19 June 2007
Morrissey has answered a fifth series of questions submitted by Questions And Answers participants. These questions and Morrissey's answers are as follows.
In interviews that you gave during your early days with The Smiths, you expressed an understanding that what you were doing was really important. Looking back, did you fully realize just how important and what kind of historical impact The Smiths and your career would actually have?
Tiburon, California, USA
No. When we first went to Los Angeles we played two nights at the Palladium, and it surprised me that we were so popular. There was never a sense of how big we were in other countries because Rough Trade were not global in their outlook. I was the most shy and retiring member of the Smiths but suddenly all of the press wanted to talk to me.
Whatever I said about the Smiths' abilities I meant. I very genuinely thought the music was Art, and I felt awed by it, and all of the groups of the day I saw as not-art. I thought Johnny was the greatest .... and also .... those masterful bass-lines ...
The picture of you holding the violin on the cover of Ringleader Of The Tormentors is brilliant! What was the inspiration for it?
St. Louis, Missouri, USA
There is an American film from 1946 called "Humoresque" in which Oscar Levant holds up a copy of a magazine with John Garfield on the front playing the violin, as he does throughout the film. I thought the Garfield picture was so touching, so I tried to copy it. Interestingly, my right hand is cupped on the European version, but is straight on the US version.
One thing I admire you for is your dedication to animals, giving a voice to those who have none. What advice would you give someone who is struggling to convert to the vegetarian lifestyle?
Hayward, California, USA
I tell people to take it gradually. You don't need to become a model of human perfection overnight. But if it's morally within a person to avoid 'flesh food' then nothing need be explained to them. Eating animals is obviously very cruel, and you either want to avoid inflicting pain on another living being, or else you don't much care. The argument has nothing at all to do with how flesh tastes, or the myth of protein, or personal budget, or alternatives, or being macho. If you eat animals you surely hate them ... if you respect or love animals you could never eat them. It's that simple.
Who is your favorite painter ever?
Ponca City, Oklahoma, USA
I can't say. It isn't something I cared about until recent years.
Now I'm completely pulled in, but I can't speak with any authority on the subject.
How and why do you choose to cover such diverse and intriguing songs as No One Can Hold A Candle To You, Redondo Beach, etc.?
Everything has its place and its reason. Certainly, the early Smiths covers, for example 'Work is a four-letter word' and 'Golden lights' were done as acts of playful perversity - they weren't meant to be groundbreaking miracles of sound. And that's usually how it is, just a matter of throwing something unexpected into the mix. 'No One Can Hold a Candle to You' was originally written and sung by James Maker, and we've been good friends now for 30 years. He released 'Born that Way' a couple of years back and that's one of my favorite recordings of all time. As for 'Redondo beach', I've always said how Patti Smith's 'Horses' album changed my life. When I told Patti I had released it as a single she said it wouldn't chart because of the 'Patti Smith curse', but we just missed the top ten by a few copies, even though, as always, zero airplay. I also had it in my mind that the opening line was "let it be known," which it isn't, it's "late afternoon." I have often planned a covers album, but I always scrap the idea because it seems to be such a standard maneuver now.
Thank you for contributing so much to the movie New York Doll and for being so instrumental in making Arthur Kane's dream of the Dolls' reunion a reality. How have your Meltdown experience with the New York Dolls, your interaction with Arthur Kane, and your involvement with this film affected you personally?
Kaysville, Utah, USA
I often find it hard to believe that it all happened because I obviously see that isolated 14-year-old in Manchester in 1973 having no one to talk to about this LP called "The New York Dolls". I did a montage of Dolls photos for art class and the teacher was so appalled that she burst into tears and passed it around to each boy in the class denouncing the sickness and depravity of the Dolls. This teacher appeared years later on one of those bitchy Smiths television documentaries, still apparently upset. So, with all of these things in mind, it's miraculous to jump ahead 30 years and to assess the chain of events that led to Meltdown. The film, I think, greatly helped the Dolls' status because everyone who has seen the film loves it even if they hadn't much cared for the Dolls. I'm no good in the film because I felt too emotional and I could barely speak. But, me aside, it's so well done, and must be the best ever rock docu-film. As for Meltdown, that moment when David, Sylvain and Arthur trooped on - I was standing up in the balcony, frozen, unable to hold back the tears. David Johansen later asked me to sing on the new Dolls album, but I had to refuse - I'm not from New York and I'm not a Doll and I know my place...if nothing else.
When you're writing a song, do you write it in one go, or do you take notes along the days, and when several can fit together, you just gather them?
I'm less inclined towards notes these days, and have just finished two new songs which flooded out without any consultation to any scribbled ideas. This happens more and more, notably 'That's How People Grow Up', for instance, just fell out. I'm not sure if they're actually even songs, or simply outbursts or showers of panic. Generally, there's a central vocal hook, most typically the chorus, which comes first, and if it doesn't then there's no song. My aim, mostly, is to have every moment of the song as a vocal hook.... that's the hope, anyway.
What is your most important inspiration when you write songs?
These days it's unashamedly my own emotional position, which I now admit to being quite odd. When you're 23 you have poetic license to be searching and confused and obsessed with suicide and greatness in equal measure. But I am now 48 and can no longer be said to be developing a philosophy of life. Things, by now, are meant to be settled. For me, they aren't. I'm still trying to make sense of a world that makes none. As far as romance is concerned, my life has always been absurd, so it's only by the power of song that I attempt to keep body and soul together.
What is your favorite part of touring?
The only bit I actually like is the time onstage, which I obviously love. Otherwise touring is quite lonely.
What do you do to take care of your voice?
I have never done anything. I do my utmost to avoid colds and flu, and I back off from anyone with a sniffle. Otherwise, nothing at all.
I'm curious as to what makes a concert a good and memorable experience for you. According to you, what do your best shows have in common (if anything)?
The audience doesn't realize this but, I, in effect, come to see them, and my temperament depends on how they react and even how they look. I sing directly at the audience, and I look right into the audience - few singers do, I've noticed. I am addressing them with each line, and they react - one way or another - as if we are in conversation. Often, because of the light, I can't see people - this is usually at festivals or outdoor amphitheaters and is nobody's fault, but I tend to lose the thread when I'm singing to blackness. Also, if the security at the front are too stroppy and too controlling my anger rises. The shape of the hall, and how the audience are positioned - whether free to move, or shackled to their seats, or being slapped back by security, are all elements that can make or break a night. I'm just there-somewhere-in the gaps.
What do you feel when you're onstage, singing in front of your audience?
I think it's the only time in my life that I feel right about myself.
Otherwise, I don't have any function at all as a human being....which is unfortunate! I'm not sure if I even exist offstage.
I have been a huge fan of your music since the age of 14. Why do you think your music is so appealing and influential to the younger generation?
To put it bluntly, I think it's because of the loneliness I've experienced in my life - loneliness in the true sense of the word.
Very young people, I think, feel pushed around and ridiculed - and are - simply because of their age. The world can seem to be full of officious meddlers who like to tell others what to do - and, as a matter of fact, that's exactly how the world is! So in my voice, I think young people hear someone who understands the routine of being dumped.... excavations of the heart, etc.
Where did you find Boz Boorer and when did he start to play with you?
Mar del Plata, Argentina
I met Boz through a mutual friend, Cathal, who sings in the group Madness. I went through a period when I saw a lot of Cathal, he was a very close friend, and he introduced me to Boz because I had done an album called "Kill Uncle" which Cathal thought was rubbish..... and he wasn't necessarily wrong. He wanted me to move away from Mark Nevin who had co-written "Kill Uncle" which I was prepared to do because I didn't actually know Mark that well. So, Cathal saw Boz as a writing partner for me, but it has obviously developed into a long and precious friendship. Boz is perfect company as well as being very funny.
Could you say to your fans if you think you will give us another album soon?
I presently have the option to tour for the remainder of 2007, or start a new album. I don't have a deal, but I have an offer from Warner Brothers. At the same time, there are some great touring offers - New Zealand, South Africa, my beloved Scandinavia, Israel and Iran. I would love to sing in Tehran.
So, for this week, it's a dilemma.