Morrissey's follow-up to 2009's lauded Years of Refusal is completely written-- he even played three brand new tracks on the BBC two weeks ago. So now all he has to do is record and release it, right? Well, there's a problem. Morrissey won't record the new material without a label, and, according to the man himself, nobody's interested in signing one of the most biting and celebrated songwriters of the last 30 years.
This struck us as odd, so we e-mailed Morrissey a few questions about his current situation last week. Today, he got back to us with a host of knowingly tragic, woe-is-me answers that could only come from one man. We agreed to print his responses unedited-- a caveat that would equate to instant boredom with almost any artist. But Morrissey, of course, is not just any artist. Click on for his explanation of his label troubles and a self-review of his set at this weekend's Glastonbury Festival.
Pitchfork: You've said that your new album is completely written but you won't record it without a record label. At this point in your career, do you expect labels to come to you or are you shopping around for one?
"The press only write about me in terms of the Smiths story, and the fact that I've had 25 years of eventful solo activity is never mentioned anywhere. Odd."
Morrissey: There's not much I can do about it. Once it becomes public that you aren't signed, you assume that anyone who wants you will come and get you.
Pitchfork: People might be surprised that there aren't any labels interested in taking you on when there are much smaller and less notable bands getting signed on a regular basis. Are there any reasons why you think you're having trouble in particular?
M: Yes. I think labels for the most part want to sign new discoveries so that that label alone is seen to be responsible for the rise of the artist. Not many labels want bands who have already made their mark, because their success is usually attributed to some other label somewhere else at another time.
Most artists are remembered for the albums that introduced them, or that made their success. For this reason, the press only write about me in terms of the Smiths story, and the fact that I've had three solo number one albums-- or even 25 years of eventful solo activity-- is never mentioned anywhere. Odd.
The band I have now are exceptional, yet I am only ever linked in the press with the musicians from the Smiths, even though the ex-Smiths and I are absolute strangers to one another. Silly, isn't it.
Pitchfork: Do you feel like people would be intimidated to sign you?
M: I expect so, although they have no reason to be. I am a staunch traditionalist.
Pitchfork: Considering you have a significant amount of name recognition, would you consider self-releasing an album a la Radiohead?
"I am still stuck in the dream of an album that sells well not because of marketing, but because people like the songs."
M: No. I don't have any need to be innovative in that way. I am still stuck in the dream of an album that sells well not because of marketing, but because people like the songs.
Pitchfork: What's your take on how the music business has changed over the last 30 years-- with more focus on touring and less on making albums-- do you think it's generally for better or worse?
M: Obviously, it's much worse because the entire "industry"-- as it must be called-- has been destroyed in a thousand ways. The Internet has obviously wiped music off the human map-- killed the record shop, and killed the patience of labels who consider debut sales of 300,000 to not be good enough. People no longer know the top 75 charts, and what they do know of them they don't trust because chart-placings are so fixed-- everyone on the planet mysteriously flies in at number one now. The music press has died because of Internet People Power-- everyone is now their own expert critic. As a consequence there are no risks taken with music anymore-- no social commentary songs, no individualism. This is because everyone is deemed instantly replaceable.
Pitchfork: Do you think there's a lack of respect for veteran artists like yourself within the business?
M: Not necessarily. Most people who have been around for over 10 years are seldom relevant. It's difficult to think of anyone at all who has remained credible. I suppose everyone has their fill of fame and finds it to be slightly ludicrous, after all. I remember David Bowie saying how he went into the RCA building at Curzon Street in London at the time of Young Americans and he was asked to show his ID at the door! It's funny and sad at the same time.
Pitchfork: You played three new songs on the BBC recently, which, in effect, was like giving them away online. Was that exciting to debut songs on the radio like that, without any huge promotion or build-up?
M: Yes, it was great. No fuss, no hoo-hah, just walk in and play the music. Having said that, I yearn for what you term "huge promotion." It never happens.
Pitchfork: Did you look at the BBC performance as a way to get people interested in paying for the recording of the album?
"U2 have an enormous Star Wars set with drumsticks that light up northern Africa, and a sound system that would drown out an earthquake. I can't compete with that."
M: Not PAYING for the recording of the album, but WANTING to record the album.
Pitchfork: Are there any other new songs you've written that you're particularly excited about? What are they about?
M: All of the new songs are very strong. We don't want to let any more out yet because before you know it the album will suddenly already exist in a variety of forms EXCEPT as a finished studio recording.
Pitchfork: You're playing Glastonbury this weekend, are you looking forward to seeing anybody? Is Glastonbury still a special place to play for you?
M: We played Glastonbury last night, and we did well, but the rain was bitingly cold and the audience were soaked and covered in wet mud and it was dark and dismal and every time I opened my mouth I swallowed rain. Under such conditions you can't really expect much from an audience. I think they were there for U2 anyway-- understandably. U2 have an enormous Star Wars set with drumsticks that light up northern Africa, and a sound system that would drown out an earthquake. I can't compete with that. Not with my post office savings account. All I have to offer the world are songs.