Having founded post-punk Liverpool legends Echo & The Bunnymen as a teenager, Ian McCulloch split them up after five albums, arguably on the verge of stardom. After a nine-year hiatus, they reformed in the midst of Britpop, and ironically have now outlasted Oasis, who arguably lifted the gobby Northern front man blueprint from the ever-confident 'Mac'.
Following a number of triumphant live performances of their 1984 masterpiece, Ocean Rain, the Bunnymen are back with new material in the shape of their fifth post-reformation album, The Fountain. Lyrically, The Fountain finds McCulloch in playful form, and his remarkable voice remains unsullied by a ferocious intake of Marlboro Reds. Closing with reflective ballad, The Idolness Of Gods, it could well be the Bunnymen’s biggest ‘mobile phones in the air’ moment since 97’s comeback single, Nothing Lasts Forever.
Never short of an opinion, we shared an hour and a ‘bevvy’ in Mac’s excellent company.
Mac The Mouth on...
…the new album: “My favourite bits of The Bunnymen were always the kind of heartbreakers or the lyrically deeper stuff, you know. The rock ‘n’ roll side I’ve always liked, but I’ve always felt more comfortable singing Killing Moon or Ocean Rain than something like Crocodiles or Do It Clean. But on this album I think we’ve got the balance. I’ve re-found a kind of spite or a sarcasm and a humour to sing those rocking songs.”
…the creative process: “I like the old cassette things, you know. That’s how I demo my songs, just on a Dictaphone, but the problem with that is I’ve got about a hundred tapes in a plassy bag somewhere with classics on that I have no intention of playing. My tape recorder now has to be in my head, because I’m too lazy to take the Dictaphone out of the drawer or change the tape or find batteries. So I just have to play it and remember it in my head.”
…Feargal Sharkey: “He drove me round the fucking bend, him. They were all right – The Undertones - but his voice and his face, fucking hell, what island did he come from? And it was an island. Is he convex or concave? Freaky-looking dude, semi-progeria kind of vibe to him, you know them creatures that are born to humans who look like light bulbs and they’re already a million years old. They’ve always got like big space-heads, but like light bulbs that you can see inside. It’s a terrible affliction, but maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to go, evolution. Because they look like they’re dead intelligent, but unattractive. Who’s worse than fucking Feargal Sharkey?”
…music-based videogames Guitar Hero and Rock Band: “I hope they all get electrocuted, because they shouldn’t be playing with that crap.”
…John Peel: “We never got close to John Peel, that was the great thing about him, but he was the best and we owe a lot to him. We always rose to the occasion with his show. Some of the stuff we did on there was maybe better than the actual album versions.”
…the longstanding (and largely unrequited) feud with U2: “I always slagged off U2 mercilessly because I didn’t want their fucking fans.”
…Courteney Love: “She moved to Liverpool from New York because we were her favourite band. She’s said in the past that I’m the greatest ever front man in her opinion. She lived in Liverpool for two years purely to come and stalk or to get to know us. I think her ambition was to shag me, but she shagged Julian [Cope] instead. And Pete De Freitas (Echo & The Bunneymen's drummer). She was there at the festival we did in New Jersey the other week, onstage. Her head was a bit funny, but it was nice to see her. Apparently she spent most of the gig talking.”
…the smoking ban: “If I’m having a late night in my own gaff then I will smoke 80 ciggies. But it does cut it down, obviously. I would have done five here now, so it’s good in that way, but I’m smoking more than I did back then because you get loads in then have an ashie next to your bed full of horrible cigarettes and you go to sleep next to it and you wake up and think ‘Fucking hell, what a tramp I am.’
…his voice: “My voice is infinitely better than it was. What I like is I don’t have to attempt to prove I can sing. I can’t listen to some of the earlier stuff, it sounds like someone really trying be like a Bowie.”
…hometown gigs: “They love me. The audience we have in Liverpool is normal fellers who don’t take any crap and have normal jobs and they have a pint and they’re not cowards. And they know that I’m not, and they’re proud of me representing them and the city and making them feel all emotional, because they’re men, but we allow blokes to show emotion and courage through the songs. I think we’re a real working man’s inspirational, salvational group.”
…The Beatles: “The Beatles were amazing, but I think The Killing Moon pisses over most of their stuff, and so does Ocean Rain. And Idolness Of Gods, if that was by The Beatles it would be up there with Yesterday.”
…Esquire: “I Love Esquire.”
Interview by Steve Hill
The Fountain is released on October 12. Echo & The Bunnymen are touring.