It howls. It’s grindingly beautiful. It’s dangerously sentient. It’s The Sisters of Mercy returning to Australia this October and November for their first headline shows in over seven years including Adelaide!
Propelled from the obsession with electronica but still a far distance from the machinations of the mainstream music of the time, the signature sound of The Sisters Of Mercy cultivated a powerful mystique, creating some of the most influential rock music of the 1980s. Hi Fi Way had an awesome chat with Ben Christo about this amazing band.
Fantastic that Sisters Of Mercy are returning to Australia for another tour?
Absolutely, 2012 Soundwave was the last time. That was different because it was a festival which is great because we got to tour with loads of bands, meet loads of cool bands and I meet a lot of bands that were big inspirations to me and made friends with which was awesome. Bands I like are of a generation that grew up listening to The Sisters. I grew up in the nineties so a lot of these bands such as Machine Head, Limp Bizkit and Strung Out, Angels & Airwaves and blink-182, bands that I listen to are all fans of The Sisters. It was quite cool situation where I could meet some of my heroes because I was in a band with their heroes if that makes sense.
That was a great experience, however, coming and doing our own shows is going to be even better because a lot of them have sold out or have nearly sold out. There’s a lot of enthusiasm there.
Is it humbling when these artists come up and say how influential The Sisters Of Mercy were on their careers?
It is quite a complex series of feelings because it’s not me who has influenced them. I am working with someone who is so important to them. I a way I still feel honoured, flattered and excited to be a part of that. Recently on this European tour and the festivals we played we met a lot of people including Tom Morello who watched the entire set from the side of the stage because he is a huge Sisters fan. he couldn’t wait to meet us, wanted a selfie with us and this is insane. I grew up listening to Rage and similarly with Devin Townsend. He is a big fan, watched the show, we met the guys from The Cult and a lot of bands who were a part of my musical upbringing who are fans of Andrew’s and by proxy me, I’m doing a show that day. It was really exciting and humbling that things have fallen in to place, which have taken me, a guy from a small town in England to do this international touring and go to Australia which is like a different planet to meet these great bands and have them want to meet us.
Does coming to Australia feel more like a holiday than a tour?
Maybe more so last time with the scheduling getting a fair few days off at the start, in the middle and at the end because the festival only fell on weekends. So we find ourselves in Melbourne on a Monday without another show to do until Friday. We did a couple of sideshows in Melbourne at The Corner which is a cool rock ‘n roll venue but there was a week where we were just kicking around in Melbourne. This time the schedule is a lot tighter and I don’t think we get much time off. There’s days where we fly in to a show and leave the next morning, so it will be a bit hectic and some trepidation from this side because of things like jet lag and early morning flights. Once you get up there the Adrenalin makes you forget all that.
Was there a lot of pressure in the end to add Adelaide?
Yeah, absolutely! It is a smaller show compared to the rest of the tour. This one will be seven hundred whereas the others are one point five or two thousand. I think that can make for a very different type of show and will be more of an intimate rock ‘n roll experience compared to playing to six thousand. It would almost seem like a big theatrical convention performance. I like both and it is good to have the variation.
It must be a great feeling as a band knowing that the records put out have really stood the test of time and are just as relevant today as they were when they came out?
It is interesting and I wonder why that is. I think it comes down to a number of things. Those records that came out between 85 and 93 of the key record releasing era of The Sisters, they were all different records, the thing they had in common were great choruses and they all have a real mood to them and a real atmosphere to them. I think that is important for real music lovers to have something that they can feel completely consumed in and that atmosphere comes down to a combination of the soundscapes that were used to the brilliance of Andrew’s lyrics. He has this wonderful enigmatic and ambiguous way of putting things that is quite spell binding for people. That power of being quite bewitching and enigmatic is just as potent to a teenager today as it was in 1987. It is the same way that great films stand the test of time.
Are there any thoughts about making new music? It would be a tough assignment to top what has already been done?
That is a really interesting question because do you really have to make it better. What does better really mean? It is like when they remake movies, there is a real trend for that at the moment. It is never as good, what about the quality of the film? It is about the atmosphere of what was happening at that time that film was made in. It’s the actors involved and the climate which these pieces were produced. That can’t be reproduced, it can’t be bettered because it is too intangible to be bettered.
At the same time we’re going to make a new album would we do Floodland 2? Then instantly that would be a failure because how could you emulate that time not only in terms of how it sounds but what that record means to people and how it has affected them in a profound and emotional way.
We have been writing new material and in fact in the last six weeks we have been incredibly prolific in coming up with some really great song ideas some of which we are playing on the tour. Andrew summed it up quite well, he stood back and goes “these new songs we’ve done is as if it’s the sensibilities of the first record with the energy of the third record and some of the cinematic qualities of the middle record whilst sounding like a new band.” These songs have been largely written by myself and Dylan who is a couple of decades younger than Andrew. It is daunting but this time is exciting because if we did put something out new it would be well received because personally, Andrew and I wouldn’t let anything get by that wasn’t of the highest quality. You will always come across people who will say it isn’t as good as that but what they are saying it isn’t as good as the feelings they had when they first listened to those records in the eighties or nineties. How could you ever beat that?
Has that been made managing fan expectations for new music?
Initially I thought it was but I do feel really confident with this new stuff we have been writing so if we ever did get in to the studio and do it, we’ve all got enough experience and understanding of what this band should sound like in 2020. The feedback we have been getting back from playing these new songs live has been really positive right across the board. That is very exciting for me and as a writer, I have been writing for one of my favourite bands people like it rather than think we’ve come in and ruined it! I honestly do feel if we do an album it would be really good and we wouldn’t put anything out that wasn’t good enough. There will be an element of trepidation when the reviews start coming in but that’s normal with anything you do that you care about.
Do you put a time frame on it?
It is all hypothetical if there was to be anything. I can’t really confirm if anything is going to be recorded. Andrew hasn’t done anything for so long why would he now and he is still selling out shows. The amount of time and money that goes in to making a record, yet he is still about to tour internationally and sellout. Being devil’s advocate why should he? What’s the point? At the same time he is a creative person and he is an artist, artists want to create stuff. We have been writing and it has been very prolific but nothing is concrete about whether we’ll do a new album. Having been in this band for thirteen years it has never felt anywhere near exciting as it does now about the fact that it feels like something is happening. Maybe that will pass, I don’t know! Right now it feels as if this energy means something is coming.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch The Sisters Of Mercy on the following dates, tickets from SBM Presents...