Nick Osman gives us his thoughts on the recent Mark Morriss show and even catches up with the man himself for a few words….
When Jules asked me to write a piece about Mark I had no idea what I was really in for. I’ve been listening to ‘Sleazy Bed Track‘ over and over and I just can’t get enough of Mark’s talented voice. I’ve always had something for melodies that use great lyrics, especially saucy tracks like; My Autumn’s Done Come. These sounds really do place a great feeling into your behaviour, and best of all is the way that Mark is able to move from a song that’s played with educated remorse to a sudden Latin lit effect, that is a talent for me to be honest.
Formally the lead singer for The Bluestones, the London four piece – Mark Morriss, Adam Devlin, Scott Morriss and Eds Chesters – scored their biggest hit in 1996 with ‘Slight Return‘, it ended up peaking out at number 2 in the U.K singles chart. Their last studio album ‘A New Athens‘ was released in May 2010 but the band split up soon, saying goodbye to the fans with a September 2011 U.K tour. For now Mark seems to be happy just touring solo with that laid back cheeky Middlesex vibe of his and has ventured down to the south to give us a night to remember at Lennons (Nightclub, Southampton).
Firstly a warm up from The Stealers with Hiding in the shadows, then setting the scene strumming his atmosphere at the Lennons, the crowd just lent at the bar or on a pillar grasping his sounds as they are thrown at you from one of his singles I’m Sick.
As his voice bellows around the venue from ‘Alcoholiday‘ (Teenage Fanclub cover) the crowd gather in on his warm glow from yet another great track and one person shouts ‘play more mate’ as he moves onto ‘So It Goes’. The room is sprung upon with yet more listeners arriving and before long brand new track ‘It’s Hard To Be Good All The Time’ hits the mic and you begin to get the impression of his artistic form.
After the gig I asked him few questions about how his inspired humour and comedic passion of always being happy differs from his work in the past to his solo stage performances now.
I’ll start with your solo album ‘Memory Muscle’; did you begin with that inspired life of walking away from your childhood like a real John Lennon type?
‘It’s no master play really. Things that appeal to be on the outside step, as it were, are like calculated steps for your song writing and music career’.
Playing acoustically at open mic nights in London back in 2008, how do you feel you differ from performing to now?
‘You get a feel for collective responsibility when you are playing with your band members. When I first started those long acoustic nights I was completely on my own and I guess in a way you get used to the band, it’s kind of alien really.’
If you had to choose a perfect part of your career what stood out for you and made everything work?
‘If there is an inspired moment for me it would have to be the moments that passed by within my memories. Like when we flew through the clouds and then onto the landing strip when we were doing our Japan Tour and that was a real moment for us as a band, to realise your living your dream’.
What was it like producing those mariachi sounds?
‘There was always that feel of Mexicana when producing the more mariachi sounds. But like other great artists such as (Buffalo) Springfield we just gave it our best shot.’
With yet another great solo track ‘Lay Low’ I wondered if the feeling you placed into the track came from a sense of disappointment from way back in the 70s.
‘Sometimes Fear mostly. You see you can strut around on stage and hope for the best but I’m not one for fight or flight, that sort of thing doesn’t really appeal to me.’
Back when you were swinging around touring in the 90s your melodies used a lot of emotion, when you were younger did you always think nothing can stop this feeling of creative nature?
‘Those moments that jumped at us we took as it came really. Back then you could just quit your job and go for it. Not like now where you have to work at say Tesco for nothing.’
What kind of music influences you to perform?
‘From my late teens to my early 20s I was well into Neil Young and that laid back freewill feeling. That always gives me a great emotion towards any crowd really.’
Crossing between ‘Memory Muscle‘ tracks and the more familiar Bluetones numbers can be tedious to a crowd that might not be used to Mark’s chilled out faze towards life. But with great sounds from his acoustic music I’m pretty sure by the end of one song your foot will be following that invisible beat to acoustic reel.
I asked him if there was anything that caught his ears to date and as he smiled at me he asked me to listen to Cass McCombs. ‘He didn’t really appeal to me until my brother said ‘let it grow on you man.’ Mark Morriss, a great singer, a brilliant solo artist and with new material set for release this year, exciting times lay ahead.
Words by Nick Osman
Pictures by Arron Gumbrell