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Joe Morris: Singularity, Part 2-2

By Published: August 25, 2005

AAJ: That's cool stuff. It's fantastic.

JM: It's pretty neat that he did it. Then it gets to the point where he's like Beethoven or something.

AAJ: He's an institution.

JM: Yeah, he certainly did it on his own terms, but somebody has to understand that to break those kinds of patterns, you might have to do it with subtlety. Subtlety is really really hard to control, you know.

AAJ: It's easier to scream than to whisper.

JM: Yeah. Sometimes screaming is important, because subtlety isn't happening.

Then there's a point where everybody hears everything that I do. And they go, "Who cares." Hopefully it will be a while.

I don't mean to get too much into an overview about how art works, but it seems like that's what it ends up being about. I like to think that some of the people who come into contact with my music are new to it. They're new to the whole music. Just like I was. I mean, I know people who were 20 years old, who are identical to me when I was 20 years old, in how they got into this and what they were looking for. And I had help from reading things from people who reminded me of why it was worthwhile. And what it had to do with me. So I kind of feel like part of the obligation is to ... It's not this scary academic exercise, or this conservatory.

AAJ: It's about the doing.

JM: Yeah. It's immediate, and it's raw. And it's just as raw as any good art that ever existed. And some times it's a hell of a lot more raw.

AAJ: Part of the problem is that by virtue of its complexity it becomes less accessible. People have undoubtedly given you criticism for that, too.

JM: Yeah, I mean, my daily life is criticism for that. Having the audacity to try and do such a thing. How can you possibly want to play music that everyone isn't into? I don't know, I guess if everybody was into it, the whole world would be different.

AAJ: The world would be an amazing place, I tell you.

JM: I think it would have a positive impact. Then again, when everybody's into something, almost everything like that turns sour.

AAJ: To be alternative, there has to be a mainstream.

JM: Yeah, I don't really look at it like that. It's kind of like a privilege to do something that's so rarified. You can meet almost everybody in it in just a few years. This is a lot more like being a poet than being a movie director. Whereas being a rock star is a lot more like being a movie director than it is like being a poet.

I really think that if I could have lived in another time, I would have either lived in 1945, I would have been a bebopper, or I would have been a beatnik or something. I definitely aspire to some very small subculture full of people who are nice, with an open mind. Not people who are going, "Man, that shit sucks!" I'm really not into that. I mean, I say that kind of stuff myself, but I don't want to do work that ends up sounding like that... bitter and angry. I'd rather have it be open to more complex interpretations.

AAJ: It's like in science, where there's a process of peer review, and other scientists review everybody's grants. And in a way that's a good thing. But there's also a problem with that, because the leadership roles are not necessarily taken by the people with the greatest vision. I think you have something special, with so much vision.

JM: That's an interesting point to make. It's like when you asked advice for people getting into this. The beauty of something like this is that you can be bold. And yes, there is peer review. But part of it is that you be bold, that you assert yourself.

I remember playing with Dewey Redman once. I was scared. He heard me play once, and he asked me to do a gig, and he was into it. And he basically turned to me before he played and said, "You play your ass off now." He didn't say, "Don't get in my way." He basically said, "You're here to play your ass off, so you do it." I don't know if I did, because I was nervous, but he definitely did not want me to be so respectful to him that I didn't kick him around the stage. He would have loved it. I don't think I was able to, but I mean, he's tough to kick around the stage, especially way back then for me.

I remember when I was thinking about doing this. I was thinking about being an actor, because I could relate to that. I thought about all the things you have to go through, you have to worry about how you look... You can have an amazing interpretation of something, and some person can go, "No, you're wrong. You suck."

AAJ: "My way, now."

JM: It's like art by corporate review. Oh, man. Then I was saying I'd be in rock bands. But it was so difficult, especially then, to be in a rock band that was playing original music. This was a long time ago. And not think about being successful. It seems like—to me—that to be successful in that kind of music you can either break the mold completely (and I wasn't going to be able to do that), or you had to wear glitter clothes and makeup.

Forget it! I don't want to do that! What does that have to do with music? That's total show business. I still think a hell of a lot of stuff that's supposed to be alternative is part of a marketing plan that's been around for 30 years. It's like the '60s created a marketing plan for them to sell every piece of junk for the next 30 or 40 years.

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