If you asked Andy Rourke about the music that inspires him, you might be surprised to learn that the legendary bass player of The Smiths claims to be “kind of stuck in the past.” Rourke, who turned 50 this past January, has been involved in several collaborations with a couple of extraordinary artists, including Sinéad O’Oconnor and Chrissie Hynde, in addition to having his hands involved in some exciting forthcoming endeavors.
As for the topic of his former bandmates, Rourke doesn’t hold back. “He’s a sweetheart. Contrary to people’s beliefs, we still get along and stay in contact with each other,” Rourke says of Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, a schoolmate and friend of Rourke since age 11. Rourke also keeps in contact with drummer Mike Joyce. “I try to keep in touch with him. Skype, e-mails, text messages, ‘Happy Birthday’s’, Christmas…that kind of stuff. And, obviously, every time I go to Manchester, we go out for a few drinks and a meal.”
Though the two haven’t spoken since 1990 during the band’s infamous royalties dispute, Rourke even admits to skimming through pages of Morrissey’s autobiography when it was released. “I just did a speed read looking for my name, just to see if there was anything good or anything bad about me. And it wasn’t as bad as I expected. He said I was funny and that I was a great bass player. I can live with that,” Rourke says. “It all went a bit darker when Mike Joyce took him to court over royalties. He’s still angry. What can you do? I don’t know what he’s angry about. I just told it how I thought it went down and he told it how he thought it went down, and the judge agreed with myself and Mike. A huge misconception about me was that I didn’t get any money from this. Mike Joyce was awarded one million pounds. I didn’t even get my taxi or my hotel room paid. C’est la vie.”
In between traveling for his regular DJ events, working on his project JetLag with partner Olé Koretsky and collaborating with actor James Franco on his band Daddy—just to name a few—the Brit bassist didn’t have a problem filling us in on his most impactful collaborations, favorite female musicians and his no-holds-barred take on the industry.
You’ve collaborated with Sinead O’Connor in the past. How did that collaboration come about?
“It was just a random call from her manager. This guy called Faulkner O’Kelley used to manage the Boomtown Rats and a few other Irish bands and obviously had heard that The Smiths split up and knew that Sinead was a fan of the band. They sent us a cassette tape, and Mike Joyce [and I] and were just blown away by it, and [we] couldn’t say no basically. So, we went on tour for a year and a half. One year with INXS, once around Europe and one solo North American tour with Sinead, and never a dull moment. She’s mad as a box of frogs, but in a nice way.
Who are some of your favorite female musicians of all time?
“Wow, so many. I’d say Patti Smith is way up there, [as well as] Eartha Kitt, Nina Simone [and] Joni Mitchell. They’re all totally different, but they’ve all got something very special. [But] Patti Smith never set out to be a singer. She was more of a poet, and her singing initially was kind of rants and shouting. I suppose it was around the U.S. punk era. One of my favorite albums by her is Horses. That’s an amazing album.
I tend to live in the past. I’m not very good at naming any modern singers that I admire because I don’t think I do.
Like that big argument Sinead O’Connor had with Miley Cyrus—she was only actually trying to give her advice and say, “Be careful and don’t get exploited,” [but] she took it all the wrong way. It was upsetting to everybody. I think it’s too late. I think she’s already been exploited.”
So, you don’t listen to much contemporary music?
“I do, yeah. I used to do a radio show on East Village Radio. My arrangement with them was that I was just going to take a hiatus, so I’m hoping to go back to that very soon. I just found it very difficult to come up with something fresh every week without continuing to repeat the playlist. I thought I was doing the listeners a disservice, and so I needed to stop for awhile and rekindle my thoughts and see where I wanted to take it next. So, watch the status on that one.”
Where do you find your new music?
“Well, that’s a very good question, because when I was doing the radio show there was an intern who used to work there and she used to just research new music and say, “There you go, Andy. Here’s some stuff that you might like.” I became lazy, but she found like twenty new songs every week for the show.”
Are there any all-girl bands or female bassists, drummers or guitarists that you admire?
“I love Tina Weymouth from the Talking Heads. Gale Ann Dorsey—she’s a session musician. She played a lot with David Bowie. I used to like the B52’s. I met them on a train once…just the two girls. It turns out we were both going to the same place. They were going to a rehearsal space in Woodstock, and I was going to record with Sinead. So, it was me and Sinead on the train from New York, and we ended up sitting with the two girls from the B52’s for two to three hours. They were really sweet girls. I always liked the quirkiness of the B52’s. When I was working with Sinead, I met Bjork a few times. That’s somebody that I really admire. Such an amazing voice. There’s very few voices that give me the goosebumps, and she’s one of them. Sinead is one of them, [too].”
I know you also collaborated with The Pretenders and Chrissie Hynde. How was that experience?
“Amazing. You know, she’s always been one of my heroes. It can be a little intense working with Chrissie at times because she’s the captain. She knows what she wants, and she doesn’t tolerate fools. You need to be really professional and keep your eye on your job. I feel privileged and honored to have worked with her, and I like all of her ethics and grittiness. She’s a fighter, you know. She’s not afraid of anything. Even the police. She likes to get arrested a lot for PETA. I admire that. I wouldn’t like to get an argument with her. She would probably knock me out with one punch. She was at Kent State Massacre, which probably made her very intolerant of the police. That must have been quite traumatizing to watch.”
If you could collaborate with any female artist, living or dead, who would it be?
“Living or dead, I think Eartha Kitt because I think she’d be a big bag of fun. She’s just a crazy one and a little bit ahead of her time with her gritty voice.”