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Gillian Fish speaks to the Bluetones' Mark Morriss about their decision to reform for a twentieth anniversary tour
They may have embarked on a farewell tour of the UK four years ago but The Bluetones are back once again - this time it’s to mark the twentieth anniversary of their first single ‘Are You Blue or Are You Blind?’ (Released in 1995).
Originally formed in 1993 the West London band gained notoriety during the Britpop era in the mid/late 90’s,becoming a household name when ‘Slight Return’ found itself at Number 2 in the singles charts in 1996. They went on to have five studio albums, three of which were in the top ten, including a number one with their first release ‘Expecting To Fly’ which famously toppled Oasis’ ‘What’s The Story Morning Glory?’ off the top spot.
Lead singer Mark Morriss has continued to have solo success, and also regularly performs alongside Matt Berry,whilst the rest of the band show their decision to split was far from acrimonious as they regularly turn up to Morris’ solo gigs to join him on stage.
In September, The Bluetones head out onto the road again for ‘The Jukebox Tour’ which will see them stop off at eight different cities in the UK. Morriss answered a few of my questions about the forthcoming live dates and what we can expect on them, as well as telling me why the bands personal hygiene has helped them to stay mates.
PB: It’s been just over four years since The Bluetones farewell tour. What made you decide this was the right time for a reunion?
MM: Tricky to say, really,I think we all just missed one another.
Our drummer was the impetus for putting out that first tentative email. Of all of us, he’s the one who would most miss just being able to play. Once we all knew he had the itch though, we were all over it.
PB: You’ve been using Twitter and other social media tools. How important do you think they are in helping to get your music out to an audience that was perhaps too young to have heard you the first time?
MM: I’m not sure that social media is an effective way of finding a newer, younger audience, but it is a useful tool for letting people know what is happening with a project. Or one’s lunch. Or new haircut.
PB: What have you been up to in the time since the farewell tour?
MM: I have been quite busy I suppose. I am about to release a second solo album on Acid Jazz Records,'The Taste of Mark Morriss'. Also playing with other bands (Matt Berry and the Maypoles )and composing children’s audio book music. So, quite busy.
PB: What would you pick out as your highlights and favourite moments of your twenty year career?
MM: Too many to name really and to pick out any one feels like you’re being unfair to another momentarily forgotten memory. The mind is a funny fucker!
PB: Is there anything that you would still like to accomplish as a band?
MM: A proper tour of North America would be nice, yes. We never had a proper stab at that in our earlier incarnation.
PB: Will the set list on the tour comprise of material from all of your albums?
MM: Oh yes and hopefully include most people’s favourites. That’s the plan for this tour. It’s a celebration.
PB: Can we expect to hear any new material at the gigs and are there any plans for a new album at some point?
MM: No and no, I’m afraid. Perhaps one day in the future, but not just yet. Let’s see if we can still even play together first.
PB: Is there a city on the tour that you can’t wait to get back and play to?
MM: Manchester and Glasgow jump out from the list, but to be honest there aren’t many towns where we’ve not enjoyed a warm welcome. Not that they weren’t pleased to see us leave!
PB: Do you have one song that you’d say was your favourite to play at a gig?
MM: 'Never Goin’ Nowhere' from our fourth album 'Luxembourg'. I’m very proud of that song.
PB: You were a part of the Britpop era but managed to avoid the tabloid headlines that some of your contemporaries got caught up in. Do you think that helped you to avoid an acrimonious split?
MM: Not at all. I don’t think it’s adverse headlines that cause a band to split. It’s usually more mundane things like personal hygiene, and in that regard my band was exemplary.
PB Who out of the Britpop bands was most fun to hang out with?
MM: John’s Game Elbow was a good laugh. They never quite crossed over to the mainstream. There was always something ‘nearly’ about them, something ‘not quite’. Very decent chaps though, and demons at a pool table.
PB: Are there any new bands that you are championing at the moment, and if so will you be inviting any of them to support you on the tour?
MM: 'The Standard Lamps' are coming out on the road with us this time out. And they are shit-hot. I’ve seen them about half a dozen times now and I love ‘em.
PB: Am I right in thinking you will be re-issuing some of your albums to coincide with the tour. If so which ones?
MM: You are spot on again. 'Return to the Last Chance Saloon' and 'Science & Nature' are both getting a re-issue.
PB: Aside from the Bluetones do you have any other projects individually that we should look out for?
MM: Adam has been working with 'Thee Cee Cees' a groovy socialist agit-pop outfit. Their album is terrific and highly recommended. I’ve got my solo album going on as I mentioned earlier, and that’s about it. Phew!
PB: Thank you.