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Moz the Cat 

In which Steven Patrick Morrissey speaks of ghosts, glam rock, Obama... and why squirrels like him

Wednesday, Jan 31 2007
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T hey say all cats are French, but that is not true. At least one of them is a well- respected northern English gentleman of Irish descent, with a love of literature, movies and space-alien rock stars. He is Steven Patrick Morrissey, from Manchester.

Morrissey has given the world more than his share of poetry and music, and through them, nursed thousands, maybe millions, of ailing souls. (He has also saved the lives of countless squirrels who played too close to traffic, as you’ll read.) Most likely, Morrissey’s legacy as an artist, and as a person, will have an impressive half-life long after we are all gone.

And if reincarnation is real, in his next life Morrissey will be rewarded for his works, and will return to Earth a real cat. He will walk on cat paws through the neighborhoods of the world, free to snoop where he pleases, looking in any window, undetected if he chooses. He will never again feel unmoored or isolated, because the whole wide world will be his home. He will be free to snub or rub against whomever he chooses, and everyone will understand: That’s his nature.

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In this life, Morrissey’s behavior can leave people stumped. That’s not always unpleasant. Only a few weeks ago, we got an e-mail from Morrissey’s manager, requesting an interview to coincide with a three-night stand at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium (tonight, February 1, through Saturday, February 3). Weird. I hadn’t even heard about these shows. (Apparently, they’d been planned last-minute — and sold out just as quickly.) And anyway, Morrissey doesn’t give interviews.

That’s the thing with cats. You never know what they’re going to do.

Moz lived here in Los Angeles for the better part of a decade, and Los Angeles has loved Morrissey from the first moment some lucky DJ at KROQ (Dusty or Rodney or Richard Blade?) played that first cassette tape — according to legend, a demo of an unsigned English band called the Smiths. The music of the Smiths, with Morrissey’s otherworldly voice and poetic lyrical vision, made sense immediately in Los Angeles — a violent, romantic city of poverty, grime, gangs, glamour and streetwise youth; of underground punk clubs that gave way to underground new-wave clubs; a city where kids like me grew up aware that nuclear bombs were aimed straight at us (always a subtext in Moz lyrics). For L.A.’s Mexican-American kids, Morrissey’s lyrical perspective had special appeal: Here was a young, artistic man of Irish-immigrant blood, growing up trapped in the land of his forebears’ oppressor; fascinated by the ’50s (and ’60s!), by the pompadours and Gibsons and screen rebels of that time.

Young Morrissey found a psychic escape route from his desolate surroundings through the pop art of the past, through the pure style of it, in some cases. It’s no wonder glam rock, with its rockabilly musical roots and alien-androgyne stylings, provided him such a personal “revolution,” as he terms it, at 12 and 13. (Morrissey founded a New York Dolls fan club as a kid, and was more recently responsible for their reunion at the U.K.’s Meltdown festival in 2004.)

Fascinated as he is with the low life and the silver screen, it makes sense that Moz hid out here in L.A. when he didn’t have a record label in the early 2000s. This is home to the Morrissey convention; this is where the Smiths tribute bands were born; this is where some of his heroes — James Dean, for starters — worked and died.

Moz finally left L.A. about a year ago, resettling in Rome to record his most recent solo album, Ringleader of the Tormentors, with legendary glam producer Tony Visconti (T. Rex, Bowie). (This no doubt pleased Moz’s longtime guitarist, Boz Boorer, who is said to own the world’s largest collection of T. Rex memorabilia.) But the album is notable in many ways, including this: It contains songs of happiness and lust. The flesh and spirit enjoined — and enjoyed. That’s a neat trick for any recovering Irish-Catholic poet once tortured by nuns — much less a noted sometime celibate. The album has had five Top 10 hits in the U.K., and Morrissey has spent the past year touring the world.

At the moment, it’s unclear where Moz actually lives: He arrived in L.A. last week from Manchester, and he may or may not perform again before ending this touring cycle. It’s his choice now. After so many crises — from the drug and personnel problems of the Smiths (who broke up in 1987, after guitarist Johnny Marr quit), to the legal fights among bandmates for royalties (now sorted), to label troubles, Morrissey has, for the moment anyway, achieved what appears to be a smoothly functioning career. His vast and loyal fan base will follow him, whatever he does now. He’s earned every fan the hard way: one by one, over the years, at times without any label promotion at all. There was never a Smiths Behind the Music, and there never will be. The ’80s revival has hit its peak without a single Smiths song being used in a Land Rover ad. Morrissey’s on a smaller label, and it seems to suit him. We hear occasional rumors of a possible hatchet burial between Marr and Moz, but, to be honest, no one’s holding his breath. Least of all Morrissey.

Moz’s childhood idol, Marianne Faithfull, once told me that her favorite song is by Billie Holiday: “God bless the child that’s got his own,” she incanted — adding, with emphasis, “That’s got his own. It takes a long time to sink in, but it’s one of the most profound things anyone ever wrote.” I look at Morrissey today, and that’s exactly what I see. What he has today, both his material and less tangible rewards, is his to keep now. It doesn't belong to a record company. No magazine, book or newspaper will ever be able to destroy the aura of mystique he has so resolutely built around himself over the years. It’s too late for that. The window of opportunity for humanization has passed him by. Morrissey is the last of the truly mysterious pop icons, and nobody can take that away from him now. Ever. Morrissey is the child that got his own.

And he’s got quite a lot. We met on the rooftop patio of a fancy Beverly Hills hotel. He wore a natty tailored suit. We sat down in rocking chairs next to a roaring gas-flame fire pit, under Westside winter gloom. I had been instructed not to ask about the Smiths, or Moz’s time in Los Angeles, which was okay, as it turned out. The conversation was warm and intuitive, and Moz was kindly and avuncular but never patronizing (even when pushed to the limit regarding the Spice Girls). Turns out Moz is a listener, and he listens with more than his ears. (He speaks often of something like a sixth sense, referring to people as “spirits.”) As for his enormous eyes, they are opaquely blue — almost turquoise — framed by huge eyebrows, set into a face bigger and more roughly cut than you’d imagine.

L.A. WEEKLY: Have you been to your ancestral home?

MORRISSEY: I know nothing about my [ancestral home] in Ireland. My family, although they’re very large on both my parents’ sides, they don’t know much about their family tree. Occasionally, they try to dig, but they can’t get very far, and it’s baffling. In Dublin, it seems that so many public records were wiped out; it’s proven to be very difficult, so I know very little.

I’ve only been to Ireland once, and I felt I would wake up with voices in my head, almost like music, and that if I were a songwriter, I would be very inspired.

It’s a place that’s steeped in so much mythical history, apart from anything else. The people there are very, very poetic, and the history of Ireland is just incredibly rich and deep and mysterious. So it really isn’t unusual to go there and feel this wave of . . . you’re being enveloped by the past. It’s all around you, and it’s actually alive. So it’s not really a unique feeling, and there are so many spirits and specters walking every inch of the land — not just within buildings, but also on the streets. It’s a place full of mystery and intrigue.

Did you ever see a ghost?

Ahh . . . well, I did. It was in England. But yes, I did once.

Can you tell me about it?

Yes! It was January 1989, and it was a very bitter winter. I went with three friends onto Saddleworth Moor in the north of England, which is the most barren, desolate, desperate place . . . a place of many, many murders throughout British history — many bodies were dumped [there] because it was so hostile. [In the mid-’60s, several Manchester schoolchildren were brutally murdered and dumped on Saddleworth Moor in a crime known as the Moors Murders. The killings left a deep scar upon the community. In fact, the first song Morrissey co-wrote with Johnny Marr, “Suffer Little Children,” was about these murders.]

There’s nothing for miles, and it’s very easy to lose your way. We had driven through darkness even though it was only 6 p.m. — you can only see as far as your headlights. At one point, we tried to step outside the car and the wind was so ferocious, a bitter chill of winter. You can’t see lights for miles, because there’s nothing there, just peat and heather. Very, very unfriendly terrain.

And suddenly, as we turned onto a side road, from the side of the road, from the heather, somebody pleaded to the car [throws arms wide, leaning forward, blue eyes wide, but blank — desperate, almost like a suffering saint].

It was a boy of maybe 18 years, and he was totally gray, and he had long hair in a sort of 1970s style, one of those strange feather cuts, and he wore a very small anorak and nothing else; he was completely naked. He just emerged from the heather and pleaded to the lights, and we drove past because we all instinctively knew that this was a spirit.

So, we went to the nearest phone box in the nearest village, and we called the police, and we said, “We have just driven down the Wessenden Road on Saddleworth Moor, and somebody has emerged from the side of the road and pleaded to the car.” The police said, “Keep an open mind [mimes hanging up a phone].” So, the next day we drove back to the spot where we had seen the figure, and in daylight we could see that there wasn’t a building, not a hut . . .

Oh my god.

. . . Nothing for 100 miles. So, who was this person? Was it somebody trying to ambush the car, so therefore we’d stop to help and then suddenly a gang would emerge and take everything from us? Or was it somebody who was being chased? Or was it somebody — was it the specter of somebody who had been dumped on the moors, on Saddleworth Moor, many years ago? What would you have done?

I don’t know what I would have done.

Yes, but it’s a split second. You have to know. Because it had a history of being a place where so many bodies have been dumped and buried, and it’s not really a kind of place you hang around. This person is not human, and it was very, very frightening, and we were all very intelligent beings, and we simply all together went, Ahhhhgh! Go go go! And because his skin, his body, his face, his hair and his small jacket were all gray, it wasn’t just that he seemed visually like an ordinary person, he didn’t. He seemed like something from beyond.

Have you ever thought about where you would you be happiest if you were going to be a spirit?

I never have, I never have. But certainly, I would like to — there are a few people I’d like to . . . unsettle, shall we say. Certainly. And it would be fascinating if one could be a spirit and observe everything . . . Have you actually ever seen a ghost?

No, but when I went to Ireland, we stayed in a converted monastery, and that place really felt haunted.

Yes, yes. Well, the history of Ireland is so unhappy and so bitter, and so there are so many buildings, castles and so forth which are certainly haunted. It’s rich with haunted castles, and I wouldn’t think twice about spending a weekend in a haunted castle, with no electricity, no lights, no air. I’d be very happy to do that. Doesn’t it all depend upon how receptive the brain is, how open the brain is?

I think so.

Mine is very open, and I can sense that yours is too.

Yeah, and I don’t think it’s just the brain, I think it’s some other part . . .

Yes, but certainly not the feet.

Okay, well, as long as we’re on this sort of morbid topic, I loved those pictures of you in Mojo at Keats’ grave. They’re really beautiful, and that made me wonder if you have thought about your epitaph.

Home at last. No, that’s been used by, I think, Bela Lugosi. I think his stone says, “Home at last.” I always felt that I wanted nothing other than name, birth date, death date, nothing else.

Your full name?

Yes, I think so. All three names, Steven Patrick Morrissey.

Do you know where you’d like to be buried?

I’ve seen a couple of places that look very attractive. And one of them is here. Two of them are in other countries. But mostly people would say, what the hell does it matter, how do you know where you’re lying?

Where in L.A.?

Well, there’s one place I quite like.

Can you imagine yourgrave?

Yes, something very modest, I’d say. But when you see Victorian stones, Victorian headstones, they’re very dramatic, and they’re reaching to you, and they’re full of demonic spirits as much as anything else. And I like that, I like that. I mean, death is a serious thing, certainly not to be sneezed at.

I’m sorry, I interrupted you, where is it in L.A.?

Well, you know the place.

Hollywood Forever?

Yes.

That’s a great old cemetery.

I like it . . . I stumbled across Johnny Ramone’s stone — I thought his stone was very nicely placed. And I sat there for a very long time, and I felt quite good about it. I felt it was a nice position, and it was nice that his bones were under the soil that I was sitting on. So, yeah. That’s my spot. And I have considered putting money down for reserving a spot.

Okay, well, this whole interview and everything . . .

You didn’t really want to talk about gravestones, did you?

I wanted to ask you about your epitaph.

Oh, I see.

I’m really enjoying all of this, but I . . .

You’re that kind of spirit, I know. I suppose you really enjoy things like Sense and Sensibility.

Oh, of course. I love Jane Austen. She’s a genius. Do you agree?

Oh, good grief, yes.

Now I’ve completely lost my train of thought.

Oh, that doesn’t matter.

Oh, the event at Pasadena, and then this interview. I mean, you never do interviews — what happened?

I try to avoid it, to be honest. I try to avoid it. Often I feel the less I say, the better. Often I feel I say too much.

So, why did you want to do this?

I always did. And I never have been L.A. Weekly’d. I think I’ve tried several times in the past, and they couldn’t accommodate.

That’s bizarre.

It’s a confounding world, but this time they said yes.

It’s not something for your fans, is it?

Not really, because they know me. They perhaps see enough of me, so I don’t view press interviews as promotional or necessary, but for the most part, I try and avoid them.

Interviews can be terrible.

I think if most people are asked under the spotlight to expose their soul and their reason for being and why are you on Earth and why you are a human being, few people can answer. But if you make music, you’re meant to have an outstanding, magical answer for everything, and you’re supposed to know the secrets of the universe.

Which is so ironic, because people who make music usually do that because they can’t say those things normally in words.

Well, that’s why they make music, because they can’t have functioning relationships otherwise, everything goes into the recorded noise, which is okay.

You’re one of the last great truly mysterious icons who have a real sense of mystique, and the older I get, the longer I work in journalism, the more I value that —

Oh!

Because everyone is so overexposed and humanized, especially rock stars are so humanized now, and in a way I don’t want to be a part of any kind of the humanizing, but at the same time I do and . . .

Well, that’s the interviewing process, isn’t it, stripping down and presenting the singer to the public in a way that makes the public realize that there’s actually nothing there. It’s a sense of exposing and revealing and reducing.

I don’t want to do that.

But that, unfortunately, is what modern journalism is.

That’s so boring.

Yes, and it doesn’t really apply to any other art form. But for pop music or rock music, it’s all a question of stripping down. And that’s the thing I don’t really like, because it’s quite rude, really. It’s quite rude. But you also have to consider that most people who make music have actually nothing to say as interviewees. They haven’t formulated any opinions whatsoever, and that for me is quite despairing. So, we know in a sense that the musician is quite nonthinking. Anything that happens in the studio is really quite magical, but otherwise, take the musician out of the studio and there is absolutely nothing, absolutely nothing of interest.

Would you say that of yourself?

No. I’m the exception to the rule. [Laughs.] That’s why I really keep away from everybody, because I don’t want to be branded, I don’t want to be amongst the herd. I find people who dig ditches more interesting than musicians and singers and so forth. You don’t believe me.

No, I’m sure that’s true; you’ve been in the business so long.

Oh, a hundred years.

Yeah, I don’t mean it like that!

I can take it. We went through two world wars. I can take it.

I’m sorry; I wanted to thank you for your music too.

Well, that’s really touching, because people never say that. And that’s very, very touching. In England, of course, with writers and journalists it’s, how dare you make this music, how dare you attempt to be remotely intellectual?

Really, even now?

More so now.

Oh my gosh.

It’s not the case in the European mainland; people are very appreciative; writers are very appreciative. But in England, it’s still a question of, “Who on Earth do you think you are?” And even after 25 years, they’re very reluctant to even admit that I have a point. Which is . . . baffling.

Except for Mojo.

Umm . . . [Bobs head from side to side in a dubious manner, makes odd grunting noises.]

Including Mojo?

[Odd grunting, laughing sound.] . . . Well, where do you live?

Why are you asking me about my life?

Because, uh . . . why should you get away with it? [Laughter.]

I read an interview where you said that you used to drive around near where I live on the Eastside.

Yes, I know exactly where you live. But then I am very romantic, and I drive around and I dream I live in every house I pass, and I feel everything so intensely, it’s a bit of a pain, really.

Okay, I want to ask you, when you were — I hope you haven’t been asked this a million times —

I probably have been.

I know, you probably have.

But dive in.

All right, I’m trying to imagine experiencing glitter rock fresh, and I want to know what it was like for you when you were 11 or 12, and you were seeing it happening as a kid. Did it seem like these were other English people to you or did it seem like they may as well be from Mars?

It seemed to me as if they were from Mars, because even though it was 1970, 1971 in reality, the fact is that England in 1971-’72 was really still stuck in 1958. So, if you can imagine how 1958 was, and then suddenly you have the New York Dolls, they seemed so intergalactic, absolutely nothing to do with the human race, and thank heavens for that.

But really, people can no longer comprehend how bleak the turn of the ’70s was. There was nothing to buy. You couldn’t buy decent clothes. So therefore, when you would see somebody like the New York Dolls, you would be absolutely mystified as to where they actually found their clothes and their shoes, because certainly in Manchester, there were no accessories. Everything was very, very fundamental and very drab. So, the very idea of, as you term it, glitter rock, or, as some people term it, glam rock . . . It was more extraordinary than people can really even imagine. It was an absolute revolution.

If you can examine what was happening within music, if you can examine all the things that were successful, you can then realize how completely perverse the very idea of the New York Dolls was. For me, when something can break into the mainstream and it’s so obviously subversive, it’s worth its weight in gold. And to me, that’s what the New York Dolls were then. They were smashing through, and to hell with anybody who didn’t approve or didn’t like them. And even now, I look at the old footage and it’s an art form. It’s not even pop music. It’s art. The same goes for certain other people of that period — which was very brave, it was very robust, and it flew in the face of absolutely everything that was accepted and was approved of, and that really takes guts, I think.

The New York Dolls had a kind of — a weird kind of macho quality that T. Rex doesn’t have, or Bowie.

No. Well, Bowie was very womanly. He was very womanly when he originally broke through in England, and it’s largely forgotten now. But if you can imagine him walking onto a British television screen in 1972, it was very, very shocking, very shocking. And it was unimaginable — absolutely unimaginable. And even though punk was a worldwide revolution and fantastically so, it wasn’t quite as threatening as, as you term it, glitter rock.

Well, I usually say glam rock . . .

Well, glam rock. Well, both are slightly trite.

Yeah, what else do you say, though?

I really don’t know. I really don’t know!

It’s just in — somehow there’s this confusion that glam rock in America also means ’80s hair metal, like Mötley Crüe and Poison and stuff, and that’s totally different.

Unfortunately, that’s just the American way of trying to pull in all the successes of the early ’80s and saying, we created this, we were part of this. Well, America wouldn’t take the New York Dolls. Rolling Stone would rather self-combust than write about the New York Dolls. Yet they’ll stick the Spice Girls on the cover, Britney Spears on the cover, and much to their shame.

You’re not a Spice Girls fan? Girl power?

I don’t see it as girl power.

Really?

No, I don’t, I really don’t, I really don’t. Patti Smith Horses: girl power. Yes.But not the Spice Girls. God forgive you. But of the era, who touched you the most?

Marc Bolan.

Yes, yes, but he was very, very feminine, and there was a reaction against him in England, where he was hugely successful — and very talented.

So visionary.

So visionary, but it was all so very brief, I mean, five years at the most, and then he was just — over. And towards the end of his life, he was bloated, and he was still very young.

Why do you think it is, you have theories on why that kind of effeminate, whatever you want to call it, glam rock is somehow not embraced here?

People are afraid of it because they see that there’s a truth in it, there’s a truth in it for all of us. We all have the feminine side to our personalities, and most people in American society want to deny it, and the locker-room jock is celebrated always, even though their attitude is absolutely thick and useless, but it’s always celebrated, it’s never criticized. The feminine side is associated with art, and it’s threatening because it’s associated with intellect, and superiority.

That’s interesting.

Which it is! It is a superior way of being.

Most people, I find in life, do not want to be individual. They do not want to be individual. They want to walk in a pack; they want to be part of a herd. God forbid they’re ever considered to be special. And that’s why most people reproduce, because it proves that they’re a regular Joe. But there’s certainly such a pressure in American society to be that regular Joe.

They reproduce as a proof that they are a regular Joe?

Yes, to prove that they are sound and they’re gung-ho and everything’s working — I can do it and I can prove it, out comes this little splotchy thing that, uh . . . nobody really likes. [Laughs.]

Okay, so you’ve not changed your stance on kids?

Not necessarily.

You have no child desire?

Er — it’s minuscule.

I think you would be a great dad.

Oh, of course, of course, I would, yes — but to kittens. [Laughs.]

You have — you don’t have cats?

No, no, no, I don’t.

Are you an animal person?

Oh, completely! I’m mystified by cats. I see a cat and I’m in a trance and the union begins . . . You too?

I’m a dog person.

Oh, really? You see, I think dogs smell.

They do, but if you love that dog, then it smells good.

Yeah, but your neighbors don’t feel the same way. People walk into your house and they, when you’re not looking they . . . [holds finger beside his nose] clench those nostrils, especially if your dog does its doo-doo in your house.

So, do you have a cat?

I’ve had many, many, many.

But you’re on the road.

Yes, it’s — I’ve had many, and many have passed away.

That’s the worst part.

Horrendous, horrendous. It’s worse than a human passing away.

Is it?

Yes, it really is.

Why?

Because you feel the cat doesn’t fully understand. They’re looking to you, they’re relying on you to get them through this, and you can’t . . .

I’ve been in certain situations where I’ve had to terminate the life for the benefit of the cat and the pain is too much to bear. It’s insufferable. Because even as they get the final needle, they’re purring and they’re loving you and . . .

I know, it happened to me, my dog, too. It was awful, because they gave him the shot of ketamine, so he became paralyzed, but he was still conscious and he couldn’t . . . then I thought, oh God, now where’s his spirit, because he doesn’t understand what happened?

And he is just assuming that if he is sitting next to you, he’s going to be okay.

Was your cat maimed?

No, but he was very, very old, and he was arthritic, and he couldn’t go to the toilet properly and I would have to take him to the toilet, I’d have to do everything, but he was very, very happy, and as long as he was with me, he was thrilled to death. So, I held him at the last moment when they inserted the needle and, uh . . . I cried for hours and hours and hours. This sound came out of me, this sound of despair when he went, and I’d never heard it before.

Wow!

Because I thought I’d be — I thought I could completely handle his death and I’d be fine. I’d look after him, I’d make sure everything was okay, and I’d make sure that his transition was as easy and comfortable as possible. And I howled.

I mean, I still have moments where I grieve again, out of the blue — does that happen to you?

Of course! Of course! You miss your pets. You miss Sir Doo-Dah or whatever his name is . . . You miss them and you feel for them, and my cat was an incredible character. He wasn’t merely a cat, he was beyond human. He had the most incredible personality, an enormous personality, and as tough as, as they say, old boots, and I still miss him, I really still miss him. Sorry, I’m boring you stiff . . .

No! I want to talk forever.

Might not be long enough.

I just want to make sure that I ask you all my questions.

Who’s to know, really? What are the right questions, what’s the wrong question? People always ask me the same thing, anyway.

This is a totally different subject, but I’m really, really unhappy with how much music is being used in advertising now. You have never done that, right, or have you?

Done what?

Sold a song to a commercial?

Not really.

Have you been asked?

Not really.

Really, I’m surprised. They haven’t tried to use the Smiths to sell some Cadillac or something?

The Smiths was used for Pepe Jeans, which nobody remembers. Do you know Pepe Jeans?

I’ve heard of it, yeah.

Which I think was in about 1985.

Oh, but that’s a long time ago.

Yeah, otherwise, and — no, I think that was it.

I can’t believe nobody’s asked you. “How Soon Is Now” for our new cell phone or whatever?

No.

That’s awesome.

Well, this goes back to the early ’70s. I should say the glitter-rock and glam-rock sort of thing. In the early ’70s, it was very difficult to hear music. Music was never used in television advertising, it was never used in radio or advertising of any kind. So, the only way you heard music was your own personal taste, going into a record shop and buying something.

Otherwise, there was no music in the media at all. There was no pop-rock music in the media, and people forget this also. It was very, very difficult to hear music, and so, therefore, if in life you came across somebody who knew the music you liked, it was extraordinary. But now, of course, it’s blasting everywhere, and it’s background music in television soaps, it’s background music in everything. But it wasn’t the case in the ’70s; it was very, very rare. But now, of course, everybody just sells their soul wherever they can.

But that’s part of the pleasure for a child or a young person, the process — the work you have to do to get music.

For me, it was — I don’t know about now. I think everybody wants everything thrown at them, but for me, the discovery, the search, the digging was half the fun. And you had to work it all out for yourself. What were people saying, why were they making this music, where did they live, what did they do every day? It was all a mystery! But now there’s no mystery at all.

Do you think that there’s a way to somehow get us back toward that time or do you think that it’s over?

I don’t think we can ever go back in any way.

I don’t mean go back, but I mean somehow try to make music special again?

No. No. It’s impossible; it’s all been institutionalized. And it’s so lucrative because it’s so special to people and it’s triggered now?with the major labels, how we will be listening to music forever. We will be listening to the music we love forever, so we might rebuy, rebuy, rebuy the music.

So, no, I think everything has slightly gone to hell. This is why live music is so important, because it’s the only moment when it’s untouched by anybody other than the artist who is singing the song. Unless you’re somebody dreadful like Madonna or Britney Spears, who mime when they’re onstage.

Right, right. So, in a way, do you feel like the live experience is more important now than it was?

I think it’s very important; it is very important. Because it’s undiluted and it’s pure — for better or worse, of course. I’m not saying anybody who stands on a stage and plays . . . [A squirrel hops onto the wall next to us and leans over to check Morrissey out, and he makes squirrel noises with his mouth, holding out his hand. For a moment, it looks like the little guy may jump onto Moz’s forearm, but then he turns around and hops off over the wall.]

He was very interested in you.

Well, he knows. He knows I’m a kind spirit. I have scraped so many squirrels off roads, because often we’re driving and we see a squirrel, and we assume that they’re dead, but they’re not. They’re just concussed. So, I always stop and I always lift them to the side of the road, ’cause otherwise they just get pummeled and pummeled and pummeled. People always assume when they see something on the side of the road or on the road that it’s dead. And it isn’t.

A friend of mine was driving down Melrose and there was a cat in the road that seemed to be flattened, and she drove for a while, and then she turned ’round, she thought, no, I will go and see that cat and lift up the cat and make sure that it’s dead or not dead. Determine whether it’s alive or dead. And she kept the cat for 10 years! [Laughs.] It was alive, but it was just concussed. And people always assume there’s no point trying to help or there’s no point investigating, and it’s a mistake.

Oh my god, I never thought about that.

Well, so, next time you see a squirrel on the road, if its innards are not splayed all over the place, you should stop and make sure and move it.

Do you ever think that there is some kind of karmic — you know, you get help, always get the best parking space or something?

No, I mean, I’m not looking for merit badges and I’m not looking for special praise. It’s just instinctive; if you’re a human being, you don’t like to see anything in distress. This is why the big idea of abattoirs mystifies you completely. If you’re human, you cannot bear to see anything else, any being, suffering — whether it’s human or animal, I think, anyway.

I feel the same way.

Many people do. Once again, it’s a suppressed opinion. We’re meant to believe that the world absolutely loves T-bone steaks and Kentucky Fried Chicken, but it’s all crap. It’s not true. People really care about animals, and people don’t want to kill anything. So, when you see George W. Bush saying, “Can’t wait to cut that pig — cut into that pig tonight,” as he said on television recently, you just think, you idiot, you passé, useless, old-fashioned, redundant idiot.

I think that anything he says . . .

Of course. Yes, I know. He’s a global embarrassment. Unfortunately, he’s turned America into the criminal nation in the eyes of the people in the Middle East — and in England.

And I think, in our guts, we know. America knows.

But it isn’t enough, because he is still there. He’s still there; he’s still functioning, he’s still beaming all over the place, and he’s still talking about caring about the elderly and earning a round of applause, and it’s a global joke, it really is. So, who would you like to see in the White House?

I actually would like to see Hillary Clinton.

Because?

Because, well, I’d like to see a woman, but the best president that I have lived under was Bill Clinton, even though he wasn’t perfect by any means.

But haven’t we had enough of the Clintons?

She might be better than him.

Well, that’s very likely, but nonetheless, haven’t we had enough of the name?

Okay. Well, Barack Obama?

Outstanding.

I don’t know enough about him.

Outstanding.

He is really good.

Mesmerizing, yes.

He could be president, and she could be vice president.

Well. [Laughs.] That suits me. Of course, it would be great to see a female president, but not just anybody. I mean, I think that Hillary has had her shot. She’s been around, she said a lot of silly things, and we don’t really want a woman for the sake of any old woman.

I know, like Condoleezza Rice.

Well, it would never happen. Because she has the sag of cruelty about her face, her eyes, her mouth. The jowl of cruelty. She has a Nazi face. But in England, of course, we had Margaret Thatcher as prime minister, and she was diabolical. So, it isn’t necessarily the case as long as the candidate’s female. But I think he [Obama] is mesmerizing, absolutely mesmerizing.

Well, that’s what I’ve heard; I haven’t seen him speak yet.

Oh, mesmerizing. I think he would really change the world.

I think, at this stage, any alternative to Bush, because he’s the embodiment of the old world. You should travel to the Middle East and see what people think about him. They’d rather have Saddam Hussein any day than George W. Bush . . . The truth about George Bush now is that nobody in America or across the globe has any reason, whatsoever, to believe anything he says.

Thank you so much for this interview. Everyone wants to read a Morrissey interview. It’s not something that happens every day, you know.

Well, that’s nice. I don’t want to be a part of the everyday.

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