Andreas Bruhn proves to us that the moniker of "nice man" can not be limited to just one guitarist of The Sisters of Mercy. He resides in Hamburg still, is married, has two daughters, and continues to work happily in the music industry. He has been generous enough to be interviewed for Heartland. We are grateful for his insight, his candour, and his sense of humour. Thank you, Andreas.
The following is an interview loosely divided into sections relating to his time with the Sisters, to his relations with other band members, to his work since leaving the band, and finally of a few miscellaneous questions.
HL: You initially seemed surprised when you were asked for an interview. You wondered if there would be any interest. As you can see from the questions below, there indeed is interest to hear from the source what it was like to be a part of the band. The first question obviously is about you joining the band. Can you tell us how you first met Andrew? How did you join the band in 1989? Are you from Hamburg originally?
I grew up near Hamburg and have played guitar since I was six. I completed my Abitur [school leaving exams] at 19 and then fulfilled my civil service (as opposed to military service). I recorded songs with a four-track, worked a little as a studio guitarist, and was admitted to the music college for studies in pop music.
That is when Michi Reimcke, a German singer for whom I had played, approached me. His record company was looking for a guitarist who could help Andrew lay down some new demo tracks. I forwarded a tape to WEA and a week later the red telephone rang. He asked about a valid passport and about drug habits before inviting me to meet up. (He just wanted to make sure that he doesn't invite a drug addict to our first meeting. I think that's because he had some bad experiences with musicians who had a habit.) I asked my roommates to take down their poster of Floodland, which they refused to do because they thought that I was crazy or lying. When Andrew eventually came over, they nearly had heart attacks and threw away their pills because they thought that they were hallucinating.
HL: Patricia was still a part of the Sisters then. How well did you get along with her? In your opinion, what caused her to leave the band? Do you know if she contributed to Floodland?
I got along quite well with Patricia. I really would not have been asked to join the band if she wouldn't have advised me how to handle everything and how to work with Andrew. She gave me insight to the behind the scenes dealings of the music industry; she was like a good instruction manual for being in the band. Considering that I was just 21 and inexperienced, I was quite grateful for her advice.
By then, she and Andrew did not seem to get along well. One day it was simply the two of us left. All of that was such a long time ago, I can not recall all the details. As for her involvement on Floodland, I really can not clarify anything because I was still in school at the time.
HL: Had you seen the Sisters perform live prior to the 1985 breakup?
HL: How did you feel about joining a legendary band like the Sisters and stepping into the shoes of revered guitarists (amongst the Sisters fanbase) such as Mr. Marx and Mr. Hussey? Have you met or interacted with any of the former band members? What do you think of other bands related to the earlier Sisters?
I felt like anyone would feel joining a legendary band! I did not consider the former members to be legends, which was something Andrew certainly appreciated. As a guitarist, I could play all the parts from the old songs, even Temple of Love would be played live. I never thought about stepping into anyone's shoes because the last live line-up was already two albums removed by the time we went on tour.
I have met Wayne a few times; he was charming. Mick Brown and his beautiful wife Jessica have visited me in Hamburg -- he is a great guy. I found the first Mission album to be excellent, the others apparently not as much.
HL: You have said that you were never close to Andrew. What was it like working with him, though? Is he really as bad as he comes off in terms of temperament, or is he basically a nice guy who puts on a facade?
Andrew has always done what he feels is best for the Sisters. This is how he directed the band to fame, Wembley, and gold status. Whether he was nice or bad was irrelevant - only the band was important. Every leader has his own philosophy, and Andrew had his way. He gave an inexperienced German the opportunity to play in a renowned band without having to go through the difficult formative years. That is something which I appreciate more now than I did then. I can now do what I have always wanted, which would not have been the case without having met Andrew. I am eternally grateful for that, regardless how good or bad he may have been. Besides, you do not work for Andrew, but rather for the band. Andrew simply tries to assure that everyone is doing his best.
HL: How did you meet Tony and Tim? Did you have any input on their joining the band, or were such decisions completely out of your hands? Granted, Tony and Andrew had interacted in the past. What about when Adam later joined the band?
I met Tim for the first time just two weeks before the end of recording Vision Thing. He is much too nice for this world. Tony was recruited shortly before recording. Such decisions were made by the one who is responsible for the band and its fate. And these decisions indeed were good ones. It was the same when Adam joined later.
HL: Was Vision Thing solely the work of you and Andrew? In other words, did Tim and Tony play anything on the actual release? How much input did they have on the album? Tony claims that at least a lyric is his handiwork.
Tim showed up just before the end of recording and did not have much of a chance to play. Tony helped us especially with suggestions from twenty years experience in the music business.
HL: What was it like working with John Perry (ex-The Only Ones) during the recording of Vision Thing? Are any of his guitar parts on the album? Did you interact with Jim Steinmann on More?
John Perry came by and played the slide guitar parts on Detonation Boulevard. He is a nice guy.
Steinmann worked on More in New York; I was not there.
HL: What was it like recording a Sisters album? Long and painful? What were you doing during the weeks and weeks of vocal takes? To put it bluntly: "What the hell where you guys doing in PUK for 9 (NINE) months?"
Fair enough, that was really a bit too long". The technology was not as advanced as it is today. During the vocal takes, I prepared for the tour: I had to program all the old songs into the Doktor, and I had to write out the music sheets of all the instruments. (Unfortunately Tim and Tony couldn't read music sheets.) Eventually the nine months were behind us and we did not know where the time went.
HL: The versions on Vision Thing were "rough mixes from earlier stages of the recording session," not more layered versions? Would you have preferred different mixes, or was the final product the sound which you wanted? Are any demos of Vision Thing songs drastically different from the album versions?
There were other mixes, but in the end Andrew picked the best ones out!
HL: What is the best and the worst thing which you can remember from the time you were in the Sisters? Overall, was it a positive or frustrating experience?
Worst: Hours and hours in the tour bus and interviews.
Overall it was obviously a positive experience which very few get the chance to have.
HL: How early did you begin to have doubts about being a member of the Sisters? You prefer to work in the studio rather than to play on the road in concerts, yes? How large of a factor was the lack of Sisters output in your decision to release solo albums? When do you consider your time in the Sisters to have ended?
I prefer working in studio and hate promotion. I never really felt comfortable as a solo artist and only in the last few years have I been able to work on music without dealing with promotion and time consuming live appearances. I prefer composing, arranging, and producing songs, not something which I could get past Andrew. So, I needed to try something else. Plus, I needed to have my own experiences. The break from the Sisters was soft, with an awesome tour in 1993.
HL: How acrimonious was leaving the band? Does Andrew paint a fair picture of the event? Did Eldritch nevertheless expect (or at least contact) you to play in the 1996 gigs after the layoff?
I really can not remember". We both wanted a change. I do not know what Andrew painted of the situation.
Why would have Andrew asked me on the tour? He already had two excellent guitarists in Chris and Adam. Besides, they are better looking.
HL: Do you ever listen to the Sisters now?
Sometimes. Like when fans shout the riff from More at me.
HL: Do you keep in personal contact with anyone from the band?
Yes. Unfortunately I lost contact to Tim and Patricia, but I still talk to Adam every now and then.
HL: Have you attended any gigs or kept up with Sisters news in general in the past few years?
I think I was at gigs in 1998 and 2001 in Hamburg, like at Gaswerk (G1). It was like running into an ex-girlfriend with her new partner.
HL: What is your opinion of the current non-state of the Sisters? Would you expect any other new releases?
I can not make any judgments about the situation, but I am confident that there will be new material released at some point, and it once again will be above reproach.
HL: Would you work with Andrew again? In studio? Live? Would you have played a one-time concert, for example, for the 20th anniversary gig in 2001?
With the selection of good musicians available to him, he really does not need me. In case the opportunity did arise, I have no reason to decline.
HL: Especially for some of the ladies at Heartland, can you confirm that the photo on the cover of Alternative Press from April 1991 is staged? (What happened to your shoes, by the way?) Similarly, can you comment on Andrew's underpants, as retold in a story by Tony?
The photo was taken at a converted farmhouse in Reading during a rehearsal period. That I have no shoes is not so bad, but the socks!!
I am not familiar with Tony's story.
HL: What was pay like as a member of the Sisters?
For a 21 year old, it was quite good money and lots of priceless experience.
HL: Is Eldritch actually as good a guitarist (sitting down anyway) as people seem to think?
When I was with the band, he could not provide an eight-minute guitar solo while lying on his back, but a rhythm guitar portion without any prancing involved was not a problem.
HL: Are there any other songs which you wrote and played but have never surfaced? Either from the Vision Thing era or from the later years, when Come Together was first played?
I don't think that we played anything else new.
HL: What was your most memorable gig with the Sisters? Did you enjoy being on tour for so long? What type of venue did you prefer? Arenas or festivals?
There were several wonderful performances. It is not possible to pick out one above the others. Brazil was unbelievable. That alone would have been worth it.
Of course it is better to play in arenas than at festivals in front of umpteen thousand people who are so far away that you barely can see them. Having 3,000 active fans directly in front of the stage is perfect. My respect always goes out to those fans who are willing to be subjected to the horrible conditions at festivals like mud, rain, and sound in order to see an average concert.
It is strenuous to be on tour for a long time. The gigs are cool, but the remaining 22 hours of the day is extremely exhausting. At some point, you just want to go home. And then when you're home at last, you get nervous every evening around showtime and wish yourself back on tour.
HL: Did you interact much with Public Enemy?
There was not much to see of Public Enemy. In every city on the tour, they attacked the shopping malls and often arrived late for the gigs. Each brought countless personnel and friends who then wandered all over the place.
HL: You were not involved with the recording of Under the Gun, yet you were still playing with the Sisters in 1993. Why could you not get to England for the recording? What was your feeling toward not being involved?
In 1993 I played on the tour and but also had enough of my own things to do. Adam was the "new guy" in the band already, so he and Andrew recorded the song. No bad feelings.
HL: What Sisters song(s) did you most enjoy playing? Of your own Sisters work, of older Sisters tracks, and of cover versions?
COMFORTABLY NUMB, Body & Soul, Vision Thing, 1969.
HL: While with the band, you offered music for possible future Sisters tracks, which obviously never made it to a Sisters release. What did you rework from the post-Vision Thing music into your solo work?
I did offer a few tracks, but they unfortunately were not good enough. I do not recall any more which ones they were.
HL: Do you expect to ever release another Broon album, or are the two all which we will get?
To be honest, I hope that I do not have to make another album of my own again. Making it would be okay, but the promotion nonsense, radio interviews, videos, and tours are not for me.
HL: Was there a video for Forever Gone, or was that the only single which did not get a video?
HL: On your solo releases, why did you (as many German singers do) not have any songs in German?
It never really occurred to me.
HL: How did you get into writing soundtracks for television advertisements? You are now part of Eardrum. You seem to have a wide and impressive list of clients. How did you get started?
I met the right partner. He (Michi Besler) handles the business aspects and keeps things off my back I take care of the music.
In the beginning I did have my doubts., but I now can do what I have always wanted. Every day a different direction musically. I no longer have to travel and basically can lead an orderly, normal life.
In the last seven years we have composed and produced about 300 television commercials. We have dealt with almost all types of products at some point along the way.
HL: You caught some attention when a Vanish tune was used for a LÃ¤tta commercial. What happened to the Vanish album which was to be released? It was recorded, no?
We did the LÃ¤tta commercial, and then we invented Vanish when a record company wanted to put it out. We did some more songs for an album, the record company didn't want it, so we used the songs on various commercials.
HL: How would you compare working in band to solo work to production for other artists?
You really can not compare them. Solo work is much more strenuous than being in a band where you can hide behind a front man.
HL: What kind of guitar did you use while in the Sisters and what do you prefer now?
Back then, I played a very reliable Kramer heavy metal guitar. It may have looked like s**t, but it rarely got out of tune even under the harshest of stage lighting. My guitar roadie Beet was a dream -- he even could have tuned a broomstick to sound good.
Nowadays for recordings I use a 1971 Fender Strat or a Fender Tele, a Sho Bud Pedal Steel, a Blade bass, or a Gretsch lapsteel. You may notice that I am preparing for a second carrier as a country artist.
HL: How did you become involved with Wings of Freedom after the September 11 attacks?
A friend of mine asked me to sing a line and afterwards I found myself between all these German Metal Chunks. ...And thank you for bringing up such an embarrassing track.
HL: Have any of your clients or the public in general connected your current work and your Sisters career? Are we at Heartland the first, or is it a regular occurrence?
I don't tell them but my partner loves to tell everyone and guess what - everybody seemed to be a fan from those days. And then they start singing the More-riff
HL: How did you hear about the Heartland forum?
Martin mailed me for an interview and then this English chick had a go on me because of that horrible picture [on the Eardrum website].
HL: Do you regret wearing sunglasses which were so dark that you could never see where the camera was during Vision Thing photo shoots?
I do not regret anything. I did wear the sunglasses at the first gig in Ireland, but only for about three minutes. I could not see anything. Never tried again.
HL: How tall is Andrew really? Without those boots? And the wig?
Such a question!
HL: Are you surprised that we did not come up with any questions about Samantha Fox or Doro?
HL: Do you prefer Hamburger SV or St. Pauli?
Nothing for either of them - Borussia Dortmund is my religion. And yes, I own shares of BVB. And yes, it is hell for me to see how bad it is going for the team. And yes, it hurt me when our keeper went to Arsenal.
HL: Any final thoughts or comments?
You probably are extremely disappointed: no bad feelings, no bad words, no dirty laundry. Granted, sometimes it was difficult to understand Andrew, but in hindsight you see things much clearer. The Sisters are Andrew's band; I was able to offer him some assistance along the way and to open some doors of my own. And I would not trade that for anything.
Once again, thank you, Andreas. Your interview has been by no means a disappointment. We wish you continued success and happiness.
Comments to the interview can be found at this thread.
Post your reviews of Sisters-related material or interviews with Sisters-related musicians here. And don't believe the hype: 1985 most definitely is a fashion statement.
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