With a gig at St David’s Hall in Cardiff this Saturday – held over from last year, natch – Will Sergeant, guitarist of Liverpudlian postpunk legends Echo & The Bunnymen, talked to Carl Marsh about the past – and why it makes sense to tour in the present.
Echo & The Bunnymen are still going strong, and playing Wales this month. How do these days compare to further back – was it all as excessive as we might imagine?
Will Sergeant: We were kind of anti-rock’n’roll. So, we weren’t down the strip club or anything. It wasn’t like Mötley Crüe on tour or something. Our crew used to wear suits! We were very anti-having roadies with keys on their belts with chains. We hated all that sort of stuff. We didn’t want any of it because we’d come out of punk; we were kind of rebelling against rock.
I remember going to the Rainbow Rooms in Los Angeles one night, and Rod Stewart was in there with a load of his crew. I just thought, “this is shit,” and that I didn’t want to be in the same room as these people. So I fucked off. [Laughter]
“When we started out we were anti-rock’n’roll. We’d come out of punk and were rebelling against rock.”Will Sergeant, Echo & The Bunnymen
Surely you got to enjoy yourselves sometimes?
We liked a bevvy, you know what I mean? And me and Les [Pattinson, Bunnymen bassist at the time] had a bit of acid and stuff like that. But we never made a career out of it. It was more about the adventure of going to a foreign country – rooting through thrift stores and record shops, as you could get records that you couldn’t get over here.
Everything is different. I’d sit at the front of the bus just to watch the horizon because the roads are dead straight and would go for hours on end. I’d just be soaking it all in and wondering how odd it was. You’d go past farms with barns painted up with Stars and Stripes, this big patriotic vibe going on. I knew Trump was going to win way before he did because we were travelling across America [in 2016], and all we saw on every farm were posters of Trump. There was nothing up for Hilary Clinton anywhere!
Do you still like to gig as much as you’ve always done?
When we started, you didn’t make any money doing gigs. No chance! We would have to go to the record labels and say, could you lend us £20,000 to do these gigs. And then that would just go on your bill. The only money we really make now is from playing live. In the past, we’d get a cheque for a couple of grand from publishing money – now it’s like £40! [Streaming] is such a con.
And there I was thinking you could make a serious living off the streaming services…
No, but the ‘live’ situations have changed quite a lot since we started. Ticket prices have gone up quite a lot. Plus, many of the places we play have got their own PA, so we don’t have an articulated lorry dragging around a big light show, PA, and all the crew to go with it. And that’s why you had to borrow money off the record labels, who would just put it on your bill whilst you are out there promoting the records they are going to sell… and get 80% of the profits! It’s a joke. It’s the biggest con going.
words CARL MARSH
Echo and the Bunnymen with DJ Alan McGee play St David’s Hall on the 5th of Feb, 2022.
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