It takes more than the closure of his regular venue to stop Mark Morriss from coming to town to play his traditional Christmas show.
Every December since 2008, the Bluetones frontman and solo artist had played at The Cellars in Eastney until it’s untimely demise in summer 2014.
Last year he moved to The Old Barn in Milton, but this year he was booked in to The Edge of The Wedge. However, this has now been moved into the main Wedgewood Rooms due to popular demand.
‘I loved those nights at The Cellars they were brilliant fun,’ Mark tells The Guide. ‘There was something quite old fashioned about those Christmas nights with everyone crammed into a pub – it had a slightly 1970s, lost world flavour.’
But he’s more than familiar with The Wedge, having played there several times before. ‘Yes, it’s an upgrade – that’s a first,’ he deadpans.
Mark is currently in the studio, recording the follow-up to 2014’s The Taste Of Mark Morriss, a covers album which saw him give his own spin on acts as diverse as The Sisters of Mercy, Pet Shop Boys and Madonna, alongside perhaps more expected acts like Scott Walker and Buffalo Springfield.
‘That was good fun, but that was more of a companion piece to my last EP, A Flash of Darkness, in my mind anyway. It was a sort of an indication of some of the influences for that record, and all my records I suppose.
‘Particularly that one, though, I was using the same sort of colour palette and instrumentation for the sound. It was a bit of fun. I was a bit blocked with my writing as well, so it was just getting back in the studio and getting the wheels turning again, and in that respect it worked.’
For his forthcoming album, Look Up, Mark has returned to the online crowdfunding website, Pledgemusic, which he used for A Flash... He has already raised more than 80 per cent of his goal.
Describing the new album, he says: ‘It’s got a kind of underlying sci-fi/country and western flavour to much of this record, that’s just the way it’s come out.
I loved those nights at The Cellars they were brilliant fun. There was something quite old fashioned about those Christmas nights with everyone crammed into a pubMark Morriss
‘You write the songs and you hear them in your head, and then when you hear them back in the control room in the studio, it’s like ah, right, this is quite unusual!’
Sci-fi/country – that certainly sounds... different.
‘There’s a big hole in the market that needs to be filled - I did a lot of research into it,’ he laughs.
Mark’s also been moonlighting in the touring band of his friend, Matt Berry, best known for his roles in The IT Crowd and Toast of London.
Away from his acting, Berry has carved himself a second career as a respected singer-songwriter.
‘When Matt said do you fancy joining the band because I need a rhythm guitarist and backing singer. Being a big fan of the record, I said yes please and was straight in.
‘It’s not a joke project – music is definitely his prime passion.’
And he likes being able to step back from the limelight.
‘I do enjoy that lack of responsibility and lack of attention – I can come off stage and switch off, which I can’t always when I’m touring by myself or with the Bluetones. It’s nice being in the shadows and quietly grooving away and sipping my wine.’
There are also a handful of shows pending for the Bluetones next summer. The Slight Return and Marblehead Johnson hitmakers reconvened for a 20th anniversary tour in 2015/6 having split in 2011.
‘We live all over the place now, (Mark’s brother and band bassist) Scott lives in Tokyo, so we get together periodically, and do stuff.
‘I don’t think we’re going to make any more records now to be honest. It’s been six years since the last one already – too much time has passed. I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to recapture something that’s probably flown the coop, but live we’re still a cracking unit, and now it’s a chance for us to celebrate our catalogue.
‘We did six albums and countless other singles and B-sides, there’s a lot of songs for us to draw on.
‘When you’re constantly moving forward and making new records, you forget things you’ve done, which is part of the creative process, but if we can draw a line and bookend it, we’ll continue to play shows and celebrate it.’
Mark played the first few Victorious Festivals solo, how about coming back with The Bluetones?’
‘That would be very handy, they’ve dropped me hints in the past...’
Mark Morriss, supported by Andrew Foster, is at The Wedgewood Rooms on Wednesday, December 28. Tickets £10. Doors 7.30pm.
Go to wedgewood-rooms.co.uk