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Echo & The Bunnymen – Gliding to Siberia and Back

There is a scene in the movie Gia, which portrays the real life of the ‘70s top fashion model turned heroin junkie, where Angelia Jolie as Gia rides on the back of a motorcycle, gown flowing as the sun sets and casts a golden glow on New York and its bridges. It’s a beautiful scene made more so by the sounds of Echo & The Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon.” Ian McCulloch’s vocals are distinctive and seductive, swaying as her gown dances in a slow motion cloud.

The song came from Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ocean Rain, which was released in 1984, but it is timeless in both its style and essence, and if it were to come out today it would be just as relevant if not more so. The band has continued impacting their fans for the past 20+ years and just released Siberia, which it turning a tidal wave of applause all over again.

After a slew of festival dates they are now focusing on the support of the new album while bringing back memories with classics like “The Killing Moon,” “The Cutter,” “Bring on the Dancing Horses,” “Never Stop,” and of course, “Lips Like Sugar.”

Will Sergeant, the band’s lead guitarist and longtime collaborator with Ian McCulloch, talks to us about the tour and about meshing the past with the present, or just trashing it all together to start anew.

Kaffeine Buzz: It may have been a few years since people in Denver have had a chance to see you guys, but you’ve actually been touring pretty consistently for a while now.

Will Sergeant: Well, there’s been periods where we weren’t doing much, but we’ve done a lot of festivals around Europe and Britain. We took a bit of time off because Mac (what Ian’s friends know him as) was doing a solo record.

KB: How has this tour been going so far?

WS: It’s been good, yea. We’ve done about a month around Europe and Britain and then we came here.

KB: I was looking at some of the set lists for those shows and of course, you’re still playing “Lips Like Sugar” for the fans. How has it been playing some of those classics that you’ve been playing for so long?

WS: (laughs) It doesn’t really alter, ya know? You can’t ignore your past. We can’t just ignore what we’ve done and just play the new stuff. If I was in the audience I would be pissed off if I was there to see Television and they didn’t play “Marquee Moon” or something. You don’t want to be in an information overload where no one knows the tunes. I don’t think it helps ya.

KB: No kidding. I think from listening to the new album you’ve got a bit of both going on where you’re connected to your past with “Parthenon Drive” that has classic Bunnymen riffs and styles, and then “Scissors In The Sand” that brings about something new and different.

WS: It’s funny that you picked them two because they’re the two that I kind of originated in my little studio in me kitchen.

KB: You’re studio’s in the kitchen?

WS: Underneath the kitchen, like a basement that I’ve made into a studio. I sort of created those really, early on and obviously Mac did the lyrics…it’s what I brought to the table. That’s funny that you should pick up on them two. Everyone says it sounds like old Bunnymen, but shouldn’t it?

KB: Well, yea, that’s who you are.

WS: Even if you change your vibe after a while, it’s still the same. Between the two of us, it works when you get it right.

KB: I saw that you had mentioned you used some influences from your Glide material. Can you elaborate on that?

WS: Yea, we sort of sneaked in a little bit here and there. My little basement studio is where I do all the Glide stuff; various little sounds that have kind of…like the end of “Parthenon Drive” is like a Theremin sound that I use a lot on the Glide records. There were just a lot of things that kind of tagged on the end…a little outro.

KB: Speaking of your solo stuff, what kind of plans do you have for the future?

WS: I’m kind of formulating a plan in me brain but I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. I like records to be slightly different. The last one was a bit electro and I think the next one will be heading more towards guitar. The trouble is I had about 17 new ideas on me computer and it just died.

KB: Oh man, that sucks.

WS: And I don’t have any kind of backup. Anyway, it’s good and I’m sort of glad.

KB: You’re glad that it’s gone and you’re starting with a clean slate?

WS: Yea, you sort of get yourself into a kind of system of working and you keep doing everything the same, even if they’re different tunes they’re kind of off the same vibe. In a way I’m sort of glad really, I did want to delete everything. Like, before I did the last Glide record I went through a ton of stuff and deleted it, ya know? But that’s like the Glide world coming into the Bunnymen world. I have a folder, and just like make things up and record it on the computer, and sometimes I think, ‘Oh, that sounds more like Bunnymen than Glide,’ so I’ll stick it in me Bunnymen folder. But it’s not there anymore. It’s history.

KB: Well, sometimes things happen for a reason.

WS: I’m not overly concerned about it.

KB: When it came to this album, what led to its completion with the touring and other things you had going on?

WS: Well, we were doing our festivals and the other thing, Warner had put out a load of re-issues and we came over in support of that. There was never a lack of communication. We just got on with it, ya know? I did a tour where I supported the Bunnymen as Glide, and have done a few things with British Sea Power. Then I’ve done four or five things on me own, but it was more a thing to keep me sane, really.

KB: Well, you guys have been working together for some time now, so you’ve obviously figured out a way to make it work.

WS: Well, it’s just a matter of giving each other space so we don’t get on each other’s nerves too much. Like when we did the album. I was working in the daytime and he was working in the nighttime so we weren’t breathing down each other’s neck. Then you just try things and it’s obvious when it works. Generally it’s the first thing that works. You play something and you don’t like it at first so you go around the houses and come back to the original idea, saying ‘Actually it is good.’

KB: But sometimes you have to go through that process just to make sure. You know, it’s been in the last few months that I’ve seen a lot of bands’ shows like Front 242 and Gang of Four, which I felt were responsible for creating a certain sound and musical style, and are now being used again with bands that have emerged over the last five years or so. Do you see any of that?

WS: I think it’s good. I don’t see anything bad in that. We were kind of influenced by ‘60s stuff and you could see the same elements of that in us. It’s a natural thing, it goes on in a big circle, doesn’t it? The circle at this present moment is looking at post punk…

KB: And you guys covered The Doors “People Are Strange” a number of times…

WS: I’m a massive Doors fan. I’m not trying to hide from that. I’m a Television fan, there’s a load of that all over our stuff. It’s not completely copied, it’s more like the style, the way you play and put things together. I think it’s great. You can trace that back to the beginning of time.

KB: Absolutely. Whether its fashion, movies, art or wherever. I think it goes back to what you said, using a given sliver of style as opposed to just copying something.

WS: Like a lot of these bands that are out are sort of sounding a bit like our sort of thing, to me it’s a bit more interesting, it’s the sort of thing that I like, ‘cause that’s what we make, ya know? I’d rather have bands like that than some of the sort of crappy bands you see.

KB: Yea, and God knows there’s a lot of those. Speaking of new music, and not to put you on the spot, but what are your five favorite albums that came out this year?

WS: Yea, I like that Rakes album.

KB: We just reviewed that, very cool.

WS: I like the new Ladytron, I like a lot of the tracks on that. The Departure’s “She’s in Stereo.” There’s a band in Louisville called The Flames that has a song, “Put Your Dukes Up John.” There’s a girl singer, and it’s kind of scratchy and punky, it’s good. What else…oh, we saw this band, I don’t have their record, but saw this band called The Engineers. They were great. They were a bit like Spiritualized to me, big drone-out rock thing. But it was quite melodic.

Echo & The Bunnymen play the Gothic this Monday, November 28, which will be quite an experience. Their new album, Siberia, is available on Cooking Vinyl, and should be on everyone’s wish list.


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