The Sisters of Mercy are returning to the United States for the first time in more than 14 years, kicking their tour off on May 10 at the Fillmore Silver Spring, Maryland. The band has entertained fans since the 1980s, with post-punk hits including “This Corrosion,” “Dominion,” and “Lucretia My Reflection.”
Guitarist Ben Christo is known not only for his time with The Sisters of Mercy, but also with bands Night by Night and Diamond Black. He joined me on a Zoom call to discuss the tour and his approach to writing lyrics.
The Sisters of Mercy Tour Experience
Christo has enjoyed touring all around the world. On the new U.S. tour, he said, “I love waking up in a new city every day. It’s exciting to be surrounded by new stimuli. Each state is like a different county. You’re in the tour bus or hotel, and you wander out into a new city and a coffee shop to talk to somebody new.”
Christo also shared that The Sisters of Mercy take a certain approach to how they prepare for a performance. “I used to keep my phone on until the eleventh hour. That creates interference with what you’re about to do. We get backstage an hour before with phones off, to be around each other. It’s a doorway into the performance, where there’s no outside influence at all. We’re ready to do the show.”
Fans new and old have a lot to be excited about this time around. Christo joined The Sisters of Mercy a couple of years before the 2008 tour, and since then, he’s grown into his role with the band. “I feel the band we’re bringing this time is very different from what we brought in 2008. I feel very confident and excited about the visuals and sonics of what we’re doing, the musicianship, and the setlist.”
Advice to Other Musicians
To Christo, success looks different for everyone, whether you’re talking about the number of band followers, the listening metrics for a song, or any other measure. He ties his creativity to success. “Since I’ve been about 10 years old, I’ve had this driving compulsion to create. That compulsion to create without an endgame other than the joy of creation can lead to success, even if that success simply means happiness.”
Musicians can also grow through working with different bands. “In a new musical dynamic, the more you do it, the easier you find it to be. It can also improve your ability to have flexibility as a musician. You have to understand the thoughts and feelings of the other musicians and where you fit in.”
Aspects of creativity and flexibility play into Christo’s love for songwriting. “I didn’t start playing because I wanted to be a guitarist. I wanted to be a creator, a musician, a songwriter. The whole picture was there from the beginning.”
On Challenging Himself Through Writing Lyrics
While Christo has always loved writing lyrics and reading literature, he seemed to hit “a brick wall” in his 30s. He pulled himself out of the same words, similes and imagery when he read a book by Pat Pattison, who teaches lyric writing and poetry at Berklee College of Music. “I recommend [Pattison] to anyone who wants to write good lyrics. He breaks down your lyric writing into the five senses. He also talks a lot about body movement and color.”
A songwriter can take a scenario, such as a relationship breakup at a bar, and capture details about it. Heighten the challenge by setting a timer for five minutes to jot down everything in your mind. Then you can stop the timer and go back to make edits and see where you want to elaborate.
“You really push yourself into a specific situation. Often when we write lyrics, we can be very vague, but that’s not what connects with people,” Christo said.
Christo feels that Pattison’s recommendations revolutionized the way he approaches crafting lyrics today. “It’s still me, but not in a way I’d dissected before.”
For all of The Sisters of Mercy tour dates and to purchase tickets, visit the Live Nation website.