Q&A: Ian McCulloch of Echo & the Bunnymen
Ian McCulloch, frontman of the British post-punk legends Echo & The Bunnymen, is looking forward to his U.S. tour, which starts May 5. He feels Americans understand the Liverpudlian Bunnymen much more than fans in his home country.
"I don't like to say this because some of those Britons may misunderstand or take offense," McCulloch told SoundSpike. "It always seems to be the place where our music seems liked. It didn't always feel that way except maybe early on. I liked the New Yorks and the Chicagos. I always felt strange and very homesick on the West Coast. But then it seemed like after a few years, the more times you see those massive skies and the balmy heat, it kind of fits in. It feels that more of the sexiness comes out in the songs, which I think it's fair to say America's probably a sexier country than Britain or than England. But we speak properly."
What's so appealing about the U.S.?
"The names of the cities -- Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, New York -- they just sound fantastic. Just the size of it, it's so massive but you don't see the details of each place on tour. You pick up on the overall vibe of the city. I felt that the first tour we played. I felt each city has its own unique vibe, whereas Leeds doesn't seem that much different than Sheffield."
In February, Echo & The Bunnymen announced the North American leg of their acclaimed "Crocodiles & Heaven Up Here" tour. The band will be playing those two legendary albums in their entirety. Last year, their played North America in support of their acclaimed album "The Fountain."
SoundSpike spoke to McCulloch via telephone from England about his views on Echo & The Bunnymen's influence on The Beatles, recording new music and today's music.
SoundSpike: Your tour last year received rave reviews. You must be pretty proud of that.
Ian McCulloch: Did it? I never read reviews. Well, this show's going to blow everyone's minds, I think. We're doing the first two albums and then going off for a 20-minute break and then coming back out and doing songs that aren't on those albums. It's almost like a mini-set after. It's just fantastic. It was an onslaught of brilliance. It's good to play a gig and think about it differently, not just go. We have done the kind of compilation set for quite awhile then we did the "Ocean Rain" shows. That made me think, "Wow," because you approach them differently in your head. It's almost like you're doing your diploma. You have to revise a bit for them. For me, anyway, there were nights where I was just lost in time, back in Rotterdam in 1980. It's kind of like doing, instead of doing a compendium of stuff or snippets of Shakespeare -- To be or not to be -- it felt like we were performing kind of plays or something. Those soundtracks to my life, anyway, and Will's [Sergeant, guitarist]. Bringing them up to date. They invigorated me or reinvigorated me and pulled me at the start of the DNA again. That felt great and strange at the same time. It's good to feel that strange sensation. It wasn't just doing an album back to back. It was the first two, and it was lovely. All of those moments kind of seem to flash through [my] mind when I was doing them. America was a real important place during that period. America seemed to get the fact that we sounded completely different and that it meant something.
It sounds like this tour is going to be fun for you.
We always have fun. It's almost like a mission. We're going to do the first two albums and everyone will be amazed at how we're not the biggest band that ever walked the planet. I think, for a lot of people though, we still are the most important band. I'm kind of writing a book ,and one of the things I've done lately is lump the Bunnymen in with Einstein, Da Vinci, Michelangelo and someone else, probably Isaac Newton. I'm suggesting that -- whatever the Big Bang was -- we were the thing that made it bang. The last line is, if it wasn't for the Bunnymen, there'd be no fucking Beatles. Hopefully, a few of those psychotic fans we have will agree.
You do have a lot of die-hard fans. That's for sure. Have you thought about writing new material?
Yeah, there is loads in the pipeline. Fantastic stuff. Kind of darker -- well not dead catty, but I suppose more like it's funny because, I've spent the last 30 years trying not to be compared [to] or similar to The Doors. But there's a certain Doorsian feel to them I suppose. By the time we record it may not be. Dark pop. If you say "rock" these days, it can be anything -- like horrible kind of tattoo stuff.
When do you expect to start recording?
September/October. October/November. We're touring in September, so probably October. I've recorded loads of things onto a Dictaphone. I play them all the time, update them and work on the lyrics. There are some really great tunes in there.
Who are you listening to these days?
Arcade Fire. I finally allowed meself to like them. Too many people said, "They sound like you. Listen to them. They're really good they sound like the Bunnymen." That puts me off. But then when I saw them on TV -- it was a live concert -- I thought they were absolutely fantastic. I could hear little bits of Bunnymen stuff, but they weren't ripping us off. There was a slight, slight hint of an influence in there. I think they're fantastic. As long as they keep out of the limelight, they could get swallowed by too much ingratiation and too many awards, really. That can harm them. It's not athletics or sports. It's music. You shouldn't really get trophies. What does it mean? [But] If I get loads, I'll be very happy. [Laughs]
What's your favorite song to play live?
"Killing Moon," it's an honor to play that. The weight sometimes of that song ... live we always play it. It's funny how a song can be 1 percent slightly different or totally different. It depends on the mood of the audience and me. I have to say that. It's an amazing song. I also love doing "[Bring On the] Dancing Horses." The more we do that, the more we love it. It was a song, when it came out, we didn't really play. We didn't play that live so much. Now it's one of the standout tracks. "Ocean Rain." "Lips Like Sugar" is great to do.
5 - Atlanta, GA - The Masquerade
6 - Houston, TX - Warehouse Live
7 - Austin, TX - La Zona Rosa
9 - Boston, MA - Paradise Rock Club
11 - Washington, D.C. - 9:30 Club
12 - Philadelphia, PA - Trocadero Theatre
13, 14 - New York City, NY - Irving Plaza
16 - Toronto, Ontario - Phoenix Concert Theatre
17 - Chicago, IL Vic Theatre
19 - San Francisco, CA - Warfield Theatre
20 - Las Vegas, NV - Red Rock Casino Resort
21 - Los Angeles, CA - Club Nokia
22 - Anaheim, CA - House of Blues
25 - Barcelona, Spain - Parc del Forum (San Miguel Primavera Sound)
3 - Chester, England - Chester Race Course (Chester Rocks with Iggy and the Stooges)
24 - Manchester, England - Palace Hotel
25 - Birmingham, England - Symphony Hall
26 - London, England - London Palladium
28 - Glasgow, Scotland - Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
29 - York, England - Grand Opera House York
30 - Liverpool, England - Liverpool Philharmonic