Morrissey on His Hatred of "Cell Phone Nation," His Skin of "Perished Rubber," and Why He Loves System of a Down
Although Morrissey doesn't have a record deal, he hasn't slowed down one bit. Tonight, he will perform a sold-out show at Radio City Music Hall, playing hits from throughout his career as well as a few numbers that might surface whenever he releases the follow-up to 2009's Years of Refusal. (He also has two sold-out shows at Terminal 5 Friday and Saturday.) His most recent release, as it happens, is a remastered reissue of his solo debut, 1988's Viva Hate, which is available stateside only as an import. Interestingly enough, since he recorded it in 1987, it coincides with the 25th anniversary of his departure from the Smiths, a band he says will never ever (ever) reunite. Nevertheless, when he answered our interview questions below -- via e-mail, as he won't do other types of interviews with the press after being burned by the NME a few years back -- he was cordial enough to answer questions that covered his entire career, as well as some about his current state, beginning with this tour.
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So far, you've played some new songs and many of your greatest hits on this tour. What songs have you enjoyed revisiting the most and why?
I enjoy all of them, otherwise I couldn't sing them. Songs are like lie detectors -- you can easily tell when the singer doesn't mean it.
What is the status of the new album you've written? Why do you feel like you're better off holding out for a label instead of recording and releasing it yourself?
I like to be institutionalized behind a great big wall. I'm independent enough without selling CDs out of the back of a van.
A few years ago, you had to cancel some concerts due to throat problems. How have you had to change your life to keep your voice in shape these days?
I usually contract throat problems from others, who don't bother with prevention. The stage is a hotbed of wafting germs, and with so many air-conditioning blasts coming at you everywhere you go in the U.S., it's difficult to keep your body balanced.
It has been 25 years since you embarked on your solo career, and you recently reissued Viva Hate. What do you remember about your mind-set when you were making that album?
I was a zombie. I didn't want to be a solo artist. But when the Smiths split took place, I was served with legal papers from EMI in England and Sire-Reprise in the U.S. saying that I alone was responsible for clearing up any financial Smiths debts. There were no calls for 25 percent equality at that stage from any ex-Smiths! Let Morrissey carry the can, and we'll carry the cash . . . uh. Anyway, like an idiot, I trotted along, and under such pressure came Viva Hate.
In her liner notes for the Viva Hate reissue, Chrissie Hynde talks about how you sing in a way that makes her feel as though you're singing just for her. Many of your fans feel that way. What artists these days make you feel that way when you listen to their records?
Well, none, because I don't think that type of singing is encouraged. It's thought to be quite a disturbing factor these days if you sing in a personal tone. If Billie Holliday emerged in 2012, the music press would probably dismiss her as a daft, old bat.
You recently said that "Lonely Day" by System of a Down is the last song you absolutely loved. What is it you like about it?
It caught me in the right way at the right moment. I like the band generally, and the main vocals (by Serj Tankian) always have interesting tunings, almost Arabic, sounding like ancient codes for bewailing the dead or something. Although "Lonely Day" wasn't sung by Serj.