When the opportunity arises to interview a celebrity via e-mail, we often balk at the invitation because there's really no way of knowing that the person who is supposedly answering is the person to whom you're actually posing the questions. But occasionally we'll make exceptions for an entertainer we feel is worth any inconvenience.
And so it was that the British singer Morrissey became part of the elite and mismatched club of Metro e-terviews (which includes Snoop Dogg, Carly Rae Jepsen, Ke$ha and Henry Rollins, all people who might keep strange enough hours to prevent them from scheduling a phone call and all people who write responses in almost unmistakably characteristic prose) when his answers arrived in our inbox earlier this week. The singer, 30 years into his career (and allegedly less than two years away from retirement), is still arguably best known for his work with The Smiths, though the Manchester band represented less than a third of his time in the music business.
Earlier this week when rumors emerged online that the band, known for their less than amicable split, might reunite, he quickly quashed those rumors. He seemed at least a little bit more eager to discuss his upcoming autobiography, which his publisher, Penguin Books is already calling "a classic in the making."
Did you find fulfillment in writing your autobiography? Was there a particular period of time in your life that you exorcised that gave you more relief to revisit than others?
The terror is equally balanced throughout all periods. It’s a bit like locking yourself away in a dark room and hoping to God something useful develops.
Were there portions that you found yourself skipping over because you felt like you adequately addressed them in song already?
No, because anything worth saying bears repeating.
Was dealing with such a long format a luxury for you or a chore?
At times I felt ready to be carried off, and you can certainly overdose on yourself. But even on off-days I’d find some petrol (gas) in the tank.
You’ve always been known for writing such great quotable couplets, ending up in countless yearbooks over the years. Can you share either the first or last sentence of the book with our readers?
Under no circumstances.
Speaking of songwriting lines, is there a line from one of your songs for which you hope you will be best remembered?
Fortunately, there are many. When you’ve recorded songs such as “Life is a Pigsty” and “The World is Full of Crashing Bores,” it can’t be denied that you at least have something to say. ... Although Rolling Stone magazine have done a great job of ousting me off the human map.
Further on that topic of being remembered, you’ve dealt with the subject of death in your songs quite extensively. Do you have your epitaph picked out already?
Chaucer’s “mother dear, let me in.” That would suit, I think.
Not to dwell too much on death, but in your early years, you wrote lyrics that reached out to so many disaffected individuals. Did you always know that you yourself would persevere through whatever personal strife led to penning those lines? Did you always know that you would have such a long career?
I had no idea that I would have a career. In fact, it’s not a career at all — it’s simply one great mudslide. It’s now 30 years on, which is so unthinkable that you might as well tell me that it’s my life without me in it. I‘d believe you.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, what makes you laugh these days?
My naked self. Thankfully it’s not something I see often. I tend to look away.
About 10 years ago, Chuck Klosterman wrote an article for Spin where he drew attention to your Latino fanbase, which had previously been unknown to many readers. When did you first become aware that this segment of the population was getting so much out of your music?
When I first toured the U.S. as a solo entity I noticed that 70 percent of the audience were Latino. Many were, and are, serious gang tribes out for blood, which, of course, is lovely, and quite handy given the circumstances of my life. It was persistently written in England that the only people who could possibly like Morrissey were those who made their own bread. This was never true.
You’re playing with the Stooges on a few of these dates. Out of respect for Iggy, will you be keeping your shirt on? The shirtless thing is interesting because both of you guys do it so differently. What is it all about for you?
I'm the Before to Iggy's After. My body is nothing to look at, but it's mine and we get on quite well.
Do you still find inspiration in contemporary singers and songwriters? If so, could you possibly share a line from a recent song that has made you consider it at length and come to the conclusion that this person or this act has real talent?
“I think that when you die you might die without ever having been alive,” sings Kristeen Young on “Fantastic Failure.” She’s not wrong.
Stars do a great version of “Asleep,” Jeff Buckley does a pretty, if not too “Hallelujah”-ish “I Know It’s Over” and Zee Avi does a stunning “First of the Gang.” I’m guessing you’ve heard all of these, but is there a cover of one of your songs that has particularly moved you?
Yes, I’ve heard and love all of these versions, but the one that made my head spin for days was Thelma Houston’s “Suedehead,” partly because the British press were adamant that my songs could never appeal to anyone with dark skin. Oh, the comments we’re forced to endure ...
How important was it to you to let your feelings be known about the royal family during the Olympics? Was it something you were annoyed at the media for running with or did you wish your criticism had more legs?
I don’t view it as criticism but as intelligent observation. The so-called royals are a dictatorship and they control all aspects of British print and television media. We all know this because it is plainly evident. As a result, it is not possible in England to either criticize the so-called royals or to suggest an opposing view. The media cannot engage in any open debate. It is positively Third Reich. This wouldn’t be so bad if the family themselves were not such arrogantly stupid people whose abuse of animals is horrific. You will recall the worldwide news reports last year of William and Kate in Canada laughing and clapping as an agitated bull with barbed-wire fastened around its testicles jumped and writhed in sheer agony. News reporters in England laughed and smiled as this footage was shown, with absolutely zero concern for the tortured bull. How is this acceptable? Because the royals are dictators, and far from promoting the UK in a positive way they make England seem like a stupid place to live. Kate Middleton, for example, is a joke.
You’ve said that you wouldn’t perform past the age of 55. Is this still your cut-off?
I doubt I’ll make it to 55. The British “royals” will turn the tanks on me way before then.
How soon is 'NEVER'?
In writing this book, do you address the beginning of your career in a way that fans might finally stop asking you when The Smiths will get back together?
If people continue to ask that question now — which they do, then they shall never stop, and they shall never stop because they don’t understand the history of the band. Asking about a Smiths reformation is no different to driving into fog.
[Editor’s note: In the time since we received Morrissey’s answers, a website reported that The Smiths would be reuniting for a British music festival next year. We reached out to the singer and asked for clarification. His response: The Smiths are NEVER getting back together – ever!]
Guest editor Richard Branson says....
"[When he says The Smiths are never getting back together] that most likely means they are going to get back together. The amount of times that bands have said they’re never, ever, ever going to get back together, sort of just increases the take when they do get back together."
- "Well, I don’t think that that’s actually true," says Branson about Morrissey's allegation that the royal family control all aspects of British media. "We used to have a band called the Sex Pistols and they put out an album on the 25th anniversary of the Queen called 'God Save the Queen,' and certainly criticized the royals. Actually, the BBC did stop it from going to No. 1, that’s true, so maybe there is some truth in that. But I think that, you know, there are certainly places like Hello! Magazine that are certainly sycophantic, so they can have more spreads from the royals. But I think in other places they get criticized."