Morrissey’s Revelatory Larry King Interview – The Biggest Talking Points

For a global grandmaster of soundbites, Morrissey has always seemed a little uncomfortable on chat shows, where he’s not allowed the time to consider and savour his words perhaps as much as he’d like. So when faced with Larry King’s quick-fire interview approach at the Bootsy Bellows club on LA’s Sunset Strip for his recent rare TV interview on Larry King Live – conducted, Moz explained, “because of you really, your reputation, your name, that’s enough” – he initially seemed as guarded as usual. However, the 23-minute interview gave him a chance to cover a wide range of topics including his alleged assault at the hands of US immigration, his depression, cancer, US politics and why Russell Brand is “nuts”. Here’s the interview, blow-by-blow.

On The Smiths

“We were very young, we didn’t know what we were doing and we didn’t like each other that much so it was nice when it finished. The name could be attached to any kind of music but it couldn’t be pigeonholed.”

On his popularity in Mexico

“I don’t know [why] but it’s a beautiful thing. I think it’s the passion in the music. They’re very passionate people and they like to hear about reality and here I am.”

On being outspoken

“I’m not outspoken at all. I’m just an ordinary person in many ways, I just speak the words of ordinary people. I’m not flash, I’m not glitzy and I’m not part of the industry so sometimes I can seem a bit strange. Most people who want to be in the industry and sing and be successful, they have to behave a certain way and they do. They have a fixed idea of what is glamourous and I never had any of that attraction for fame and so forth. I just wanted to be me, I wanted to sing but I wanted to be me for better, for worse. I never have [cared about the trappings of fame], and I never did. [But applause] is better than booze.”

On the song ‘Forgive Someone’

“I am [forgiving] yes, it’s a great failing. You don’t carry a grudge but you don’t remain friends with people who have done something horrible to you.”

On sensitivity

“I’m a sensitive little thing, I’m very interested in poetry and the poetic side of life and obviously it’s hard in modern life because there’s no poetry in modern life, there’s nothing very nice about modern life, it’s very difficult, so yes, I feel pangs very easily… I think about everything too much, all the time. I have this chattering voice, this chattering mind and it just doesn’t stop, nothing can make it stop.”

On whether he loves the music industry

“I don’t think anybody does. It’s very hard, it’s very brutal and it’s completely changed now, in recent years. It’s only concerned with marketing, it’s not really concerned with people who sing or people who play music. Because music appears to be dying and people have found other things to do I think the major labels just want to grab as much as they can as quickly as possible. So they watch those horrible talent shows with all those small children and they sign them. It’s only about marketing… [performing onstage] is the only thing that nobody can interfere with. They can interfere with everything else but they can’t interfere with you when you’re on a stage… You could almost say, if you dare, that I’m happy… I enjoy singing and playing more than ever but the entire world of music has changed so much. The disappearance of physicals – seven-inch singles and 12-inches – is very sad, the disappearance of record shops is very sad.”

On veganism

“I became vegetarian first when I was very young when I caught sight of a programme on the television showing slaughter and I’d never seen it before, the abattoir, the slaughterhouse. I was frozen for five years. I couldn’t believe that in our society such places exist. Even now I can’t believe such places exist. It baffles me, I can’t understand it. Nobody’s that hungry that you need to take a life of something that also wants to live. It’s a gradual thing. Everybody begins as vegetarian because to dive straight forward into being a complete purist is very hard for most people. Financially you can’t do it and also you have to find food, but once you do it it’s so much better. [Takes off his Stella McCartney shoe] There’s no animals involved in this shoe but from a distance you’d think it was an animal shoe. It’s not made of leather, it’s plastic. Would I really lie about this? Is this the place to lie about shoes?”

On Russell Brand

“We’re friends. He’s insane. He’s clinically insane. He can’t turn it off. He doesn’t know who turned it on. He’s a one-off and he has a big heart, he doesn’t actually like to upset anybody. Even though he steamrolls in with everybody, if he upsets anybody he crumbles. So he’s nuts.”

On record shops

“They’ve diminished, they’ve all dried up and slipped away unfortunately. It’s harder to find them now. It was always the case you’d arrive at a city and go straight for the record shops. I can tolerate most music. There’s some things I really can’t stand. I don’t like rap because the voice is always the same, but I quite like the social sentiment. I like what they’re saying but I don’t like the sound of the repetition.”

On his music

“The songs are so important to me and they have been my life always, they come before everything else. They are me, it’s not just a repertoire. I don’t go through the motions. If I’m tired it’s because I’m physically travel-weary, it’s not because ‘dear God, here comes that song again’.”

On the state of British music

“I’m not a fan of modern music at all, I don’t hear anything interesting. [King asks him if he’s a fan of Sam Smith] I think it’s time to rapidly move on.”

On his pre-show preparation

“Nothing, ever. Nothing. No yodelling, no alcohol, no gargling, no juggling. I just go on.”

On Hillary Clinton

“[On whether America is ready for Clinton] I think so. You’ve known her for a long time so everybody in this country should know by now. When you look at what the Republicans that have lined up, it’s ludicrous. They all look exactly the same. [Even Trump] in the dark, he would look like everybody else. It’s the same old suit and tie. You never see somebody who is absolutely, ‘What is that, who is this person?’. They all look so uniform.”

On Obama

“I think he’s disappointed lots of people. I don’t think with cases like Ferguson and so on that [Obama has] really helped his own people by being more interested and forgetting about the police machinery, constantly saying, ‘The police are always right’, ‘We must listen to the police’. Everybody knows that’s not true. Obama, is he white inside? It’s a very logical question. I think he probably is.”

On his alleged sexual assault

“Would you like the absolute details? They are horrific. He put his finger down my rear cleavage… you said you wanted the details. Why would he want to [do that]? Why does he need to? I had been through the full scanner and I had been through the second bit and everything was fine and clear but then he went straight for my private bits and then he put his finger down my rear cleavage. The people I was with from special services said this is assault and he said: ‘Well that’s just your opinion.’ He said it four times. They said, ‘We’ve seen it and this is outrageous’. But they’re above the law. Yes, I filled in a complaints thing, but it will not happen.”

On his cancer scare

“Cancer was found, yes. I had Barrett’s, which is the oesophagus. They scrape it occasionally and I have medication. But I’m OK. Lots of people have it and they fade away. Lots of people have it and they don’t fade away. You don’t really hear that word, that c-word when people say it. It seems to drift over you – you just say: ‘Yes, oh yes.’ Later when you’re on the stairs by yourself, it triggers in your mind. At the time, you don’t hear it. [I’m in]
blooming [health today]. Absolutely blooming.”

On depression

“For me, [depression] didn’t ever get better. I’ve had it for many, many years, I refer to it as the ‘black dog’, and it doesn’t go away. It’s usually the very first thing when you wake up in the morning, or the day, whenever you wake up [that you think of it]. There is no cure. It’s a part of being a sensitive, open human. I’m not [depressed] now because I’m here with you and I feel safe. I don’t [take medication] but I’ve been through everything and it’s completely pointless. It’s a frame of mind, a state of mind and it’s circumstantial mostly.”

On suicide

“It crosses everybody’s mind, everybody thinks about it. Even people who mistakenly assume they are happy. They think of disappearing and having enough, and many people do, taking control and saying ‘no more, no more of this silliness’. It’s admirable.”