When you're a veteran music journalist, especially one as miserable and jaded as I am, it takes a lot to get you excited for an interview. Then again, it's not every day you get to talk to the only musician you've ever really cared about, one who's played a huge role in shaping your worldview and identity over the years. That day still hasn't come, sadly, but, as consolation, I did manage to score an email interview with Morrissey, the legendary erstwhile Smiths frontman and solo artist whose current tour brings him to Boston October 5.
I'd be negligent in my duties — and fandom — if I didn't report that I got a little teary-eyed just reading back the responses which, to use a technical term, could not have sounded more Morrissian if he tried. What's the big deal, though? He's just another human being, just like anyone else, right? Maybe not, he says. I asked him his thoughts on meeting his idols, about his forthcoming biography (reported to be out by year's end), and his memories of Boston. No, I didn't propose a Smiths reunion. Stop us if you think that you've heard that one before.
Can you tell us about your forthcoming autobiography? What sort of approach are you taking to telling your story? I keep saying that the guilty are protected and the innocent are named. But that's worn off a bit now. It's a very dramatic account of what happened factually and how it affected me. Rather like Gone with the Wind.
Obviously, there has been a lot written about your life over the years; do you feel like much of it has been misleading? Is this a sort of attempt to rectify anything you feel has been misconstrued? All of it has been misleading. Unfortunately, because you admire someone's music, you automatically feel that you have a legitimate understanding of their entire inward and outward motivations. But you don't! In fact, you have zero visibility. The book is an accurate guide of all who, what, when's, and why's. Yes, there's some friendly fire, but nothing gratuitously revelatory about others. Amazingly, it's not my business to make anyone else's life worse. Although, God knows, I've tried.
Do you think it's edifying to understand an artist you admire through the personal details of their life, or are you of the opinion that the work should suffice to speak for them? At first you acknowledge that the artist's view is wider than your own, otherwise you would not be entranced by them. The second stage is normal despondency because they haven't actually noticed you on a personal level. The third stage is assassination. It all amounts to a particularly poor form of love. I've actually been shot at 43 times. And then people say, "You're looking tired. . . ."
On a similar note, you've met a few of your own personal heroes over the years. Do you think it's a good idea to do that, or to want to do that, or does it take something away from the mythological image you've built in your mind from afar by recognizing that they're just another human being after all? Maybe that's a good thing, unless it turns out they're a shit? But they're not "just another human being" . . . however much you try to wish that they are. Do you think Patti Smith recorded Horses whilst also working the cash register at Macy's? Do you think the New York Dolls were otherwise destined to clean windows for a living? Do you think David Bowie yearned to sell vacuum cleaners, yet filled in the wrong job application by mistake? No. All of these people are very special, and it's only a weightless sense of jealousy that makes you want to believe that they're frauds.
How do most encounters with fans you come across out in the wild go down? By "out in the wild," I assume you mean Florida? Well, would you believe that everyone is terribly, terribly, terribly nice? It's only the British press that eat me alive. Otherwise, everyone's lovely.