Incendiary interview Les Pattinson, part 2

Steve Lillywhite who did all of U2s early stuff… He came into the studio and went “Ah right, how about putting your guitar through that amp there Will?”, and Will just looked at him and said “Who the fuck are you?” it was brilliant.

Steve Lillywhite who did all of U2s early stuff… He came into the studio and went “Ah right, how about putting your guitar through that amp there Will?”, and Will just looked at him and said “Who the fuck are you?” it was brilliant.



The Les Pattinson interview continues; in the course of which we ask some searching questions




IN: Would you ever consider re-joining the Bunnymen?




LP: No! no… the whole reason why I wanted to be a musician, and to be in a band – my whole concept – was that there were too many old people doing it. Will used to play Doors records to me and show me pictures of Jim Morrison, all fat and with a beard, and I used to think "Never mind the music, look at the image!" I’m not saying I’m a perfectionist and everything must be right, but the whole punk thing was happening and the younger you were and the more you could come out with throw-away music, the more I loved it, y’know?




I don’t know… its really weird y’know, but because of the circumstances in which I left, and I had to leave, Mac was being totally ruthless in a horrible way, instead of us writing music together, he was just trying to get his name on everything, and hustle people out of the music side of things. When he’s your mate, you love the guy, I’ve had such good laughs with him, y’know, stomach-wrenching moments of laughter, all the way to the other side of the coin, beating the guy up, do you know what I mean? He’s like a brother, but it was just no sense what we were going through. He just wanted to re-write the history books, and put his name on everything. And I found out – due to certain circumstances – it was such a horrible way in which he’d done it.



On the last album (What Are You Going to do With Your Life?), I had custody of my kids, and was going through the divorce when I got asked to do the band thing. It was dodgy you see so… I felt torn ‘cos I had got my kids and I’d worked at that, and to all of a sudden to just go away and leave me kids… it was hard. My mum had MS and my dad had died in ’94, so my mum was in a wheelchair, and when we got asked to go to a studio to record, I said "Hadn’t we better come up with some songs first?" y’know, and I got told "No, we always do our best stuff in the studio on the spot". And I thought, "That’s wrong". And then Mac had had these songs from years ago, y’know the Johnny Marr experience, and they were all pulled out of the hat. Then I got a phone call the very first day of recording saying that my mum had had a stroke, which turned out to be cancer, so I just went. A couple of days later the doctor said she only had 6 months to live, so I wanted to spend the last days with my mum. So with that, and finding out that these songs already existed, I wouldn’t have had any chance of getting any money from it. Before, the songs used to come from different places, maybe the drums or a guitar or bass line, then we used to whip it into a typical Bunnymen sounding song, put the lyrics on and see how it was, and change it if it needed then. But we’d never written it all around one songwriter before. And it was without consent, if you know what I mean, so that’s what really threw me.


IN: Was there a better feeling around Evergreen?


LP: Yeah, that was amazing, that was really good. I was really apprehensive beforehand but… what happened was Will and I still kept in touch, and we still owned a warehouse together, and they were doing Electrafixion, and anyway, it was my turn to collect the rent. So I went round to Will’s and gave him his share of the rent, and he was acting very cagey, and I was like "What’s up?" y’know, and he was like "Nothing, nothing", and I was just walking away and I’d forgotten to give him the money, so I walked back up to the door again, and just as I was about to knock on it, he opened the door and said "I’ll tell you what it is Les, would you fancy joining the Bunnymen again?". I was really unsure, but he said just come down and see what it’s like, y’know. So we went down to Mac’s house, this is after a lot of phone calls from other people saying Mac’s really burned out, he’s had enough of the record business and it’s not like the old days, he’ll really listen to what other people have got to say, y’know? I didn’t know what was happening ‘cos I hadn’t spoken to Mac for about 3 years, so we went down to his basement, and we started writing stuff together. I think Will and Mac had one or two ideas and I thought hang on what’s going on here, this song sounds like it’s already there, it’s not worth me playing on it, and it was like "Oh, it’s like the old days, your gonna get thirds, don’t worry about it. Everything’s thirds, it’s got to be otherwise it won’t work". So, right from the start it was like that, and we wrote lots of stuff together and it was just like the old days where we were absolutely buzzing off one another.



IN: I’ll Fly Tonight is a particular favourite of mine on that album. It’s classic Bunnymen…


LP: Yeah… we all chipped in arrangement wise, and that’s the magic of it, y’know? That was just like the best things about the old Bunnymen stuff, someone might just have one line and everyone would take up on it, but not spoil it and try and overpower it, but use that line.


IN: And of course, Nothing Lasts Forever must be the greatest comeback single of all time…


LP: Yeah, I heard that today. I had a radio on inside the boat, but I was working outside on top of the boat about 50 feet away with a load of other guys, and I said "Hold on! They’re playing our song!", and they were like, "What song? What are you on about?" So I legged in and turned it up and it just sounded fantastic. There was a lot of rethinking on stuff like that initially. It was originally going to be called Never, Never, Never …and then Mac sang "Nothing Lasts Forever" on the chorus, and I was like "That’s it! That’s our song!" and he was like "Yeah, you’re right!" It was just brilliant, just one of them moments.


IN: Could you see yourself getting back into playing in the future?


LP: I must admit, I wouldn’t mind starting playing the Bass again, from a session musician side of things, y’know. I love the recording side of it. But, as for live work, I think it’s a young man’s game… I think as a band we were about youth, and all the Bunnymen fans have grown up. But, of course, we’re still collecting awards for Coldplay!



IN: I’m not sure Chris Martin really gets what it’s all about…


LP: I must admit I saw them in Manchester, and I thought it was good but, to me you just don’t go in dancing full pelt first song. Like he’s forcing himself to get into it. I know its quirky and quite ‘David Byrne’ in a way, but there was something missing definitely.

Their records certainly have the same effect on dance floors that Bunnymen records have… I’ve just been on holiday and all the bloke in the disco played was bloody Billie-Jean. I borrowed this Canadian’s I-Pod which had a bit of 50 Cent on it, not that I’m a big fan but its better than Billie-Jean, and my wife had bought a Coldplay album, and I kept on playing Talk on my headphones and I was really getting into it, and I thought "I’m going to play this at the disco tonight". So I put it on, thinking all these Canadians are going to love it, and it just emptied the dance floor! I was smiling, and everyone was going "What are you smiling at?" It just reminded me of the Bunnymen records. Everyone was so into them, but as soon as you put them on the dance floor, it would just clear!


IN: Was that why Never Stop was written?


LP: Yeah! I tell you what, I think I’ve got in my garage the original of Never Stop, I might put it out actually, it was called I Wish I was a Garden. There was a band called The Ravishing Beauties, a very short-lived band, 3 girls in it, playing Violin, Cor Anglais, and Keyboards or something like that, and they were quite weird. The girl who played Cor Anglais was going out with Dave Balfe, and she played on it and it is absolutely beautiful. It turned into Never Stop from this beautiful ecliptic sort of Cor Anglais type of song, recorded in Mickey Most’s studio in London. That was another thing… was it Steve Lillywhite who did all of U2s early stuff? (it was – ed). He came into the studio and went "Ah right, how about putting your guitar through that amp there Will?", and Will just looked at him and said "Who the fuck are you?" it was brilliant. And he was so upset, he just said "I don’t think this is going to work", and legged off, it was brilliant. We didn’t want him anyway!


IN: Did Will know who he was?


LP: I don’t think he did. I don’t think any of us did! He was just being dead bossy, the thing is we didn’t know how to record it but we knew what sounds we wanted, y’know, and Will had his sound all rigged and this guy starts fiddling with his amp, and like, you might as well put his amp down his undies, d’you know what I mean?


IN: Finally, and most crucially, when was the last time you fully transformed into a dog?


LP: Actually, it was February the 8th this year. I bit someone on the knee, on holiday in Cuba. It was at night, and it was some Canadian we met. He had a fondness for stray dogs, so I hid round the corner, and bit him on the knee. I hardly knew the guy, but we became good friends after that!



Les finds himself out in the cold after the biting incident


Words: Simon Allum

Pictures courtesy of (amongst others) Les Pattinson, Phill Nicholls and Will Sergeant)

For the first part of the interview, please go back here.. remember it’s all bacon butties from now on