Minister has isolated us from the rest of Europe, we have no choice but to do whatever
the Americans tell us to.
Staggeringly enough, he recently very nearly warmed to his sworn enemies the French.
"Funny you should say that. When The Wall went down I thought, 'Well, I don't like the French, their music is drivel
and their women are treacherous, but we do have to contain the Germans'. And the French were the only people who were
looking for allies to do that. They made some overtures that we were very stupid to turn down."
Andrew is intimidated by the united Germany and by the time he's explained why, I am too.
ARE you ever dismayed at the difference between the way Eldritch is perceived and the way you see yourself?
"No I got used to it. It's like waking up with a dull ache that you've had for a long time. You don't notice it till
somebody points it out."
What do you like most about this Eldritch character?
"He manages to be intelligent, but gloriously dumb at the same time. Somehow there's an awareness of ludicrousness
and absurdity there that doesn't seem to interfere with the intensity or depth of whats being said. I don't know how I
get away with it but it's a major achivement and I'm very proud of it."
Does it ever surprise you that people moved by something that's essentially ironic?
"No because I've always been mover by things that are were essentially ironic. Anything that lacked that certain
awareness I can't trust. Even if it's coming on very intelligently but missing the point."
Isn't it going over the heads of a large percentage of the fans?
"Yes and no. I don't know how many of them you could sit down with and get them to talk you through it. But even
en masse, as a mob, I think our people are different to everyone else's. You can tell by the way they move in a hall.
The humour, the irascibility, the aggression. It's charged with that same awareness that we were just geting at.
I guess they just expressit by coming along and doing whatever it is they do when we're all together communing with
whatever it is the band's supposed to be about!"
Oh - bleakness, apocalypse, existentialism, futility. It's an alternative to mum and dad.
"Yes. And if there's a kinship in nihilism then that's a valuable thing."
Well there is. Ain't that something?
"Yes. That strikes me as a perfectiy thorough and sane reaction to a rather warped world."
I ASK the by now immensely likeable Eldritch if he realises he's missing a Manchester United game on telly as we speak
and he grumbles, "Yeah, thanks to you." His is an innovative and charming way of winning one over. He orders the lobster.
It's a tough one. I order some fish because it has a groovy Italian name. It's all soggy but it tastes nice.
Can you have a good time without drugs?
"Oh yeah. I have to."
What's perfect contentment for you?
"A quiet room, four blank walls, and a cat. I could sit happily in that room for a very long time.
The qualitY of mercy is not strained.
"Sometimes my delivery is sublime. Callous? Of course it is! But only because I care. In an uncaring kinda way. All life
is there. Easily the greatest impact music made on me was at the beginning of the Seventies - basically David Bowie
records. That's when rock music was serious and silly, gloriously contrived but just right It meant sornething and it
could change your life, but it was unashamedly ludicrous too. And I see no reason why you can's still do that. It's just
nobody seems to try any more."
Except for the caring and uncaring residents of a large ghetto, wherein reside The Sisters Of Mercy. More!
"More" is out now on on east west records. The album, "Vision Thing" is due for release on October 22.
Off with the lights, out with the cat, ol' paleface is coming round to call with another have platter. Will Johnson rides the storm
Approaching his rehearsal studios on a wind-chilled autumnal afternoon in deepest Sussex, one is struck by an odd sense of perversity. Here we are, amidst a vision of English rusticity and calm, not a long-eared bat in sight, you about to meet self-confessed night creature and celebrator of darkened urban excess, the near legendary Count Andrew Eldritch Of Hamburg. It's 2.00 PM but I am early. Eldritch, face a whiter shade of pale, cheekbones sinking fast, is on breakfast and as yet not ready to be disturbed. His recent acquisition to the Sisterhood, however, Tony James, he of Generation X, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Janet Street-Porter - the Alan Sugar of rock - everwillingly utters a few words whilst the less experienced of the new Sisters, guitarist Andreas Bruhn and Tim Bricheno (formerly of All About Eve) wait quitely in the wings. When talking with James the conversation is almost inexorably steered in the direction of the Sputniks, sci-fi pop for the year 2000 which fizzled out of rocket fuel
in the late 1980s.
"The problem with anything that's incredibly fashion-oriented is that it becomes yesterday's news," he muses. "It's like no-one's really going to be interested in Batman 2 - I mean by the time Batman came out you felt you'd read so much and seen so much about it you didn't need to go and see the movie. It's like, shall we go to the permier? Nah, can't even be bothered to drive there. Sometimes, once you're on that media roller-coaster it's impossible to get off and you can end up destroying yourselves but it's a hell of a lot of fun at the time."
James and Eldritch, a somewhat peculiar pop pairing, have, in fact, known each other since the early eighties, sharing a mutual admiration for bands like Suicide, The Stooges and Led Zeppelin. Indeed, had Eldritch not already been involved with the Sisters, James intimates that there was a possibility of the singer joining a fledgelig SSS prior to the appearance of the pink-stilettoed Martin Degville. In the event, it was Eldritch who called James last Christmas when he found himself minus a bass player - Patricia Morrison departing, lawyers-in-tow. So how's the new alliance working so far?
"We're taking it a minute at a time," he states wryly. "Both of us are used to being in charge so there could be a personality clash but...so far so good. I think I add a certain attitude and personality - I think Andrew needed it because he's got too much autonomous control and to make a great rock band you need four personalities not just one. I mean, we have totally different lifestyles, he's more comfortable in a sleazy bar in Hamburg. I prefer the Caprice. We agree to differ though. We both hate each others lifestyles."
At this stage, with customary handshakes and pleasantries, James departed. A minute later and enter the swashbuckling spectre of Andrew Eldritch. I'm a trifle unnerved. He has with him a fencing foil which he proceeds to swish liberally thoughout the interview. Although aiming primarily at low-flying blow flies that invade the room, I'm twice forced to take swift evasive action as the blade flashed menacingly beneath my nose.
The studious mind seems preoccupied, not entirely content in the countryside, one minute getting up to tinkle on the piano, the next bemoaning tha lack of nicotine available in the region. It's been three years since Floodland, the last Sisters album that produced the delightful Gothic monstrosities "This Corrosion", "Dominion" and "Lucretia, My Reflection", and five years since a performance - at the Royal Albert Hall in June 1985 - after which messieurs Hussey and Adams upped and formed The Mission.
More recently, he's been doing a lot of drnking - he was off the sauce for five years - as well as composing The Sisters latest LP, Vision Thing (East/West), the first results of which come by way of "More" the majestic but murky single co-produced by Jim Steinman. It's the only track to bombast with choral and orchestral splendour - Eldritch winking ironically behind the shades - the rest continuing on the rockier road of the Sisters earlier days. "When You Don't See Me" pounds aways admist the uplifting gloom, whilst "Ribbons" smacks the earlier darkened glory of "Alice". Temporarily putting the sword aside he proffers a thought or two.
"I don't think it's that different really, it's a rocker, but then "Floodland" was going that way anyway. It just semed to be natural to do a rock record with a big R and to put the band back together. I mean, I've got a reasonably good feeling about the new set-up. I'm a bit apprehensive but then I've felt this way before. One thing for sure it that there's some totally brilliant ingenious lyrics in there - yes, with abosolutely no exception the lyrics on this album are superb."
What about playing live - you recently likened your being on stage to that of a bemused rabbit confronted by blinding headlights.
"Well, you see," he explains, "I never got in this in the first place with the idea of lugging gear round the pubs of England in the back of a Transit. I was asked to play drums on a record, but because I was a very bad drummer and at the same time they invented these drum machines the size of a cigarette packets, I moved to the front. I suppose I could sing a kind of...well, I could deliver a lyric and I've got an idiosyncratic voice. That's a very neutral word - it doensn't mean to say I can sing great."
Do you think the new record could broaden you appeal from those who live in caverns and collect spiders?
"It's funny you should say that," he quips, "'cos every journalist comes up and says, 'I love your records but aren't your fans a miserable bunch of people'. You're looking at these guys and you're thinking, 'well he's just volunteered to be one of them!'"
Away from The Sisters, in his adopted Hamburg, Eldritch continues to indulge in his favourite pastimes - women, cats and newspapers (he reads The Times, The Independent, Der Spiegel, The Economist and Viz. The only time he ever listens to other music is when he's pursuing another desired activity - hanging out in bars.
"I'm too busy to listen to other things," he says, another fly just avoiding Eldritch's epee. "I don't have a TV and don't have a radio, so the only time I ever listen to other music is when i'm drinking, and there are some types taht don't. I don't mind if it switches from AC/DC to Fugazi and then to Donna Summer as long as it suits the place."
As well as preparing for the forthcoming tour, commencing this month in Yugoslavia, his most immediate concern was for the following night's re-appearance of Top Of The Pops. The Sisters are first on, to be followed by renowned abuser of Smarties, Cliff Richard. He remember his last time on the show vividly:
"We went on between Shakin' Stevens and Sabrina," he grins. "She was weird, as soon as the cameras was on her she sort of inflated, a metaphysical thing happened and suddenly she was all tit. Then soon as the camera pans off, she sorts of deflates again. Weird." And with that he's off, a genuine Vision Thing.
"I tried to tell her about Marx and Engels,
God and angels
I don't really know what for
But she looked good in ribbons."
- Sisters Of Mercy, "Ribbons"
Read that "sliced" to ribbons. Cruel and absurd. Must be Andrew Eldritch.
"I love that line. Great line, isn't it?" The tiny man smiles, dead-tired
skin streched parchmentlike around his mouth, eyes that look a million years
old nervously darting about the room. Another drag off an endless procession
of cigarettes, and he'll probably collapse into his own emaciated flesh.
"It's so rational, but undeniably psychotic," he furthers. "I can see a
better-read Norman Bates thinking to himself before he flings open the shower
curtain: 'I've tried, I've really tried, but she'll just never get the
point.' And then everything turns red. Delicious, utterly delicious. Who else
could sing that and make it work?"
Dressed in black and steeped in an even darker humor, Andrew Eldritch, the
brains, guts and soul behind eminent gothsters Sisters Of Mercy, really might
pepper his bedroom talk with the Marxist approach to Bach or a heady
discussion of Vienesse fin de diecle literature. A true eccentric.
"I don't think you can separate violence and intelligence from sensuality,"
he declares. "They're all wrapped up in the same whole. That, to me, is a
very 20th-century notion, a very post-modernist attitude. For me, at least,
sex has got to have an element of violence in there to be truly great."
There it is: the Sisters Of Mercy in a nutshell.
Eldritch has come back from what he terms another "hugely successful
absence," three years after he faded from view with 'Floodland', a dark,
brooding, keyboard-driven affair between himself and ousted bassist Patricia
Morrison. 'Vision Thing' is his triumphant return, accompanied by a newly
recruited lineup - guitarist Andreas Bruhn, ex-Generation X and Sigue Sigue
Sputnik pineapple-topped bassist Tony James and second bassist Tim Bricheno,
formerly with the hopelessly ethereal All About Eve. The new LP finds
Eldritch in a surprisingly metallic state of mind. A tenfold cruddier than
the usual bacchanalian Sisters product, the record starts out voracious and
crunching on the title track, slinks through "Desolation Boulevard" and
piles up in an unnerving groove on "More."
"It stopped people telling me I was dead when I hadn't had a record out in
three years," Eldritch hisses. "Why worry about your profile? Why put out
something simply for the sake of getting product out? Too many bands do that,
largely to their detriment. Look here, if we're going to put out crap, it's
because we want to! Because it's the right time to put out crap! And if it's
crap, it's the sort of crap we love!" Andrew grins, the perfect cross
between Elvis, Kierkegaard and W.C. Fields. An Oxford-educated balance of
mirth and menace who just bleeds mystique; an expatriate who revels in the
secluded, enigmatic environs of Hamburg, Germany. "That way I can play at
being Colonel Kurtz [Marlon Brando's insane Army officer in Francis Ford
Coppola's surreal Vietnam epic 'Apocalypse Now']," he insists. "I'm Colonel
Kurtz gone up the river, really. I just never made it back. All the natives
swearing, 'Mr. Kurtz, he dead.' Well, he's not."
For latecomers, the Sisters' murky past needs some explaining. Formed in
Leeds, England, during the early-'80s, they rose to prominence on a wave of
amphetamine-charged intensity. The formula was chilling and distinct: a
precision-thunder drum machine appropriately dubbed "Doktor Avalanche", twin
swaths of sheet-metal guitars driven by low-ended bass, and Eldritch's barbed
and sonorous vocals.
They were huge, at least in England. But by the '85 tour to support their
'First and Last and Always' LP, Sisters blew up. After a farewell London
gig, bassist Craig Adams and guitarist Wayne Hussey splintered off into the
Mission. Still unresolved legal actions ensued, and the British rock weeklies
echoed with slagging matches for months.
In late-'87 Eldritch made his comeback with 'Floodland', in partnership with
ex-Gun Club bassist Patricia Morrison and, weirdly enough, Meat Loaf
producer/writer Jim Steinman (who collaborated on the writing of the current
tune "More"), yielding the band's first British Top Ten hit, "This
Corrosion". Yet, despite the band's success, Eldritch refused to tour,
insisting, "This was never designed to go out live. It was incarnated that
way because playing live was never an issue." Apparently the excesses of the
Sisters' infamous '85 "Turn On, Tune In, Burn Out" Tour had taken their toll.
"It's hard to claw your way back to sanity", Andrew explains with a grim
Last year Eldritch and Morrison parted company, lending credence to the
frontman's reputation for being impossibly hard to work with. A court summons
courtesy of Ms. Morrison is still pending. "The nature of the job really
changed, and it looked like that incarnation of the band wasn't up to making
the change", Andrew says sharply. "Just basic, basic changes - like playing."
"It's strange", he continues, lighting up yet another Marlboro. "All the
partings of the way I've had with people have always been very amicable, yet
rancidness and nastiness always seem to follow afterwards. I don't think what
I do is particularly absurd, but I would grant you it's fairly oblique. It
does have its confines, and I'm not interested in singing someone else's
songs or living with a guitar part that's totally crap, even if someone else
thinks it's brilliant. A lot of people read that as enigmatic, and it's very
easy to translate that into disagreeable bastard. I'm not. I'm hard, but I am
Eldritch offers up a timely anecdote from the 'Floodland' days, when the
Sisters traveled to Jordan, in the then-less-turbulent Middle East, to lens
their truly epic "Dominion" video. Filmed for nearly a million dollars, it's
one of the grandest videos ever, replete with scores of horses, camels and
Arabian extras. 'Lawrence of Arabia' in four minutes, y'might say.
"That was great", Andrew beams. "The dynamic duo gone on holiday. Did you
enjoy our little home movie? I did. The world was a bit calmer in those days.
If I went back there now, I'd be sure to watch my back. If you take Arabs on
their own terms and treat them with respect, they're a very gentle and polite
people. They have different boundaries, beyond which it's unwise to go. Their
sense of honor is everything. They're easily offended by things we don't
expect them to be offended by. And they react very forcefully in most
situations, which, in our perception, makes them kind of unreputable; but the
truth is, they're not. If you're an Arab, you can probably predict what your
fellow Arab is going to do. Did you know I got offered money for Patricia?
Yeah. We eventually tried to work it out in camels but, believe it or not,
they ended up offering me more for her in money than in camels, which sort of
places an interesting premium on the English dollar."
"Then again, I think they saw that I was a person that couldn't really 'use'
that many more camels."
A soundless TV in the corner of the room flickers with the more recent
"postcards" from the Middle East - namely, the bombing of Baghdad; a
streamlined, high-tech portrait of devastation courtesy of CNN. Eldritch is
"This war looks great", he smacks, An Iraqi military installation suddenly a
mass of black smoke. "America is going to win not because it can kill more
people or because it has more men - that's not important. It's the simple
fact that all the high-tech shit looks so great. I want some of it. Where can
I get a laser-guided missile? I know just what I'm buying with my next
"I think the great lesson of the 20th century is that you have to separate
the ethics from the aestetics. The Nazis did have the best uniforms, there's
no denying it. The great lesson there is that you don't have to agree with
what the Nazis did, but, yes, be honest about it, they did have the best
uniforms. A lot of people can't come to terms with something as banal as
that. They can't admit it, because somehow they feel like they're approving
of what the Nazis did. That's very, very stupid, because to come to terms
with the 20th century, to live in it and make the best of it - the way it
is, not just sitting around holding hands, lighting candles and waiting for
the next world or a better one - you have to be able to get off on those
Though they took their name from a 19th-century Irish convent, the Sisters
Of Mercy are very much a 20th-century proposition.
"I love the bomb", Eldritch snarls. "It's brilliant. The point is that I
can't stop it from going off. It's the biggest thing that's going to happen
in my lifetime. I will not be caught standing there, going, 'Oh dear!'
That's a given. The way to make the best of this world, even in that last
split second, is to say 'F?!k yeah! Great, isn't it?' Look here, ever since
the first World War, this world is obviously f?!ked. It's a bad world.
There's no way you're going to ethically get on with the way the world works
except to get on with it aestethically, right? Only an insane imbecile could
possibly get on with what the 20th century considers ethical. I might as well
try to get on with the aesthetics, the little cosmic jokes we consider
artifacts of a hopeless culture."
Heavy words. RIP readers, take note, the Sisters are every bit as heavy,
every bit as visceral and brutalizing as any thrasher inhabiting these pages.
Heaviness carried in a whisper. Words that cut like a rusty, jagged knife. A
sound as cunning as it is forceful. "Just the way it all comes together",
Eldritch declares. "I just get up there, pull my shades on and close my eyes.
It's a bit frightening sometimes."
There was a certain symmetry to the quintuple bill that came to Radio City Music Hall on Wednesday night. It started with Kory Clarke, the lead singer of Warrior Soul, hurling imprecations against "12 years of Republican administrations." And it ended with the Sisters of Mercy performing "Vision Thing," a song that snarls President Bush's slogans in a fury of sarcasm over a booming beat.
The concert was the first of this summer's mix-and-match tours, which bring together rockers and rappers, new bands and punk-era veterans; next to arrive will be the Lollapalooza tour headlined by Jane's Addiction. Wednesday's concert featured Sisters of Mercy, an English band, and Public Enemy, New York's most important rap group. The opening acts were the reconstituted Gang of Four, a pioneering punk-funk band, and Warrior Soul, a hard-rock band from Detroit. Also squeezed in were Young Black Teen-Agers, a white rap group that shares Public Enemy's producer but not its intelligence or enunciation. All except Young Black Teen-Agers offered some mixture of angry leftist politics and walloping, abrasive music.
The mix-and-match tour grows out of idealistic and practical considerations. The ideal is to convene a post-punk community from factionalized rock audiences. The practicality is that because insurers are so leery of violence at rap shows, promoters rarely book all-rap bills; joining rock bands on the road helps rappers to get out and perform.
Although Sisters of Mercy topped the bill, part of the audience left after Public Enemy finished. "We should be supporting Public Enemy," Andrew Eldritch, the Sisters' leader, said from the stage; in England, "supporting" means "opening for." But it was only lip service. Otherwise, the Sisters of Mercy might have shortened their overlong set and given Public Enemy more time.
Sisters of Mercy merge pretension and propulsion. In a bass-baritone growl that rises to a bitter bleat, Mr. Eldritch sings about lust and apocalypse, slinging poetic images as he skulks around the stage veiled in sunglasses and smoke. At Radio City, lyrics were obscured behind the music, which pounds away with a riff or two for each song -- more in "This Corrosion," the Sisters' catchiest tune. Some songs use quasi-Celtic guitar lines, others lean toward power chords, but once under way the riffs simply repeat to the end. The concertgoers started out dancing; by the end of the set, most were simply standing and watching the moires and starbursts of the band's impressive lighting setup.
Public Enemy's set was a holding action, pending the September release of its next album, "Apocalypse 1991: the Enemy Strikes Black." With a dancing honor guard of four men in white Navy-like uniforms, and security men trailing the rappers, Chuck D. and Flavor-Flav ran all over the stage, led short stretches of audience participation and declaimed some greatest hits. The set included "Bring the Noise," "911 Is a Joke," "Who Stole the Soul," "Welcome to the Terrordome": songs about the power of rap, the neglect of the poor and the exploitation of black labor and culture, in dense, multi-layered language over backdrops that are all muscle and dissonance.
There was no new material and no speeches between songs; Sister Souljah, Public Enemy's new rapper, was also absent. And because Chuck D. often rapped over his own prerecorded voice, the sense that his songs are spontaneous blasts of articulate rage was lessened. But the songs remain rap's most tough-minded material, and after years of roadwork, Public Enemy performs them as if they're participatory party music.
Gang of Four, now a five-member group, matches oblique lyrics to stark music, mostly drumbeats and guitar noise that are occasionally tempered by a melodic chorus. Its set juxtaposed its best old songs -- "Love Like Anthrax," "I Love a Man in a Uniform" -- with new material like "F.M.U.S.A.," a splintered evocation of the Vietnam War. Two original Gang members, its singer Jon King and its guitarist, Andy Gill, were upstaged by its new bass player, Gail Ann Dorsey, who sang, danced and added a sensual element the original Gang disdained.
Where Public Enemy details inner-city anger, Sisters of Mercy purvey Romantic disillusion and Gang of Four offers educated cynicism, Warrior Soul sums up the rage of suburban youth facing drastically lowered expectations. Its stamping, grinding songs carry Mr. Clarke's shouted accusations -- "all the oil that you pump/my world's a garbage dump" -- on basic guitar riffs and booming drums, updating Led Zeppelin with glimpses of politics.
Each band was blunt and focused, but disappeared after its set. If the musicians really want to suggest a new community, they might consider playing a finale together.
Who is Andrew Eldritch, you wonder, as you leaf through a pile of old interviews on the way to his current whereabouts in Bath. A character of the Old School, maybe, up to his eyes in Times crossword puzzles and Harvey's Bristol Cream, whose first question to you would be a haughty: "so...what does your father do?" Or some gauche, neurotic Leeds University dropout who formed a band to overcome shyness, lack of height and inability to click with girls? A dashing, caddish rogue in a smoking jacket with the voice of a Shakespearian act-or, dozens of puckish epigrams at his fingertips and a pack of hounds to set on you should your line of interrogation verge on the impertinent? Or a shy little geezer with a high-pitched southern twang, fingers that fidget manically with his Silk Cut and nervous eyes that dart around and do anything but look into yours?
Who is Andrew Eldritch?
He'd greeted us wearing shades, and once you'd got used to his small stature he looked just like the guy you see onstage: slicked-back hair, black coat, black leather trousers, motorcycle boots, a filter tip in his paw and a cruel slash of a mouth bidding a confident hello. Once we sat down in the pub and the drinks arrived, however, he took his shades off to do the interview. And away went the legend of Andrew Eldritch.
This is not the leader of the Sisters Of Mercy, surely, you think to yourself. Not this guy with his painfully shy eyes and his shaky fingers and his chirpy voice. This can't be the guy who startled one interviewer by repeatedly swishing a fencing blade mere inches from his face while bemoaning falling attendances at county cricket matches. Bloody hell. This is the man who swaggers round Hamburg by night, smoke-screened in stealth as he moves from bar to bar. This is what Andrew Eldritch looks like with the shades off?
A Sisters Of Mercy compilation album comes out this month, entitled 'Some Girls Wander By Mistake'. That's a quote from the Leonard Cohen song 'Teachers', which was the first thing the Sisters ever played live, on February 16, 1981. The album is a collection of early singles and EPs from 1980 to 1983. Eldritch is the first to admit that, in a few cases, this material doesn't exactly constitute the absolute apex of Sororian wordplay, but press him on his reasons for dredging the old vinyl crypt thus, and he'll merely flash some car keys at you and smile pleasantly. Ah, a Merc. Your first?
"I've never been able to afford a car before," he nods, looking very proud. "I've never had that kind of money. No money at all for my personal enjoyment. So, er..." he rattles the keys, "this is why I'm putting it out."
A classis model?
"No, no, a very sensible family saloon."
Black, though, of course?
"No, white actually."
Well, that's no good, is it? Anyway, what's it like listening to all this ancient history?
"It's a tour de force of willpower," he says. "It's a tribute to persistence. It's a good lesson to everybody who listens to that record, that if you try hard enough, no matter how bad you are when you start out, sooner or later you might not have to sign on anymore. I was signing on until '84, you know. The musical climate when all this stuff came out was totally against us. We were hated. We felt completely alienated from London and alienated from people who had money. Then, it was like Kid Creole was the be-all and end-all of everything. He was completely hideous. That's what inspired us and a whole lot of people like us."
There's something odd about Eldritch's speech. You'd have to hear it. It's like something self-conscious. He doesn't sound very confident at all. Maybe he's still licking his wounds from last year's aborted, loss-making Sisters/Public Enemy US tour. He's trying too hard. When he makes a joke he goes "Erm!" at the end, just like Jimmy Tarbuck. His precise syntax evaporates if you press a point. He's a likeable man, certainly, friendly and honest. But when he talks of coming off the dole as being of huge importance in theSisters' history, you can't help thinking, Well, hang on, where's the star-gazing in that? Where's the cynical playmaster of other people's emotions that you read about? Where's the ruthless puppeteer, the smirking Don Quixote?
When he makes a couple of charming quips about his height ("when I was small...well, smaller") it gets increasingly hard to square this Andrew Eldritch with the imperious Count Von Eldritch who bewitched 40,000 people at the Reading Festival last summer. He hasn't, you know, sent along a stunt double today or something, has he?
To best appreciate the embryonic Sisters Of Mercy, we have to Tardis our way back to the days of '80/'81, when sombre, commmitted bands like the Gang Of Four, Delta 5, the Mekons, and The Au Pairs sang of feminine armpit hair and Northern Ireland. Andrew Eldritch (or Andrew Taylor as he was then) was a shy Stooges freak studying Chinese at Leeds University. He and all his mates did loads of speed and not much else. On the first Sisters single, 'The Damage Done' (1,000 copies only, 1980), Eldritch plays the drums and a little guitar. He was so crap at drums you can actually hear him drop the sticks at one point.
A year later the Sisters regrouped, and this time Eldritch was the singer. Now it was looking more like a band.
They were never quite like anyone else. They weren't as arty as Bauhaus, nor as boisterous as Souther Death Cult. They didn't have a drummer, just a cheap machine. They were pretty naff. One of their most famous songs, 'Temple Of Love', was never played live because nobody in the band couple play the guitar part. The press in London tended to scoff. Eldritch is convinced some singles were reviewed on the strength of their titles alone. But, as any Peel listener from the time will tell you, the Sisters never seemed to go away.
A staple of a Sisters Of Mercy set became the well-chosen cover version. Their first gig ended with a 20-odd minute version of the Velvets' 'Sister Ray', with Eldritch frantically inventing additional lyrics. 'Some Girls Wander By Mistake' has versions of the Stones' 'Gimme Shelter' and The Stooges' '1969'. What does Eldritch think the Sisters brought to these classic songs, apart from the tinny sound of a drum machine?
"A bit more energy," he says, and rattles on regardless of the loudly raised eyebrows. "You see, in those days we took a lot more drugs. I mean, we were really the bees' knees when it came to amphetamine consumption. I'm sure we set quite a lot of records."
Years of outrageous coyness on the subject of his drug intake have left Eldritch with a non-specific reputation of mysteriously derived illness the equivalent of, say, Dennis Hopper's. Everyone knows he's lived, but no one's really too sure what he's done. Just exactly how pharmaceutical are we talking about here?
"Well, I don't want to get arrested, do I?" he says testily.
It's eventually wheedled out of him that heroin was at no time on the shopping list; that cocaine changed his personality in all sorts of unsavoury ways and has been ditched with a vengeance; and that a few lines of cheapo whizz every so often are about his limits these days. And yet he insists that the Sisters "took up where the Stooges left off" and that the Detroit band's "gonzoid rush" became in time a fully-fledged Sisters trademark.
The 1992 Sisters Of Mercy have two 'proper' guitarists (Andreas Bruhn and Tim Bricheno), but still the same tacky drum machine they were using in 1980. They haven't had decent bass player since Craig Adams left with Wayne Hussey to form The Mission in 1986.
And Andrew Eldritch is still no nearer to facing an audience without his trademark security blanket of smoke, 40W lighting smoke, dry ice, monumental echo smoke.
"I'm too terrified," he says, looking like he means it. "I don't like the idea of that at all. I think one of the reasons people like to watch me is because it's obvious I don't really have any technical ability, but there's something about the way my terror manifests itself that seems to turn them on."
You're not cool at all, are you? You're really human and frightened.
"Oh, yeah...I mean...yeah..." His eyes dart around.
So why is all this Transylvanian bollocks written about you in interviews and stuff? All this heroic Flashman nonsense. He exhales steadily. His answer is pretty weird.
"Because I have no social skills, no communication skills outside of my songs. And people are always a bit lairy of what they don't understand. People don't understand me because... (long pause) ...because I don't explain a lot of what I do, I just do it. I frighten people with my intensity..." His voice trails off. "I don't like explaining. It's futile."
Did you kind of reinvent yourself as a rock start when you formed the Sisters?
"No," he says quickly. "I'd already cut myself off from everybody before that. Really, I ended up in a band by default. I'd never picked up a musical instrument. I'd been banned from music classes at school since I was ten cos I couldn't sing in key or play anything. I was completely incompetent. Tone deaf. I still am. Even today, if you listen, I've got a way of implying notes rather than singing them. And if it's not in A, I can't sing it anyway. The musicologists among you will notice how many of our songs are in A. It's quite a lot. It is remarkable how much one can make of one's limitations. That's all I've done."
As the Sisters records came out (all doing extremely well in the then-formative independent charts) Eldritch spent more and more time working on their lyrics. This became his domain. As soon as the conversation touches on his lyrics, all self-effacement and nervousness vanishes. Andrew Eldritch is adamant he's simply the best there is. That's better than Michael Stipe ("very good"), Lou Reed ("useless") and, well, everyone else really... with the surprising exception of Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs, whom Eldritch rates as a true genius.
Wayne Hussey of The Mission does not rate very highly.
"Yes, well, there's a difference between deliberately perverting language and not knowing what the fuck you're doing," says Eldritch briskly. "Wayne's illiterate. My writing owes more to collage editing in film. It's a richer use of language, that's all. Plus," he adds, quickly warming to his theme, "you need to be pretty clued up to get a lot of the humour in my writing. I write lines like : 'Stuck inside of Memphis in a mobile home', erm! Now if you don't know your Dylan (it's a pun on a 1966 Dylan song called 'Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again' -- Ed) you're not gonna know that's funny. There's a lot of stuff like that. It's like doing a particularly esoteric crossword. You not only have to know the Wordsworth quotes, but also who as the England cricket captain in 1965, or whatever. You have to have read a whole lot of Milton, Blake, Donne, Eliot."
And here we are in another grey area. Eldritch refers several times to his "education". He's not from Leeds originally; he was born in the Fens in East Anglia ("so, of course, I hate the French, erm!"). A nomadic childhood peaked with an invitation to go to Oxford University to study German Literature, but the young Andrew Taylor couldn't get a foothold in the class-conscious, punt-happy Oxford milieu and abandoned his course at the end of the first year. He went north, to Leeds University, to learn Chinese. Unnerved to learn that the plan was to dispatch him to Peking for a year of some intensive, closer-to-the-action tutelage, he dropped out and went on the dole. His Chinese is now, he admits, pretty shaky. He's still to meet a Chinese person he can speak it to - the restaurants round his way are all run by Cantonese people who speak a different dialect.
But he considers himself "a linguist, a specialist", and it's this fascination with words and sentence construction that he brings to his lyric writing. He explains how he'll omit the definite article here and there to get the listeners attention, or twist the grammar round so you get lines like "Acid on the floor so she walks on the ceiling" ('Body Electric').
"I thought the 'Vision Thing' album was unassailably brilliant," he says. "I just love the language. I'm a linguist. Those little twists." He inhales.
When most rock stars want a few hours of incognito relaxation away from the depredations of clammy hands of the superfans, they tend to whack the shades on. Andrew Eldritch takes his off.
"No one looks twice at me when I've got them off," he says confidently. "Plus with this short haircut I look like a puny Marine. Ain't nobody gonna recognize me now. When we do gigs I spend most of the time beforehand in the crowd, soaking it all up with the shadesoff."
He goes into quite a passionate little speech about "being picked on" by strangers in public when he's just trying to "live in my own space". The Eldritch of cartoon legend, of course, would send these scurvy rapscallions on their way with a cuff round the ear and a piercing aphorism or two. The real Eldritch just says: "Nah, mate. Sorry. You've got the wrong bloke."
How do you feel about your fans? Are you protective of them?
"Oh yeah. I hate it when they get slagged off. The worst kind of reviews are when they say, Well, it's a pretty good record but who wants to be associated with the other people who are going to buy it? As if they're obviously morons. That really upsets me."
Do you get the feeling your music helps them through something?
"Yeah, I do. I get letters along those lines. I do know there are a lot of people who find sustenance there. We're just trying to provide a soundtrack for people with the same worldview as we have, whatever that might be. I think our music has values, and I don't think that's anything to be ashamed of at all."
Would your fans be disappointed if they met you off-duty?
"No, I think they'd be pleasantly surprised, because I do give people the benefit of the doubt. People keep having a go at me, you know. People take advantage of me quite a lot. It's because I'm actually quite easy-going."
His eye contact's all over the place now. What's this all about?
"No, I think the only reason they'd be disappointed is because I'm obviously shorter than they think I am. I'm five foot nine, and I'm not pretty. I know I'm not pretty because before I was in a band I was completely unattractive." He looks down at the carpet. "I like...I like those little twists of language, you know, I...I don't like people to be paying attention to what the hips are doing. I just want them to...get the most out of the songs..."
A sudden, almost sympathetic thought occurs. Would you be happier with your shades on?
"Yeah, I would," he exhales. "I mean...it's occurred to me, yeah. I just thought it might make things difficult for you."
Don't you think the Sisters fans would respect you even more if they knew you were this human? He finally snaps. He's had enough.
"Look, it's not up to me to tell them, is it? Why should they believe anything I say? One of the things I've always said to them is, Look, I know I'm telling the truth, but what I do is akin to being a rock 'n' roll star, so you'd want to be very careful before you believe anything I say. Now why should they believe me? Eh? If anyone's gonna tell 'em, you tell 'em. I write songs..."
With little twists. Sure. Next time you're at a Sisters Of Mercy gig, take a good look around the crowd beforehand. Look for a little guy in a leather jacket with a cruel mouth but incredibly nervous eyes. Ask him if he's Andrew. The chances are he'll say no and scuttle off through the crowd, head down.
And when the lights go down and all that bloody smoke billows up and that imperious looking figure with the matchstick legs and the voice of doom salutes the first delerious cheers of recognition, ask yourself this: who is Andrew Eldritch?
Incoming! Andrew Eldritch, much misunderstood master of mercy reveals why he
is not the Gothic caricature that many write him off to be in a frank
interview that explains why he's even planning to be nice to the French! And
to top it all he's run out of fags...
"I've only got one cigarette left, so you better make it snappy cos' I get
really itchy when I run out of cigarettes," came the witty warning from the
other end of the phone line. Andrew Eldritch was in good spirits and so he
should be, he's driving around in a spanking new white Mercedes the result of
selling off The Sisters' pre WEA catalogue. He's also just finished working
with Ofra Haza, a long term ambition for him, the result being an astounding
rendition of that colossal classic from the eighties, 'Temple Of Love'. So
why did 'Temple Of Love' get the special treatment?
"Cos' it's corking stonking, glorious and generally wonderfull", raves
Eldritch. "Because the record company didn't think they could sell an album
of back catalogue stuff without something to go with it, although, of course,
I'd like to stress that it's not on the album. The fact that Ofra Haza's on
it was just an added bonus, I was already in the studio and I'd already put
down the backing tracks and all my vocals when she became available, so that
wasn't the reason for doing it. But if she'd said 'yeh I wanna do something,
but it can only be that song', then it would have been that song."
Eldritch's praise of his Yemenite collaborator is generous to say the
"The woman's a total star, she's got the best voice on the planet, apart
from being a total goddess, she honestly does have the best voice on the
Will she be working on any future Sisters projects?
"I hope so," comes the succinct reply.
Ofra Haza is the latest in a long line of people who have teamed up with
Eldritch. Back in the days of The Sisterhood, Andrew was joined by Lucas Fox
and Alan Vega on the 'Gift' LP, while 'Floodland' and 'More', the first
single from 'Vision Thing', saw the input of Jim Steinman, he of Meatloaf
fame. Are there any other people Eldritch is interested in working with in
"Steve ~sic!~ Nicks and Dolly Parton," Eldritch reveals. "Both of them are
great songwriters, people I've got a lot of respect for. Similarly, Kate Bush
- I think Kate Bush is a brilliant producer, I haven't heard anything since
'Hounds Of Love' which I thought was so well produced. I did at one time want
to make a record with Pol Pott, but that's a very long story."
'Temple Of Love 1992 - Touched By the Hand Of Ofra Haza' as the remix is
titled in full, is a stomping romper of a track, ironically enough slowed
down and somewhat stripped down as Andrew explains:
"We slowed it down a bit to kind of like stomping, cruising speed instead of
total gonzoid over the top speed. The original is very,very fast. It's almost
If the remix hadn't been handled with care, the danger of trying to slow
down such an athletic anthem would be akin to trying to wheel-clamp a runaway
train. It may be slowed down, but stripping it down has made it sleeker and
seemingly just as pacey. Comparing the versions separated by nearly a decade,
'Temple Of Love 1992' sounds like someone's hit the afterburner button with a
vengeance. Doktor Avalanche, the only drum machine to be running for
President, undertakes a relentless bombardment resembling the shelling of a
fixed target, selectively fusing and separating from the mach-sevenbass
guitar which gives the song its considerable bottom end. The guitars
manoeuvre at low altitude, the rumbling rock guitar keeping up with the
rhythm section and evoking the style so predominant on the 'Vision Thing'
album, while its more intricate laser-pitched companion revives the familiar
tune of the '83 rendition.
Eldritch's vocals lock on target and absail up and down the track sounding
like mortar shells hitting sandbags, while Ofra Haza's Sirenlike backing
vocals resound in the ether above. Then the all important chorus kicks in.
Putting it mildly, it has the impact of a depthcharge in an inflatable
As is the weird way in which things work, 'Temple Of Love 1992' was released
on exactly the same day as The Mission's new single 'Never Again'. Rather
predictably, the music weeklies have lumped the two together into one rather
unperceptive review. Does this constant linking with the past become rather
"I don't really see the point in it," Eldritch replies. "Particularly
because from what I gather The Mission have, to their credit, been brave
enough to make a rather different record to what people expect which I
imagine to be even further away from what we do. Whether it's good or bad is
not really the point, I haven't heard it so I'm not qualified to judge, but I
would resent it if my record was reviewed in the same breath as Wasp or
Tanita Tikaram. It's just not relevant."
The original 'Temple Of Love' was released just prior to Wayne Hussey
joining The Sisters Of Mercy. At the time, the band's drug intake was
unparalled, Eldrich was working himself towards a physical and mental
breakdown, relentless tour followed relentless tour, and negotiations were
underway to sign the right deal with a major label. How have things changed
for Eldritch since the original 'Temple Of Love' was unleashed on unwitting
but eternally grateful alternative dancefloors?
"I'm fitter but I'm still not rich and famous," laughs Eldritch. "I still
don't particularly want to be rich and famous. I'd like the songs to be rich
and famous and I think some of them are. I think the main thing that's
changed for me is that I don't have anything left to prove and that's quite a
good feeling. I don't remember at the time, when the first 'Temple' came out,
I didn't walk around daily thinking, oh my god I've got something to prove,
but I'm sure it was an issue and it's consiously not an issue anymore."
'Temple Of Love 1992' is not an exact replica of its 1983 ancestor, much to
the disappointment of some of the more narrow minded devotees ("It's got
some woman singing all over it and spoiling it...") it's a logical jump to
Lightspeed. But then what's the point in standing still with the ruling
champion of kinetic tracks? Nevertheless, the heavier guitar style used on
the track, which characterised the 'Vision Thing' LP, infers a sense of
continuity that has never been so prevalent before. Each Sisters album has
been different: 'First And Last And Always', 'Gift', 'Floodland' and 'Vision
Thing' all made logical and progressive sense, but each different in their
own way, skipping over the hurdles of stagnation with admirable ease. Does
this retaining of the `Vision Thing' style mean Eldritch is now comfortable
with the heavier rock style?
"I dunno, it's got less guitars on it than the original," Eldritch
concludes. "Much less. Usually when people say to me, you've made a rock
record, what they really mean is, you've put more guitars on it. That's
still quite superficial to me. I don't see heaviness in items of
orchestration or arrangement, to me some of the heaviest stuff we've done was
the barest. Heaviness to me is a question of intensity and relentlessness
rather than what kind of instruments you use."
Perhaps the varying mediums used on the albums were a result of the
differing band line-ups in operation at the time. This would explain the
'Vision Thing' type sound to 'Temple Of Love 1992', since the band line-up is
virtually unchanged. However, there is the question of Tim Bricheno's input.
Formerly with All About Eve, Tim's initiation into the ranks of The Sisters
came too late to make any real impact on 'Vision Thing'.
"Tim came in very, very late on the last album", Eldritch recounts. "Only in
time to play a few parts on one song. Tim's very much looking forward to
getting some credits on the next album, but I don't think Andreas is really
Do you think Tim's input will bring back a more intricate style of guitar
work over the top of some of the more rockier stuff?
"Yeah. Particularly what I always call the M62 sound. you've got like a band
across the north of England, and any northern English guitar player, whether
they come from Hull or Leeds or Sheffield or Manchester or Liverpool, you can
always tell that they come from that band of the country. That's a sound that
I did kind of miss on Vision Thing."
So when is the next studio album likely to hit the streets then?
"We started last week, putting our minds to it," Eldritch admits, "I dunno,
in the past I've concieved, recorded and put out an album in ten days and
I've also conceived, recorded and put out an album in three years so I really
don't know how long it's going to take."
One album that does have a definite release date is `Some Girls Wander By
Mistake', the compilation LP of the Sisters pre-WEA back catalogue,
including everything from `The Damage Done' to the original version of
`Temple Of Love' and all the respective B-sides. None of the tracks have been
tampered with or remastered, "they're still untouched by human hand" as
Eldritch puts it. In other interviews, Eldritch has stated his reasons for
releasing such a work, as simply to enable him to keep running his Mercedes
which he has grown increasingly fond of. Perhaps though there is another
reason, when you look at The Sisters' track record for being dogged by
bootlegs. A year or so ago, WEA officially announced that The Sisters Of
Mercy were their most bootlegged band. The Sisters also appear in the all
time top twenty bootlegs chart, ranked alongside the likes of The Beatles
and Elvis. Considering, the bulk of bootlegged material is taken from their
pre-WEA period, is this another reason for releasing `Some Girls Wander By
"Yes, in as much as people want to buy this record, rightly or wrongly,"
Eldritch confirms, "I think there's a lot of good stuff on it, but there's
also a lot of crud. Especially the very, very early material really
embarrasses me and I would prefer not to put it out, but the fact is people
want it and the fans have been good to me, so I don't see why I shouldn't be
good to them to a certain extent. If you were to want to buy all this stuff
on the original vinyl, it would cost you something like a thousand quid. That
would be stupid money and it wouldn't be worth it, but the fact is that there
are some people out there who would go and do that and I don't really see
why they should be forced to. I would have put all this stuff out earlier
it's just that it's taken this long to come to an arrangement with the old
By 'old guys', Eldritch is referring to ex-Sisters. The list is long, with
Eldritch and the good Doktor Avalanche remaining as the only constants
throughout. The first to leave was Ben Gunn, who went on to form a band
called Torch that went nowhere fast. He was then followed sometime later by
founder member Gary Marx who teamed up with Anne-Marie from Skeletal Family
to form Ghostdance, who achieved a certain amount of credibility before
signing to a major only to crash and burn. Soon after Wayne Hussey and Craig
Adams shot off to form The Mission, who are still going strong. Patricia
Morrison parted company with Eldritch after the `Floodland' period, and is
rumoured either to be in a band with ex-Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman or
to be fronting her own new band. The last to Leave was Tony James, who will
be remembered for being photographed with a bastardised Sisters T-shirt
proclaiming `Judas Leaving the Sisters' and trying to con the press into
forking out thousands for an exclusive on the story. So just how stable is
the band line up at the moment?
"I don't know," Eldritch reveals. "There are a lot of people offering
Andreas a solo deal at the moment and I think he's dumb enough to go for it.
I think what we'll do is he'll go on sabbatical and then what he does after
that is up to him, as far as I'm concerned he's still in the band if he wants
to be. Often people go even if they don't end up doing very much, just cuz
they figure there's got to be an easier way than this. I do everything the
hard way, not because it's hard, it just happens to be the right way, and a
lot of people get tired of that."
Is that because you're a perfectionist in everything you do?
And do you think other people can relate to that?
"No...in a word."
Do you think that Andreas will have any luck in his solo career?
"No. I still think he should do it, if he wants to do it, I really don't
have a problem with the idea of him doing it. I just think he should regard
it as a sabbatical, not as the wild blue yonder. We all have to do that
sometimes. I'm lucky, because I've got easy outlets for that kind of thing
which don't really interfere with me being in a band."
Its like a questionnaire, a sort of 'whats your favourite things' type
thing rather than a complete interview or article.
WHERE ARE YOU AND WHAT ARE THE VIBES LIKE?
Andrew Eldritch lives in heaven. His hobbies are talking to God and go-go dancing
WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
WHAT WAS THE LAST VIDEO YOU RENTED?
WHAT WAS THE LAST GOOD BOOK YOU READ?
Not Wanted On The Voyage - Timothy Findley
FAVOURITE POLITICAL FIGURE
WHAT TV SHOWS DO YOU TRY NOT TO MISS?
Fruhstuckfernsehen (SAT1), because of Susanne Holst.(*1) Anything by Gerry Anderson (except Terrahawks), Crossfire (CNN), Married With Children (Fox), and all the ones I'm supposed to appear on.
WHAT SPORTS ARE YOU GOOD AT?
WHICH PUBLIC FIGURES DO YOU MOST DESPISE?
Margaret Thatcher and Morrissey
Amsterdam, Hamburg, San Francisco
FAVOURITE TV SHOWS OF YESTERYEAR
The Prisoner, Batman(*2), Doctor Who, Star Trek, Sapphire and Steel, Match of the Day
MOST EMBARRASSING RECORDS IN YOUR COLLECTION
808 State and the last Tanita Tikaram album (record company freebies)
PUNCHLINE TO FAVE JOKE
You can't wash your hands in a buffalo
Anywhere with cherry trees
Anywhere in an Indian taxi
A slow boat from China
NAME THREE GREAT SONGWRITING PARTNERSHIPS
Paul & Barry Ryan
Rodgers & Hammerstein
Richard Butler and the Psychedelic Furs (*3)
WORST LYRIC YOU'VE EVER HEARD
Too difficult a decision. My favourite very bad lyrics would be 'Eisbar' by Grauzone, 'MacArthur Park', and anything in Norwegian.
FAVOURITE HISTORICAL CHARACTERS
Hereward The Wake and Alistair Sim(*4)
Anyone that writes for the NME, anyone that's in it.
Klaus Kinski, Nicholas Cage and The Dutch(*5)
WHO SHOULD REPLACE BILL WYMAN IN THE ROLLING STONES?
FAVOURITE PUNK ROCK RECORDS
Pere Ubu: 'Datapanik In The Year Zero'
The Stooges: 'Funhouse'
Motorhead: 'Louie Louie' (*6)
WHAT SCARES YOU?
The prospect of imminent physical distress
WHAT BORES YOU?
CAN YOU QUOTE A LINE OF POETRY?
More than you can shake a stick at
FAVOURITE ABBA RECORD
'Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)'
WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO RETIRE TO?
No intention of retiring, thank you very much
NAME A SONG THAT CAN MAKE YOU CRY
'Jerusalem', in certain circumstances
WHEN WERE YOU LAST DRUNK?
WHAT WAS THE LAST DREAM YOU CAN REMEMBER?
Martin Luther King's. Shame no-one else remembers it
THREE FAVOURITE GOTH RECORDS
Fleetwood Mac: 'Golddust Woman'
Lee Hazelwood & Nancy Sinatra: 'Some Velvet Morning'
Scott Walker: 'My Death'
THREE RECORDS GUARENTEED TO MAKE YOU DANCE
Gary Glitter: 'Rock 'n' Roll Part II'
Deep Purple: 'Hush'
Gary Glitter: 'Didn't know I Loved You, Til I Saw You Rock 'n' Roll'
WHAT CAN YOU COOK?
Anything that doesn't require an oven
MOST IRRITATING ADVERTS ON TV
CNN's trailers for CNN
WHERE DO YOU GO TO CHILL OUT?
Sorry, hep-dude posse-person, I don't chill out: I relax. If I can't go home, I try to find some water to look at, or a cat to play with.
WHAT WAS THE LAST GREAT RECORD YOU HEARD?
Pearl Jam: 'Ten'
Same as everybody else's: "Never eat anything bigger than your head"
*1 German list people> who is Susanne Holst?
*2 In an interview in 1990, Eldritch said he wouldn't see the film Batman for a while because a/it was too hyped, and b/because he loved the original so much.
*3 Same interview of 1990 (Melody Maker, Jan) Eldritch said that he felt Richard Butler was the only person in his field lyrically, "when he's bothering to be in the same field at all".
*4 British comedy actor espec. popular in the 50s - well known parts include being in drag to be headmistress of St. Trinians!!!!
*5 Eldritch nominated Kinski as his favourite actor in that 1990 interview, coz Kinski had such an immense opinion of himself, yet, almost as if he thought that he was too good for anyone to appreciate, did a whole load of awful parts.
Never seen him myself, but apparently Nosferatu is good... The Dutch: if this is not a band, and refers to the people, it could be a ref to the Danish vote against European unity - Eldritch's reservations on that, with particular ref to the Germans and the French, are manifest, and who can blame him (grin).
*6 One of Eldritch's fave records when asked to select them on a Radio One prog in 1988
On the eve of their first appearance for sometime in the UK with Depeche Mode, Neil Perry talks to Sisters Of Mercy Mainman Andrew Eldritch
Wearing cowboy boots, cream suit, white shirt, and a quite choice from an otherwise very loud collection of ties, Andrew Eldritch looks dapper. An aspiring politician from Americaís deep South, maybe, or a well-connected coke dealer with a GQ subscription.
The Sisters Of Mercy are about to make a return to the live arena when you support Depeche Mode next month. Whereís your head at right now, Andrew?
"Stressed to death, because Iím not happy with the way the bandís been managed the last few years, so Iíve addressed that with extreme prejudice. Which temporarily gives me a lot of work to do on the telephone. One of my problems is that Iíve got this whole huge machine to look after. Once itís built up momentum itís fairly unstoppable - thatís good - but on the other hand I can make this big machine more responsive to my musical whims, so I can indulge myself more, because I believe thatís healthy."
Are your defences up?
"No... Iím not hungover, but I was up till six drinking. Iím just trying hard not to bad-mouth anyone too much."
"It was very gradually that I regained my senses after that eldritch flight through stygian space."
H.P. Lovecraft - "Imprison With The Pharaohs"
Flights of journalistic fancy, bolstered by the occasional literary gem such as that above, still haunt Andrew Eldritch, although not like they used to. For a while - back in the dark days of the mid-80ís, when The Sistersí hippy hate began burning in earnest - it was a symbiotic relationship between press and artiste, and the perceived image of Andrew as Pop Prince Of Darkness was a mildly diverting sideshow to the main attraction of the bandís rock Ďní roll burlesque. 1993, and the singer has moved on. The press, one feels, still want the guy from the Sandeman Port bottle to float in on a flack cloud and deliver deathly curses.
Heís and interviewerís dream, talking as he does in great quotable chunks bereft of the ers and ums that pepper most musiciansí dialogue. There may be pregnant pauses, but thatís fine as long as you learn to use them like he does. He will chat lucidly and happily about nearly any subject you care to throw at him, throwing in the odd factoid - such as "We have less day-care centres for children aged 3-5 that anybody in Europe apart from Portugal" - for startling good measure. But while Andrew has long since learnt to live with his clichťd press image, it bugs the shit out of him.
"Well, you know Iím very tired of having shows reviewed on the basis that, well, its Andrew's after all, so itís inevitable that he wore black. Iíve been over-compensating for a while, and I donít think that a long yellow coat is any dafter than black leather trousers, to be honest. And I think thereís got to be some kind of acknowledgement that singing in a rock band is a fairly strange way to live oneís life."
Are the fans still hung up on the Goth Overlord trip?
"Not the ones I see and talk to regularly, because they know itís not the case. If they really though that, they wouldnít have given me a football shirt in Lorelei and made me promise to wear it at the NEC. The Prince of Darkness doesnít go onstage in football shirts, heh heh..."
There was a quote from a previous interview you did, something along the lines of "When I went to Oxford I didnít foresee becoming a gonzoid speed overlord..."
"No, I didnít, heh, heh... one of the functions of rock Ďní roll that I did pick up on quite early as a consumer was that it does enable you to see that you can make more of your life than youíd otherwise figure you could. When you grow up reading very highbrow books no one tells you that if you really want to you can spend the rest of your life with long orange hair doing drugs. It wasnít until I saw pop bands that I though, ĎHey, greatí, and if I wanted to I could spend the rest of my life with long orange hair doing drugs! And itís good to know you have these choices, ha ha!"
"My own production manager asked me last week if it was true that Iíd learnt Chinese... itís incredible how many things one thinks of as central to oneself that just donít sink in with other people. Or that they have such an impression of you that they canít assimilate stuff they actually know. I donít regard myself as such a strange mixture of things, but some people canít equate, for example, me onstage with me sat in a library learning Chinese. I can. If that part of me doesnít come through in the songs then I guess it must be irrelevant... I guess I should find ways of making more of it, just to counteract a of the bullshit thatís spread about the band, deliberate or inadvertently, all this narrow bastard overlord business."
Which is a facet of your make-up...
"Yeah, undoubtedly. And in context, itís one that Iím proud of, because itís enabled the band to survive. Itís noticeable that all the offshoots of the band, who musically have as much talent as I do, havenít done that well at surviving. I donít feel any sense of malicious glee, but I canít be displeased that whatever constituted a goth movement doesnít exist anymore. Iím confident of the bands ability to be judged in the same way as, say, REM are, and to judged against them, The Cure, Nirvana, whatever."
Whatever the Sisters do, and however much you may go about arranging things just so, it seems that The Sister Of Mercy never quite get there.
"Yeah... Iím told that so often by third parties that it must be true, And I donít know why that is. But Iím much more relaxed nowadays. I donít know when the turning point was... at sometime in the late Ď80s I realised that I donít have that much to prove anymore. I can just enjoy doing things. The band may have a lot to prove but as a person I donít."
Are you good at admitting when youíve made a mistake?
"I donít know, I like to think so."
Are you a lonely person?
"No, I know who my friends are and I can always get hold of them. I donít need to live next door to them. Iím one of those people that starts a conversation two later exactly where they left off. And most of my friends cope with that and donít take it too badly. I spend a lot of time alone, but thatís different from being lonely. I would like to be at home enough to have a cat, but thatís a different kind of need, thatís not a surrogate for a wife and kids."
Some years ago, you mentioned how you used to sit on Hamburg docks, trying to work out how much the sea weighs...
"Yeah, I still do that sometimes. Thatís my mantra, itís quite a zen occupation. Like lying on your back looking at the stars on a warm evening. Quite a mindfuck, but a good zen mindfuck. It puts you in your place. Itís important to have an absolute scale of values in that sense, that every so often you can look out and think, ĎWhat am I worrying about here?í Because itís very easy to perspective in this business, very easy to go too weird for your own good. I think I little weird is probably necessary to do the job."
Are you good at gauging weird?
"Better than I was, but not good enough. Which is why itís necessary to figure out how many stars there are up there, and whatís on the other side of them!"
Leeds and Hamburg (with Amsterdam is reserve) remain Andrewís favourite environments; as he says, "Europe generally is an issue quite close to my heart. Iíve decided I believe in a Federal Europe. If we have such a strong identity as a nation, being part of a Federal Europe couldnít take that away from us, At the moment Britain is whinging because it doesnít look like the European Central Bank is going to be based in London. Hardly surprising, if Britain intends on being the only country not committed to monetary union. Get a grip guys! The French and Belgians and everyone else arenít into it because itís going to be mutually damaging, the idea is for it to mutually beneficial."
Thereís an aura of stocks and shares around Andrew Eldritch; an atmosphere of triple G&T, please, and damn the torpedoes. You can picture him, no problem, Panama hat tipped at a rakish angle, sipping the appropriate drink on the verandah of some far flung embassy, Arranging things.
"Thatís cool, thatís what I figured I was headed for when I was at university until I got hi-jacked by punk rock. And I was quite happy with the idea, you know, our man under the volcano."
And if it all collapsed tomorrow, youíd be out there somewhere, working your way up...
"Yes, if I could convince anybody that I hadnít been in a band for ten years. Iíve been very attracted lately to the idea of running the Hong Kong Police, heh heh... I certainly intend to go there before we hand it back. Chris Patten, you have to wonder what he was on to make his voice so firm. If heíd worn the ambassadorís plumage, the exact nature of his position would become glaringly obvious."
"I did spend a year in Singapore when I was very small, but I donít remember much about it. It might have left some vague traumatic impression... Iíve actually got cigarette burns on my feet. My parents told me it was the Chinese nurse, although Iím more inclined to believe it was my parents. I remember the voyage back home, we came back on, erm, a slow boat from China. I was apparently continually traumatised by monkeys, they where strangely attracted to me."
Now, this is the sort of exotic detail that the press would love to imagine was part of your background.
"Yes, but I donít see how any of that makes you a Bastard Overlord."
Do you think of your childhood often?
"No, although Iím sure itís all very relevant. Iím quite proud of it. What it taught me and the things I think I still carry from that time, but I think I tend to think a lot of that comes through in what I do. I donít consciously go back and refer to it for material. I wouldnít dream of going into analysis, for instance, to find out what happened one black night in 1963."
Is that because your comfortable with it, or scared of it?
"Iím comfortable with it. Youíve got to have something twisted in you somewhere - not to want to be a rock star, Ďcos I never really wanted to be one - but to fuel you, and thereís a very good theory that says, Hey, would you want to straighten that out? I find what I do very fulfilling."
Is your family ever a consideration?
"No completely and utterly irrelevant."
How about a family of your own?
"I have no desires, none whatsoever, but donít go through life trying to avoid it."
Brothers and sisters?
"One of each."
Do you ever see them?
And itís about here that public Andrew ends and private Andrew begins. It was as far as both of wanted to go, and as he say, "I do get upset when my privacy is invaded. I mean, I accepted the fact that in order to do my job I sometimes do have to... well, I do draw the line somewhere, and when you drag family into it, itís an invasion of their privacy. And itís the first thing the tabloid press tries to get a grip on; you know, Elton John isnít a composer, heís just a bald guy, heh heh heh..."
Itís official: Andrew Eldritch, regular bloke, is on a roll. Heís even trying to like the French.
Can The Sisters Of Mercy really be the brainchild of a Cockney football fan with blond body hair? Andrew Eldritch in Normal Bloke shock?! Well, sort of. On
the eve of the release of a new single, 'Under The Gun', and a second singles compilation, 'A Slight Case Of Overbombing', Simon Price visits Hamburg and catches
old Napoleon Bony Parts in myth-blowing mood. Vision thing: Andrew Catlin
He isn't really like that!!!
This is surreal. When Andrew Eldritch first walks into (recording company) east west's Hamburg HQ, it's five minutes before I recognise him. The Voice isn't a booming
Wagnerian baritone, but a cheery Cockney chirp. The hair isn't baby-oiled black mane, but a dashing mouse-brown airman crop. He later shows me that his leg hair is blond (heresy!).
Behind the inevitable shades (removed as soon as the photo shoot is over), the eyes are slightly puffy and crinkly by day, alert and sparkling by night. When he reserves restaurant
tables, it's under 'Taylor', his real name ("Eldritch" is Old English for "unearthly, weird"), or, if they can't spell that, 'Stalin'. And yes, he's small, but rather than overcompensate
with a tyrannical Napoleon complex, he actually makes self-deprecating jokes about it. Jesus, he's even warming to the French.
If it wasn't for the drier-than-dry wit, the scarwny physique (this man can put away a 17-course meal and still look malnourished) and cruelly photogenic mouth (that cadaverous yet muscular jaw, those
lips that scowl while the teeth are smiling) [Text missing]
could almost be an Ordinary Geezer.
You could be forgiven for thinking there's some systematic demystification going on here.
Aren't you Eldritch all the time?
"Yeah. Hey, Born To Rock! But there is no difference between the public and private me. I'm trying to make people aware that
their perception is a little askew. I'm not the bastard overlord that people want to see. I'd rather they saw me as a geek!"
So you don't slam your front door at the end of each day and piss yourself laughing that you've fooled 'em again?
"No. It's not a persona at all. There are personae or narrators in the songs, but there's not yet another persona standing and watching that far back."
Surely you control your own image.
"No! it took years to realise I even had an image. That's when I stopped wearing black onstage. People grossly misinterpret the obvious. You rely on the competence (he spits the word) and goodwill of a media you can't control.
And as you'll be aware, the British music press isn't renowned for being that bright."
Um, yeah. (Ouch).
"If I wore all white, I might expect the British press to point out that white is actually the Japanese colour of death, and I could be accused of being a goth! But, you know, something tells me that's beyond 'em."
Alright, give it a rest...
Are you vain?
"I think it's necessary. If I wasn't, I wouldn't been very good at my job."
So is your art an attempt to leave a grand monument behind when you die?
"No. I've heard that that's why people breed, isn't it? I've never had that urgeg, but perhaps that's because what I'm doing already satisfies it."
You've never pined for procreation?
"Never. In fact, I quite resent other people doing it! I find it hard to relate to anything under the age of 25. I believe in abortion up to the age of 21. Never mind weeks, we're talking decades!"
Is it true that, onstage, your eyes are closed behind those shades?
"Yes! I find it much easier. If I'm having fun they'll be open all the time. But I don't generally enjoying playing live. I find it embarrassing. Stressful. Well, terrifying, not to put too fine a point to it."
Is that what the dry ice was about?
"Yeah, I'm shy! And it smells great, and you get addicted. We ddi a gig the other week which went really badly, largely because of the absence of smoke. I spent half the gig crouched in a foetal position, hoping for the earth to swallow me up. I can't dance, either. If I try, I end up go-go dancing, like me and Craig
(Adams, former Sisters bassist) used to backstage! And they wouldn't understand that, would they?!"
The Sisters Of Mercy arose in an era when the threat of thermonuclear holocaust seemed very, very real. The music reverberates with that dread.
"It is the scenario that the music was set in. If you heard a plane going overhead, you always wandered which side it was on. But my attitude towards that is very ambivalent anyway. I always found it quite exciting."
Like the Jehovah's Witnesses, looking forward to Armageddon?
"Well, I always said it was going to look good. Nobody likes the idea of dying, but on the other hand, the prospect of terminating everyone else is pretty cool. There's nothing Dread-ful about 'Mother Russia' I always thought it was pretty jolly."
A fantasy about the Americans finally getting theirs?
Now your personal muse, the Cold War, is over, and you must need something else to get apocalyptic about.
"I can see why you'd say that, yeah. But it's a bit of a touchy subject. [Text missing] certainly not my fault. I've just got one of those voices, if I wrote songs like Squeeze, about going to the shaps, people would say 'Oh wow, Andrew, that was heavy, really heavy'. One of the reasons we covered 'Emma' was that
Hot Chocolate - the band who've had more hits than anyone ever - they're the ones who wrote the song about the girl topping herself, not me! I got sent a Bernie Taupin (Elton John's co-writer) lyrics recently, with a view to me writing music for it, and when I read it, I thought 'This is outrageous, Bernie! If I wrote something like that, people would call me a goth!'"
"I've always been a political animal (pre-Sisters, Eldritch worked for Rock Against Racism) but it was only with 'Vision Thing' that I found a way to write about it that slid easily into what The Sisters Of Mercy do, without sounding like a Jam or Red Wedge song."
The line 'another motherf****er in a motorcade' was good.
"I thought that was just like the perfect way to sum up American politics. The be-all-and-end-all in five words."
Do you believe in romance?
"No, I don't really. But I've got enought regular hormones flowing through me to get suckered, to think 'aaaah, maybe this time!'. It's always hard to say no to a goddess. So I try to steer clear of goddesses."
Are you in love at the moment?
"No, I don't think I ever have been. I'm very loath to use the word. I've only ever said it once."
I always saw a certain romanticism in The Sisters' the-world-is-about-to-end-and-so-let's-have-as-many-drugs-and-one-night-stands-as-possible hedonism.
"That wasn't quite what I was advocating! I was just making people aware what their options are. I always tried to point out the downside of all that."
But your on-the-road excesses are the stuff of legend.
"It didn't mark us out at the time. Everybody I knew was trying to get as much sex and drugs as possible."
Did you think of it as research?
"I thought of it as life."
Did that stop when you split in 1985, or do you have relapses?
"It started in 1985."
Still hate the French?
"I'm currently in give-'em-one-more-chance mode," he grins."Because it's 1993, and I'm a fderalist."
Hmmm. Can't help suspecting his reason isn't fraternal bonhomie (?) but the fact that the combined ecconomies, militaries and populations of Europe would f*** America, Russia, China and Japan right over.
I always took your Francophobia to be just one of the calculated eccentricities of a young man affects to make himself more interesting.
"It's fun. But it's like football. I hate Arsenal, because any sensible person would. Ultimately, who cares?"
Whereas the Germans?
"I get on well with all the Germans I know. Simply because I ignore people I don't like. Life's too short to suffer fools. But I'm Mr Easy Going, me."
What's it like witnessing the resurgence of Nazism first hand?
"Not great, But I've been through all this in Leeds. It's cyclical. But Hamburg's a pretty cool place. The only time anything happened was when I got off a train wearing the wrong football colours."
Eldritch in football colours! Hear that, Reptiles? His team, St Pauli, a "useless but cool" second-divisin outfit with a strong anarchist following are "the only left-wing football club in Europe". Meanwhile, Eldritch is trying to get special Sisters soccer shirts made, in
Ajax Amsterdam b/w stripes. What will the faithful think?
When you see a member of the tribe (UK: goths, US: death rockers, Italy: dark wavers or crows) who have claimed you for themselves, what do you feel?
"Gloom cows, you mean? Nothing at all. I don't feel responsible, I don't feel attracted or repelled." [Text missing] "Oh, I dunno. I've wasted 10 years of my life with nothing to show for it. I don't have to worry about where the next cigarette is coming from, but that's as fas as it's gone."
He's forgetting to mention the white Mercedes he bought last year.
"But it's not as though I can charter jets."
Sisters fans seem uncommonly intense and partiscim. Their fanzines, official and unofficial, are characterised by utter adoration towards you and extreme vilification of anyone who's crossed your path.
"Ah, well a lot of that's me. We do like to tease. But these hardcore fans are only intressted in getting bootlegs which are a slithgly different colour tot he bootlegs they've already got. It's a very trainspottery attitude. They've got more in common with other bands trainspotters - Shakin' Stevens obsessives even - than they have with other
These are the people who recently burgled his Leeds home for Sisters memorobilia.
"Generally, though, I'm very proud of our audience. They're a lot sharper than they let on."
Do you meet many of them?
"I have ways of mingling unseen. I don't walk up to people and say 'Hi! I'm Andrew Eldritch, minor rock'n'roll star. Let's talk!' It's more interesting to stand behind people with my shades off. People say it's stupid to spend my entire professional life with sunglasses on, but it does mean you can go to Sainsbury's without being bothered for autographs. Rod Stewart can't do that. He puts his shades on to go shopping, but he's not fooling anybody: 'Oh, look! Rod with his shades on!'"
How do you account for The Sisters alarmingly high staff turnover?
"I've only ever fried one person. It's just that I always demand from them as much as I demand from myself. They all nod, and say 'Yes Andrew, sounds perfectly reasonable', but sooner or later - and it's usually sooner - they reallise 'Oh my God, he actually meant it! There has to be an easier way to do this!' And they're right. There probably is an easier way."
"Some of them go off and do better than others. I don't pick the hard way because it's hard. But because it's right."
Is there still any malice towards your former collaborators? (There follows the longest silence of our conversation).
"Um...well, malice implies that I'm the one doing it. That's not a word I'd apply. But, yes, there's always someone who pops their head above the parapet yet again to claim what was never theirs. The problem is that when these people realise they haven't got a life, they decide to go fishing in my pond."
A lot of people thought they'd never see you sharing a stage with Wayne Hussey again (The Mission are also playing the Shelter gig).
"We're not. We're in the same town on the same day. It's all very well printing 'such and such cannot be ruled out', but you might as well have printed 'Elvis appearing with Eldrtich cannot be ruled out'. It can't, but it's not something I'd like to put money on. And it's about a s likely."
Eldritch's new single, amusingly enough, will alienate every Sisters fan on the planet. Surprisingly, for such a well-documented control freak, it was written by some guy in LA for Belin's Terri "Take My Breath Away" Nunn, whose vocals remained on the track. The first four minutes are a Big Rock ballad, the sort of thing Roxette or Heart would record for a Tom Cruise soundtrack (Eldritch compares it to Jennifer Rush!).
"It's borrowing someone else's song and bastardising it. And I think it's worked out rather well. So well that a lot of people are going to hate it. It's a dialogue between the girl and me: she's bascially singing 'Are you living for love?' and I'm singing 'are you living for LOVE?! (Get real!)' But I had the will to keep the ambivalnce right up til the end."
Just when you're wondering what the f*** is going on, you hear a sinister intake of breath, a magnficently malevolent whispser, and he's away on a "This Corrosion"-style stream-of-consciousness monologue.
"I had the last word, of course, I think my subtext is savage enough to leave you in very little doubt by the end. I've been dsicussing with my legal advisors exactly what sort of disclaimer I can put on the sleeve, so I don't end up in court like Judas Priest when soemone's little Leroy from Buttf***, Idaho does something naughty with an Uzi."
"But we only made the record because I've got a greatest hits album coming out and the record company don't have the imagination to market it without a single."
A recurring theme, Eldritch is NOT happy with the Warner corporation's commitment to the band, and plans one last proper album followed by what he cacklingly describes as "Metal Machine Music II" ("Metal Machine Music was Lou Reed's cacophonously anti-social double-album of feedback and noise from the early Seventies - Ed) just to escape the contract.
Is 'Under The Gun' representative of you current directions?
"I'm going to be singing with Utah Saints (at a Shelter benefit in [Text missing] "Indication of the way I'm going. I'd sing with them a lot more if they ask (?) me, because they need it. As they'd be the first to admit, singing isn't their strong point."
Can you imagine?! Altogehter, "Sis-Sis-Sis-SISTERS of Mercy"!
"Last year I decided the badn should become more open to musicial influences, and I had urges which couldn't be satisfied by such an unwieldy maching around me."
Have you got the right people yet?
"No. But I do have 16 Midi channels."
Is your attitude towards technology and of empowerment or phobia?
"Love it. Because i've got a use for most of it. I don't find it sexy for its own sake. Even teh things you're afraid of can be justifiable so long as YOU'VE got 'em.* A smile spreads across his lips. "If I've got my own thermonuclear device in the fridge and the other guy's isn't as good..."
Eldrithc doesn't try to hard to keep up with musical trends. he hate "ersatz hippy bullshit, from Suede through to Lollapalooza", but is surprisingly generous to the likes of R.E.M, Pearl Jam, even Ned's Atomic Dustbin and Jesus F***ing Jones.
"Of an evening, though, when Eldritch puts his slippers on and gets under that tartan rug by the fireside, he's very unlikely to put a record on. Videogames, yeah (He's particually proud that the makers of Lemmings have named two levels 'This Corrosion' and 'Temple Of Love') Books and newspapers, definitely."
How aware are you of imitators? The entire industrial rock oeuvre, for instance.
"I invented it! Now taht I would claim to be partly responsible for. Me and Vega and Kraftwerk between us. In a way, I even felt responsible for baggy."
NOW you're taking the piss.
What keeps you doing what you do?
"I keep trying to get it right."
Isn't it an absurd occupation for a grown man?
"Oh yeah. But that applies to everyone who does my job. It's not particular to me or the way I do it. The fact I'm open about it makes it easier to trust me. An appreciation of the embarrassing, glorious stupidity of it all. It's a double bluff. I'm not the cynic I'm made out to be. I believe rock'n'roll is big enough to incorporate cynicsm. But a straightface is my way of doing things. Even when there's a savage will at play, you can't afford tot ake it anything less than seriously. I take what I do very seriously indeed, but I don't take myself seriously. Which is a big difference between The Sisters and the rest."
The National Exhibition Centre was top of Andrew Eldritch's list when he was picking venues for his end of year tour.
He told me "I've always liked Playing 'Brumidgeham' We have a certain rapport with the fans." "But I don't enjoy British shows as a rule because British audiences are strange!"
Tonight's show is one of just 4 Sisters concerts in the UK this year.
They played alongside Depeche Mode at Crystal Palace in July and at Brixton Academy on Monday and last night.
Prior to their current shows, The Sisters did a three-week European tour with Monster Magnet and The Ramones.
Eldritch said "I've always had a soft spot for The Ramones. I've only ever collected five autographs which is quite sad. Four were the Ramones and the fifth was Tony Blackburn."
Andrew Eldritch, who has lived in Germany for almost ten years, will be steering clear of record shops during his current visit to England.
He said "I don't trawl record shops anymore. I usually hear music in bars or at friends' houses."
Eldritch will also be refusing to accept tapes from his legions of fans. He added "Unfortunately, in the current litigious climate I'm one of the very many artists who receive tapes and chucks them straight in the bin." "I can't afford to listen to them otherwise I'd end up being sued by someone claiming I'd breached their copyright."
Eldritch is planning a massive new year's party to see 1993 out in style. He said "After I've recovered from my New Year's bash I'll clear the decks and get to work on a new album."
A SISTERLY SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY
The Sisters Of Mercy tonight return to one of their favourite venues in the world - Birmingham NEC. ANDY RICHARDSON tracked down the elusive Andrew Eldritch in Vienna for a rare interview.
Andrew Eldritch quit England almost ten years ago - and has never looked back. "The business of being a popular entertainer in England is just too hard" he says. "I'm not sure it pays to do anything remotely public in Britain . It's such a spiteful society. People seem to enjoy making your life hard for the sake of it."
Eldritch now resident in Hamburg , Germany, continues "I've been in Hamburg for about ten years and I just feel at home." "I still like being in North of England and I keep a place there. But there are a lot of things about the Continent that are to be preferred. The social institutions work better, women have a better position in society and the food is another thing."
Eldritch is returning to England for three sell-out concerts, two in London and one at Birmingham NEC tonight.
He said "I've always liked playing 'Brumidgeham' we have a certain rapport with the fans."
But Birmingham is the exception to the rule. "I don't enjoy British shows as a rule because British audiences are strange," he added. "It's hard to convince English people that they should be interested in more than one thing, there is almost an element of train spotting at gigs. People turn up for one song or another; they are not interested in the performance".
Incredibly "In America it's even worse. The fans just look at the number of guitars you have got."
Eldritch feels far more at home playing in mainland Europe. He said "I enjoy playing on the Continent and particularly in Eastern Europe. The people in Eastern Europe are incredibly knowledgeable. The First time I played in Poland they knew the words of the first five songs better than I did. There's not the same sense of boyfriends dragging girlfriends out for the night, unlike in England."
Eldritch formed the Sisters Of Mercy in 1980, having dropped out of Leeds and Oxford universities.
Born Andrew Taylor, on May 15, 1959, he formed the band with guitarist Gary Marx and recorded a debut 1,000 issue single 'The Damage Done', because the Duo wanted to hear themselves on the radio.
Sensing their potential , Eldritch and Marx recruited Craig Adams on bass, with Marx concentrating on guitars and Eldritch switching from drums to vocals. On February 16, 1981 , the band made their live debut, while their second sing 'Body Electric' was released in 1982 and became a Single Of The Week in Melody Maker.
Eldritch said: "In 1982 I realised we had something on our hands that was more than just a holiday ticket."
Privilege "I realised it meant something to people and was valuable. I started thinking about how people would take my lyrics. I'm primarily a songwriter and I think harder and harder about the people who listen . You have to recognise you have a responsibility and that it is still a privilege to do all this."
The Sisters signed guitarist Wayne Hussey following their third single 'Alice', and the new member worked on the band's last independent release 'Temple Of Love'. However it was little more than a year before tensions surfaced in the band and, with drugs also an issue, the Sisters split amid much bitterness in 1985.
Adams and Hussey formed The Misision, while Eldritch retained the Sisters' title, despite recording one release under the name The Sisterhood.
By now the press had written of Eldritch as either dead or retired. But with rumour feeding on rumour, the legend of the band grew and despite their absence The Sisters Of Mercy became bigger than ever.
Eldritch added "I've never got on with the British press because they've always given me such a hard time. Once they build a band up they just want to do people down. They shouldn't concentrate on the colour of someone's shirt they should listen to the music."
He continued "You look at the front cover of the NME and you can virtually guarantee the band on the front wont be around in 12 months. One of the things that spurs English music is competitiveness, but that is also a sickness. People have to get ahead at other people expense. The English market is important because it's an opinion-forming market but I no longer follow the press." "Music is there to enrich your life and make you aware of things in a slightly different way."
The Sisters enlisted Patricia Morrison and returned proper in October 1987 with the single 'This Corrosion' and gold-selling album Floodland, which became a world-wide hit.
It was to be the band's last album of the decade with the follow-up, Vision Thing, released in 1990. The album showcased another new line-up with bassist Tony James and guitarist Andreas Bruhn replacing the recently departed Morrison. In 1991, The Sisters marked the tenth anniversary of their live debut with two sell-out shows in their home town of Leeds.
The dates were followed by further shows in North America and Europe, including a 60,000 fan show in Rock Am Ring and a 30,000 show at Reading. They made their NEC debut last year while this year they have played just one UK show with Depeche Mode at Crystal Palace.
Eldritch added "I take what I do very seriously. I have a responsibility to entertain. I never figured that I'd end up in this job and it's still a amazement to me."
Responsibility "It becomes a grind that people want so much from me. People treat you different even if you don't behave differently, but that's because we are a didactic band. Most of what I do goes right over everybody's heads but sometimes I wish the fans would feel more responsibility towards me."
In 1995 an internet source brought the news that Andrew Eldritch left his own band to get out of his contract with East West, a division of Warner. Do the Sisters of Mercy still exist? When can we expect a new album? Who are in the band? What musical course will the band take?
These are all very reasonable questions but Eldritch prefers to answer them with a mysterious smile. There are quite a lot of legal obstacles between Som and East West, so he doesn't want to get into details. When I visit Eldritch in his Amsterdam home I see that Eldritch isn't the archtype rocker that he used to be. No more leather pants, black hair, sunglasses and strange behaviour. Across the table is a allready greying intelectual who does the talking.
Very english, just like the large mugs of weak tea with milk that he constantly drinks.
He can hardly understand that there are bands, who talk about him and his band in interviews. All those years that he was attact about the music he made. He can't say the word "gothic" another time. He prefers to refer to it as "the G-word".
Eldritch: "I don't have any clue about this development in metal music, I really don't. It's very nice, of course, but the pain about the attacks, made by the brittish press, remains. They have done everything to make me and my music look foolish. While it is very emotional, personal music". Also his audience is not his favourite.
Eldritch: "From letters I recieved, I never got the impression that they understood what I was doing. The young people of today just don't have the ability to review a text, with some level of intelligence, and value them. Especially the ironicle subtone, no one saw it. The images and symboles I use, aparently don't get across".
Eldritch (in a somber tone): "Then I think, I just don't release something anymore. They never understood the debut album. The title song "First Last And Always" is about me, getting misinterpreted. They never picked it up. Then why would I release a new album...? No, the idea of getting The Sisters Of Mercy back to life, is not an attractive thought right now. Every time that I think in that direction, I can hear the press sharpening its knifes, Again".
Band Reviews (extracts)
Band: Type O Negative
Album: Bloody Kisses
Song: Christian Woman
(After years of Trash and Hardcore, Peter Steele turned with "Bloody Kisses" from '93, over to the Britisch gothic. Especially his way of dark singing is watched/taken from Eldritch.)
Eldritch: "The music is good, it's the singing..."
Makes a dirty face, "where is this man coming from? America? Hmm, I wouldn't have guessed with his accent. I'd say Denmark. You can here that he is influenced by The Sisters. He's taken a very good look at my lyrics, but he didn't get the essence at all."
Turns the CD off before the end, "Too bad about the music and the production, 'cause they are good."
Band: Die Krupps
Album: The Final Remixes
(German Industrial from Jurgen Engler. "Fatherland" comes from the remix-album 'The Final Remixes', released in '94. The remix is done by Eldritch)
Eldritch: Recognizes the song from the first second. Smiling: "It's a good mix, isn't it? It was a fun job to do. It's a good song, with a good message and written by a very nice man, Jurgen Engler."
Then Eldritch digs up a DAT-recorder and plays a nice, not yet released remix from a Krupps-song called "Odyssey Of The Mind".
Band: Green day
Song: Basket Case
(The light desert after a heavy meal. Green Day is a punk band from sunny California, who in everything, are just the opposite compared to the introvert caracter of The Sisters Of Mercy. The song is taken from the millionseller 'Dookie' released in '94)
Eldritch: Immediately: "This is Green Day, right? Good song. I know there is a lot going on with them right now. Are they punk enough or not! I don't care. It is played with persuasion and that is the most important. These guys believe in what they are doing. But this is not the kind of music I play at home."
Band: Nine Inch Nails
Album: The Downward Spiral
Song: March Of The Piggs
(Product of the totally disturbt brain of Trent Reznor. The song is taken from the magnifficent album "The Downward Spiral" released in '94)
Eldritch: Again, he's very enthousiastic: "Look, listening to a record like this expands your life! I've heard it before but can't remember anymore, right now. Ah, Nine Inch Nails, of course. I prefer Ministry because they don't dress as stupid as Nine Inch Nails, when they do a live gig.I'm sorry to hear that Trent likes to be a decadent rockstar. Their concerts are a shame. Not funny and Not Clever."
Author of the translation is unknown; it was published in Dominion mailing list. Introduction dealing with Sisters history and reviews of Ministry, Paradise Lost and "a lot of Dutch bands" are not translated.
Copyright of the text still belongs to Hardrock & Heavy Metal, I'm only publishing the translation which previously appeared in almost every TSOM's interviews archive the Internet.
At the moment our Good Friday gig at Birmingham NEC is off. I'm drafting a fax to the promoter explaining why he's in breach of contract. It's not a symbolic date -- though colleagues have suggested that one always risks being crucified on an English stage. We've enough other gigs anyway -- two festivals in June, two in July, we'll play Belgium and possibly America. We don't have an American label because East West never got it together, and we've been on strike for seven years as far as album delivery goes, but we're on the road a lot in the summer -- it's my Saturday job!
Last summer the Sisters played a secret warm-up gig as Near Meth Experience at The Fenton in Leeds. I'm not a fan of these eyeball-to-eyeball things byt these guys talk me into quite a lot. Doktor Avalanche is now attached to samplers and custom electronics, but the computer itself's old, he's due for a brain overhaul. Then there's Adam [Pearson, guitar], his mate Ravey Davey who looks after the Doktor, and Chris [Sheehan, guitar].
The last major UK gig we did was with Depeche Mode. And we did it without smack! No, I do have a soft spot for them, and I'm a total fan of Martin [Gore] -- anybody that can write songs that pervy and stay in the Top 20 is doing something right. Most our last Euro gigs were with the Pistols.
I met Bowie and Leonard Cohen through Rolling Stone in Germany. Bowie was great, considering I said I didn't like his new album much; I don't think that rock and bass'n'drum thing works. I've also done some remix stuff for Die Krupps. It's good to be handed tapes full of cacophony and noise, and drag a shiny song kicking and screaming out of the melee.
I get up extraordinarily early, then have to have a siesta at midday. It's nice to be able to get some work done before people start ringing you up and sending you faxes and generally trying to spoil your life. And in Amsterdam and Hamburg going to a bar at 4 am is no problem.
I spend 10 months at home with my cats, locked into my computer, the other two it's the Saturday job, playing to 60,000 people. Right now I've got to complete this fax to the promoter, saying he's got six seconds to pull his finger out.
Even though they haven't released any new material for seven years, when The Sisters of Mercy play a concert, it still sells out. Such is the case with their upcoming gigs at the Brixton Academy on 9 and 10 June (the 11 June date at the Apollo in Manchester still has some tickets left), which will kick off their mini-tour of Europe and the States this summer.
Who are the Sisters of Mercy? They're still well known on the independent music scene. In the Eighties there was usually not a week that a Sisters single didn t become Record of the Week in Melody Maker or some other alternative music publication. However, because they have refused to record anything for their record label East West since 1990, their back row seats in the arena of popular culture have long since been re-allocated.
Because we think the Sisters are worthy of introduction to a new generation of music listeners we tracked down elusive Sisters frontman, Andrew Eldritch, for an interview. Contrary to popular belief, he is not dead. Nor does he now earn his living as a cab driver in Stoke Newington named Alf Eldritch. No, in fact he splits his time between his residences in Hamburg and Amsterdam, pursuing advanced computing, re-mixing music for bands such as industrial unit Die Krupps, and whatever else an insomniac savant can get up to at four in the morning.
Via e-mail, we asked Eldritch 15 questions about such things as the Sisters latest tour dates, the Internet, his cats, and Edward Elgar. Mr Eldritch returned us over a dozen pages worth of text. Because his answers are so fabulously elaborate (and refreshingly original), we ve decided to print every bit of them. And the way you read his responses is the way he wrote them - we haven t sub-edited them.
Without further ado, Virgin Net presents the man whose name brings back "Aliens Among Us" discussion pages when you enter it into our search engine...
Andrew Eldritch: describes himself as "Kierkegaard meets Elvis"
Andrew Eldritch Interview
What has prompted you/the Sisters to play these current UK dates (as well as the initial Birmingham Good Friday date that was cancelled)? What will the lineup be? Has anything changed in your relationship with East West and can we expect any new material at these concerts or to be released in the near future?
We decided to play the NEC because we were asked to, and because we actually rather like the place: we've always enjoyed doing it before. We don't often get sensible offers to play in the UK, so most years we just play on the mainland, with the occasional exotic detour. Ticket sales for the NEC were going fine, so by the time it was cancelled we had a more positive approach from other UK promoters than we usually get. They'd suddenly stopped asking their usual reflex questions about how much money the record company is pumping into promotion (which in our case is nothing) and when we're going to be on the front of the NME (which in our case is never).
The line-up is the same as last year, except that Chris Sheehan's currently helping some friends on a tour and may decide to finish it, in which case Michael will beam down with this year's away team:
Adam Pearson guitars with whammy bar
Michael Varjak guitars without whammy bar
Andrew Eldritch "we have our own prime directive"
Doktor Avalanche as himself
Ravey Davey Nurse to the Doktor
A whammy bar is that prong which allows one to trash a perfectly fine chord by making it sound like you're about to meet your lunch a second time. I've wired Adam's up to the mains (the prong, that is, not his lunch) in a Pavlovian attempt to restrain him. Seems to be working quite well.
Nothing has changed in our relationship with East West. We have no relationship with East West. We've been withholding our labour for almost seven years now. Your website is too small for a full explanation of East West's uselessness - and everybody who cares knows anyway. There is apparently no chance of East West dropping me, so there is no chance of me participating in a new Sisters album.
As for the set, we haven't decided yet. We usually throw in a few surprises every year, but obviously our stage-time is limited and we still have to play Ace Of Spades, Capricorn, Metropolis and all our other hits. Wouldn't want anybody getting sad on us.
In a UTR interview (Issue 13, title: Free State Declared - if this rings any bells) from late 94 or 95 (?), the Sisters are referred to as "legendary techno rock gods", while many Goths consider the Sisters to be one of the original bands of the Gothic rock movement, and on the phone you referred to the Sisters as that "Northern pop band"? How should people think of the Sisters? Should they classify them at all?
How fabulous that you should be aware of pop's finest organ. No, people, I refer to the late-lamented "Underneath The Rock", house magazine of Leed's deepest and widest thinmen. I'm not interested in what g***s think. I gather Mick Mercer keeps revising his Book Of G*** to include ever-more-ascerbic comments about us because we still refuse to talk to him. Go figure.
I recently declined the opportunity to do guest vocals on a single for somebody (who shall remain nameless) because the lyrics were appalling - and very silly. I thought "If I sang that rubbish, people would accuse me of being a g***!". (The artist who shall remain nameless was not, of course, accused of any such thing.) Turns out the lyrics had been written for her by David Dorrell, a prime originator of the "Sisters are g*** and therefore crap" smear. There's a nice irony for you. Pot calling kettle black, I'd say - except that we're a stainless-steel kettle and very shiny. He remains a dimwit, and he's scraping a living writing crappy g*** lyrics for mainstream pop artists. Better than the *** (word cut on advice of Virgin Net lawyer) professional-****** (word cut on advice of Virgin Net lawyer) who now does the annoying adverts for washing powder, I suppose, or the *** (word cut on advice of Virgin Net lawyer) professional-****** (word cut on advice of VirginNet lawyer) who went off to write for the
Sun. They didn't like us either. British music journalists never die, they waddle off to reveal their agenda for a derelict spiv nation in a media half-life more grotesque than anything I've ever been accused of.
The Sisters are occupied by politics and philosophy but we lack a spiritual agenda. Apart from the fact that we're not very spiritually-minded and only ever use the idioms ironically (when we use them at all), it's disappointing that so many people have in all seriousness adopted just one of our many one-week-of-stupid-clothes benders, just like it's currently disappointing that the rest of the nation is in all seriousness wearing those crappy seventies clothes that we wore for a week in '84 because we'd taken enough drugs to find it funny. Well, okay, we wore crappy seventies shirts for more than a week, but that's because we kept taking the drugs. And it really was funny.
Anyway, I'm constantly confronted by representatives of popular culture who are far more g*** than we, yet I have only to wear black socks to be stigmatised as the demon overlord. Luckily, this is a particularly British misconception, so we don't usually have to deal with it much. Mainland journalists very rarely ask questions like the one above, and then only in reference to British media practices...
People should think of the Sisters with awe. They should think of the Sisters with a savage smile in the higher cortex, and a certain moistness in the lower gusset. Thank you.
Are there any myths about the Sisters that you'd like to dispel? Or any facts that people commonly get wrong that you'd like to set straight Millions. (not necessarily including everything that the British press has written about the Sisters)? Okay then, none.
Also, you've been quoted as saying in a February, 1996 interview with the Dutch publication (I read an English translation of this), Hardrock and Heavy Metal Magazine, "the young people of today just don't have the ability to review a text, with some level of intelligence", hence they don't understand the "the ironic subtone" or "images and symbols" in your lyrics? Do you still find this?
It varies from place to place, culture to culture, and generation to generation. I don't remember whether the Dutch interview was referring particularly to Britain, America, heavy metal fans in Holland or the child prostitutes of Bombay. Overall, things certainly seem harder than they were twenty years ago, when Dylan, Cohen and the rest could unselfconsciously refer to things which are no longer familiar to people, thereby speaking a language with a larger vocabulary, without the need to spell everything out.
David Bowie was telling me recently how great Damien Hirst is, and how Damien was very excited when told about the minotaur myth. I was shocked that Damien didn't already know it. Sorry David, but how can Hirst be such a great artist if he lacks a basic knowledge of history/myth/symbolism, if he lacks the vocabulary, the ability to insert visual shorthand like a hypertext link? And how much less rich an experience is it for the viewer who lacks the ability to recognise and follow such links?
Postmodernism surely requires an even greater grasp of symbolism, as it's increasingly an art of gesture alone. If Damien's at all clever, it's because he's recognised that modern art has disappeared up its own backside, and drawn the only logical conclusion about his place in the scheme of things. There's a boy that's going places, even if he smells funny.
Anyway, back to business... Leonard Cohen tells me he would no longer bother to write a song about Isaac, because people wouldn't know what he was on about. That doesn't only diminish the vocabulary of songs, it has wider implications. If the reference points for our whole belief system are forgotten, we find it that much harder to understand a shared belief system, or even to disagree coherently with a shared belief system. We end up in a vicious circle of incoherent, half-baked individual utlitarianism where nobody has any belief system at all and we lose the ability to communicate with each other. I think that's one reason why football is so popular again - it's a game which the citizen can focus on, where the rules are defined. Unlike his life. The citizen is becoming a pawn in a game where nobody knows the rules, where everybody consequently doubts that there are rules at all, and where the vocabulary has been diminished to such an extent that nobody is even sure what the game is all about. Hence the
concomitant rise of fads like astrology, spiritualism, and generic "I want to believe"-ism. I'm a humanist. I believe people should be able to sort themselves out, as does the Judeo-Christian tradition, obviously, but for rather different reasons. Even for Western-European humanists, it's helpful to know about Isaac and Abraham for any discussion of belief/hope/obligation, especially if we wish to join a discussion which has been developed over two thousand years. It's a bit tedious to have to start the discussion from scratch every time by mulling over yesterday's soap-opera with the few people who actually watched it.
Certain extraneous developments have helped in ways one might not expect. Let's get back to hypertext for a moment. Remember that the Web is basically "text for people who can't read" (Trenchant Remark, copyright: A. Eldritch), but it's merely hypertext coupled with the physical hypertext of the Net's hardware. Now that hypertext is widely familiar, it's easier to explain how allusion works to people who would otherwise be completely flummoxed by the very concept. That's why I just tried it.
It's nevertheless hard to talk to Thatcher's Children. Apart from anything else, they have no concept of right and wrong beyond an apathetic and half-baked utilitarianism. I was recently asked if we are "relevant to them". Probably not. Proust is probably not relevant to them. He's clever and funny and useful, but they haven't got the faintest idea what he's on about. I've been described (by myself, of course) as "Kierkegaard meets Elvis". They may have heard of Elvis, but he didn't wear adidas, and they probably think that Kierkegaard is about as much use as a dead Danish philosopher. Which he is. Is he relevant to them? I think so. Would they agree? I doubt it.
The problem is, the things that decide their lives are not "relevant" to them. The nuances of emotional politics are not "relevant to them". They have lost touch with the fabric of their lives and they don't even know how to have a good time without falling victim to the corporate fashion fascists and the evil social engineers of Thatcherite Britain.
That makes the Sisters more necessary, but it does make things difficult. It means our tunes have to be that much better than everybody else's ...but of course they are.
If so, how does it make you feel about hundreds (perhaps thousands) of pissed-up teens dancing their backsides off to Sisters songs every Friday and Saturday night just because they have a good beat?
Hundreds of thousands, actually. Billions on a Saturday. The entire population of China, and people on planets you've never heard of... ...but even on planets you've never heard of, it's hard to discuss Hegel on a 98 decibel backdrop after thirteen pints of Tetley's when the object of your desire is wobbling his/her/its body parts at you. There's a time and a place for everything.
It's been claimed that the Sisters were one of the most boot-legged bands of the Eighties.
The most bootlegged of all, it's said.
Do you think that the Internet has increased this assertion ten-fold to also make the Sisters one of the most bootlegged bands of the Nineties?
Er, what? We've played bigger concerts in the nineties, but fewer of them, so unless you're talking about the unabating traffic in older Sisters bootlegs... we're unlikely to be the most bootlegged band of the nineties.
In regards to new material and you personally - aware of you 'releasing' was some remixes for Die Krupps in 1994. What are you up to lately? Anything new since then - or in the works? Rumour has it that you've produced a couple of techno albums under various pseudonyms - any truth to this?
You are very well-informed. That is a rumour I will not deny (although I prefer the description "ambient-pop-industrial-techno hybrid with tunes and intelligence"). Nor would I confirm it if it were true - because rumour has it that I actually performed the albums in question.
My contract with East West prevents me from being a featured artist in any other arena, and East West are prepared to spend a lot of money in court to uphold their belief that the contract is still in force. Even if I had a pathological need to openly perform on records, I would need an awful lot of money to assert my freedom. I have neither, so it's not much of an issue.
Actually, East West are preparing to spend a lot of money in court to uphold their belief that I should be forced to make records for them. Most labels give up when the artist has been on strike for four years or so. East West are so desperate that they won't give up ...after seven years. That really is desperate.
Cats: You were quoted, in an interview in April's Mojo as saying: "I spend 10 months at home with my cats, locked into my computer", and in the brief Sisters history which appears at the back of the booklet in the Some Girls Wander by Mistake album you mention, Claire and Spiggy The Cat. Are they still with you? If not who are the feline folk mentioned in Mojo - and what breed are they? Would you agree, in your case, that a pet's personality reflects its owner's?
These days they're not my cats, as I'm a little too vagrant. Computers are liberating and horizon-expanding if used properly, so "locked up" is not as bad as it sounds.
Spiggy has left the building as permanently as Elvis. Rather more so, if you believe the stories about Elvis in Kalamazoo. Claire is still going strong, but Claire is not so much a cat as an ex-girlfriend. As a breed, ex-girlfriends are a mixed bunch. Some of them are as friendly as Claire; some of them will only hiss at you (or, indeed, at the mere thought of you).
After extensive research, I can confirm that ex-girlfriends require considerably less maintenance than girlfriends. Unless, of course, you've married any of them - which I haven't.
You also state in the back of the Some Girls album, that you had moved to Leeds to (late seventies?) learn Chinese. You're noted by many Sisters fans as being a bit of a linguist. Exactly which languages do you speak and to what level of fluency?
It doesn't traditionally occur to the English that one might perhaps speak a few other languages. It's embarrassing that so few of us even speak Welsh, which is a truly lovely-sounding language.
A lot of Europe knows I'm a bit of a linguist. I never took up the offer to co-commentate football matches on German TV, but I've written regular columns about computers which were read so widely that I had to stop or lose the depth. I stopped, but not before I'd written a lot of public German. And you don't have to be a Sisters afficionado to sense that the lyrics have been written by a polyglot philologist.
There's nothing so unusual about my doing interviews in German, French or Italian. Journalists like an easy life, and the English ones certainly expect foreign bands to talk to them in English.
Actually I'm a bit of a linguist ...because I'm not much of anything else. It's not unusual for mainland Europeans to speak at least three languages - two of them fluently - but they're noted for doing the other worthwhile stuff they do, like being a postman, car mechanic, or (remember this?) actually making things.
I had to go to Leeds because there were only six universities in the UK which taught Chinese; the people at Oxford wouldn't let me change from French and German.
For the record, I spent thirteen years of my life learning French, which is enough for anybody ...to get rather good at it. My Italian was adequate. I did Latin, of course. I didn't get very far with the self-taught Russian or Serbo-Croat, and I've forgotten practically all the Mandarin Chinese I learned, mostly because the Euro-Chinese tend to speak Cantonese instead.
On a good day I can speak absolutely perfect German. As you might imagine, I can get the gist in written Dutch/Flemish/Afrikaans, Plattdeutsch, Spanish and Portuguese, but I can only speak three languages fluently until I brush up the Italian. And I'm no good at making things.
I heard that you grew up in the village which Edward Elgar used as inspiration for the Enigma Variations, and at the beginning of some of the Sisters' concerts Nimrod is played. What do the Variations signify to you? Several people I've discussed the Variations with feel that they represent a certain type of "pure Englishness" (in the same way that Jerusalem does) - that many are trying to keep hold of in the face of the European Union coming of age. It's almost a surrogate national anthem. Would you agree with this?
As a child I spent some time in Malvern (where my maternal grandparents lived, and Elgar too), but then I've lived in a lot of places. And the Sisters have used all kinds of stuff as walk-on music.
"Pure Englishness" is a ridiculous and dangerous concept, but it's true that Elgar touches a chord within the English folk-subconscious. Case in point: Elgar's Cello Concerto, as played by the late Jacqueline du Pre, conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
The European Union is not a threat to the folk-subconscious, only to the pestilence which is nationalism. "Jerusalem" would be a frighteningly good national anthem. At least it's about building a better place, but it can stir up a dangerous nationalism in the most reasonable of people. Until we have a sensible attitude to the folk-subconscious and are able to savour it without getting all nationalistic, I think we'd be better off singing something else. I vote for "Rock And Roll Part 2", by Mr G. Glitter.
And talking about the EU are you a euro-sceptic at all? Also, I don't know if you still hold a British passport, but if so did you vote in the last election - which party drew your support?
I am not a euro-sceptic, I am a euro-fanatic, for reasons which I could go on about for weeks.
I hold a British passport but my official residence is in the Netherlands. I am traditionally a Labour supporter despite my anarcho-syndicalist tendencies. Anarcho-syndicalism is all very well, but, as they say, "You can't get there from here".
I had my doubts about New Labour and Tony Blair's presidential sliminess, but the new government is showing so much common-sense (so far) that I'll forgive him. Britain could turn into a sensible modern place after all, although the damage done by the Conservatives cannot be overestimated. What a bunch of spivs. It'll take a long time to sort things out.
Getting back to the part of that Mojo quote, "locked in with my computer", how much have you used the Internet? You stated on the phone that you are not an "avid" Internet user. Is this because you're jaded by it? What is your opinion of the Net as a medium for communication - do you think it's a good thing - a bad thing? William Gibson stays far away from it (although you'd expect the exact opposite after reading his books) because he thinks it's consuming all aspects of established culture.
If you haven't reached a point where you're anti-Internet do you have any favourite Web sites that you visit often? Or would recommend that others check out?
In the days of fidonet it was all quite exciting. The Internet itself is one of the Umpteen Wonders Of The Modern World, but the Web has been variously described (by me) as "text for people who can't read" and "the fastest way to get from where you wouldn't want to be to where you wouldn't want to go". American colleges seem to have a relaxed admissions policy (to put it mildly), so the Net is overpopulated by morons with free access and nothing better to do all day. Consequently, it's like being in a library with twenty million people shouting at each other. These are people who have never had sex and probably never will.
William and I haven't really talked about the Internet; we've tended to correspond more by fax and letter. I suppose that's a judgement by default.
I don't have any sites to recommend. I recommend that people join libraries, or - better still - buy books and thereby encourage others to write them. Others like William, who is Really Rather Good. I thought "Idoru" was easily his best book yet. Go out and buy it (says the man with a free copy).
You also mentioned on the phone that you don't like some of the Sisters fan sites on the Web? Why are you opposed to them? Is there a particular reason(s) why the Sisters don't have an official presence on the Web?
I haven't visited any of them, but I have an obvious problem with people who breach my copyright, and I have a huge problem with any sites that may be giving the impression that they're official - because none of the Sisters ones are.
I suspect also that most of these sites are using the Sisters to bolster some cretinous lifestyle statement that has nothing much to do with the band. I suspect that certain misconceptions are being perpetuated by people who just don't get it. We might be flattered - but we're not.
I'd like to say that we're not in the business of pandering to pondlife, but that's a moot point. We don't have an official presence on the Web because every half-baked net-rumour would gain credence if we didn't immediately deny it, because there are too many idiots who would try and cluster-fuck us with dim emails and then get upset if they got no response (let alone free sound clips and the like), because it's a medium which is irrelevant to the music itself, because we don't have the staff and because there's no chance of our useless record company (East West) subsidising a Sisters site.
Nevertheless, we recently put the last issue of Underneath The Rock to bed, and it may behove us to find another way of communicating certain information and opinion. Watch this space, but don't hold your breath.
What music are you listening to at the moment? You said in Mojo that you were a big fan of Martin Gore? Do you like Depeche Mode's latest album, Ultra?
At the moment I'm listening to the national anthem, because Radio 4 is about to shut down for the night and give way to the World Service. The national anthem sucks. I like the American one: it's got groovy key changes and words like "rocket" and "bombs". It's about the rights of the citizen. God save our gracious Queen? I don't think so.
Martin's great. We need more perverts in the Top Twenty. Nevertheless, I heard Ultra at a friend's house recently, and it sounded very dreary.
Do you think that current technology restricts or liberates the creation and distribution of music?
Depends how you use it. Clearly, buying a sampler and merely recycling chunks of other people's master tapes is not going to win you a lot of brownie points on Eldritch Boulevard, however fashionable it may be.
On the other hand, it's nice that I can write a piano song like "1959" or a saxophone track like "New World Order" without being able to play the actual instruments involved, and without having to let a session player get in the way of things.
As for distribution, any distributive technology which makes it difficult to collect royalties is going to discourage development and committment in certain areas. It would certainly discourage music which is expensive to record or music which is written with due care and attention. The same thing applies to greedy record companies, though. Record companies can invest huge amounts of money in the marketing of records (except ours), but very little in the making of records. This discourages artists who actually care about the records, and the public gets increasingly disinterested in generic product which is nothing more than its marketing campaign - hence the shrinking market in the UK where the entire currency of music has been devalued, or the ridiculous state of affairs in America where an artist lives or dies by video, which is a peripheral medium at best.
Furthermore, record companies have kept the increased profit margins of CDs to themselves, despite the maturity and consequent drop in cost of the medium. The artist is now required to produce 70 minutes of music per album (instead of 40 in the days of vinyl) and the music has to be of better sonic quality than it did in the days of vinyl, so more of the artist's time and money is expended on the recording... but the artist's royalty rate has not increased, although CDs are now cheaper to manufacture than vinyl ever was.
It would be nice for record companies to get screwed by the Net, but that won't benefit the artist until there is a mature royalty collection system which encourages the artist to invest in the quality of the music.
There has always been a steady ebb and flow of interest in literature and music that reflects the darker side of human nature - your music being a prime example. In recent years, books like 'The Butcher boy', Alan Warner's 'Movern Caller' or the so called 'Miserablist school' are blazing the way - do you think this darkly witty form of self expression is a type of millenium-itis? Or is there another reason for it's resurgence?
I haven't heard of any of the stuff you refer to, so I can't comment on it.
Our stuff doesn't just reflect "the darker side of human nature", it reflects the whole of human nature. We thereby include "the darker side". I suppose that shocks some people into focussing on it, in the same way that idiots believe the Net is all about the distribution of pornography.
A band biography and basic discography
The Sisters Of Mercy are formed in Leeds by Gary Marx (guitar, vocals) and Andrew Eldritch (guitar, drums). With one guitar, a three-watt practice amp and no money, they record a single "to hear ourselves on the radio". The Merciful Release label is founded to issue it and one thousand copies are pressed. The record gets played on the radio. Described by the band as "unobtainable and even more unlistenable", "THE DAMAGE DONE / WATCH / HOME OF THE HIT-MEN" is now worth hundreds of pounds - and it's still rubbish.
Sensing that something horribly huge is within their grasp, the duo decides to "start again, properly". Andrew Eldritch, by his own admission "a very bad drummer", becomes by default the band's lead singer as Gary Marx concentrates on guitar and Craig Adams is recruited on bass. An essential move seems natural to the Sisters but is to set them crucially apart from (and ahead of) their peers: they are now anchored and driven by the legendary Doktor Avalanche, drum machine. The band makes its live debut on February 16th, somewhere between The Stooges and Suicide, or Motorhead and Chrome. Marx has connected his guitar to a record-player pre-amp which feeds back uncontrollably and Eldritch has turned the echo to maximum. The first-ever set kicks off with a twisted cover of Cohen's "Teachers" and ends with a juggernaut howl which might have been "Silver Machine" but was in fact "Sister Ray". The audience gets the point. The Sisters Of Mercy gradually refine their noise and their ability to be loved and hated.
Towards the end of the year Ben Gunn is added as a second guitarist.
The second record, "BODY ELECTRIC / ADRENOCHROME", is Single Of The Week in Melody Maker. It will be almost three years before a Sisters single does NOT become Record Of The Week somewhere. Unfortunately, the backlash will last for ever. The Sisters Of Mercy eventually deign to play London, and Tony James of Generation X asks Mr Eldritch to join a band ( - offer declined, with thanks). A radio session for the BBC foreshadows the next classic single and the Sisters tour Britain with the Psychedelic Furs. November sees the release of "ALICE / FLOORSHOW", that now-familiar blend of persistent and irresistible melody, hypnotic technoid riffing and a vicious hook shining seductively above the riptide.... The band begin to dominate the independent charts like nobody else before or since.
Early months are spent touring the country with an army of supporters. A set of Sisters standards is variously spiked with an audacious selection of covers, including "Gimme Shelter", "Jolene" and even Hot Chocolate's "Emma". A second radio session follows the release in March of the new single "ANACONDA / PHANTOM". The twelve-inch EP "ALICE / FLOORSHOW / PHANTOM / 1969" is also the band's first American release. In May, instead of capitalising on their notorious brand of melodic overdrive, The Sisters Of Mercy issue "THE REPTILE HOUSE EP", some of the finest and most haunting Sisters songs swamped in a magnificently perverse mix of slithering cruelty. After the first extensive tour of Europe, and before a short series of concerts in America (Ben Gunn's last), it is decided to spend the proceeds on the band's first trip to a 24-track studio. Despite every effort to invest the whole sum in multi-tracking guitars ad infinitum, the Sisters come out with a three-track single in October. "TEMPLE OF LOVE" is
in every respect a monster. Backed with "HEARTLAND" and "GIMME SHELTER", it is destined to be their last independently released record.
Wayne Hussey joins the Sisters. Concentrating upon the acoustic and twelve-string guitars, he makes his debut in April. Prior to a UK tour in May, the band announces that it has signed to WEA. "BODY AND SOUL / TRAIN / BODY ELECTRIC (re-recorded) / AFTERHOURS", a four-track single described by Eldritch as "a vision of heaven with everyone on speed", narrowly misses the UK Top Forty, and a third BBC session showcases some of the material which will later comprise the Sisters' first album. Demos are recorded and the band travel to New York in August to play two sell-out dates. Work on the LP is postponed due to Eldritch's exhaustion yet the band continues to play live, culminating in the 'Black October' tour. The Sisters' European audience continues to grow, particularly in Germany and the UK. "WALK AWAY / POISON DOOR / ON THE WIRE" is released. There are, however, barely concealed tensions within the band. Many are tempted to read into the lyrics of "Walk Away" a public appeal to Gary Marx. Worries
about Eldritch's exhaustion and his not-so-private leisure pursuits are fuelled by the lyrics to "On The Wire".
Another single, "NO TIME TO CRY / BLOOD MONEY / BURY ME DEEP", is issued in February and the 'Tune In, Turn On, Burn Out' tour opens in March. Gary Marx's departure is announced as the debut album goes straight into the Top Twenty. Flawed and scarred it may be (certainly from a production standpoint), but "FIRST AND LAST AND ALWAYS" is still regarded as a collection of classic songs. The Sisters stage an end-of-tour concert in July at London's Royal Albert Hall as The Sisters Of Mercy celebrate the first pinnacle of their existence. Eldritch is expected to leave the stage with his usual "Goodnight!" but tonight it's "Goodbye". He has already decided that this will be the only Sisters performance to be filmed, that the resulting film is to be titled "WAKE". It will be five years before The Sisters Of Mercy play live again.
Craig Adams and Wayne Hussey have left the band; disagreements over material and touring were understandable, particularly those arising from Hussey's desire to launch a separate career (taking Adams with him). The split was amicable enough. Nevertheless, an understanding was breached when the duo's demo tapes began to re-appear under various permutations of the Sisters' name. Disputes therefore arose and were settled with extreme prejudice until the dear departed are advised that they have a legal right to call themselves "The Sisterhood". In a matter of weeks they are due to play live under this name. As a recording artist, Eldritch has an exclusive recording contract with WEA, who protect their option on the other band, and Eldritch currently has no way of making a challenge via the concert platform. Even worse, RCA (who are publishers to all involved) plan to give half of the Sisters' publishing advance to the other band. Thoughtful parties follow the logic, look at the calendar and realise that the
whole advance will go to the first party to make an album. Eldritch is presently a vocalist without a band, new songs, or any record company support. But he is thoughtful. He issues a polite warning to the other parties, which is ignored. By swift coincidence, Merciful Release unleashes "GIVING GROUND" by its own "Sisterhood". An Eldritch production, the single streaks to the top of the independent chart. Now there is effectively only one "Sisterhood", and the other band will be forced to change its name. The album "GIFT" follows quickly. Performed by a loose coalition of forces allied to Merciful Release, but written by Andrew Eldritch. As they write his cheque, RCA are left pondering the exact meaning of the opening line "two five zero zero zero ... jihad!" Some say that RCA earned so much money from the various Sisters that they should have paid each band the whole advance. Some say the album was recorded impossibly fast, and written to be unlistenable, to sting RCA and escape the contract ( -
Eldritch was promptly dropped). One thing is undeniably true: Eldritch was by this time in Hamburg. The German word for 'poison' is 'Gift'.
Eldritch had thrown everything in the air and it had not come down. The Sisters Of Mercy were the most bootlegged band of the decade, but had completely stopped playing live when they seemed at the height of their power. Eldritch had set up camp in Germany, so the English press pronounced him retired or dead. After "Gift" they should have known better. Ahead of its time, this dense soundscape extrapolated some of the most important elements of the Sisters' psyche. Without losing sight of the original Sisters' vicious trash aesthetic, it assimilated the advances in continental dance music, and developed them further. The layers of ersatz Elgar and chant added an aching poignancy to the terse and savage wit of the lyrics. Insistent and tuneful, the songs were harnessed to a menacing synthetic groove somewhere between the New York underground and the hardcore techno-beat of Brussels and Berlin. Eldritch was enjoying his new-found freedoms. Rumour fed on rumour, and in the apparent absence of the band the
legend just grew. As it always does. The Sisters were bigger than ever before, and in a position to refocus with confidence on the future. Expectations rose to fever pitch as the next phase was launched.
THIS CORROSION / TORCH / COLOURS" is released by WEA. The single enters the UK Top Ten and becomes the #1 Alternative Record in America, despite the lack of record company support - as usual. It is announced that Patricia Morrison has been recruited and that the band has no plans to enlarge further. This presages a phase of video-based promotion. Video is a gratuitous and expensive medium which the band has traditionally scorned. Nevertheless, on TV screens all over the planet, the torrential rain of "This Corrosion" sets the pace for a series of spectacular videos. The second album "FLOODLAND" is released in November. "Floodland" places the guitars of the first album against a backdrop of keyboards inspired by the experimentation of "Gift". A fifth-generation Doktor Avalanche drives a body of songs which highlight Eldritch's maturity as a singer and songwriter.
A dramatic video set in the ancient Jordanian city of Petra heralds "DOMINION / EMMA" which charts at number 13 in the UK. LUCRETIA MY REFLECTION / LONG TRAIN" then provides the Sisters with their third chart single from the "Floodland" LP.
A compilation video ("SHOT") is issued, featuring the three singles from "Floodland" and an additional clip of "1959" which was filmed in India during the shooting of "Lucretia My Reflection". Incidentally, "1959" is still the only Sisters video produced and directed by Andrew Eldritch, and the absence of anybody else's agenda makes it different from (and better than) all the others ....although it can be remarked of the later videos that "Dr Jeep" is funny, "Detonation Boulevard" is eminently watchable, and Eldritch is a enuine love-god in "Under The Gun".
Guitarist Andreas Bruhn joins the band; he and Andrew Eldritch write songs for the next album. Tony James replaces the recently departed Patricia Morrison. Guitarist Tim Bricheno completes the line-up, as the third LP "VISION THING" is being finished. "Vision Thing" is released in November. It is preceded by a single, "MORE / YOU COULD BE THE ONE", which continues the band's hard-earned tradition of international chart success, particularly in Germany. Compared to its predecessor, "Vision Thing" is a stripped-down affair. Half of the finished mixes for the album are shelved in favour of rough mixes from earlier stages of the recording session, 'monitor mixes' which retain the immediate feel of the songs. The guitars are more direct than they were on "Floodland" and there is far less emphasis on the layering of sound which characterised the previous Sisters album. Keyboards are kept to a bare minimum, and the baritone voice of Eldritch is clear amid the storm. The lyrics retain their usual oblique
sub-texts, but there is a new directness of language on the surface. It has been noticed that there is no sense whatever of 'victim' on the "Vision Thing" album (maybe because this had too often been fallaciously inferred from the overlooked ironies of previous records). "Vision Thing" is confident to the point of arrogance, commanding to the point of sheer callousness, an intellectual tour-de-force of beautiful cruelty. The band play surprise concerts in Ireland. "DOCTOR JEEP" is released as a single, coupled with rare live tracks. Brazilian warm-up dates are followed by a European tour starring two nights at London's Wembley Arena.
The Sisters Of Mercy mark the tenth anniversary of their live debut with two shows for the members of The Reptile House (the Sisters' information service) in their birthplace of Leeds. There is a tour of southern Europe. "WHEN YOU DON'T SEE ME / RIBBONS (live) / SOMETHING FAST (live)" is released as a single in Germany. A North American tour opens on March 25th in Ontario. The first concert sells out in two hours. Another trip to northern Europe follows in April and May, Poland and Hungary fall to the Sisters before an arena-tour of Germany.
The band returns to the States for an arena-tour on which they are supported by Public Enemy. By the time the tour starts some promoters have unfortunately decided that a mixed-race audience is a dangerous thing. Radio City Music Hall is sold out, but the authorities in Detroit refuse to allow a concert to take place at all. The Sisters cut loose in Miami, and seal their year with a guerrilla-raid on the European festival circuit, most particularly at 'Rock Am Ring' and a headline appearance at the Reading Festival. Another day, another thirty thousand people. Tony James decides this is a suitable moment to move on in his quest for how business Valhalla.
The compilation album of early material "SOME GIRLS WANDER BY MISTAKE" is released in May. A completely re-recorded "Temple Of Love" (featuring Ofra Haza) is released as a an accompanying single: "TEMPLE OF LOVE (1992)" crashes into the UK chart at number 3, and becomes the Sisters' biggest international hit so far. Summer festivals in Germany are followed by a sellout show at Birmingham's NEC. The final gig of the year is in front of thirty thousand Belgians at the Pukkelpop Festival, preceded by a warm-up show in the living room of a Reptile House member in Oberhausen. Bricheno and Bruhn initiate solo projects, and the band takes a sabbatical break.
Summer shows supporting Depeche Mode in Europe are followed by the first Greatest Hits album "A SLIGHT CASE OF OVERBOMBING". A single featuring new guitarist Adam Pearson "UNDER THE GUN / ALICE (1993)" is released simultaneously, and assumes its automatic place in the top ten. The compilation video released in 1988 is updated by the addition of the "Vision Thing" promos, and re-released as "SHOT REV 2.0". The year ends with a tour of Germany, supported by The Ramones, and three British shows in Brixton and Birmingham (at the NEC again). For a time there will be silence...
...while Eldritch argues with East West. Aren't record companies useless? Aren't East West the most useless of all? Signing to WEA was one thing, finding oneself with East West is another. Since "Vision Thing" the band have been "seriously underwhelmed".
Still arguing with East West, or rather: not talking to East West any more. As far as its recording contract goes, the band has effectively been on strike for five years now. Andrew Eldritch starts remixing industrial dance records and is rumoured to be active in trance music.
No progress at the record company, but live goes on: guitarist Chris Sheehan joins up. Ravey Davey starts playing nurse with the Doktor as The Sisters Of Mercy swing into another summer of festival appearances in Europe.
The band is available for weddings, barmitzvahs and any discussion involving both Gary Glitter and Kierkegaard. They are:
Andrew Eldritch - vocals
Adam Pearson - guitar
Chris Sheehan - guitar
Ravey Davey - nurse to the Doktor
Doktor Avalanche - drums
Some personal information:
Andrew Eldritch went to Oxford University. He is frighteningly clever, and can speak lots and lots of languages. He was studying Chinese at Leeds University when he got waylaid by the first Pere Ubu album. His current interests include advanced computing, cognitive science and FC St Pauli.
Adam Pearson tries to avoid pain and gain pleasure. He enjoys discovering which of his actions lead to one or the other. During his experiments, he has worked extensively with Johnny Thunders, Andrew Eldritch, and small children. He lives in hope.
"Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of (Chris Sheehan's work) is how deeply it succeeds when it veers toward queasily unpleasant moral territory. Not only can you feel the hate, but - a very odd sensation - you can share a glimmer of it as well." ...Musician Magazine.
Ravey Davey claims that his relationship with Doktor Avalanche does not involve the exchange of body fluids. He's lying.
Doktor Avalanche is God.
The best Sisters songs, according to Andrew Eldritch:
1. the next one
2. Under The Gun
3. I Was Wrong
5. Temple Of Love (1992)
7. Driven Like The Snow
9. Dr Jeep
10. Motorhead / Ace Of Spades / Capricorn / Metropolis
June 27 [14:00 EDT] -- Goth-rock gloom-merchants The Sisters Of Mercy will play their first U.S. concert in six years
this weekend at a festival dubbed Dark Harvest 3 in Philadelphia.
While the appearance of these goth pioneers might seem like a dark blessing, not everyone is happy about the Sisters'
involvement in the concert. Two bands in particular, Sunshine Blind and The New Creatures, are especially steamed at
Sisters frontman Andrew Eldritch.
The groups say Eldritch heard their music and booked each of them as opening acts for the festival sight unseen, and
then dumped them after he spotted their pictures on the Internet and decided they looked, "too gothic."
So now drummer Tiger Kern of New Creatures is threatening to sue Eldritch over the dumping, claiming it's damaged his
The band's are also still reeling from Eldritch's parting comment about the two dismissed groups, saying that one might
"put their heads on Fuckin' pikes for all I care."
Transmutted and edited by Rugby Court Corporation for The Sisters of Mercy Tours site
The two voices in this article represent our paraphrasing of questions from the German Visions magazine (Issue dec '97-jan '98), and the faithful translations of Andrew Eldritch's answers. We decided to leave out the clichťd questions formulated by the German. Nevertheless, a translation can not and will not replace the original text, so we strongly advice you to learn German, as we did. Most interviews featuring Mr. Eldritch are conducted via the modern medium of e-mail. This appears to be his favorite instrument in corresponding with the often-misunderstanding music-press. It provides Mr. Eldritch with an extra-terrestrial platform for some much-needed verbal interaction with his loyal fanbase (i.e. us). In this instance the communication between Mr. Eldritch and Mr. Poppe took place sometime at the end of 1997. The interviewer and interviewee have a short telephonic contact before answers launch into hypertext. As pointed out, Mr. Poppe's questions do not excel in brilliance, and this is somewhat
AE: You've asked me some very annoying questions. You are of course entitled to do that. I would like to point out though, that I'm generally in an excellent mood.
Thank God for that. It appears that Mr. Poppe has met Mr. Eldritch on three previous occasions and never struck him as being a moody bugger. The interviewer now anticipates a noble quest. Any misunderstandings surrounding Mr. Eldritch and that fine rock & roll outfit The Sisters of Mercy will be put to bed by him and him only. We are skeptical, to say the least. The next ignorant question can only confirm this. Why this tour (Event Horizon '98), while not supported by any new musical product?
AE: Yes, well, why don't the Sisters release an album every year like any other band who lets its daily affairs be dictated by the press, the record-company and any other parasites. You could ask yourself why we toured so much since our last record. Obviously, because we felt like it. When we don't feel like it, we don't, even when a record has been released.
Indeed. Mr. Eldritch loves to travel and seeing places as we all know. At the time of the interview he finds himself in Spain and the interviewer supposes that Hamburg is now his ex-Heimat. The 25th of January they played the GI-Club there and it wasn't a happy affair (see here why). Does Mr. Eldritch consider this to be something special?
AE: Without a doubt every Sisters of Mercy concert is something very special, even while some are considered better then others. The mood of a particular audience is hardly ever a decisive element in the quality of the performance. Just like any other band, we do find the Hamburg audience a bit difficult, but like any other audience they do want to have a good time. They have the right to hide their enjoyment. We hold them in awe though. If you want to make our lives difficult we take that as a challenge. And anyway, there are worse. The fact that I know some of the audience personally is not something I can pay a lot attention to. The floodlights prevent me from doing just that. I occasionally recognize those who attend every concert. It's only backstage at these 'homecoming' performances that you realize you have to behave in a civilized manner to quite a number of people. And that is a lot more strenuous than doing the actual concert.
Chris Sampson must be happy man, he definitely made it to the Front-Row Gallery. We're just jealous. Mr. Poppe obviously loves special occasions. In the next question he refers to the RoadKill '96 Tour when The Sisters of Mercy played a handful of festivals together with the Sex Pistols. Was that something special then, wonders our star-reporter?
AE: Yes, I think it must have been something special for the Sex Pistols.
This was to be expected. These are dumb questions and it's time to move on to something a little more substantial. What follows is a welcome update on the release front which should raise a few smiles.
AE: There has been a lot of speculation, but since the situation with East/West has solved itself we can develop some real plans. In April we will release the first single, which could be followed by another soon after. The actual album should not to be expected any earlier then by the end of this summer.
Well, we're all looking forward to that then. In the meantime there is the SSV-issue to be cleared up. SSV was announced as Mr. Eldritch's latest project. Not so. The music for this spoiler is written, performed and produced by Bellendir, lyrics written by a certain Schroeder while Mr. Eldritch cameos with some guest-vocals. It's shit, Mr. Poppe knows it and so does the woman from the record-company. For a better assessment of this whole affair we advise you to read the article in that new Sisters-affiliated magazine Glasperlenspiel (Issue No. 01) that mixes memory with desire. Mr. Poppe asks if Mr. Eldritch has anything to add to the (BaxCorp) publications that circulate on the 'Net.
Ah-ha. On to the next question, and Mr. Poppe has come up with another unprecedented product from his immaculate brain. Do (or will) The Sisters of Mercy ever adopt themselves to any new wave of musical inspiration?
AE: Nothing is really new in popmusic nowadays. It is all inspired by things that have been done before and frankly we couldn't be arsed. Drum & Base is a perfect example of all that. By putting up a rhythmbox at double speed and consequently calling it the product of a genius is of course the poorest thing. In the early eighties, after our normal day-job was done, we, like Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Chrome, MX80 Sound, Suicide and many others, fooled around with that too. It proved to be particularly unsatisfying. Trip-Hop is great though, and while we think that Nirvana and Pearl Jam are rather good, they're not very revolutionary. We were ahead of our time in many respects. Adopting these things whenever they become fashionable again feels like a step backwards to us. For example: An 808 drummachine with guitars or keyboard-loops is Manchester in 1992 and the Sisters in 1982.
Mr. Eldritch does not want to be identified with this or that musical fad, as he has been in the past. This is neither the time nor place to go into all that, and Mr. Poppe realizes this. By cleverly referring to the color of his hair he lets Mr. Eldritch explain the sadness of the present situation.
AE: It is amusing, this strong emphasis on image. With black hair our songs must sound incredibly dark and dim, while now, as I am blond, it must sound like Heino, David Bowie or anybody else with this distinct hair color. Very strange. With these kinds of assumptions the Sisters lose on two fronts, as media-representatives (out of laziness, stupidity or jealousy) paint this very superficial image of us. To many I am not blond, so to them the songs are still dark and dim, likewise the other way around. Once, after an interview over the phone, the header of the resulting article criticized our latest product because of the (dark) color of my hair. This is while it was very blond indeed when the conversation took place. The man could at least have asked before he used my non-existent black hair to seal my musical fate. For the press it is the easiest way out to characterize me as the Dark Overlord. `Dark & dim' must be mentioned somewhere in some dumb rock-encyclopedia, which everyone just copies. The way a
dumb minority of our audience dresses is used against us in very much the same way, something that prevents outsiders joining us for the ride. There used to be a time when the music press actually listened to the songs. Well... When our songs were not ten times better then the rest, it was really difficult. Concerning image and other affiliated nonsense; should I really pay so much attention to these matters of secondary importance when others put so much emphasis on them? Even with all the best intentions in the world I find this is impossible for me to do, when so many people are overlooking the facts.
Good question and well explained. We at RCC know when to give someone a compliment. Indeed we do. Next question is of the same quality. Mr. Eldritch (as some of you might know) has done his fair share of journalism. Did he enjoy playing the press-parasite himself when he interviewed David Bowie (for the German Rolling Stone magazine).
AE: I'm sorry, but I never stepped into the shoes of the press; on the contrary, as a performing artist I felt obliged to give the reader an as just & fair view as possible. Bowie said that he was pleased that for once there were no questions about his ex-wife.
Mr. Eldritch has published in various German computer magazines (i.e. Max-no relation to the UK equivalent) but he had to stop because it started taking up too much time. Mr. Poppe asks if writing is something close to his heart. Interesting question and the answer seems quite obvious.
AE: Well, a bit of hard cash can be a motivation too, as I have to make a living for myself. It's not close to my heart, but it's good to point out to people that we're not these mystics. A little chat about computers can do lot of good in that respect. We not only explain the 'Net hype, but it also reflects the relationship we have with technology. We've always incorporated the latest technology to craft the sound of the Sisters. Some bands sound like a bloody calculator while it should be something modern. Technology shouldn't dictate what you do; you should dictate the technology. And one has to know what advantages it can have.
We thank you for your attention. This was not the best product that we have come across lately but it is the most recent one. We hope you've enjoyed it and respect the effort. If you would like to have your own personal copy, just drop us a line and we instantly provide you with one (text only) through the wonders of the 'Net.
We would like to thank: The Dominion, AM, Dr. C, Andrius S., Jochen U., Wim V. & Johan E.
The singer of The Sisters of Mercy, Andrew Eldritch, speaks in a way that implies that he's slightly mad. The voice trembles almost unnoticable like as if he was on the edge of bursting out in either laughter or crying all the time. Some words are proceded by a small pause and stressed almost teasingly happy. "The usual good news is that it's summer and the sisters are going on tour. The special good news is that we've got rid of our record contract and can do just as we please", says Andrew, in just the way described above. During the whole phoneinterview his receiver is squeaking, like as if he was squeezing it with his white knuckles during the whole time.
The sisters of mercy, the model for all gothrockers,have had to put up with a lot the past years. The reason was the usual: trouble with the recordcompany. The fact that the past two records with the band has been 'collections' is no coincidence. "We dont think it's interesting to work with a recordcompany that doens't want to market us, or even sell many records. We have a few goldrecords, but it's platina I want. When I see how many cd's REM sell, i know we can sell just as many." So now they have released themself from the contract. but to do so, they had to use quite drastical measures. Using the name SSV a record was made, with Andrews voice on parts of it. He says he didn't do it, or that he hasn't even written any material for it. But he managed to get Warner to buy the record without even having heard it. And the price was to be released from the recordcontract. The record was made by some friends of Andrew in Hamburg. "It will probably never be released - it's simply too bad. I can only
confirm that I had absolutely nothing to do with SSV, and that it's a very bad cd. It's a pile of shit, to be honest. But it made us free." says Eldritch.
We're making a new album, which we will sell for a huge amount of money to some record company. But since it's difficult to sell things to recordcompanies for a huge amount of money, we will give out (release) independent-singles in the meantime.
Andrew constantly return to the subject of money. It's not without a good reason they call him 'the world's greediest rockstar'. But he doesn't consider himself greedy.
"If I was a greedy person I would not be in this business. I was older than 30 before I could afford to take my drivinglicense. To call me something like that is just stupid, my main goal has always been to make sure that the band survives. For that task it takes a lot of money. And that's why I want to sell platina cd's. Not because I need more swimmingpools myself."
Another, not that famous part of Andrew's personality is the fact that he's extremely talanted with languages. He speaks fluent german, french and italian. Also a quite good chineese. "I think that the fact that I'm a polyglot has helped my songwriting in a the way that I don't know anything about music theory. You have to hold on to a kind of musical naivety. And besides it makes me better at writing lyrics". "I read a book not long ago about the king Beowulf, who wrote poems for about 1500 years ago. His poems are the only texts I've read, that works just like mine. We use the same pattern of rythm within the alliteration. But it is very complicated and I can't really explain it. I only became fashinated by the fact that someone who writes about sex, drugs and worldpolitics does it with the rythms which hasn't been used since the 5th century."
One of the darkest bands in the music history is back. It was not long ago you thought that the chances of getting a new cd from The Sisters of Mercy was just about as big as if Sweden would manage to get to the world championship in soccer." But now 'Mother Superior' Andrew is on tour. A short summer tour came already last summer, but now the 5 years long argument about the contract with the record company East West is finally over. That means that the first sister's CD with new material since 1990 (with the exception of one single, "Under the gun") will soon be a reality.
First out is though something called 'SSV'. The record company likes to describe it as Eldritchs new exciting project, but if it's true that the name stands for "Screw Shareholder Value" it seems like something completely different.
In late 1993/beginning of 1994 Eldritch, the only consisting member of the group except for the drummer Doctor Avalanche, got into a serious fight with East West. He refused to release new material, but the contract said that there should be 2 CD's with the sisters for this company. One collection of 'greatest hits' kind (what hits?) showed up but after that it was silent.
The fact that Eldritch got in a huge fight with someone was hardly news. When the original Sisters of Mercy broke up in 1985 Eldritch, who founded the band with Gary Marx, in a fight with the guitarist Wayne Hussey over who had the right to the name of the band. Hussey tried to compromise by calling his new project the Sisterhood. Then Eldritch, who noticed that Hussey hadn't registred that name, shot the dove of peace and did an EP under the name The sisterhood. Eldritch got to keep the Sisters, at first with the singer Patricia Morrison from Gun Club for the CD 'Floodland' and later on with a new group for 'Vision Thing' and the following tour. Hussey's solo project became The Mission.
The fight with East West continued longer than the fight with Hussey. Not until the end of 1997 the result finally was that Eldritch recorded a cd who did not use the name Sisters of Mercy while East West didn't have to pay the 75000 punds they owed him. That cd is SSV. Recorded in two days, it's said, and with a content of bad techno instead of the long wanted depprock. The music, if that's what the cd can be called, is on different places on the internet and according to different sources Eldritch prefers that people download it themself instead of giving the money to East West. Look for the links yourself, I don't want to be sued.
On tour they have so far introduced 4 new songs. Luckily none of them fits the description of bad techno. Instead it's Eldritch's apperance who's caught the attention. The sunglasses are on the right spot but all the clothes are no longer black (or white). And, who could have believed it, the hair is no longer black like a crow but instead really blond.
The tour will also reach Scandinavia, that's promised. Take the opportunity of seeing Eldritch in action before he starts to fight with someone again.
Sisters Of Mercy Ready New Material by Scott Wilson
Andrew Eldritch, avant God of the Sisters of Mercy, was on the verge of conquering the world almost 10 years ago, and then seemed to walk into the light, or away from it, or wherever someone who the Goths pray to would go. Now finishing a mini-tour of North America, he says the band is finally ready to commit to recording some new music.
"We're in no particular rush about it, but we're putting songs down now," says Eldritch. "It will take us another six months to finish it, and then shop it around. I would hope to be putting out singles somewhere at the end of the spring."
He says the band has three or four songs completed that they've lived with for a few years, and others are in "various degrees of newness. We're working on two very new ones at the moment. I'd love to do things with Ofra Haza again, but I can't actually think of anyone else I'd actually have a role for. I mean, I'd like to have Lemmy [Kilmister of Motorhead] play the bass on everything, but I don't know if he'd want to do it. It's not quite his line."
Eldritch says he's spoken with a few record labels, but no one is coughing up the dough he's looking for. "Record companies one has previously never done business with are loathe to spend 3 million bucks unless you're Britney Spears or some dodgy Brit-Pop band that they think is going to make them look cool for a week, rather than just looking at the figures, and think to themselves 'Well hold on, sod the fashion thing for a minute, let's go with quality, and with who actually shifts units'."
Sisters Of Mercy: Interviews: Gothic Metal
translated by Kenny
In 1995 an internet source brought the news that Andrew Eldritch left his
own band to get out of his contract with East West, a division of Warner. Do
the Sisters of Mercy still exist? When can we expect a new album? Who are in
the band? What musical course will the band take? These are all very
reasonable questions but Eldritch prefers to answer them with a mysterious
smile. There are quite a lot of Legal obstacles between SOM and East West, so
he doesn't want to get into details. When I visit Eldritch in his Amsterdam
home I see that Eldritch isn't the archtype rocker that he used to be. No
more leather pants, black hair, sunglasses and strange behaviour. Across the
table is an already greying intelectual who does the talking. Very English,
just like the large mugs of weak tea with milk that he constantly drinks.
He can hardly understand that there are bands, who talk about him and his
band in interviews. All those years that he was attacked about the music he
made. He can't say the word "gothic" another time. He prefers to refer to it
as "the G-word".
Eldritch: "I don't have any clue about this development in metal music, I
really don't. It's very nice, of course, but the pain about the attacks, made
by the British press, remains. They have done everything to make me and my
music look foolish. While it is very emotional, personal music".
Also his audience is not his favourite.
Eldritch: "From letters I received, I never got the impression that they
understood what I was doing. The young people of today just don't have the
ability to review a text, with some level of intelligence, and value them.
Especially the ironicle subtone, no one saw it. The images and symbols I use,
apparently don't get across".
Eldritch (in a somber tone): "Then I think, I just don't release something
anymore. They never understood the debut album. The titlesong "First Last And
Always" is about me, getting misinterpreted. They never picked it up. Then
why would I release a new album.....? No, the idea of getting The Sisters Of
Mercy back to life, is not an attractive thought right now. Every time that I
think in that direction, I can hear the press sharpening its knifes, again."
There are a lot of Dutch bands he is reviewing.
Nine Inch Nails
Type O Negative
Band: Type O Negative
Album: Bloody Kisses
Song: Christian Woman
(After years of Trash and Hardcore, Peter Steele turned with "Bloody Kisses"
from '93, over to the Britisch gothic. Especially his way of dark singing is
watched/taken from Eldritch.)
Eldritch: "The music is good, it's the singing..."
Makes a dirty face, "Where is this man coming from? America? Hmm, I wouldn't
have guessed with his accent. I'd say Denmark. You can hear that he is
influenced by The Sisters. He's taken a very good look at my lyrics, but he
didn't get the essence at all."
Turns the cd off before the end, "Too bad about the music and the
production, 'cause they are good."
Album: The Final Remixes
(German Industrial from Jurgen Engler. "Fatherland" comes from the
remix-album 'The Final Remixes', released in '94. The remix is done By
Eldritch: Recognizes the song from the first second. Smiling: "It's a good
mix, isn't it? It was a fun job to do. It's a good song, with a good message
and written by a very nice man, Jurgen Engler."
Then Eldritch digs up a DAT-recorder and plays a nice, not yet released
remix from a Krupps-song called "Odyssey Of The Mind".
Song: Basket Case
(The light desert after a heavy meal. Green Day is a punkband from sunny
California, who in everything, are just the opposite compared to the
introvert character of The Sisters Of Mercy. The song is taken from the
millionseller 'Dookie' released in '94)
Eldritch: Immediately: "This is Green Day, right? Good song. I know there is
a lot going on with them right now. Are they punk enough or not! I don't
care. It is played with persuasion and that is the most important. These guys
believe in what they are doing. But this is not the kind of music I play at
Band:Nine Inch Nails
Album: The Downward Spiral
Song: March Of The Piggs
(Product of the totally disturbed brain of Trent Reznor. The song is taken
from the magnificent album "The Downward Spiral" released in '94)
Eldritch: Again, he's very enthusiastic: "Look, listening to a record like
this expands your life! I've heard it before but can't remember anymore,
right now. Ah, Nine Inch Nails, of course. I prefer Ministry because they
don't dress as stupid as Nine Inch Nails, when they do a live gig. I'm sorry
to hear that Trent likes to be a decadent rockstar. Their concerts are a
shame. Not funny and Not Clever."