Q & A with Richard Vernon - End of November 2003
By Petra Sümnicht & questions from fans - thanks!
First of all, how are you Richie? You were quite sick in Spain, how`s life at the moment?
Actually iv been sick more or less since i got back, it was a real struggle to do the last week of shows and im been paying for it since getting back. Just finished penicillin yesterday and starting to feel ok though. Thanks for asking!!
Especially the first leg of the tour in Germany seemed to be very exhausting. A slow van, long trips to the several cities, seven gigs in a row. So are you ready for a holiday now?
It was exhausting and yes im enjoying a break. Im going home to see my family in Wales for a nice long christmas break soon. Cant wait!
In our last interview you told me that you could tour forever, do you still think the same?
Ha, ha, yes i still love touring, its always an emotional roller coaster, i think bands get used to it. Everyone can be sulking or shouting at each other one minute, laughing the next or not speaking at all, then do one great gig and its a huge emotional high that wipes any problems out. Life never gets boring and whats wrong with that? Glad to get rid of the first bus though!!!!
Unfortunately you had some sound problems in the beginning of the tour, but I think it went better and better and you did some great shows, so how would you sum the tour up?
Yes the first week was difficult, i wouldnt want to do that again. Sum the tour up? Hmmm. At the time it felt like a real struggle and it was a combination of little things that made it really hard. We were under so much pressure having to play after so little rehearsal with Steve that it caused a lot of friction and that tension rubbed off on everyone around us i think. It created such a negative atmosphere and i have to say i got really sick of the moaning. Matters came to a head one night and after some shouting and "frank"(!!!!!!) discussions things got a lot better, there were things each one of us were annoyed by that maybe just needed talking through. I think we relaxed after the first few shows and i enjoyed it more and more although every single one of us was really ill at some point. I felt so ill during spain it wasnt true and Wayne was so ill during the second week that i was surprised he could even do the London show. It was tough. All in all i felt that we tried really hard to turn things round and i thought it sounded great by the end, Bochum onwards i thought it sounded better and better. Certainly towards the second half of the tour i thought it felt really cool and effortless but in a really good way.
Any special highlights or funny stories?
Special highlights were probably Bochum, London and Barcelona. Bochum was such an amazing atmosphere and it was so much fun to do that acoustic set there. It felt like such a risk but im glad we did it and what a crowd!! Unbelievable. London was great, we played really well and the crowd were amazing, it was great seeing people from all over the place there. I couldnt believe how far some people had travelled and we were so grateful. It makes you feel really humble that people will make such an effort. That night felt like it was about the people who mattered, not business people or people outside just the fans and the band, for them and us the music is the important thing and it felt like the show was 50% us 50% audience and you cant beat that feeling, the feeling that there arent 4 people in the band there are 1800...and 4! Barcelona was a great way to end the tour, shame i was too ill to stay at the party though! Its hard to pick highlights actually as i can look back at lots of nights and think that was great, when we were having problems the German crowds early on were really patient and if they hadnt been it would have been so difficult to change things round. Playing at Patronaat was good too and playing in front of Robs personal fan club in Switzerland kept the rest of us on our toes! Funny stories? Hmmm, i have to be careful here.....no, i think they have to stay private!
Did you recognize that a lot of people were really impressed by your playing?
Really? Thats nice!! I thought they just liked my new trousers!! yeah right! ha, ha Actually i was surprised by the cheer in Barcelona and could see people watching me more through the tour, i knew i was playing well and yes people did say things to me after shows that were really nice. Still think it could have been the trousers though.......good arent they? nice stripes :-) Got them in Hamburg!!!
This time you did some backing vocals on "trophy" and "daddy`s" for example. While playing the Mission songs, do you "sing along" Wayne's lyrics in your head, or do you only hear the music?
Yes i do hear the lyrics in my head or out of the p.a and react to them. I try and play to suit them rather than just play the same part every night, i listen to Robs guitar too and with the drums changing it gives me lots of cues to react to. Dont talk to me about backing vocals , i was losing my voice all through the tour and have never managed to sing out of tune so much, i just wanted Rob to sing more!! I normally enjoy singing "trophy" though, the lyrics remind me of an identical time in my life and it makes me so angry remembering those emotions. There are people i could sing it to all day.....
Not sure if you remember, but in Koblenz Wayne did a brilliant version of "wake" and after a few minutes you & Rob got into it and you tried to improvise. It was one of the best versions I`ve ever heard, was it planned to join Wayne?
No it wasnt planned, i think it was just after we had sorted our problems out and it just felt nice to join in. Wayne wasnt expecting it and it wasnt rehearsed, me and Rob just took a chance and came in when it felt right. I thought it sounded good too and Wayne looked really shocked didnt he? Made me laugh, he virtually jumped, thank god me and Rob played the right notes! Indeed, Wayne looked quite surprised...
Did you like the acoustic sessions in Bochum and London? Is it more difficult than the electric sets?
I loved playing the acoustic sets and honestly i would have been asking to do it more but i just felt too ill. I dont know about Wayne and Rob but for me its much more difficult than the electric set. I have to play much more delicately at times and much more rhythmnically at others. Also because there are no drums the bass is totally exposed so it has to be right and there is nowhere to hide!! Its something i loved doing though and i really hope we do it again with different songs. I think it would be good to do a different six songs every night by just taking songs out of the set and doing them acoustically next night. Its great hearing how they change when you play them like that. I think we could make more of them by doing them with percussion and maybe some with Wayne playing piano. Also i think it would sound good starting some of the songs in the set with acoustic feel and then going into the loud version
Was there a chance for you, Rob or Steve to talk Wayne into special songs?
The set sort of picks itself, i think Rob wanted "sacrilege" and "grip of disease", i wanted "crystal ocean" and "serpents kiss" but we sort of agree because its obvious which songs are sounding best. There were lots more that we wanted to do but it was impossible for Steve to learn any more without his head exploding!
Which song did you enjoy most?
I had about 10 favourites, so really i enjoyed the whole set. I think its the first time where i didnt think there were any weak points in the set. I thought "wasteland" sounded great this time too!!
What about stage fright? In London you looked very nervous before the gig.
I was very nervous before the London gig, so many friends there and people who know me doesnt help the nerves. My little boy was there too and i didnt want him thinking his dad was a lemon! I never used to get nervous at all before gigs but Rob and Wayne do and i think they have infected me, i get very nervous now, im ok once we start playing but very shaky before. I actually think sometimes it makes it sound better, "crystal ocean" sounded very edgy at times but i like that feel.
What did you do in the van / bus while driving through the countries? Talking about football with Wayne? Playing Playstation with Rob, watching films or what else?
God, i spent most of the time ill in bed. Inbetween illness i watched a lot of really bad films, some good ones, finding "Nemo" was great! Yeah, some football conversations, its a bad football time for me since Wales lost to Russia and im not optimistic about Arsenal in Europe either so im talking about football less now. In fact im starting to hate it. Didnt play play station at all. Play with Rob? Christ no, Rob would probably only play games called "total annihilation death boxing" or something and he would insist on playing Slipknot and Ministry at the same time through 2 different stereos full volume while doing it....although i did see him once spend a day playing a golf game listening to Astrid Gilberto playing gently in the background........Not!!!!!!!!
Can you name five essential things to take along on a tour? - And your bass doesn`t count! ;-)
Mobile phone, mini disc player, medicine bag, camera (which i never even take out of the bag but always mean to!) credit card
Is there a reason why you worn the Mish "wings" shirt since the gig in Bochum? Looked like you bought them all, because it was sold out all the time ;-)
Just thought it looked nice with my new trousers.
Any remembrance of your support bands?
I thought the support band in London looked amazingly nervous, and i remember the guitarist sat on a ponsy stool....
Is this still up to date "If The Mission is there I love being in it"?
Ha,ha, i think i know what you are getting at!! Me? Nothing! Not my question, ha, ha.
Difficult times make the good times feel even better so, yes, i still love being in it! Thank god :-)
Do you feel connected or related to the Mission fans and the past of the band in any way?
Thats a hard question, i feel a connection with the fans because the fans are only there for the music, especially Mission fans who are so enthusiastic. I have no patience at all with all the business stuff and the parasites that are everywhere in the music business. I loathe the music business, im only interested in music and i do feel that connection with the fans. A connection with the past of the band? Not really a connection as such. I have a respect for how the band did things, i like the playing and i liked the vibe of the band, i think understanding their irreverence helped me get into the songs more. I know so many musicians who have that attitude that everything has to be perfect technically and because of that they have never achieved anything and are still in bedrooms or poxy little studio flats working on more bloody songs that no one ever hears. The Mission always seemed to understand that the best idea is to enjoy yourself, perfection doesnt matter and i think their reputation as a live band was as a bloody good rock`n`roll band. You cant learn how to be that, its an attitude and i think all the best bands have that attitude. I could spend 2 hours on stage with some band showing off all my flash funk licks but who cares? Im happier playing straight A for 5 mins on "belief" or blasting through the chorus on "sacrilege". Great bass line, great attitude.
Is there a song that should be covered by the Mission?
"roll away the stone" - Mott The Hoople
"heroes" - David Bowie
"far away" - Slade (in the acoustic set)
Is there one particular Mission song you would like to play live in the future?
"a wing and a prayer" or "shades of green"
Any news about your song ideas for the next Mission album?
Spent ages in the summer trying to get them out of a studio my mate ran but dissapeared from. Finally gave up and am going into Steve the drummers studio next week to get them finished.
Do you write complete songs with or without lyrics for yourself or for other people?
Yes i do, i tend not to write lyrics because i dont really like people knowing what im thinking.
What's a typical day of Richard Vernon when he is not on tour?
I dont have a typical day. Yesterday i got up at 7 to get my son ready for school, drove him in then went down to brighton to do some recording. Finished about 7 then drove back to london. Home at 9, read bedtime story (noddy) to Gwynfor (my son) then had dinner and watched "taxi driver" with my girlfriend, admired Robert De Niros gun invention then went to bed. Today Gwynfor has gone to stay with school friends for the weekend so i went back to bed, got up at midday (lovely!) had a huge breakfast and went into central London to do christmas shopping. Had dinner in a lovely sushi bar then went for a walk along the thames. It looks lovely with all the christmas lights up! Steve invited us to a party at a studio nearby so went there for a few hours then went home about midnight. Fell asleep on the sofa listening to Ry Cooder. Noriko drank too much wine and fell asleep so i thought i would answer these questions!!
If you had the chance to change anything in your life, what would that be?
Not much. I want to buy a place back in Wales in a couple of years and build my own studio, id like to live close to my family again and id like to see my son grow up in the country. So perhaps if i could change anything i would bring that forward to now. So really just where i live, i have the most wonderful people in my life and love what i do. I feel very lucky. Oh, can i change things so that Wales beat Russia and we qualify for the European championships please?
Is there something else you would like to say?
Yes, thanks to the fans for being so patient with us on the first few shows, they could have made it so hard but really stuck with us. It gave us the chance to get it right and i hope that the way we sounded for the rest of the shows made up for it. Once it sounded great thanks for appreciating it. Hope you all have a great christmas!
And thanks to you for doing such a great job and of course many thanks for the interview!
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