At Echo & The Bunnymen's zenith during the mid-1980s, the Liverpool band was one of new-wave England's best and biggest exports. Following the group's acrimonious dissolution in 1988, leader Ian McCulloch released a couple of solo albums that failed to scale the Bunnymen's heights, while guitarist Will Sergeant continued Echo & The Bunnymen with a new lead singer, a decision that pleased no one. Meanwhile, the death of drummer Pete De Freitas in a 1989 motorcycle accident seemed to put an end to the band forever. However, last year McCulloch and Sergeant made amends and teamed up again with a new project called Electrafixion and an album titled Burned. The old ingredients were there, but something still wasn't right, and the project, now seen as a test of the duo's compatibility, essentially went nowhere. Now rejoined by original bassist Les Pattinson, Echo & The Bunnymen is back with the original lineup it sported in 1978, when the quartet was rounded out by a drum machine named Echo. The band's recent Evergreen (its first in nine years) marks a welcome restoration of the romanticism and immediate joy of its early work. McCulloch recently spoke to The Onion about the return of one of the most enigmatic and influential acts of the '80s.
The Onion: What happened to your solo career? After the second album (1992's Mysterio), it seemed to just fade away.
Ian McCulloch: It just didn't seem worth it, you know? At that point I knew I was looking for something else. Some songs on the solo albums were good, and there were some really good lyrics, but there was also a lot of confusion. I didn't really know what I was looking foruntil I met up with Will and heard him play guitar again. I never liked putting out records as Ian McCulloch. Still, I'm not done. I'll have a comeback in the year 2000. I'll come back as the Sinatra of the 21st century. I want to get people to write songs for me, though, people like Nick Cave. But that's a ways off.
O: What exactly led to you and Will Sergeant getting back on civil terms again?
IM: A mutual friend suggested we start speaking again, because it was so petty. We met and had a pint, and that was that. Because we hadn't spoken for five years, there was a new kind of tension between us, and that led us to make the Electrafixion record, which was a really raw, rockin' album. But now it makes sense to call it Echo & The Bunnymen, because that's who we are. We chose the name Electrafixion because of a dream Will had about me being crucified on some barbed-wire electric fence... an electric crucifixion. And I've always hated names like "Huey Lewis & The News." But now we're coming back, and we're gonna rock the pants off people. They'll love it. It's a new start, and we're reclaiming what's ours. I want all our riffs back, because people have taken Will's guitar riffs and abused them. Not to mention my singing style.
O: I'd imagine you're not fond of the Echo album that Will Sergeant made with singer Noel Burke after you left (1990's Reverberation)?
IM: Definitely. It was crap. It was so mediocre it saddened me. It wasn't Echo & The Bunnymen, because Echo & The Bunnymen was over when I left. It was over whether I left or not on April 22, 1988. That was it. It was something I loved, but it was dead. Now that we're back together, we've found there are more tales to tell. We get on better now than we ever did, I think.
O: What should your hardcore fans expect from this reunion in the long run?
IM: The best, because that's what we gave 'em with the Bunnymen the first time around. I think they should expect star quality. Charisma. Fantastic, rockin' songs. We're uninhibited again, and we don't manufacture mystique or overdo the sense of drama like some bands. We just do it naturally. That's what we've got that sets us apart from the crowd.
O: I remember your last American showsyou were stuck touring with Gene Loves Jezebel. And it was no contest.
IM: Yeah, I hated those shites! I wanted them thrown off the tour, the dumb bastards. And they were ugly as well! If you're gonna throw the makeup on, you need to have the plastic surgery done first.