Tuesday

JEREMY MORRIS INTERVIEW

Jeremy Morris's Profile Photo

READY, STEADY, GO!: Jeremy Morris (pictured above) continues to add to his vast and impacting legacy as the current holder of the title of The Hardest Working Man In Show Business with his most recent album with the Lemon Clocks, Songs From Another Time on the Madrid-based Rock Indiana label. Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell talks with Morris about this latest project and other new developments below.

SONGS FOR ALL TIME:
JEREMY MORRIS AND
THE LEMON CLOCKS
PSYCHEDELICIZE THE GOSPEL
By Michael McDowell


Time has been a key component in many a classic recording. From the Dave Brubeck Quartet's landmark Time Out album and the Chambers Brothers' epic Time Has Come Today to the Thyme's cover of the Zombies' Time Of The Season and the Pozo-Seco Singers/Capreez classic, Time, the chronicling of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades and centuries has provided an often invoked frame of reference for the human experience in song.

Ultimately though, as is the case with respect to all art of aesthetic merit, great music is timeless.

Indeed, the expressions of the human experience that are chronicled in the best of such art transcend any such limitations as chronology, geography and the like. That in part accounts for the ongoing impact of the Bible, the timeless truths of which apply as much in the twenty-first century as they did when they were first chronicled more than two millennia ago.

Perhaps no artist is more cognizant of this truth than vocalist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, producer, label owner (JAM Records) and session musician, Jeremy Morris. From his home base in Portage, Michigan, Morris (who also serves as the Senior Pastor at the Foursquare denomination church in his hometown) has, over the past four decades, released more than five dozen albums of primarily original material in a variety of genres.

To that effect, Morris has amassed a catalog rife with releases of original material influenced by first generation garage rock, psychedelia, prog rock, bubblegum and hard rock. More often than not, each of these genres serve as a backdrop for his profession of the Gospel, which he does in a matter of fact manner that is geared to resonate universally with the listener.

"Many times, people have asked me what my musical direction is", said Morris.

"I don't have one! I am usually working on recording five to ten albums all at the same time. Just like a painter setting up a bunch of canvases and working on many paintings all at once".

Most recently, Morris' energies have been focused on the release of the all new album by the Lemon Clocks, a side project done in tandem with fellow multi-instrumentalists Stefan Johannson and Todd Borsch, as well as drummer Ed James. Their latest release, Songs From Another Time features nineteen original compositions that draw primarily from first generation garage rock and psychedelia, with a decided lyrical emphasis on the Gospel.

The prerequisite undercurrent of the British Invasion is also present on some of the tracks, primarily the engaging and straightforward Inspector #65 (a playful re-write of sorts of the Talismen's Hideout label single, Taxman), the Merseybeat undepinnings of Together and the folk rock-tinged Happy Helmut (spelled as such on the album cover and taking its cue from similar variations indigenous to the earlier works of the genre at large, as the subject matter therein refers to a helmet).

Throughout the proceedings, Morris' considerable proficiency as a guitarist is also used for maximum impact in such garage rock-inspired tracks as the (I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone-like Look Out, the jangling Butterfly and the Routers-inspired romp, On My Way. Particularly inspiring is the surf/garage comeback to the Jimi Hendrix Experience's rare lyrical misstep, Third Stone From The Sun, in which Morris decisively retorts, "Today's the day to end all days, say farewell to Purple Haze".

From the standpoint of providing the essential Gospel witness, Songs From Another Time can also be said to wield the proverbial double-edged sword of Hebrews 4:12. Whereas the witnessing aspects should be obvious to the believer (particularly in such cuts as Out Of The Grave), such attributes may not be readily apparent to either the musicologist or rank and file listener. As before, Morris has focused on the creative aspects of the process, leaving it to the Lord to open the hearts and minds of his audience.

"Whenever I write music, it is more a matter of the heart than of the mind", said Morris.

"A pre-planned agenda of reaching certain audiences is not really part of the plan. I like too many styles of music to limit myself that way! We just put the music out and let the word of mouth draw the true believers".

Those true believers are finding increasing common ground with the audiences of several like minded and duly gifted vocalists, composers, producers, arrangers and multi-instrumentalists, all of whom (like Morris) have been recording prolifically since the closing years of the twentieth century. They include Karma Frog Records president and Mod Hippie co-founder Adam Marsland, his Karma Frog label mate and vocalist/composer Rob Martinez, multi-genre visionary Dana Countryman, the staggeringly prolific and highly charismatic Lisa Mychols and the great Kyle Vincent. 

"Jeremy is a talented and very prolific dude", Countryman said recently.

"Five dozen albums? I'll never catch up to that before I turn eighty! Plus, he carries my CDs in his web store, so he can't be all bad - ha!"

Camaraderie and mutual appreciation notwithstanding, Morris hastens to point out that the resultant perfectionism in his own work is borne more of blessings from above than it is from any sort of adherence to a timetable.

"I record in many different genres, and later assemble the albums like you would a jigsaw puzzle", said Morris.

"I release each album as I complete it. But I work free of deadlines and any pressure".

Happily, the ongoing coverage that has been afforded to Morris and his aforementioned colleagues in Blitz Magazine has fostered dialogue between each of them. While there are no specific plans in place at the moment, none of those involved has ruled out some sort of collaboration in the near future (and to that effect, Lisa Mychols has already guested on one of Dana Countryman's recent sessions).

"Yes, I do work on projects with other artists", said Morris.

"Besides the Lemon Clocks, the Jeremy Band and the Jeremy releases, I am working on an album with a band from Madrid, Spain, to be announced. Also, also another band from Liverpool, England".

The connection with Spain has also had a direct impact on the Lemon Clocks' current release. Rather than being issued on Morris' own JAM label (as were the majority of his releases), Songs From Another Time instead appears on the Madrid-based Rock Indiana label, which was founded in 1993. With a mission statement not unlike that of JAM Records, Rock Indiana's roster in recent years has included releases by such like minded artists as the Scruffs, the Chemistry Set, the Breakdowns and the legendary Paul Collins' Beat (whose debut LP for Columbia was the recipient of an award from Blitz Magazine for Best New Album of 1979).

"I licensed the new Lemon Clocks album to them for release", said Morris.

"We have had a good response in Spain, with good radio airplay and good help from the label".

Commensurate with his reputation amongst many as the current holder of The Hardest Working Man In Show Business title, the reception afforded Songs From Another Time appears to be fostering additional opportunities.

"We have been invited by the label to come and tour Spain, which we hope to do later this year", said Morris.

"Rock Indiana is one of Spain's best labels. So it made total sense to put it out there".

To be certain, time has been on Jeremy Morris' side. In turn, abundant blessings from the Lord have enabled him to take his rich and diverse musical mission statement to an ever-increasing and receptive audience. 

"As time goes on, I find that things are expanding more and more", said Morris.

"I find it to be a very healthy environment for creativity. This way, I can do whatever I want musically. That's the advantage of not being bound by another record label. Having your own label means freedom!"

To be sure, it is freedom borne of faith and, in the words of one of the standout tracks from the Songs From Another Time album, Just A Song. Sadly, this Lemon Clocks project became the swan song for the band's bassist Todd Borsch, who passed away on 11 April from a heart attack. He will be missed.