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Morrissey collaborator pleads ignorance on controversial political views

By | Published on Monday 4 March 2019


How did Morrissey get so many cool musicians to collaborate with him on his new covers album given his various controversial statements in recent years, we casually wondered when that record, ‘California Son’, was announced last week. Well, turns out most of them aren’t that keen to talk about it, but our best guess is that Morrissey controversies don’t travel.

Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear, Broken Social Scene’s Ariel Engle and Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong are among the artists who will appear on the record.

The collaborations with mainly left-leaning – although exclusively North American – artists seemed odd given the various controversies around things Morrissey has said in recent years. Remarks that have proven sufficiently controversial that a Love Music Hate Racism fundraiser was planned as a protest to run alongside a later postponed Morrissey show in Manchester last year.

When those collaborators were asked about this by The Guardian, most were unwilling to comment. However, Canadian Engle said that she was simply not aware of Morrissey’s past remarks, saying: “It’s a very weak argument to claim ignorance, but it is my argument. It’s not an excuse but it happens to be the truth. The inflammatory things he says are not my politics. I think he’s completely out of line. I grew up around multiculturalism and I am the product of multiculturalism and immigration. I feel like I’ve been had, but it’s my fault”.

Giving his take on it all, Morrissey’s manager Peter Katsis, who is American, reckons that it is his client’s British fans who are most aware of the controversial opinions. “I don’t think [US fans] know enough about it to care about it”, he said. “I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to comment on British politics, therefore it’s probably not as important to me or the international fans as it is to UK fans. This whole thing has had me perplexed. The subjects are very complicated and dividing”.

It wouldn’t be the first time that controversy here in the UK over a British artist has failed to travel to the US. And sometimes that’s controversies around criminal conduct rather than simply right-wing politics. For example, Gary Glitter’s ‘Rock N Roll Part 2’ remained a fixture of American sports games long after he was convicted obtaining images of and later engaging in child abuse. Although in recent years its use has tailed off.

So, Morrissey choosing to collaborate with North American artists on the new record might have been a canny way to ensure there wasn’t any kind of embarrassing boycott from the artist community. Although it will be interesting to see if, by working with US artists, awareness of his more controversial statements increases among his American fanbase.