Many thanks also to Dale and Mark at Pomona Books for setting up the Q&A. Questions were chosen from the previous story posted on Nov. 10.
"Boy, Interrupted" - Memoir of a former Smith is out Monday Nov. 23, 2015 and can be ordered at the Pomona Books online store.
Dale Hibbert – Morrissey-solo Q&A
Cornflakes: Dale, did you write any of what became the Smiths' basslines as we know them, or were they re-written by Andy Rourke? And what, if anything, can you tell us about Annalisa, who did the female voice on "Suffer Little Children"?
I made slight changes to the bass lines that Johnny wrote. They remained the same when Andy played them. I can’t remember much about Annalisa. She provided the laughter. She seemed close to Steven, or as close as anybody seemed.
evennow: How much of your inclusion in The Smiths do you put on your connections at Decibelle Studios, and what was the main thing you felt when asked to leave the band? From a distance, it appears that you were the "friend" with the car so to speak. And to follow-up if I might, have you ever through the years drawn comparisons between yourself and Pete Best or felt a certain kinship with him over your similar fates?
Well, this is covered in the book. I offered sessions to many, many bands for free. Johnny knew this. They could have recorded a free demo without me being in the band. Also, logically, it makes no sense for me to remain in the band after the demo and play the Ritz gig, and contribute to their first music paper interview, if I was considered merely a ‘friend with the car’.
DavidK: Thank you for your time, Dale. Looking forward to reading your book. One question only ... These days Morrissey comes off as introverted, petty, venomous, judgemental, and quick to anger. Does this reflect your experiences with Morrissey in the past?
I didn’t really get on that well with him, although if you inputted our stats into a dating site, we would appear to be made for one another. Lifelong vegetarians, fans of the Velvet Underground, Mancunian musicians etc. Frontmen are often a little odd.
Jamie: Dale: thanks for agreeing to a round of questioning from the Morrissey-Solo hoi polloi. Best success with the book. From your perspective, how did the Morrissey / Marr dynamic work, both in the studio and outside? Did Johnny generally communicate Morrissey's suggestions/critiques for him or were they both active participants? What struck you as the most remarkable thing about either man?
From the first meetings, Johnny tended to voice Steven’s opinions. Obviously, when I was alone with Steven, he had to speak, but, on reflection, we were both comfortable with silence. Johnny’s most remarkable attribute was an energy that would make a Labrador puppy seem lethargic. Steven had an innate ability to make everyone in the room feel uncomfortable. Their dynamic wasn’t a veneer, which I think caused problems later on. It has to be borne in mind that Andy was a close friend of Johnny’s, but he returned to a relationship that demoted him. I’m not sure this has been covered elsewhere, but psychologically it must have been hard to witness the closeness he once had to Johnny, being replaced by a hugely intimate bond between the two songwriters.
Detritus: Dale, I know you've owned a couple of vegetarian/vegan cafes in England. Are you vegetarian/vegan yourself, and if so, is this something you and Morrissey bonded over or did you come to decide on a meat-free diet post-Smiths?
Nope, I became vegetarian from the age of about four. I am vegetarian still, and acknowledge the vegan arguments, which make it impossible for vegetarians to take the moral high ground. We didn’t really bond, just put up with each other’s presence.
sycophantic_slag: Dear Dale, what inspires you to persevere through so many hardships and feelings of loneliness? In other words, what brings you hope the most?
Wow, there’s no answer to this. I don’t really have hope. I have a slight belief in Karma, or maybe I just feel a little better about my life if I help people out. There was a time when I had a tendency – well, that’s putting it lightly – I had a burning desire that if things got bad, I would self-destruct. Rather than try to help myself, I would deliberately make things worse. Loneliness means different things to different people. Some assume that if you are surrounded by friends, you can never be lonely. Some, myself included, can feel that the more people that surround you, the more intense the feeling of loneliness can become, as you recognise that other people aren’t the answer, and that they simply compound the problem. I tried to run away, to cities where I knew no one, where the language was incomprehensible, the customs alien, but I was followed by my shadow. There came a turning point, where the self-destruction was so severe, and so final, that a kind of preservation kicked in, where I would be anywhere but alone in a hotel room, not for company, but for fear of being alone and the consequences. I’m sorry that this doesn’t sound hopeful. I would love to be able to cite an epiphany, but it didn’t happen. I was fortunate. A person came into my life at the last moment, someone as damaged as me, but because of that, she was able to comprehend, help, and most importantly, not judge or be self-righteous. She never once said “cheer up”, “worse things happen at sea”, “yeah, I get depressed from time to time” – the absolute shite that people come out with.
anonymous: Was the aesthetic and sartorial style of The Smiths ever discussed openly and in detail? The plain Jane, cast-off clothes, exaggerated quiffs and odd brooches was a big bulbous salutation in the road, a divergence from the mega-eyeliner, bleached-out android look of David Sylvian and other "alternative" pop stars of that time. Did you have "the right hair"?
Many styles were discussed. I didn’t have the right hair, but we all went to have our hair cut, just before a photo shoot. When I say “all”, at the time it was just the three of us. The biggest problem was the impact motorbike helmets had on flat tops, the haircuts were never referred to as quiffs, just flat tops.
Before the demo was recorded there was quite a leaning towards the “wall of sound” style of music, reflected in “Boy for my Birthday”.
Raised To Wait: Dear Mr Hibbert, Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions from the questionable ranks of Morrissey-solo. I have often wondered if anyone in the Smiths camp ever talked to you at the time Craig Gannon was asked to step in for Andy?
Nope, I didn’t have any contact with them after I was fired. Andy came to DJ at a club I owned, but that was all.
Eugenius: Glad you've decided to write a book, Dale. I followed you on your blog a log time ago -- you only got a few posts in, but they were all informative and offered a unique look at the Smiths before they were even called the Smiths. So my question: You talked a bit about the orders you got about your hair style, bowling shirts, etc. Much has been said about Morrissey and Marr wanting the Smiths to be a band that catered exclusively to a gay audience (like Bronski Beat and The Communards, I suppose), yet they backtrack on that now. How much of that was true: the style, the plotted direction of the band -- considering you were there during the formative early months. Morrissey and Marr like to say the band's style developed organically and that may be the case, but it sounds like there were some specific plans before the love beads and turtlenecks.
“Before the Love beads and Turtlenecks” that would have made a good title for the book. You know, the reference to being a gay band was a 20 min conversation, batted about. Smiths fans saw their arses about it, became indignant, what they failed to recognise was that it was just three lads, barely out of their teens, sat in a bedroom, formulating a stage persona. I never said it was more than that. I think because of what they became, what Steven became, far more gravitas was associated with this conversation than was warranted.
Mr Delaney: Dear Dale, Guess this question has been asked already in slightly different wording by @Cornflakes, but still. Was there much room for improvisation/(re)arrangement while you were in The Smiths, or did Johnny present the band with fully formed arrangements and told you what to play? Also, your memories of that first Smiths gig will probably feature extensively in the book, but anything you can share on that would be much appreciated. Many thanks in advance.
Well, the bass lines to Suffer and Cradle were written by Johnny, I added a few tweaks. The bassline to Boy for my Birthday, was written by me, but influenced by the original, but that was never used in a recorded form. The first gig is covered in the book. I’ve absolutely exhausted my memory to attempt to re-create the gig in the book.
Uncleskinny: Non-music question. I work in Manchester. The travelling is a pain, so looking to relocate halfway, and looking at Todmorden for a move. What attracted you to Tod, and what do you like about it?
Well, Tod is like Chorlton was 20 years ago. Property prices are reasonable. There’s quite a community of musicians, artists, creative types. Live music can be found at least a couple of times a week. There’s now an excellent coffee house! Commuting to either Manc, Halifax or Leeds is easy and frequent.
If you like a good single malt, an open fire with a wet dog steaming in front of it, there’s no better place. Nobody here will start banging on about smokeless zones.