Glasswerk meets Mark Morriss (The Bluetones)

“We thought you were going to lose it when that bloke climbed on stage and hugged you” . He pondered the question before sincerely replying, “I just thought to myself, what would Morrissey do?”

And so Glasswerk is on board the rather plush Bluetones tour-bus, which resembles an ample 5* hotel room with drinks cabinets, plasma screen and obligatory playstation. Alongside is frontman Mark Morriss, appearing both decidedly placid only half an hour after coming off stage, and rightfully smug after putting on a storming performance at Camden’s Barfly.

The one thing that stands out most of all is Mark’s love to perform and entertain. He talks enthusiastically about the nights successes. “I’ve never seen the Barfly rocking like that” he remarks, and he’s right. Wave upon wave of Blue Army had earlier bounced in unison to their greatest hits. They are quite capable of filling far bigger venues than those on this tour of Barflys and the like, but the intimate atmosphere is appreciated by Mark.

Few bands of this calibre get the opportunity to play such a host of low-key gigs but there isn’t any particular reason for this tour, no pressure from a record company to flog a new album to the masses. “We’re minstrels… We can’t stop! Apart from a few gigs here and there we haven’t been on tour this year so it’s great to be back out there”.

For the cynics out there, then the answer is yes, another album is on the way, though ideas are still at the drawing board stage. When asked whether it will continue with the typical Bluetones sound, Mark responded, “There is no generic Bluetones sound. The first four albums are all very different, with the only constant being my voice”. It’s a fair point, when you compare the rock of debut Expecting to Fly to later hits such as If, Autophilia and Home Fires Burning, only to go full circle with their guitar-driven most recent album Luxembourg.

So why didn’t they play the likes of Autophilia and Mudslide? “They are difficult one’s to play live. There are lots of samples in Autophilia and we no longer have a keyboard player. It actually makes things a lot simpler with just the four of us and no keyboards”.

What was the highlight of the gig for you?

“Definitely when we played One-Speed Gearbox. But that was because the air-conditioning came on. We wouldn’t have wanted it on the whole time though, you have to get sweaty when you do these gigs!

More of personal interest than anything else, Glasswerk asks what’s behind the song Home Fires Burning – it’s the one that asks, “Can I stay at your house? I’ll sleep on the floor. My home is a war-zone, I‘ve no stomach for more”

“It’s about when living at home becomes different and it’s your parents home and not yours, and you have to get out”. Glasswerk gives a knowing, understanding look.

The interview is going well. Mark is relaxed and easy to talk to, and only becomes at all defensive and cagey when the age-old, and frankly quite tiring, topic of their lack of comparative commercial success threatens to be brought to the table. Mark is an artist and at the end of the day as long as it pays the rent, “we play for the sheer glee! The joy of playing”. He’s been in the business far too long to care what the music press have to say and affirms that they now measure their success on whether or not they are happy, rather than on sales or airplay.

Of course they want to reap the rewards of success that their material and live performances deserve, but even in the Britpop era they never really fitted into the “scene” as such. Today they are more than happy with their large and devout following, which shows no sign of diminishing. In fact, one of the most pleasing experiences for Mark is to see the vast numbers of young fans attending gigs, who only got into the band in the last few years.

So what does the new year have in store? Mark is working on a solo record in the first half of 2005, working alongside Emma Rowen and producer and close friend Gordon. It’s a new project that Mark is clearly excited about, especially at the idea of showcasing the new material in the States at legendary venues like The Viper Rooms. “It sounds a bit like The Bluetones right now”, Mark concedes, “but that is mainly because of my vocals”.

Do you get a chance to check out new talent much?

“Yeah, when I can. In the last year or so I have really enjoyed The Zutons and The Futureheads, and Brinkman are really good. And The Ludes. Or is it just Ludes? And Metro Riots are great live”.

Glasswerk wraps up the evening on alight-hearted note. Where would your ideal gig take place, and who would you have in support? “In a shed next to the Pyramids, alongside a reformed Pavement and Girls Aloud”. It’s unclear whether he means the Egyptian Wonder of the World, or the Portsmouth venue. Either way it sounds a cracking night.

Mark Morriss plays a solo acoustic gig on December 23rd at Water Rats, before going on tour to Australia and the US in the new year.

Interview by Alex MacHorton and Daniel Bennett

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