Interview with Echo & The Bunnymen: Fantastically Arrogant

Echo & The BunnymenInfluential Liverpool band Echo & The Bunnymen have been a band for 30 years now—a fact they will celebrate by playing their entire 1984 album, Ocean Rain, with an orchestra at Radio City Music Hall. The band is also preparing to release a new record—their eleventh—early next year. Singer Ian McCulloch mumbles incoherently to the Aquarian about the concert and the new album. At least, we’re pretty sure that’s what he was talking about.

Why did you decide to play Ocean Rain in New York with an orchestra?

I think it first came up a few years ago. I [was] with our agents and I think I just said, ‘I want to do Ocean Rain.’ It was one of the those things where one day in your life you just go, ‘Oh I’ve never done that!’ It’s usually in the Top 100 Albums Of All Time. It’s been in a few of them, anyway. I actually called it the greatest album ever made when it came out. That’s how it was advertised.

The story was, I said to the record company boss I want to do this but my voice isn’t good and needs to be warmed up. So we booked three weeks and left this day at the end. It’s one of those things where they have a poll every decade, like in Mojo, we always make the Top 10 of that decade. We didn’t make the Rolling Stone one I’m told though. But we would be in the NMEs and the Qs. It depends on how it goes. The Top 10 Albums or whatever they call it. It might not be one of the best albums, but people think it is.

Anyway, I was on the phone to the record company boss when Ocean Rain came out and he says, ‘How’s it going?,’ and that’s when I said it was the greatest record ever made. And that’s how it got started. It ended up on the posters. It was a big black and white poster and underneath it said “The Greatest Album Ever Made.” Oh no—that was at the top and on the bottom was the info from the album. And people thought it was a fantastically arrogant, pompous thing to say. It wasn’t just a joke. I’m not a joker. It was kind of tongue-in-cheek. But a lot of people didn’t understand when we were being like that. I was always having a laugh.

When I listen to some of the records we’ve made in the past, some of the singing, ugh. No wonder people thought we were arrogant. It just sounds a little bit pompous. But I think things like Bono sounds pompous. At the end of the day the songs will sound better because my voice is better now. It sounded kind of fake. I don’t really want to say that because people who love the album will disagree. Ziggy Stardust—I always loved that album. It was the album that made me want to most of the things I do. My voice now is much better. I don’t know if this album we made now is the best thing I’ve ever done, but it’s got sort of a more realistic, it’s got more soul to it. I don’t hear the records anymore, anyway. I hear us playing it live. I’ve got the same voice now, but it’s just got more gravity, more reality to it now, more soul.

Some of the actual songs still sound great. Some of the lyrics, I was reading them, and some of the lyrics are a bit odd. I thought, ‘What the bloody hell were you doing? Singing like that like you think it means something!’ My memory is so crap anyway that I can’t remember what we did on the last album anyway. So when we make a new album it’s going to the best thing we’ve done anyway. So that’s a very long answer to a very short question.