Interview: Mark Morriss (The Bluetones)
Published on February 7th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Erstwhile The Bluetones hero Mark Morriss is gearing up to release his second solo album via the increasingly popular medium of Pledge Music, and if it’s as lovely as everything the man’s been involved in before then you can expect something really rather lovely indeed. For sure, the tasters available on his website – namely “Low Company” and “Guilty Again” – bode oh so well in this regard, so get pledging and get this thing out in the open!
Rocksucker did that thing we like to do where we fling off some questions, all nonchalant like, but we were chuffed as Chocolate Buttons when Morriss filed back his set of responses concerning the new LP, the all-too-brief return* of The Bluetones, and of course Rocksucker idol George Constanza. First, though, here’s yer man with his most recent video update…
(* denotes half-pun, half-intended)
Are “Low Company” and “Guilty Again” decent indicators of what we can expect from the new album? They have a ‘reflective’ feel, if you’ll pardon the lapse into journalistic cliché.
Stylistically, those two songs are probably quite a good representation of what this album is, in that they are both so boldly different. “Guilty Again” was written and recorded as a kind of homage to soft, ’70s FM Radio. Breezing along like an Andrew Gold b-side. Well, it does to me anyway. Low Company, however, is a much rawer affair. All stabbed guitars and humming amplifiers.
I’m not sure that there is any over-arching theme to this album in terms of the subject matter of the songs, but maybe I’m still a bit too close to it to tell.
How much of the instrumentation are you handling yourself? Who else is involved? Does David Arnold feature at all?
All of the backing tracks were recorded by myself on guitar and bass, and Gordon Mills, the producer, playing drums. We can both play a bit of keyboard or piano, so muddled through as best we could but called in a few favours from friends when it came to giving the record a sheen of professionalism. There is a bit of sax played by Ben Castle and Andy Nunn, piano and clarinet from Andy again, Matt Berry popped in to lend some harmonium to one of the songs and I also roped in Adam from The Bluetones to ‘lay down’ some ‘axe’. No David Arnold on this one, but let’s face it, what with all the Olympic ceremonies of late, he’s rather had his hands full.
Any plans to tour the album? And have any festival dates been discussed (albeit it’s probably a bit early to be asking that)?
I have a band on standby as soon as we get some dates confirmed, so will definitely be playing this set in all its garish technicolour glory at some point. My agent is talking to festivals blah, blah, blah, so fingers crossed…
What were you up to in the time between Memory Muscle and getting the new album together? Were the songs all written during this time, or do some date back further than others?
All these songs were written since the last Bluetones album in 2010, though “Low Company” and another song called “It’s Hard To Be Good All The Time” were knocking about as semi-finished instrumentals for about 7-8 years. It’s nearly 5 years since the release of Memory Muscle, and the time does seem to have gone quickly but there’s also been a fair amount doing in that time. Writing and recording A New Athens with The Bluetones, touring that record, splitting up, touring again, being a dad, feeding a hamster, smoking cigarettes, watching Pointless. It’s not all ‘mojitos in the jacuzzi’, you know.
Will there be any covers on this set? Loved the version of Teenage Fanclub’s “Alcoholiday” on Memory Muscle.
Yes. As on Memory Muscle there are two cover versions. I do enjoy getting stuck into something I really love and trying to put my own stamp on it. It can be a tricky conundrum, attempting to pull off a decent cover. There’s no point just re-creating something like for like, but at the same time it’s important to preserve the essence of a song. The reason it appealed in the first place.
It never ceases to amaze me how intertwined you are with the world of British TV comedy. How has this come to be? Do you bump into Neil Hannon much? I figure you’d have at least one good mutual friend in Matt Berry.
I met Neil Hannon once. He seemed nice enough. It’s the other member of The Duckworth Lewis Method who I would say I am more familiar with though: the brilliant Tommy Walsh. One of the finest songwriters around, and a voice like an angel. Would recommend you check out the last album by his other group Pugwash (The Olympus Sound). It does the business, as they say.
Do you have a favourite George Costanza moment? And are you similarly enamoured by Curb Your Enthusiasm?
Favourite George moment has to be the ‘shrinkage’ incident… as for Curb… I do enjoy that too, though it’s felt rather formulaic for a while. Still makes me laugh though.
Which were your favourite albums of 2012, and/or which are you looking forward to from 2013?
I really dug the Tame Impala record… but most of my purchases last year were older records. There’s a lot of history out there to explore. This fascination with the new leaves me a bit cold.
Mark Morriss, thank you.