Andrew Eldritch and his Sisters Of Mercy on Eurorock

Written by Jurgen Beckers for Het Belang Van Limburg newspaper, published on August 4, 1998
Click here for the original Dutch article
Translated by Peter Copman ( for The Sisters of Mercy Tours site


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LEEDS - If people would have told me ten years ago I'd have to interview Andrew Eldritch, I would have wetted my pants. Eldritch was the uppercrow, the dark chain-smoker, the amphetamineman, the whisky-drinker. Roy Orbison from hell, the journalist-eater. My hero. Bea Van Der Maat asked him some questions for the rock-program 'Bingo' on the Belgian television. Eldritch hid behind his sunglasses and didn't say anything.

I'm not scared anymore. I do have a pleasant kind of 'telephone-nervousness'. He'll call me from his house in Leeds. Which Eldritch will I speak? The one that says 'a conversation' is the most boring thing he knows; who's favourite television program is 'Frühstückfernsehen'; the man who calls himself the best songwriter, and is convinced that this needs no further explanation. Or is it going to be the Eldritch, that once began a band to withdraw attention from his (small) figure; that's been kicked out of music school because he was not talented musically; the Eldritch drumming so awful on the first Sisters' single 'Damage Done' (1980) that you can hear his drumsticks hit the ground on the single? I'm getting the Eldritch, answerring 'The Martin Luther King one. Pitty noone else remembers it.' to my question 'What is your latest dream you can remember?' The Eldritch with a sense of humour. Though he rarely laughs.


At the end of your farewell-gig at Royal Albert Hall in 1985, you said 'thanks... and goodbye'. Did you, at that moment, expect to get on stage again with a band called 'The Sisters of Mercy'?

Not on stage, no. I don't like doing gigs. We're pretty good at it, but it takes too much time and energy. Time and energy I'd rather spend on other things.

What other things?

Writing songs... (thinks for a little while), playing with PC's. Watching TV. Having a chat with my girlfriend, now and then. Anything but doing gigs.

At school, they taught us that performing was fun.

And Guns 'n Roses also tell it's fun, but it's an act. They say so because their lawyers want them to. An hour and a half, it's fun. But for every hour and a half on stage, you have a five hour long bus ride, waiting for five hours at the airport, five hours of interviews... I know, it's part of the job, but that doesn't imply I have to like it. You know what I mean. For every article you write, you have to fight for getting space in the newspaper. You have to negotiate on the lay-out, respond to your bosses. It's part of your job, but I'm sure you don't like it.

Songtexts are very important to you. Ever considered writing a book?

No, I'm afraid of writing a book. (silence)


At school, people taught us what a good book is. A good book is 'Nostromo', or 'King Lear'. The kind of books I won't be able to write. Everyone writing a book is a ****** to criticists. Most writers can write, most rock 'n rollers cannot. They're idiots. There are not many good writers amongst rock 'n rollers. Which makes me number one. Writing a book is far to intimidating for me.

So you're doing a good job writing songtexts, and most of the audience doesn't understand them. That's what I call frustrating.

Absolutely. But it's not their fault they don't understand it. People have taught me not to look for intelligence in rockmusic. You and I, we both know it's perfectly possible to combine intelligence with rockmusic, but this kind of music doesn't get airplay. If record companies don't give contracts to those bands, you can't blame the rock audience to be astonished if they get confronted with intelligence. Pitty. Just look at Rage Against The Machine. They make it supersimple, and still, there are some fans that don't know Ché Guevara.

Rage Against The Machine have a message, you don't.

Hmmm, not that explicit, because that's not the way I am. I'm trying to show a way of thinking. A way of thinking that show your point of view on certain things. When it comes to me, you have to dig a little deeper.


His royal hips

Does it happen that a fan tells you he understood a songtext of yours, and explains it in a way you didn't meant?

Frequently. And it is frightening how different interpretations can be. I find it disturbing. I don't believe in freedom of interpretation. It can be alright for people who don't have anything to say anyway, but I don't think we're making music for that kind of people.

What do you think about other, experimental ways of writing songs? David Bowie's cut-up technique for example. He writes a song, cuts it in pieces, and pastes them at random.

When I hear Bowie, explaining his cut-up technique, I think: no shit, my boy, you're just having a writer's block. I said it right into his face, once. He didn't think it was funny. I didn't mean it to be funny, either...

Once people asked Bob Dylan if he was a poet. He answered: 'I'm more an entertainer'...


Do you think he was joking?

Well, in Leeds, he's not exactly known as the man who's music will lit your party.

You once said: 'I don't want people to look for what my hips are doing. I want them to listen to my songs.

That's my problem alright. I don't want people to come and see our gig because of the magnificent things I'm doing with my hips, but it's their evening, you know. They have to have fun. I'm a little bit naive. Even when I'm on stage, a hundred decibels coming out of the speakers, I want people to be happy because of the craftsmanship I'm putting in my songtexts.


Rutger Hauer on stage

Who do you want to cover one of your songs?

Tori Amos, Tricky, but especially Lemmy (off Motörhead). He's my hero.

Lemmy is not known for his subtle songtexts here in Belgium.

Then Belgium has to read his texts a little better. 'Capricorn' and 'Metropolis' are beautiful prose. But I think Lemmy is more of an entertainer.

When you were in Jordania for the 'Dominion' video, you've been offered a bunch of camels to trade Patricia Morrison. Is that story correct?

They offered me just one camel, and I didn't think it was a good deal, because I wasn't very eager to get a camel at that time. Now, I am convinced the camel probably would have been a better bass player. (laughs)

Are you a difficult person to work with?

In the beginning, everybody that gets to work with me, thinks I'm nice. But three weeks later, they hear a bell ringing. Then they realise I meant everything I said during that first week. It's not my fault people are not taking me serious from the first moment.

Do you think you're funny?

Yes, but most people don't understand this. Apparently, I have a totally different sense of humour. I think Marcel Proust is very funny. And so is Rudger Hauer. And I think Frank Zappa is quite childish. Lousy songtexts.

Do you sometimes feel ashamed of your older songtexts?

(long thinking) Let's put it like this: I know I would write the same, being in the same situation and at the same age. But very often, I'm glad I'm in another situation and at another age. (laughs)