Interview conducted by Gorm for Club Motor website, published on September 9, 1998.
What was loooost, nooow is found, how sweet the sound or something to that effect. In June this summer I had the great privilege to do a phone interview with Sisters Of Mercy frontman/singer Andrew Eldritch to talk to him about his impending visit to the Arvika festival and Sweden. The day after when I returned to the office, someone (or something) had removed my Minidisc with its content. A couple of days later I went on vacation and the interview didn't surface until just a couple of days ago. I still do not know who nicked it in the first place. Anyways.
Ladies and gentlemen. I give you the interview I did with Andrew Eldritch.
We had a great time, as chaps will have on occasion, and I ran way out of
my predisposed schedule. His too, I imagine. So here it is, the azure
treasure-chest of mysticism and fun.
CM: I've done research about you on the net. Didn't find that much though. You have a homepage, but it's not always in working order.
Andrew: The problem is that we know so much about computers and so much about the Internet that we don't believe the hype, heh heh. We know that the population of the Internet is just as loud and stupid as everybody else, heh heh. And having your own website is very dangerous, because if you don't deny every stupid rumour people think "oh, it must be true then", heh heh.
CM: I read the interview that you did with VirginNet.
Andrew: Yeah, that was a good one.
CM: It was. How long did it take you to answer that? (It was a mail interview, which means that Andrew got the questions and then answered them and sent it back. Hail to the Internet). Did you just do that in ten minutes or did you take a couple of days and revised yourself?
Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. 'Cause it's important to express yourself properly. And the questions were good. A lot of them where very normal, very standard questions, but they were asked in just an interesting enough way to make it worth answering them all over again a to put down a definitive answer. So I did try to put a definitive answer to that. And you know, it's not easy to be entertaining. We professional entertainers say "you give us money and we'll entertain you" , but it's hard to be entertaining. You have to put some work into expressing yourself properly and entertainingly.
CM: You were born in 1959 and just recently turned 39.
CM: And 40 next year. Does that hold any special meaning to you?
Andrew: I can't remeber if it makes me younger or older than Michael Jackson, but I think we're about the same.
CM: Does age matter to you or is time just time?
Andrew: I have had sex, that's the difference. I think I've used those 39 years better 'cause I have gotten round to having sex, and not just sex with small children either.
CM: And monkeys and other species from the animal kingdom.
Andrew: Well, I couldn't possibly comment on that!
CM: So, 7 years has passed since you've released anything.
Andrew: Well, 7 years since we released an album.
CM: Sorry, an album. What have you been doing during "the lost years"?
Andrew: Well, they haven't been lost really, we've kept working and every year we go out and play. And every year we've sold records. And if that's calling it "doing nothing" it just makes me say, "hallo, what did people do before there were record companies? What did bands do before there was MTV"? No we don't make videos, we haven't made a video for 7 years, but is that the most important thing? No it's not. The most important things are writing songs, recording them and playing them live. Now, some of those things I like doing, and some of those things I don't like doing. So some of the "important things" aren't that important to me personally and some of those things that ARE very important to me personally, like recording songs, obviously in the 7 years that we've been arguing with the record company we haven't been doing since we have been deliberately not giving the record company new songs, and that has been frustrating. But in all the other areas we haven't been frustrated. We haven't made any videos but that's fine, it's not a problem to me. We haven't played live more than, well, most years we play maybe a total of 12 gigs a year. But usually they're big enough, and I don't really need to play live more than that, so that's not a problem.
CM: I read somewhere where you commented on the difference for you recording music and actually performing it, and the difference in how the songs sounded and the difference in how they became when performed live. Do you still feel that?
Andrew: Yeah, I do prefer to record them.
CM: And why is that?
Andrew: Well, because live there are so many other factors to take away how the songs sound, and that's not always helpful for the song, and the songs is my priority. Not whether the... it's nice if the audience has a good time, but it's nicer if the song has a good time.
Andrew: That's my way of giving the public what they need. It might not be what they want. Usually the compromise seems to work out. I don't get too upset with what happens to the songs, and the audience... they have a good enough time. It's a kind of deal we have I guess.
CM: I also read something about you writing for some German newspapers?
Andrew: I did quite a lot of magazine stuff a few years ago, but I haven't been in Germany much recently.
CM: You don't live there anymore?
Andrew: Well, hmm...
. CM: I'm not planning on moving in or anything, it's just that in my papers it says that you reside in Hamburg.
Andrew: I still have the apartment there, but even if I spend more time there than I do here, I still pay a lot of tax in Holland, 'cause I also have a place in Amsterdam.
CM: Why Holland, why Germany? Why did you leave England?
Andrew: Well I left England because of Margareth Thatcher. And because of what she did to the place, I mean England became a very unpleasant place to be, for me. And it made me very angry. Why, well Amsterdam is a good place to live, and Hamburg is a good place to live. There are other good place to live, I just happened to pick those two. I think it had something to do with the water, 'cause both those places are very full of water. Hamburg actually has more canals than Venice. Very watery. And I have an apartment with a view over the docks. So I think that that was probably why I moved to Amsterdam and Hamburg. The water drew me there.
CM: That's interesting. And kind of poetic and nice.
Andrew: Yeah, but I think that everybody would live by the water if they could, I don't think that that's an unusual thing. Some of us just, if we feel like doing something we generally end up doing it. A lot of people think "I couldn't possibly just move to Amsterdam". I did. On a Monday I decided that by Tuesday I would be living in Amsterdam, and I just went and did it. In 24 hours I just moved.
CM: Unfortunately people are perhaps a bit restricted to do such things.
Andrew: A lot of them are, but I think that these days a lot of them aren't. I know a lot of people that could just take their computer and do their job in Bali if they really wanted to. But it doesn't occur to them so much.
CM: That's a totally separate discussion, which I would enjoy talking to you about. The state of mankind and it's phobias. But alas...
Andrew: Well, that's what our songs are about, so we're still on the topic, heh heh.
CM: You sponsor or sponsored a German football club. How come?
Andrew: Because they are almost the only left-wing football club in Europe. Not the only left-wing football TEAM, but the only football CLUB. Y'know with the club and their grounds and so on. They all have an atmosphere. It's very rare to find a club were the atmosphere is one of racial tolerance and fun and constant partying.
CM: And it actually works?
Andrew: Well, it would work better if the team was good at football (laugh)
CM: Now it's just a nice place to go to.
Andrew: Yeah, (laugh). But we weren't the sole sponsor.
CM: Nah, but I saw that you had a big "Sisters" banner on their stadium. Do you like football in general?
CM: Any comments on the World Cup?
Andrew: I'm not CRAZY about it, but I like football. And like I said, the whole thing about FC St. Pauli is that 50% of it is football, you know the team tries very hard and it does as well as it can but it's just basically not very good. When we achieve anything that's INCREDIBLY good, and when we don't, aahh... it's not so bad. And the other 50% is the whole social phenomenon of the club. As far as the World Cup... I was going to put money on the Chilean's, but...
CM: I just read Nick Hornby's book, what's it's name not "High Fidelity"...
Andrew: "Fever Pitch".
CM: Yes, "Fever Pitch".
Andrew: That's a good book.
CM: Yea, well you know. But then again I'm not a "footballian" so y'know. But I felt that I grew to understand a bit more about English football culture.
Andrew: Ah, well, now see, Nick Hornby's book is about an Arsenal supporter and that's a big difference (laugh). They are really sad!
Andrew: The musical analogy would be that you were a regular music-fan and Nick Hornby would be a Morrisey-fan, so you see that's just sad!
CM: (laugh) At first I confused him with that... was he an American or English artist? I don't know. Nick Hornsby. Who did that song in the 80's, "That's just the way it is".
Andrew: I think that was Bruce Hornsby.
CM: Aah. Well then, I was wrong about everything then.
CM: Anyways, this is something I read on the net, and I quote: "It is rumored that the full name of the band (SSV - NSMABAAOTWMODAACOTIATW) stands for: "Screw shareholder value - not so much a band as another opportunity to waste money on drugs and ammunition courtesy of the idiots at Time Warner". Go Figure.Tell me about "SSV" and "Go Figure".
Andrew: Well, there's not much to tell, really. I didn't write it, I didn't record it, I didn't produce it, but it has some of my vocals on it. And the situation with East/West (TSoM's former record label) had gotten so deep on both sides, that East/West decided that they would accept that record with my vocals on instead of any more "Sisters" records. And I would therefore be free to go.
CM: Ok. But how did you manage to sell that? The only thing that was on that record was your voice.
Andrew: Well, it wasn't easy (chuckle), but they were threatening to sue me for all kinds of things and not giving them any records. But after seven years of a strike know, there is an argument on the other side, which the court might have decided was a better argument, that is that after seven years there is clearly no relationship. And under European labor laws I couldn't be forced any longer to remain under contract after the seven years. It's a very complicated legal situation. I can't possibly explain it properly in ten minutes, but basically East/West weren't sure whether they wanted to sue me for everything or whether that might hurt them as much as it would hurt me. And so they decided to risk buying this other stupid record for a lot of money, and they did. Their managing director doesn't work for them anymore.
CM: Ok. (Chuckle). So basically you gave them a record that was crap, and now you're free?
Andrew: You could say that. But I couldn't possibly comment (laughter).
CM: Ok, I see. (it's a quote from a British TV-series called "House of Cards")
Andrew: It is difficult for me to comment, but, there are certain unattributed statements on The Net, and you know which they are. I would not deny them. I can't confirm them either, heh heh. But I would not deny them.
CM: So, you're current relation with East/West and Warner is now a bit?
Andrew: Well, now that the managing director is gone.
CM: "I'm thinking of going back"... He he.
Andrew: (Laughter) yes with a very large stick, heh heh. I don't have much of a relationship with them, but at least we're not shouting at each other.
CM: You've got a new single out, called "Summer".
Andrew: Well, as soon as we can find a distributor and as soon as Adam finished rebuilding his house and his studio and his life, so that he can put his guitar down on tape. I've done my bits and Mike's done his bits and the Doktor has done his bits so we're just waiting for Adam and we're also waiting for an American distributor. The European side is not a problem.
CM: How come that you want to break in America so much?
Andrew: Well, it's half our musical market, or it should be. At the moment it's about a third of our musical market. It's like a regional hub of influence, y'know, if you're selling records in America it makes it so much easier to sell records in Mexico, makes it so much easier to sell records in Brazil, Japan, Canada, y'know. And we think that we should have a distributor there and not just import the records. And of course we'll have this problem all over again when we're looking for, not an independent distributor, but a label to put the album out.
CM: Your personal feelings towards the States are...?
Andrew: I love America, it's very difficult to take it seriously though. It really is like a very, very violent Disneyland. (Chuckle) And it's possible to have a very good time there but, it is a bit weird. People keep accusing me of hating America. I don't hate America. I feel the same way about America as I do about Europe, I think that a lot of things are very stupid in Europe and the same goes for America, and I'm not afraid to point out the things that are stupid. I find American politics very entertaining and very engrossing, and very important. Because American politics is global politics, and I think that it's very important to pay attention to what's going on in America. Particularly, because most Americans aren't paying attention.
CM: And then a new album is coming out.
Andrew: Well, that's really a question of us finding a label that we think is going to do a good job and give us what we think that the record's worth. And that might not be easy.
CM: You think?
Andrew: Well, you know and I know that we can sell an awful lot of records, but America will just go "ooh, you've been in prison for the last seven years. Ooh, that's very bad, isn't it? And we know that we can't bribe you with limousines and drugs, because we know that you have your own limousines and drugs, and we can't introduce you to very attractive girls 'cause we see that you already have very attractive girls. That makes you very difficult to deal with and we're not sure that we like that". So you know beforehand how hard it's going to be, but I think the plan is to put out an album earlier next year. We should have most of it written and recorded this autumn. That is our priority as soon as our tour dates are over, we go into writing and recording mode pretty much full-time.
CM: Any special changes in the soundscape? It's been some time since 1980.
Andrew: We tend to follow a fairly broad path and we tend to veer slightly towards the side of the path that we weren't on the last time so if Vision Thing was a very guitary record then it's possible that the next one will be slightly less guitary.
CM: Ok. But you won't go acoustic on us or make Eurotechno?
Andrew: Well, I think there may be elements of that, but I don't think that they will be dominant. It depends on the songs really, and ok, I know that the direction the songs take is determined by the subconscious, but the problem is, I can't foresee the subconscious until the songs are there.
CM: The circle?
Andrew: Yes. The songs will decide what the album wants to sound like and the songs are coming from a place that I can't see into because only the songs tell me what that place looks like. But, yes. I would expect it to be a bit more layered than Vision Thing that's a very deliberately two-dimensional record. And I would expect it to have a little bit more of sequencing, I don't know. A little bit more of the industrial-techno stuff, just because Vision Thing didn't have very much of that.
CM: This is what, the second time you play Sweden, the third? I didn't manage to find that out.
Andrew: Oh, I don't know. Well, we certainly haven't played Sweden as often as we liked.
CM: We'll say second then.
Andrew: Nah, I think it's about the forth time, because we've done festivals in Sweden before. We've included Sweden on certainly more than one tour, but no, we don't get asked as often as we'd like. Unfortunately we also need a lot of money playing there 'cause a cup of coffee costs six pounds, heh heh.
CM: Any thoughts about Sweden? Any special memories from Sweden? Anything special in store for us this summer when you play the Arvika festival?
Andrew: Well, we're going to try very hard to be as drunk as the audience. Heh heh. And that's quite a challenge... heh heh.
CM: What's with that? When I talk to my webmaster who sits in the States, he always comments on the fact that he thinks that Swedes drink too much. And I don't see that.
Andrew: Well, not too much, but it's certainly a lot.
CM: Ok. New question. If you didn't work with music what would you do? And do you even feel that you have that option, to disregard the music I mean.
Andrew: I think that I would still do it, because the bits of being a musician that I like the best are the writing of the songs and the recording of the songs. Everything else is not so important to me. So even if I couldn't do it professionally I would still be writing and recording, 'cause I don't need to put out records. But if there wasn't such a thing as music, so that I couldn't even do that, if music didn't exist, what would I be doing... well, I don't know. But I'd probably be a very intimidated, bad writer of prose. Or fiction. I'd probably would be writing books and thinking to myself everyday "oh, it's not as good as Conrad. It's not as good as Preuost". That's the problem, when you know good stuff it's very easy to be intimidated by it. And that's the reason I'm not doing it.
CM: So whom are you recording for? Yourself? Posterity? The surrounding?
Andrew: It depends. Sometimes you'll have a good week and someone says something nice to you about your songs, and you'll think, "ah, there are other people that understand what I'm talking about", so I'm writing for them. And some weeks you'll have a bad week where people will say something nice about your songs, but it's very clear that they don't have the faintest idea of what you're talking about. So that week you'll think to yourself "well, I'm obviously only doing this for myself 'cause I'm the only one who understands what I'm talking about". So, one has good weeks and bad weeks.
CM: Who's Marian? She's sung about in three songs, Bury Me Deep, Red Skies Disappear and Marian.
Andrew: Well, I don't know about Red Skies Disappear. I'm told it's like a bootleg song, but I've never wrtten well, as far as I know a song with that title. So you would have to discount that one.
Andrew: Well, she's a girl. She's a... she's a... girl.
CM: Ok. There's a fan here that has written "some say that it's a pseudonym for The Lost Love".
Andrew: No. That's a different girl... heh heh... but not a real girl. But Marian is real enough, although Marian is not quite her real name. Almost.
CM: You've named you favorite Sisters song "The next one". Why?
Andrew: 'Cause I always get very excited, and you know, if you have a new girlfriend it's normal for you to be.
Andrew: (Laughter) Yes. Well, of course there are exceptions and you can feel very fondly for old girlfriends, but, usually well, you know the way it works. And it's the same with songs really. At the moment I don't know what the next song is going to sound like, but I think that it can very well become my favorite for quite a while. But I don't know how well that one will work live. It certainly works, but I know in my head how much more elegant and how much more poised and graceful it will be on record. So I have a very definite picture of that in my head, in a form and a shape that only the bands knows. And a lot of people might say "well, we've heard Vision Thing live, and I don't know, it's ok, but..." But I know how great that song really is, 'cause I have a complete picture of the record in my head.
CM: It's always hard to make your fantasies and visions tangible...
Andrew: Particularly with songs like that, which are very finely balanced and very elegant and which should have a natural grace. And sometimes when you drink a liter of vodka and you hit the stage in a 100 mph sometimes some of the elegance gets lost there.
CM: (Chuckle) What kind of music do you listen to in private? What are you inspired by?
Andrew: Ooh, I don't know what I'm inspired by. I was inspired by The Stooges and Suicide and Pere Ubu. I don't know whether they inspire me so much now because I'm driving my own train. I like to listen to Tricky and a lot of trip-hop. I like to listen to Motorhead and Booker T and the MG's. I like to listen to Sam & Dave & The Coasters. I don't think I'm too inspired by Sam & Dave & The Coasters, but that's what I like to listen to. I think that you'll find that a lot of musicians like to listen to a lot of very old stuff, because then they don't sit there thinking "umm, that snare-drum, I can see how they put that together. Ooh, listen to the hi-hats there".You don't take old records apart because they are put together so differently.
CM: You tend to listen more.
Andrew: Yeah, you tend to hear the songs, rather than just the production. But I do like trip-hop. And I'm a sucker for anything by The Supremes or The Ronettes and The Shangri-La's; I love all that stuff.
CM: You work with computers when creating, and I also read you comments about the Net where you have both positive and negative things to say.
Andrew: Well, I think that most people who knows anything about The Net would take the same view.
CM: But what do you think of technology in general? Do you think that it's going to help us, or...?
Andrew: In general I think it's good, it's certainly good for me because it enables me to do what I want to do and without that technology it would be very hard. For example, if there weren't ProTools (musical editing software) I would have to be doing very strange things with gates and sampling echo-units like I did in the mid-eighties, before there was digital audio workstations. It's not just the fact that we have digital sound, it's the nature of the actual programs. There are programs now which seem to be designed to work in the same way that I want to work, so even down to the details the technology is important. Not just on the broad level of "oh, well, if you're not a musician you can still make music", because the stuff allows you to do it. It's great for me. I find it very liberating and I try to use it in a liberating way. If I have a sampler I don't just use it to insert a chunk of a Buffalo Springfield song into my newest hit, but I try to use that sampler to make a Sister-cycle.
So for me it's good, but unfortunately there are a lot of people that don't really use the technology, they let the technology use them, and so we end up with a whole Top 40 where it seems you have to have a chunk of a Joni Mitchell-song. Not just the snare drum, not just the melody but the actual recording at 30 seconds at a time. And I'm not sure that that's something that's such a good idea. It's ok if it happens from time to time and it's ok if people are honest about it and it's ok if Joni Mitchell is the star, but it's not ok when Janet Jackson's the star. And it's not ok when The Verve... you know, The Verve is currently the biggest band in Britain and y'know, where's the logic in that? They're the biggest band in Britain because they tried to make out with a Rolling Stones riff that wasn't theirs. And there's no honesty about that, there's no recognition, it's not clever and it's not funny.
CM: Don't you think that people will get fed up eventually?
Andrew: Well, a lot of people don't realize what's going on because they're too young to know. The people like me are fed up.
CM: I agree. We have the same stuff over here that you have in the charts in Britain and in the States, and Sweden is doing the same thing.
Andrew: It makes you grateful for people like 2 Unlimited, at least they write their own songs.
CM: At least they write their own garbage, heh heh.
Andrew: He he. Exactly. At least it's 2 Unlimited's garbage and not somebody else's garbage. It's not even somebody else's good stuff. It makes you grateful for people like Dr.Alban. Compared to the Verve, it's honest.
CM: I agree!
Andrew: And that's weird, you know, being appreciative of Dr.Alban, heh heh.
CM: I think that anyone can appreciate a good cover of a song, making it into your own, but it's not like that anymore, they just take bits and pieces.
Andrew: They're not trying to make a point. Or to make a tribute to an artist that you enjoy or are inspired by. It's rape I tell you, prostitution of music.
(Andrew goes very quiet)
CM: Sooo. Anything special you want to add to this lovely half hour of chatting? Do you feel that I've missed out on something or if you have any special message to the IT-community...
Andrew: Apart from "get a life" you mean. Heh heh.
CM: Heh, yeah, apart from telling them to get their hands out of their trousers.
Andrew: Yeah, heh heh, you can tell them what sex is like, 'cause they're never going to know (chuckle).
Oh, but things will change. We're at that horrible stage now. See, in the early days there were just geeks, and everything was just cool and groovy 'cause a lot of me is a geek too, so I can dig that, I don't have a problem with that. And ten years from now everybody will be hardwired so the IT community will just be a reflection of the broader community, and that will be fine. It will be more multicultural, it will be fifty percent females and it won't be quite so masturbatory and loud and ignorant. But right now we got the worst period, where the IT community is basically a lot of American college kids with free access and no brain.
CM: Yeah, but I think that we all know that it's just a period, and as with everything it needs to take its time.
CM: Well then, Mr.Eldritch thanks a lot for your time.
Andrew: No. Thank you for paying attention. It's nice to be asked.
CM: I'll see you at Arvika, and I'll enjoy your concert.
Andrew: Excellent. We're looking forward to it. See you there.
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