Morrissey hasn’t released an album in three years — in fact, he’s not even signed to a label, and has no home for his latest crop of songs. Yet the 53-year-old Britpop godfather has continued to make international headlines this year, often just for being himself.
Whether he’s denying bogus reports of his early retirement, rescuing damsels in distress at New York bookstores, or swatting away another round of Smiths reunion rumors, Morrissey still spellbinds his die-hard fans with every witty word. On Friday night (Oct. 5), he’ll return to setting those words to music when he kicks off a 33-date U.S. tour in Boston.
Before he begins belting out his melancholy classics (and dodging swooning stage jumpers) across the country, Morrissey allowed Billboard to pick his brain via email, and he revealed his unfiltered opinion on everyone from the Ramones to Hillary Clinton. Read the entire transcript below, and watch his performance from last night’s episode of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”
Billboard: We’re still awaiting the follow-up to 2009’s ‘Years of Refusal,’ which you’ve said won’t be released without label support. Are you holding fast to that, or have you started to consider alternate methods of distribution?
Morrissey: I’ve held fast, but I now accept that the newer songs – which actually aren’t that new anymore – will only ever exist in the YouTube domain. Do I see myself receiving a grown-up recording offer from a label of stature and power? No. I have a better chance of being hit by lightning.
This is one of the few times in your career that you’ve embarked on a tour without a new album to promote. Why hit the road now?
Because a lot of people like me.
With each new tour, you dust off a few more gems from your catalog. Are there any songs from back in your day that are completely untouchable?
Yes, because those ideas developed whilst I was still a teenager, and … nobody wants to be a nightmare 53-year old teenager … oddly enough.
Your fans are known for running on stage and hugging you during your concerts. Which living artist, if any, would you rush the stage to embrace?
Kirk Douglas. And if you think I’m joking, I’m not.
Erroneous reports of your retirement surfaced earlier this year. Was your reaction to these rumors one of amusement or insult?
I’m no stranger to insults, so I’m unlikely to fall back in a tizzy. Thankfully, I often have no idea what people are prattling on about.
One piece of recent fact that was widely reported was that you helped an elderly woman who collapsed in New York’s Strand bookstore in September. Will you make a habit out of being a good Samaritan?
The woman had a mild stroke. That was obvious. I held her hand and spoke to her very gently. No one else seemed interested in helping her. I’d do the same for anyone … except Sarah Palin, of course.
You’ve always been outspoken about U.S. politics. We’ll be heading to the polls in a few weeks. Do the Democrats deserve four more years?
There is no doubt that they do not, but they’ll get it because they have zero competition. It would be exciting if Hillary Clinton had been handed the baton for this new election, but I expect she’ll be the main Presidential bait for the next election. It would be fascinating to see a President who was female, but only because we expect so little. Would America ever elect a president who was single? Or does being married automatically make a candidate wholesome and lovely and caring and nice?
Your forthcoming autobiography has been in the works for years. What’s the hold up on publishing? Aren’t you anxious to get it out to the world?
Modern books are usually publishing events and not literary events, and I’ve attempted to write a book that will have meaning for a very long time. Generally, modern autobiographies are launched as sensations but are forgotten by the following Thursday – usually just before lunchtime.
Speaking of literary events, what’s the last great piece of literature you’ve read?
Probably ‘Bleak House’ by Charles Dickens, which was written in 1201, as you know.
When’s the last time you visited Manchester? What’s your current impression of your old stomping grounds?
It’s difficult for me to move around in central Manchester because the local newspapers usually run a craparazzi shot with a ‘Heaven Knows He’s Incredibly Fat Now’ headline. The city is not the place I knew as a teenager, which is much to its credit.
A music blog recently uncovered an article you wrote in 1976 with the headline ‘Ramones Are Rubbish.’ Do you still believe the Ramones should have been “rightly filed and forgotten?”
I came clean about this many years ago. When I bought the Ramones first album on import, I was enraged with jealousy because I felt they had booted the Dolls off the map. I was 100% wrong. Three days after writing that Ramones piece, I realized that my love for the Ramones would out-live time itself. And it shall. Well, it virtually has already. If the Ramones were alive today, they’d be the biggest band in the world. It takes the world 30 years to catch on, doesn’t it? I mean, look at poor Nico. Every modern teenager now seems to love Nico, yet while she was alive she couldn’t afford a decent mattress.
Lastly, with the incredible legacy you’ve already created, is there anything you still desire to accomplish as an artist?
The solo years have been more meaningful to the audiences than the Smiths years, but the press in England only write about me in relation to the Smiths era. This exhausts me. I wish the press were more willing to chronicle these recent tours and the most recent albums. But they won’t do it. Their needle stuck at ‘The Queen is Dead.’ I’ve sold out large venues throughout five continents this year alone – with incredible reactions everywhere. Yet the press will only blather on about Smiths reunion rumors. You can well imagine the frustration. Thank God I have a strong chin.