Today, July 15, Morrissey releases his first album in five years, World Peace is None of Your Business. The enigmatic and historically irascible Moz hasn’t been talking much about the album, what with his recent cancellation of tour dates and the finger-pointing that followed.
But after listening to the record, we wanted to unpack Morrissey’s 10th solo album and peel back the layers of the songs to see how they’re made — find out what makes Moz, well, Moz. So we sat down with GRAMMY-winning producer Joe Chiccarelli, who produced the album with Morrissey in the studio.
“He has a vision,” Chiccarelli says. “I didn’t know he would be so actively involved in every aspect of the process. I mean every aspect, down to the mixes. Even if he wasn’t in the studio, he’d send me a note: like, ‘At two minutes and thirty-two seconds, please bring up the guitar on the right, it’s not cutting enough.’ Or, ‘In the bridge, my voice needs a different treatment.’ His sensibility and style might be more akin to an old-school crooner, and we think of those people as artists who work with an arranger or a producer: they’d go into the studio, do their vocals and then they’re done. That’s not how he is, he’s very involved.”
Also impressive is Morrissey’s band, which includes long-time guitarist/musical director Boz Boorer, guitarist Jesse Tobias (formerly of Alanis Morissette’s band, he also spent a month as a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers), bassist Solomon Walker, drummer Matt Walker (formerly of Filter and Smashing Pumpkins), and keyboardist Gustavo Manzur.
“Their team spirit was impressive,” he noted. “Morrissey really does trust and rely on these guys. They all separately bring him songs.”
We went through the album, track-by-track, with Chiccarelli, who has also worked with some of the greats over the past few decades. He engineered albums for the famously demanding and moody Frank Zappa, and in more recent years, he’s produced/engineered/mixed projects for Jack White (for both the White Stripes and the Raconteurs), My Morning Jacket and the Strokes. So when he says that Morrissey is an artist with a vision, the man knows of what he speaks.
Chiccarelli was enthused about the project and happy to talk about the behind-the-scenes story about each song. Whereas artists may sometimes burn out on this sort of interview, lower profile team members like Chiccarelli aren’t interviewed as often, leading to (perhaps) more detail than you’d get in an interview with the Mozzer himself. Read on.
“World Peace is None of Your Business”
We were recording in February, and the Ukraine was just exploding; the importance of the song was really evident to everybody. After I heard it for the first time, I thought, “Bravo, Moz.” With a lot of the rhythms, he was very specific. Matt Walker really understands him, and Matt will come up with parts. And the guitar solo on the song is outrageous, it’s wonderful. The first time Jesse played it, it was like, “Wow!” We probably spent a day per song on tracking. A typical day was: we’d all have breakfast together, come in at 11:00, we’d get the band in the studio, do guide vocals and build the song. By dinner time — 8:00 p.m. or whatever — we would have something that was close to the framework of the song.