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Exclusive interview with Ian McCulloch

Rachel Ducker speaks exclusively to Echo & the Bunnymen’s, Ian McCulloch, about his time in the band, new album and upcoming tour…

Bands rarely ever arrive as the full package. Some manage to achieve that status through a lot of effort and a bit of luck; often though, there’s a magical element that sits just out of reach. Echo & the Bunnymen were the full package – maybe the first band of my youth to achieve that.

They had amazing songs and lyrics that provoked and inspired; stunning wit and a look that was just perfection. There was no weak link visually, no bad leather jackets or mullets. And they had the ambition and the confidence to attempt unconventional ideas, whether it was heading to Iceland to do photos or getting their fans to do a group cycle ride around Liverpool for A Crystal Day. There wasn’t one piece out of place. This was a band to believe in.

As previously revealed, THE STARS, THE OCEANS & THE MOON sees the band return to their peerless back catalogue to reinterpret thirteen of their most beloved songs with ‘strings and things’.

The album also features two future classics – THE SOMNAMBULIST and HOW FAR. Recorded at The Dog House Studios with co-producer Andy Wright, ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN handpicked the selection of tracks for the album from their majestic, four-decade spanning archive. Of the new versions, Ian McCulloch said, “I’m not doing this for anyone else. I’m doing it as it’s important to me to make the songs better. I have to do it”.

The first track released from the album – SEVEN SEAS – is available now to stream, to download and as an instant grat with all album pre-orders via the artist store or iTunes. Originally a Top Twenty hit in 1984, SEVEN SEAS was the third single from their classic fourth studio album, OCEAN RAIN.

Bounce Magazine’s, Rachel Ducker, speaks to Ian McCulloch about the bands new album.

R: Hi Ian, firstly I wondered how you first got into music?

Growing up, I didn’t really live in a very musical household.

I suppose I first got into music when I heard Bowie when I was 12 or 13 around the time Starman came out.

His voice was just like nothing I’d ever heard and when Starman played on the radio, it was like ‘wow’, there was just something in his voice.

R: Before Echo & the Bunnymen formed, what were you up to? 

[Laughs] I was on the dole I did my A Levels at school and failed. 

I knew when I was 13 what I wanted to do; I wanted to be Bowie and borrow his clothes that was my dream.

So I was on the dole for about 18 months, in that time I had three job interviews, I remember one, there was a panel and they asked me what I thought the civil service was about and I didn’t have a sodding clue!

During another interview someone called me out and said “you don’t want to be here do you” and I said “no”. At least I was honest!

I was good at not getting jobs on purpose! To be fair, I knew what I was going to do and I would tell them “you’ll see me on the telly, I am going to be in the biggest band of all time!” without that self belief I wouldn’t have been where I am now. I always felt there was nothing else I wanted to do.

R: Were you in any other bands before you formed Echo?

There was a band called the Crucial Three, but it sounded so crap I would have to go and wait in the living room until practice was over, we were rubbish!

R: How did you first meet your fellow band members?

It was someone’s birthday, and I was at a bar in Liverpool, Will Sergeant was sitting at a table and he goes “hello” [laughs] I think he might have used his index finger to summon me, and he said “I heard you’re a great singer,” though I am not sure who he heard that from, and he asked me to go to his to play some music with him, I thought this man is so weird!

But I said yes! [laughs] we just sat there and eventually it clicked and I said “we are going to be the best band in the world ever”!

He just looked at me with his mug of tea in disbelief and I looked at him in disbelief at his disbelief of what I had just said! I replied what’s the point of doing this if we are not going to be the best band in the world ever?

R: How did you come up with the band name?

I didn’t; I shared a flat with a guy named Paul. We called him Smelly Ellie, that was his nickname, he was on a teacher training course; he taught maths to kids.

I said to him one day “we’ve got a gig this week” and he said “what are you called”, and I said “I haven’t got a clue”. So he wrote down about ten names and then Echo & the Bunnymen was one of them and I thought that sounds like us.

At the time I thought we were like then men that married bunny girls. Smelly Ellie did smell and he did think of the name!

R: Well you have to thank him for that at least!

I did thank him!

R: Your first album was released in 1980, what’s been the secret to your continued success? You’re still hear and you have your new album coming out… 

Washing your face kid, washing your face with salt water and not worrying too much!

It was never about being on the front covers, even though I did like that, but then you’re worrying if it’s a bad photo or if you have spinach in your teeth.

It was more about being a scouser for me, someone who likes footie and humour.

I mean, I really do like the sound of my own voice, both for annoying people and for singing. It’s the only way I can tell my story and other people’s stories.

It’s when someone goes “ah that’s exactly how I’m feeling”. So really that’s the main reason as to why I still want to be here and perhaps why I am.

R: You have your new album out on 5th October named The Stars, The Oceans and The Moon… can you tell us more about the album?

I thought I know that song so well – I own that moon, it’s not the moon that everyone thinks, I own the “killer moon” and I sing it like I’m on that moon. Not look up, but looking across. 

I didn’t want to change it as a song but I wanted to surprise myself.

Things have changed, I like the fact you can hear me breathing and the sound of my saliva; I wanted it to be more real.

It’s about – be a statue or be a man or be a liar or be truthful.

I wanted to use this album to reflect – I didn’t like the singing on a lot of the early records. I pronounce my ‘e’s too much.

R: I imagine as you grow older you change? Especially when you are writing.

Sometimes it’s hard when you write new songs, you forget to look at change.

This is why I wanted to do this to face some of the old songs again.

R: What’s the stand out feature about the album?

It’s my voice more than anything; I am so lucky to have that voice.

R: You are, I wish I had a voice like you.

Danny from Embrace said that, he said “ah Mac, the greatest voice that this country has produced”…  it’s a shame they are saddled with a name like Embrace, same as we are saddled with Echo & the Bunnymen, I hate saying it!

F-cking syllables, too many, we should have been called something else. But anyway, that’s what I wanted to be when I was 13, the greatest voice.

R: You’ve also got your tour coming up! 

Yeah, that’s going to be fantastic! The album will have been out then.

R: Well thanks so much for your time today and good luck with the album and the tour. 

Please send me over a copy of the magazine and pop along to one of the shows! I’ll buy you some French Martinis.

R: You know my poison that would be great. Thanks very much!

For more information about Echo & the Bunnymen’s new album and tour see www.bunnymen.com

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