Steve Morris on One Eye To Morocco
Lee Worrall recently spoke to Steve Morris for Darker Than Blue about working with Ian Gillan on One Eye To Morocco, his first studio album of all new material in 10 years, which came out in 2009.
Q. It has been a 20 year journey for you down the road to Morocco. A phone call back in 1989 began that journey. How did that come about and what did that lead to?
A. Phil Easton from Radio City had been contacted by Ian, who was a good mate, with a view to helping him get a little touring band together, to do some covers and do a short tour, while Purple were ‘resting’.
Phil suggested me to be M.D. as I was gigging every night in Liverpool with all sorts of bands, as my main band Export had been dropped by Epic after two records. I just wanted to play all sorts of different types of rock music for a while. I got a call from Phil, who passed me over to Ian, unbelievably, and next day I was at his house planning the Garth Rockett gigs.
Q. After Garth Rockett and The Moonshiners, you went on to co-write 9 of the 11 tracks with Ian (and played guitar) on the Ian Gillan album Naked Thunder which was released in July 1990. You also toured with the band before and after the album release. How did it feel to be writing and touring with Ian Gillan?
A. Once I got to know Ian from the Garth Rockett tour, I decided to present him with some of the material I was writing at the time. I thought he could give me some advice on them, or possibly use them on some sort of project.
I had no idea that Purple would be dispensing with his services at exactly the same time he received my tracks. He called me to inform me that he loved the tracks, and would I like to help him with his solo album. Well I immediately gathered together a whole bunch of ideas, some finished, some not, and Ian and I spent some time at his, and at Woodcray Studios, with Bev Bevan on drums, putting together a 5 track Demo, from which Teldec gave him a deal. It was pretty much amazing. It happened so quickly. But the fact that I had a bunch of stuff pretty much together as songs helped a lot.
It was great that Simon Phillips, Tommy Eyre, Pete Robinson came on board to record the album. We then assembled a touring band and played all over Russia, Europe and S.America to lots of people. Incredible.
Q. Toolbox followed in 1991 and then in 1994 you joined Ian (on piano) with former members of The Javelin’s to release Ian Gillan and The Javelin’s. This must have been fun to work on especially as the album was recorded on your home turf at Parr Street Studio’s Liverpool?
A. Toolbox is the album which contains Ian’s finest screaming ever! When he was recording the vocals in the studio, it was an amazing thing to be there. Hairs on the back of your neck stuff. Felt privileged to have him singing on my tracks.
The Javelins record was so much fun. Ian asked me to record everything, and he’d put his vocals on. Then the band replaced my playing with theirs. This was done so that no time was wasted in the studio. At first it felt a bit strange for them to do this, but once they got the hang of it, they were great. Real authentic rock and roll. The guys in the band, who are accountants, factory managers, taxi drivers and the like had a ball in Liverpool. I think there is another one due.
Q. In 1997 Ian released Dreamcatcher. This saw Ian and yourself return again to Parr Street. You co-wrote 4 of the tracks with Ian (You Sold My Love for a Song, Chandra’s Coriander, All in My Mind and Country Mile) and jointly performed and produced the album. Dreamcatcher is considered the most obscure album in Gillan’s career. It features mostly acoustic songs and was worked on between 1995 and 1997. What was it like to be working with Ian again and experiencing the obvious chemistry between you?
A. Writing with Ian is great. I can come up with the strangest idea and he’ll find something in it and create a song. A case in point is ‘Chandra’s Coriander’. I had done a session in London, and the engineer who had recently recorded the Pogues, gave me a stereo mix of the Irish Percussion. It sounded great on it’s own, but I put an acoustic track over it. It felt really good, so I played it to Ian, and he started working on it. We finished the song in Portugal, where in an Indian Restaurant run by Chandra, Ian introduced me to the Coriander, and before you know it, it’s the title!
I really like Dreamcatcher, but it’s not to everybody’s taste. They seem to want Ian to sing ‘Rock’ on every album, but that is so limiting. Lots of different styles out there guys, and Ian wants to experiment on his solo records.
Q. You have co written (with Ian) 7 of the songs (One Eye To Morocco, No Lotion For That, Girl Goes To Show, Deal With It, Sky Is Falling, It Would Be Nice and Always The Traveller) on the latest album One Eye To Morocco. The songs are devoid of a rock rhythm section and there is a complete absence of guitar and keyboard solos. Who made this decision?
A. Actually its 9 songs I’ve co-written including bonus tracks! Ian had an idea for the sound of the album he wanted and Nick Blagona the producer has helped him achieve this. It’s a great sounding record, and in my opinion, helped by the fact there are no traditional solo’s as such, just guitar ‘parts’ and keyboard ‘parts’. The songs and arrangements are the most important elements.
In a way it’s the complete antithesis to Gillan’s Inn, where great solo’s hit you every few minutes. So it’s a great and natural follow up record.
Q. On his website Ian mentions that there were thirty songs in various stages of readiness and one that he had written with you stood ahead of the rest. How does it feel to have one of your songs as the title track?
A. I knew that One Eye was a track that Ian had a soft spot for, from the moment I played the backing track to him. It contained all the elements that Ian likes in a track. Slightly mysterious and a great groove.
However I was really pleased that it became the title track.
Q. The songs you co-wrote, how did they all come about?
A. Let me tell you about one track in particular. Deal with It. This is a true story. My wife works in the local council, and she told me about an incident, which lead me to creating the backing track and the story for Ian to use. An ex ‘Para’, was employed as a Bailiff for the council. He could ‘handle’ himself. Out walking with his wife and two young kids along a canal toe-path, he noticed a young man on a moped speeding along the path towards them. Fisherman on the bank were being scattered left, right and centre by the idiot and now he was headed straight towards him and his family. Quickly realising that his family was in danger, he pushed them to safety just before a collision. He also managed to ‘gently’ ease the young man and his bike into the canal, to the collective cheers of all the anglers.
The dripping wet biker went to the Police who came down to the canal and interviewed both the Para and the fishermen. None of the anglers ‘saw’ anything and the Police were satisfied he had accidentally driven into the canal himself! Hence the title ‘Deal with It’, and Ian’s great lyric.
All of the tracks were recorded over a 3-5 year period, and were kept by Ian for the right time. I wanted to present Ian with a good selection of tracks with different styles and grooves. Not just traditional hard rock, which Purple cater for so well anyway.
Q. Do you have a favourite song that you have written with Ian and which memory of working with Ian is the most vivid?
A. I’ve just given Ian 5 new tracks, and they are my favourite tracks right now, but I think the first one we wrote together was ‘Nothing But The Best’, so that gave me a real kick. And I suppose the first time I played ‘Smoke’ with him in Moscow would be the most vivid memory.
Photo’s were kindly taken by CS Worrall. Steve is currently working on a new Shadowman album. My thanks to Lee and Steve for this interview. DTB Online store still have a couple of copies of the deleted Morocco album in stock, the card CD edition and the vinyl.