“It was strange in as much as I never really felt like I was impersonating Morrissey as such. I wasn’t signing bad cheques with his name, or hiring myself out for corporate events or social gatherings where I just had to ‘pretend to be Morrissey’. I never, ever said I looked like him, sounded like him, or indeed was him, although I did smell like him occasionally. Once a friend had discovered which scent he was using and bought me some. If you’re interested, and why wouldn’t you be – Comme des Garçons Incense Series 3 Avignon. I had the rather strange notion that all of this was simply me living MY (so-called) life, and simply because I thought it might amuse me I chose to adopt Morrissey’s outward appearance, having arrived at the firm belief that he was the most attractive person on the planet, and the rest I did just because I could and, similarly, I thought it might prove amusing.”
Paul Blake, Manchester, 2015
Monday, July 27, 2009
Viva VIVA MORRISSEY!
I recently did a Q&A session with the good people at:
Ambitious Outsiders is dead, viva VIVA MORRISSEY!
• What made us jump was that you actually had to change your band name from the very cool and esoteric Ambitious Outsiders to Viva Morrissey to placate the masses. Do you think that’s a sour statement about the average would be Moz fan; that Ambitious Outsiders really is that esoteric that it kept people from coming to your shows because they didn’t know its obviously a Mozzer tribute?
I simply didn’t realize how much of a handicap it was going to be that our name didn’t have the ‘instant artist recognition factor’, for want of a triter term. I wasn’t thinking about such things when I formed the band, it’s only through bitter experience that I’ve come to see it as a mistake that we weren’t more obvious, or more banal, in our choice of name. Changing our name is all about self-preservation and the survival of the band because with six band members traveling from different parts of the country, in different vehicles, and often having to stay in hotels overnight, the costs mount up. And, it’s not only depressing to lose money and effectively end up paying to play, it soon becomes unsustainable to those amongst us who are operating on ridiculously tight budgets. It’s true, there hasn’t been a massive amount of support for the band from many of the more committed Morrissey admirers, in terms of coming out to see us play. We’ve played in some of the same cities and towns where Morrissey draws thousands of people to his shows, and we’ve struggled to get fifty people to see us, but the name change is more for the benefit of casual fans, who weren’t gonna associate Ambitious Outsiders with Morrissey, because the name came from the title of an album track on one of Morrissey’s lesser known albums; why would they make the connection? The audience at tribute band shows is usually made up of, mainly casual fans who just know the hits anyway, this much has become apparent sadly.
• On your site you are very modest online about the turn out at your shows. How many people on average actually turn up?
We’ve only actually played around twenty shows in total, and that’s over nearly two years, which might give some indication of how difficult it’s been getting bookings. Which, in truth, has had a lot to do with the fact that there are three tributes to The Smiths regularly doing the rounds, and venues have been reluctant to book us when they already have a Smiths tribute playing their venue twice a year. So, unfortunately we’ve been lumped in with the tributes to The Smiths in the minds of most venue managers/owners and promoters, and as those bands had a few years start on us, they’ve all got their feet pretty much under the table as it were, at most of the established venues. We’ve had some very good nights, some not so good, and some abysmal. Not surprisingly, advertising plays a massive part, and it goes without saying that if the gig is well advertised there’ll be more people there, but the average has been around fifty or sixty.
• How many more people do you think will turn out by renaming the band?
Well I think the new name should leap off the billboard with rather more urgency than our previous moniker. On several occasions when we’ve arrived at venues to play, their window displays simply read ‘tonight Ambitious Outsiders’, with no mention of the fact we are a tribute to Morrissey, and I’ve seen the same thing time and again in listings/what’s-on guides and on flyers. The result has usually been a disappointing turn-out.
• Why the lineup changes with the name change?
The two things are unconnected. I’d intended for us to take some time out to replace a couple of band members, for personal and professional reasons.
• Would it be cool to just do a live set of rare tracks?
It would be great yeah, but as we’re striving for some degree of popularity, there has to be a strong element of ‘play-the-songs-people-want-to-hear’. having said that, we do play many album tracks and B-sides that people might not expect to hear, but as i realize that the majority of people in the audience aren’t going to know those songs, I tend to limit them to five or six per set.
• Do you think a live set of rare stuff would only upset fans going to a tribute show or do you think the fans that go to a tribute show would be looking to hear the deep cuts because they can hear the hits from the genuine Mozzer?
Morrissey being Morrissey, he rarely plays many of his more well-known songs, so even the more knowledgeable members of our audience are happy to hear us play ‘the hits’. It’s about getting the balance right so that, hopefully, you send the majority home happy and maybe they’ll come out to see you play again.
• How did you get on Boz Boorer’s MySpace friend list – isn’t that for his real life buds only?
Well, I’ve just checked and we’re not there, so if we were briefly it was either a mistake or a private joke.
• What kind of feedback do you get at the live gigs?
Without exception, the audience response and the feedback afterwards has always been remarkably positive. No matter how many, or how few, people are there, everyone seems to be genuinely impressed, and surprised at the attention to detail.
• What kind of feedback do you get from the online community?
Again, outside of a handful of staunch Morrissey admirers who regularly send messages of support, and a few other random messages and comments, there’s not been a tremendous amount of good will extended in our direction, but I’ve never really foisted the band on people, I wouldn’t really know how anyway, I’ve simply waited for them to discover us for themselves. Maybe I just have to wait a while longer.
• What do you blame for Moz’s Southpaw Grammar & Maladjusted not selling & sending our hero into the California wasteland a la exile?
Bad taste among record buyers along with spiteful and malicious press.
• Do you think the glorious Kill Uncle gets a bad rap because it’s simply not part of the Stephen Street saga of Moz / Smiths related releases & truly marks an end to working with anyone Smiths related, i.e. truly the end of The Smiths in that view?
I have no idea really. I still love the album, but at the time maybe it was too much for all those disaffected Smiths fans who wanted him to do re-writes of This Charming Man and There Is A light That Never Goes Out forever. Those people are still around unfortunately, still carping from the sidelines whenever he releases a new album that isn’t The Queen Is Dead.
• With your own bands line-up changes, do you feel any extra insights into The Smiths break up / Moz’s own revolving door line-ups?
Just like any other relationship, people let you down or you let them down, or they get a better offer, and in my case I find I just can’t bear to be around someone who depresses me. There’s 1001 reasons why people find it difficult to co-exist, and I’ve understood that for a long time.
• What would be your ultimate set list if Viva Morrissey could play any tracks – no matter how rare?
I tend to always choose a dream set list anyway, even if I’ve had to tailor it slightly for a particular audience. I love all the songs, and they’re all a joy to play. We always move the set around for each concert, and we’re continually adding songs to our repertoire, so it never gets stale or uninspiring. There were elements within the band that would have preferred to play the same set every time, and not rehearse at all, just turn up on the night and go through the motions. Where as, I’ve always approached everything with a professional attitude because I want us to be as good as we can possibly be every time we play live, to try and play each song better than we’ve ever played it before.
We played our last show as Ambitious Outsiders directly after Morrissey’s concert at the Apollo in Manchester on May 22nd, his birthday of course. We played to our biggest audience, with over 300 people, most of whom had come directly from the Apollo (as had most of the band), packed in to a small basement club in central Manchester. This was the set, which is a fairly typical set, and one I’d be happy to play anywhere:
The Boy Racer
How Soon Is Now?
Something Is Squeezing My Skull
Come Back To Camden
This Charming Man
All You Need Is Me
My Dearest Love
Vicar In A Tutu
Trouble Loves Me
Bigmouth Strikes Again
You Have Killed Me
November Spawned A Monster
Jack The Ripper
Everyday Is Like Sunday
Irish Blood, English heart
The Last Of The Famous International Playboys
The Queen Is Dead
Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want
First Of The Gang To Die
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
• What are the five or six rare tracks you play in your set & why did you pick them?
They change all the time. What I meant is that I always find room for a few songs that perhaps an audience wouldn’t be expecting to hear, simply because they’re songs I particularly want to sing.
• Do you think Stephen Street was wrong for demanding more royalties from Moz? Do you think Moz was right for kicking Street to the street?
Those kind of business disagreements happen, and it’s really not for me to stick my nose in when I don’t know all the facts. Money changes everything, as we know.
• Do you think it should have, or could have, worked if Moz continued as The Smiths with a line up of Moz, Gannon, Rourke and Joyce with Stephen Street?
At the time I think most people would have gone along with that, because to most people, Morrissey WAS The Smiths. Of course some of us know different, and in retrospect I think it was very wise of Morrissey to move on, however reluctantly.
• Is it mistaken to think that Craig Gannon could have been some kind of missing link to keeping The Smiths together in some way?
The only person who could have kept The Smiths together was Johnny Marr.
• What do you think of Mozipedia – The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and The Smiths?
I haven’t seen a copy yet. As I live completely on Planet Morrissey, there’s not much worth knowing that I don’t already know.
• Do you think Moz’s lyrics now signal that he has more regrets about life than fun with life?
I don’t think he was ever really convinced that there was any fun to be had out of life. In his younger years he seemed to suspect that life would be a painful disappointment, and I don’t think anything ever happened to essentially alter that view. I don’t sense a great deal of regret in his lyrics, resignation perhaps. He probably feels that he did his best, and it’s not his fault that life is inherently crap.
• What do you think the ‘real reason’ Factory Records / Tony Wilson never signed The Smiths / Mozzer?
I have no idea. Maybe Tony Wilson felt intimidated by Morrissey’s intellectual prowess, and knew he’d never be able to manipulate him or pull the wool over his eyes, or maybe he just didn’t ‘get’ Morrissey. I think he’s said that Morrissey was the last person he’d have expected to become successful, and by the time The Smiths had become something marketable Factory had already burnt their bridges, and Morrissey/Marr had decided they’d never sign to Factory. Pure speculation of course.
• Some of your videos are missing from YouTube now, the links from your website only half work – what’s up? Is it YouTube evil?
No, it’s ex-drummer syndrome. He took his dismissal pretty badly, and demanded all trace of him, on pics, audio tracks, or YouTube footage, had to be removed from our MySpace, otherwise he’d have our profile removed. His therapy’s going nowhere.
• Do you have any insight on how Moz felt / thought of the singer from Suede publicly making light of Moz’s public support of early Suede?
I seem to recall Brett Anderson making some disparaging remarks about Morrissey in the NME, possibly around the time Your Arsenal was released, and in relation to that album, which he was less than complimentary about. Anderson also poured scorn on Morrissey’s tendency to sing about being ‘unloved’ and unattractive, and accused him of being disingenuous, saying that thousands of people love him, and that he’s obviously a physically attractive man. Something told me that Brett had completely missed the point, and wasn’t sophisticated enough to understand that Morrissey was talking about things from a different perspective. Not as Morrissey the pop star adored by his audience, but Morrissey the private individual, who couldn’t believe that anyone could truly love the real him, whatever and whoever that is, and couldn’t think of himself as ‘attractive’; neither could he find someone who loved him, who he could love in return. I’m speculating, but from what Morrissey has said, something along the lines of: the people he finds attractive don’t feel the same about him, and vice versa, it seems that he’s suffered from unrequited love just like everyone else, and why should that be surprising?
• Did Moz regret backing Suede or make any other statements concerning this issue?
In 1993, he said of Brett Anderson that he was a “…deeply boring young man with Mr Kipling’s crumbs under his bed.” One thing we know about Morrissey is that he knows how to bear a grudge, and after voicing his support for Suede, which undoubtedly helped their career at the time, he must have been annoyed and disappointed to find himself the subject of Anderson’s criticism.
• Also, do you think the first incarnation of Suede could have really been the ‘new Smiths’?
No one could ever be, or have been, ‘the new Smiths’. The Smiths were unique, and Morrissey inparticular was, and continues to be, a one-off, despite my best efforts… Suede managed to have a much longer career than their abilities merited. Brett Anderson didn’t have much to say, and had said most of it long before Bernard Butler left. There wasn’t a great deal of originality about them, and they appear to have got all their best ideas out of David Bowie’s dustbin, and Morrissey’s waste paper basket. Still, that combination served them well for a while, and they did leave some great singles and a couple of fairly decent albums behind. I quite liked them.
• Do you think its true that Moz had some kind of relationship gone wrong or ‘personal problem’ of some sort during the time in between Vauxhall & I came out & before Southpaw Grammar?
There have been enough intimations, indications and clues since that time that this was the case. I don’t find it odd in the slightest that he may have been in a relationship that turned sour, and he was left with all the attendant fall-out from that. It’s more astonishing to me that people stay together, or even get together in the first place. I say “may”, because nothing is ever really confirmed when it comes to Morrissey’s close relationships, which is something I’m glad about really. We live in an age where people’s prurience recognises no boundaries, and many people have come to believe that they have a right to know anything and everything about anyone who may have stumbled or been dragged into the public eye. Thankfully, Morrissey seems to have been spared from the worst excesses of the tabloid press and the dreadful ‘celebrity’ gossip magazines. That he still manages to retain a semblance of a private life pleases me, and speculation regarding his intimate relationships isn’t something I’ve engaged in particularly. I really don’t mind not knowing.
• Please let us know any other information you want us to include or any plugs for any upcoming shows, etc.
Well, we’re kind of in limbo at the moment until we can find a drummer, which is proving depressingly difficult, but as soon as we’re up and running again we’d LOVE to come out to the States, so if you know of a wealthy Morrissey fan who would like to become our patron and bring us over to do some shows, please put us in touch!