This month marks 20 years since the Smiths released their first single "Hand In Glove" and to celebrate Digital Radio Station BBC 6 Music is broadcasting live from the Salford Lads Club on May 16th as part of a week long series of archive recordings and interviews. Designer Magazine took the time out to speak to former Smiths drummer Mike Joyce about the unique relationship that the band was based on. Mike is currently working with ex-Oasis guitarist Bonehead in the band The Dogs (formerly Moondog One) and the Salford Lads Club event will see them playing semi-acoustic as they launch the band to the nation.
Q: We saw Andy (Rourke) last week and he's been kept busy with Badly Drawn Boy. You've been locked away in the studio for the best part of a year with your new band the Dogs. The first real chance people will have to hear you is on 6 Music so could you fill our readers in?
A: We got this band together about a year ago and we were starting from scratch so it wasn't as if we had a set of songs and new band members had arrived. It took us until Christmas to really find what we wanted to do because when you've got 3 individuals with such strong characters like Bonehead, myself and Johnny the singer there was pushing and pulling everywhere because it's not autocratic...it's not like a Noel Gallagher situation where it's like here's the song.
We'd got 3 really good songs together when 6 Music contacted us saying they were doing this 20th Anniversary at Salford Lads Club and suggested we came down. At first I didn't want to do it because I didn't have any emotional need to talk about something I did 20 years ago and then I thought it would be good for people to hear what I'm doing now with the Dogs. I'm just so proud of what were doing and it's so automatic you're either gonna love it or you're gonna hate it...the kind of stuff were doing I don't think it's going to grow on people...you're either gonna dig it or you don't!!!
Q: What did you think of Hooky's recent comments about the band and the Salford Lads Club photo shoot?
A: I don't know why he's getting his knickers in a twist, I didn't know it bothered him that much. He was talking about getting there in a cab or something and we didn't get the bus anywhere then and I still don't now. I wasn't living in Hale at the time, I was in Chorlton, so I'm not too sure he's a big Morrissey fan really judging by that.
It was the sign I think that Morrissey was interested in and it was more the similarity between the four of us...I mean it could have said Levenshulme Lads Club...I think it was meant to be that the Smiths were a club and that was the similarity. I never think it was let's go and pretend were all Ordsall boys.
Q: Can you remember the first time you all got together as the Smiths collectively?
A: I'd known Johnny anyway and seen him around town working in X Clothes. I remember the first time I met Morrissey and that was when we were in the rehearsal room. A mutual friend of mine and Johnny's, a lad called Pete Hope had told me that the guys in X Clothes was looking for a drummer and do I fancy going down to Spirit Studios...and that was the time Dale was playing bass. Morrissey was just walking up and down the room with a very long grey coat on and he said hardly anything. And the first time we played with Andy I think we did "Handsome Devil", "What Difference Does It Make?" and "Miserable Lie".
Q: Looking from the outside it really did seem like you, Andy and Johnny and then Morrissey completely separate. Was it really as clear cut and defined as that?
A: Yeah, well I think Johnny was kind of a mediator and obviously a close confident of Morrissey's, he was the only one that Morrissey had really within the group. Johnny would have meetings and discuss the direction and aspects of the band with Morrissey and we'd discuss our own side of it.
We had a relationship where we didn't socialize a lot, but that was fine. Just because he wasn't jumping around with his foot on the monitor screaming let's go out and get p*ssed. If the guy has his own way of conducting himself on a social level then that's the way it is - i'm not going to be like come on'
Q: Throughout the years Morrissey had close friends that he confided in. Did he ever allow the band to get close to them or was it totally separate?
A: It wasn't a matter of being allowed. It was more a matter of we didn't want to get particularly close to his close friends. He took that relationship with those people very seriously and very privately. It was a different mindset, obviously I can only speak for myself here and not Andy and Johnny, but the people he did hang around with seemed to me the intelligentsia, the readers and the heavy thinkers. And I felt as though I didn't want to go into that scene because I thought they'd go "here we are - thicko drummer", I really did think that.
I had a set of friends that I had even before I joined the Smiths and I kept onto those people. They weren't discarded at the first sign of success and I still have a lot of those friends now. I think a lot of Morrissey's friend did think I was the thicko drummer that just partied and a kind of Mr Sid The Sexist.
Q: If we had to loosely classify the band it would be yourself and Johnny as family men, Andy as a bit of a lad and Morrissey as just Morrissey. What was the most out of character thing any of you did?
A: I remember Morrissey having a cig, that's about as daring as he got. We were sitting round in a bar somewhere and he just fancied having a cigarette. It was like really? Yeah. It was funny because it was a bit like a kid trying to smoke.
Q: Morrissey obviously built this image around the band as intelligent celibate vegetarians. Did you find it hard being a member of the Smiths at times?
A: No, not at all because I didn't portray any image than the one that I am naturally. It wasn't hard work playing drums and being me. There was no false imagery that I put across so I was just being Mike Joyce.
I remember when I was on tour with the Buzzcocks in America and some Smiths fans came up to me. They didn't know how to deal with me at all, they thought I was incredibly shy, sensitive, introverted kind of librarian just because the image that Morrissey portrayed can kind of come across. They seemed to think that that was the whole band and I'd be quoting Oscar Wilde between songs and obviously it couldn't be further from the truth.
Q: Exactly how premeditated was Morrissey's public image?
A: It was massive and it still is. He's a thinker and he thinks about how important these things are and to a certain extent he's right. I'd much rather listen to a contrived image than a Mr Normal - pop music isn't normal, being a rockstar isn't normal. I like the extremities of it and I like the idea that these things are calculated no matter how bizarre...because if you can't do it as a rock star or a pop star or an icon. It's the only place you can do it and get away with it.
Q: Did you ever meet any of Morrissey's alleged boyfriends?
A: No.I never even heard of them or met them - old girlfriends or boyfriends. I was never introduced to anyone as "Hi, i'm Morrissey's boyfriend" or "Hi, i'm Morrissey's girlfriend". I didn't meet anybody like that, I mean I might have inadvertently. It wasn't like a Janine from Spinal Tap kind of linking his arm or anything.
Q: I've heard rumours that Morrissey has a hatred of Angie (Johnny's Wife) due to the fact he had a long-lasting crush on Johnny. What's the story from inside the band?
A: Nonsense, I can't believe that. I think what can happen there is you have a situation where you've got a group that becomes so tight with each other - were seeing each other in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening over a tour of 6 to 8 weeks of which you're on a bus for 10 hours. You become very tight together as people and you have to or otherwise it just doesn't last. I think when other people become part of it whether it's girlfriends, wife's or boyfriends it's difficult to accept anyone into the club.
There became a point in that band about 85 / 86 I would have died for any of them. It was that powerful a force between the four of us that I really would have done. It must be the same as when you hear fans saying they'd die for Morrissey...well imagine being in the band and creating something unique.
Q: We've covered the court case before (read below for archive interview excerpts). There was a time in the years leading up to the case that you, Johnny and Morrissey were all living in Altrincham. Were there occasions when you just just accidentally bumped into them and if so what was it like?
A: I saw Johnny before the trial and we just had a chat. We talked about his stuff and my stuff. It was tense and really difficult because I hadn't seen him for so long.
I bumped into Morrissey as well before the trial ended and I said to him do you want to talk about the case. He said "What case?" so I took that as a no.
Q: And bringing it bang up to the present day when can we expect gigs from the Dogs?
A: We'd be ready to gig in a few weeks, but were going to wait till September when the Festival circuits ended. Were thinking of doing a couple abroad just to bed in the set, like McCartney did with Wings.
The Dogs perform live from the Salford Lads Club on May 16th
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Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke on The Court Case
The following excepts are from an interview Designer Magazine ran in January 2000 while Mike and Andy were playing with Aziz on a short tour of the UK. This to date is the most indepth account of the court case you will find on the web or in national print.
Q: Obviously everyone's heard about the case between you and Morrissey (Morrissey and Marr claimed 80% of all royalties between them while Mike and Andy were obviously left with only 20%, the case revolved on whether Mike and Andy knew about this), did you know about the division of royalties?
M: That's what the whole case was about. He said we knew all along and we said we didn't all along and if we had know all along the amount of evidence that was put forward on the case would have proved that. Lots of people think that we all went in a room and the judge looked at Morrissey and said I don't like him, yes here's your 25%, that's nonsense.
The court case lasted 7 full days, I was in the witness box for 4 or 5 hours and I was cross examined by two well respected high court barristers. This isn't something where the Judge thought I don't like Morrissey because he's the lead singer of the Smiths, I don't understand why he seems to think that. Its as if its a personal vendetta against him, everybody hates him and everybody wants to freak him out and make him do things that he doesn't think are right.
The case was as you said it was like we knew, if I knew I wouldn't have bloody taken him to court!!!!! and stand up and say no I didn't know (stands up and does pinnochio impression). In a court of law it wasn't just that, there was alot of other discrepancies in evidence that was given. So the judge took into consideration that Morrissey wasn't a very good witness, I'm sorry but that was his fault, if he wants to start answering back to a judge and being flippant with a barrister then that's his problem. Obviously he's not going to do himself any favours, its like turning up in court with an Hawian shirt and a mohican, the judge won't be like nice shirt, where did you get that.
It like what the judge said in that statement, a lot of people don't think about the second part of that statement. The judges statement wasn't only "Devious, truculent and unreliable" because there's a second part to that, and its the same sentence, the judge said he was "Devious , truculent and unreliable where his own interests were at stake". What exactly he means in that is that he was being devious in what would help him in is evidence, so basically he's embroidering his evidence. If you telling the truth then why do you need to embroider your evidence. Its ridiculous, almost laughable.
The reason why I went to appeal was that Morrissey disagreed with the judges decision, well there were 3 judges there who all agreed with the judges decision. Its not as if its gone before some lad in the playground and gone "what do you think, can you sort this out for us". This is why is gone before an appeal court to make sure that judges don't air in law, and the judge didn't he made a decision, obviously judges do make mistakes that's why there an appeal court there. So once I was successful at the first trial, I went before the appeal judges and they just verified what exactly I was saying. It was thrown out of the House of Lords as well, they said stop wasting our time. If he doesn't like it then tough.
A: He still isn't letting it lie though.
M: He's just being ridiculous , but that's Morrissey for you. If he just let it lie people might turn round and say ahhh maybe, the fact is he can fight it, he's a multi millionaire. Cases cost 100's of 1000's of pounds, if he's prepared to waste his money on that then fine, he obviously hasn't got better things to spend his money on.
Q: What's your relationship with Johnny Marr now after the court case, after all he didn't seem to fight the appeal?
A: There isn't really a relationship anymore, I think perhaps there's a little less animosity because Johnny's thinking all along was its a fair cop.
M: Everyone went for Morrissey anyway because he's the singer although it was a two pronged defence. It was exactly the same case for them both although they went for Morrissey which I'm sure Johnny was very pleased about. Morrissey appealed against the decision and Johnny didn't. Its as if people were thinking well he's accepted it for the way it is, but its quite interesting that if Morrissey would have been successful at the appeal then automatically Johnny would be. He didn't have to stand there with a placard saying "Mike & Andy are wrong", he just let Morrissey take all the flack.