Morrissey on His Hatred of "Cell Phone Nation," His Skin of "Perished Rubber," and Why He Loves System of a Down
The idea of a Smiths reunion came up in the press again this week. You haven't abandoned that band's repertoire in recent years at your concerts. Which of the Smiths songs that you still perform mean the most to you today and why?
I don't feel that they are somebody else's songs. The sentiments in songs from the Smiths period were always mine, and mine alone. I wasn't the voice of a collective. I don't even think that the other three Smiths even liked the lyrics.
I recently read a story about you aiding an elderly woman at the Strand bookstore, here in New York. If that is true, which books were you browsing through the time, and just what happened with the lady?
I'm no physician, but she seemed to be suffering a mild stroke. She fell backwards, and her eyes rolled into the back of her head. I didn't know what to do other than to rub her arm gently and speak softly to her. I knew she could hear me, but she seemed to be traveling inwards . . . in that mid-state. It's such a sin to fall ill in America and everyone's petrified of medical bills, so I left it to the Strand to consider calling an ambulance. They didn't, and I think it's that fear of getting embroiled in something that could cost you money. I was by myself, and I later recalled how several customers actively zoomed away from the woman when she fell. Aren't people weird?
In Rome a few weeks ago, a pigeon was zapped by a passing motorbike, and people just stepped over it as it writhed in agony in the center of the road. I ran into the road and picked it up and carried it to a dark corner. It was bloodied and dazed, but I returned later with bread and it responded very well. The point is, nobody would help the pigeon. People are so embarrassed to help. It's as if they can't forget about themselves for a split-second.
I read in another interview that you like to underline books as you read them, specifically words you don't know. What are your favorite recent additions to your vocabulary?
It's the simple words that trip us all up. It's probably best at this point if I don't draw any attention to the gawping gaps in my vocabulary, thanks just the same.
When you are in New York, where do you like to go and what do you like to do the most? What makes you the happiest here?
I think the city has gone back to how it was in the 1970s when I first came here -- abrasive and a bit dangerous. None of the taxi drivers speak English, and none of them have any knowledge of central points of interest in the city. I find it difficult to move around because of cell phones, cell phones, cell phones--everywhere you look, people are transfixed by their own cell phones, or shouting their business so that you're forced to overhear. The cell phone nation is grotesque and irritating beyond belief. I miss the large record stores. I think it's so sad that they've been wiped out. I mean, who would ever have thought it likely? Yet Bed Bath & Beyond survives. Why?
Finally, you've said that you'll do only e-mail interviews now after being misquoted by the British press. With that in mind, what is your favorite rumor that you've heard about yourself over the years?
Most of what is written about me is absolute rubbish. You need skin of perished rubber to get through it all in one piece. As you can see, I have just such skin.