The Guardian - October 13, 2020.
Matt Berninger webchat: your questions answered on Morrissey, Taylor Swift and infinite creativity.
"I want my daughter to listen to the Smiths.
I don't want her to pay attention to what Morrissey says now.
Hi Matt, we are about the same age, with many of the same formative influences. The reception of all art changes over time, but I’m wondering how you reconcile your love of the Smiths with Morrissey’s recent political dalliances. Of course, I want to trust the art rather than artist, but sometimes it’s not easy. Your thoughts on the issue would be greatly appreciated!
I'm really glad somebody asked me. I brought up Morrissey and the Smiths so many times to journalists over the past few years because I'm interested to talk about that, and so often it never makes it into the interview because it's just such tricky territory, right? Because Morrissey was one of the voices, writers, performers that made me - maybe more than almost any, at this phase in my life when I was 15, 16, 17. When you just feel like a misfit. But I was a misfit with a lot of confidence. I had a lot of chips on my shoulders, small chips. And then to hear this other person from a place that I'd never heard of, didn't know anything about Manchester, didn't know anything about England, really, and then here was this band and this singer singing about all these emotional, hugely dramatic grievances - the Boy With the Thorn in His Side, Please Please Please let me get what I want, these raw pleas to the universe to be understood. And so funny. Morrissey, the thing that's hardest to square now, is how a person with such empathy for himself and for the misfits and those around him, writing so beautifully about that, now seeming to have very little empathy for other perspectives. It's a hard thing. I listen to the Smiths a lot still, and I listen to Morrissey a lot, and then I do pay attention to the things that he says and it's heartbreaking. I feel like fear and the anxiety of the world has maybe kinda overtaken him a little bit, and I guess it makes me try to keep my mind open and keep listening to everyone. At some point, the older you get, you can close your brain off. I feel like Morrissey became very frustrated because he wanted the world to be a very specific way. When festivals have to change their rules because he's there, I understand that when he's making sure the entire festival is vegan because he believes in that. But I think at a certain point you can't control everything, you get bitter and angry and that's happened to a lot of people. The world is chaotic and out of control and people retreat to a very small corner when they feel they cannot control the world, and I feel he's retreated to a very small corner that doesn't have the empathy that he used to have. I think about it a lot. I wish I had a better answer. But the Smiths still provides me a lot of comfort and inspiration and empathy. I still listen to the Boy With the Thorn in His Side and feel less alone in the world. The Smiths really helped me out of some emotional, dark tangles and they still do. Morrissey's body of work, so much of it provides me really healthy, positive answers, still. I won't give up that. I won't put those records in a box and bury 'em. I want my daughter to listen to the Smiths. I don't want her to pay attention to what Morrissey says now. She listens to them now in fact, she loves them. Frankly Mr Shankly - how can you not love that song? Girlfriend in a Coma, it's great."
The National frontman joined us to discuss his debut solo album, Serpentine Prison, and to answer your questions
- Matt Berninger (The National) on The Queen is Dead - Sep. 19, 2020
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