Morcheeba Live at the Fillmore & Interview
Sit back, roll it up, and enjoy that cheeba. In the late 90s, UK’s Morcheeba was doing just that but then brothers Ross and Paul Godfrey parted ways with vocalist Skye Edwards. The brothers continued to put out three more albums, but none of them received the same critical acclaim as their work with Skye. All seemed lost for Morcheeba fans as Ross moved to Hollywood to write film scores, and Paul tended to his family. Then randomly Ross bumped into Skye on the street in London, and within a few months the group released (June 2010) their latest album Blood Like Lemonade. Before their performance at The Fillmore David from betterPropaganda & SFCritic spoke with Ross Godfrey.
David: A few years ago it looked like the band was almost done. Four years ago, you were quoted as describing making music as “slave labor.” What was going on at that point?
Ross Godfrey: I didn’t say that. We got pretty sick of each other. We had been on the road for about ten years. It was really a weird time as the music industry was also falling apart. Throughout the whole time we weren’t working with Skye we had been thinking it would be great to have her back at some point and make a really great record.
David: You’ve stated before how the digital age has been both beneficial and problematic. Can you elaborate on this?
Ross: We started making music during a period that was pretty much the same as the 60s and 70s. Bands made records and went on the road to support the record.
There is Myspace, which is really amazing because you can find out about amazing musicians all over the world really quickly, and become friends with them and communicate—things you wouldn’t have ever been able to do before. Unfortunately that doesn’t translate into a scene.
Art needs beneficiaries. The music business has been starved of money. Everyone thinks that music is free, which means people can’t afford to make albums. They can make records at home on their own, and that’s great, but you still need money to market things and get on the road to tell people about your music.
David: How does your music translate into a live show?
Ross: It’s a lot more psychedelic and I guess a bit more heavy. It’s not more upbeat, but it’s more energetic because the environment is different than being in a studio or being stoned out of your head at three o’clock in the morning listening to the record.
David: I read that you were kind of responsible in reconnecting Paul and Skye. What steps did you take to bring the group back together?
Ross: I bumped into her on the street in London. I hadn’t seen her in a really long time, so it was a bit of a shock. If we had planned to meet I think we would have been quite nervous. We decided we should go for dinner. I invited Paul over from France. We just basically got drunk over dinner, and chatted. We had a couple of brutally honest chats about what had happened in the past, and what would hopefully happen in the future and everybody felt positive.
David: Was it difficult amending the relationship between Paul and Skye? Did you have to prep them on either side?
Ross: No. I think that time had leveled things out. I spoke with Paul quite a bit about how the music would be great and that the fans would surely love it. When we started writing songs, and Skye was making melodies, he came up with some really great lyrics. He said to me that maybe Skye was his muse and that he can only write really great stuff when she was singing. I found that to be quite a good revelation for him because he was quite against that.
David: What was the original dispute about?
Ross: It wasn’t about anything in particular. We were just pulling in different directions. No decisions could be made, and nobody wanted to do anything else that anybody else wanted to do. Not because they didn’t want to do it, just because the other people wanted to do it.
David: Does it feel more business now?
Ross: Does it feel more business? No. It feels less business now. It feels more like we’re doing this for the love of music, and in a way for the love of each other.
David: That’s great. In that period of time when Skye wasn’t a part of Morcheeba, you cycled through a lot of guest artists, were you ever disappointed with the outcome of your work during that period?
Ross: No, I think it was pretty good stuff. We always wanted to work with more male singers. So we finally got to do that.
David: The way this album was created being that you guys are all physically in different locations does the group feel back together, or is this tour the real test?
Ross: We only met up in September of last year, and by December we had written and recorded the record. We mixed it in January. So it feels like we’ve been back together for ages, but it’s been nine or ten months, really nothing very long at all. At the same time it feels like we never really split up, which is really strange.
Skye is much more confidant than she was before. She knows what she’s capable of vocally. When we started the band she really didn’t want to be a singer. We kind of forced her into it. It took her fifteen years to give in to the fact that she was a really good singer.
David: Did she ever explain why she was so tentative about her voice?
Ross: She’s very, very shy. When we first started she used to whisper onto the tape.
David: How did you try and ease her anxieties?
Ross: Whiskey, marijuana and anything like that.
David: Is more cheeba the secret of Morcheeba’s success?
Ross: We kind of cut down a bit when we got older. But when we started making this record, I don’t know why, we started smoking lots and lots of dope again. It was just kind of funny. It only has that completely spaced-out, mellow sound if everybody is completely tanked.
*all photos by Ken Manning