Why has the Moz interview with Time Out London not been scanned and placed on this board?
Why has the Moz interview with Time Out London not been scanned and placed on this board?
June 02, 2004
SECTION: Pg. 10 11 12
HEADLINE: 'A MAJOR PART OF ME IS ALWAYS DARK ';
UNDERGROUND LONDON MORRISSEY AND JAKE ARNOTT
by: Jake Arnott
When we asked our guest editor, novelist Jake Arnott, whom he would like to interview for this special issue on dissidents and renegades, there was little hesitation: it had to be Morrissey, 'one of the last true voices of dissent'. Here's what happened when the music-loving crime writer met the 'novelist who simply sings'.
The original location for the photo-shoot was the disused tube station at Aldwych, but Morrissey wanted to take us somewhere else as well. He had discovered the English Martyrs' Club the night before while strolling around theback streets of the East End. This wonderful setting, a working men's club attached to a beautifully decorated Catholic church, seemed so apt to his creative spirit that one could easily imagine it appearing out of nowhere, like the visitation of the Grail Castle on the patient Elect, ready to claim him as its patron saint. A soul of the anti-establishment and one of the last true voices of dissent in popular culture, Morrissey is the perfect subject for interview in this issue of Time Out . It was St Patrick's Day, and I was just lucky enough to be in the right place in the right time.
And maybe I got him on a good day, but I encountered none of his supposed 'difficult' behaviour. Instead I found him to be demonstratively courteous, withan old-school politeness. Sharp, quick-witted, arch even, but not a man who would ever be rude by mistake. His poetic precision with language is, I have to admit, pretty daunting. And his generosity in conversation soon leaves one in his debt. 'Questions will spill out of you like hot wax, ' he declared encouragingly as I fumbled with my notes at the start of the interview, giving me an image of eloquence that I couldn't possibly live up to.
He remains a provocative figure, a refusenik of the first order and a much needed antidote to a mindless celebrity culture. Impossible to pin down but always worth listening to.
JAKE ARNOTT: I suppose a good place to start, and it's quite a romantic notion, is a return from exile.
MORRISSEY: Well, I would maintain that I haven't been anywhere. I maintain that the world has been in exile or somewhere else. I haven't been anywhere, honestly. I've just lived life in the same old mundane way as ever. So I'm not really returning to anything.
So maybe it's England and London that are returning to you.
Do you feel like that? You have a great new album, you're doing Meltdown in Juneand it seems everybody loves you again.
Well, it will pass I'm sure, but for now that certainly seems to be the case. I'm very thankful and, yes, as you spotted today, this love affair which I've denied with this city, is really slapping me about the face and demanding a response from me.
The album has a lot about national identity and your lovehate relationship with that.
It's not quite love-hate, but it is trying to understand it and trying to explain it. As you know it's very difficult to explain But everybody wants an explanation.
And I live to give explanations for some utterly obscure reason.
Maybe you do that through contradiction. The track that comes to mind is 'Irish Blood, English Heart'. Of course, it's St Patrick's Day today. That famous British saint who civilised the Irish.
Not much evidence of that really, is there?
Laughs Will you be celebrating St Patrick's this evening?
Oh, quietly in my heart, yes. I won't be hanging from the balcony singing Gaelicsea-shanties, much as I'd like to.
There's a lot of Catholicism in the album as well, no?
I'm terrified of Catholic guilt. If you're a Catholic, it naturally follows. There's no other emotion.
Well, in some ways it's great in that it makes things more intense. But is thereredemption?
Is there? I don't think so.
We were just at the English Martyrs' Club which I think you should join immediately do you identify with that?
I do indeed. I've never felt like a standard pop artist or pop singer. I've always felt I'm a novelist who simply sings. And so therefore there's no category for me really, and I'm delighted by that.
Do you think that you've done penance?
Laughs For myself and many others.
Certainly for many others, I think. Do you think that your Catholic 'sensibility' a dreadful word to use, but I have has communicated itself to your Mexican fanbase? Do you think they get that?
They must do or they wouldn't be around, but I cease to question what they see or what they hear or what they feel from me. I'm just delighted that they feel something, but I don't really know what it is. I assume it's the romantic heart and the spinning of emotions. It's unexpected and I never assume that people like me because of the way I look. I've always assumed that there has to be something else, some dark river flowing beneath their desire.
But maybe this is because what comes with martyrdom is mortification of the flesh. The 'self-deprecating bones and skin' that you talk of on the album, thatsounds like mortification.
Laughs Well I only laugh because I'm always amused when I hear someone else recite my lyrics. I don't know why, I don't know why. Well, why are you a novelist?
Me? Well, it was out of a sense of desperation. I always wanted to write, but ittook me such a long time.
A long time to actually write a novel that got rejected. Then I wrote another one that didn't get rejected, and in this long process I became a sort of novelist and I'm trapped with that now.
And are there any modern novelists you care for particularly?
Patrick Hamilton, Graham Greene. Kurt Vonnegut, actually, because he's so precise and minimal and easy to read. But you say you felt you were a novelist?
Yes, but the only problem I had was I didn't actually write novels.
But the writing that is, of course, a very profound aspect of your work.
Well, everything I want to say can be said within a song, and that's much more powerful than a novel I'm sorry!
No, you're absolutely right.
And you don't have to worry too much about narrative or any of those crafty things.
Well, you have to in a sense because you want to be memorable in a brief amount of time. You want to write something that's reasonably timeless, something that can't date, and you only really have two minutes, 35 seconds.
There are quite a lot of literary echoes.
I felt the need to take all the things and all the people I loved along with me somehow. I've always considered pop music to be powerful and yet somehow lackingin intellect. I thought making the effort to combine the two would be interesting for so many people. I don't think people really want simplistic pop songs. I think people really want to use their brains if they can.
Can I ask you about 'The First of the Gang to Die'?
What attracts you to the gang?
Envy really, because when I was young I wasn't part of one. I wanted to be. It strikes me as a completely satisfactory pastime to be a member of a gang becausethe great lure of violence and living life in the swill bucket is fascinating tome the cut and thrust of life.
There's a girl gang in the album as well, isn't there? In 'All the Lazy Dykes'.
Yes, certainly, but within the song a very happy and fulfilled one.
Was it something you saw?
It was. The Palms mentioned in the song is a club near where I live. I've never been in there, but the clientele are always spilling out on to the street. Really fantastically strong women. Absolutely breathtaking, the opposite end to the soft, fluffy glamour that's so familiar to us. And I just think that such women are absolutely fascinating. And they look as if they'd kick you to death in an instant, but they may have reason to.
I'm going to quote one of your lines again.
Well, I'll giggle again.
On 'The World Is Full of Crashing Bores' you refer to 'the lockjawed popstars, thicker than pig shit.'
The way you say it, it has more meaning.
Laughs But since the world has been in exile from Morrissey, that has sort of been on the increase Suffocatingly on the increase. Depressingly so, and it's easy to criticise those people but they're not the problem. It really is the record companies who want to make money quickly with people who won't ask for a proper wage and who are just delighted and thrilled to be somewhere they should never have been. It's the obsession with celebrity for absolutely no reason, just being known for being known and not really having anything to offer the world of celebrity or the world of music. It's just good enough to be there and be seen, it validates your basic existence somehow. Am I wrong there?
No, no. I'm just thinking about it. In a way people have always wanted to be famous.
But not for no reason.
I mean if it was tied into an end but, no, it absolutely seems to be for no reason and it's very respectable to be filmed on television while you're practising. So it's self-obsession.
But is it obsession with the self? There doesn't seem to be much self there.
Ah, well, yes, but you see, the lock-jawed pop stars who are thicker than pig shit they think there is.
In 'Let Me Kiss You' you talk about finding a place in the sun.
Do you feel you have found a place in the sun?
Well, I didn't literally mean sitting in a sunspot with a hanky on your head. I mean you've found a comfortable place to be, and within the song it's a reflection of the desired other.
Which of course, me being me, doesn't really conclude well.
It's an illusion.
But the place in the sun in terms of location, do you think that has had an effect as well?
I reached a time where I wanted to create some distance between me and the past,and occasionally you have to go and live somewhere else. So, the sun, in the literal sense, is in Los Angeles all the time. It can make you expand, make you more physical and I have never been a physical person before because I was very much of the North of England. I was born in rain, raised in rain and I didn't find shelter until I was 15, so I was soaked for those first 15 years! So, Los Angeles has been quite it's quite like being stretched on the rack.
And did you want to, did you suddenly think: I just want to get out of England?
I did. And as you know, when you are physically in Los Angeles, you can't quite picture and imagine what is going on at the same time in England because it is light years away.
And that's quite invigorating for the brain. So, I wanted to be away and I admitit's gone on longer than I expected.
Do you think you might come back?
Time Out Interview with Morrissey
Big sigh and pause What would I do with the houseplants? What would I do with the I mean, I'm so rooted there Really?
Yeah but the answer is yes. Yes. A major part of me is always dark and slightlyunhappy and that has no part in the glittering beams of Beverly Hills.
But there's also the political side. In 'America Is Not the World' you express your love for America at the same time as a profound disquiet about the country.
Well the political system in this country is quite similar now. I never see myself reflected in any political debate at all and I don't think I ever will.
But you still have a voice of dissent?
I prefer to think of it as a voice of reason.