“Since moving home two summers ago, it took me a while longer than expected to re-adjust to writing in a completely new environment. I had lived in my last home for nearly 12 years and during that time written four albums worth of material as well as various b-sides and the bulk of the songs for my solo album. I had unconciously become rather attached to the ‘vibes’ there. I didn’t realise quite what a seismic effect moving home would have on my ability to feel comfortable in my writing space.
Add to this the fact that my partner gave birth to our son in the summer of 2008 there really were quite a lot of changes to get used to. I think these factors all played a part in the length of time there has been between the forthcoming Bluetones record and our last release in 2006.
It’s only been in the last few months that I have started to really feel the juices flowing again and this I put down to the fact that I finally realised what was holding me up and addressed it directly. I cleared out the old shed in the garden and turned that into a makeshift writing room, also somewhere I can go for a crafty cigarette. Whilst writing I do like to have a fag on the go and since the arrival of my son smoking is not something I wish to do around the house. It’s a drafty, dusty and slightly damp old shed, but with my wonky little desk and ashtray I feel very much at home out there these days.
I’ve never really been a big believer in utilising too much technology at the early stages of songwriting and prefer to simply hum my ideas into my mobile phone. If I can ‘hear’ the song taking shape within these limited means then I tend to think I’m onto something. I use an old nylon strung acoustic guitar to bash out my ideas and again, feel that the limitations of this are an aid to identifying a good idea from an average/unusable one.
It’s only when the song is fully formed, do I attempt to demo it properly. The band share an old Akai 12 track recorder to record demos and this is shared between the four of us depending on who is feeling inspired at any one time. When writing lyrics to music written by the other members of the band, I tend to pop these onto my iPod and disappear for a bit of a long drive, listening to their ideas on repeat until some kind of structure starts to take shape in my mind. Then, as before, get home and finish them off in the shed. With a bottle of vino and a packet of Silk Cut.
I’ve always shunned the idea of trying to make the demos sound too polished, believing that this can be quite restrictive when playing ideas back to the other band members and perhaps hinder their own creative instincts. It’s preferable to me to just create a beginning/middle/end to each song and then colour them properly within the band’s rehearsal studio.
Right, there you go. I have divulged all my secrets to you. Basically my philosophy is that if you have a good idea for a song you should be able to identify it no matter how poor the quality of the recording. Well… that’s my EXCUSE anyway.”
Mark Morriss is probably best known as the singer in UK band The Bluetones, whose song ‘Slight Return’ is one of the biggest indie hits of the 1990s. He released his debut solo album, Memory Muscle was released in 2008. He plays two shows (7pm and 9.30pm) at Whelan’s Upstairs on Friday 16th October. Tickets are €16.45 from Ticketmaster. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/markmorrissmusic.