This Mark Morriss article was written by Daniel Kirby, a GIGsoup contributor.
The Bluetones released their first singles during 1995 and their debut album ‘Expecting to Fly’ in February the following year. It knocked ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ by Oasis off the top spot, prior to this a re-issue of their single ‘Slight Return’ reached number two just a few weeks earlier.
Since then they have released another five studio albums, a host of UK Top 40 singles, six compilations and a live album. The band decided to call it a day in 2011 after a farewell tour, but earlier this year they reunited with plans to perform their first set of gigs in four years.
Recently GIGsoup had the pleasure of joining vocalist Mark Morriss on the bands tour bus before their show at The Ritz in Manchester as part of their 20th Anniversary Jukebox Tour.
You split in 2011 after a farewell tour and now you’re back together to celebrate your 20th anniversary, is it just a one off tour or is there more planned? Or is it a case of just seeing how it goes first?
There will be more gigs, these gigs have gone really well. We’re going to do some more shows in the spring, and then we’ll see what happens. But I don’t think you’re going to see this as being a huge new career rejuvenation. I think we’re just going to play some shows and enjoy that. There’s a lot going on in our lives as individuals that complicates things now that we can’t just drop. So perhaps at some point in the future, but not just yet.
I recently re-listened to your 2007 live album, ‘Once Upon a Time in West Twelve,’ and was reminded of just what a cracking performance it was. Are there any plans to turn one of these shows into a live album?
Well it’s nice of you to say. We’ve not been recording these shows because we weren’t sure in our minds how tight we’d be. But we’ve been pleasantly surprised that we’ve been this good, if I do say so myself. The band have been totally on top form and I’ve felt good and confident, so now we think maybe we should have brought a rig out and recorded a bit of it. We might do that next year.
You’ve obviously played a lot of shows over the years, are there any in particular that stand out?
Yeah, many, many. But at this time it’s last night and the night before that are most prominent. But it’s a lot of the ones that you might expect that have stuck in the mind. We’ve had lots of special gigs. Glasgow has always been a great city. We’ve had many fantastic nights here in Manchester as well. It’s hard to say. The obvious ones, I guess.
Like headlining the Other Stage at Glastonbury in 1997?
Yeah, the idea that we even did that feels surreal to us now, that we even played that slot, but at the time it was more nerve wracking than enjoyable.
You’re often labelled as a Britpop/rock band, but did you ever really feel a part of it all?
No, we always felt a bit aggrieved to be lumped in with all the Union Jacks and that sort of thing. We didn’t feel akin to that scene, it felt like such a small parochial scene and quite limited. You start a band, express yourself, write songs and you hope to find your own place and your own voice. It’s everything you’re kicking against, being lumped into a scene, so I think we resented it at the time. But there’s not much you can do because 20 years later you’re still being asked about it. I’m not pointing the question at you there, but it’s just one of those things. You’ve got to roll with it, pardon the pun.
Do you feel that being labelled as such helped or hindered you, or was it a bit of both?
It was definitely a bit of both. For every kick in the balls we got, we got someone opening a door for us as well. It was definitely a mixed blessing, but I try not to think about it too much because it is what it is. I let other people think about it. But it worries me that you become just another song on a compilation album rather than being an entity in your own right.
Do you get many people coming to your shows shouting things like “play Slight Return” or anything like that? People who come along just to hear one song?
Not really, it’s more outside of our crowd that people say that. Our crowd are sick to death of that song as well. We’ve got to play it, and I don’t object to playing it, but there’s more to us than that. It’s one of those things that you’ve got to take as a slightly double edged sword because it was a very good song for us. It opened many doors, it was like a calling card for us, but that can also have its down sides I suppose.
How do you view the music industry today? How has it changed over the past 20 years? Are there things that have changed for the better and are there things that have changed for the worse?
I don’t think anyone can say that it has changed for the better, apart from Simon Cowell. And that’s because, I don’t want it to sound like an old cliché, but there are less people in the music industry that are music people. There are more marketing people. You’ve got these 40-50 year old men writing songs for young people to sing, that’s not rock and roll is it? That’s not any kind of youthful expression, there’s no exuberance there, it’s all just marketing. It feels slightly cynical, you know what I mean? You don’t want to get too classist with these sorts of things, but it has become a middle class playground now. It was very much a working class domain when we were growing up, singers with these imperfect voices singing these perfect songs. But now it’s singers with these perfect voices singing these perfect songs. It just feels soulless.
Do you see the revival of vinyl in recent years, and even the cassette, as a sort of small backlash or a reaction against the digitisation of music?
Not necessarily a backlash, I don’t think everything is a movement against something, but certainly it’s embracing something that’s been lost, celebrating the album as a piece of art. It’s emboldened in 12 inch form. You can hold it, you can read it. It’s a thing, it’s more of an organic experience. It’s more tangible in a way.
Are there any bands around today that interest or excite you?
I really love the new ‘Tame Impala’ record. I’ve loved all their records but Kevin Parker seems to have gone on to another level. I really like ‘The Standard Lamps’ who have been playing with us. There’s a Scottish band called ‘Miracle Glass Company’ who are really good. They do sort of psychedelic rock, they’re a really good three piece. There’s ‘C. Duncan,’ a young Scottish singer-songwriter who lives in Brighton. He’s brilliant and has just had a record come out. But mainly, I’ve been listening to my old records. I don’t really let much daylight in. I’ve still got so many old records that I’m working my through, records that I bought at the time and didn’t give enough attention to. I haven’t turned my back on new releases, but I just don’t hear something very often that makes me think ‘I need this.’
It was recently reported that there are plans to send a holograms of Whitney Houston and Billie Holliday on a world tour. How do you feel about that?
I embrace that, it would make my life easier. I could stay at home couldn’t I? But no, it’s for people who don’t like going to a real live experience. It’ll be a curiosity. It’s just a load of balls, a novelty. It can’t ever be anything more than a novelty. You’re only going to be wowing at the technology, not the person or the performance.