Liverpool FC with Jim Sonefeld and Wayne Hussey
It recently came to our attention that two musicians with autobiographies coming out this year are huge Liverpool fans. One is Jim Sonefeld, best known as drummer and songwriter with 90's rock band Hootie and the Blowfish. The other is Wayne Hussey, who gained international recognition as frontman and principal songwriter in the hugely successful British rock band, The Mission. Previously, Wayne was guitarist with The Sisters Of Mercy and Dead Or Alive, and was one of Pauline Murray’s Invisible Girls.
With Liverpool FC riding high and the quadruple still potentially on the cards, we took the opportunity to facilitate a conversation between the pair.
Wayne: So how did you find the experience of writing the book?
Jim: I loved it. I have enjoyed making music and being creative out of my house. I literally started it on my birthday in 2017. I said, while I can still remember some of it, I want to type down the meaningful things in my life. I took over 3 years before starting to work with an editor... which I desperately needed!
[Swimming with the Blowfish is published in the U.K. on the 7th July. Signed copies are available here]
Wayne: Yeah, that's a good way of doing it. Just doing it without the pressure of deadlines and stuff. I mean that's how I wrote my first book. The second one I had deadlines which I found to be quite intimidating, to be honest.
Jim: Right. I bet! How do you do a second memoir? Is it chronological?
Wayne: Yeah, well the first book [Salad Daze] was my life up until when I left The Sisters of Mercy. Then the second book [Heady Daze] is from when we formed The Mission, with Craig from Sisters of Mercy. I didn't intend it that way, I just started writing and then, you know, spewed it all out and there was a book before I had even got half way through my life! It's like I'm Winston Churchill...
I quite enjoy the process. Certainly when you get in that frame of mind. It usually takes me a couple of hours, but when you get in that groove, the writing comes and the memories come. One memory triggers an avalanche of other memories, you know? Like you, we have a lot of experiences on the road. A lot of them are very hazy, so it sometimes takes a trigger to remember things!
Jim: Oh yeah. I kept maybe thirty years worth of 'monthly minders', as I call them. Our mother used to organise our family's life around these things [calendar/diaries]. Well I kept them through college, and then through five years of the band playing in clubs, and then fame and fortune. They were my map - to have some chance of remembering it all.
Wayne: Yeah, that's a good thing! I never had the time or inclination to write things down as they were happening. I talked to a lot of people to get their take on things. I interviewed family and friends and things and it was like, really... I did that? I enjoy the process. Anyway, when is yours out?
Jim: June 28th in America and beginning of July in the U.K.
Wayne: We can have a good read about Hootie and the Blowfish and how it was.
Jim: I managed to write 140,000 words, that we chopped down to 80,000 in the end. Sadly most of what I felt were prolific and meaningful childhood soccer memories were chopped out!
Wayne: Oh no! Well then you need a new editor! Was it an American or a Brit?
Jim: I was looking at a few editors and the one I really liked ended up being this Brit. He had a big football love as well and it turns out he has a deep, deep history of red, only the kind that comes from Manchester!
Wayne: Yeah, well that's why it was all edited out. I will not employ anybody - whether crew, bandmembers, anybody - if they support Manchester United. It's a policy of mine and the band's.
Jim: Goodness! Well it worked for Luke and I. We were constantly badgering each other and luckily during that period Liverpool were having the upper hand and Manchester were on a down swing, so I always had the better of him!
Wayne: Long may it continue.
Jim: Don't you get a brilliant pleasure from that?
Wayne: I do. Well because you know, for thirty years we lived with them gloating over the fact that we hadn't won the Champions League. Under Alex Ferguson they overtook us. So I'm enjoying their struggles at the moment.
Jim: What was your earliest memory of supporting Liverpool?
Wayne: It was May 1965. It was the F.A. Cup Final, Liverpool vs Leeds. I turned 7 that month. My best friend from school came from Liverpool, I was born and raised in Bristol. He was supporting Liverpool and so in support of my friend I supported Liverpool. We won 2:1 in extra time. From that day on, I supported Liverpool.
Jim: Was that the Revie era of Leeds?
Wayne: Yeah, Don Revie with Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter and all that. It was just at the start of that period. Revie and Shankly.
Jim: Brilliant times. I grew up in Chicago, a sprawling and very international city, so there was definitely football but it hadn't made its way to where we lived in the suburbs. My walls were decorated with whatever I could find that had football. I had a poster of Pelé; one of a bourgeoning American hero called Kyle Rote Jr.; and then a German guy named Karl-Heinz Granitza. A little poster of FC Den Haag... I have no idea where I would have got that from!
Wayne: So how did you come to support Liverpool?
Jim: Hootie and the Blowfish was coming over to the UK regularly from '95 to about '99 and a great man who worked for our record label named Joe Reddington knew I was football mad. One trip over I was sitting in my bed watching something which was news to me - a look back on Hillsborough, which I was just emotionally captivated by. On the next trip back Joe Reddington said: 'Soni, you're coming with me'. He drove me out to the Liverpool training ground where at the time, for a brief period, we had the American goalie Brad Friedel. We drove up to the back gate and I was like 'What, I'm here!?' At this point I still hadn't really figured out what team I could support. It was barely on the TV back home. Joe said, 'get back in the car' and we drove to a back door at Anfield. He paid the guy a fiver and he took me on a tour of the place. I thought this is the team I'm supposed to love. That was probably '98. I was sold. I just thought, this is god telling me who I need to support!
Wayne: Did you meet any players?
Jim: Not on that day. We were begging for anyone in the football world to become a fan of Hootie and the Blowfish so we could tout them as a fan. The best we came up with was Darren Anderton, who is still our friend. We were texting yesterday, he has just become a father.
Wayne: He was called sick note, Darren Anderton!
Jim: I heard that. I don't bring that up with him!
Wayne: No, I bet you don't. That's a great bit of experience, going to Melwood.
Jim: Yeah, it was a start, but it was probably a few years before we started getting it regularly on our sports channel which led me to the next greatest level: the 2005 Champions League Final. My son was one and a half, asleep in the other room... I'm going ballistic in front of the TV. I kept watching and I finally woke him up involuntarily, so he came out to fiddle around while I went mad watching the greatest comeback ever.
Where were you at that time?
Wayne: I was at home in Brazil. I was watching it with a friend of mine, a Brazilian, who was my Portuguese teacher at the time. Three-nil at half time and I was like, I don't know about this... You have hope, but it's not the same as faith is it. I hope we win. But that second half. When we scored that second goal my Portuguese teacher jumped up and hit his head on our ceiling fan! But I wrote a song about that game.
Jim: Is that 'Draped in Red'? In great moments in your life, as a writer you are often spurred to write them down. Believe it or not I was writing a song about Hillsborough that time I saw it on TV. I'm thankful that never made it out of the vault as it was not a very uplifting number. But something like 'Draped in Red', I can't imagine how you must have been feeling as that came out of your mouth.
Wayne: It was unbelievable, as that was not a very good period for Liverpool generally. We had only just scraped into the top four on the last day of the season. We only just qualified for the knockout stages because Steven Gerrard scored that fantastic goal against Olympiacos in the last game. It was written in the heavens! It was a brilliant moment. I remember the first time I heard 'Draped in Red' played at Anfield. I was listening to live commentary at home in my hammock. At half time I heard it... that's 'Draped in Red!' I was so excited I fell out of the hammock. The last few years they have been playing The Mission song 'Tower of Strength' regularly at home games.
Jim: That's brilliant to hear your tunes at a sporting event. There's a special thing about that. You look around to see, 'Is anyone looking at me? Am I getting acknowledged? Am I hiding?'
Wayne: No one is paying any attention at all! But it's, wow. A great moment.
Jim: My son is eighteen now. I have raised him the right way, we have been watching together since that game in 2005. There are some favourites we have had. James Milner is certainly one of them. You know that within 30 seconds of being on the field he is going to let the other team know that he means business.. usually with a yellow card, but it's effective!
Family photos used with permission of Jim Sonefeld.
Wayne: Deserving of a yellow card but he gets away with it.
Jim: He's so nice you wouldn't want to give him a yellow straight away.
Wayne: I think he is essential to the wellbeing of the squad actually. He won't always start the game and he is not always the most flashy of players but in terms of the spirit of the squad, which I think is fantastic right now, I think he is essential. I think Liverpool will award him with another year on the contract.
Jim: Yeah, I like to have a British guy in the middle of things who's a little more mature, like Henderson. A guy you can count on. Just like Gerrard before him.
Wayne: Yeah, I think Henderson is so underrated. He is the first Liverpool captain ever to have lifted every trophy.
Jim: You think it will be amazing when he has two more in the upcoming days?
Wayne: I admire your faith. Do I believe? I think Man City are very, very, very good and they are relentless. But this is football. Steven needs redemption for the slip in 2014. Philippe Coutinho needs redemption for the way he left Liverpool. So I think it the romantic side of me says there's a story being written here.
Jim: So let's make a promise. If we win two trophies, you and I write a Liverpool fight song together.
Wayne: Okay, all right, you're on. Of course, the Champions League final. You never know with Madrid. I was going to go to the game actually. But we're playing a festival the night before and I've just found it impossible to get from Britain to Paris in time for the game.
Jim: Are you going to let this little music career get in the way of your football fandom? That's what I want to know.
Wayne: I did think about cancelling it, you know. But I did get to go to Madrid when we beat Tottenham. That was a great experience.
Jim: Oh nice. Yeah, nice.
Wayne: You've never been to a game at Anfield?
Jim: Not with people in the stands. I can't imagine. Hearing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' and being able to sing it. I won't make it through the first verse or chorus because I'll be like, drenched in tears.
Wayne: It's a superbly written song in its own right. Not not just because of the Liverpool association, just as a song. It's so well written. Obviously, the association with Liverpool puts a lot of people off. I do like to play it every now and then in my solo shows, particularly when I'm in Manchester.
Jim: Do you play it in natural key?
Wayne: I play it in C on piano.
Jim: Yeah. A few moments in there are a challenge. Going to the minor from the major and all the walk downs are a little bit, 'whoa, where are we going here?' It's a well crafted song, no doubt.
A fan chant that struck us the most here is the 'Salah Mane' rendition of the song 'Sugar, Sugar' by The Archies. I was so twisted with that. I thought, well, this is one of the first songs I had as a child, like probably in the early 70s or late 60s. You could get the 45 on the back of a cereal box. You cut it out and it actually worked on your record player.
Wayne: That's a great song.
Jim: One last question for you, since you've been a fan for many decades, more than I have, did you for a moment think that after the long downturn when United were on top, that when it would swing back to Liverpool our main rival would be a Manchester team, but not Manchester United? Would you ever have thought that could be possible?
Wayne: No, no, not at all. I've always had a soft spot for Man City, I have to confess, like I have a soft spot for Arsenal, in terms of their history, and in terms of their supporters, and their culture. I think they have been very similar to Liverpool. Not currently, but just in terms of the history.
Jim: I hope you are somewhere good for the next two. It's Sunday, and then the Champions League Final.
Wayne: On Sunday I'll be in a soundcheck early on, and then hiding away in the dressing room watching the match on my laptop. Yeah, I'm praying. But you know what, Jim, if we don't win either of the last two trophies, we've had a fantastic season. I would like to avenge the Madrid side after a disappointing Champions League final a few years ago, even though a lot of the players have changed, a good bit of ours are still the same.
Jim: Here's to avenging.
A big thanks to Jim Sonefeld and Wayne Hussey for taking the time. Swimming with the Blowfish is published in the UK and Heady Daze is published in the Autumn. This is an edited version of the conversation which took place over a video call on the 19th May 22.