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The unbearable lightness of being Morrissey
Ahead of his 50th birthday, Morrissey talks exclusively to Hot Press about the sexual nature of singing, letting go in the studio, being blacklisted by the UK's Radio One and how he approaches songwriting.
The Hot Press Newsdesk, 03 Apr 2009
It doesn’t strike me as grudge-settling at all. My grudges are all settled.
If you listen to almost any great album in your personal collection you’ll find that the principle motivation is anger, and this can be greatly indulged when you record because you are in the world of the art of noise. There are no boundaries and we are lucky when anyone gets it right as, say, Iggy and the Stooges did with ‘Raw Power’. Art is a miracle. The music that most affects us usually has dramatic shock. Usually, but not always.
Your partnership with the late Jerry Finn seemed, on the face of it, an unlikely one, given his production background, and yet it has resulted in some of your best work. Could you describe the creative chemistry you enjoyed?
We had great fun together and got on very well. He loved the band and every session became a battle of wits – which was always quite funny. But if he didn’t care for a song then he’d mix it dispassionately. This happened with the songs ‘I Like You’ and ‘How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel’ on You Are The Quarry. He would step back and relish his own judgement too much. He wouldn’t bend. Neither would I. I always won. His death was just terrible. I thought the British music press might salute him for his last and final work, but I must have been drunk when that crossed my mind – they were as petty and skanky as ever. Rolling Stone magazine said that Jerry had died during the recording of Years Of Refusal, but they knew very well that this was not the case because the writer was given the full facts. I think they were scrambling for a cheap joke at my expense – you know, Morrissey Kills Producer. It’s the only thing I haven’t been accused of.
How crucial is a producer as collaborator, de facto A&R man, psychiatrist, friend?
Oddly, very. Jerry was a friend, foremost. We got on from the second we met, as if we were meant to. I’m a non-musician so a bit mentally constipated in the studio – it’s hard to find the right words to explain sound. When we first did the track ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ there was nothing much happening behind the line “I’ve been dreaming of a time when…” and I asked Jerry if he could give Alain’s guitar a Nordic retch – as if rising from the ocean bed – and eleven seconds later there it was.