The guitarist talks about his most recent solo album, his side project Poltergeist and his ongoing career as a successful artist. Meanwhile, a certain famous band from Liverpool has just announced a new album…
BY ROBERT FULTON
When Echo & and the Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant set about recording his sixth solo album, he had no grand plan. In fact, not having a plan was the plan.
“The idea was I’ll go into a studio with no ideas,” Sergeant explains, speaking from Liverpool. “I’ll just start playing and then we’ll see what happens, and that’s what happened.”
What happened was 2012’s Things Inside, a mostly acoustic collection of nine atmospheric instrumentals featuring elements of folk, psychedelia and jazz. William Alfred “Will” Sergeant, 54, says he started the project by noodling around on a borrowed guitar in a small studio. “Next thing you know you’ve got this kind of atmospheric sort of ambient folk psychedelia, whatever, I don’t know what is. It’s kind of weird.” (Sergeant adds he’d like to take the same approach—holed up in a studio, fiddling around, no plan—sometime with an electric guitar.)
The album’s title alluded to the songs materializing out of thin air, says Sergeant. “It’s to do with stuff that goes on in your head that you don’t quite understand why. Plus, like, sort of related to the fact that these sounds and these combinations of notes were inside, but they came out onto the record. It just sort of appeared. You didn’t know they were there.”
Sergeant’s approach to Things Inside is not unlike his approach to painting. (Pictured above: “Dream On” and “Vanity of Plumage”.) He’s seriously painted for the last five years, initially as a creative outlet away from his Echo & the Bunnymen work. (“I was trying to find something else to keep me from going crazy.”) Preferring acrylic on canvas, he says he often just starts painting. If he likes what he sees, he’ll continue. If not, he starts over. The first U.S. exhibition of his work at Los Angeles’ Substrate Gallery (709 N Ridgewood Place) closed in July of 2012 after a successful seven week run.
Lately, Sergeant has dived into screen printing, making hundreds of pieces in the print room at Liverpool School of Art & Design, Liverpool John Moores University. “I sort of took over the place for a while,” Sergeant notes. “It was like an elastic band stretched back and then released. I did loads and loads of stuff really quickly.”
And yes, Sergeant sees a clear relationship between his art and music. “The way I sort of do music is almost like a visual thing anyway. It’s kind of painting with sound. It’s the same sort of mindset. Noodling on the guitar is like messing around with a paintbrush.” (Below: 21st Century Fallen”.)
Original Bunnymen bassist Les Pattinson contributes to a couple of tracks on Things Inside, and Sergeant, Pattinson and current Bunnymen drummer Nick Kilroe have formed an all-instrumental band called Poltergeist, which Sergeant likens to something akin to Mogwai and “Echoes”-era Pink Floyd.
Meanwhile, Bunnymen fans have just learned that there’s a new album incoming from Sergeant and his longtime musical foil Ian McCulloch. Titled Meteorites and released by 429 Records, it’s slated for an April 28 release in the UK and June 3 in the US, with respective tours being mounted in proximity with the dates. Described by McCulloch in a press release as “an intimate song cycle” it’s the followup to 2009’s The Fountain and the band hasn’t toured in two years aside from a pair of shows in late 2012. (In 2013 McCulloch released his own solo album, Holy Ghosts, exclusively in England.) Currently the band comprises Sergeant, McCulloch, Kilroe, keyboardist Jez Wing, guitarist Gordy Goudie and bassist Stephen Brannan.
“That,” says Sergeant, “is about it for now.”
For more information, visit www.WillSergeant.com