The Gun Club, Part 3 (Patricia Morrison Interview)
Gun Club Bass Guitarist, June 1982 – December 1984
Though she only recorded their third studio album, The Las Vegas Story, with the band, Patricia Morrison will forever be associated with The Gun Club, as much if not more for the female yang and gothic visual impact she brought to the band as for her bass guitar contributions. She’d already been turning heads in her Los Angeles hometown’s punk scene prior to joining The Gun Club as a founding member of The Bags and Legal Weapon. Post-Gun Club, she and Kid Congo Powers had a short-lived project called Fur Bible before she joined The Sisters of Mercy (then operating under the name The Sisterhood) in 1986. She appears, in some capacity at least, on The Sisterhood’s album Gift and Sisters of Mercy’s goth-rock masterpiece, 1987’s Floodland, whose song “Lucretia My Reflection” was written by band leader Andrew Eldritch about Morrison. She left that group as 1989 came to a close. A solo album, Reflect On This, was released in 1994, and in 1996 she joined The Damned, marrying lead singer Dave Vanian a year later. After giving birth to their daughter Emily in 2004, she retired from music.
It was before a Damned show at The Masquerade sometime in the vicinity of the dawn of the 21st century that I met up with Patricia for a discussion of her Gun Club days…
I wanted to start from the beginning, before The Gun Club. You were in The Bags…
“I was in bands before [that], trying to get things together. The Bags was my first real band. It finally ended up with Terry Graham on drums, Rob Ritter on guitars, me on bass, [guitarist] Craig Lee who worked at the L.A Times and just died a couple of years ago of AIDS, and Alice Bag, now a schoolteacher somewhere. Rob Ritter also died a couple of years [ago], too – he ODed. The reason I mention that is because before I was in The Gun Club, I quit The Bags, and when I quit The Bags, Jeffrey took Terry Graham, the drummer, and Rob Ritter, the guitarist [who played bass in The Gun Club]. And there was one show where the person who was supposed to tape it forgot to press the button, where I was playing bass, Terry drums and Rob guitar. So it was Jeffrey and The Bags. That’s how close this whole thing was.
“I started The Bags with Alice. At the beginning we had a guitarist named Geza X, who is now a producer. And the drummer we had, Joe Nanini, ended up in Wall of Voodoo. He was an amazing drummer. I saw his ad in The Recycler and it said, ‘Drummer into The Ramones and Mahavishnu Orchestra.’ That’s where [The Bags] came from, but it kept changing. Some bands are solid, some change monthly. People come and go. But a lot of people came out of that whole thing. People were still figuring out what they wanted to do. I don’t know how long [I lasted in The Bags], maybe three or four years.”
Then you went on to do Legal Weapon for a short period.
“Yeah, I started that with Kat [Arthur]. I just felt like they weren’t going to go anywhere, and they thought they were absolutely fine. You just can’t sit there and think you’re great. And they did, so I left. Then they went on and got a deal [with MCA, for one album in 1988]. I mean, I liked Kat, and all those people I worked with.”
Was it after leaving Legal Weapon that you joined The Gun Club?
“Well, The Gun Club happened by accident. I was always good friends – obviously still – with Terry, the drummer from The Bags, and he had been in Gun Club. He kept saying, ‘You should go for it, Patricia. You should try to be the bass player.’ And I was never that interested in The Gun Club because Jeffrey, everybody knew, was a dickhead. He was really difficult to get along with. He was one of those people that talks at you, like you are not really there. It doesn’t go back and forth. He was just one of those odd people that have an odd personality. I just didn’t want to deal with that. But I heard the tape for Miami and I thought the songs were amazing. So I said, ‘I’ll give it a try.’ So I had three days to learn 30 songs, and one ten-minute rehearsal where Jeffrey was blithering drunk. And then my first show was at the Santa Monica Civic [Auditorium] opening for Sparks [June 26, 1982]. People are out there [in the audience] going, ‘What the hell is this shit?’ After we did the show I said to Jeffrey, ‘So?’ And he said, ‘So what?’ And I asked, ‘Am I in?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, you’re in.’ So I just stuck with it. Until I left, I was the person who was in the longest. There were 15 people that went in and out around me.
“Jeffrey was quite difficult. He would get on your nerves after a while. He was his own worst enemy. That band should have been huge. I sat there and watched as we were offered record deals and he would turn them down, to take less. It was just his personality, but that’s what also made him Jeffrey. The number of times people would come up to me, or anybody in the band, and say, ‘That was great, but get rid of your singer.’ So it was a weird thing.”
Do you remember the first time you met Jeffrey Lee Pierce?
“I was living with a boyfriend in L.A. And this guy wanted to be the bass player when they were still trying to form, before I was in it. They were trying to find somebody, and [he] was going to do it, and I kind of helped him learn the songs, ironically. But he wasn’t able to do it. So Jeffrey was at my house. And I always remember this because he had cooked some beans or something in a pan and when he ate it he scratched my pot with a fork. So the first time I met him, I was like, ‘Who did this to my pot?’ And it was Jeffrey. That was the first time I remember seeing him. But he was president of the Debbie Harry fan club on the West Coast, of course you know that. He used to write – his writings were very good – for Slash magazine. They were very good, very strong, powerful, positive pieces on what he had seen. Very entertaining, colorful, as his lyrics were. He wasn’t someone to rip people apart, that wasn’t what Jeffrey was about. They were good. He was a very good writer. It made you want to go see the person. It made you wonder who is this that wrote this? He went under all kinds of funny names, too.”
That time you said it was you and Terry and Rob from The Bags all in The Gun Club for one show, when was that?
“It was like ’83 at the Whisky in Los Angeles. See, Rob had quit [The Gun Club], so I kind of took over for Rob. And we lived next door to each other, which was also quite weird. But he just couldn’t take Jeffrey. Rob was quite a sensitive person, kind of an odd character in his own right. And he said he just didn’t wanna deal with Jeffrey. But when I got in [the band] we played a few shows and it worked, and we said, ‘Rob, please, please play lead guitar.’ Just ‘cause we thought it would be really good. So he did one show. He was supposed to a tour, [but] that one show, he just left the amp there and said, ‘I can’t do it anymore.’ It was terrible because the drummer’s wife was supposed to tape it, and it was a great show. And she forgot to press the button.”
What was it about Jeffrey that made him so difficult for people to get along with, or couldn’t stand to be in the band?
“Just an odd personality. It is hard to explain unless you’re put through it. You know, some people are more difficult than others. How to explain it? I didn’t not like Jeffrey, but you could talk to some people, quite a few people, who would just go off on tirades about him because he was very… it’s hard to explain. He was a buffoon. I remember watching him try to do a line of drugs, and he blew out and it went everywhere. That sort of thing was very common for Jeffrey to do. My best tale of Jeffrey was, we were in Buffalo, New York, and he decided to buy drugs from somebody… which I might add that all these drugs are what killed him. I am not advocating that in any way. I watched him go downhill until it was painful to watch. But we played Buffalo, at a college or something. And Jeffrey decides to buy some drugs from somebody. So he goes to the van, takes two black guys over to the van, opens up the van – all our stuff is in there – brings out his suitcase, opens his suitcase, takes out a wad of cash, pays the guys for the drugs, puts the wad of cash back in the suitcase, closes the suitcase, puts it in, locks the van and walks away. Now the next thing we hear is somebody comes in screaming, ‘There’s a robbery!’ And they took everything, including all of my wages. We had everything taken. We were supposed to, two days later, be playing in London. We had to get all new passports. This was sort of a Jeffrey thing. That was typical Jeffrey.
“Or the time, going to Australia, he didn’t have a ride to bet to the airport so I gave him my ride. Consequently I was late getting there. And we had to take a connecting flight from L.A. to San Francisco, then on to Australia. We sorted that out, and I made sure we got dinner and everything. But our equipment was late because it had to come on a later flight. To make a long story short, Jeffrey, because I had taken care of him and he was on time, was able to go on the plane. The others, we were standing there waiting for our guitars to come out of the [baggage carousel]. Well, they were saying, ‘Your plane is leaving.’ And Jeffrey said, ‘Just leave ’em.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? We can’t just leave them!’ And he said, ‘I have to go. People are waiting to see me. I am an important man.’ So our equipment finally came out. The other two people in the band turned to me, which was Terry Graham and Jim Duckworth, I think it was, and said, ‘We’re not going, Patricia.’ And Jeffrey had already gone to Australia for the tour. This is actually the first time anyone has every heard this, because up until now we just pretended that it was an accident. But they planned it totally ahead of time, and said ‘We’re not going to go.’ So I said, ‘Well, I want to, because I’ve never been to Australia, so I’m going!’ So they said, ‘OK, fine,’ and hung around with me. Terry had a video camera, and we took videos of us talking about this. I got on the plane and I went. We stopped in Hawaii, and there was a message that came over the [speaker]. ‘Miss Morrison, please come to the thing, there is a message for you.’ And it was the [booking] agent saying, ‘Something weird’s happened here. Terry and Jim’s names aren’t down as on the plane. What’s happened?’ And I said, ‘They’re not coming.’ And the agent… he just couldn’t get it through his head. He was like, ‘What are we going to do?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but I am going to Australia.’ Hahaha! So I went. And there was a band called The Johnnys in Australia. We picked up the guitarist, Spencer P. Jones, and Billy [Pommer], their drummer. We had one soundcheck/rehearsal, totally jetlagged, and played the shows. I mean, that is what he could drive you to. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve put up with it, but I’ve seen him get people to tears.”
He had a very large ego, obviously.
“Yeah, it was in a big, goofy way somehow. I found it hard to take it serious. He would do things like, there would be a photo session and he purposely wouldn’t tell anybody, so he would be the only one ready for it. What’s that about? But it was all those things that did make it work somehow. When we got on stage, it just simply worked.”
How involved were you with writing the music?
“Jeffrey wrote all the stuff. Once he trusted me, I wrote the bass lines. Actually how we would do it is I would go over to his house and we’d do them first. And I’d play along, and he’d give me a vague skeleton of what we were doing. I think he was a wonderful songwriter. I loved doing that. I loved sitting there playing with him. We’d give the songs silly names and everything, before they were really happening. But yeah, I’d write my own bass parts toward the end for all the stuff. But he was the songwriter. He did it, and that’s the way he wanted it. But because the songs were good, fine. It was great.”
Do you think that is why you stuck with the band for so long?
“I think it was simply the personalities. The last lineup that I was in had Kid Congo on guitar and Terry on drums – Terry was back after Dee Pop had been in and out of it. And we all looked at each other one day and said, ‘This is it. This is the perfect Gun Club. This is exactly the way it should be.’ And we made a pact that if anybody quits, it’ll end. And we all said this. Then, I quit. And Kid quit. And they started over again later. And we met up [later], and laughed [about it]. It changed after that. I saw them one time, when it was going downhill, and it made me feel bad, because the new songs Jeffrey had written were very good, but the new band was tired. You could tell it very tired. I hadn’t seen them in years, and they were playing somewhere in the south of London. But Jeffrey, up until the end, was a fabulous songwriter. He really was. And it’s a pity, because most people don’t know about him at all.”
Did you keep in touch with him after you left the band?
“Well, we didn’t, because I joined the Sisters of Mercy, and we just kind of took off, and went all over the place. He did say something very funny once, which pissed off Andrew [Eldritch] to no end, which I thought was brilliant. He said, he just ripped Andrew apart and said, ‘That guy thinks he’s on the edge.’ It was in Sounds of Melody Maker or something. ‘He doesn’t even know where the edge is. And he’d better take care of my Patricia. He stole her from me!’ And all this stuff, just a typical Jeffrey rant. Which made me smile, I gotta admit. I mean, I never hated Jeffrey or anything like that. A lot of the guys did. It affected them a bit differently. But somehow, I don’t know, I was always myself. I didn’t need Jeffrey to be who I was, or something.”
Were you ever involved with him romantically?
“No, never. And when Jeffrey had a girlfriend, he treated her like gold. He really couldn’t have been better. And usually, they [eventually] didn’t wanna be with him, or they’d had enough or whatever. Except for [later era Gun Club member] Romi [Mori], who took my place playing bass. They were together for a long time. But at the end, she couldn’t take it either. He turned abusive. I saw her, actually, just before I came here. I hadn’t seen her in years. And I was quite surprised to hear that. That’s so not Jeffrey. That’s how messed up his mind must’ve been, because he was the most non-violent person you could possibly meet. But I hadn’t seen him, really… One time I was rehearsing with my solo band I had, so it was about six years ago, and he was in the same rehearsal area. It was the first time I saw him, and I was like, ‘Jeffrey!’ And he didn’t seem that happy to see me. And he said he was very ill, and he’d been to Vietnam. But I think his body was giving out, more than anything. He didn’t look very well.”
How bad was he into drugs? You said that was what killed him.
“Well, the alcohol more than anything. Jeffrey just drank too much. Other people, you’d drink and then you’d stop. Jeffrey just kind of didn’t [stop]. And the last few times I had seen him, he was drinking way too much. It was just as simple as that. He just should’ve pulled back, and he never did, for whatever reason. I think part of him thought he had to do it to write, too. Because that’s what other people did. That’s what I mean by goofy. There were parts of Jeffrey that were like that.”
He subscribed to that whole romanticized Bukowski manner of writing?
“That was a big thing, right there. You hit the nail on the head, yeah. Bukowski, and Burroughs. We met William Burroughs. Well, I didn’t, but Jeffrey met Burroughs in Lawrence, Kansas one time when we played there. He went to his house… and I believe was drunk as usual. But he always told the story that William Burroughs’ cat fell down a ravine. And of course down the years, it became this huge, you know, ‘rushing river gorge.’ I think it was a ditch! Hahaha! This kitten went down there, and Jeffrey brought it back for him. But he was thrilled to death when he met him. That really was somebody that he admired.”
What ultimately led you to leaving The Gun Club?
“I left The Gun Club because I knew that Jeffrey was always going to be his worst enemy, and it was never going to get anywhere. Which it never did. Which is a real pity. And I felt I wanted a bit more out of my life than fighting against somebody who’s gonna do that. So I quit with Kid Congo and we started our own band [Fur Bible]. We put out one thing [a 3-song 12” single in 1985] that Jim Foetus produced, which I thought was diabolically bad! But Kid thought it was the best thing in the world! And then we split up shortly thereafter, and then I joined the Sisters… I love Kid, it just wasn’t working. Actually, Andrew Eldritch said the best thing when he heard [the Fur Bible record], he goes, ‘Patricia, it’s not bad. It’s too weird to be bad.’ Hahaha! Then I was with Sisters of Mercy for four or five years. We were in the studio for 18 months [making 1987’s Floodland]! I mean, yes, the record sounds very, very good… but it better!”
What do you remember most about your time with Sisters of Mercy? Good, bad or otherwise.
“… Well, at the end of it all, Andrew turned to me and said I was shit, I was no good and I was worth nothing to him. He fired me and I got no money. So it ended up in a very large lawsuit, which, the [outcome] of that lawsuit was I got paid back a bit of the money, but he made me sign a gag order, so I’m not allowed to talk about that time. He’s scared. I don’t know what he’s scared of. I mean, he can say whatever he wants about me. But, yeah… I mean, all I can say is, I’ve got great home movies – the videos.”
Then you did your own band for a while. There was the album, Reflect on This.
“It wasn’t released in America, it was just a German release. And I toured eastern Europe. I went on about a three-month tour. And then I came back, and broke the band up. The drummer was wonderful, [but] the others didn’t really rise to the occasion of doing a tour. Once again, I think something has to improve. An example with [this lineup of ] The Damned: we started out, we played Japan, and it was abysmal. And now it’s getting… To me, you always have to improve when you’re playing anything. Because if you’re not excited, it doesn’t work. And these people [in my solo band], they felt if we had an encore it meant they could fuck as many girls as they want. So they were doing really good, but they played like shit. So I fired them, and then The Damned asked me to do this. So, that record, I’m not very happy with it, my solo record, but the record company still wants me to put out a new one, and I have all the stuff written, but I desperately want to get the right producer this time so it doesn’t sound the way it did. It amazes me when people bring a copy up for me to sign. ‘Where’d you get that?’”
It seems like there was a long gap between your time in Sisters of Mercy and that record.
“Well, because of the lawsuit. Nightmare. Couldn’t do anything for years because I was tied up with that crap. I mean, I’m quite pleased that I’m doing this with The Damned [now] and enjoying it, because there was a time there when I felt just like everything’s over. It really wears you down, that sort of thing. But I had to do it. I would have been one of those bitter people, pinning somebody against the wall complaining about someone, if I hadn’t stood up for myself. He just didn’t believe I would do it, and I did it.”
If you weren’t playing music, what were you doing during that time period? How did you make a living?
“It was very difficult, actually. It was very, very difficult. I bought a motorcycle and I was a motorcycle courier. Yeah, that’s what I did around London. And I made more money than when I was with Sisters of Mercy, hahaha! And then how I lost that, I got up one day and my motorcycle was stolen! So I lost my job, but that was toward the end, so I didn’t worry too much about it.”
And before joining The Damned, you knew them…
“Yes, I knew them for many years. But Captain [Sensible] suggested [I join]. I didn’t know what it would be like. I mean, I’m a huge Damned fan, and it actually seems very strange for me to see a girl in The Damned, for one thing. And I’m not supposed to say that, because you’re not supposed to think that way, but I did. But I said to Captain and Dave, ‘If it doesn’t work out after a couple shows, just replace me. Get somebody else.’ But it’s worked.”
Any last things you’d like to add about The Gun Club?
“It’s a pity that it’s not as recognized, as I said, for what Jeffrey did. There’s all kinds of things that came out of it, and sometimes Jeffrey’s just completely forgotten. Which is pretty rotten, the way I look at it. When he died – I was two days late for his funeral, I had to take a trip to Los Angeles – but Kid went, he came out from New York, and a few other people. But I mean, it was just not an event. It wasn’t the write-ups and things that people get. And I’ve got papers that, when we played in England in the ‘80s, where it lists the best live acts, and The Gun Club were at the top of those lists for years. It’s weird how things can be forgotten.”
At least in their later years, after you left, it seemed like The Gun Club were a lot more popular in Europe.
“Well, when I was in it, too. We were hated in L.A., and that was because they knew Jeffrey, frankly. We would get more grief from people… Like, ‘Well, book us anyway!’ But, the States, we did well. But Europe was huge, France and all that. So after I left, I assume it would have continued on that way. But business just wasn’t done properly. Like I said, the whole thing should’ve been a lot more… but it was Jeffrey. He couldn’t deal with it. I saw the treatment for the video that [Animal Records] wanted for something off of Las Vegas Story, it had a voodoo [theme] and it was going through these trees, and it looked quite cool, the treatment that they came up with… and Jeffrey turned it down, and he actually made his own video, with him and his girlfriend in a hotel room, which was [Texacala Jones] from Tex and the Horseheads, and I actually never saw it but the record company saw it and threw it straight in the trash. It was never seen again. But you know what I mean? He wouldn’t do the proper one – he would do this thing that was so bad… I don’t know, it must’ve been bad. You think somebody would’ve held on to a copy. It was never spoken of again.” [Morrison must be thinking of the video for “The House on Highland Avenue” from the Death Party EP, a very poor-quality version of which has been posted on YouTube; one could certainly see the footage being used for a ‘Moonlight Motel’ video also, however.]
What do remember about the recording of The Las Vegas Story?
“It was very quick. Two weeks. The only thing I would say is that, before we went in to [record it], we had been playing the songs on tour, so… we knew what we were doing and everything. But we went to do a few rehearsals, and he had a bit of an ego trip and he decided to change all the bass parts at the last minute. And he changed them to weird things. But the producer (Jeff Eyrich), who came to rehearsal, said, ‘Great, but what’s happened to the bass parts?’ And, you know, Jeffrey tried to pretend like he wasn’t listening, and I said, ‘Well, Jeffrey changed ‘em all.’ He said, ‘Well, change ‘em back, for God’s sake!’ Hahaha! So he put ‘em all back. I don’t know, it was just sort of an ego thing. I have no idea. But we went in and we did everything in one or two takes on that album. And it was a bit hard sometimes with Jeffrey’s voice, because he wasn’t always in key, but it worked. It was fine that he wasn’t. A lot of people aren’t. But why don’t we do backing vocals on it. We had Andy Williams, you know, his [nephews, Andrew and David], the Williams Brothers, they sang on Las Vegas Story, and we had to find the pitch to make it work on ‘My Man’s Gone Now’ and everything. But it works. That sort of thing never bothered me. But it was very quick and very easy.”
How would you stack it up compared to the other Gun Club albums?
“I don’t actually know that much about the ones after I was in it, to be honest, but whenever I hear something [from them], I think it was good, and when I saw them live that time, he played some good songs that I didn’t know what they were, so they were obviously from one of those records. I think all three of the [first Gun Club] records are very good records. They had great songs on them. I look back and I still say I’m very proud to have been in that band.”