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The Sisters of Mercy

The Sisters of Mercy

Interviewed by
Kiran Dass
Tuesday 14th February, 2012 9:55AM

Formed in Leeds in 1980,The Sisters of Mercy's brooding and slow burning metallic psychedelia defines them as one of the most singular and epic groups to emerge from the 80s. With a sound made distinctive thanks to the death rattle of drum machine Doktor Avalanche, the group is also centred around frontman Andrew Eldritch. With a backlist of unforgettable classics such as 'Lucretia My Reflection' and 'Temple of Love', The Sisters of Mercy has also turned out stunning cover songs of acts as diverse (and at times, unexpected) as Velvet Underground and Suicide to Dolly Parton and Hot Chocolate. The Sisters of Mercy is set to play a one-off show at Auckland's Powerstation on February 22.

You've never been to New Zealand before, have you?

No, but we're kind of excited about it. (Deadpan) Well, we've seen the pictures. It looks like the 50s...

But to be honest we are a little bit more familiar with New Zealand than that. We had a rhythm guitar player in the band who was from New Zealand. Chris Sheehan. (From the Dance Exponents). He went to London to find Heroin.

Like Gang of Four and the Mekons, you're from Leeds. When you started out making music in the early 80s, what did you make of those groups?

We were completely under their shadow. We knew them very well, we still do. We're still very fond of them. We looked at them as an inspiration and thought, "if everyone is unemployed and they can be in a band and write three good songs then so can we." It took us a lot longer to write three good songs, though.

My first musical experience was borrowing the Mekons' drum kit. Then I got a job playing drums in a band that became The Sisters of Mercy.

Andy Gill (from Gang of Four) once told me a story about how when they started out they had no money and improvised by making a PA out of an old wardrobe, which they put in front of The Buzzcocks' gear when they supported them...

(Eldritch butts in) He hates me.

What, musically?

You can see it on his face every time he sees me.

Oh, no I think Andy Gill's just got that sort of steely look about him in general. What do you think of your fans who show up to your shows all decked out in their outfits and whatnot? Do you like your fans?

We have a very strange relationship with our fans.

Because you know, someone like Mark E. Smith from The Fall is the kind of person who would just absolutely despise his biggest fans, isn't he?

Yes! Yes! You know, he (Mark E. Smith) refuses to talk to me. I've been meaning to have a beer with him, he just lives down the road, for fuck's sake.

I could have sworn that years ago, I heard a Sisters of Mercy cover of 'Sisters Are Doin' it for Themselves'. But I haven't been able to find it anywhere. Did I imagine this?

You did.

Oh, maybe you should, then! You have done some other amazing covers, though. I especially love your Hot Chocolate cover 'Emma' as well as 'Gimme Shelter' and 'Jolene'. You weren't being ironic were you?

We wouldn't have done them if we didn't love them. I love Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' but it does need just a bit of twisting.

You've also covered 'Ghostrider' by Suicide. They're the perfect group really, aren't they?

Yes they are, yes they are. I have very strong feelings for Alan Vega in a man-love way (Says under his breath) If only he hadn't hooked up with Ric Ocasek.

What? No way, Saturn Strip is an amazing record. I love it.

Do you really?

Yes, I do!

Well, we're just going to have to agree to disagree on that one, Kiran.

What were some groups that first got you really excited about music?

Hawkwind and The Stooges, no doubt.

I want to talk about the show you did with Public Enemy.

Please do.

At the time, you said that Sisters of Mercy should have been the support act for Public Enemy. What sort of response did you get?

We had a big problem with Elektra our record company at the time. They said, "That's not ever going to work. You're just a bit too... white. And they're just a bit too... black."

Do you really like being the 'frontman' of a rock & roll group?

I'm not cut out for this job. I'm really good with computers. I want to be the guy in the office making the phone calls. I really struggle with it. I struggle with the notion of it. The ten minutes before I go on stage is the time I really don't want to go there. Playing live pays the rent, making records doesn't. We're a working band, we sell a lot of t-shirts. I'm not good at being a front man in a rock & roll band.


Well, you need to be outgoing and to have the ability to be a dickhead at all times. I'm not. Bless us, we do some guitar solos though we've never done a drum solo, can you imagine that?

I sort of can, actually. I'm really looking forward to seeing The Sisters of Mercy in Auckland.

Hopefully you and your country will show us a good time.


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