Saturday, September 29, 2007
You make me sound like a Bond extra. Actually, I think I'd have been better than Dame Judi. I'm so much more photogenic.
How are you?
As well as can be expected considering I'm ill.
I have a cold.
I'm sorry to hear that.
You will be when I... (sniffs and motions to sneeze)
You've played some new material on your tour - is it for an album and, if so, when will it be out?
The new songs are glorious, tangy and simple. They're pop songs but.. they're not pop songs.
What do you mean?
I mean I consider them pop songs but others may not. In the past, pop music was something stunning and simple and emotive. 3, 4 or 5 human beings got on stage and sung 3-minute songs about something utterly trivial and then came Roxy Music and, well, The Smiths and even him (apparently a reference to David Bowie) before us and injected something poetic and vicious. It was popular and it was pop and it was often poisonous. But look at what has happened. Now we're in 2007 and to most people pop music means Britney, Madonna and Usher and I'm relegated to the level of a circus act with minimal popular appeal. There's nothing subversive, heart-felt or even vaguely interesting in the charts. It is the precise opposite of what it once was. It is now conservative, anti-intellectual and mass-manufactured. At least I'm not doing that much-feared 21 date whistle-stop tour of pubs in the Newcastle/Gateshead area ... yet.
Would you ever consider working with a more mass-market act?
If I ever retire from singing, I may consider going into painting and decorating with Chesney Hawkes.
I'll take that as a 'No.'
Well, Nancy Sinatra was a mass-market act once upon a time; some might say I was too.
How is the new album going?
There is no new album and that's quite simply because, yet again, we do not have a record company. The industry is getting increasingly tedious and almost risible. In the past, we had all these hangers-on and sycophants - it was prostitution - and now there's... nothing. In The Smiths, we would have literally scores of people trying to worm their way into our affections and we always had to keep an eye out for those who didn't have the best of intentions. These days, it's basically you and the record company and they treat you like a commodity. Profit margins, marketing, finance, image is all that matters and these people have no conception that they have no conception of image in the first place. The very reason I am in pop music and they are not is because I know about image and they know nothing about image. They think dressing up in leather jackets and playing air guitar on daytime TV is good for the image while I generally prefer PVC jackets. No, seriously - it is insane.
That as it may be, please don't let it delay your album for 7 years again!
The new material is exciting and different again from Ringleader. I loved and love Ringleader but it was the end of something and this is the beginning of something else entirely. We are in a social and political cataclysm and hardly anyone is even murmuring a sound of discontent about the political situation. I feel the need to articulate my own perspective on things, as foolish as that might sound.
Is this album going to be more political then?
Who mentioned an album? I'm writing material for a 5-track EP for release in Japan only.
Haha. Well, anyone can make it big in Japan.
Try telling that to The Cure.
They probably are big in Japan.
Well, they have probably tried to be big in Japan. Since no one in England listens to them, they've always made a huge deal out of being a global act. The only thing global about the Cure is the indifference they prompt.
What about the album?
An album may or may not happen. I feel the need to write songs but I may go back to releasing singles on independent labels. Let's face it - the only reason I can think of to justify signing onto a record label is for the marketing, which in turn allows one to get one's message across to more people, tour the world and ensure there's a future audience for one's output. Yet the labels I've been with have been so disasterous in their marketing that I can no longer think of a solitary reason to sign a deal. Unless I meet someone interesting working for a label, I may simply avoid them altogether and release singles on my own label in future. I know people say you can't do singles only but just look at the enormous success we enjoyed with the 'Boxers' single!
What else have you been doing lately?
Reading, badger-spotting and watching films - just the usual.
Seen any good films?
I've discovered a French director called Techine. In the past, I refused steadfastly to watch French films on principle but also because they were wilfully perverse with no apparent storyline. Nonetheless, his films are spending large amounts of time on my DVD player. A fan wrote a letter to me recommending one of his films and I was instantly hooked.
Do you read all your letters?
I put them into a tombola and select one lucky letter to read each morning after breakfast. The winning letter gets a bottle of champagne, which I drink. It helps to keep me grounded.
You mentioned Rome a lot around the time of your last album - do you have any plans to return to Britain?
I would dearly love to but I couldn't live under New Labour and still have any sense of self, let alone self-respect.
What do you mean?
There is something inhuman about British politics and that's fine as long as politicians restrict themselves to passing laws regulating the use of combine harvesters in built-up areas and drinking their evenings away in Westminster; the problem is that politics has taken on a fascist edge in recent years, with Thatcher and then Blair and now Brown. I cannot believe the British people have fallen for New Labour again and I cannot live in Britain until they consign the re-warmed Thatcherism therein to the waste paper basket. They are not standing up for ordinary people, nor are they standing up for Britain's interests. There is scarcely a non-homogenised town centre left in Britain and the results are suitably depressing for the people who have to live there.
Do you oppose globalisation?
That's a very smug way of putting it but I suppose I do. I oppose the way powerful interests are destroying everything human in our society and replacing it with something manufactured, crass and frankly preposterous.
That sounds very dramatic.
Suffering is usually quite dramatic.
But is it really so bad? - the homogenisation of the world?
I believe it is, yes. Mrs Thatcher introduced it to Britain and every Prime Minister since has continued it. It's not just the homogenisation of the high stree; it's the homogenisation of humanity.
Look at young people today. While there are literally millions of brilliant, interesting young people, there are also precisely 67 million probably young people in Britain and America who purchased a Britney Spears album. This puts all other political statistics into context. Who are these people and how did we - as a society - breed them?
Haha, anyway onto the rest of the band, how are they?
Boz is losing weight at my request but is otherwise well. Alain and Jesse continue to be docked 1 weeks' wages every time they speak in the studio and the drummer and bass player are experiencing a creative maelstrom - they have written half a song together. This is, perhaps, the biggest surprise of my life thus far.
Thank you for the interview - where are you going now?
That's none of your business unless you want to come to bed with me.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
UK Tour 2006
UK Tour 2006
18/4 - Salford Lowry
19/4 - Llandudno Nw Theatre
20/4 - Leeds Town Hall
22/4 - Aberdeen Music Hall
23/4 - Stirling Albert Halls
25/4 - Dundee Caird Hall
26/4 - Greenock Town Hall
27/4 - Glasgow Academy
29/4 - Whitehaven Civic
30/4 - Gateshead Sage
1/5 - London Alexandra Palace
3/5 - Sheffield City Hall
4/5 - Grimsby Auditorium
6/5 - Manchester Apollo
7/5 - Manchester Opera House
8/5 - Manchester Bridgewater
10/5 - Halifax Victoria Hall
11/5 - Blackburn King Georges
12/5 - Liverpool Philharmonic
14/5 - London Palladium
15/5 - Cardiff St Davids
17/5 - Reading Hexagon
19/5 - Portsmouth Guildhall
20/5 - Birmingham Symphony Hall
21/5 - London Palladium
23/5 - Truro Hall For Cornwall
24/5 - Cheltenham Town Hall
25/5 - Oxford New Theatre
27/5 - Kings Lynn Corn Exchange
28/5 - London Palladium
Thursday, February 16, 2006
M: Good afternoon!
How excited are you about the new album?
M: Excited probably isn't the word. When you've given birth to something like this album, it's more of a paternal love, I think. You know it looks perfect now but equally you know there are going to be many sleepless nights ahead. I love the album, and I think it's my best album. In fact, we think it's our best album.
It sounds like more of a band sound.
M: Well, we are a band.
In the past, they played like a band, and you sang like a solo artist. With this album, it sounds like you are now an integral part of the band somehow.
M: With our last producer, and now with Tony Visconti, we've been working on that aspect of things. I have always felt like I'm in a band, at least since the "Kill Uncle" tour. It's a mystery to me why some people say we didn't sound like a band before. Perhaps it's because I work with great musicians who can change their sound so dramatically. If you compare "You're Gonna Need Someone On Your Side" with "Let Me Kiss You," you can see for yourself. Perhaps because of this versatility, my voice is the one constant and so people naturally assume I am playing with a different band each time I release a record.
Is it true that you're working differently in the studio though? Could this by why it sounds so much more band-like?
We are working differently - Jesse is now making the sandwiches and I've been relegated to making the tea.
What has Jesse brought to the band?
M: Apart from his egg and tomato sandwiches? Jesse is great to write with, and having him around has added something musically too. Alain writes beautifully melancholic songs - he's obsessed with melody. Boz is interested in rhythm and form, and Jesse likes dynamism and power. I don't know why I never thought of hiring a third guitarist before, but for the next album, we intend to have four. Is anyone from Cream still alive?
Are you looking forward to touring again?
M: There are very few artists who can play live. That probably sounds silly, but it's quite simply the case that the vast majority of artists are going through the motions. They're on stage for the money, or because someone is telling them they must. I simply love to stand on a stage and sing and as a band, we love playing live. I came to the conclusion long ago that for me, being on stage is reality and being off stage is unreality. I exist in pop music, and nowhere else, and so, for me, the most natural expression of reality is singing. When I'm on stage, I feel almost human and I think the audience can relate to that relief of finally being able to be natural, just for 80 minutes a day. They are swaying, and I am singing, and someone, somewhere in the crowd already knows the words to "Dear God, Please Help Me."
How have the various internet sites affected you or your career?
M: I don't think they have affected me personally in the slightest. I'm happy for the fans who benefit positively from the various sites, and I think www.true-to-you.net is a very nice site. The problems arise with the completely dehumanised nature of communication on the internet. A minority of people will say things - particularly on the so-low site - they would never dare say if they were not afforded complete anonymity, and so there's a gentle drip, drip, drip of poisonous rumours and lies that never quite disappear. The lies remain engraved on some silicon chip in some dark corner of California, potentially forever. I find that troubling, but only slightly. It doesn't keep me awake at night. Have they affected my career? I would say about as much as Jools Holland has affected my career.
Is that a "no?"
M: It's a "yes" but also a "not much."
Why did you record the album in Rome?
M: Rome is a remarkable relief. In among the beautiful monuments and dark, dingy pawn shops - that's pawn with a "w" - there's a certain softness that America seems to have forgotten about. Los Angeles is beautiful, but Rome has a gentleness and a warmth. In LA, the people feel they almost need to salute the police. It's tragic. Rome shaped the new album in many ways.
Have you ever thought about auditioning for "American Idol?"
M: I'm not even going to joke about that.
Will you ever retire?
M: I retired from human life long, long ago. Will I retire from singing? Only if Richard and Judy go through a messy divorce and someone makes me a very, very good offer to take over.
What do you think of Coldplay?
M: Coldplay don't grab me, but nothing has recently. If I ever get stuck in an elevator long after security have gone home, and Coldplay are on repeat function for the next 11 hours, I shall be delighted. Unless the CD gets stuck.
What would it take for you to return to England?
M: A change in government. The legal establishment to be drowned. The Cheshire greenbelt to go up in a puff of smoke, and a new series of "Brookside."
Not much, then.
M: I'm a man of simple means.
Why do you continue making music?
M: I think I answered that question earlier.
Finally, is there a theme you would never sing about?
M: The colour of somebody's eyes. Why sing about someone else's eyes when I have my own to sing about?
M: Many thanks.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Ringleader of the Tormentors - 3rd April 2006
Friday, February 10, 2006
"I Wanna Start From Before The Beginning"
"Morrissey is a voice. He is a voice in the tangible sense because he sings: his voice fills the space where the record plays. His voice can also sound "in one's head." It can ingrain itself permanently into the listener's body. As has been examined above, the consequences can be devastating. Morrissey is a tormentor."
Antti Nylen, 2004
Me and Morrissey
Notes on the essence and effects of a voice
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
"Ringleader of the Tormentors" preview
"You don't know a thing about their lives,
They live where you wouldn't dare to drive"
Reader, Meet Author - 1995
Attack on condescending bourgeois journalism or note to self? Either way, the notoriously self-conscious Morrissey had barely dared to drive anywhere near his home turf since 1995's "Southpaw Grammar." As frontman of the Smiths, and as a solo artist, Morrissey was the architect of all that we now know as "indie." A harsh working class realism pervaded all of his early writing, but suffused with a romanticism that sought to transform "outsiderdom" into something desperately, unhappily beautiful. The Smiths' influence can be seen everywhere today, yet Morrissey seemed curiously unassured and, post-1995, intent on moving ever further from the mainstream pop orbit he himself helped fashion.
1994's gloriously doom-laden "Vauxhall and I" captured an empathy and sadness that most of his previous work had only hinted (or even laughed) at and crystallised Morrissey's most human collection of songs into a transcendent, atmospheric album, documenting touchingly a period of personal loss and self-doubt. It was a grand gesture - some even hinted this might be "farewell." Fans and critics alike swooned but it left Morrissey with a problem. He needed somewhere to run to; somewhere else to be. 1995's "Southpaw Grammar" felt like an escape, combining fearless, character-based writing with prog rock elements and oh-so-english ragged pop, it received a lukewarm reception. At only eight songs long and with a couple of songs resembling filler, he was seemingly running out of steam. It was an album big on ambition but failed to deliver on the promise of its sprawling opening track. 1997's "Maladjusted" sounded bored and - despite several very good songs - it felt flabby and generic. Fans were bemused by his solipsistic lyrics, his obsession with court cases and revenge, and - ironically - many felt he had become precisely the patronising bourgeois writer he had once mocked.
A long hiatus and self-financed world tours followed, while he was without a record label, and finally came the long-awaited comeback album, 2004's "You Are the Quarry." The obsessions with legal matters, tax men and former bandmates remained but while "Maladjusted" felt like a breakdown, "Quarry" felt like therapy. A collection of very good songs - hampered only by a superficial flirtation with dance rhythms, dated production and generic playing on one or two songs - it featured two of his finest singles since the 80s in "Irish Blood, English Heart" and "First of the Gang to Die." These two songs, in particular, hinted at a return to core Morrissey values.
"Ringleader of the Tormentors" finds Morrissey and his band in a more forceful, rock-based mood than his last album. Songs about court cases are vanquished, and the bloated feel of a handful of songs on "Quarry" has also - thankfully - gone. Jesse Tobias on guitars and producer Tony Visconti join long-time co-writers Alain Whyte and Boz Boorer and seem to have added much-needed verve to the band's sound. This record bubbles with a freshness and spontaneity not seen on a Morrissey record since "Your Arsenal," and, while it's more eclectic than any other Morrissey solo album, it also has a coherence and completeness, both thematically and musically. Indeed, this album once again fashions a unique sound in the way recent Morrissey albums have singularly failed to do. Lyrically, Morrissey explores themes of death, love and struggle in a far less parochial way than in years gone by. Peppered with references to Rome - where the album was recorded -"Ringleader" seems to put it more succinctly than any other Morrissey record and brings Morrissey a step back from the precipice of self-parody he was in danger of slipping into after "Quarry." In fact, there's something almost optimistic about the album. As ever, the main subject of the album is Morrissey, but in among the poignant reflections and gallows humour lies a lightness of touch and playfulness and something quite... hopeful?
While the album takes Morrissey off in a new direction musically, references to his past work abound. Touches of organ recall "Reel Around the Fountain" and "My Lovelife," there are jaunty Smiths-like melodies, bolder, brassier songs reminiscent of Slade or T-Rex with a touch of the band's rockabilly leanings, and gentler songs that could have graced "Vauxhall and I." As great as this collection of songs is, what really grabs the listener is the power of the playing and the resonance Visconti has woven into the production. Morrissey audibly stretches his vocal range and reaches for notes, adding to his voice an urgency we haven't heard since "The Queen is Dead." He sounds like he needs to sing these songs. That's something we haven't felt for a very long time.
The centrepiece of the album is an extraordinary song called "Life is a Pigsty," which is not like anything else ever put down on a record before. Co-written by Whyte, it's a soaring song with stunning melody and production values. Recalling the complexity of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," it manages to convey Morrissey at his most empathic and showcases his band's playing with an understated elegance that somehow manages to mould 7 minutes of operatic rock into something resembling a pop song. Elsewhere, potential singles "The Youngest was The Most Loved" and "I'll Never Be Anybody's Hero Now" capture the old pop Morrissey at his best, while weirdly droning closer "At Last I am Born" - along with "Pigsty" - help to foment something essential in "Ringleader." An Italian children's choir makes a guest appearance, jazzy horns turn up on the chipper "I Just Want to See The Boy Happy," and Ennio Morricone trumps the delightfully ersatz synth strings on "Quarry" with some beautiful string arrangements. Although the spirit of Marc Bolan seems to loom large over "Ringleader," this feels like it was written and recorded in around 2006, instead of sometime in 1972. It takes elements of the past and turns them into something thoroughly vibrant and modern.
It's not perfect. There are less ebullient pop moments on the album. First single "You Have Killed Me" is hummable but not hugely memorable; "I Will See You in Far Off Places" is interesting but so heavy and dynamically unusual, it's difficult to listen to. It's a "love it or skip it" track. Finally, "To Me You Are a Work of Art" lacks the finesse of other songs here. Nonetheless, even the weaker moments have a certain charm, and contribute something to the coherence of the album as a whole. Masterpiece or flawed masterpiece? Flawed masterpiece, of course. Like every great Smiths and Morrissey solo record.
That Morrissey can record albums like this in his mid 40s is extraordinary. What is more remarkable is that this album sounds absolutely essential. Like Oasis' "Definitely Maybe," Pulp's "Different Class" or "A Northern Soul" by The Verve, this album doesn't sound avant garde, but it does sound very right. Could 2006 be Morrissey's year? Don't bet against it. This album will almost certainly make another appearance in the end of year music press awards.
Morrissey seems to have rediscovered his confidence and his pop sensibility, while his band have captured the magic that made their first two records so widely acclaimed. In 2001, you'd have put money on Morrissey never returning to the pop mainstream, but this album says he is back, and he's telling us he's ready once again to live where others dare not drive. It may be the best album he's released since "Vauxhall and I" or it may - in fact - be his finest ever solo album. That this album takes him back to the dizzying heights he enjoyed with the Smiths (at least musically) means his rapidly swelling fanbase will not be disappointed by "Ringleader." Which all leaves only one question remaining: Is the music world ready for a shy, middle aged Irish-English pop idol with a taste for Oscar Wilde and expensive lounge jackets?
Friday, February 03, 2006
Morrissey essay competition
Submit an essay entitled - "Morrisseyism - what does it all mean?"
This can be an essay exploring Morrisseyism from an intellectual, personal, or critical perspective. The essay must be of no more than 1000 words, and no fewer than 500. Closing date for submissions has been delayed for the time being. Send them as soon as you can.
Firstly, the most interesting three essays will be published in full here. The idea is to celebrate the release of a great Morrissey album by re-evaluating what his contribution has meant to us all. Ideally, we would love to publish a book of collected essays in the latter part of this year all on this subject. This is reliant on various factors, not least getting a few well-known Morrissey fans on board to make such a project feasible.
Please note by submitting an essay, you are consenting to us posting it on this site in part or in whole. All authors will be cited. If your submission is used at a future date in another publication, you will be cited as the author.
Essays are pouring in. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Below are a couple of excerpts from essays sent to us so far, to whet your appetite. The first was sent by internationally published essayist and poet Yahia Lababidi of Cairo, Egypt whose essays have been published by Arena among others and can be viewed and purchased online. The second excerpt was submitted by Paul Schofield of Manchester, a student of English literature and lifelong fan of Morrissey and the Smiths. The third, fourth and fifth excerpts are from essays by Petroc Gold, "Hector" Ramirez and Abigail Damms.
excerpt from 'Monks in Los Angeles' by Yahia Lababidi - a meditation on Leonard Cohen and SP Morrissey.
Ultimately, they both move us because of an intensity they inhabit, an emotional profundity, and the earthly mysticism borne of living in close proximity to suffering and solitude. Or, in the words of another spiritual warrior, philosopher Nietzsche, "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."
In that sense, Cohen and Morrissey are not merely despairing artists but artists of despair, and they have returned from the underground to share with us what they’ve seen. "Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There is a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in…/" Cohen coos in an old classic, Anthem. Similarly with Morrissey, in a Smiths song, There is a light that never goes out; and that light is all the more powerful on account of the darkness they’ve shared with us. Now, with both back on the public stage, we realize just how much we have missed these brave witnesses and their poignant threnodies.
excerpt from 'The Devil in Disguise' by Paul Schofield
It would be quite wrong to analyse the impact Morrissey has had on pop culture without considering this: the inherent truth of Morrissey's writing and singing is that - not in spite of our flaws but because of them - we are beautiful, possibly eccentric and certainly living in a perpetual state of denial. Is the defence mechanism the very basis of civilised society as Freud believed or will pop culture's unabashed, indignant free-for-all actually result in a better form of society in which individuality, acceptance and gentleness are more kindly regarded than strength and conformism?
Morrissey recognised himself as a repressed creature, but sought to transcend the forces of containment by abolishing boundaries in his writing and interviews. More radically, Morrissey sought to render obsolete altogether the boundaries that had oppressed him so terribly in grey old 70s Manchester. His clothes were those of an old woman; his quiff was that of James Dean; his voice was wooden and immersed in no less than a completely shattered faith. He was a contradiction. Seemingly pedantic about his appearance and yet unconcerned by prevailing norms; Obsessed with sex and sexuality in his writing, yet declaring his celibacy and talking in depth about literature, sensuality and politics in his interviews; Singing about acceptance and yet reserving a tongue lashing for anyone who dared cross him, as well as many who didn't. This had the effect of making Morrissey difficult to pigeonhole. How could this be so? How dare this man refuse to conform to our categories and subcategories?
excerpt from 'Sister, he's a poet' by Petroc Gold
We stood under The Iron Bridge with him on that first occasion and forevermore, and how we wished so desperately to feel the chill of the Manchester air on our cheeks. Cheap perfume blending with exhaled petrol waste. Pale skin under raw sodium lights; drifting through empty streets, wondering who might be behind us. How could something so horrific, so grey, so desolate sound so crushingly beautiful? Nothing would ever be quite the same again.
excerpt from 'Moz Angeles' by "Hector" Ramirez
I've always been a doer. I do things. I was in a gang at age 11 and killed a guy aged 12. I paid the price and did time. Morrissey is a thinker and a dreamer who wants to be a doer. He wants to be me. He also makes me think, makes me wonder about deeper things, but he also makes me happy I can do things too and not just dream about doing them. My life and Morrissey's songs are something special. He's the canvas and I'm the paint.
excerpt from 'Who asked you anyway?' by Abigail Damms
Morrisseyism represents the power of language to induce love and provoke loyalty, and although it is a subjective philosophy, it is ‘the choice I have made’. As Morrissey himself says, it ‘may seem strange to you, but who asked you anyway?’