After two cancellations in the past year, on October 4th Morrissey is finally coming to the Métropole in Lausanne, a city he says has been a home for many years. In a new interview with the singer, Morrissey talks about the state of affairs for the music and media industry, the ties between music, politics and cultural identity, his first novel and how he is not about to « slow down and shut up ». Following his recent call for UK prime minister David Cameron to resign, as well as claims that he won’t be performing in the UK again. Morrissey opens up about how his music is moving forward and away from the place where he began. Morrissey’s novel List of the Lost is out this Thursday through Penguin.
They say that the third time is a charm, and for your fans here in Lausanne that seems to be the case as the past two dates here have been cancelled. Though, it seems there is a kind of affection you have for Lausanne as you have made continuous attempts to reschedule the shows here. It is a sort of lovely loyalty in sense as other cities have not been so lucky to be rescheduled as of yet. What is it about performing in Lausanne that makes you so intent on rescheduling?
I spend a lot of time in Lausanne and have done so for almost fifteen years. It’s very much a first home, not a second. It didn’t initially occur to me to play in Lausanne because FNAC only ever have one or two Morrissey CDs, so I didn’t sense any particular popularity. The last show was cancelled because of flu, and the odd thing was that everyone in the band and crew had the flu but I didn’t. It’s usually the other way around.
When you come to Lausanne, undoubtably in other cities as well, with your presence also comes a reawakening in the issue of animal rights. I say a reawakening because it seems the days of artists standing behind a cause both publically and financially has become a thing of the past – perhaps for fear of how it will affect their image, sales or whatever else.
You possibly over-rate people who make music! In 2015, they’re not actually very intelligent, which is the reason why the can become successful. Only the dumbo’s are allowed through.
How do you feel when you see entire festivals or venues change their policy on animals products being served or sold because of your demands and why do you think other artists aren’t as strong or absolute in their loyalty to beliefs?
It’s not a case of animal rights. It is a case of social justice. Perhaps you do not care about animals as such, but if you claim to be in possession of morality and decency then it should show itself by your protection of all beings that are in trouble. If we see someone fall over, we naturally rush to them. If we see a dog drowning, we would instinctively do all we can to help. We must apply the same empathy to the slaughterhouse and abolish it from our societies. Until this happens, the human race is savage.
How has your fidelity to your beliefs affected your career?
I haven’t ever thought in terms of a career. If you are controlled by your career then you’ve lost the ability to think for yourself.
How do you see the stature of an artist in terms of representing a certain idea or view- beit animal rights, abortion, police violence, etc now as opposed to a decade or two earlier?
The internet has completely changed the moral climate of the entire world. Just imagine what world leaders got away with in pre-internet days! Just imagine what the police got away with before iPhones and You Tube exposures! Politicians are always the last to join evolving societies because they don’t ever want the systems to change. We can also now see how people who question everything are usually punished by the power elite. Certainly in the UK we live in times that moral philosophers could consider fascist. There is a conservative lockdown on any criticism of the Boil Family. I cannot use the world ‘royal’ because there is no such thing as a royal person. There is a natural understanding of law, but there is also state law, and the latter keeps the rich protected from the poor, and it has no other function. You can campaign peacefully in the UK, but only if whatever you shout is out of earshot of those to whom it is directed.
How do you see a particular culture, or cultural identity, being reflected in the music that is created in that place? Is the music of a certain place, in fact, representitive of the culture where it is produced? If so, what would the music of Mexico, or England, say about its’ people?
We are all essentialized by our surroundings, and we either accept our surroundings or we define ourselves by kicking against our surroundings. But suddenly the world is one country, and we all understand this in very much the same way. In the England of 2015, music is not considered to be an explanation of anything. In the Mexico of 2015, there is great curiosity about the historical origins of social predicaments, and there are loud objections to unfairness. The so-called bullfight is one example. The people of Mexico do not want it as a symbol of their country.
As someone who is quite vocal and active politically, is it possible to compare what is happening in the UK politically with the music that is being produced? What about in the US or other places?
In England the art of the interview is dead. No one is allowed to pose meaningful questions. It has become very much like the America of the 1950s … entertainment is celebrity divorces and cosmetic surgery and food, and all TV interviews must be uproariously funny, and there is no how or why allowed. No independent thought anywhere, with constant sports news for events that have no national meaning. If we don’t fill up the time with sports news then we’re forced to face the issues of life.
You have now started on a new career, so to speak. First an autobiography that was praised for the poetic and lyrical language (no surprise!) and now a novel that is set to be released in just a few days (interview made the 21st of September). What was it like to go from recounting a factual acount of your own life to creating a story or another?
It doesn’t differ because you are still creating something that others … who haven’t done what you have done … will judge, so therefore it is best not to consider anyone other than yourself. If your happiness depends upon reviews then you might as well kill yourself.
How was your autobiography received by those who may have experienced the same moments you have written about with you?
I have absolutely no idea. Only two or three people have mentioned the book to me. I don’t know if people generally like or dislike it. It is still selling very well two years on.
Was it a kind of deep exhale for you to write your own story and did you do it because you wanted to be the one to set out your own story before others (i.e; the press, people from the past, etc) did it for you?
They will do so anyway! When you give up your privacy you are advised to accept insane things being written about you.
There is very little information about your novel, though you have said that it is, “An American tale where, naturally, evil conquers good, and none live happily ever after, for the complicated pangs of the empty experiences of flesh-and-blood human figures are the reasons why nothing can ever be enough. To read a book is to let a root sink down. List of the lost is the reality of what is true battling against what is permitted to be true”. Is there anything, as we are just days away from it finally coming out, that you could add to this description?
The theme is demonology… the left-handed path of black magic. It is about a relay team in 1970s America who accidentally kill a wretch, who, in esoteric language, might be known as a Fetch… a discarnate entity in physical form. He appears, though, as an omen of the immediate deaths of each member of the relay team. He is a life force of a devil incarnate, in his astral shell, thus one phase removed from life. The wretch begins a banishing ritual of the four main characters, and therefore his own death at the beginning of the book is illusory.
This kind of search for the truth in between the truth that is spoon-fed through, as you call them, “empty experiences” seems to be a common theme, that I can recognize even from early Smiths songs, to your solo work, including in your autobiography. This search for what is true and not just what appears to be true. How (and why) does this search play such a role in your life, music and writing?
Because I am a social writer, a witness, and I cannot stand unfairness. Unfortunately the basis of all human trade appears to be unfairness… from marriage to murder.
You have described the novelist as “intimate and indiscreet” and “pompous”; to what degree do these qualities play a role in your life- in your writing and in your own search for “truth”?
I think writers are soaking all of the time… from everyone around them, from everything that they see… they do not ever stop collecting for their own ends – which is OK as long as those ends are worth the trouble!
In these times where every image is uploaded and put on social media – photos, words and sound can be morphed and tweaked to whatever we want to suggest, what role does truth play? I am thinking specifically of the incident you described with the TSA agent assaulting you. In the exchange that you documented, the agent seems to deny your “truth” or experience and says, “That’s just your opinion.” To what degree is our own truth tainted by the continuously changing levels of what is acceptable in terms of treating those around us?
I didn’t ever receive a response from the TSA, so that’s a clear indication of their menace. Uniforms do terrible things to people, don’t they? This is especially true in America. Once you slip a uniform on you develop immediate bossy interference, and even if you over-step the boundaries of your own position you are exempt from harsh judgment. Even postal workers in America are extremely aggressive, and, of course, the police… by reason of their uniform and nothing else, hate anyone who is not afraid of them.
One thing that stands out from this particular incident is what you said, “The words « that’s just your opinion » volunteered themselves from this ‘officer’s’ mouth before he had even heard the question. He knew he could be confronted, but he also knew that he could never be challenged (even though the entire incident is most certainly on CCTV camera).”. The idea that the agent didn’t even listen to the questions, but instead already had a response, knew he could never be challenged (despite the CCTV footage) is exactly where this idea of what can be trusted or believed in these times. How do you see this question, this incident in your life and where these types of incidents, denials and abuses moving our society, in general?
When you are in uniform you are in hiding, and you need never explain your behavior. There is a blind belief reaction from anyone in authority that their behavior will be staunchly backed and defending by those who have the last judicial word. And this is true, unfortunately. The entire point of the police is to weaken our confidence. They have no other function. As soon as we see the police we begin to worry, not because we have done anything unlawful, but because we know that they have free reign to kill us. It’s a fact of life.
Lastly, with all of your health issues in the last few years and likewise with your continuation to tour, perform and be vocal about issues dear to your heart- was the movement to writing a chance to continue to use your voice; to explore, analyze, critique and expose what you see as injustices in a more consciously time to change my lifestyle to a more ‘hearthealthy’ way or was it more of a natural transition to do something that you had wanted and planned to do for some time?
I don’t think my position has changed. I am under stronger surveillance now because I am older and I have reached the age when I should slow down and shut up. Well, not so!
Interview by Amy Araya.
www.true-to-you.net for more info about Morrrissey.
Morrissey will be in concert at the Métropole Concert Hall in Lausanne, October 4th.
Morrissey’s List of the Lost is available the Thursday through Penguin Books.