Interviewed by Stuart Maconie, Select magazine, December, 1993
"Yeah, he asked me to produce some tracks on his new album so I've produced and written five or six tracks for his new album. We did it in Manchester. It's turned out really well."
"No. It was a phone call out of the blue early last year. I was looking for a project that involved guitars and me playing them, so we got together in Manchester. We hit it off as songwriters pretty much straight away. Hammerstein and Bergerac! I'm looking forward to seeing how they turn out."
"I liked some of the stuff. The first album I thought was really good and one or two of the singles... But Ian's a really good singer. Great voice. I've not heard much of him over the last few years so I encouraged him to croon. It was good fun."
"Well, Matt's on tour and I didn't want to be away from the studio and my son for a year. It wasn't the right time for me to go away. He's now been away for almost a year, and if you do that you've got to be committed, it's pretty hard work. The last tour with The The was the most enjoyable thing I've done in my entire career. I loved it. It was the first time I'd toured for awhile, apart from a few gigs with The Pretenders, but the last tour I'd done was the American tour with The Smiths which was pretty stressful, so my memories weren't that fond. People assume that my role in The The is to pop down to the studios and do the odd harmonica part and be in the videos, but I was in a group 24 hours a day for three years. Me and Matt will be recording together in the future. We first got together when I was 17, and had circumstances been different I would have been in The The all the time."
"We're getting wound up again to start the next album in a couple of weeks which is really exciting. We're working with Karl Bartos (Ex-Kraftwerk, now of Elektric Music) and possibly Nile Rodgers. And a song with Ya Kid K from Technotronic. We're all united by the idea of innovative pop."
"We're both very passionate about music and the possibilities of Electronic as a new kind of group. We see each other all the time, we live very close by and we're always looking for a new way of doing things. For me it's a completely new way of working cos there's just the two of us. We've got everything in common musically. Stuff that only we like, a real hybrid from modern dance right back to the Kinks. That's what Electronic's all about."
"Yeah, we do it when we can. Electronic is pretty much our life, I think I can speak for Bernard in that. We have the odd foray into working with New Order and The The, but we discuss what we're gonna do. It's not a convenient hobby, we're intensely ambitious, but we're not into being huge or competing with New Order or The Smiths track record. We're just trying to do things that are innovative. Electronic gives us the freedom to do that."
"It does, yeah. I've been involved in four or five albums since The Smiths and I think everything I've done both before and after The Smiths is really, really good. I've never done anything that I didn't like and there's over a hundred recorded songs. It's only natural, because The Smiths were so big and so good, that people will compare things with The Smiths. Morrissey has the same problem. But time will tell. I've done the odd track that's equalled the best of The Smiths. 'Get The Message' and 'Feel Every Beat' by Electronic. 'Dogs Of Lust' and 'Slow Motion Replay' with The The... The whole of 'Dusk' really. 'You And Me, Baby' with Kirsty MacColl."
"Yeah, I've got a new period of activity about to start. I did a track with K-Klass on their new album. I did a film in New York with The The. I've done a very odd record with Nellee Hooper, and then I'm looking forward to concentrating on Electronic for the next few years. We have a real sense of musical idealism. We're like kids playing, fighting to get near the keyboard and the mixing desk. But every so often I have cut off. I get out of the country
with my wife and my son, which is really important."
"No, I keep it fresh that way. I get my best ideas away from the guitar. If you're sitting around noodling, it sounds like that. A guitar is a means to an end. That's how I developed my style of trying to play everything at once. When I started I wanted it to be like strings and drums and everything."
"I get up in the morning, have a shower and something to eat, go straight into the studio, have a break eight hours later and then go back in the studio and come out 14 or 16 hours after I started. I do that every day, with a couple of days off every six or seven days. I'm trying to be a better songwriter, a better producer and a better guitar player. Ultimately a better maker of records. I was never a touring person which people find hard to believe."
"Oh, that's true. There is this idea that I wanted to drag The Smiths around the world until we became U2. It's not true. I wanted to be Phil Spector with a guitar, and I still do. That was why and how I got into music. When I left The Smiths I felt people expected me to be like Slash or something that's miles way from what I'm really like. I'm driven by the need to hear and make exciting music. When I was out playing with other lads, I was always more into little plastic guitars or pretending to be in T-Rex instead of conkers and bikes and Swiss Army knives. I'm more interested in all that now. I've got a great conker collection."
"If a generation of people hear it for the first time I'm really happy. The ins and outs of my relationship with Morrissey and the split has been done to death, but I think people are beginning to look again at the massive amount of work we did and I don't mind discussing that..."
"About two days after we first met when we wrote our first songs. We met and we started work straight away. I expected a lot out of life and out of a group, and Morrissey was the same. We knew it was absolutely brilliant. We were working for quite a while before it became a four-piece group. Neither of us are run of the mill people. You have to be like that if you're going to be important to people. You have to feel you're the best group in the world and that was what made The Smiths what they were. We thought everybody else was leagues behind us. I think we were every bit as good - here's a quote for you - we were as good as The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, just 20 years later."
"Up to now, yeah. But you never know. There's nothing like an 18-year-old with nothing to lose. It must get really tiresome if you're 17 in 1993, and you think you're fantastic, hearing someone who's been in a group that split up years before saying, We were the last great British group."
"Yeah, totally. When we first started it was all groups like China Crisis. Now, no offense to them, but it was just lame corportate nice safe music not expressing any kind of opinion. Music made for everybody and for no one in particular. The thing that kicked me into gear was punk, not that I was particularly into it. But it was third year at second school and I had all these dicks around me wearing Boomtown Rats T-shirts and naff bands like The Members on Top Of The Pops. There was no way I was going to get into that. So that forced me to find something that had some depth and was my own. I got into British '60's R&B from being into Tamla Motown. I knew most Beatles songs inside out and then more obscure stuff like girl groups, and that was the platform to form The Smiths. I wanted someone who could appreciate The Shangri-La's and there was only one person around. And that was Morrissey, who Billy Duffy had told me about."
"Very intense and kind of strange. The Smiths in a very early incarnation were me and Morrissey and some other musicians. It was a bit fragmented really. Just me and him chasing this vision. We had to find the right musicians and I knew who they were. It was just a matter of getting them in."
"I remember it well. It was really exciting. We did a really weird set. I knew no one had heard anything like it before. We had a male go-go dancer in stilettos for a start (James Maker, later of Raymonde and RPLA). And we did a song called 'I Want A Boyfriend For My Birthday' - an obscure record by The Cookies - and I knew that would freak people out. It was at The Ritz in Manchester and Blue Rondo was the epitome of that early '80's Hard Time/Demob scene which I was very aware of cos I was in the modern clothing industry (Marr had worked at trendy clothes shop X Clothes). I was into a harder kind of style, R&B bohemian kind of thing, and Morrissey was into a '50's aesthetic which was very much ahead of its time. So when we saw these guys who were just trendy in a very mainstream sense we knew we were going to wipe the floor with 'em. At the start of The Smiths there was a lot of aesthetic in there, plus all the music - like blues and Brill Building stuff."
"Yeah, I remember writing it, it was in preparation for a John Peel single. I wrote it the same night as 'Pretty Girls Make Graves' and 'Still Ill'."
"It was alright, yeah. The way I used to work was that I'd write songs in batches of three, put them on a cassette and give 'em to Morrissey and he'd have them pretty much finished, if not the day after then the day after that, which is something I've never come across before or since. Then Morrissey and I would bring them to the rehearsal room or, as we got successful, the studio."
"Fond memories, yeah, we followed Marilyn. It was live, and you're expecting to slip and fall over, so my feet were rooted to one spot and I was trying to move around without moving my legs. There was all these balloons and Morrissey had his flowers. And we had a gig at the Hacienda afterwards. It was insane. We got to Piccadilly station and Mike Pickering met us saying, 'It's chaos in there!' 2,000 inside and 1,000 outside. It was the start of three years of 'A Hard Day's Night'. In and out of cars, carried above people, going through three sets of beads a night, having your number plates stolen..."
"Pluto Studios in Manchester. Well, the first time it was in Wapping. Very exciting but hard work. Five hours sleep a day. But when it was finished there was problems with it and Troy Tate was quite upset, but I'm sure he'd agree it wasn't right - you can get it on bootleg - so we did it again with John Porter in Manchester."
"I didn't think it was the best debut of all time, I just thought it was the best record out at the time. I haven't listened to it for ages. I know it's a great collection of songs. It became the norm to criticise it. People echo what they've heard in the press."
"Yes, but that feeling was because we were writing all the time and was borne out by what we were doing. I can't remember what we did just after the first album... What singles did we have out?"
"Oh right. Well, we went to America to play Danceteria on New Year's Eve and Mike got ill so we couldn't do the rest of the gigs, and 'Heaven Knows' was written in a hotel room while me and Morrissey were waiting to go home. And I wrote the music for 'Girl Afraid' the day I got back, so really we were more concerned with what came next. I don't really like 'Heaven Knows'. Well, I like it but less than the others. I don't like the tune and the backing track. I don't like the rhythm or anything."
"Travelling to Amazon in Liverpool every day, driving through industrial estates in a white limo. We'd pretty much moved to London by then, we were trying to manage ourselves and we thought it was a good idea to get out of Manchester. But when we came to write the next album it was clear that we needed to come back to Manchester and get rained on. It's good for creativity."
"Yeah. I did very few interviews at that time. I still don't, and that's what I wanted to talk about. Music, clothes and the... other things you mentioned, which became the norm to talk about in 1988. I lived out me dream of being a fully-fledged Perry Boy. I wanted to bring that to our audience, certainly the males. That's why I got into corduroys. It was fun, a little bit of a game. Morrissey was great at it. He had lads turning up in blouses and quiffs at the Rock Garden, about our tenth gig."
"(Laughs) I wish! It's not stood up as well as 'Revolver' but there's some great songs on it. 'Nowhere Fast' is a great song. For a long time 'That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore' was my favourite Smiths song, and it's still one of my favourites. 'Well I Wonder''s on it too. They sum up the atmosphere of The Smiths at the time - quite bleak. Not bleak within the band but we were trying to keep our autonomy and everyone wanted to manage us. God knows we needed a manager but there was nobody that was right. There was loads of pressure to do TV shows we didn't want to do and go to countries we didn't want to go to and, for me, do interviews I didn't want to do. We just wanted to play concerts, make records and do John Peel sessions."
"No, it made our relationships more intense. It was very difficult to penetrate The Smiths, that's pretty much true today. The more people tried to get into relationships with me or Morrissey particularly, the more the group stuck together and became an impossible club to get into."
"Not then. Moving ahead a bit, on the last tour in America a journalist came out with us and we sat in the bar, and it was the beginning of the end and me and Morrissey knew it. The journalist said, 'It must be fantastic to get everything you've ever wanted,' and I was so incredibly miserable that I said, 'It's a crushingly hollow feeling'. And I left about three. When it goes wrong, it's very weird... 'Meat Is Murder' wasn't a miserable time like that but it was bleak, stuck in an industrial estate in Liverpool with all these people trying to get a piece of us from Rough Trade. But it strengthened our resolve. We were driven. Morrissey and I would never sleep. Or the only time we weren't together was when we were sleeping. It was just me, Morrissey and Angie, my wife, all the time."
"No, I felt I was the luckiest person in the world. I had an incredibly intense relationship with my partner, who was a man, and I have and had an incredibly fantastic relationship with the love of my life. How can you complain? It was great."
"No, it's not that. It's the way that people just follow popular press opinion without listening for themselves. It might be the best thing we did. But if you're talking about that, you've got to look at 'Louder Than Bombs' cos we were a good singles group. Singles were very important to us. But 'The Queen Is Dead' made me ill. I was working impossible hours, I never saw daylight. But I had to get totally absorbed in it. I knew exactly what I had to do to make that record and it was a matter of putting myself on the edge, getting into insane mental states. The most recent Smiths track which I've listened to was 'Never Had No-One Ever,' and I'd forgotten how good it was. But that came from the mad self-absorption that we were into . I knew at that time that I had to make what was to me a great piece of art. To me there was no difference between the pressure I was under and the pressure Charlie Parker or Keith Richard or Lenny Bruce was under. Which might sound pretentious for someone who's supposed to be a down-to-earth Manchester lad, but I've never been that down-to-earth. I don't care too much for being down-to-earth."
"That was just a necessity really. It looked like we couldn't tour with Andy. It was just one of the many things that made it all mad. Like, most groups have a producer and me and Morrissey were doing it. Second, most groups of that stature have a manager - and me and Morrissey were doing it. So I'd find myself, having been up for days, feeling very emotional, trying to get together a bass part or a piano part and having Rough Trade on the phone asking about van hire, saying we were going to be sued! 'Someone's got to find this 62 quid!' Then there were problems with the daily papers who were trying to get hold of things about our personal lives. It was a lot of pressure for a 22-year-old."
"Yeah, among other things. When things like that used to happen I'd be thinking, What am I supposed to be doing here? Someone help me. I was in the studio all the time from the moment we got the equipment to seven in the morning on the last day. Eight, ten, 12 weeks. Getting it mixed and getting it cut. But that's how I learned to be a producer."
"Yeah, because as much as my life was and is driven by music, I wanted it to be a long life. I got disenchanted with the rock and roll martyrdom myth. It sounds like a whinge, but we had everything in that group - from intense relationships to busts - except a death. If you compare our story with those of really big groups who've had fatalities, it's much more intense and insane. Also, it's really bogus and old-fashioned. Pop's not only based on a false economy, it's based on a false ideology as well. One that's at least 15 years out of date."
"I did, but I never was one of those old rockers. I've got no interest in The Smiths being connected with the myth that groups like The Black Crowes hawk around. When I was younger, the only time I wanted to be Keith Richard is when I was playing the guitar. The rest of the time I wanted to be me."
"The song 'The Queen Is Dead' I really like. I used to like the MC5 and The Stooges and it's as good if not better than anything The Stooges ever did. It's got energy and aggression in that kind of garagey way. I didn't realise that 'There Is A Light' was going to be an anthem but when we first played it I thought it was the best song I'd ever heard."There's a little in-joke in there just to illustrate how intellectual I was getting. At the time everyone was into the Velvet Underground and they stole the intro to 'There She Goes' - da da da-da, da da-da-da, Dah Dah! - from the Rolling Stones version of 'Hitchhike,' the Marvin Gaye song. I just wanted to put that in to see whether the press would say, Oh it's the Velvet Underground! Cos I knew that I was smarter than that. I was listening to what The Velvet Underground was listening to."
"Yeah but that was out of necessity... actually that's a lie (laughs). Escapism got us from going under. We weren't living it up. We were repressed at every turn, staying in bad hotels, being told we weren't as big as we really were. Morrissey isn't a hedonist but he does pursue an alternative lifestyle. He needed to escape more than the rest of us. The pressures that I'm bemoaning, he had more intensely - because he was the focus. Everybody wanted to get to him. In many ways I had to shield him from it as a friend and partner."
"Yes. They're still pretty good now."
"The relationship between me and Morrissey is the best in the group, of the four of us. I still see him now. I called him last night. Last time I saw him was a couple of days before he went in to do his recent album. We let a bored media get the better of us, but there's always been a certain telepathy between us even when we didn't see each other. We played a game with the press and they played with us, but it's not true life. No, we're friends."
(Wearily) "There's been too much said. The sound on the records had got more dense, we were playing huge venues in America, and there was pressure on me to exhibit my guitar heroism and I couldn't do that and play every single melody faithfully. I felt we might be letting the audience down and we needed to progress sonically. So we brought Craig in for a time. And then when a group splits up the vultures come out. But I saw Craig three or four months ago and he said 'Hello'. I never really knew him that well, funnily enough. It was always me and Morrissey together really."
"Entirely, yes. And Angie glued us together and helped us to retain what bit of sanity we had. I give the impresssion of us being mad but it was everyone around us who was losing it while we were trying to keep it together. I don't want to get into painting too bleak a picture, but I know that's what people want me to talk about. We were united by a fantastic sense of humour that no one could get inside."
"I was feeling positive about it... and that's when I knew I had to get out. Because after we made 'Strangeways,' for the first time I couldn't see us making a new record when we wanted to. With time maybe I could have, but that wasn't allowed.
"'Strangeways' suffers because it was our last record, so people think there were arguments and horrors in making it, but there weren't. Morrissey and I both think it's possibly our best album. That and some of 'The Queen Is Dead,' which accepted opinion says is our masterpiece. That might be true, but 'Strangeways' has its moments, like 'Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Love Me'. Last time I met Morrissey he said it was his favourite Smiths song. He might be right. Over the last few years I've heard 'Girlfriend In A Coma' in shops and people's cars, and I'm always surprised by how good it sounds. 'Unhappy Birthday' I really like."
"No. I'm really happy with the way everything turned out. Events ran their natural course. I don't believe that the following couple of years, the split and the fall-out, really belonged to the group. It belonged to the media and the public. When The Smiths stopped it was the end of the group."
"I don't think it would be called The Smiths. Hand on heart, gun to my head, err, if it was to happen - which is very unlikely - it would be called Morrissey and Marr. But that's very theoretical and hypothetical. With the emphasis on pathetic."
"I didn't think it was very good. Johnny Rodent pestered people who were close to me and to the group and they were too sussed to talk to somebody like him. He's not a very good writer, he over-researches little things and misses the overall picture. And because he couldn't get to the people in the know he got responses from people who knew me, and not very well, when I was 13 and 14.
"But that's a far cry from The Smiths. My friends and family were quite upset at how I was portrayed as a fast-talking, hustling type. I talked to him because he pestered people who then pestered my parents. I went there to defend myself but his opinions were already formed and he hung me with my own quotes. The people who were involved with The Smiths - who really knew us - were, like the group, very protective of what went on. The real story will be told when the entire thing is finished."
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