INTERVIEW: Will Sergeant

INTERVIEW: Will Sergeant

Poltergeist is Will Sergeant on guitar, Les Pattinson on bass and Nick Kilroe on drums. All three men are strongly linked by Echo & The Bunnymen; Sergeant and Pattinson are both original Bunnymen with Kilroe having played in the recent E&TB touring band. But Poltergeist is very much a band in its own individual right and in Your Mind is a Box (Let Us Fill It With Wonder) they have released one of the debut albums of this and any other year for that matter. The trio heads out this October on their biggest UK tour to date, a tour preceded by some shows in Holland. God Is In The TV caught up with Will Sergeant on the eve of this tour.

GIITTV:  I wonder if we could start by talking about the album;  if you only had three words with which to describe it what would they be?

WS:  Free your mind!

GIITTV: The reaction to the album has been universally positive. I felt on first hearing it (and still do) that come December it could easily be a contender for one of the albums of the year. Has this critical response to it in anyway surprised you?

WS: That is very kind of you to say so.  Without being big headed we knew it was good because of the gems that got rejected. It was a real labour of love and filled a gap that is no longer there with my input into the Bunnymen. We made an album that we could love and play live with just the three of us, we do have a few sounds on tape, mainly ambience and bits of reverse things hard to recreate in a live environment. It was something I personally had to do or go nuts.

GIITTV: Have you read any review of the album where the four words Echo & The Bunnymen has not been mentioned? More seriously, in the context of Poltergeist how do you feel about the almost permanent association of the project with the Bunnymen?

WS: No, I’ve not seen any reviews that did not say something about the Bunnymen. But to be fair this is not that surprising as we sent out a press release stating exactly who we were. Most have said something like who would have thought some members of the eighties new wavers the Bunnymen could have come up with something as good this. The Bunnymen connection is a double edged sword. It is useful to get people’s attention but we want to stand up as a band and as a new entity. Unfortunately we are stuck with it, so we use it to our advantage as much as possible. When Mac goes out live he plays a lot of Bunnymen ‘hits’ as we are an instrumental band our stance is set out already. We don’t have to do this, I like that. We have a clean slate to start with.

GIITTV: I thought that the overall feel of the album was quite cinematic at times, almost as if it was the soundtrack to some yet to be released film. Would this be fair comment?

WS: Spot on! We are all big movie fans and like to think the listener has their own internal movie playing as they listen. We don’t like to force our imagery on the listener too much and want them to create their own ride.

GIITTV: With the above question in mind what in your view are the best film scores of all time?

WS: A Clockwork Orange has to be up there with most of Stanley Kubrick‘s films having great soundtracks 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining to name but two. I also like Taxi Driver, Dune and Blade Runner, these are great soundtracks. Ennio Morricone can’t be ignored either, I like the dark foggy primitive synth wash of the soundtrack to Tarkovsky‘s great sci-fi film Stalker, it is perfectly disturbing.  Also loved (and bought) Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack for The Master.

GIITTV: Talking of favourites, I saw you had recently listed your top ten albums ever a while back in which, perhaps surprisingly to some, you had both Foxtrot and In The Land of Grey and Pink. Now this is coming from someone for whom the first three bands he ever saw (in Glasgow) were Yes, ELP and King Crimson, but do you think that for a lot of people the word “progressive” in music is still seen as being rather pejorative?

WS: What a trilogy! Well done, hold your head up high. I am a huge Prog Rock fan –  I love it’s bombastic ridiculous format. The more crushed velvet, platform clogs and spangled capes I see the more I like it.

Prog came to prominence at a time when I was just waking up to music in the very early 70’s, my brother had a mate who lived over the road who was into the bands like Cream and Taste. I liked these bands but as the scene developed the more progressive elements started to come through. The early Deep Purple album The Book of Taliesyn was kicking about (our little gang used to lend and borrow albums back then) and I liked that a lot. It felt like it was our time our music. These bands sold tons of records; they were still seen as the freaks or the underground scene.  In our school not many knew about progressive rock or any type of rock for that matter, most were into the normal chart music of the day which most of which wasn’t that great. I think Prog Rock from back then is still seen as a bit of a joke but it is changing. We no longer have some Punks telling us what to like and what not to like. I think a lot of the successful bands around today are verging on Prog, so music fans have come to seek out more than just a re-hash of Rock ‘n’ Roll every time. I’m thinking of the likes of Radiohead, Sigur Rós, Mogwai, The Decemberists etc. This is music for people that like to get away from their lives and escape for a while. On the way to work I would much prefer to have Meddle by Pink Floyd on my headphones than the Pistols. It all seems so silly now; you can’t like that because it’s too complicated or something. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Punk when it kicked in, but I also like music that has different styles and is from a different time.

GIITTV: I can hear early 70’s German bands in the album, but do you think any of the British progressive rock bands of that period were also an influence in its creation?

WS: I love a lot of the German bands and musicians from the late 60s and 70s onwards I have just bought Edgar Froese album Macula Transfer from 1976 at a festival the Bunnymen just played, Mint! I have now got my eyes out for his 1974 album Aqua.

At the time it really seemed like the proper out there heads that were into the German scene. It has grown in stature as time has gone on now, it’s seen as uber cool. Now people can really appreciate what they were doing. Not sure that many bands took notice of them at the time. I don’t see it as much of an influence in the bands from around that time that I was listening to, Zeppelin, Floyd, Yes, ELP, Genesis. I expect Fripp would have been aware of Kraut and Kevin Ayers along with John Cale and Eno. I was well into Roxy Music, the Eno years.

The Germans embraced American Rock ‘n’ Roll, and in Can’s case I think soul and funk, but then they twisted it into something new and totally teutonic.

I recall buying The Faust Tapes from one of the first Virgin Records stores on Bold Street in Liverpool. It must have been 1973 or so, The LP was only 99p and had a cool Bridget Riley style Op Art cover by Uwe Nettelbeck. I had a Tangerine Dream Album Phaedra around that time also and of course a bit later on about 1975 ish Radio Activity the early albums also Ralf and Florian by Kraftwerk. So there where some Kraut bands floating about my consciousness but I hadn’t heard of Can until Julian Cope played me Landed at Rockfield Studios in Wales in about 1980.

GIITTV: Did Poltergeist change in your original mind’s eye from being a power trio in the same vein as, say, Mountain, Cactus or even Taste to the point where it finally ended up?

WS: I always wanted it to be a Trio, to keep it small neat and manageable for gigs and travel etc. I just called it a power trio for something to wrap it round. Power trios in my mind, they are more blues rock influenced. Taste, Mountain also The Groundhogs like you have mentioned. I want to be able to get beyond the blues basics and get trippy but also delve into the powerful world of rock. Basically I don’t want any boundaries so we can explore all possibilities.

GIITTV: In terms of Poltergeist in the studio, are there any plans for the future?

WS: Yes, we are intending to start on a new album very soon.

GIITTV: You are about to embark upon your most extensive tour of the UK in October. Ahead of that, I notice you have three scheduled dates in Holland?  Can you tell us a little about how that came about?

WS: We are actually playing four shows in Holland this month, one of our friends who lives there, Richard Foster from Incendiary Magazine asked us to do the ‘Incubate Festival’ in Tilburg and we agreed to play it. Then it made sense to get a few more gigs, so Amsterdam Paradiso on the 19th , EKKO in Utrecht on the 20th, Incubate Festival on the 21st & Worm in Rotterdam on the 22nd.
The UK tour was arranged by our Agent and Management; we have also included a few dates that we had to postpone when Les got sick a while back.

Bird, from Liverpool will be our support band on the tour and Six By Seven will be special guests at the London show at the Garage.

GIITTV: What can people expect from the Poltergeist live experience?

WS: In Poltergeist I see the imagery and sound as one. We have no front man and set up in a democratic line across the stage this is built on the needs of the individual members. Les is centre stage the quay to which we are tied. Nick our drummer looks on from the side and steers us with cues along the way. I am on the other side and can get a good view from the crow’s nest and take in the whole thing.  We have a film and we wear white kagools so the projection covers us in images. I want to be just part of the background and for the sight and sound to meld into one. It’s pretty early days for the show and we hope to improve as we play more gigs and build up the visual aspects.

GIITTV: Will you be playing any other material other than what appears on the album?

WS: At the moment no. I would definitely be up for the odd cover track just for the fun of it. We have not really discussed this yet; it’s a possibility.

GIITTV: Poltergeist is down to play the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds (a venue I know very well) on 19th October as part of the Octernal all-dayer event (along with Veronica Falls, Bleached and others); I did read though that you would instead be playing at Left Bank (a former church in nearby Cardigan Road). Any further news on this?

WS: We are definitely playing Brudenell Social Club, on at 11pm – see you there?

GIITTV: Thinking about your family, Poltergeist and your Bunnymen commitments, how on earth do you manage to fit it all in?

The Bunnymen have not been that active of late so I have the time. I record most of my projects in my little studio (the Pod) just under my kitchen, so I’m not that far away. If I am needed I just come upstairs for a cuppa or whatever. As I said before it keeps me sane.

GIITTV: Do you have time for any other interests outside of the above?

WS: I go to the pub with Les and my other mates I also do an electronic project called ‘Glide’ and have just finished a new Glide album soon on my label 92 Happy Customers. It will be via the Pledge Music site like we did with Poltergeist. I also paint and have had a couple of exhibitions, one in Los Angeles and the other in Liverpool. I have neglected this of late but want to get back on course with my art asap.

GIITTV: Thank you very much for your time and trouble. Good luck with the tour and I will look forward to seeing you in York on the 22nd of October!!

WS: Thank you. Really chuffed you like the album.

Upcoming live shows in the UK in October 2013:

10th : Portsmouth – Wedgwood Rooms

11th : Bristol – Start The Bus

12th : Preston – Mad Ferret

13th : Wolverhampton – Slade Rooms

14th : London – The Garage

18th : Sheffield – Queens Social Club

19th : Leeds – Brudenell Social Club

20th : Manchester – Sound Control

21st : Glasgow – King Tuts Wah Wah Hut

22nd : York – Fibbers


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.