When it comes to icons of the indie world, none are bigger and get more credit than The Smiths. During their time together from 1982-1987, the band transformed the decade's musical scene with their swagger, style and sound. Today, decades later, their music continues to do the same. The band has not played together since their famous split, and fans have waited for them to reunite through famous feuds and fights, though it looks as if it may never happen.
However, since the fall of The Smiths, the members of the band have had very successful solo careers, as singer Morrissey has had a string of hits as a solo artist; guitarist Johnny Marr has released many solo projects, as well as playing with bands such as Oasis, Modest Mouse and The Cribs; drummer Mike Joyce has played with many bands and artists such as Morrissey himself, Sinead O'Connor, Suede, Public Image LTD and Buzzcocks. While bassist Andy Rourke has also played in various bands and projects such as Sinead O'Connor, Morrissey, The Pretenders and Badly Drawn Boy, these days he can be heard DJing on East Village Radio and at various nightclubs, doing remixes for artists and enjoying his life to the max.
In our interview, Mr. Rourke opens up about his time in Manchester's iconic band, the 80's music scene, music today and his current endeavors -- but do not expect a Smiths reunion anytime soon.
What was the Manchester music scene like when you were coming of age?
AR: It was virtually nonexistent! Apart from Sad Cafe and 10cc, Thin Lizzy... luckily I liked all of these bands. I was learning guitar and bass, so I took all the good things I liked from these musicians; that is what makes music go round and around. Everybody takes their influences from their peers. It is perpetual.
Did you ever imagine you would have such an impact to the city you grew up in? Ever imagine that your legacy would be as big as it is?
AR: It was strange; I never had an interest in school, because from an early age I knew the only thing I wanted to do was to play music! So I didn't feel so bad not going into school when I was supposed to be there -- why do I need Latin, geography, physical education, etc., and to get beaten on a daily basis ? When I went into school they beat me for not being there. My classmates would congratulate me for being the most beaten boy in the school without crying. I quit age 15 to concentrate on my music; Johnny Marr was not far behind me! We continued to work on our music... eventually The Smiths arrived, we knew we had something special. The rest is history.
While in The Smiths, each of you were instantly put at the center of attention for your individual playing styles and formula. Was it hard fighting the egos in the room?
AR: Luckily there was no fighting in the room, just positivity. We were very united and focused and excited about the sound we were creating, from its creation to the performance, always solidarity.
How do you feel about the bands that are coming out of Manchester today? Have you heard of Heartbreaks, Everything Everything, The Whip?
AR: I like all the bands above. I have been out of town for a couple of years you have to remember. I really liked The Whip; I hope they do well... It's really hard for me to keep up with local MCR bands when I'm not there, but they can send me stuff to my radio show, EastVillageRadio.com. If I like it, trust me, I will play it!! There is a band from the UK called Riff Raff that I am doing a remix for right now -- check them out.
You played in a slew of bands post-The Smiths. From The Pretenders to Sinead O'Connor, Killing Joke, Badly Drawn Boy to even some of Morrissey's solo material. Who was the most impressive to play with?
AR: It's an impossible question... it has been a pleasure to play with all these artists, Pretenders was a real highlight, but also Damon, aka Badly Drawn Boy, Sinead... Ian Brown... all of these people I learn from and love to work with.
Playing with these other acts, did you have to change your style of playing since it is someone else's music?
AR: Thankfully NO! They employed me to make my bass sound! Why else?
Is there anybody you would love to play with?
Sadly a lot are dead!! But there are a couple on my wish list... but I can't tell!
Johnny has been playing with The Cribs and Modest Mouse; what do you think about his collaborations? Would you ever do something of that kind?
AR: I think It's great what Johnny is doing. I saw him playing with The Cribs in NYC in the last 3 months, being a musician, if you find something you like you grab it!!!
You seem to be and have always been the closest with Johnny. Would you two ever do another musical project together?
AR: I can say 100% me and Johnny don't have a problem working together; when it will happen it will happen.
Shifting gears for a second, you left England and moved to New York in 2009. Has the city influenced you? What do you think of New York's music scene?
AR: You can take whatever you want from any city. I've seen good bands... bad bands!
You DJ now in New York at clubs and for online radio station eastvillageradio.com. How much fun are you having playing your favorite music?
AR: Hmmmmm? On a scale from one to 10?... 10!!!!!
Remixing has always been a big thing in the DJ world; would you ever remix a band's track and make it your own? Any one band or song you would love to remix?
AR: Doing a few remixes right now, and got a few under my belt. Did Tokyo Police Club remix with my music partner Ole Koretsky under the name of JETLAG doing one now for a great London band called Riff Raff .
Playing clubs and gigging around the world, what is it like to be doing it by yourself? How are the crowds for the DJ gigs similar/different your rock-rooted gigs?
AR: It's strange; I go all over the world, but I always meet nice people! I can't ask more than that from strangers!
From 2006-2008 you organized "Manchester v Cancer" concerts. Is it important to raise awareness and hold events like this? Make you feel like Bono at all?
AR: I am really proud of what I have done for cancer awareness, but do I feel like Bono? No.
This interview also appears on Officially A Yuppie.