Wednesday, 18 November 2020

The Power Of Pop: Wayne Hussey Talks About The Making Of "Masque" & The Condition Of The Mission In 1992

Originally published in American Music Press (October 1992)
By Devorah Ostrov

The Mission before Simon Hinkler left the band.
(Wayne Hussey second from right)
The record company bio that came with the new Mission UK album, Masque, reads like an ersatz Bronte novel. "Standing beneath the vaulted ceiling of Beefheart Hall..." begins the romanticized prose that depicts the group's vocalist Wayne Hussey surveying his country estate — no doubt named in honor of the avant-garde musician best known for Trout Mask Replica

The text gets even more ambitious when Hussey (apparently keeping his desire to be Ted Nugent a secret all these years) "discards his huge wolf and weasel fur cape. Leaping onto a three-legged milking stool, he hangs his brand new, recently blooded crossbow on the wrought-iron weapons rack fixed high up on the thick granite walls."

Wayne Hussey
(photographer unknown)
Hussey himself is on the other end of the phone line, having a hearty chuckle. He's really a very jovial fellow. 

"That's all a fabrication!" he exclaims.

So, Beefheart Hall doesn't actually exist?  

"Not to my knowledge."

And you don't kill your own meat and custom-make clothing from the fur?

"No!" He's quite emphatic about that.

I'm guessing the bit where bassist Craig Adams and drummer Mick Brown turn up for rehearsals in an ex-Soviet military helicopter is also fiction. Which is a shame, as I quite enjoyed that mental image.

"The bio was designed to see how many people would believe it," explains Hussey. "It's been quite amusing, particularly in Japan. The Japanese journalists all believe every single word!"

★ ★ ★

Q: Masque is so different from your previous albums. It's sort of upbeat! Has it taken people by surprise?

WAYNE: It's really... [he pauses to chuckle] divided them, particularly our audience here in Britain. I think people who have seen us play live a few times understand it a little more than the people who haven't. But you know, parts of our audience really don't understand it and even... [more chuckles] don't like it. And then some of them say it's the best record we've made. But you don't make a record with that intention. You just do the best job you can at that particular point in time. And hopefully along the way, you entertain yourself as well as entertain some other people.

Masque
(Mercury Records - 1992)
Q: Is it true that the band was on the verge of breaking up just before recording Masque?

WAYNE: Yeah, well... It's a question that gets raised every now and then, particularly since Simon [Hinkler, guitarist] left. I mean, we were in the middle of that 1990 tour when he left. And suddenly, it went from something that felt solid and invincible to something questionable and vulnerable. You constantly have to reappraise what you're doing anyway, kind of validate it for yourself. I think it's part of the creative process to question what you're doing, to question its value.

Q: Has the new record convinced you that it's worthwhile to keep the band together?

WAYNE: It's brought us closer together as people. Our friendships underwent a pretty traumatic time in 1990. It was the worst time ever. We didn't like each other very much, which was probably born out of the fact that we didn't like ourselves. So, I think it's brought us closer together as friends, which was basically what the band was founded on. I've been in bands before where friendship was never an issue. It was very much, "This is just what we do together," and that was it. It was great to be in the Mission, to be four lads in it together, and be best friends. Obviously, when Simon left, it really shook it all up.

The Mission at the time of this interview.
L-R: Mick Brown, Wayne Hussey & Craig Adams
Q: Are you still friends with Simon?

WAYNE: Yeah... I mean, YEAH! I would never want Simon to come back into the group. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't want to come back. There was a period when I felt betrayed by him, pretty let down. And I'm sure he felt the same way about us. But time's a good healer. He played a couple of shows with us last year, and he came to my wedding. Ironically enough, he's now a journalist [with Rock World magazine].

Q: Has he interviewed you yet?

WAYNE: No! There was a request put in by the paper to interview us, but he knows too much dirt. Haha! He reviewed the LP — he gave it eight out of ten. There were a few little digs at me, reading between the lines, but I guess that's to be expected.

Wayne Hussey
Q: I got the impression from some of the lyrics on Masque that you used the songs to, for lack of a better phrase, purge some personal demons from your head. Some of the lyrics seem really close to home.

WAYNE: It was the kind of discipline I imposed on myself with this record. In the past, I tended to deviate a little from the subject matter; get a little prosaic, you might say. I prefer to call it poetic license. But with this record, I really wanted to try to speak in a language that I speak in every day.

Q: Instead of being consciously 'gothic.'

WAYNE: Well, I never thought of it as being gothic. I think of it as being poetry, but I was kind of into the use of words for their sound more than their meaning. But that was the only discipline I imposed. Musically, it was: let's throw enough things in the pot and see what we get!

Q: I do think that some of your lyrics, for instance, "Never Again," would make wonderful poems on their own.

WAYNE: It's weird, I really envy people who write nonsensical two-line songs, but I need to qualify it to myself. And my way of qualifying it is that it reads well, as well as sounds good.

Q: Do you read much poetry?

Wayne on the cover of No. 1 magazine
November 1, 1986
WAYNE: I have done in the past. Now I read more novels and biographies. But when I was younger, I did read a lot of poetry.

Q: Do you have a favorite poet?

WAYNE: Yeah... It's a pretty common one, but it's Baudelaire.

Q: Do you have a favorite English folktale?

WAYNE: No, but I have a favorite Iowa folktale! My wife's father is originally from the Midwest, Iowa, and he's got loads of stories. My favorite one is about this guy they used to call "Dancing John." He just couldn't sit still. So, when he died, there was a massive turnout in the local community. People came just to see him lying still in his coffin. It was the first time anybody had seen him stay still! There's going to be a song on the next LP called "The Ballad of Dancing John," I think.
   I also like a lot of Steinbeck's writing. Have you ever read Travels with Charley? It's a wonderful book. It's one of the last ones he wrote, if not the last. He bought a mobile home and traveled around America with his dog. Basically, that's what the book is about — discovering America, all these folktales from wherever he went. It's really, really good!

Q: Would you like to do something like that yourself? Travel around America?

WAYNE: Yeah, I'd love to! I'd really like to have the time and the means to do it. There are so many spectacular parts of the country, particularly the Pacific Coast Highway, Monterey, Yosemite. Then you go out to Vegas — it's just very bizarre! You've got all these different things...

Poster for the band's 25th-anniversary celebration
at the Brixton Academy in London.
Q: Pop culture!

WAYNE: It is! Particularly LA. There's so much 20th-century history, and it all fascinates me. It's what I grew up with. I really can see Kelly and I living out there in a few years time.

Q: What about the rest of the band?

WAYNE: I don't know... I really don't see the band going on forever and ever. I'm sure Craig and Mick don't either. It's something we're doing right now that we're enjoying.

Q: Is there some other work you see yourself doing in the future, like maybe writing a book?

WAYNE: Yeah, that's kind of a major ambition of mine. Whenever I read a great book, it's like, "God, I would love to..." To have a finished manuscript would be like, WOW! Not even to have it published or anything. I just think it would be a great sense of achievement. But I haven't got the self-discipline to do that. I also like the lifestyle and discipline of writers. I like the idea that they get up at six 'clock in the morning and write till mid-day, so many words, and then the rest of the day they get drunk.

Q: I don't think they all do that.

WAYNE: I know they don't, but Charles Bukowski does. I'm not sure he's disciplined in his writing at all, actually. I know that's the way Steinbeck used to write.

The Mission circa 1986
Poster from Smash Hits magazine
Q: Are you disciplined as a songwriter?

WAYNE: No. I'll plunk around on the piano or a guitar. I have a studio now in the garden of my house, so I go there and mess about. If something captures my imagination, I'll pursue it. But it's very strange. I'm always coming up with new ideas, 99% of which I discard or forget. But no, I tend to write in phases, really. I haven't written a song now since we finished the album. But I'll start doing some stuff, and five or six good songs will come at once. That's the way I work.

Q: I just want to say that I'm really happy you chose "Like a Child Again" as a single from the new album. It's such a great pop song!

Wayne shares the cover of Sounds with
Miles Hunt of the Wonder Stuff - March 1990
WAYNE: It is a great pop song! I'm proud of that one. It was actually the last song I wrote for the record.

Q: There are actually quite a few great pop tunes on Masque.

WAYNE: Well, you know, I've always felt that we were more a pop group than we were a rock group. I don't think we fully realized the songs in the past. I don't think we saw ourselves too clearly.

Q: Was there pressure from within the band to change your musical direction a bit with this album?

WAYNE: As far as Craig, Mick and myself, we kind of realized even before Simon had left that we had to go somewhere else with it. But we weren't sure what to do or where to take it. Obviously, when Simon left, it forced our hand a little bit, but it actually kind of liberated us in a lot of ways. I was writing tunes, and not having to accommodate another guitar player. I'd forgotten that I could play guitar! I'd let Simon do it all. But with this record, it was like, "Okay, I'll play guitar here." On the other hand, if I didn't want any guitar in a song, then there wasn't any guitar.

Q: Replacing Simon was never a question then?

WAYNE: No! The Mission is the three of us now, although we used additional musicians on the record, and we'll use additional musicians when we play live as well.

Q: You used King Hussein's personal violin player on "Sticks and Stones." How did that come about?

"Like a Child Again"
CD single (Mercury Records - 1992)
WAYNE: I asked Jaz [Coleman, of Killing Joke], who's a friend of ours, to score the track. He said, "Yeah, but ah... I'm going to bring somebody along to play violin." Abdel [Aboud Ali] works for a living in a restaurant in Shepard's Bush. He's one of those annoying violin players that comes up and plays while you're eating! But whenever there's a royal occasion or a state wedding in Jordan, he gets the V.I.P. treatment. Quite neat!

Q: And Anthony Thistlethwaite [formerly of the Waterboys] co-wrote some of the songs.

WAYNE: Only two tunes ended up on the record ["She Conjures Me Wings" and "Even You May Shine"], but there were a few other tunes that I wrote with Anthony. He's such a lovely person. He's such a great person to play with because there's absolutely no ego involved on his part. He just purely loves music and plays for the fun of it!

Q: The song "Even You May Shine," is that about Charles Manson?

WAYNE: What makes you say that?

Q: You reference "Helter Skelter," little piggies, the family, and the names Sadie and Gypsy.

Wayne Hussey
(photo from the NME)
WAYNE: Yeah, I read the book around the time we were touring California. It's bewildering to me that people would do anything for this person. But it's quite an easy concept to grasp. Being in a band, there are times when you're put into a position of power, and it's easy to see how that can be abused. That's basically what the song is about — people need to find their place; they need to feel like they're part of something.

Q: "From One Jesus to Another," is that an answer to John Lennon's "Gimmie Some Truth"?

WAYNE: No, it's more like an answer to a song called "Lovely," which was on Carved in Sand [the band's previous album]. Actually, "From One Jesus..." was the first song that I wrote for this record. It's kind of, uhmm... It's the realization that you need to love yourself, and you really only need yourself. Once you have that, everything falls into line. But the bottom line is, firstly, you need to love yourself.

Q: It sounds like you've come to this realization fairly recently.

WAYNE: Towards the end of 1990, I was a mess. My personal life was a mess; the band was a mess. I was drinking far too much and taking far too many drugs. During the last world tour, I was supposed to go out and play to two thousand people a night and be a certain type of persona. And it ended up that I'd play that persona just to please them. I was really very unhappy, and I was taking it out on all the people around me, and I didn't know why. I'm the kind of person who doesn't confront things very easily. I tend to ball it up and try to put it on one side. It's interesting what you said before, with this record trying to lay some ghosts to rest because that's definitely how it worked for me. And it's probably the best way for me to exorcise those ghosts, through writing songs. The whole time I was making the record was very much a healing time. Obviously, Kelly, who became my wife while we were making the record, was very instrumental in that as well. She helped me regain my self-confidence. It's a gradual process, but with this record, I was very much getting it out of my system.

Advert for Wayne's 2015 tour in support of his
solo LP Songs of Candlelight and Razorblades.
Q: Are you content with the Mission's status in the music world?

WAYNE: I'm fairly happy with where we are right now. There was a time when we really saw ourselves being bigger than U2, or whoever, and when Simon left, it dawned on us that maybe that wasn't going to happen. I would like to sell more records, but in terms of my personal life, being able to do the things I want to do, go where I want to go without being bothered — it's great!

Q: Yeah, Bono probably can't go to the grocery store without being mobbed.

WAYNE: But the guys from Pink Floyd can. I much prefer that kind of fame.

Q: Will you be touring America in support of Masque?

WAYNE: I think we'll probably come over. It won't be a tour in the normal sense of the word. It won't be a concert tour, or anything. I don't know what it'll be yet.

Q: It'll be a surprise!

WAYNE: Well, you know, the record surprised a few people. Hopefully we'll surprise them live too!

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