Anything Could Happen: An Interview with Morrissey
Since the late eighties, Morrissey has captured the hearts of pretty much everyone who has ever heard him belt out a tune. This particular and well-spoken man of few words has recently left his speaking for the stage and through his music, but not much else, rarely giving interviews to pretty much anyone. In fact, due to such sparse amounts of information about the singer that are actually available, it’s easy to be as ardent of a fan as I am and still get pieces incorrect here and there, which the singer had no problem pointing out. No matter what, you can still expect Morrissey to be Morrissey, and that’s why he’s so loved around the globe. From his time in The Smiths to his storied solo career, Morrissey has never backed down from his beliefs nor has he careened into the pitfalls of the music industry. Because of his values and principles, he hasn’t had to play “the game” that the music industry places upon most artists and he’s stayed relevant and influential throughout the years. On his latest release, 2014’s World Peace Is None of Your Business, Morrissey did things the way he always has and released another critically acclaimed album in the process. Now, after several rescheduled dates, he’s on his way back to Houston for an appearance at White Oak Music Hall. Free Press Houston was more than thrilled to get to talk to the legendary artist about his upcoming return to Houston.
Free Press Houston: It seems so pedantic to ask, but since fans don’t hear much from you it seems fitting to ask, how are doing?
Morrissey: I feel very resilient, frequently happy, and I look okay. There’s nothing more to ask for, is there? Or is there?
FPH: As someone who has been living here in the states for a good while now, are there aspects to the U.K. that you miss from time to time?
Morrissey: Yes, there are. Being in London always makes me feel homesick for England. It’s changed so much that it no longer resembles the city I once lived in. This is only shocking because England resisted any form of change for at least 600 years. Now, unfortunately, everyone walks along whilst staring hypnotically into their iPhone, and every London shop booms out needlessly harrowing dance music at eye-crossing volume. A trip to Harrods becomes a mental maze. You walk out of Selfridge’s feeling as if you’ve been hit by a car.
FPH: A lot of your early lyrics dealt with youth revolt and a tongue in cheek humor, do you still find yourself drawn to films and stories of youth in revolt against society?
Morrissey: I don’t, but, I was always drawn to whatever and whoever was socially unacceptable in the arts … and I always loved people who were slightly off-center. I suppose that remains … because … I think I’ve just described myself.
FPH: Early in your career, it has been said that you played in several punk bands including The Nosebleeds with Billy Duffy and you briefly sang with Slaughter & The Dogs, have you followed the current punk and post punk world since leaving all of that behind?
Morrissey: I have no memory of every being in The Nosebleeds, and I certainly didn’t sing for Slaughter & The Dogs, but I do know that someone has mischievously decided that I sang for both bands. I must live with it, I suppose. Yes, I see as many post-post punk bands as possible. I liked The Briggs, and I liked the band Refused, who might not consider themselves to be punk, as such.
FPH: I know you don’t consider yourself to be part of the corporate side to the current state of the music industry per se. Do you see a time when your material will get released by you rather than a big bloated record label?
Morrissey: No. I am extremely naive on this issue, but I like the overconfidence of major labels.
FPH: You and Boz (Boorer) have been touring and writing together for over twenty years now, while newer member Jesse Tobias and you have written a nice portion of the tracks from World Peace Is None of Your Business. Can you describe your songwriting process and is there a difference between how you approach writing a song with a different person?
Morrissey: It’s funny how you see Jesse as a newer member. He’s been with me for 13 years! As far as I know it doesn’t matter very much who I write with as long as the words and tune hit precisely.
FPH: Without delving too far into your personal life, you have songs that feel like they were or are written to someone in particular. Are songs like “Kiss Me a Lot” and “You Have Killed Me” written towards a certain person, or are they more reference points to an audience in general?
Morrissey: To sing is complete self-investigation for me, and I therefore must express reality — even if it’s often only my reality. I cannot sing a song that expresses nothing, so, even if sometimes I don’t fully realize it, the songs are very much private emotions being allowed air.
FPH: You worked on some of Years of Refusal here in Houston at Sunrise Studios, correct? Can you comment on what tracks you and the late Jerry Finn worked on here?
Morrissey: We recorded a single called That’s How People Grow Up at Sunrise Studios, and some trimmings for other songs. I remember a tall crop of bulrushes outside the studio where a crane lived, which was odd because the crane wasn’t concerned about traffic noise or people walking by. A very brave bird.
FPH: You’re a fan of record stores when you can find one, and you’re still an avid collector of records. Houston has multiple record shops like Cactus, Deep End and more. Will you go record shopping while you’re here and since you’re not a fan of modern music, what are you typically looking for when you shop for records?
Morrissey: I am interested in James Brown and Jackie Wilson, and it’s great to discover things by them that I hadn’t heard. Yes, it’s old music, but so is Chopin and Beethoven.
FPH: Some of your more recent sets have featured a healthy mix of fan favorites including sometimes a cover of the Elvis song, “You’ll Be Gone,” what do you have planned for your performance in Houston and will we hear any new songs?
Morrissey: Well, anything could happen, of course, and that’s what makes it exciting for me. As long as it remains an arresting and unusual gesture then I’m certain I have my place. There are, remarkably, some people making music in 2017 who are not stiff human puppets. This is hard to believe, isn’t it?
You can catch Morrissey live and in person when he performs outside on the lawn at White Oak Music Hall on Friday April 14. The all ages show has doors at 7 pm and tickets between $49.50 and $58.00.