Morrissey, playing the Quebec-adjacent town of Burlington, VT tomorrow night
The cult of Morrissey endures. Do you get it? The man is responsible for some of the best and most influential pop and poetry of the ’80s and ’90s, songs that resonate as loudly today as they did decades ago. For those of us who latched onto his songs as teenagers (and teenagers flock to him still), fandom is kind of a lifelong contract.
He’s been pegged as a champion of the meek and miserable, a mirror for the angst-ridden and sexually confused. He is all that, or was in his early days with the Smiths. But there’s so much more to Morrissey’s work, from social and political dissent to complicated love songs to a sense of humour that seems pitched at a frequency too high for many to hear.
His militant vegetarianism, ambiguous sexuality and politically incorrect statements about race and immigration have long been sources of controversy, thanks in large part to the hyperbolic British press. In the wake of an international outcry against the traditional Canadian seal hunt in 2006, Morrissey boycotted Canada, and hasn’t played a show in this country since.
Tomorrow, a fair number of Montrealers will travel to Burlington to see him. I took this opportunity to request an interview, and to my amazement, I got one.
Lorraine Carpenter: I missed out on seeing the Smiths in Montreal (I was eight), but I applaud you for vowing to never reform the band. Do you know whether the other three feel the same way?
Morrissey: We know nothing about each other. We aren’t friends, and we don’t know where one another lives, so when I hear reunion rumours, it’s always so ridiculous. Why would I make music with people I don’t know? It would be a bit like me becoming part of a reformed Led Zeppelin — it’s that remote. Also, why does the press assume that I need a reformation? With never an assumption that I’m quite happy as I am?
LC: Would you ever consider embarking on a “classic album” tour, performing one of your solo records in its entirety?
M: I’ve never given it any thought. I don’t have any trouble selling tickets, so I’ve never needed to concoct any thematic reason to be onstage.
LC: It would seem that your boycott of Canada still stands. Under what circumstances would you return?
M: I know the entire world treats animals horrifically — just because they can, and because the law always puts money before morality. But there was and is something especially terrifying about the Canadian seal slaughter, partly because we are asked to accept babies being axed to death, but also because we would expect more intelligence and understanding from Canada than we might from, say, China. I know it’s the decision of the Canadian government, and not the people. But the people are empowered to boot the government out whenever they wish. As the people of the Middle East have shown us, we don’t need to wait for elections.
Canada, I’m certain, will manage quite well without me.
LC: What city are you living in these days? What is it about that city that keeps you there?
M: The world is now just one big country. Haven’t you noticed?
LC: What do you do with your spare time (if you have any)?
M: Nothing at all. I can’t stand the noise generation, so I keep away from people as much as possible. I get sick to death of watching people glare into their mobile cell phones. That’s all people seem to do now.
LC: I imagine you’re recognized by fans on an almost daily basis. You’re used to it, I’m sure, but how do you feel about these exchanges?
M: It’s never unpleasant, but it catches me by surprise, and people often launch into a lengthy speech before I’ve even noticed them standing in front of me. This dazes me. In the first place, people are certain that they know you very well, whilst of course you know nothing whatsoever about them.
LC: What is your relationship with the music industry like these days? Are you essentially a free agent, or is there still pressure from on high?
M: I have no relationship whatsoever with the music industry. I take independence just slightly further than it was ever meant to go.
LC: Are you working on new material? If so, what can you tell me about it?
M: There have been a lot of new songs since the last studio album, but they haven’t been recorded. I could quite easily pay to get myself on a label, and then give the songs away to the label, but how does that differ from insanity?
LC: Given that this tour isn’t attached to a new album, how do you go about preparing your set list? Do you still enjoy performing Smiths songs?
M: I sing whatever grabs me. I feel more affinity with recent songs, but I don’t view some songs as less mine than others. They all add up to one long, drunken chapter. ■
With Kristeen Young at Flynn Center (153 Main Street, Burlington, VT) on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 8 p.m., $48/$60.75, $51.25/$63.75