Interview

The Wonder Stuff’s Miles Hunt interviews his old friend Wayne Hussey from The Mission about time, touring and towels.

This year, both The Wonder Stuff and The Mission celebrate their 30th anniversary with the release of an album and a lot of live shows. After The Wonder Stuff's well-received “30 Goes Around The Sun” in April, The Mission release album number twelve, “Another Fall From Grace”, a glorious return to their classic sound of the Eighties. Muzine.nl asked The Stuffies' Miles Hunt to interview his long time friend Wayne Hussey from The Mission.(they first met at Dingwall's in 1989). The result is a great conversation between two friends about time, touring and...towels.

(You can also read this in Dutch)

Miles: 2016 sees both of our bands celebrate our 30th anniversaries, I have been asked many times this year if my younger self would approve of me keeping the band going all this time. I usually answer that he would be very proud of me for doing so because when I started out I knew that I wasn’t messing around, I definitely got into this for the long haul. How do you think the younger Wayne would judge his older counterpart, with pride or prejudice?

Wayne: Well, firstly, congratulations to you and yours, Milo, for your 30th. I trust your celebrations have been suitably, well, celebratory. Like you, darling, I have stepped away from the band for a few years a couple of times and maybe therein lays the secret, or part of the secret, to our respective longevities. It’s the time away that makes our hearts, and maybe our audiences too, fonder for it. I think a fundamental difference between us, you and I, from day one actually was you were always a little more serious about what you were doing than me. That’s not to say I wasn’t serious about the band and the music we made but I could barely see beyond the end of the following week let alone have a long haul plan. I never envisaged a 1-year anniversary let alone 30. What would my younger self think of me now? I think young Wayne would say ‘Well done, Sir, but how the hell are you still alive? And not only that, you’re still making good records and playing great shows. And you still have all your hair. I’ll take my hat off to you, Hussey.’

Miles: Our relationship got off to inauspicious beginnings, me taking the guise of Johnny Come Lately­, taking pot-shots at someone he viewed to be well established in a world he was keen to conquer. You, as history has gone on to prove, took the higher moral ground by inviting me in to that world - and with no small effect. Is that something you have carried with you throughout your life in music? Do you take pleasure in seeing where younger artists/bands take this thing we call rock’n’roll? And have any specific newer artists/bands influenced the sound of The Mission over the years, or have you remained firmly routed in your own beginnings?

Wayne: Me and the higher moral ground? Bedfellows, we are. As you and I were that first night I seem to remember. Actually, the higher moral ground is something I usually look up to with a pair of binoculars. In your instance, I think it was a rare occasion prompted by the fact I wanted everyone to love me, and I hated seeing my (good?) name being tainted and besmirched by others in the press, particularly contemporaries whose work I had a fondness for. It was great being your mate and seeing you scale the very top of the pop charts. Likewise with Julianne Regan and All About Eve, another band I befriended and patronized (in a good way), after first seeing them 4th on the bill at Hammersmith Clarendon. I liked, and still do, to have bands on tour with me that I like both the music and the people. And I like to see them do well. There’s room for all of us. I don’t really feel a sense of competition with other bands apart from the really big ones; and out comes those binoculars again. It’s not that we can or do compete, but more a sense of self-delusion that that’s where I could be if I had made smarter moves along the way. That’s not regret, that’s just a little wishful thinking and maybe a little motivational ploy to keep trying to better my work.
Of course there has been new music, and older music too, since we started, that has influenced me. Aren’t we all really just the sum of our influences, for good and bad? I know you and I differ on this, but I do love Radiohead and love the fact that they go their own course and make records that their audience isn’t expecting. I also adore Massive Attack, and have loved their recent spate of EP’s and videos. That’s one band I would love to sing for. But saying all of this, I don’t know how much influence they have had on the music we/I make. I guess it’s all there in the melting pot. In spite of the fact that the Mission have made records that have tested the loyalty of even our most devout followers, we do have a recognisable sound and spirit that is inherent in pretty much all we do. More by accident than design, I can assure you.

The Mission. 1986.

Miles: Conversely, have you heard The Mission’s sound in any bands that came up after you? If so, have you felt flattered or mildly irritated?
 

Wayne: Mmmm, I’ve heard bits and pieces that sound a little familiar, but as I am not averse to ‘borrowing’ myself, I ain’t gonna point any fingers. In fact I’m flattered when I do hear these things. It’s all to do with the self-regeneration of music, and by other bands ‘borrowing’ from the Mission, it acknowledges our place in the scheme of things. What was it Hemingway said? In any art, you’re allowed to steal anything if you can make it better.
 

Miles: I read recently that the life of the touring musician has been made easier with the advent of technologies that allow them to remain in regular contact with their friends and loved ones back home. You have spent an awful lot of time on the road during the last 30 years. On balance, have all those miles travelled enriched or taken a negative toll on your personal happiness?
 

Wayne: A good question, love. Well, you and I both know that it’s a fallacy that itinerant musicians see more of the world. We dom but unless we make a particular effort, it’s usually just hotel rooms, dressing rooms, venues, and the view of a city from the inside of a bus driving from the airport to the hotel to the venue and back. Yeah, I think the newer technologies have certainly made it easier to stay in touch with home whilst away in another corner of the world, and because of that, it is maybe easier to sustain relationships more so than it was when the only form of communication with home was postcards and the occasional phone call, which always cost a small country’s national debt. I digress slightly here, but I remember the first time we played in Buenos Aires, Simon made a call to his girlfriend in New York. She didn’t answer, the phone just rang for a minute or so. We came to check out of the hotel the next day and he was charged more than £50 (in 1988 that was a lot of money) for the privilege. As he climbed onto the bus that was taking us to the airport, Mick quipped, ‘Hey Slink, does 50 quid ring a bell?’
I think the thing that enriches us as musicians is maybe not the travel per se, but the opportunity to meet an awful lot of people that we wouldn’t otherwise meet. I think it’s that that can make us broader minded and more tolerant and more aware of different cultures. I do love travelling and will travel with Cin, my wife, for holidays, and then we do explore the places we visit, like proper tourists, and I always find that a very rewarding experience.
I don’t think the travelling I’ve done has really impacted my personal happiness negatively, although it’s gotten harder to leave at the start of any tour or trip abroad. But once I’m out there, I’m out there.
I remember you asked me the last time we went for a booze at Christmas time a couple of years ago: ‘Do you ever feel like you wanna get off the bus?’ to which I replied something like, ‘Only when they either carry or kick me off’.

Wayne & Miles on cover of SOUNDS, 1990.

Miles: In a recent interview I did with a UK radio station, I was asked if I had achieved millionaire status from my endeavors in music, to which I responded the only way I could, with a huge belly laugh. Many years ago, you said to me that each song we write is another contribution toward our respective pension plans. We both know how costly making records and putting a band on the road can be. Has it been worth it? Or do you sometimes wish, as I occasionally do, that back in 1986 you had bought a big pile of towels and opened a market stall? After all, people need towels, the same can’t always be said of music.
 

Wayne: Millionaire status? Who do these people think we are? I may have actually earned a million in my lifetime but, as George Best once kind of said, I’ve spent it on drugs, booze, girls, and guitars, and the rest of it, I’ve just squandered. I do jest just a little, but one thing most people don’t realise is that unless you are one of the very top bands it’s fair to say that probably the majority of our audiences actually earn more money than we do. Yeah, we can coin it in from a tour but how often can we tour? Once every couple of years or so? It’s not as if we’re on a salary, is it? Yes, I do see the writing of songs and the publishing income there from as my pension. There will probably come a time, God forbid, when I am no longer physically able to tour, so that half yearly cheque does and will come in very handy. It’s not quite as much as it once was but it’s enough to live the life of a reclusive rock star in Brazil, and to feed our 5 dogs. Yeah, records do cost a lot of money to make, but I have my own studio at home that is really very good and well equipped so I can keep the costs down substantially compared to recording budgets of old. It’s maybe not ideal all of us not working together in the same room, but with the aid of the internet, distances aren’t quite as forbidding as they once were. There have been times in my life when I have questioned my ability to do something else other than music for a living, but I know nothing else and this is what I do. And I have to disagree with you, Milo, I think people need music more than towels. You can dry yourself on any ol’ rag, but everybody in the world enjoys music of some form or another. Everybody. Music is communication, communion, healing, and life-affirming amongst many other things. We need music.
 

Miles: You have been an incredibly prolific songwriter over the years and I think I’m correct in saying that you’ve never taken any notable amount of time away from touring. As an artistic soul do you have any other creative outlets, do you even have time? Do you paint? Act? Cook? Or even get your fingers grubby in the garden? All fine productive undertakings in my view. Or has music always provided you with the creative outlet you need?
 

Wayne: I sometimes write and fancy myself as an author, but don’t have the self-discipline required to actually finish anything. I think I’m more enamoured with the dissolute lifestyle, you know, slaving over a typewriter in the morning, having a light lunch and then spending the afternoon getting tipsy on red wine whilst lounging in my hammock. I enjoy reading a lot, as do I enjoy going to the cinema. It’s not unheard of for me to go to the cinema 5 or 6 times in a week if there’s enough films on I want to see. Gardening? Puh, employ a gardener. Cooking? What’s a wife for? Paint? The town red. Again, I jest a little and agree that all are activities I wish I had the inclination for. But I don’t. As for acting, well, my wife, Cinthya, is an actress and I think there’s only really room for one thespian in any household. But saying that, I have been asked to act in a film next year playing the role of a reclusive rock star necrophiliac. The reclusive rock star is maybe not much of a stretch for me, but I may have to do some research on the necrophilia part of the role. I know my reaction when I was first asked was just to laugh out loud, as it’s probably yours, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of doing something completely off-road at this point in my life. And Cin will be playing my wife so, again, that is no stretch either, and it’ll be interesting to see if we take our work home with us. Move over Brad and Angelina.

Miles & Wayne, USA, 2008.

Miles: Was it only ever creativity that drove you to be in a band or, like so many others, have you been driven by the want of fame and celebrity? How do you view the modern version of celebrity, where seemingly talent is so often the last necessity of a hungry media?
 

Wayne: Well, I think the primary motivation when I was younger would have been the lure of fame and fortune, but I quickly came to see the shallowness and transparency of all of that. I have always loved music though, and that is the thing that has sustained me particularly at times when my star wasn’t shining quite as brightly as it once did. It’s fun and exciting when success first happens, and I was certainly not one to shy away from the celebrity aspect of it. But it can also be a real pain in the ass. I mean, really, who’d want to be as famous as someone like Bono or Jagger? You can’t do anything or go anywhere without a contingent of security and hangers-on. I don’t think that can be too much fun. On the odd occasion I am recognised whilst out at the shops or at the cinema or at a restaurant these days, and it happens at home in Brazil more frequently than it does in the UK, I always feel affronted and taken aback by it, but I do try to remember that it has taken that person a whole lot of guts to actually approach me, so I do make the effort to at least be civil. After all, it doesn’t take much to smile and pose for a photograph, and for that person to go away happy at our meeting. But it does make me aware that I always need to do my hair and don the dark glasses before I go out. So imagine the constant pressure of always being on show if I was really famous. Urgh. Conversely, there are places, should I go, that I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t recognised such as a TSOM or a Peter Murphy show in Sao Paulo, or a goth club pretty much anywhere in the world…
I am certainly driven more these days by a need to write songs and make records for their own sake rather than to sustain a celebrity lifestyle. I don’t necessarily agree that the talentless celebrity is just a modern day phenomenon though; I think there’s always been a presence. I just think that with the advent of the internet and multi channel television, there’s more chance of being exposed to it.
 

Miles: I often wonder these days whether our chosen vocation has a place in the modern world. We had the likes of Lennon, Dylan & Bowie to influence us when we were teenagers, people that still seem as much a part of the fabric of the 1960’s and ‘70’s as any politician or world event. In my most optimistic moments, I think it might be a good thing that rock and pop culture, as we knew it, take a back seat and lay fallow for a decade or so that it might rise again with it’s once great strength and socio-political importance. Am I on to something here or talking out of my ass as usual..?
 

Wayne: I think you’re right. I think this is a period in the history of popular music where the new major artists are the ones that can play the game safely and are more conformist than rebel. They look good on YouTube rather than read good in interview. I dunno. I think every generation has its heroes that they grow up with. The very nature of ‘generation gaps’ demand that the young CANNOT like what has gone before and have to make their own heroes. One Direction or Justin fucking Bieber mean as much to a 14 year old in this time as did The Beatles, or T.Rex, or even The Sex Pistols did in theirs. It’s just that access to your ‘heroes’ has gotten easier and with that, the debunking of mystique and myth. Also, the physical value of an MP3 just can’t compete with the physical value of a piece of 7’ or 12’ vinyl, which is how we used to buy our music when we were young. In fact, there is no physical value to an MP3; it’s just a file on a computer.
We need a new punk movement. Not in a musical sense, but in the sense that a movement comes along that pushes the establishment, and the music business particularly, back on its ass, that shakes up the status quo, gives creative power back to the musicians, to the artists, that revolutionizes youth culture in much the same way as the Beatles and Punk did. There’s not really been anything like that, maybe grunge, since 1977. It is time. Where it’s coming from and when, I have no idea but I would gladly raise my flag alongside those in the trenches, if they’d have me, but of course I’d be seen as part of the old establishment that they’re trying to tear down, and that’s just as fine with me if it meant kids were being creative again.

The Wonder Stuff, 2016  (Nick Sayers)

Miles: When our two bands toured Europe and North America together in 1990, you were an absolute quandary to me. Seemingly the harder I partied, the weaker my voice and indeed my entire constitution got. Perversely, your voice seemed to grow stronger with each night of rock’n’roll indulgence. Were you aware of this at the time? Did/do you harbor notions of indestructability?
 

Wayne: To be honest, not really. I didn’t really think about it. I didn’t have a death wish or anything, but I also don’t think I really cared too much about the long-term repercussions. Touring had become a ritual of white powders and booze. When I did sleep, the first thing I would do when I woke up is stick some speed up my nose……that got me going. And it wasn’t just me, it was pretty much everyone involved with the band, certainly in the early days. Eventually more and more of ‘em saw sense and started easing off, but I was still hard at it well into the early 90’s. I think it would kill me today. Actually, thinking about that, I quite regularly get sick on tour now and I try to eat healthy, sleep, and not drink too much - and certainly lay off the white powders, so maybe there is something in that ‘Keith Richards’ lifestyle that if you’re permanently ‘high’ then you’re body never gets sick……Mmmm, I wonder, what am I trying to say to myself here?
 

Miles: Where does Wayne Hussey write from now, metaphorically and physically? Your living circumstances couldn’t be any more different now than they were when you wrote your first clutch of Mission songs. You also have three decades of life’s experiences in your arsenal to draw from that you didn’t have access to during those early days. However, having heard the new album, “Another Fall From Grace”, many of the oh-so important Mission traits are still highly in evidence. A few years back, a journalist made a similar observation about me and my role in The Wonder Stuff and asked me if Miles Hunt was merely consistent or did he find it difficult to develop? I, rather cheekily, put the same question to you.
 

Wayne: I would say that I am neither consistent nor find it difficult to develop. I think if you follow the lineage of God’s Own Medicine through to the new “Another Fall From Grace”, that each and every album is different. There are of course some underlying constants such as my voice, guitar style, and lyrical subject matter, but each album has its own unique sound and stands as testament to where I and the band were at the time of making those records. It does get harder to find subjects to write about, and in fact, I think this new album is probably the first where there is no song celebrating the activity of my my dick. That’ll be a first, then. I also think this new album is, in many ways, my least autobiographical. I know the songs are generally written in the first person, but there are more songs on this album that came about from observing others, rather than reflecting on my own life. Of course, I’m in there somewhere, but maybe not as much as some may assume. And of course I’ve developed, as have you. I couldn’t write a “Wasteland” or a “Severina” now, like you couldn’t write another “Size Of A Cow” or “Wish Away” - we are too knowing and more worldly wise and, sadly, probably cynical. Shame really that we lose that innocence, that naivety, but hopefully we replace that with craft and articulation. Just because our audience would prefer a new “Wasteland” or “Size Of A Cow”, doesn’t mean we have to give it to ‘em.

Miles & Wayne. Christmas, 2015.

Miles: The beautiful man, musician, and now esteemed UK broadcaster, Tom Robinson, once asked me whom I considered to be the true owner of the songs that I have written over the years. Given that those songs have now played major parts in other people’s lives, they are now the soundtrack to other people’s early relationships, periods of pain or happiness, first jobs, school or college days… I could go on. Can I really claim ownership to those songs anymore? Tom suggested that rather than being the owner, I was now the custodian and given that, it is now my responsibility to make sure those songs are treated with respect whenever they are performed. Does that idea ring true to you at all?
 

Wayne: I totally concur. Once a song is written and committed to tape (virtual these days), it is no longer yours. It becomes property of the world. We are merely the curators, the custodians, as Tom so succinctly puts it, and as he equally eloquently says, that it is our responsibility to treat the songs with respect, I totally agree. I think you’ll also find that the way the Mission and myself have covered other peoples songs though the years has been with the same respect afforded to our own. The song is the be-all and end-all for me. Everything we do should serve the song.
 

Miles: It’s not exactly news hot off the press but, as with the last Mission album “The Brightest Light”, two original members of the band are back at your side, guitarist Simon Hinkler and bassist Craig Adams, after some years in absentia. I see too that you have worked on this new album with producer Tim Palmer, who produced The Mission’s debut album, “God’s Own Medicine” and the album that will always remain close to my heart (as it was the album your were touring back in 1990 when you had The Wonder Stuff opening for you), “Carved In Sand”. Was making the album with these guys, particularly, Tim, a concerted effort to recreate past aural glories?
 

Wayne: Not really, no. If we were going to make a concerted effort to recreate ‘past aural glories’ then the time to have done that would probably have been with “The Brightest Light’ album rather than the new one. With ‘The Brightest Light”, I wanted to make an album that sounded like we did when we played together in a room, how I heard us, and I think to a large degree, we succeeded in doing that. There’s some very good songs on that record even if it isn’t a particularly popular album amongst the darker clad of our fan base. With “Another Fall From Grace”, I wanted to make the jingle-jangle shimmer of the electric 12-string guitar as the starting point for this album, and that is the main instrument that I wrote with for this album. And going back and listening to my playing on the Sisters “First & Last & Always” and the Mission’s “God’s Own Medicine”, I was struck by how good the guitars sounded. Fresh, bright and unique, and that is the element that I wanted to re-own, as opposed to re-create, and who better to turn to to help me in my quest than Tim Palmer, who produced “God’s Own Medicine”? I know I get a rough time from a certain faction of the Sisters fan base, they really can be quite the sour bunch, but one thing they forget is that the sound of the guitars on FALAA is me and Gary Marx, not Eldritch.
How can I plagiarise my own guitar style? Recycle, yeah, sure, I accept that accusation, but plagiarise? Come on. Listen to the Sisters before and after I was in the band, and that signature 12-string jingle jangle wasn’t and isn’t there. All I’ve done with this record is recognise a strength of mine and played to it. And my work with the Sisters isn’t sacrosanct. I think the biggest offence that I’ve given to that hardcore element of Sisters fans is that I, and the Mission, even exist and have never treated TSOM as the sacred cow that some people do. Fuck ‘em. The Sisters have made some great, great records, with and without me, but that was a long, long time ago. And before I am accused of anything else, let me just add that Craig and I spent a week in Chicago early in the year playing the songs of FALAA with Billy Corgan singing, and I fucking loved, really loved, playing those songs again, and being ‘just the guitarist’. It sounded and felt great and just as I remembered it sounding when we split up in 1985. I’ll go on record here and hold out the olive branch, and say that Craig and I would love to play these songs again, AND with Andrew Eldritch and Gary Marx. If they’re up for it, they know how to get hold of us. And if not? We may still just go ahead and do it anyway with Billy or someone else singing. They’re great songs and deserve to be heard in the way we played ‘em in 1985, as opposed to the way they’re being played by the current TSOM.
I know I’ve digressed a bit here with this question, so I’ll just backtrack a little and endeavour to address your original question. Yeah, getting Tim involved in “Another Fall From Grace” was an obvious move but, and I’m sure Tim would be the first to agree and even you, Milo, hearing the rough mixes before Tim’s direct involvement would realise that the direction of the album was well established from the outset.

The Mission, 2016.

Miles: Who does Wayne Hussey make records for now? Yourself, the audience that is known to you or an audience that have yet to discover The Mission?
 

Wayne: The records have to be made for yourself, firstly. Yeah, sure, you can contrive them to a degree but ultimately they have to be truthful, otherwise you’ll get found out. And if there is honesty in the records, then people will recognise that and respond to it. Of course, we’d all like bigger audiences, but I have to say that if our audience never ever gets any bigger than it is now, then we still have a fantastic core following that have been incredibly loyal and supportive, and that is something that none of us should or can take for granted. Lest we forget, as musicians, without our audience, we are nothing.
 

Miles: Where next Mr. Huss’? Do guys like us keep going until we drop, or are we supposed to have worked on some kind of exit strategy by now?
 

Wayne: Well, the road ahead is certainly shorter than the road behind is long……but as I said earlier, they’re gonna have to fucking carry me off this bus…….Exit strategy? What, and then potter around the garden? I don’t think that’s for us really, Milo, do you?
 

Miles: And finally, when do we next get to raise a glass together? As in, get really, really, disgracefully fucked up…?
 

Wayne: Well, you know damn well I’d raise a glass with you any time that I see you……as for getting disgracefully fucked up, I would need a week to recover, I’m sure, my constitution not being as hardy as it once was. So I’d have to say it would be when I know I have nothing to do for at least a few days following. Are you coming along to any of the shows? You know you are ALWAYS welcome.
 

Miles: Thanks Brother, I’ll be at your show in Birmingham in November. Safe travels my friend. X

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