Sonic Salamander's Fantastic Fact File

Scroll Box
Picture Disc Interview, 1983

I: You've said things like you have an "absolute physical necessity to write" and "if I don't write, I die". Could you explain that ? M: Well, it's really as simple as it sounds. There - um, perhaps the strange thing is that I really can't explain it. It's just simply like existing, like you have to eat food and you have to have fresh air. That's the way I feel. Since I've written since I was very sma- very young, it's just a very natural thing. It's nothing that's been acquired, like playing as instrument or something. It's just a very natural, physical thing. I: Um, where would you be if it wasn't for the Smiths ? M: Well, um, where would I be ? I dread to imagine. Perhaps it's just too horrific to dwell upon it. Oh, it's a frightening question ... (long pause) I: Um, if you say it is a necessity, um, do you see yourself doing it, sort of, forever ? M: For as long as I last, yes. So if that's forever, yeah. I: Well, your lifetime. M: Well, I don't have any desire to do anything else. I: Yeah - um, your lyrics, I gather, draw on your own experiences. (M: Yes.) Um, number 1: do you imagine anyone else could possibly sing one of your songs ? M: Well, somebody else is about to - Sandie Shaw is about to. So that should be quite interesting. But I think so, yes, because although they're quite personal, they're not that obscure that other people can't sing them. And I think that is perhaps the strength of the songs. Many people can listen to them and hear things they feel is a part of their life. Oh, yes, people can sing them. I'm sure of it. (I: Right.) They do already. I: Um, do you think people want to hear the sort of degree of frankness, uh ... ? M: I think they're not used to it, but I firmly believe that they do want to hear it. So, we're gonna persist. I mean, it hasn't really been that much of a battle for us because people have been very accepting so far. But I'm really convinced that people want it. People are really tired of this nonhuman approach in popular music. It's very boring and it doesn't really mean anything to anybody. People just persistently wait for somebody to say something, and, that's so important. That's why we're here. I hear so many records and they really don't say anything and they really don't seem to mean or imply anything. So, where does it leave us ? I: ...Seen someone say that your songs aren't love songs, they're sex songs. What do you make of that ? M: Hmm, yes, um, well, I'm not quite sure where this came from. Lots of quotes about the group are completely misdirected. But, some are done in very good faith. And I don't know about being "sex songs". It sounds very brutal and perhaps slightly dangerous. They're not, of course. But there's a kind of underlying innocence in virtually everything, so I just really throw them open and however people interpret them is really entirely up to them. But ... I: Do you feel they say more about the, sort of, interpreter than - M: Sorry, I didn't get that. I: Do you feel that they - that, sort of, the songs are in effect in the eye of the beholder and whatever they make of them says more about the listener than - M: Yes, but I think that's true of most things in life. You just see something that you want to see in a specific thing. It's very true with music. People hear things that perhaps aren't really there but they just want to hear it anyway. But ... I: Another thing I've heard is, um, you lead a saintly life (M: Yes [sort of blase, drawn out, tired old subject]) Um, could you, sort of, explain a bit more about that ? M: Well, it's really ... I'm just simply inches away from a monastery and I feel that perhaps if I wasn't doing this that I probably would be in one, so ... which of course is a frightening thing to dwell upon. But I just, I suppose, really for the type of thing that I do - singing in this group - the private life I lead is really, unbelievably, um, peaceful and concealed, boring and closeted, so people always really find it quite extraordinary because, I don't know, they really expect it to be a wild, insane individual. But I think that's another reason why we're so important. Most people in this business are really quite stereotypical popular figures and they're very outspoken and very abrasive. But I think there's room for people who really aren't like that and perhaps slightly shy and inverted and not quite sure about many things. I think it's time for a different voice to be heard. I: Um, do you feel your, sort of, lifestyle is like that through choice or are you forced to live that way ? M: I don't remember making any choices. I just suddenly woke up and I was here. I think that's the case with many of us. I really didn't make any choices. I'm just here, and fate shoves you into things and fate drags you out of things and silly things like that. I: Do you believe, then, that things are sort of inevitable ? M: Yes, I really don't believe that we have any control over our destinies. I think perhaps we'd like to feel that we do - over very small, insignificant things like the colour of socks you wear, et cetera - yes, we do. But no, not really. Most people don't make choices about their lives. They're just thrust into it and here we are and we just have to get on with it and sometimes we have to accept our lot, but, sometimes we don't. I: So you don't really, sort of, live your life as an example to someone else or how you'd recommend someone else to live it do you - or do you ? M: Uh, I think it would be really [thoughtful pause] ugly of me to say that I did. I'm not, kind of, standing here saying "Look, everybody simply has to live the same way I do, otherwise the world will end in a week!" I'm not saying that. But just within the whole spectrum of popular music, I just think it's time for a different voice to be heard and different things to be said. That is why it is so important to me that every word that I write, are words that haven't been heard before. I don't mean words in the English language, but lines and sentences that just haven't been heard before. I: From the position of your lifestyle, what do you, sort of, make of the, sort of, general public's, sort of, obsession with sex ? M: Um, I think it's a very uncomfortable obsession. I don't - although it is undeniably there - I don't feel that many people are comfortable and many people really know what they're thinking about or talking about or even doing. So, I think the basic methods that we have about everything is simply that people don't have to be cool about their attitude and they should just simply relax with themselves and simply do what they want to do - obviously, as long as it doesn't harm people. But I'm really tired of people being false and pretending that life is, oh, I don't know, depressing or happy or anything extreme. And people being really uncomfortable about live performances. I just want people to relax, basically, and kind of look at themselves and really accept themselves. I: Again, I've, uh, heard that Kid Jensen interview. In it, you were saying that you'd led quite a tragic life. Could you explain a bit more about that ? M: Well, I had the most depressing teenage existence in the history of the entire human race and that, I think, is tragic enough. I seemed to be locked indoors for years and years and years and I don't really feel that I had a youth of any description. Or perhaps of some description, but it's a very frightening description. So I think that really gave me some strength and determined - made me feel determined - one way or another to go down in history. I'm not sure which way it's gonna be, but I feel that we've begun something and I'm just gonna kick very hard to be heard and just really work as hard as possible. I: Um, did you ever, sort of, consider suicide at all ? M: Yes, at the age of eight I did. It first occurred to me as possibly the most perfect thing. It was quite romantic. But then as I, kind of, got older, I realized that I came this far and it would just seem quite pointless to do it. I thought that one way or another I'm just gonna get something out of this kind of rag-bag of an existence. So yes, I did consider it, but it really wasn't a consideration. It was just like something quite harmonious, that I thought at a very early age when I actually realised what it was. It just seemed like a very, kind of, um, a nice little thing to do, believe it or not. Sounds quite strange, but that's the way I felt about it. But I think at the moment it's quite futile. And people should persist and we shouldn't let silly things get the better of us and destroy us. I think we have to be strong about these things. I: Um, could I ask you what your, uh, sort of, family life was like, you know ? M: Um, it wasn't terribly happy. In fact, it wasn't happy at all. I think people ... the family was just really thrown together and there was no really, um, affection. There was no strong affection. So that was quite depressing. I think my parents particularly were always quite depressed about their lives, and eventually they had a divorce and I was in the whirlwind of that. But, I mean, you can't, kind of, look back on this and say, "Well, that is why I am like this," or anything. We all have our own minds and we can change if we want to. But, um, I don't really remember any happy times as a child or as an adolescent or anything. I: [damaged] ... speaks or convinced of your eminent success. Um, how important is success to you ? M: Well, success means that people are actually listening to you and people know about you and that's why it is important. Not for any capitalistic reasons. But really, what we do is so worthwhile that we just have to be heard and have to be seen. And if a measure of that is a hit record or appearing on a string of television shows, then that is excellent for us. We want to reach as many people as possible. We don't want to hide and we don't want to, kind of, make things difficult for ourselves. We're not going to avoid success if it is there. I: Um, what do you, sort of, hope to bring to people that they can't get elsewhere ? M: Well, I could tell you, but it just sounds really so incredibly pompous. But it's really quite true that I really feel the things that I have to say people want to hear. Now, if I really didn't believe it, then I wouldn't do it and I wouldn't waste people's time. Because it's just very boring of me to do that. But, I really believe that we have something worthwhile. The complete structure of the group, with it being a four-piece, and guitar-based songs; there's something quite different and it drags us all back to a very basic human element, which, after all, is what music is all about. It's really not about computers and such things. It really is about the human heart and just stirring people and making people realize lots of things about their lives and making people feel joyous and a sense of, um, communication. So that is why I feel the Smiths are important, because that's exactly what we do. We reach people and people feel very moved. And people feel alive. So that is really good. I: Dave McCulloch came to do a program for us and some of us were talking about people having difficulty, um, coping with success and he singled you out as one person he thought would easily cope with success. Um, why do you feel that ? M: I think it's because I've gone through so many years of self-development. I mean, with me, it was really a personal plan since I was quite young. And I really thought about everything very seriously, every single aspect of what I'm doing now. That's why I feel completely prepared for almost anything. I: Do you sort of have any plans at all to do with success ? Do you aim to, sort of, use success to achieve anything ? M: No. I think plans are one thing - are things that we really shouldn't make. I just literally take each day as it comes, which is possibly the best way. You avoid disappointments and you avoid any traps and snares. So, one day at a time I think, which sounds quite virtually religious and poetic. Perhaps it is. It's the best way to take life. It's the only way, I mean, in the nuclear age that we live in. It's the only way that you can live. But, um, you can live positively this way. I: After your own childhood, do you feel you'd ever have children yourself ? M: Yes, I'd like to. But it's really strange because I feel completely equipped to do it, and ... but I find that most people in life that would make perfect parents, they're the type of people who don't actually have children. And the people in life who really haven't a clue what they're doing, they just have streams and streams of little children and they just grow up to be horribly depressed people. But yes, I'd like to. So that's, uh, I think that's quite a hopeful thing within me. I want to do it. I: Yeah. Um, how do you see, sort of, future generations and that kind of stuff ? M: Um, I think it's really up to the people that exist at this present time to, kind of, form the future generations. I think the way we're going, people are getting terribly depressed about life because people feel this terrible isolation. And there's this terribly insistence that we live in some kind of very modern, computer age, which seems terrible to admit because people really just don't live like that; certainly not in Manchester where I came from. So I think people are becoming very depressed and the nineties could be quite depressing the way we're going now. But people really must wake up and, kind of, change their life as much as possible and just really say just exactly what they want to say. And they must realize that they control - that they can control - certain aspects of life. And we must, kind of, see these aspects and make people feel a bit more open and a bit more relaxed. Because people are too sheepish, really. They're too accepting of things. They're too accepting of governmental rules and certain things, and they shouldn't be really because everybody has some kind of inner strength and it's all worth while and every effort is ... it helps. I: How important, do you think, is school in amongst the works ? M: Well, I never found it to be important to any degree. I was always really distressed by the fact that school, which is supposed to be this institution that makes you really think about life, was for me always a place where if you really thought or you were outspoken, you were instantly a trouble maker. And I always felt that school taught people not the think about things and to be very regimented and to be very accepting. So I always found it really quite destructive. But I can only speak from my experience, which was a poverty-stricken, horrendous, penniless school. And, uh, it was very bad. There was a complete sense of hopelessness impressed upon the pupils by the teachers, which was always a terrible nightmare because so many of the kids ...

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