Ian McCulloch, Will Sergeant and Les Pattinson on Ocean Rain and more

Porcupine
WEA, 1983
The icy, groovier third, featuring eternal fan favourite “The Cutter”.

Sergeant: There were all kinds of shenanigans going on that I didn’t really know about at the time. The label were on about getting rid of us even though we were “flavour of the month”, they were really pushing for hit singles. Drummond went in and sneakily remixed “The Back Of Love” and Balfe put a keyboard thing on “The Cutter”, we were all pissed off with it, we thought it was like Teardrops trumpets.

McCulloch: I had an idea for “The Cutter”, played it to Ian [Broudie], and said, “Can you play it in rehearsal and pretend you made it up?” Because if I showed it to Will and that they would say they didn’t want it. There was a lot of hiding stuff because I couldn’t be doing with them thinking as if there was a one-man conspiracy going on.

Pattinson: There was no diplomacy in the band, it was either all-out war or you just shut up and became a dummy.

Sergeant: Who was in charge in the studio? I’d like to say me. Definitely on the first few albums, I was there, all the time. Hours and hours spent on amps and mics, it seemed to take ages to get a guitar sound. We were using more strings, and Mac was coming on with the Sinatra vibe. For the cover shoot, we went on a frozen waterfall in Iceland called Gullfoss, and we were just clambering down this thing, pushing each other. Above a 5,000-foot drop of pure ice! Mac had these weird sheepskin banana boots on – funny suede slippers basically, no soles! Mental.

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Ocean Rain
WEA, 1984
Their undisputed classic, and the “greatest album ever made”, according to McCulloch.

McCulloch: Me and Will got together and worked on two acoustic guitars, and all of these things came out for Ocean Rain. The other two didn’t write a lot of the songs but the credits were given to everyone on the album. It pissed me off, the other two were getting a quarter of the royalties for words they didn’t write…

Pattinson: The truth is we all wrote the stuff; the songs wouldn’t be the same without Pete’s drum lines, Will’s solos, Mac’s lyrics… It’d just come from jamming. So in my view, everyone wrote… although Mac wrote the lyrics, and if we didn’t like a lyric, we’d pull him apart on it. There used to be a way of working with Mac, he’s very controlling, and with us it wouldn’t work. And that’s a good thing, maybe that’s why the Bunnymen were the way they were.

Sergeant: We recorded “The Killing Moon” in Bath a while before we did the album.

Pattinson: Me and Will had been in Russia for a holiday, and there was this band playing balalaikas in a hotel foyer, real cheesy cabaret. But it was so fantastic and we just started messing about and the next thing is we’ve got a chorus for “The Killing Moon”. It was just brilliant.

Sergeant: Adam Peters came and did cellos and double-tracked it to make it sound like a proper orchestra. I reversed the reverb of the autoharp going in on the chords in the chorus so you get a big ‘whoosh’ sound. I got a Vox Teardrop 12-string, we mic’ed it up unamplified. Don’t know why we did that.

McCulloch: I wanted to go to Paris for a month to record the album. To me I was the greatest singer in the world, never shied away from bigging myself up. I told the label, ‘Imagine how much better and inspired I’ll be if we were in France?’ I said I wanted a conductor, and the label said we’ll get one over in Paris – he had long curly hair, looked like Louis XIV with a suit on, he was uncool.

Pattinson: We were pissed every night and working in a studio with two guys who hardly spoke any English, and we produced it ourselves. It only took three weeks, and it was amazing, but for all that, Mac couldn’t sing on it. He was either too washed out from partying or just couldn’t get it together, so we ended up recording all his vocals in Kirby. That was typical, and I don’t think it would have worked otherwise.

McCulloch: I came up with the phrase “the greatest album ever made”, which was on the posters when it was released, and some people thought that was great. I almost reviewed it before it came out, which split people.

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Echo And The Bunnymen
WEA, 1987
The only way was down. A more commercial, diluted album, and the last for ten years.

Sergeant: It was going to be called “The Game”, but I didn’t like that title. There was a lot of manipulation – if somebody didn’t like something, they’d say it sounded like something you hated. I was as bad as everyone else.

McCulloch: I hated the fact it didn’t have a title, it’s been called the ‘grey’ album now for years. I was just thinking it could have been called the ‘loss of grey matter’ album. We’d recorded it more or less, and then we did it again in Manfred Mann’s old studio, on the Old Kent Road in London. It was next to the Henry Cooper pub and we used to have pints brought in on a tray – well, I did. We also did a lot of the album in a forest in Germany, a good hour from Cologne. Couldn’t wait to get out.

Sergeant: Pete was amazing, the nicest bloke you’d ever meet, but he had flipped his wig and bankrolled a big piss-up in New Orleans and was doing an album with his mates. Eventually we got him back, but he was never the same [De Freitas was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1989, aged just 27].

Pattinson: I had my first kids around then, so I didn’t have the same eyes on the ball. Having said that, I think there is some great stuff on here. But there was no direction, and I don’t think we were quite ready.

McCulloch: It was our most successful album up to that point, especially in America. But there were outside things going on, I hated being around the band and I just thought, ‘Where was the Bunnymen we all loved?’

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Electrafixion
Burned
WEA/Warners, 1995
After one Bunnymen album with Noel Burke on vocals, Sergeant and McCulloch reconvene for this louder one-off.

Sergeant: A mate of Pete’s phoned me and Mac up and said, “You should get back together.” Mac didn’t want to do the Bunnymen at first, so we did this. It was great with Spike [Mark Stent], great guitar sounds. Spent hours moving mics and all that stuff.

McCulloch: I didn’t want to go headlong back into the Bunnymen, I wanted it to be just me and Will rather than have Les, who’s Will’s old school chum. Burned got loads of great reviews and live it was brilliant, and a lot of old Bunnymen fans loved it. It was an experiment as much as anything.

Sergeant: On the tour, we did eight Bunnymen songs out of the 13-song set, so it was like, what are we doing? Eventually, Mac came around to the idea of a Bunnymen reunion, which is when I asked Les to come back. Mac and I are not best buddies or anything, it’s just like we tolerate each other, I think.

McCulloch: There’s something about writing for the Bunnymen, it means more to me than when I write a solo record. I know exactly who I am and what I want to say within that set-up. One night I went to bed and thought, ‘What if?’ And I woke up thinking, ‘It’s got to be, it’s what I want.’

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  1. 1. Introduction
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