to the nations conscious back in 1995 were the effervescent quartet
The Bluetones, who then set about assailing the UK charts with ten classic
top 40 hits in the short space of five years. Their post 2000 work failed
to quite emulate former glories, but the band still retained their spark
and continue to put out classy music to this day. Now, their inimitable
frontman, Mark Morriss, is releasing a solo album thats up there
with the best of them. I collared him about Memory Muscle,
some ambiguous lyrics and crap birthday presents
AD: What made you decide the time was ripe to venture out on your own?
MM: A combination of things really, good fortune being chief among them.
I started to demo these songs four years ago, so I had them sitting in the bank,
so to speak, and eventually word got round to the label Fruitcake that Id
been doing these acoustic shows of my new songs and it just grew from there.
Fruitcake is a label created by two blokes called John, who took their lead
from David Geffens old label Asylum Records, which focused primarily on
solo singer/songwriters. That suited me perfectly, and after we came to the
end of our tenure with Cooking Vinyl amicably and knowing we had
a bit of a break in the Bluetones schedule, it came at the perfect time.
Were aiming to put the next Bluetones album out ourselves though, and
hopefully make a bit more money than we normally do!
AD: The album actually comes across as quite twisted in places, despite its
deceptively bright and breezy exterior
MM: Ha ha, yeah well thats been one of my trademarks over the years.
Ive always liked to marry dark lyrics with sunny, upbeat melodies. Most
of my influences came from Loves Forever Changes, or Fleetwood
Macs Rumours I love that slightly Mariachi sound that
was going on in Forever Changes, so I was aiming for something like
that myself. Memory Muscle is meant to sound like a summer picnic
album, but if you scratch below the surface, the songs will touch people on
a more personal level. I think my misanthropic side comes across quite well!
AD: You did worry me a little by starting the album with a song called How
Maggie Got Her Bounce Back, because I wondered
MM: Its not about the Thatch, no! My girlfriends called Maggie.
It was a silly genesis for a song: for years and years she had this great big,
curly hair, but then one day it suddenly went all straight. Then not so long
ago, after she let her hair dry naturally, the curly hair came back, like a
big explosion, and she came bounding out of the bathroom saying Ive
got my bounce back! so I thought Hmmm
and the song was
borne out of that!
AD: What a great story for a song! Other alarming moments for me came in
the song Lemon & Lime. I quote and if Im
spoiling for a fight, I think Ive earned the right to take it into town,
and take my feelings out on some civilians. So, is that a routine night
on the town for members of The Bluetones?
MM: Ha, not in Tunbridge Wells its not! That songs all about
the frustration we felt at the lack of perception people had. We were not happy
with the place we found ourselves in being lumped in with a lot of other
old acts as part of a so-called certain scene
AD: I think we all know what youre referring to there! Is it different?
Recording your solo stuff, I mean
MM: Being in The Bluetones is very much a democracy, where everyone listens
to each other and caters to one anothers needs. Doing my solo work is
more autocratic and gives me the chance to really take charge. My names
going to be above the title, so I didnt want or have to
hold back, to get things exactly how I wanted them. Plus it gave me the opportunity
to collaborate with several outstanding people.
AD: David Arnold, no doubt being one of those youre referring to. What
appealed to you the most about working with him?
MM: Well the fact that hes a flippin genius is quite high on
Id already got the bed tracks down, and I knew we had a budget to get
strings on the record, so I rang him up on the off chance hed be interested,
and to my delight he said yes, after hed finished work on the Bond film.
AD: Didnt you meet him on the set of Little Britain?
MM: Yes I did. Ive always had a keen interest in UK and US alternative
comedy, and its always been a subject close to my friends hearts
too, so we ended up meeting in the Prime Ministers hotel room. Not Tony
Blair, I mean the Little Britain PM.
AD: In the blurb I was reading about you, you say that you regard yourself
as an underdog. What do you mean by that, exactly?
MM: I felt that The Bluetones, in many ways, were disregarded and undervalued.
We were unfortunate to come along at the same time as that quite insular scene
and possibly the connotations of our name didnt help us in that
respect so it gave us something to prove.
AD: You did go through a period that I would reluctantly call your wilderness
years, after initially being lumped in with that Britpop (there, I said
it) crowd and seeing the vast majority of those acts falling by the wayside,
but you do seem to have come through it relatively unscathed. How do you think
youve shaken off that tag, and managed to avoid being pigeonholed?
MM: I put it down to good fortune. Things like that are completely out of
your own control. A lot of the big name music magazines are happy to just dismiss
us I havent read the NME or Q in years but luckily we have
an audience that DOES get what we do.
AD: How can they NOT get it? After all, Memory Muscle must be
the only album in history to mention Tippex Thinner amongst its lyrics. I actually
BOUGHT a bottle of Tippex Thinner for my mum for Mothers Day once. She was not
very happy, but I was blissfully unaware of any of its narcotic values at the
time and she was a typist, so I thought it would be useful. Whats the
worst present YOUVE ever been given?
MM: Oh, that one still burns fresh in my memory. For my 21st birthday, my
mum bought me
a toilet brush! I mean, Im sure it was a very NICE
toilet brush and all that, but, yknow
AD: I actually feel vindicated now, after that! Anyway, how does your time
now compare with those heady days of number one albums and being pipped to the
top of the singles chart by Babylon Zoo?
MM: Well, we were all very young back then, with an average age of 23, and
we were in the eye of a storm. It was brilliant fun at the time, but I wouldnt
want to be there now. Weve all got other responsibilities now; Im
going to be a father for the first time in a few months time, I dont have
one eye on the charts and I dont care whats hip anymore. At the
same time, its not like Im going to go off and start making avant-garde
lift music either!
AD: The funny thing is, it seems to be a lot of the older artists who are
releasing the most interesting work at the moment you, Neil Young, Bauhaus,
Supergrass, the list goes on
MM: Oh, Supergrass will NEVER lose it though, will they? Theyre the
prime example that if you give an artist time to grow, their work will just
get better and better. How many times do you hear about acts being dropped by
their label and not given enough time? Well be around for a while yet;
were not going to give it all up and become postmen if we get dropped.
AD: Glad to hear it! Now, going back to some of these lyrics, on Bienvenido,
you sing You were standing there with Jesus and J-Lo, which made
me laugh out loud but I havent got a bleedin clue what youre
going on about
MM: That was about a particular time in my life when I was a regular DJ
at a club in Oxford Street. At first it was a real buzz inflicting my own record
collection on people, but it lost its novelty when I realised I was drinking
too much, hanging around with people I didnt really want to be with and
watching this endless stream of people who either looked like Jesus, J-Lo or
AD: Ghandi?!! I dont think Ive ever seen anyone at a club who
looks like Ghandi.
MM: You clearly havent been to an Oxford Street club then!
AD: Well, quite. So whats stood out for you and made everything worthwhile
throughout your career?
MM: My strongest memories are from when we went to Japan for the first time,
surrounded by best friends and crew. We were thinking fucking hell, this
is really happening and not only was it very exciting, it was quite emotional
as well. Funnily enough, when I went to cut the new album, full of songs I wrote
four years ago, it left me feeling really weird and, again, emotional. So Id
say now was one of the best times too. The press will probably rip the album
apart and ruin it for me now though!
Well, I dont think thats very likely. Memory Muscle
is a thoroughly gorgeous album and Ive played it so much Ive
nearly worn it out already. A footnote here, by the way Dave
Grohl has long been tagged the nicest man in music. Now
Im sure Daves a jovial chap, but thats utter bollocks,
because Mark Morriss is.
Memory Muscle is out at the beginning of June and is just
Our review for Mark's debut solo album 'Memory Muscle' - click