Melody Maker Interview
Mark Morriss lifts up his shirt and winces. It's not a pretty sight -
a jumbled wash of red, black and blue, like a colour blind four-year-old's
painting of a rainbow. Only messier, "I'm still covered in
scars and f***ing cuts and bruises from the last tour," flinches
the mild-mannered singer, gingerly poking away at a particularly ripe
swelling. "There was a bit of crowd trouble you see."
What? From Bluetones fans? Those notorious legions of happy-go-lucky
lovelies? That devoted army of caring, sharing types who just wanna, like,
come together in a mutual love of the music, maaaaan? Really?
"No," he scolds, "from the computer
football tournament on the bus! We've incorporated a spot of terrace violence
into it! As is the British wont. The football's electronic but the fighting's
real! Don't look so shocked - its just the sort of thing that happens
on tour, all that pent up aggression. Anyway, are you getting on this
bus, or what?"
We're trundling down the M4, riding side-saddle on The Bluetones' sumptuous
steel horse as they head towards the sleepy, seaside heaven of Llandudno
in the Welshest bit of Wales. Tomorrow night, they're due to play a secret(ish)
gig which was originally intended to be a warm up for the Phoenix festival.
But now that Phoenix has sunk back into the ashes, its become a rare opportunity
for the 'Tones to play somewhere slightly off the beaten track, somewhere
they've sorely neglected for the past two years.
"They're really starved of entertainment in those places."
beams Mark, stretching out opposite us. "So they'll probably
go mental. Its nice to get about a bit, but you can go too far: we got
earthquaked in Japan in April, which was well freaky! I went and stood
in the doorway of the restaurant we were in. I remembered exactly what
"The thing is," blushes guitarist Adam Devlin,
"there were all these Japanese around who knew it was a little
one. They were cool as mustard: 'Ha! You English with your fear of earthquakes!'
But it couldn't have been that small -everything started rattling along
our table. My first fear was for my drink! I grabbed that and I was happy!"
It's a tough life, this touring malarkey, but the Bluetones seem surprisingly
relaxed, and not just because of the ridiculous number of joints that
continuously circulate around their frankly palatial sleeper-bus. No,
their healthy sense of well-being is down to one thing and one thing only...
"Injecting vitamins up our arses!" grins Mark.
"For a few days you feel a bit shit, but then for 30 days you
feel like Superman."
Sure its not smack Mark?
"Um, not positive,"he muses. "But - hey! - I'll
try anything once. Except maybe bestiality...I don't eat my friends!"
Of course, The Bluetones current album, 'Return To The Last Chance Saloon',
has given them yet another kick up the arse. A louder, wilder more accessible
record than its predecessor, 'Expecting to Fly', its a lot more them,
without losing any of the vulnerable shiver that made them shine out through
the boorish bog of Britpop.
"This one's a much closer to how it sounds if you walk into
a room and we are playing," agrees Mark. "There's
a bit more intelligence in the lyrics too, a bit more thought going into
it. Yes, we're a pop band, yes, it's flippant and throwaway, but there
is another side to us as well. The Bluetones ain't just a f***ing straightforward,
tidy, little guitar band. We're much more challenging than that."
Adam shrugs his shoulders, rolls up another spliff and grunts: "But
we're not gonna put a gun to anyone's head and force them to like us!
Game of cards?"
The cards are a twofold nightmare. First it gives The Bluetones the opportunity
to screw The maker out of its last penny. And secondly, they've opted
to use Mark's "porny cards", a charming collection of, ahem,
European art which proves to be somewhat distracting. Still, Mark's cards
aren't that much of a surprise, considering that their new single - possibly
the most delicate, beautiful song they've ever released - is somewhat
inappropriately entitled "Sleazy Bed Track". So , as we lose
yet another hand, it's worth asking how sleazy this lot really are.
"F-f-f-f-fairly!" stutters Mark, cautiously. "I
have a healthy interest in pornography and...snuff movies! Hey, there's
nothing more satisfying than watching a couple of blond tarts licking
up jism like kittens under a cow's udder!"
Jeepers! Whats your dirtiest fantasy then?
"I'd like to have sex with an alien," he answers,
without a seconds pause. "That'd be a pretty mind-blowing experience.
What would I be looking for? Just some tenderness, the loving stroke of...
a webbed hand!"
"I'd quite like to make it with twins," hums Adam.
"I make no secret of that!"
"That'd be incredibly confusing," smirks Mark.
"you wouldn't know who to thank afterwards! Are we making ourselves
sounding like a couple of sad old men? Sod it, there's nothing wrong with
sex, is there? There's too much stigma attached to it, too much mystery.
It wasn't until I was well into my teens that I learned anything about
VD - its just not talked about, everything brushed under the carpet."
On tour sex is practically offered to The Bluetones on a plate (garnished
with a side order of drugs and rock'n'roll, obviously). It's no secret
that some of their fans get a bit carried away after gigs.
"Can you blame them?" teases Mark. "We're
demigods! Nah, sometimes people are so into the music they think you must
be some kind of amazing person to have written it. We do let people backstage
after our shows. We take that risk, cos we don't want to alienate ourselves
from meeting some cool people. But then again, some people just go to
gigs to shag as many f***ing pop stars as they can."
But you're practically a married man Mark. How do you get out of it when
someone's throwing themselves at you?
"I tend to tease them," he giggles. "I
get up and say: 'Right! Who's coming for a shower? Come on girls the water's
lovely!' Its in my nature to take the piss 95 per cent of the time. I
tend not to take anything seriously in life, especially this mad rock'n'roll
world of ours. There's nothing rebellious about getting on a bus, drinking
too much and letting off a few fire extinguishers. It's got nothing to
do with why you make music, what inspires you to make music or anything
to do with real life."
Ooh, seaside! The next morning (well, afternoon) we wake up to find ourselves
parked outside the venue, which nestles just behind a pebbly, windswept
beach. Drummer Eds Chesters is the first to rise, joining us on the seafront
and sighing: "Ah, it's lovely...shame its in Wales! Nah, I've
never been here before. Wonder what the people are like?"
Bloody scary, that's what. Hundreds of 'em there are, all in Bluetones
T-shirts and hungrily surrounding the bus like a dribbling drove of anaemic
vampires. But the band aren't put off and hop out onto the beach to sign
autographs, chat, flirt, pose and pout, before fleeing back towards the
safety of the venue. Lounging in their dressing room, Mark fantasises
about his dream stage set, as his bassist brother Scott kills some "pre-gig
dead time" by idly playing marbles on the floor with a fun pack of
Maltesers, "I'd have a big catwalk going out into the crowd",
purrs Mark, "and Eds flying about on wires! Oh, and huge, giant
inflatable Mexicans just floating around the crowd!"
But no, when stage-time comes several hours, smokes and scrappy football
kickabouts later, the concert hall turns out to be nothing more than a
characterless, whitewashed conference centre. "Ah well,"
shrugs Mark as he slides onstage, "as long as the crowd are
up for it, it'll be tremendous."
Thankfully every last hysterical one of them is, happily sharing what
little space they have with complete strangers, wrapping their arms around
each other for a celebratory "Bluetonic" a biting "4 Day
Weekend" and a heroic "Cut Some Rug". After the nuclear
fiesta of "Solomon bites the worm" Mark's shirt is soaked through
with sweat, but, sticky or not, as "The Jub-Jub Bird" soars
towards it chorus, he ups that notoriously slinky dance of his into a
triumphant swagger, holding his arms out like a tightrope walker miles
above the ground. But its the sublime romance of "Sleazy Bed Track"
that really shines, five aching minutes that leave the hardest of Welsh
rugby lads The Maker has ever met weeping into their beer. Aw, sweet.
"It's much more romantic than sleazy isn't it?"
says Mark, towelling himself down after the show. "I was thinking
of a middle-aged couple who've lost the magic when I wrote it. A lot of
ladies like 'Sleazy Bed Track'. Its my mum's favourite, a bit of a housewives
Of course its possible that she thinks its a cover version. Without being
mean, "Sleazy Bed Track" does bear a resemblance to a couple
of other, rather successful songs doesn't it? Take that line: "Your
pills have cost too much, and you cant feel then working anymore".
It's very 'The Drugs Don't Work", isn't it?
"Ours came first!" snaps Adam defensively.
"I thought people might mention that," whispers
Mark. "But we've got video proof of us playing it nearly two
years ago. It's true, though: they don't work for very long. I knocked
everything on the head at the turn of the year. Well, I say that...I do
dabble partially, but I don't buy anything anymore. I just buy grass and
I don't consider that to be a drug."
"We've never been really into chemicals," insists
Adam. "We can smoke for England!"
The aftershow shindig's a surprisingly low-key affair: bitta music, bitta
chat, but no kids. Cuh! What about those notorious Bacchanalian orgies
we'd been promised? "It's definitely not what it used to be,"
admits Eds, nursing a quiet drink in the corner of their ghostly quiet
"It gets a bit much after a while." Sheesh! "A
bit much" is exactly what we're after, so we slip outside to see
what's going on, only to find a gang of fans. "They're not
letting us back, " sobs one girl. "I only wanted
an autograph - I'm not weird or anything."
"You're not?" says the beaming face of Mark Morriss
as he saunters out of a side door. "Well, go away then!"
Ducking past the doormen, he shimmies over to sign a few posters before
making his excuses and nipping over to a neighbouring hotel for a much-needed
"It's that healthy balance that keeps us full of this boyish
enthusiasm!" he grins as he rolls off down the road. "We
cant go mad every night. But look, if you still need to work off some
excess energy, why don't you pop back to the bus later for another drink?"
"And maybe a spot of computer footie?"
FINISHED MONKEY BUSINESS - WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT VIDEO ALL ABOUT?
ADAM: "We wanted to show the world that this is so
easy even a monkey could do it! If you pay peanuts..."
MARK: "It's just that anti-vanity thing we incorporate
into our videos. At the time, it was a real inconvenience to be thinking
about doing a video, so we just moaned: 'Can't we just get some monkeys
to fill in for us?' Then we thought: 'Hang on - there night be something
ADAM: "It's the actual PG Tips chimps. We went straight
to the top! They had to go all the way to LA just to film 'em monkeying
THE BLUETONES ALL-TIME FAVOURITE WELSHMEN
Adam: "For obvious reasons. He lives just around the
corner from Eds actually...which is nice! He did the radio ads for our
album too. I'm surprised no-one's asked him before. He's just got the
most amazing deep voice."
Mark: "He had a great voice too, didn't he? And he
came really close to death through excess boozing before deciding: 'F***
this, I wanna keep living a bit longer.' Now that's a fine attitude."
Eds: "The legendary Liverpool striker who went on to
manage Swansea City when they were big in the Eighties. Do Welsh people
understand football? Not this year! But Ryan Giggs is a fantastic player
GRUFF FROM SUPER FURRY ANIMALS
Adam: "They're a great band, inspirational. I don't
suppose they're as much quintessentially Welsh as quintessentially Olde
English. That counts as Welsh though doesn't it?"
by Robin Bresnark
submitted by Louisa Parker
Extracted from Melody Maker, 1st August