Transcripts of video interviews with Morrissey and Johnny Marr
Lengthy interview with Morrissey dating from around August 1984. Topics include: the Smiths' recent appearance at Glastonbury, family background, school days, personal heroes, public image, celibacy, and being a sex symbol. Surprisingly personal, even for a Morrissey interview. Essential.
A segment of this interview was later used in an article titled 'Alias Smith and...' in the September 8, 1984 issue of Record Mirror . The article also included brief interviews with Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce.
This interview was sourced from the Petal Productions/Secret Squirrel Enterprises DVD 'The Smiths Still Ill: Interviews'.
Dedicated Follower Of Passion
Interviewer: (referring to the camera and lights) I'm afraid it's going to get rather hot.
Morrissey: What, the questions?
The questions and the answers, surely... How was Glastonbury?
It was quite strange. It's not something that quite honestly I'd like to relive. It wasn't the best of our performances, and there was some animosity from certain sectors of the crowd. From the bulk of the crowd there wasn't. But it is really quite strange when you're singing to people who quite obviously do not like you - which obviously doesn't happen in events which are solely Smiths events. But when you're playing festivals where there are people there to see other groups, it's quite tricky. And that's how Glastonbury turned out for us.
Why did you do Glastonbury? Because it seemed a strange event for the The Smiths to do.
Yeah. I didn't really know that much about Glastonbury before we did it, and it sounded a very attractive prospect several months ago. And I'm sure for many groups it really is. But I don't think The Smiths worked at Glastonbury. I not exactly sure why. Perhaps because we've built up our following in smaller clubs and now we've advanced to larger halls. I mean, we're very much a live group and it was always very intimate and very personal - which was something we couldn't capture at Glastonbury.
Do you prefer one off concerts then to touring?
Well, we played persistently for almost 14 months and we haven't stopped at any point. So I have been able to sit back from that situation and say, well, what do I prefer? Because we've always just plundered on. And almost everything we've done has been incredibly successful. Out of the last year or so we've only really had a few appearances that just didn't work.
I'd like to talk a bit now about your background. How old are you?
So you were then running the fan club for the New York Dolls (Morrissey pulls funny face), who spawned a thousand punk rock bands, when you were, what, 15?
Quite young, yes. Fifteen.
How did you get involved in that?
Well, there was really nothing else to do. I was really quite dedicated to the Dolls and I just had some degree of ambition at that age - which people consider to be quite young to be doing such a thing, but I never really did. It was really quite good for a while. But suddenly, one day - it's really quite strange because I was so fanatical about the Dolls, to an almost unhealthy obsession- and then one day I just simply woke up and suddenly it didn't mean a thing to me. Which was quite frightening. And for me now to look back upon records from a particular period, which were the sole reason why I existed, and to listen to these records today, and I hear nothing, is really quite strange.
What is your background? What was your background?
I come from a working class background. Nothing very sensational and nothing immensely interesting. I have one older sister. We've always lived in Manchester, where I was born. And I've never really worked, and I've never really done anything remotely interesting until The Smiths. So I have really quite an uninteresting background.
What did your parents do?
My mother was a librarian and my father worked in a hospital. And not as a brain surgeon!
What did he do?
He was a porter. He is a porter.
At that time did you feel closer to your mother or your father?
Definitely my mother. She seemed to really understand. Because I wasn't really quite the conventional teenager. Many of the ideas that I had just really didn't seem to appeal to the average working class teenager. I seemed to be really always a step apart from people - which can almost sound glamourous and very poetic. And sometimes it was, but for a large degree it wasn't. There were quite bleak times. I wrestled for a while to break into journalism and I was greeted with nothing but disinterest and failure. So that really made me more determined to do something beneficial.
What were the sort of unconventional things that you did as a teenager?
The most unconventional thing that I did was nothing. I wasn't really terribly interested in many things. I didn't go out. I had no social life. I didn't have any friends. I just really set in for years and years and years reading. Which of course is quite perverse. Certainly when one lives in a working class environment. It's an illness.
Did your parents object to your lifestyle?
I think they worried slightly. They did worry to a certain degree. But my mother was always very, very supportive to almost anything I did. I told her I didn't want to work and she said, well, that's fine, even at a time when we financially needed it. I told her that I wanted to go away and she would let me. I would say I needed a typewriter and she would buy it. She was always supportive in every possible way, when I'm sure most people would really have just slaughtered their children if they had these kinds of inclinations. But she was incredibly supportive. And I think it was entirely because of her that I survived to be in The Smiths.
Did you make a conscious decision to be different?
I think in a way, yes, but in a way that's much more important. I don't really remember making any decisions. It's just something I really plundered into. To a large degree we really don't decide how our destinies unfold. But to a very small degree, of course I did. I did decide that I wouldn't engage in certain things, and I wouldn't swim with the tide, as it were. And these are really quite difficult things to do and difficult decisions to make. And I always received severe opposition because I wouldn't work and such things.
What was life like at school then for you? It must have been tough?
It was quite tough. I mean it constantly seems as though everything that I've experienced is a total nightmare. Which isn't true. Yes, it was quite tough because I went to a very threadbare school. A school which ultimately got some global attention for being the most brutal school in the country. Capital punishment. You virtually didn't have to do a thing to be persistently whipped.
Did you get beaten?
For some obscure reason I always avoided it! I always thought they considered me far too delicate to be caned. I constantly thought they presumed that if they hit me that I'd just disappear. But it was really quite an absurd school. And working class. The only thing that you could possibly do was woodwork, and obviously when you left school you would go into a factory or something. There was no question of being artistic, or of reading books, or thinking about anything specific. I remember at one point, in one instance, all the pupils were asked to write about their favourite book - and I wrote about the dictionary! And I remember I was virtually expelled for being so obstreperous and perverse. So it was that kind of school. It was the kind of school that gave no scope whatsoever for individuality.
Did you have any friends among the other pupils?
I did. I must say that I did. I did seem to attract the more obscure elements of the school. The kind of person that never had any friends. The very lanky, bespectacled, spotted failure, somehow was attracted to me. And I thought that was quite interesting. Because I was very good at athletics. And I was the type of person who could have things very easy, if I really wanted to. Because in working class schools, if you're good at athletics you're the treasured student. Everything you do is wonderful and you can get away with anything. And I was that kind of student, but I kind of backed away from the very easy, attainable things. And I blended with the obscure pupils. Which was much more interesting than taking the easy route.
What was your nickname at school?
Oh, I'm not telling you. It was too ridiculous! (laughs) ... No, I'm not telling you.
What was your nickname?
(embarressed laugh) I can't say! It's ridiculous. All nicknames are ridiculous but mine was more ridiculous than anybody elses. (laughs) Next question.
When did you first discover Oscar Wilde?
When I was plundering towards ten years old my mother was quite dedicated and she had several books. And I think she had said to me before, look, you really have to read this, it's everything you need to know about life. And I ignored her largely. But one day I became nailed to the book and things were never quite the same since.
Which book was it?
It was the Complete Works of Oscar Wilde.
And what did that change for you?
Almost everything. Because I always had this idea about writing, doing some constructive writing. And I always felt that in order to write you had to be completely obscure and incredibly intellectual, so intellectual that nobody could possibly ever understand what you're talking about, and use all these incredibly long words and be incredibly profound. And then I read Oscar Wilde and he used the most basic language and he said the most powerful things. All the words were immediately understandable and fundamental and yet he wove such immense poetry. It occured to me that just by saying very basic things, and very real things, that here was the power of the written word, rather than just being completely ostentatious and rhetorical, or whatever.
Your heroes include Oscar Wilde, James Dean, Billy Fury... What do they have in common?
Something I'm sure. But on the face of it perhaps people think they have nothing in common. But studying their lives I think they were all essentially doomed creatures. And although they each had immense success their lives ended quite sadly and quite distressingly - which has a certain degree of inexplicable appeal to me. The fact that people can become public figures and almost adored by everybody yet their lives are quite isolated in reality and very little has any value to them. That to me has some strange appeal.
You identify with them?
To a large degree, yes. But of course I certainly don't have the fame that they had.
You wrote a book about James Dean. What made you do that?
Well, I simply had the chance to. And looking back on it I do regret it was quite brief. And in a way it's almost quite hopeless because obviously so much has been written about James Dean and his life was so comparatively short that there's very little that can be said. Obviously I never met him. There was virtually nothing new that I could add. But I thought that by simply thrusting something out on to the market it could regenerate some degree of interest from people who perhaps wouldn't know that much about James Dean. Because at the time when I did it all the books that had been written on James Dean were out of print. But I had this incredible poetic union with James Dean, and that's why I did it.
Yes. A kind of blending of souls. Quite mystical and... (raises eyebrows) embarressing.
Can you amplify?
I don't know whether I can, or at least whether I can without sounding incredibly dramatic. I felt this enormous affinity with almost every aspect of his life. And that was the interest I had. I never had the interest from the standpoint of a person who simply likes film, and who enjoys film, even though I do. But studying James Dean's acting ability I can see quite clearly that there are faults, and there are blemishes.
What did you say about James Dean then that hadn't been said before?
Practically nothing perhaps. But I thought by simply writing from the standpoint of somebody who is living in the late 1970s and who simply had a very obviously detached view of James Dean, this hadn't been done before. Because everybody that had written about him had some connection; perhaps had met him, or was some obscure professor immersed in the whole ideology of film and film history. I wasn't. I was just a non-descript individual living in Manchester with no money.
You used to write fan letters to Sandie Shaw. Who else did you write to?
Practically everybody, I'm afraid. (laughs) No, not practically everybody, that's completely untrue. I was very interested in correspondence and if I did like anybody I would write to them and tell them. I was never ashamed to slap how I felt onto paper and to rush out and buy a stamp.
Who else did you write to?
Um... (blushes) I'm embarressed! I'd rather not say. I'm sorry.
There must be someone that isn't going to make you feel embarressed.
I don't know. On this subject I feel quite vulnerable. It's probably best that I don't say. I mean it's really almost quite bad enough to admit that I even wrote letters to anybody.
I don't know. Because there's something almost clumsy about the whole thing and vaguely pathetic. I'm afraid I'm just a doomed fan!
Is it true that you spent three months secluded in your bedroom as a teenager?
Much more than that I'm sure. But I do distinctly remember one period where I hardly ever left the room for a three month period.
What were you doing in there?
Well, that's a good question! (laughs) I used to write furiously and I was really just nailed to the typewriter. And I was swimming in paper and all kinds of introspective things like that. I wasn't exactly your average teenager!
Did you want to stay there?
The alternatives weren't very glamourous. If I left the room I'd probably end up at some obscure pub or wandering about the park - which was always quite dangerous. I really had no options. I mean, I was unemployed for a very long time and I had no money. And I was living a life to a large degree that I didn't choose, being financially absurdly embarressed. So it really seemed to me that I would never ever settle for second best in life, that if I couldn't have exactly what I wanted then I would have absolutely nothing. Because to me nothing always seemed more important than a false something, or something I didn't really want. So therefore I stayed in. I did nothing: I just wrote. I was determined that if I couldn't have exactly what I wanted then I would disappear into the woodwork.
What did you write about, and what happened to all that stuff?
Most of it I later destroyed because on reflection it always seemed so embarressingly real and personal that it could only ever really be destroyed. But I did write lots of things that I still have. It got to the point with me where I would simply write anything just for the sake of writing. Critical essays on certain things that nobody really cared about.
Did you like the idea then of living in a secret world?
Not especially. Not really. I mean, if somebody said to me would you rather be incredibly popular and have a throng of supportive friends or would you rather be a distressed, hysterical person locked in the bedroom, I think I really would choose to be quite popular. But I don't remember choosing the way I lived.
Well it seems very much like a kind of fantasy world.
It does. But I can assure you it really wasn't. But I think you can look upon almost anything and almost any existence which is quite extraordinary and it can almost sound quite fantastic and like a fantasy. It's like the lives of very famous people can seem incredibly glamourous when slapped onto paper, but of course for a large point they couldn't possibly be.
Most teenagers become obssessed with sex. Did you go through that period?
No, I never did. I think I brushed quite close when I was 19 or 20, but previous to that period I didn't gave it a great deal of thought. And it wasn't really something that I really needed to think about. Because in my life it didn't really exist. I was aware that certain things should have occured and certain things should interest me. And I was aware of teenagers around me frolicking about and being incredibly inconsequential and free-thinking - which I never was. So that kind of period when you're just supposed to be totally reckless and you're supposed to care about nothing apart from yourself and having as much fun as possible, I'm afraid I skirted past that period quite seriously and severely. And it's something that I regret enormously now but there's not really any point.
So you regret not sowing your wild oats?
(laughs) Yes, I do. I do regret that.
In those days did you spend any evenings fumbling in the back seats of cinemas?
(laughs) Fumbling in haystacks! No, I certainly didn't. Whenever I went to cinemas I always raced for the front seat I'm afraid! I was that boring.
You say in other interviews that you're now celibate. Is that true?
Yes, I'm afraid so. I don't have a certificate but I can only say that I am.
Is that part of The Smiths' mythology?
Not really because the other three members of the group are quite the reverse. This gets almost repetitious but it was something that I initially had no say in - which sounds almost pitiful, but it wasn't. And it's something I got increasingly used to. And it's something that I became so aware of as the years ticked past and I realised that I was quite solitary in this area that suddenly I realised that it was something I'd quite perversely cling to. It became quite important to me for some reason. It suddenly became really serious whether I got involved or not - whereas to most people it really isn't.
Was your celibacy then prompted by a bad experience?
I've had very few experiences but they have been bad and they were a very long time ago. And it's not something that I would like repeated. But this gets incredibly delicate and icy and it becomes almost too difficult to talk about. But yes, I would say that it was. I did lose the very idea that any communion between two people could possibly be enjoyable, I did lose that particular thread. And I did become enormously depressed to the point where I believed that any kind of relationship was almost impossible.
Is there a fear now then of sex?
Um, no. It's not a fear. I wouldn't quite say that. Um ... something, but not fear.
How would you describe it?
Um, a slight, um, slightly ah... Perhaps just too much thought, too much anticipation. Perhaps I don't really care enough.
Would anything inspire you to break your celibate state?
It's not impossible but it's not something that I give a great deal of thought to. And I believe for it to happen - I believe that for it to happen - I would have to be of a particular mode of thinking, which I'm not. I'm of the frame of mind that it won't happen and therefore it doesn't.
Because you said that you want children. Who would you want to be their mother?
(laughs) I don't know! Me perhaps. I don't know. That's something that I have no answer for. Sometimes I sit down and I quite like the idea. I must admit there are other times I stand up and I despise the idea. But I suppose everybody feels that their own children could almost be models of themselves and therefore be completely acceptable. But when we gaze at other children we're quite frightened, I should imagine. I do like the idea. But I realise that over the years I've become uncommonly selfish.
There are in some of your songs lyrics that pertain to heterosexual rejection and homosexual isolation - that was quoted in this week's Rolling Stone. Is that the way you feel? Isolated.
I do, yes. But it's an isolation that is - (sighs) sounds laughable - almost genderless because I don't speak from a very strict heterosexist angle. I cannot segregate the sexes. I cannot see women over there and men over there, and this large chasm between the two.
Where do you place yourself?
In the middle somewhere, straddling I'm afraid. But I feel that this way, in popular music at least by now, there should be a voice which speaks for everybody but doesn't say things in a way that is so neutral that it's absolutely non-sexual. I do like to speak for both the sexes because I feel that the difference between them is incredibly slim.
You once said that being a sex symbol was the best thing to be.
Mmm, but that was at a time when I thought that it could possibly never happen. And to a small degree it has happened.
So do you consider yourself to be a sex symbol?
Well other people seem to, so therefore in a way I suppose I must be. I mean, it's not something we decide for ourselves. We don't say, yes, I'm going to be a sex symbol and I will appeal to lots of people in an immensely sexual way. That's not something that we decide. Other people decide it, and to some degree they have. I get letters saying "Morrissey, you're incredibly sexy", and of course I throw them away.
You throw them away?
(laughs) No! I frame them.
What do you do with them?
Oh, I keep them. I keep them all. I reply to them, and take their phone numbers, etc. (laughs) No, I don't!
You're being slightly flippant?
Yes, I'm being unnecessarily flippant.
But how does it feel to be a sex symbol given what you've just said?
Well, I get these letters and I read them and then we appear on stage and girls scream and they want to touch me. And I kind of look at them and I read these letters and I look at the whole thing and I say well, yes, it's very interesting. But I do feel slightly detached from it.
Do you feel contempt?
No, I don't feel any degree of contempt. But I feel that, well, yes they're screaming, and they're writing these letters but they're not really addressed to me. It's just an accident that they happen to land through my letterbox. Because it's quite difficult at times, the way I live and the way I think about things, to really see the way other people see me and to associate with this person who should receive these letters. This kind of, um, sexual person. This desirable person. It's not really me.
So they're writing to someone else?
Yeah, I do feel that. Wrongly, I suppose.
You had a Catholic upbringing. What kind of influence did that have on you? Are you religious now?
No, I'm not. It had quite a detrimental influence on me. I went to stern, working-class Catholic schools which were very depressing and very repressive. And I never liked this. And it always seemed to me entirely wrong to inflict all these kind of foul, ugly images onto children- these images of serpents trampled underfoot with fire coming out of their nostrils and things like that. And this constant belief at school that if you don't go to church it's a cardinal sin and you shall burn in hell, and God will strike you down. This constant fear of whatever you do you're wrong, and whatever you do you're guilty, and just simply by reason of your existence you were absolutely guilty in every way. I despised that. I often felt that Christianity and the Catholic Church were quite severely divided. And I also looked upon Ireland, being the most Catholic country in the world, as being also the most repressed country in the world. It seemed to me wrong; it seemed to me black. Because it didn't allow any degree of self-expression. It didn't allow any scope for individuality in any direction. This constant carrying of this thing on one's shoulder.
Do you have then the traditional Catholic guilt complex now?
No, I don't. All that is just really candyfloss. I never paid any attention to that whatsoever.
Could you see yourself ever returning to Catholicism?
No, because when people do it's always seems to be for very negative reasons. People get afraid. They realise that time is passing by or they do feel this extreme guilt. People never really flocked to the church for very positive reasons - which worries me slightly.
You don't think there will come a time in your life when you will return to it?
I can't see it. I really can't. (Pause, wry smile.) But who can tell?
I'd like to talk a bit about your image. How contrived is your public image?
It's not in the least bit contrived. But when you fall into the public eye it seems to me that regardless of what you do or what you say it is construed as an image. I mean, you can wear no clothes at all and that will be seen as an image. So it's really quite inescapable, the whole thing. So there's no answer to that. One comes under the searchlights, the scorching searchlights, and everything that you do is an image.
Walking around with foliage hanging out your back pocket could be construed as being an image, could it not?
Possibly, yes. I can see that.
Why do you do that?
For quite delicate reasons. The severe interest I have in nature and being close to nature - which is something Oscar Wilde felt and I always thought this was quite passionate and quite amusing. That idea of constantly carrying flowers or simply of being immersed in leaves. I quite liked that; it was quite poetic. But the way it happens to me in relation to The Smiths, I do get quite depressed that many detractors focus upon that and not the music. And I do see quite clearly when people want to criticize The Smiths, the only thing that they can talk about is the flowers and that it's absurd. I mean, I realise that I was voted Wally Of The Year the other day in some disreputable magazine simply for that sole reason.
But you have set yourself up for that, haven't you?
No, I don't-
No, really. I don't believe that I have. I mean to me it's just really not that crucial. There are other things to talk about. And if people just see me as this strange character whirling flowers about then it simply reflects on the shallowness of the observor.
But that is how a lot of the public see you. I think a lot of people would say that your image is sort of rather wet.
They do, some people do. I would say that more people don't. I think that people see me as being quite delicate, which in the world of popular music - or 'rock'n'roll', if you like - is anathema. It is the worst thing to be - to be delicate and not to be this big macho whatever. So therefore since flowers and any kind of nature is just connected with total wimpery, to some degree I fall into that bracket. But I think I have other things that help me scramble out of the pit.
Well, the words that I write which is principally why I'm here. I'm mean, I'm not here to dissect insects or do anything like that. I'm here principally because I write.
Some of the lyrics you've written in 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' - why do I spend my time talking to people I'd rather kick in the eye... Who would you like to kick in the eye?
Well, on the very brief spasms of employment that I had in the past it always seemed to me there were moments of the day when I would realise that I was here working with these people that I despised. And I had to talk to these horrible people and ask them what they did yesterday. And I would have to report to a boss that I couldn't stand. And when you're in that position, which was the absolute basis of 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now', you realise that you're actually spending your entire life living with people that you do not like and doing something that you do not like - which is incredibly distressing. So that was the basis of that song. I mean, 'kick in the eye' - yes, literally, sometimes. I mean let's be perfectly honest: sometimes we do get so angry with people that we're not adverse to violence. Which of course is a terrible thing to say, but truth nonetheless.
Would Oscar Wilde have approved?
Probably. I think he would.
Being in the music business you come across a lot of people in record companies, promotions companies, whatever, who I think would rub you up the wrong way. Have you found that there's been a high incidence of you wanting to kick people in the eye in the music business?
An uncommonly high one. Most of the people that I come across in the whole industry I have no real desire to form any friendships with - which is quite unsettling. But I still feel quite angry about most things and I still feel on the outside, even though we've had some degree of success - national success. It doesn't really change the way you feel about life. Which is quite surprising to me because for some naive reason I thought that it would. But I mean the music industry is just like anything else in life. Nobody loves everybody. I mean, there are very, very few people in each individual's life that we adore. There's very few people that we really like.
Do you have many friends?
No, I don't.
Those that you have - are they in the music industry?
They're in the group. They're in The Smiths.
So The Smiths are your only friends?
As far as I can see, yes.
Does that sadden you?
It does, but it's something that isn't new to me. I've lived with it for quite a long time so I don't really mind. I don't mind because in the Smiths, and with The Smiths, to some degree I'm getting exactly what I want. So it doesn't really matter.
I'm writing and people are paying some degree of attention and for me that's everything. I mean, there's nothing worse than writing and letting everything just rot in the bottom drawer. It's really quite important I'm afraid to get some kind of approval and to have your words splattered about the country. And doing that as I am it's the highest degree of satisfaction. And there's nothing else.
You like the approval?
Yes, I do.
Because the NME has really created you. They gave you a big push.
They did. They weren't the first paper to write about us and they weren't the first people to help us. But they were certainly incredibly supportive at the beginning of the year. Things have changed slightly now with all the music press. I do get the advance chill of a backlash. And it's bang on time and it's really quite expected.
Are you ready for it?
Yes, largely. I mean, I think that we are quite indestructible in many ways. But I'm not saying that I'm terribly happy about it. I'm not happy when I read reviews in the music press... For instance, quite recently we played Belfast - two and a half thousand people sell-out concert - and it was really quite hysterical, quite wonderful. We did four encores and everybody was enormously receptive and then I read this review in the Melody Maker which implies that the whole thing was entirely damp, entirely forgettable, and nobody cared. And then I read a review in the NME by a person called Anne McRae who reviews a concert in Sheffield and doesn't mention the event in any vague detail - simply analyses my character and destroys it. It does seem quite hateful and quite destructive and I don't understand it completely. But ultimately I'm above it, so it doesn't really matter.
Why do you bother?
Because as the day ends one is still alone with, in my instance, the words that I want to write and things I want to say. And in that area I am completely untouchable. Nobody will shove me off course and nobody will make me believe that what I've done is wrong or what I've written is wrong or that the person that I am is a totally nonsensical character.
But if you're looking for approval who are you looking for approval from - the media or the fans?
Well... I do read the music press so it's very nice to have media approval. But it doesn't determine the way I write. I never sit down and say, well, I really have to do this because otherwise such a paper won't like me very much. That doesn't happen. But it is very good to get the support of the music press, I can't deny that.
Who do you think is the typical Morrissey fan? Do you think they're all lonely sixth formers?
No, I don't feel that. I'm sure a great deal of them are. But I look at our present audience and it has changed a great deal. We've been the first group on an independent label to gain not only an independent audience but also a major audience. Nobody else has done that on an independent label and I'm quite pleased about that. I look at our audience and I see the people who were there initially - the kind of severe, serious musicologists - and I realise now that we are attracting lots of very young people. And that becomes dangerous because I believe that the media do always judge you on your audience. They judge you entirely on the people who come to see you, regardless of what exactly you're doing on the stage. But I see our audience as being incredibly vast - there are lots of people from all walks of life. We're not regimented to a certain sect of people, we're no longer regimented to the serious musicologists, or 'teenies', or whatever. It just seems to be everybody.
You have a very sort of miserable image. Are you the Leonard Cohen of the eighties?
No, I don't think so. I can't see that in any way. And I don't feel morbid and I don't feel depressive. Because I thought it was quite important to say things that were quite serious and quite open in a way that in the past had been considered to be quite depressing. But to say them in a way that, by reason of them being aired, was really quite positive. There is something quite positive in being very open with the people around you and saying, look, this is exactly how I feel, because then you get over those barriers. And it really isn't done that often. And I do feel there is a twinge of humour in the way that I write and if that isn't absolutely apparant then, to a degree, I understand it. But I do try to inject it. I don't want to be considered morbid by any degree.
Why are the band called The Smiths?
Because it occurred to me that nobody could put any possible connotations on the name and I really like that because it came at a time when group names were vastly important, were biblical, were monstrous and had a great deal to say, were very long and were in themselves a lifestyle. I wanted to get rid of all that kind of rhetorical drivel and just say something incredibly basic. And 'The Smiths' to me sounded quite down to earth.
You're a vegetarian. That must pose problems for you on the road with the other Smiths? Because apparantly they're into booze, birds and burgers.
All at once, yes! It is a great problem.
If they're your only friends that must create problems?
It is, and they know how I feel. But I don't stand on the table and say you can't possibly eat that piece of meat and go into a long monologue about the piece of meat. I don't do that. I don't try and inflict the way I feel upon other people because that's quite boring. People know what meat is. And people know how their leg of lamb comes onto the table. And they don't want to be reminded frankly.
So are they keener on the rock 'n' roll lifestyle more than you are?
Umm... if I said yes that would sound quite ungenerous and almost like a slur. It'd make them out to be just incurable heavy metal addicts, which they're certainly not. They're quite sensitive people. But they are quite more traditional musicians than I am.
So do they party a lot?
Yes. As often as they can.
So if they are your only friends what do you have in common?
Well, it does take a great deal to make the music. Four strangers cannot simply huddle together and do what we do and therefore there must be some kind of mystical communion between us, and some bond. And there is, and as time goes by it gets stronger. And whatever happens - with record companies or the music industry - it doesn't really have any effect on us. We just really want to stay together as four individuals and make records. That's the only ambition that we have.
You have no ambitions beyond music?
Not the traditional ambitions within music, we don't have them. I mean, going to Yugoslavia, to America, touring the world - that doesn't appeal to us in any small degree. We can't kind of jump into the rock 'n' roll treadmill.
So how are you going to survive then if you don't conform to that? I mean, purely from a financial point of view.
It's possible. I wouldn't say that it was incredibly easy. But I'm sure it is possible. And for me just to make records that get some vague degree of attention is all that I really require.
Do you have no other ambitions?
There are things that I'd like to do. But I feel that what I am doing now has to be done now. I do want to write but that can wait. There won't always be a time when I can do this.
What would you like to be doing in say 5 or 10 years time?
I do want to write - I still do write. But I would like to be successful in that area.
What would you like to write - books, plays?
Yes I would. I'm very interested in this particular screenplay that I'm blustering through at the moment, but to talk about these things seems incredibly pompous and ostentatious. It almost sounds entirely careerist - I want to do everything, I'm going to sing in this group and I'm going to write a screenplay and I'm going to make a film. But I do have other ambitions which I'm sure in this business - well, in many cases one thing leads to another.
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Continue on to transcript of video interview with Johnny Marr