The Smyths fall hard on this humdrum town

-What’s your favourite Smiths album?

Mine personally is Meat is Murder. I remember how overawed I was when hearing it for the first time (I bought it the week of it’s release). 

They had grown so quickly, become so muscular and varied in the space of a year. The album contains my favourite Smiths track, “Well I Wonder”.
I also adore “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”. For me it’s a perfect album

-Has Morrissey himself ever said anything about you?

Alas no. We’ve met Rourke and JOyce several times – we went to the pub with Joyce. A music journalist friend of mine (Rob Hughes, Uncut, Radio 6)

sent me a copy of The Queen Is Dead that Johnny signed with a special message to us.

-Have you ever covered the solo Moz stuff?

Yes, we’ve played quite a few over 12 years – they tend to be the early stuff but “Irish Blood..” and “First of The Gang” have probably featured 40/50 times 

over the course of 500+ shows we’ve played.

-On Friday, will you play ‘Well I Wonder’ considering The Smiths never played it themselves live as is too ‘special’

Yes, we’re playing the album in full. It’s a very difficult song to play live but having played it some 40 times now I hope we’ve perfected it.

-Are you also a vegetarian?

I don’t eat meat – I sometimes eat shell fish and a little fish for my sins. I’ve not consumed flesh in 10 years. I’ve not eaten meat in 20 of the last 30 years.

-Why did you choose to cover the Smiths specifically?
We formed the band back in 2003 because of our passion for The Smiths. We didn’t just want to be a tribute band – we wanted to play the music of The Smiths and recreate what is was to see and hear The Smiths live – it just happens that when you do that, the world calls you a tribute. For us that was a world of silly wigs and props – everything we felt a homage to The Smiths shouldn’t be. So we spent a year rehearsing every week to make sure that when we launched we sounded genuine – The Smiths and their fans (like us) demand nothing less. We focussed on the sound and spirit of The Smiths live. Fast forward 11 years and some 500 shows later and we see and hear ourselves now spoken of as being in the top tier of tributes globally. The years in between have seen us play throughout the UK, overseas and at major festivals such as Glastonbury. We’ve appeared on numerous TV and radio shows and many a newspaper column written. The word tribute has also developed and grown in respect in that time, coming to represent something that is not silly or trite but the best way to see and experience the music of bands no longer with us played by artists who are as passionate and dedicated to their shows as actors and actresses.

-What kind of Smiths merchandise/memorabilia do you own?

As I was a teenager growing up with The Smiths I have the Rough Trade original albums, singles, 12′. Various NME’s of the time, Videos, Original t-shirts and the ticket stubs from the gigs I went to (London Palladium, October 1986, Brixton Dec 12 1986)

-What song makes you feel you’re representing The Smiths in their ‘truest form’?

I can’t pin that on one song – as the gig unravels the energy and passion consumes us and when we hit that, I feel we truly evoke the spirit and joy of a Smiths gig

-Do you think The Smiths repackage too much?

I can understand why you pose that question. I know that in some cases the artist has little control over the re-issue of recordings, especially if a label has bought a license to recordings.

Morrissey’s material seems to appear often in different jackets, more so than The Smiths I’d say.

-What’s your favourite Marr riff?

What Difference Does It Make – that intro is genius

-What’s your favourite Smiths lyric?

“Oh Mother I can feel the soil falling over my head…”

-How are you received in Manchester?

Extremely well – Manchester gigs really do have something different about them. As I have said, on stage in Manchester “We’re bringing the songs home”. It does feel like that

-Have you read Morrissey’s autobiography? If so, what do you think of it?

I loved the first half – everything up to the forming of The Smiths. I was disappointed that he chose to say so little about The Smiths and so much about a court case that means nothing to 

most. I feel the book required an editor who could have indulged Morrissey less and shaped the book into something better balanced. It could have been so much more. For me it was 75% the book
it could have been.
When the book was published, I was featured on The News At Ten reading excerpts from it. They said they couldn’t get Morrissey and I’d do!

-Do you find the Smiths funny?

Very much so. There humour – his humour – is as funny as his dark side is black. I think he is the wittiest lyricist of any in the music world.

-Any Smiths songs you don’t like? (I hate ‘Golden Lights’!!)

I’m no fan of that song – at least they didn’t write it. I’ve struggled with Death of a disco dancer since the day the album was released. It punctuates the flow of Strangeways for me.

-Do you ever perform the two instrumentals – Oscillate Wildly and Money Changes Everything?

We’ve performed The Draize Train but not those two.

-Do you think the Smiths are still relevant?

Are they not the very reason we “speak” today. Yes, absolutely. On a human level, they’ve never stopped being relevant / never will as the themes are timeless.  Politically, with the Tories back in power, those

Thatcher formed words mean as much now as they did then
“The poor and the needy, are selfish and greedy on her terms” – they could be singing that about Cameron and Osbourne for sure. 
-What’s your favourite Smiths cover art?

The album sleeve for The Queen is Dead. I like the cover of What Difference re-shot with Morrissey in place of Terence Stamp. I have that single sleeve. It cost me 50p in 1984 from the Boots in Stevenage.

It’s more than doubled in value I’m told. I no longer shop in Boots as they don’t appear to like paying Tax in the UK…

-How long will The Smyths keep going for?

The music and words are timeless – in 200 years people will still play, admire and speak of The Smiths – if mankind lasts that long…

-Do you ever write your own material?

Yes – I am also an original musician and have an early 80’s new wave/electronic band called beautiful mechanica ( You can hear that here:

4 years in the making, we launched this Summer with a show at the Islington Academy. This month we support 80’s acts, Toyah and Heaven 17 in Holmfirth and Manchester respectively.
I term my work in The Smyths as “musical theatre” and beautiful mechanica as “music industry”. Interestingly I’m not the only person in both an original and tribute band as Glen Gregory – the singer of Heaven 17 also performs with Bowie Tribute, Holy Holy

-Can you describe your average audience member?

A passionate music fan with great taste!

The Smyths are playing at the O2 tomorrow evening.


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