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Nick Dent-Robinson speaks to Ian McCulloch from Echo and the Bunnymen about his band's new album, 'Meteorites'
Ian McCulloch may be one of rock's great survivors but he is no dinosaur living off past glories. He remains a maverick and a force to be reckoned with. It is four decades since Echo and the Bunnymen’s ground-breaking debut ‘Crocodiles’ but Ian is confident their latest album ‘Meteorites’ is one of their best – and proof he's never lost his edge and is still striving for new excitement and originality.
“This is definitely my best work since ‘Ocean Rain’,” Ian says whilst relaxing back in his native Liverpool. “Yes, that was over thirty years ago but ‘Meteorites’ is definitely the best complete thing I've done since. It sounds so fresh and bold and modern, whatever modern means!”
‘Meteorites’ is his twelfth album and its release this month finds the band brimming with verve, originality and lyrical honesty. The record's producer, Youth (otherwise known as Martin Glover) was a bassist with post-punk band Killing Joke and he has worked with Guns ‘n' Roses, Primal Scream, Erasure and Tom Jones.
“Martin Glover's work in the studio just blows me away,” Ian says. “He has done impressive orchestral re-workings of some of our classic Bunnymen tracks, and he always brings something new and extra to everything he records. He makes it sound so fresh. He told us about all the bands we'd influenced and that gave us confidence. He made me stand up to record rather than sit down and basically said, 'Get up and get on with it' which was great. Everything we put down with him was good. It was all done virtually in one take but it worked brilliantly. Hearing it back was a thrill. Many of the songs I'd just written to a bass line but they have a real groove to them. Somehow that bass line propels the song. I am sure our fans will love it. Certainly initial reaction has been very positive and the single, ‘Lovers on the Run’, is already getting a lot of airplay. I can't wait to get out there performing this new stuff live.”
Ian McCulloch has in the past been dubbed 'Mac the Mouth' because of his unerring Liverpudlian “outspoken honesty” (as he has described it). He is still a staunch and loud critic of those he considers “morons.” Like Bono (“I call him 'Nobo' you know”) or Ed Miliband (“he's posher than Nigel Farage”) and so many more. But it is musical insincerity and musicians ingratiating themselves which really riles McCulloch. “People just trying to endear themselves to others. I hate that. And the whole talent show thing....it is so shallow, so dumb... and it is even creeping into indie rock. These bands are far more B & Q than IQ – it is just very sad,” he declares before taking a breath and continuing, “And as for folk-pop....they should just ban all violins unless playing for classical audiences. That's the most horrible kind of music!”
In Liverpool Ian McCulloch is one of the best-loved successful Liverpudlians. He spends as much time as he can in the city and was recently placed 26th in a list of the greatest-ever Scousers. “I am nowhere near Ken Dodd though,” he says. “Ken Dodd is definitely still king up here. But it is good to be placed at 26. Who knows, one day I might even overtake a Beatle!”
For more about Ian McCulloch plus Echo and the Bunnymen, see www.bunnymen.com