The Sisters Of Mercy’s Ben Christo: “I’m very excited for people to see this show that we’ve put together.” (6/3 at The Fillmore)

The last time I encountered Ben Christo, guitarist and bassist of legendary post-punk outfit The Sisters Of Mercy, was in April of 2006 at the 9:30 Club in Washington...

The last time I encountered Ben Christo, guitarist and bassist of legendary post-punk outfit The Sisters Of Mercy, was in April of 2006 at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC, a gig which Christo tells me he has both fond and slightly embarrassing memories of, during a recent phone chat: “That was my first tour with the band, so it was like my seventh show.  And I was still very awkward and nervous, and I remember I wore a fluorescent green string tank top, which we wound up talking about backstage after the show, and I never wore it again [laughs].”  Just last week The Sisters Of Mercy kicked off their first North American tour since 2008 – which had them playing The Trocadero on Halloween night, following the Phillies World Series victory parade, and across town from a MySpace Super Secret Show featuring The Ting Tings at The Barbary, and a DIY spectacle from Of Montreal at the Electric Factory (which still beared the name) — at The Fillmore in Silver Spring, MD, a short drive, or long walk, down Georgia Avenue from 9:30 itself.

“It ended up being a sold-out show, which I think was between 1,700 and 2,000 people.  It was just a really good celebration,” Christo tells me of opening night of the tour.  He also tells me that a lot has changed for him and The Sisters Of Mercy – who are currently comprised of himself; guitarist Dylan Smith, who joined the band in 2019; and frontman and sole original (and constant) member, Andrew Eldritch – since their last US tour: “For anyone who was there in 2008, this is very different from what they saw then.  We have a really nice synergy.  It feels like a band, more than in 2008, for which I felt like I was more of a session guy, coming in to do a job.”

Christo, currently 43 (compared to Eldritch’s 63), coming on board in 2006, with The Sisters Of Mercy’s third and final album, Vision Thing, dropping all the way back in 1990, put him in a relatively unconventional situation with a band whose legendary status had already been long established.  But he says that the band itself certainly wasn’t new to him.  “I think they were in my top 20 bands,” he tells me, and admits that he was already regularly seen in the band’s T-shirt, which he now characterizes as, “quite a calling card to reference.”  Although he does admit that his taste for, and familiarity with, the band’s catalogue was a little bit unbalanced, if not unconventional: “I knew Vision Thing front-to-back, and I knew First and Last and Always, so I knew the first record and the third record, but I didn’t really know the second one, which is funny because Floodland was the biggest one!”

Since Christo, Eldritch, and Smith solidified their current lineup in 2019, they’ve been playing nightclubs, theatres, and festivals throughout Europe, South America, Australia, and New Zealand.  And, for the first time since 1993, they’ve been premiering/performing new music.  When I ask Christo about his personal highlights of this period, and his time in The Sisters Of Mercy in general, he tells me the biggest one was actually quite recent: “The M’era Luna Festival in Germany last August.  It was the amalgamation of two or three years of hard work of the current band, of the struggle of COVID and trying to make it work over the internet, and finally we were on a stage in front of 10,000 people.”  He also tells me that the band’s current fanbase has been a significant highlight: “The demographic is even wider than it ever has been, and we’ve always had a wide range of goth, punk, metal, post-punk, and industrial people, people who feel disenfranchised and alienated.”

The second night of The Sisters Of Mercy’s North American Tour (last night was the fourth) took place last Saturday at the Sick New World festival in Las Vegas (where they closed out the night, headlining the Spiral Stage), which featured PHILTHY favorites like Ministry, HEALTH, and Scowl.  However, when I ask Ben if there were any acts he was especially excited to see, he surprises me with two bands most frequently associated with the Nu metal genre.

“I have a huge affection for Cold!  I listened to them religiously between the ages of 20 and 23.  I remember being like, ‘This band gets me!’  And they’re actually opening the festival.  And then I’m a huge fan of Sevendust, and they get consistently better and better each year.  So, I’m hoping not just to get to see them play, but actually get to catch up with the bands a little bit, if we get the chance.”

The Sisters Of Mercy’s US tour continues tomorrow in San Francisco, and features a date at our very own Fillmore Philly Saturday, June 3rd.  Recent setlists have included tracks from all three of the band’s albums, stand-alone singles, and a relative abundance of new songs.  In addition to the music itself, Christo tells me that he’s also exceptionally proud of the live production: “The visuals are very dramatic and it’s really striking.  I’m very excited for people to see this show that we’ve put together.”  And when I ask what the future holds for The Sisters Of Mercy, fishing to maybe get some insight on potential upcoming studio recordings, Christo doesn’t mention any, but he does tell me that the band will certainly continue to tour throughout nearly the year’s end: “We’ve got the usual bunch of festivals over the summer in Europe…  In autumn we’re doing two months in Europe, which is the longest we’ve done since I’ve been in the band.”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.