All posts by The Mouth Magazine

MARK MORRISS

MARK MORRISS IS QUITE POSSIBLY ‘THE HARDEST WORKING MAN IN SHOWBIZ’. THE FRONTMAN OF ENDURING INDIE BAND THE BLUETONES IS NOW ALSO A DECADE DEEP INTO A PARALLEL SOLO CAREER. ALBUMS MEMORY MUSCLE, A FLASH OF DARKNESS AND THE COVERS COLLECTION THE TASTE OF… HAVE ALL HIGHLIGHTED HIS METICULOUS SONGWRITING, LYRICAL GIFT AND BEAUTIFUL VOICE, AND HIS PENCHANT FOR INTERPRETING OTHER PEOPLE’S SONGS… BUT HIS FOURTH ALBUM (RELEASED ON 20TH SEPTEMBER VIA RECKLESS YES) IS HIS MOST CREATIVE WORK YET. LOOK UP DRAWS ON INFLUENCES FROM AMERICANA THROUGH TO 1970S SCI-FI SOUNDTRACKS, AND THE SINGLES FROM IT SHOWCASE HIS KEEN EYE FOR THE DETAIL, THE ‘POP SMARTS’, OF POP MUSIC. IN THIS NEW INTERVIEW WITH THE MOUTH MAGAZINE, OLD PAL MARK DISCUSSES THE RECORD – AND, AS EVER, MUCH MORE…


HOW ARE YOU DOING, MARK?
Yeah, I’m alright thanks. It’s actually something of a Red Letter Day, today, here. The kids have gone back to school this morning, and my son’s starting at his new school. So it’s actually one of those remarkable and memorable days, and all that sort of thing…

AS WE SPEAK YOU’RE AT HOME IN KENT – WHERE NO DOUBT THE SUN IS SHINING, THE TEST MATCH IS ON THE TELEVISION AND YOU’VE GOT A PLATE OF CUCUMBER SANDWICHES BESIDE YOU AND A GLASS OF PIMMS IN HAND…
Well, ha ha, three out of four… I have got a sandwich, but it’s not cucumber. And no Pimms… as of yet. But the sun is certainly out and I am watching the cricket…

IN BETWEEN OVERS WE’RE GOING TO TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR NEW ALBUM LOOK UP… ALL THE WRONG PEOPLE, THE BEANS AND HOLIDAY OF A LIFETIME ARE THE SINGLES AND SO THE TRACKS CHOSEN TO BE AMBASSADORS FOR THE ALBUM WHICH, IN GENERAL, SEES YOU TAKING A FEW CHANCES WITH YOUR SONGWRITING… OF COURSE, THERE’RE ALL OF THE THINGS PEOPLE WOULD ANTICIPATE FROM A MARK MORRISS RECORD, BUT I’D HAVE TO SAY THERE’RE ALSO A FEW MOMENTS WHICH MIGHT CATCH SOME BY SURPRISE…
Ooh, yeah? Go on… Such as?

… WELL, I WANT TO USE THE PHRASE ‘THREE DIMENSIONAL’… THE OPENING COUPLE OF MINUTES OF THE FIRST TRACK (ADVENTURES) IMMEDIATELY TELLS YOU IT’S AN AMBITIOUS RECORD…
Yeah, I hope so. I hope so. That was the intent with everything about that opening song, actually. It’s quite linear and it’s quite long, and it’s quite ‘kitchen sinky’ if you know what I mean? Everything’s in there. Once you get past the opening few bars there’s not much light and shade. It’s just a lot of… erm… light. Ha ha…

WHEN I LISTEN BACK TO THE BLUETONES I THINK THERE WAS ALWAYS A MUSICALLY AMBITIOUS BAND, THERE… A LOT OF DETAIL AND INTRICACY – PARTICULARLY ON THE EXPECTING TO FLY ALBUM. NOT THAT THERE WASN’T DETAIL AND INTRICACY LATER ON, TOO, BUT IT FEELS LIKE MAYBE YOU’RE GETTING BACK INTO EXPLORING THAT AGAIN..?
Yeah, that’s right… But there’s also this thing now that you can make whatever you like, you can make whatever you want, a musical instrument. These days you can sample things and mess around with sounds, and you can incorporate these things that have other voices into your tracks. For example, on my last album [the covers album THE TASTE OF MARK MORRISS], on the song LUCRETIA (MY REFLECTION) the sound that you’re hearing right before the first notes kick in is Gordon the producer’s boiler… We recorded his boiler ‘cos the studio was freezing and we’d always have to switch it off when we were recording because it’d be so noisy. But it also had a nice atmosphere to it. Once we’d stuck a bit of reverb on it, it sounded quite menacing – so we used that as the intro to that song… Now, on the new album the very first sound you hear sounds like a motor starting up, an electric motor starting up. When we were recording the album I used to stay over and sleep on Gordon’s floor, in his sitting room. Again, it was freezing. So I brought my own heater round with me. One of those terrible, not eco-friendly in any way, air-fan things. So the very first thing you hear on the album, that’s the sound of that kicking up. It’s there ‘cos I associated it so much with that time – ‘cos obviously it was the first thing I’d hear in morning. I’d wake up and flick the heater on before I got out of the sleeping bag…

YOU ALSO USED YOUR IPHONE ON THIS ALBUM, AS A THERAMIN…
Yeah, that’s an app… I’ve used apps on my phone loads of times – the ‘toy’ instruments you can get. For the final Bluetones album [A NEW ATHENS], there was a song that didn’t actually make the record called I LIKE TO LIE. About 60% of the acoustic guitar on that was from an app. Press the chord, strum the phone. Press the chord, strum the phone. It doesn’t really sound like a guitar at all, but I quite liked it. I like using things like that. So, yes, there’s a theramin on the LOOK UP album. They’re quite satisfying to play, actually, even on the screen of an iPhone, ha ha…

… THE MOUTH MAGAZINE FILMED A SESSION WITH WILD WILLY BARRETT AND JOHN OTWAY A FEW YEARS AGO, BARRETT ON HIS BANJO AND OTWAY PLAYING HIS THEREMIN… THEY ACTUALLY DID THE DUELLING BANJOS…
Ha ha… Crikey! Otway must be a master if he can get his head around doing that!

SO, DETAIL IS WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT. OBVIOUSLY YOU HAVE A REALLY KEEN EAR FOR THE LITTLE DETAILS IN POP MUSIC. WE’VE TALKED BEFORE ABOUT THOSE ‘LITTLE MOMENTS’ IN POP MUSIC THAT WE’VE BOTH LIKED… YOU’RE A FAN OF POP FROM RIGHT ACROSS THE SPECTRUM – YOU’RE ‘GENRE FLUID’ AS BILLY BRAGG PUTS IT…
Ha ha ha, nice…

… SO THINKING ABOUT MAKING LOOK UP, ARE THERE CERTAIN REFERENCE POINTS? I’VE HEARD XTC MENTIONED…
Yeah, in some of the reviews of THE BEANS that’s been said. There was a marked attempt to make the intro sound a bit like XTC – MAKING PLANS FOR NIGEL style, with the percussion before it all kicks in. So the people who’ve noted that, I’ve gone “Yes. Good. Thanks. I wanted it to”… And there’s that bit in the bridge, where I wanted it to sound like Elvis Costello. The punchiness in the melody, in the “I don’t wanna be around when the penny drops” bit… In my head I could always hear Elvis Costello spitting that line out. There’s also a bit of the bassline in the chorus for a couple of bars, it imitates the MY SHARONA bass, though it’s hidden away a little bit. It’s not quite as prominent as the MY SHARONA bass. But, yeah, little things like that I love, ‘cos love all that music from the new wave, and the pop stuff that was happening around the end of the 1970s. So, yeah, in a way THE BEANS is a bit of a welding together of new wave ideas. New wave rip-offs, ha ha…

THE PREVIOUS ALBUM – THE TASTE OF MARK MORRISS – WAS A COVERS ALBUM, AND I THINK WE’VE TALKED BEFORE ABOUT THE REASONING FOR DOING THAT… YOU HAD QUITE A PERIOD OF WRITER’S BLOCK, AND SO DOING COVERS WAS A GOOD WAY TO GET THE JUICES FLOWING AGAIN… WERE THERE PARTICULAR THINGS THAT YOU LEARNED BY TAKING APART AND GETTING INSIDE OTHER PEOPLE’S SONGS LIKE THAT?
Oh yeah, definitely. It was like going back to school, in a way. What I took away from it most strongly, from breaking other people’s songs down, and what was most useful to me, was the idea of keeping it simple. Once I’d broken all these songs down to their ‘working parts’, the thing that they all had in common was that they were all fairly simple in terms of chord structure. What sounded complicated to the ear were just little recording tricks or little ways of moving the beat around in songs. That became quite inspiring and fired me up again.

IT’D BEEN A BIT DIFFICULT FOR YOU, AFTER THE A FLASH OF DARKNESS ALBUM…
Yeah, I think I’d been over-thinking things for a while and that became quite paralysing, actually. I got into that “I’m spent” thing, y’know? The “maybe I’m a spent force” way of thinking… Even though I didn’t have any songs of my own, I just needed to make a record. So I did, and using other people’s songs was the way that I could be creative, having not quite got to the point of having anything new of my own. So recording the covers album gave me the impetus to get back into the studio, and that was important, because I’d been out of the studio for so long and I just needed to be in there doing something.

I THINK THE TASTE OF MARK MORRISS IS REALLY GOOD ACTUALLY. IT ‘PLAYS’ GREAT… AND IT’S NOT A NOVELTY RECORD, BUT IT DOES FEEL LIKE A LOT OF FUN…
It’s a nice little ‘companion piece’ to A FLASH OF DARKNESS, I think. I do think of it as a companion piece to the second album, rather than ‘the third album’ in its own right, to be honest. I could tell you that a lot of those songs had informed the making of A FLASH OF DARKNESS, in a way. And so recording THE TASTE OF MARK MORRISS was a way of being able to continue working with a lot if the instruments we’d used, and continue to work the way that we’d worked as well… I suppose we were extending but then closing the chapter on A FLASH OF DARKNESS by doing the covers album.  But, in fact, the most important thing it did was open the doors on the new record, on writing for LOOK UP, in a way. THE TASTE OF MARK MORRISS allowed me to get back into it all and be more free and to know it was alright to keep things more simple… ‘cos I’d got to the point where I was thinking “you can’t just play these major chords on a six or seven minute repeat and it be interesting or any good” – but then it was like “actually… yeah, you can”! Just put it down and see where it hits. Repetition can be quite powerful…

… AS THE VELVET UNDERGROUND SHOWS… 
Yeah! Exactly! Exactly… And that really was the best thing about getting inside all of those other people’s songs. I realised things like “oh my God, this is actually just G-major, F-major and C-major on a cycle, but it sounds more complicated than that”…

HAS THAT SORT OF PURGE OF COVER VERSIONS FINISHED? HAVE YOU SATISFIED THAT URGE? I ASK BECAUSE I’VE SAT IN ON SOUNDCHECKS AND THINGS, AND YOU’RE ALWAYS NOODLING ABOUT AND MAKING YOUR WAY INTO OTHER PEOPPLE’S SONGS, WORKING THEM OUT… YOU’RE QUITE THE STUDENT OF MUSIC AS WELL AS A MAKER OF IT…
Oh yeah. Yeah. I’ll always do that. I don’t think I’d ever make another album of cover versions again. I think everyone’s allowed to do one, but that’s it, ha ha. Unless you’re Susan Boyle, I suppose… But I’ll always do that, work out other people’s songs, ‘cos I love doing it. It’s such good fun to interpret other people’s song in your own way. And in homage…

HAVE YOU HEARD MORRISSEY’S COVERS ALBUM?
Wait a minute… Morrissey’s done a covers album?

YEAH, EARLIER THIS YEAR…
No… That completely passed me by. Is it any good?

WELL, THERE’S SOME INTERESTING SONG CHOICES ON THERE – SOME YOU’D PROBABLY EXPECT FROM MORRISSEY BUT ONE OR TWO YOU MIGHT NOT… I THINK IT COULD HAVE BEEN SPECTACULAR – BUT IT’S ACTUALLY A BIT OF A CHORE TO GET THROUGH. IT FEELS A BIT JOYLESS… THAT SORT OF LIGHTNESS ON ITS FEET WHICH YOU CAN FEEL ON THE TASTE OF MARK MORRISS, THAT’S COMPLETELY ABSENT…
Oh, I see. Okay. Well that’s a shame. I suppose he’s hardly likely to do BACK FOR GOOD, is he? I imagine it’s all quite maudlin.

… HE DID PUT OUT A PRETTY GOOD VERSION OF BACK ON THE CHAIN GANG AS A SINGLE, THOUGH… YOU CAN’T GO WRONG WITH THE PRETENDERS, I SUPPOSE…
Oh, I heard about that. He did that at his shows, didn’t he? It’s a very good choice. I’ve done that one, as well. I’ve played it. And it’s very similar chords to SLIGHT RETURN. So there you go…

MARK, LOOK UP WAS ORIGINALLY AVAILABLE A WHILE AGO TO SUBSCRIBERS TO YOUR PLEDGE CAMPAIGN… PLEDGE HAS NOW COLLAPSED, WHICH I THINK HAS HURT A FEW ARTISTS… IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE TIMING FOR YOU HAS PROBABLY BEEN OKAY ON ALL THAT, OR DID YOU GET CAUGHT UP IN IT?
No, I was fine, thankfully, but it hurt a lot of artists. What happened didn’t affect my campaign, ‘cos that had finished in early 2017. The Pledge thing only really collapsed in the middle to end of last year, didn’t it? It’s quite a horrible story, really.

… HAD YOU FOUND PLEDGE EASY TO DEAL WITH?
Yeah, absolutely. I’d found them very helpful, actually. I think the company was running great until the point it collapsed. I think it was all happening ‘at the top’. They were spending the money they were supposed to be putting on one side for the artists. They were dipping into that pool… It was like a  Ponzi scheme in the end, ‘cos they were robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s just fraud, basically. So everyone who was working with them at that time ended up being affected. No-one got off, ‘cos Pledge had all their money – and it’s all gone. Millions… Millions and millions… People should go to prison for what happened there – but they won’t.

IT COMPLETELY DAMAGES THE WHOLE REPUTATION OF CROWD-FUNDING ORGANISATIONS…
Yeah, that’s one of the worst things about it, one of the most damaging things about it. The trust that’s been eroded between crowd-funding platforms and the artists and the consumers. The artists are thinking “am I going to get my money?” and the consumers are going to think “am I going to get my product?” – so it’s awful, ‘cos people now think they’re just Ponzi schemes – pyramid schemes, basically.

A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO WE SAT DOWN AFTER A GIG AND, OVER A GLASS OF WINE, YOU PLAYED ME SOME ROUGH MIXES AND SOME INSTRUMENTAL MIXES OF SONGS THAT HAVE ENDED UP ON LOOK UP… YOU TALKED ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF TAKING THE FINISHED THING TO A COUPLE OF LABELS TO SEE WHAT THEY MIGHT BE ABLE TO DO WITH IT… AND NOW HERE WE ARE – YOU’VE ENDED UP PUTTING IT OUT THROUGH RECKLESS YES, A SMALL LABEL BASED IN THE MIDLANDS…
Well, once the record was finished there were a couple of shifts in my personal life… I was wrapping up making the record and at the same time everything in the background was kind of falling to pieces. So I was quite distracted while all that was going on, and the timing wasn’t great for me. It actually took me quite a while to disassociate that bad time and that record. Basically I was dragging my feet with the record for quite a long time. So, I was just sitting on it for quite a while. I had it in my back pocket, really kind of hoping someone would come to me… But obviously no-one’s going to come to me, are they, ‘cos no-one knows that I’ve got something in my back pocket…

WERE ACID JAZZ NOT INTERESTED?
Well, I’d released the previous two records through Acid Jazz – but they’d been bought out. So they’re not really Acid Jazz anymore, in terms of the personnel… And, really, a label is the personnel… But I had a conversation with Reckless Yes at the end of last year. And it was one of those things: “Oh, we didn’t know you had an album ready to go”… and so I asked them if they’d like to put it out… “Yeah, but we’re only a small label”… But I don’t care about the difference between small and big. If it’ll get the record out and get it in the shops then hopefully it’ll get legs, and the people who’d like it will get to hear it.

THEY SEEM A REALLY GOOD LITTLE LABEL…
Yeah. They’re a smaller label, so the lines of communication are less – which is always great, ‘cos when you’re dealing with five or six different people things can get mis-communicated or not communicated at all, and it makes the whole process of putting a record out a lot more complicated. So Reckless Yes, for me, is ideal. I don’t have a manager for my stuff, I manage myself. I’m not the most organised at the best of times, so this works really well for me. They’re a young and fresh label with a lot of imagination. They want to try things, and they’re not bogged down by bad experiences or cynicism.

THERE SEEMS TO BE A REAL PUSH BEHIND GIVING LOOK UP WHAT IT DESERVES – TO BE OUT THERE AND HEARD… EVERYBODY’S WORKING HARD TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN. BUT I WONDERED WHETHER, BECAUSE IT’S NOW A COUPLE OF YEARS SINCE THE RECORD WAS WRITTEN AND RECORDED, YOU YOURSELF HAVE ALREADY SORT OF ‘MOVED ON’..?
I do have other stuff in my pocket, yeah. But it’s also a case of me not being able to do anything with it until I’ve got this one out of my system. I wouldn’t be able to focus on anything else. So ’til I get this one shifted, nothing else is gonna come out. It’s like… erm… It’s like spiritual constipation, ha ha…

I THINK WE SHOULD PROBABLY MENTION THAT THERE WERE A COUPLE OF BIG REISSUES FOR THE BLUETONES A FEW WEEKS AGO… SCIENCE AND NATURE, THE BAND’S THIRD ALBUM, CAME OUT ON VINYL, AS DID THE SINGLES ALBUM… I THINK I’M RIGHT IN SAYING THE LAST TWO BLUETONES ALBUMS NEVER EVEN MADE IT TO VINYL THE FIRST TIME ROUND… SO I WONDERED IF THERE WERE PLANS FOR THOSE LATER ALBUMS TO GET THE SAME REISSUE TREATMENT?
Yeah, you’re right, those records didn’t come out on vinyl back in their day. But, yeah, that’s the plan – for those albums to come out. Demon Records are speaking to the original labels now. It’s just a case of convincing the old labels to hand over the rights – which they will.

HOW DIFFICULT IS THAT CONVERSATION, THOUGH? SURELY WHEN THE OLD LABEL GETS A WHIFF OF THE FACT DEMON WANT TO LICENSE AN ALBUM AND PUT IT OUT, THEY’RE GOING TO UP THE PRICE AREN’T THEY?
No, no. I think they weigh up the pros and cons. Negotiations are made, there’s money changes hands and a license is acquired. They think “well, we’ve made x-amount out of this record over the last x-amount of years, and we’ve got no plans to do anything with it now. We’re not gonna put x-amount of money into it while it’s just sitting there doing nothing”, so they let someone else do it. Let someone else do it. That’s how those reissues work, really.

I WAS PLEASED THE SINGLES ALBUM CAME OUT ‘COS I THINK THAT’S A REALLY GOOD STARTING POINT FOR ‘CASUAL’ OR NEW FANS… BUT I’D REALLY LIKE TO SEE A ROUGH OUTLINE – THE COMPILATION OF ALL OF THE BLUETONES B-SIDES AND EXTRA TRACKS AND THINGS… THERE WAS SOME AMAZING MATERIAL ON B-SIDES, AND THE LAST TIME WE MET WE TALKED ABOUT THAT AND I MENTIONED THAT I THOUGHT A NEW VERSION OF A ROUGH OUTLINE COULD BE AN ATTRACTIVE BET…
Yeah, you did. I do now think that’ll happen in some form as well. In fact there’s every likelihood that it’s all gonna see the light of day – the whole lot, on vinyl – because of the shifts in the pattern of people’s buying over the last few years. People are buying a lot more vinyl now. It’s a format that’s really come back to life, which I’m really pleased about. So it just makes sense to get all of The Bluetones’ catalogue stuff out there at some point…

I KNOW YOU’VE BEEN BUYING VINYL FOR AS LONG AS I HAVE, WE’RE ROUGHLY THE SAME AGE… IS IT A FORMAT THAT YOU’VE EVER ‘LET GO’? DID YOU GO THROUGH THE CD YEARS, I SUPPOSE I MEAN?
I went through the CD years as well, yeah… I actually had to get rid of my record collection about fifteen years ago, because at the time (unbeknownst to us) we were being ripped off. Our money was being embezzled by our manager. So I never had any money. I needed some money, so I had to sell my records…

… YOU WERE BEING EMBEZZLED?
Yeah. Even though we were touring all the time and really busy with gigs, we were being robbed. We were being told “there’s nothing in there, boys, there’s no money. The gigs are just wiping their face”… But they weren’t. They were doing a lot more than that, a lot better than that. I think in one calendar year we did seventy-five gigs in the UK on two different tours, and the whole thing was very nearly totally sold out… and we came out of it with nothing. Absolutely nothing. That tells you something was going on. So it was after that that I had to sell my records.

… STAGGERING, MARK… SO WHAT HAPPENED WITH THAT MANAGEMENT? HAVE YOU AND THE REST OF THE BAND EVER SEEN ANY RECOMPENSE?
No, no, no… He checked himself into a… erm… I dunno what the correct term is now… He checked himself into the nuthouse and had himself diagnosed as ill – but it was drugs. It was drugs. He was a serious coke-head. But the thing is, everyone knew except the band. We knew he’d had a problem in the past and that he’d kicked it – but he was back on it. He’d been back on it for about three or four years, and it was a complete secret. It was that sort of psychosis… We just got a text message one day, we all got the same message. We were about to get on an aeroplane. It said “This is the last message you’ll ever hear from me. The American tour is off, the Japanese tour is off, the Australian tour is off”… Basically “see ya”… And that was it… He was gone… We have found him since – but if you’ve checked yourself into a sanatorium and declared yourself bankrupt, there’s nothing much anyone can do. There was not a lot we could do to pin him down, legally, because we could have spent a lot of money chasing none…

YEAH, YOU COULD HAVE SPENT THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS JUST TO HAVE IT RULED THAT HE CAN PAY YOU BACK AT A POUND A WEEK FOR… THIRTY THOUSAND YEARS OR WHATEVER…
Yeah, that’s it. Ha ha…

… THE BAND DID EVENTUALLY ‘SPLIT’ IN 2011, OR GO ON HIATUS – THOUGH THANKFULLY THESE DAYS YOU’RE ‘BACK TOGETHER’ AND STILL ACTIVE… YOU TOUR A COUPLE OF TIMES A YEAR, CELEBRATING THE BACK CATALOGUE (AS YOU PUT IT, THE LAST TIME WE PODCASTED TOGETHER, A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO)… AND EVERY TIME I’VE ASKED YOU THIS YOU’VE ANSWERED WITH A VERY QUIET AND POLITE BUT RESOUNDING “NO”, AND THAT IT’S NEVER BEEN PART OF ‘THE PLAN’… BUT I FEEL I HAVE TO ASK EVERY TIME, OF COURSE… IS THERE NOW THE TEMPTATION TO WRITE AND RECORD TOGETHER AGAIN? 
Well, time has passed… We’ve kind of played everything in our catalogue. We’ve revisited it, relearned it, rehearsed it, played it live… And so now, inevitably really, we are starting to jam and be spontaneous and make new music, and more and more of it. Things are coming together, and I can tell you that something will definitely bubble up…

… THAT’S GOOD NEWS. AND I’M SURE YOU’LL APPROACH RELEASING ANYTHING WITH A REALLY HIGH QUALITY CONTROL, THOUGH… ‘COS THE BLUETONES BACK CATALOGUE IS SO WELL LOVED AND NO-ONE WOULD WANT TO SORT OF ‘TARNISH’ THAT – ABSOLUTELY MOST OF ALL THE BAND, OF COURSE…
Yeah… We really like the way our catalogue sits, and to stick another full album on the end of it, ten years after the fact, would feel a little bit awkward, to say the least. It’s very rare that you can slip back into those old shoes and it be seamless. So I really don’t think it’ll be an album. It’ll probably more likely be a couple of EPs. I thought the Pixies did it really well four or five years ago, whenever it was, when they came back with a series of EPs. It was nice bite-size chunks that as a fan you can fairly easily get your head around – and importantly it’s not really stepping on the toes of the catalogue. Those EPs felt like a really nice – here’s that phrase again – companion piece to the original catalogue. I think that’s how we’ll approach it. That’s how we’re starting to think about it, now. It’ll be nice to see where we are creatively, collectively… And we’ve got some good ideas bubbling under already that we haven’t started to properly focus on. We jam them and they feel good… But, yeah, a new Bluetones album would be a mistake, creatively. It wouldn’t be a mistake commercially – everyone’s telling us we should do a new album – but I think creatively that wouldn’t be the right thing to do. None of us feel like that would be right… And bite-sized chunks means we could put songs in here and there, and you wouldn’t get people coming to your gigs thinking “good luck to them and all that – but I hope they don’t play too much of the new album”… People want to hear the things that they know, and just a little bit of something new. So this way they can rest easy, ha ha…

AT A BLUETONES GIG EARLIER THIS YEAR I NOTICED A BIT OF A BUZZ AROUND YOUR MERCH TABLE, AND IT WAS BECAUSE YOU’D PRESSED SERENITY NOW, THE BAND’S 2005 EP, TO VINYL… IT WAS ALL PRETTY QUIETLY DONE – NO BIG ANNOUNCEMENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA OR ON THE BAND’S WEBSITE OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT… PEOPLE WERE REALLY EXCITED TO DISCOVER IT…
Well, I hope so, yeah. I’m really glad we did it. I’m really pleased we did that this year with SERENITY NOW, ‘cos it was truly a ‘lost recording’. When it was first out in 2005 it was available only as a CD, and nowadays it’s not on any streaming platforms. And it’s a really good piece. We love that little record… So pressing it to vinyl has breathed new life back into those old songs. With the popularity of vinyl again, and obviously I now collect vinyl again, and I’m very hands on with getting my own solo records pressed and out there, I knew it could be done. I knew the process was very doable, so let’s just do it. Let’s get a couple of hundred of these made up, and I guarantee there’s people out there who’d want them… I think it’s a good way of doing it…

ON A SIMILAR POINT, REALLY… YOUR DEBUT SOLO ALBUM – MEMORY MUSCLE, WHICH CAME OUT IN 2008 – HAS NOT BEEN OUT ON VINYL BEFORE. DO YOU THINK THAT COULD HAPPEN?
Yes! It will. I’m on the hunt for the artist that did the artwork. He’s got all the original artwork files. The label I released it on eleven years ago doesn’t exist anymore, but I’ve tracked down a couple of people from the label who worked with me back then, and they’re looking for him. Once he sends me the artwork then I can have it all blown up to fit a record. That’s basically really the only thing that’s holding the vinyl of MEMORY MUSCLE back. So as soon as I track him down it’s a green light…

YOU TRAVEL A LOT ‘COS YOU ARE (AS I’VE SAID BEFORE) ‘THE HARDEST WORKING MAN IN SHOWBIZ’… YOU’RE CONSTANTLY GIGGING, SO YOU’RE ALWAYS DRIVING THE A1, M1, M5, M62, WHATEVER, AND YOU’RE ALWAYS MEETING NEW PEOPLE AND SO ON… THE VIBE OF THE SONG ROLL AWAY, FROM LOOK UP, SOMEHOW SEEMS TO BE A SORT OF REFLECTION OF THE LIFE YOU LEAD… 
And it’s a cover, ha ha…

HA HA… YEAH, I KNOW… BUT IT SOMEHOW SEEMS TO TAKE A PAUSE OR SOMETHING… IT’S POIGNANT.
Yeah, I do know what you mean actually. I felt a very strong bond to that song the first time I ever heard it. I was driving home from a Bluetones rehearsal, actually, and it came on the radio and I just thought “What is this? This is magical”… So I hijacked it, ha ha…

MUSIC ON THE RADIO WHILE YOU’RE DRIVING IS A BIT OF A THEME. YOU TOLD ME ONCE THAT YOU’D JUST FOUND A NEW SORT OF RESPECT FOR PINK FLOYD ‘COS YOU’D JUST HEARD US AND THEM ON THE RADIO WHILE YOU WERE DRIVING UP HERE… I THINK YOU WERE GOING TO INVESTIGATE FURTHER…
Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. It was Ken Bruce that played it. I used to save up all the POPMASTER quizzes and listen to them all in one go when I had a long drive. So I could pop quiz all the way down the motorway, ha ha… And at the end of the quiz I’m guessing he goes for a cigarette break or something, ‘cos he always puts on a seven or eight minute song, a really long song. And he put on US AND THEM – and I loved it… So I bought THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, obviously. And I couldn’t get into it, ha ha ha… I can’t get into it at all. I just can’t. I find it really hard. I love the music Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett made together – but after he’d gone there’s only the odd song. I do struggle with Pink Floyd after Syd Barrett.

RECORDING ROLL AWAY WAS ALMOST A THROWAWAY THING, WASN’T IT?
Yeah, it was. I’d been playing in Matt Berry’s band and I’d learned that song, and when Matt wasn’t there (‘cos he often had a lot of promotional commitments), we’d play it in soundchecks. I’d taught the rest of the band the song and so we’d play it and I’d sing it, just for a bit of fun really. But recording it was just chance. The whole thing was an accident, really. A very very happy accident. It was on a Sunday that we recorded it. I went into the studio having done a couple of gigs on the Friday and Saturday, and I was supposed to be recording some harmonies and some falsetto singing on something for the album – and I really wasn’t in any shape to do that… I was too worn out from the gigging… So there was nothing else for me to do really. Rather than waste the studio time, rather than just waste the day, I said I’d like to stick that song down. So we recorded pretty much 90% of it in that afternoon and that evening. Just Gordon and I, playing live. The version that ended up on the album was the fourth or fifth take. The vocal was done live and not touched, not overdubbed, not re-recorded. The acoustic guitar and the vocal were all recorded live with the drums (which are quite minimal in that song anyway)… Recording it was not necessarily with the intention for it to go on the album, it was just to record it so that we could have something… Some content. There’s a good word – ‘content’… ha ha…

… THERE’S PLENTY OF CONTENT ON LOOK UP… AS I SAID SOMEWHERE BACK AT THE START, IT’S DETAILED AND THERE’S ALL SORTS OF GREAT STUFF THERE TO KEEP PEOPLE LISTENING… IT’S A FINE ADDITION TO YOUR CANON, SIR… IF NOT THE CROWNING MOMENT OF IT!
Well, it’s very nice of you to say so. Very kind. I do feel like that too. I like all four of my solo albums, of course. I think they all have something. But this one is definitely my best work. I know that people always say that when they’ve got a new record out, don’t they? But the thing is – this one’s not really new anymore… Not to me, anyway… Ha ha ha…

 

Order LOOK UP, released through the Reckless Yes label, here

Mark Morriss (‘The Hardest Working Man In Showbiz’) is constantly on tour. Dates here
The Bluetones tour the UK this Autumn. Dates here

Portrait of Mark Morriss by Ben Meadows