Russell Baillie

Russell Baillie is the Herald’s entertainment editor

Morrissey returns for two NZ shows

Morrissey returns to New Zealand in December. Photo / Supplied
Morrissey returns to New Zealand in December. Photo / Supplied

Morrissey, the glum but curiously glam elder statesman of British indie rock, is returning to New Zealand for two shows in December.

The former Smiths frontman last played here in 1991, at the time he was establishing his solo career in the wake of the break-up of his influential and groundbreaking Manchester band in the late 80s.

Now 53, Morrissey remains an international cult star and an arena drawcard despite being without a record label - his most recent release was last year's Very Best Of ... compilation.

However, he has a much anticipated - by his fans anyway - autobiography in the offing.

He plays the Wellington Town Hall on Friday December 14 and Auckland's Vector Arena the following night and his recent live sets have drawn from both his Smiths and solo songbook.

Tickets will be on sale Monday September 24 (presale) and Wednesday September 26 (general sale).

Support for his New Zealand shows will be American singer/songwriter Kristeen Young.

Morrissey wouldn't do a phone interview but agreed to answer some questions by email - with conditions. His management stipulated there would be no questions about The Smiths.

That meant an inquiry about when and why he decided to include Smiths' songs in his live set after doing solo material for more than a decade previously wasn't passed on.

Otherwise, here's the man's respsonses to the rest.

Hello. Given the impersonal nature of these email "interviews" how do we know it's you and not a glamorous assistant answering our questions?
Surely you can tell by the way I curl my S's?

Where are you living these days and why there?
I'm a transatlantic resident. I feel safest in Rome. The dazzling royals and the Beckhams make life in England insufferable. There's usually an hourly report on the Dumbo Generation - we're either being told how Prince Harry has "won the hearts of the nation" or we're forced to watch Victoria Beckham as she chases the paparazzi down the street. The Dumbos are still in full flight. Please save us.

Any particular memories of last time you played in New Zealand all of 21 years ago?
Yes, all good. I lost my passport, I contracted Asian Flu, I then went on to Australia where I spent 7 days under hospital supervision awaiting a blood transfusion. But the audiences were great.

So how does the forthcoming autobiography start? And finish? Or, what, if anything are the names of those chapters?
I've spoken so much about it that there won't be anything left for anyone to read when it finally, finally, escapes to the public.

Why write one now? Does it mark the end of anything?
Yes, but everything does. We poor humans don't last very long, do we?

How do you reconcile your ability to still draw a crowd in many countries and your lack of record deal? Does it keep you up nights?
In fact, yes, it does keep me awake. I've sold so well all over the world this year, but record labels aren't interested in any such statistics. Now, of course, they want full control, which means a slice of your live income, a slice of your merchandise, and even a percentage of your publishing, things that traditionally have nothing to do with record labels. But if you want the benefit of their machinery you must give them everything. This is why everyone in the top 40 are very young and not very bright. For me, most of the audience film and record each concert anyway, so that's a blessing. And thank God for You Tube, otherwise my life would never be chronicled.

You have strong views on so many things: Do you enjoy being a contrarian? Does it come naturally or can it take it out of you? Oh and any thoughts about New Zealand still having the queen on our money and the union jack in the corner of our flag?
Doesn't New Zealand have an identity of its own? Why does it need the Queen? What does she do for New Zealand? Has she ever said anything nice about New Zealand? What do the people of New Zealand say? Maybe they'd prefer someone else on their money? Have they been asked? I don't feel like a contrarian, as you put it, in fact I'm unnaturally retiring. It's only social injustice that makes me shout up.

Does it feel odd/heartening/ or what to have fans who discovered you as teenagers and whose affection for you hasn't much changed as they've reached middle age?
It's only because of the songs. Nothing else. I'm not a celebrity. I'm not here for my looks. I'm only here because of the songs, and thankfully they are strong and people want to hear them. It's that simple. It's that complicated.

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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