Ian McCulloch and John Simm on their mutually appreciative friendship

Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch and actor John Simm were each other’s heroes before they met. Now they enjoy a creative – and boozy – friendship

HIS STORY Ian McCulloch, 56, musician

I first met John after a Bunnymen gig in Kilburn in 1997. I’d seen him in The Lakes and loved that he played a Scouser. He makes me laugh and I make him laugh more. When John played the Master in Doctor Who and there were millions of him laughing their heads off, he was playing himself.

We’ve both had dark days, but jokes help you get out of it. Drinking together has made us close; going on tour together was pretty messy. His band Magic Alex supported us, because I had heard some of their stuff and loved it. They’d watch us from between the stage and the barrier after their set. I remember once he was waving at me, spaced out. Backstage afterwards he said: “That was the best thing in the history of time” and I went, “Are you sure?” I’ve woken up next to John. He stayed at my hotel because he was too bladdered to go home. In the morning he was in a state – I was freaking out too, but it’s always nice to have someone who is freaking out more than you.

Once, he came to Liverpool and we went to a club. Someone said to him: “You’re John Simms, aren’t ya?” with the “s” – a joke to wind him up. John just said yes and then he said: “I knew your mum, Joan,” because Joan Sims was a Carry On actress. Now he’s saved on my phone as Joan’s Lad.

John’s quite shy and humble, while I just think I’m the greatest thing ever. When he recorded on my Sliding album, he was dead nervous because he was playing guitar as himself, not as Jimi Hendrix or whatever.

In the flesh he still looks about 22. It’s probably pickling yourself that does it – you preserve yourself like jam.

Echo & the Bunnymen perform at Liverpool International Music Festival, 27-31 August

HIS STORY John Simm, 44, actor

Ian was one of my heroes as a kid, but when we met, he grabbed me and said: “Oh my God – you’re my favourite actor!” which bowled me over. We were in our 20s and 30s, but it was like we’d met as teenagers. We used to listen to records all night at his place in Liverpool.

Ian thinks he’s the king of the Scousers. He was very disappointed when he found out I was a Man U fan. He’s a funny guy, with an added edge of rock star. I went to see him on Boxing Day one year and I thought he might have slippers on, but he opened the door in his shades. Then I found out he’s blind as a bat and they’re prescription. He came to my wedding and my wife walked down the aisle to “Lips Like Sugar”, because we both love that song. I remember seeing Ian’s head with his distinctive haircut and shades pop out behind her. He had his hand on his heart; he was moved.

The tours were some of the best times of my life. Magic Alex were unsigned, but he was a genuine fan. We’d spend the day in the pub then I’d struggle through the gig, but Ian would always walk on totally fine and sing like an angel. His voice is a thing of wonder.

He’s unpredictable though: when I was playing guitar with him at one of his solo concerts, at the last minute he said we’d play “Ocean Rain” and I had to hurriedly learn it in the corner with an acoustic guitar. Will Sergeant was in the crowd – I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous.

He often sends me mad, long lyrics by text. I can tell if he’s in a bad place: he’ll send a message and I’ll send one back to try to cheer him up.

John is in Three Days in the Country at the National Theatre from 21 July

Contributor

Katie Forster

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
John Simm: this much I know

The actor, 42, on Dickens, playing the guitar, and why he can't be bothered with Hollywood

Olly Richards

25, May, 2013 @6:00 PM

Article image
Daryl Hall and John Oates on 50 years of friendship
The duo met half a century ago escaping from a gang fight. They still feel like brothers, their love of music undiminished

Candice Pires

14, Jun, 2014 @11:05 PM

Article image
June Sarpong and Mark Florman’s campaigning friendship
She supports Labour and he’s a Tory, but TV presenter June Sarpong and businessman Mark Florman are firm friends with a shared passion for international development

Katie Forster

26, Apr, 2015 @5:00 AM

Article image
Mel C and Iwan Thomas on their sporty friendship

They met two years ago after Sporty Spice completed her first triathlon and Iwan interviewed her. Now they are training partners – and both are highly competitive

Katie Burnetts

03, Aug, 2013 @11:05 PM

Article image
Tom Findlay and Andy Cato on their longstanding musical friendship
Groove Armada duo Tom Findlay and Andy Cato were instant best mates when they met 20 years ago. Gigs, Ibiza, Glastonbury – and an unbreakable bond – followed

Candice Pires

28, Jun, 2015 @5:00 AM

Article image
Actor Rhys Ifans and Dan Macmillan on their enduring friendship

Rhys Ifans and Dan Macmillan share a wicked sense of humour and a love of parties. But it's working together – and the odd act of kindness – that's really bonded them, writes Candice Pires

Candice Pires

09, Mar, 2014 @12:05 AM

Article image
Artists Boo Saville and Polly Morgan on their inspiring friendship
Polly Morgan and Boo Saville are artists with very different lives... but they still motivate and influence each other

Rhik Samadder

31, May, 2014 @11:05 PM

Article image
Paddy Considine and Nick Hemming on their long and easy friendship

Paddy and Nick met as teenagers and developed a love of music. Here they remember how they met, what they first thought of each other and how their lives would have been so different without their friendship

Shahesta Shaitly

27, Jul, 2013 @11:05 PM

Article image
Actors Kris Marshall and Laurence Fox on their joke-fuelled friendship
Actors Kris Marshall and Laurence Fox share an irreverent sense of humour. And Kris saw the funny side when Laurence ended up with Billie Piper, writes Megan Conner

Megan Conner

11, Jan, 2015 @6:00 AM

Article image
Radio presenter Geoff Lloyd and comedian Chris Addison on their creative friendship

Chris Addison and Geoff Lloyd met in the 1990s and formed a pub-quiz team. But despite their being 'sympatico', it's their differences that make their friendship special

Katie Burnetts

18, May, 2014 @5:00 AM