Q&A: Boz Boorer, singer-songwriter and chief Morrissey collaborator

Boz Boorer
Carmen Chaplin

Boz Boorer has been Morrissey’s musical right-hand man (that’s co-songwriter, guitarist and musical director) for almost 23 years. Which means he did it 18 years longer than guitarist Johnny Marr did during the lifespan of The Smiths, and yet Boorer—also the founding member of longtime U.K. rockabilly act The Polecats—remains still somewhat unknown among indie/alternative circles.

If you fall into that camp, his Saturday night DJ gig at Beauty Bar—with live Morrissey/Smiths cover act Maladjusted, local quartet Close to Modern, other musical performers and a rumored surprise performance—is your chance to become acquainted with the man credited with revitalizing the Mozzer’s music. You can also read our chat with Boorer, who e-mailed us while touring in Europe.

You are known for your own music, but some people will obviously be drawn to you also for your role as Morrissey's music director. How much do you incorporate Morrissey and/or Smiths music in your DJ sets?

All depends on the club. If it's indie night, of course; if it's a rockabilly night, less likely!

When you play the indie bars, what do you like to play besides the Morrissey stuff? And what do you dig most about playing the rockabilly bars?

I like to play some ’70s glam rock like T.Rex and Bowie, as well as some classic Britpop and ’60s [British] Beat [music]. And late-’70s U.K. punk is never far away. When I'm rockabillying—cool word—it's a great pleasure to hear that thumping slap bass through a huge system!

Would that include your own music, or do you tend to stick to other people's music when you DJ—and if so, who do you almost always like to play?

[My] most played rockabilly songs are probably [Nat County and the Braves’] “Woodpecker Rock” and [Hank Mizell’s] “Jungle Rock,” although I am not adverse to playing any of my own music if requested.

Do you find a lot of Yanks are mostly ignorant or underexposed to rockabilly? When you do these sort of gigs in the US, can it feel like you’re the Englishman teaching American youth about the music of their own heritage—and is that weird at all?

Well, it did 25 years ago, but now most people are a bit more aware of their own musical heritage … they seem to be picking it up!

What first attracted you to rockabilly growing up in Britain? Were you a big fan of Elvis and did that have anything to do with developing a passion for rockabilly?

After I found Chuck Berry, it quickly went [to] Eddie Cochran to the weird Dutch rock ‘n’ roll bootlegs of the mid-’70s, where we found what we later discovered to be rockabilly. Discovering Elvis’ Sun Collection came pretty soon after.

How did you begin working with Morrissey in 1991, and was that initially daunting given his legacy with the Smiths and his recent solo successes then?

I wasn't really a fan of The Smiths, although I was of course aware of their music. I was introduced over lunch by my friend Chas Smash [aka Carl Smyth] from Madness.

Moz sometimes makes comments about not keeping friends very long, but you have worked with him now for over two decades. Why do you think your relationship works so well?

I really have no idea!

Do you find insult or fatigue with the journalists who always ask Morrissey if he’ll reunite with Johnny Marr, especially considering you’ve been his primary music man so many years now?

It's become a little boring after so many years!

Do you feel you have adequate time to make your own music and play/tour it outside of being Morrissey’s music director?

Being musical director is my main purpose, everything else fits around it.

Do you feel you're just as passionate a music fan now as you were 30 or 40 years ago?

Yeah, I still find new music to enthuse about. I love recording and writing still. Playing is still great fun, too.

Boz Boorer (DJ set) With Maladjusted, Close to Modern, Dreamland, DJ 702, DJ Tiger Blood Yeah Yeah: December 28, 10 p.m., Beauty Bar, 519 Fremont St., $10.

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