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by Martin Hall

As the drummer with The Smiths, Mike Joyce was part of one of the greatest British bands of all time.  After they disbanded, he drummed with The Buzzcocks and Public Image Limited.  Swine caught up with him for a chat shortly after Manchesterís In The City festival.  Hereís his storyÖ

What are you up to these days?

Iím working with a guy called Vinny Peculiar and have done for about the last year or 18 months. We did some gigs last year and put out a single on our own record label.  It was really well received and got a lot of good reviews but we released it ourselves so it didnít have much machinery behind it and it was only a sampler really.

Was it a good experience doing it?

Not particularly good because we had to do a lot of it ourselves.  We had a press agent and a plugger.  We did a few radio sessions and they went down very favourably.  Weíre just about to go into the studio and record an album, looking forward to that and once we get the album out, weíll probably do a short tour in the New Year.

What did you think of In The City this year; see any bands that you liked?

I didnít see that many actually because I had other commitments that weekend.  Sonic Audio- I wanted to see them and was really looking forward to it.  We got down to the gig and they cancelled at the last minute.  There were some other bands on instead and they were alright.  Afterwards, we went to see a band with Andy Rourke playing bass except he wasnít actually playing so that was a bit disappointing.  He was supposed to be playing but he went to Ireland and DJíd .  He came home and I saw him at the gig but not in the right position!  It was a good night all in all.  I really wanted to go and see Arctic Monkeys but I didnít get the chance.  I want to go and see Nine Black Alps as well.  I saw them doing an acoustic set in Manchester in Night & Day for John Peel day. I like their album and I liked their acoustic stuff as well.

You were one of the guest speakers at the From Mates to Management seminar.  Has that made you think about possibly moving into that area?

I have thought about it but itís just so tough.  It really is because itís one of those things where itís an absolute breeze because the band are one in a million or you have to trudge up that hill with everybody else.  I have thought about it and itís really difficult because you can have a band that you believe in and not many other people will and thereís all different kinds of permutations.  You can have a band where two of the guys are really rocking and another couple of them arenít.  Or you can have a band where one of them is absolutely brilliant. Iím not that mercenary.  Iíd like to work with an established band and take them on.  I do immerse myself into everything I take on- absolutely massively so and Iím one of those people that if I was working for a band Iíd die for them.  Some people go into management to make money whereas everything Iíve ever been involved in itís been for the love of it. I didnít join a band so I could become famous and make loads of money.  I wanted to be in a band to play the drums and luck kind of helped me along the way.  Managementís very tough.  Tony ( Wilson ) was talking about a lot of big established acts like The Mondays, the other chap was talking about U2.  I think it was a bit out of the league of the people that were there.  It just didnít seem particularly relevant to somebody starting out in a band.  Wilson said ďYou go in there and you tell that label what you want, if you donít get what you fucking want just fucking walk outĒ (laughs).  Iím afraid youíre going to have to go a long way before you can start doing that.  Liam and Noel can and Iím sure Bono can but not your average band.  Theyíd just tell you to piss off!

How did you get into music?

I was born in Chorlton-on-Medlock, just by the Holy Name Church .  A lot of back-to-backs there, the old style terrace houses.  When I was about seven, I moved up to Fallowfield to a Council Estate there.  I know it sounds mad but it was like ďOoh, thereís an indoor toilet!Ē  Wow, modern!  It was modern though, it wasnít what we were used to.  By the time we got there, my oldest brother had left so it was okay.  When I was living there I started playing the drums.  I first started playing on the couch with a pair of knitting needles.  I had to put a cover over it as Iíd started to wear the couch down and my Mum saw it one day and gave me a clip round the ear! I said ďWell, if I get a drum kit, that wonít happen.Ē  I got a second hand one and played it in my little tiny bedroom upstairs.  I played for a little bit, left home, took my drums with me and played in a couple of punk bands.  I moved to Hulme and lived there for about a year.  I moved from there to Whalley Range and lived there for about six months.  I then moved to Chorlton-cum-Hardy which is a kind of enclave, a bit of a bohemian place.  I lived with a guy called Pete Hope who knew this lad Johnny Marr who used to work in X-Clothes in Manchester .  Johnny asked Pete if he knew any drummers and Pete said ďYeah, a lad that Iím living with at the moment.Ē  And that was it really.  We just did our rehearsal and a bit of an audition.  There was a different guy playing bass.  We had a bit of a play in Spirit Studios in Manchester and I was in.

What were your first impressions of the rest of the band that day?

Johnny was very cool.  Iíd seen him around Manchester anyway.  He was a player, shall we say, around the Manchester scene.  He was right in there.  And I was a bit like that with my scene.  I wasnít prepared to sit on the outskirts, on the periphery of it, I wanted to get myself noticed.  So Iíd seen him out and about and in X-Clothes which was a hip clothes shop on King Street .  He was wearing a three-quarter length jacket and had a quiff.  He looked very cool.  I was a bit more punky at the time.  I didnít really get Morrissey at all, I hardly spoke to him; just furtive glances, nothing more than that.  It was just another band.  Honestly, I didnít attach any great importance to it but obviously I wanted to make a good impression of myself.  I didnít consider it a seminal moment because at the time it wasnít.  I was just going to play with a few lads.  It was alright, the rehearsal was okay.  They were perfectly happy with it and so was I.

In the early years particularly, John Peel was very important to The Smiths.  How important was he to British music in general?

Itís very difficult to put into words.  Every band that has been successful in the last 30 years, John Peel probably had a hand in, in one way or another.  Thatís unprecedented.  Thereís nobody else that can see that: big managers, big record companies, big artists- nobody has been so instrumental in the history of British music.  Thatís an amazing feat- thatís how important he was.  Because he didnít shout his mouth off and he didnít court publicity, the only people that knew were the people that were involved so your Average Joe on the street would just think ďHeís that weird bloke who plays mad music.Ē They donít realise just how important he was.  He played a big part for us because of the Peel sessions as well because we got invited down for about four, I think.  And every time we went, it really helped us get used to recording.

What are your favourite moments of that time?

Loads.  Every Manchester gig.  Couple of American gigs that we played, the larger venues- playing to 15,000 people.  A buzz.  A lot of bands now do it - bands like The Manics and Stereophonics - whereas at the time, you either played in a club or a theatre.  There wasnít that much scope for bands to play bigger places.  Getting our first gold disc.  The first Top of The Pops.  I could just go on and on.  Going to America for the first time.  Iíd never been there before so to go there under those circumstances was pretty special.  Itís a great place to go and explore.

Were you surprising when The Smiths were named the most inspiring band of all time by the NME?

Yeah and really flattered.  Itís an accolade that speaks for itself.  I donít really take much notice of opinion polls because it depends on the readership.  Iím sure a list of the top ten bands of all time in Smash Hits and the same poll in The Telegraph are going to be pretty different.  Whether you like it or you loathe the NME (and after that was put in there I loved it!) itís an amazing accolade.  I saw a piece about it on Granada Reports.  The Beatles came second in that poll so they went to Liverpool where they interviewed a load of Scousers about what they thought.  You can imagine their responses!

Whatís your favourite Smiths song and you favourite Smiths album?

I can tell you whatís my least favourite: Golden Lights.  They all have different reasons for being right up there.  Hand In Glove, obviously, because it was our first record.  Thereís not a feeling like in the world.  The belief that you have is then actually something tangible- itís something somebody can actually have a listen to and see whether they like it or not.  That Joke Isnít Funny Anymore is right up there.  Meat Is Murder, How Soon Is Now, This Charming Man. Favourite album is Strangeways Here We Come.

If you fast forward a few years to the court case, it was very high profile and must have been pretty difficult for yourself. What are your strongest memories of that particular time?

The horror of it and the feeling as if I wasnít really there.  It felt like it was happening to somebody else and I was watching it.  It was a really horrible experience.  Morrissey put it very succinctly.  He said it was like watching a car crash.  Thatís exactly what it was like.  I wanted to prove I was right in my beliefs and the judge accepted that I was.

Did you feel confident throughout the case that justice would be done?

You never know.  I wasnít confident that justice would be done, I was just hoping it would be.  I kept asking my legal team all the time: ďWhat are the chances?Ē  They said: ďYou never can tell.  It depends on how everything pans out.Ē  Obviously we had a very strong case because of all the evidence that we had.  I think if they told me they were confident of winning it and if I went in really confident and things hadnít panned out, I would have gone mad at them.  They never do, solicitors.  Even if itís an open and shut case they never tell you youíre going to win in case anything happens.  Iím sure Morrissey and Johnny were told the same.  The last couple of days I started to become quietly confident because the truth started to come out then.  More of the picture started to become a bit clearer.  The things that Iíd said in the past were took by independent witnesses and backed up.  When that started to happen, the judge started to lean towards me.  A couple of Morrisseyís witnesses helped us out quite a lot with the information they gave.  That last night before the actual verdict was probably the worst night of my life.  I canít really explain what it felt like.  My wife had gone home.  It was just me and my solicitor.  We were sat in the bar in London and we just looked at each other.  There was nothing to be said.  It was a really strange feeling.  I went to bed about half-ten.  I looked at my watch and it was quarter-to-five in the morning and I just realised Iíd been staring at the TV.

I suppose your reaction was one of relief and vindication?

Yeah.  It was in December and I was pouring with sweat because the stakes were so high.  I wasnít even celebratory.  I was just glad the whole thing was over.  There was no kind of triumphalism or jumping around with clenched fists.

After The Smiths split up, you toured with The Buzzcocks for a while.  How did that come about?

I got a phone call from the original bass player, a guy called Steve Garvey.  I think heís from Middleton or Prestwich.  This bloke phoned me up and said (adopts American accent): ďHello, is that Mike Joyce?  Hi, itís Steve Garvey here.Ē  I said ďYouíre from Prestwich?!!Ē  He said ďIíve been living out in the states for a while now.Ē  Heíd been out there for seven years and had a completely American accent.  They did a bit of touring and they used John Maher for that tour.  He wanted to leave and they wanted to carry on so they asked me if I fancied it.  The reason I started playing the drums was because of The Buzzcocks so I was ecstatic.  It was a mind-blower.  It was a dream come true.  During the first rehearsal they were asking me if I knew this track or that track and I was like: ďYeah, I know everything youíve ever done.  Iíve got everything youíve ever released!Ē  The great thing about working with The Buzzcocks is not only are they are a great band, theyíre really good people, great people.  It was like playing the soundtrack to your own party.

What was it like being on the road with John Lydon during your time with Public Image Limited after being used to touring with Morrissey?

Their singers, arenít they?  Thatís whatís so great about working with people like that.  These people are singers, they act accordingly and itís great.  Itís entertaining for everybody- not just for the fans but for me as well.  Whether it be in interviews or just their on-stage persona, itís all brilliant.  Itís very interesting to be around them.  Theyíre very charismatic.  Youíre part of it.  Iíve met a few of my heroes and itís great just to be in the same room as them.  To be hanging out with them and going on stage with them was fantastic.  Iíd recommend it to anyone!


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