Will Sergeant

Echo & The Bunnymen guitarist and Glide experimentalist Will Sergeant muses over his formative and foremost influences

illustration: joel benjamin

BBC TWO

“There were only three channels on the television when I was growing up – two when I was really small. BBC Two arrived in 1964, when I was six years old. To watch BBC Two you needed a special aerial on your roof. The neighbours would be like, ‘Oh, they’ve got BBC Two over there now’, or ‘I see Mary up the road has got BBC Two ’. It was a snobby thing for a council estate. All the TVs in our houses were rented from places like Radio Rentals. If they broke, someone from the shop would have to come out and fix it. They were always breaking or needing a new valve or something like that.

“I was drawn to the weird films they showed on BBC Two – slightly out-there hippie films like ‘Easy Rider’, Hammer horror movies, ‘The Last Picture Show’, ‘Silent Running’ and ‘Dark Star’. I can remember watching ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ the night it was broadcast in colour on BBC Two in 1968. I was 10 years old, and that film felt like such a big deal. A friend had the double vinyl EP of the film soundtrack and that was the first thing that made me think music could be different from the stuff in the charts.”

MELLING IT OVER

“I don’t think of myself as a scouser. I grew up in Melling, a little village outside Liverpool, which is right on the border with this new town called Kirkby. We never used to risk going there because you’d get battered.

“There were a couple of little walk-throughs from Melling that came out into alleyways in Kirkby, but other than that, you’d have to drive for miles to get to it because there was no road from Melling straight there. There was a metal fence all the way around Kirkby. It was like the Berlin Wall. One of the entrances was at the top of our road – I called it Checkpoint Charlie.

“Liverpool wasn’t far away, and I never resisted it. I used to go there on the bus to go shopping. Walton was on the way to Liverpool, and we’d get on our bikes and go over there too. It was probably about five or six miles – a long way to cycle when you’re 11 or 12. There was a big shopping street down there with a bike shop that also sold records, which was weird. I remember buying ‘School’s Out’ by Alice Cooper from there in 1972.”

THE 1960s

“My brother and sister are older than me, and both of them moved to London. My sister sent me a purple tie-dye T-shirt – a grandad shirt with three buttons – and it felt like the ultimate hippie thing. It had an iron-on patch of Speedy Gonzalez. It was kind of kitsch and ironic to have cartoon characters on your clothes –subversive, somehow. Another time, my brother came and visited me, and he had this T-shirt with a really, really wide scoop neck which was printed with the logo of the newspaper International Times in rows.

“The International Times was one of the underground papers in London in the 1960s, and its logo was a dead famous silent movie star called Theda Bara. I’d never seen anything like it before. The 1960s just felt inventive, and that has stuck with me.

“It wasn’t all great, though. We did have Vietnam, and it was a time of rebellion. In the 1960s, stuff like the big teachers protest they had in London earlier this year happened a lot of the time. It was always hippies trying to end war and everything.”

TOM VERLAINE

“Television were a massive influence on me from the very beginning, but also later when I started playing guitar. If I played something that sounded a bit like Tom Verlaine, I’d be pleased, but I wasn’t going out of my way to try and do it. It was the way he played the notes – like he’d stay on the same note for too long sometimes. I like doing that. That was one of the little things that I nicked off Television in my own guitar-playing.

“To me, it always feels like bands from America can play better. They really study what they do. It’s so polished. Like Nirvana – their playing was superb. It’s almost like all guitarists in American bands have grown up learning how to play REO Speedwagon riffs. In Echo & The Bunnymen, we were like, ‘Oh that sounds like The Fall – that’ll do’.”

WEIRD ELECTRONICS

“I’ve used a lot of synthesisers, emulators and samplers in the past. I like making music that’s slightly scuzzy. One of my favourite bands is Boards Of Canada. I don’t know what effect they put on some of the sounds, but it feels like when you get an old cassette and it’s a bit knackered and everything sort of wobbles around. I like that, but it’s also slightly unnerving – not quite right.

“Many years ago, somebody made me a cassette of ‘An Electric Storm’ by White Noise, which was Delia Derbyshire, Brian Hodgson and David Vorhaus, because they knew I was into weird music. It was a cassette of a cassette of a cassette and it had a really muddy sound.

The LP wasn’t available anywhere, and CDs weren’t invented. I went to New York in the 90s and I bought a copy of the album after it had been re- released on CD. Everything was dead clear, but I preferred the shitty cassette – it added something to it. There’s this bit where someone knocks on the wall shouting, ‘Keep that music down!’. That was dead muffled, and I was like, ‘Has he been recording this with a mic and is that somebody next door banging on the wall?’, but it’s actually on the record. It’s a great record, that. It’s mad.”

Glide’s ‘Assemblage 3&4’ is out on AV8. Will Sergeant’s ‘“Toy Piano Mantra”’ – a split seven-inch with Paul Simpson – is also out on Feral Child

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