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On October 4, 1997, prior to their show at the Manchester Academy, Carlton Ankers, proprietor of Bizarr0 World and M.I., the "Evergreen" editor in chief, sat down with Will Sergeant, lead guitarist for Echo & the Bunnymen, to discuss that band’s recent reunion and the release of their latest album Evergreen. The following is a transcription of that conversation.

Leaking:

What was the impetus for reforming Echo & the Bunnymen after a 10 year hiatus?

W.Sergeant:

We thought Electrafixion was kind of going nowhere. The only people that were coming to see us were Bunnymen fans, and it was really pissing me off, because we ended up doing a load of Bunnymen songs. Everybody I spoke to, you know, I’d say to them, "Would you rather we were Echo & the Bunnymen or Electrafixion?" And they all said the Bunnymen. You know, it’s like "What are we doing? This messing about here, just wasting our time." You know, I was thinking, kinda like a David Bowie and Tin Machine kind of situation; but you know, I’m not really interested in Tin Machine, but that’s the problem. I’m not really interested in Bowie now, but I’m more interested in him than in Tin Machine, you know what I mean? It’s like it might have been good, but I just never bothered to find out about it. To me it just made sense, like the songs were starting to sound like the Bunnymen, all the fans that were coming to see us were basically, bar a couple of ‘em, were Bunnymen fans and wanted Bunnymen songs, and you know, I think the Bunnymen is the best thing I’ve ever done so why not do it. Yeah, it just seems a bit self-indulgent to do something else, you know; and like, we were doing things like, we’d sort of start coming up with a song and we’d go "Oh that sounds a bit too much like the Bunnymen" and we’d bin it. Which was weird, even though its a good song. And you know, like we’re doing here tonight, there’s like two-thousand, one-hundred people coming here tonight, and if we were doing it as Electrafixion, there’d be like 300 people or something if we were lucky. You’re doing it for that, the energy that you get back as well. If you don’t go up, you go down. It’s as simple as that. If you’re not going upwards you’re going down. You dont go like that [gestures in a straight line] unless you’re Barclay James Harvest or something. But you know what I mean, in a band, you’ve got to try and go [gestures upward] or you just disappear. Electrafixion was going [gestures downward], it was disappearing.

Leaking:

So have you had the old buzz that you had before off the new dates you’ve done?

W.Sergeant:

Yeah, like Glasgow last night was brilliant. You know, it’s always been mental there. But, a lot of the Electrafixion gigs were good gigs, it’s just, you always got good reactions.

Leaking:

I was at an Electrafixion gig in Chicago a couple of years ago and a girl there was getting so excited to see you playing that she couldn’t stop screaming and crying. How do you react to something so extreme coming from the audience?

W.Sergeant:

Yeah, we do attract a few freaks [laughs]. We do you know. It’s part of the Bunnymen thing.

Leaking:

Like people who stand outside in the cold just to grab hold of you....

W. Sergeant:

Yeah.

Leaking:

Are you getting a good reaction to the older material?

W.Sergeant:

Oh yeah.

Leaking:

So everyone is recognizing it?

W. Sergeant:

Yeah. Yeah.

Leaking:

What about the new stuff? How is it being received?

W. Sergeant:

Like, you know, obviously the single, or the singles, they recognize them more than the other songs; but I think of lot of the Bunnymen fans bought the record so they know the songs. That’s the difference. Nobody really bought the Electrafixion LP. So it was kind of a, "That was an ok song but I wish they’d get on and play ‘Killing Moon’" type of thing, you know. I used to walk around feeling slightly embarassed by it all.

Leaking:

Why?

W.Sergeant:

Oh just, kind of having to sort of explain yourself all the time; why you’re doing it; why aren’t you doing the Bunnymen jere/ Every interview we ever did it was like, "How come you’re doing Electrafixion, how come you aren’t doing the Bunnymen?" And you’d have to go through this whole of little lies that you’d have to think why you weren’t doing it. And then I was thinking, "Why aren’t we doing it?" It’s sort of weird isn’t it. It’s just like Macca didn’t want to do it and I had to persuade him. I got people to persuade him. I think he thought after us carrying on with a different singer, he thought the whole thing was kind of tainted. But it was just a bad little sort of blip in the whole history of the thing.

Leaking:

How hard did you have to persuade him?

W.Sergeant:

It took a year. I didn’t go "Let’s do the Bunnymen" all the time. What I used to do was get people that I know he respected to say - cause they all wanted us to do the Bunnymen as well - there was somebody at Geffen in America that we were mates with - to just say to him that we should be doing the Bunnymen a few times. And eventually he was like, "Let’s do it." In a way it was kind of like a last chance type of thing as well you know. If it hadn’t of taken off, you know, or been accepted, that would’ve been it, you know. Really. So it was kind of a bit of a scary one. I wasn’t scared but I think he was. Cause I thought Electrafixion - well it’s gotta be better than that you know.

Leaking:

Was writing the material for this album different from past records?

W.Sergeant:

A little bit, yeah, because we used to just all go into a little studio that we had in Liverpool and we’d just jam for ages and come up with things, keep things then alter them. And sometimes I’d come in with something that I had, it would only be like a couple of chords or something or some sort of tune thing, you know, and we’d adapt it, mold it and expand it. Some of these ones, Mac’s had around for a while, sort of the bones of them, you know, cause they weren’t suitable for Electrafixion, cause they were like ballady sort of things, so then we all chipped in on ideas. It’s similar in a way, but there’s a few different ways. Like I’ve got stuff where I’ve done things like programmed it on a computer and it sounds like proper music, instead of like dance music. I like dance music, but it’s like orchestral-type. So once I’ve got all the parts, they’ll be transferred back to guitars. See what it sounds like, you know.

Leaking:

Would you fancy taking it off into an orchestral direction? (But I guess you don’t want to end up sounding like the Verve).

W.Sergeant:

Well, that’s just a sample isn’t it? I’ve got the new album and it’s a brilliant record, that Verve record.

Leaking:

But most people seem to pick that out as the Verve’s sound.

W.Sergeant:

Well I still think the first LP is better myself, but I still like the single.

Leaking:

I saw them early on in a very small venue and it was so much better.

W.Sergeant:

I’ve seen them earlier on too, but I enjoyed them both times. When the guitarist left and all that stuff, that was sort of a bit weird that they sort of broke up just to get rid of the guitarist. And then getting back. You see that’s what it’s like in bands, it’s just stupid things, getting on each other’s nerves. And people just ruining something. That’s what it were like with us, you know. You’ve just got to sort of get over those stupid things and just think the bigger picture is more important.

Leaking:

Will you be taking the tour anywhere else in the world?

W.Sergeant:

We’re going to America at the end of the month. We’ve been about 3 or 4 times already this year. Just doing, like, festivals, radio show festivals. We did a few of our own dates as well. A bit of a cracking one in, well we did a few, the one in San Francisco was amazing; one in Los Angeles, one in San Diego. 3 really, I thought all were really good ones. The one in Los Angeles was really terrific, it was this sort of amphitheater thing outside by the Hollywood Bowl. It’s like not really many people know about it, you know; I don’t know how you could not know about something as groovy as that.

Leaking:

Do you like to play festival shows?

W.Sergeant:

They’re kind of like, pretty easy, you know what I mean? You don’t get too stressed out because it’s like you only have to do half an hour or 30 minutes and it’s either good or it’s not. So they’re alright, but I prefer doing our own shows. We did a brilliant one, when we were doing the same sort of thing, doing the fezzies, we had like ad ay or 2 when we weren’t doing anything, so we did this one in, uh - [calls to a roadie] "Peezie, you know that one we did in the Hamptons? What was the place called? Do you remember? That one that was like a tent..." Anyway, it was a building inside it was made to look like a , kind of like a circus tent. It was weird but brilliant. It was like a bit of a weird audience because they’re all posh because the Hamptons is where all the tarts go. But it was great, yeah. And it was one of our only shows, so it was like, in the middle of doing all those festivals. We did a few good ones in New York as well.

Leaking:

Do you feel like you acquire new fans by playing festivals, since presumably that would be why you play them?

W.Sergeant:

Yeah, it’s the only reason to go really. It’s a lot of people. You don’t want to, say, slog around Germany or something so you do a festival and it’s on the telly or whatever. That’s the reason to do it. There’s no really hippy reason. I mean, they’re generally for shit aren’t they? Let’s face it.

Leaking:

What is your reaction to the press’ reaction to your comeback?

W.Sergeant:

I’m pleased, I’m just waiting for the bubble to burst, you know what I mean? It’s like, "We’ve fooled ‘em again." We’ve fooled ‘em but it’s kind of like, they are so fickle that for the slightest reason they can think you’re shit, you know.

Leaking:

Well, if you get too popular for them...

W.Sergeant:

Yeah, build you up and knock you down. Yeah. We got a good review for what venue did we do lately...Kilburn. The Camden Crawl. It was like as special guests. It was great, we did a really little half an hour, but it was good. And it got good reviews, so no argument there.

Leaking:

Do you see the band as having changed musically since there have obviously been many new elements introduced into pop music over the last 10 years?

W.Sergeant:

I think that we can just play a little bit better, you know, and that’s just though having to do it over and over again. But, I think, there was a lad there today, he used to follow the Bunnymen and then he followed Electrafixion, and he was there today and he said "It’s really weird, the Bunnymen LP, it just sounds like the Bunnymen, you know. It’s like you haven’t changed." Cause it’s all technically the same style or whatever. And that’s exactly how we intended it to be. We didn’t want it to be anything like "Oh the Bunnymen have gone whatever, you know, house or whatever." That would be ridiculous wouldn’t it. That’s like Bowie doing his Tin Machine - oh it’s not Tin Machine, it’s jungle. Awful. It’s like he should just stay - it’s like if he did an LP that was just like Space Oddity or Hunky Dory or something, everyone here would just be - it would just sell, like everyone would be very taken in. He’s just weird like that. He doesn’t have to do that. He just does stuff that he wants, that interests him. But all the fans like us want him to do like Space Oddity. So that was the theory behind making it sound like a Bunnymen record. We didn’t want it to sound - you know, we’ve just done that with Electrafixion, tried to avoid sounding like us and so it would have been a bit stupid wouldn’t it?

Leaking:

How do you feel about the press comparing you to all these new bands and giving out labels like "Old Grave" and "New Grave"?

W.Sergeant:

It doesn’t really mean anything to me, I don’t buy ‘em. So it’s just like the NME trying to be like, I’ve heard they’re calling it the "New Grave" which is just stupid. Cause what it does is it ties you down like. There was somebody in the shoe shop yesterday and Peezie said "Oh, I’ll put you on the guest list." And she said, "Oh I don’t really wanna go because the Bunnymen are too morose." What! She’d been reading something in the NME saying that we’re "New Grave." I mean we’re not anything. We’re just the Bunnymen and that’s it. We’re not tied in with anything. That’s the way we always wanted it to be and when we started, you know, we hated being sort of lumped in with U2 and all that shite. We really did not want to sort of, well - the whole sort of selfless sacritude, the whole thing, and they’re still doing it. What was that little look there?

Leaking:

Oh no, don’t worry. We were just joking around earlier about U2. I guess the question we were kidding about but didn’t think we should ask was: Do you worry about reaching a point where it all becomes just bland, repetitive and boring like U2?

W.Sergeant:

Well, I was just about to say I liked them. But they’ve gotten to the point where they try to make it so interesting that it’s bland and boring. I mean they’re just like, overloading it with gimmicks. Well, I don’t know. Most of the records I buy are older stuff anyway, besides the Verve.


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