When they formed in Leeds The Sisters of Mercy just wanted to be played on the radio. Three decades later the Goth rock institution finally makes it to New Zealand.

Being recognised as the overlord of any musical field equates to money in the bank, Andrew Eldritch asserts.

And the founding frontman of The Sisters of Mercy ought to know, having held the nominal Prince of Goth title for several decades.

Speaking from his home in the northern industrial city of Leeds, Eldritch appears happy to maintain that exalted position if it keeps the cash registers ringing.

"I do complain, but it still funds a very comfortable lifestyle for me," he says. "It wouldn't matter if we were the overlord of country or death metal, if you're the overlord of anything, 'ker-ching'. And it doesn't restrict how I write or how I live my life. The comfort it gives me affords me a great deal of independence and privacy, which actually takes a lot of pressure off. It's not like we have to over-prostitute ourselves."

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The Sisters of Mercy visit New Zealand in late February for the first time since Eldritch and guitarist Gary Marx formed the band in 1980. That three-decade tenure has certainly been colourful, even if the band hasn't recorded anything since 1990's Vision Thing.

Eldritch has remained the only constant, although Doktor Avalanche, an evolving series of drum machines, has been around almost since the beginning.

His inhuman rock pulse underpinned all the Sisters' recordings, which included several singles before 1985's debut album First and Last and Always.

Then in 1987 came Floodland, which expansively mapped out Eldritch's bleak, majestic vision of rock'n'roll. It's rightly been heralded as among the greatest volleys of gothic rock.

Floodland included the single This Corrosion, bombastically produced by Meatloaf collaborator Jim Steinman (who also co-produced 'More' from Vision Thing).

"He was very good at getting the budget from [record label] Warners," Eldritch remembers. "We spent money on that record that otherwise we wouldn't have been able to. But most of it I made in a suburb of Manchester, and there weren't that many sessions where we went to New York and put extra flimflam on the songs. Unfortunately if you ask middle-of-the-road type rock listeners what the Sisters sound like, they'll always think of the Steinman singles."

After the straighter rock drive of third album Vision Thing and subsequent hassles with Warners, Eldritch withdrew to a degree from the music business, and The Sisters of Mercy became a humble touring act.

Given the rampant changes in the industry since then it seems like a prescient move, and it certainly seems to be something the man is comfortable with.

With Doktor Avalanche and guitarists Ben Christo and Chris Catalyst in tow, Eldritch tours extensively. But he doesn't feel The Sisters of Mercy quite falls into the classic rock, trading on past glories mould.

After all, they don't play a greatest hits set, with many songs written post-1990 remaining unrecorded and thus unheard by most audience members.

"We don't feel like any kind of dinosaur act," Eldritch says. "Our focus is very much on just doing gigs, and we seem to be reasonably good at that on a good day. It's served us very well, and we've actually thrived more in the 20 years we haven't been making records than in the 10 years when we were."

He doesn't spend much time following what else is going on in music, saying he stopped being a consumer of music when he started producing his own. Outside of The Sisters of Mercy he has an intense interest in film and old computers ("there are about 30 in the room I'm in right now").

But having lived the clichéd rock'n'roll lifestyle and experienced the best and worst of what it has to offer, what Eldritch treasures most after 30 years in music is his privacy.
"When you've lived that life for so long and not really had a proper job, it is very easy to have notions that aren't healthy," he reflects. "I won't get specific. The thing I value most is privacy, and I've seen the lack of that destroy people."

*The Sisters of Mercy play at The Powerstation in Auckland on Wednesday 22 February.
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