Singer-songwriter, Mark Morriss is heading to Malvern in support of his recent album A Flash Of Darkness and I thought it was the right time to grab a few minutes to have a chat about his life in music from The Bluetones and Britpop to his solo career and beyond, here’s what he had to say.
1. Hey Mark, how are you doing on this dreary day? If you don’t mind indulging me, can we talk a little about your first steps into music, can you remember when music really made an impact on you? was there a defining moment or record that first stoked your interest? or do you come from a musical family?
A: I don’t think I ever had that ‘eureka’ moment that people speak of, it was just a gradual immersion of myself in all things pop around the time of puberty. Which was early afternoon Wednesday 17th September 1983.
2. When did you first start writing songs, was this before Bluetones and how did the band come together?
A: I’d been writing songs and poems and all that sensitive kid stuff from the age of about 12. I had a big scrapbook full of my work and pictures of Madonna cut out from tabloid newspapers. How could I fail?
3. The Bluetones obviously got labelled with the tag of Brit-pop along with many bands around the same era, what did the term mean to you (personally I never cared for the term, but it was good to see guitar orientated music on the frontline), do you think the Bluetones into that ethos and do you think the term was a handy way of grouping bands or was it something of a curse?
A: It felt like a bit of a curse at the time, the ‘Britpop’ label seemed to stifle any chance of being judged on our own merits, but in hindsight it was actually a massive pain in the balls.
4. Do you feel there was a scene back in the days of The Bluetones or were you all concentrating on your own successes?
A: We were far too busy concentrating on our own corner of the universe to fully partake in any kind of scene. Of course you would often cross paths with other acts, but we were always to crippled with insecurity and career jealousy to ever truly mingle with ease.
5. Around the era The Bluetones received a great deal of press and attention, did you read all the reviews at the time and did they affect you or the band in anyway?
A: The good ones are never good enough and the bad ones can screw up your day. I read them ALL. And I remember names. And I have a list.
6. Can you describe the excitement of The Bluetones charting and appearing high on the bill of various festivals and what did the success of something like Slight Return?
A: It was all very exciting. But then, I was 23. I knew bugger all else.
7. I’ve been reading the Miles Hunt (of the Wonderstuff) diary the past few days and it really seems to capture the highs and lows of touring and success, it makes for an interesting read and does seem to dispel the glitz and glamour of a touring band, is this something you can identify with? did you ever keep memoirs of those years?
A: I’m afraid I haven’t read it, so can’t really comment. I do know Miles though and he is a wonderful raconteur, with a rathered skewed take on the world and the biz in particular. I would like to collect my memories together one day, but I fear I would use my book as an excuse to take down some old grudges. a la Roy Keane.
8. Do you feel there was a defining moment when the Brit-pop era began to die out?
A: Yes. It was Tuesday 12th February 1998. Around tea-time.
9. The last Bluetones album came out in 2010, what were the band’s expectations and how did the album fare compared to the early releases? Are the Bluetones still a going concern or do you consider yourself as a solo artist now?
A: The Bluetones split in 2011. there is the internet to let you know that sort of thing.
10. When did you first decide to record as a solo artist, you released your first solo album in 2008 was it a case of you writing material that you didn’t feel suited a full band sound as the first solo album has a stripped back, almost folky sound?
A: Ah, a question about now. As opposed to my former job. Question 10!!! None of the songs from my first solo album were Bluetones cast-offs. However a couple on my second were. Go figure. The mind is a funny thing, and when mine decides to forget things it usually does a terrific job of it. I was always writing with a view to the songs being recorded ‘full band’ though. there is a deliberate summery feel to album no. 1 though. Again, I thought it juxtaposed nicely with some of the themes of loss, ageing and death. And drinking. And death again.
11. Listening to the likes of A Flash Of Darkness you seem to have incorporated new influences and sounds, I love the inclusion of horns, do you think that long term Bluetones fans would be surprised by your new widescreen sound of the new album?
A: Not true ‘Tones fans, no… the ones who only really know the singles might be surprised though. It’s difficult to say.
12. You’ve released two solo albums now, how have they been received to date both from a media point of view and commercially?
A: Both have been universally lauded by critics from all nations, just waiting for those good notices to convert into multi-million sales but it’s inevitable.
13. Do you feel the release of your two solo albums have helped diversify your audience now? I imagine you still get the ardent Bluetones fans but I would think that the solo albums may have drawn in a different spectrum of music lover
A: Well, come along to the Cube and find out. I always perform with my eyes closed so it’s difficult to know if my audience has grown, or shrunk, or if there’s anyone there at all.
13. Looking at your touring schedule I love the fact that you perform at both bigger venues and smaller places like The Cube in Malvern, which do you prefer? I imagine the more intimate shows you can really connect with the audience and even back in the old days you seemed approachable (I can remember you performing at The Stage in Worcester many years back)
A: I enjoy the intimacy of a smaller venue and the license that gives to alter the set and see where things go. I prefer to be able to react to the crowd and play some requests if the mood takes me. The setlist I prepare is usually more of a guideline than anything I will adhere to closely.
15. What does the immediate future have in store for you?
A: A large glass of Red and one of those disgustingly addictive Rolo desserts. Beyond that I wouldn’t like to say, but hopefully an album or two in 2015 for Acid Jazz Records, and a few more interesting gigs.
Mark Morriss Performs Live @ The Cube In Malvern On January 16th Supported by Skewwhiff and Luke Leighfield.