By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Morrissey, England's most dapper downer, isn't quite as depressed as he used to be. In fact, he almost seems to be enjoying what he does these days—thanks, in no small part, to a legion of Latino fans here in the U.S., including the Sweet & Tender Hooligans, a hugely successful Morrissey tribute band based in Los Angeles and fronted by Jose Maldonado. We figured, considering the turmoil in Farmers Branch, maybe DFW could use a little Hispanic Moz.
Sweet & Tender Hooligans formed in 1992. But when did you discover The Smiths and Morrissey?
That must be The Queen Is Dead. I was in a record store, just shopping around for cassettes, and the store had this brand-new album playing over the speakers. It was something I had never, ever heard before in my entire life. It was this unique voice and this amazing guitar, coupled together, playing these amazing songs with these crazy lyrics.
Did you have the experience of most Morrissey followers, who will swear he's changed their lives, or even saved them?
People do tend to speak very dramatically about how Morrissey changed their life, how the Smiths changed their life. I can understand it. For me, personally, I become even more interested in music than I already was. There was somebody singing about feelings of isolation and loneliness and all that crazy stuff. When you're feeling that different...he struck a chord.
Why call yourselves "Sweet & Tender Hooligans"?
I came up with the name because, at the time, I thought, "Hey, we should name ourselves after a Smiths song so everyone knows what school we come from." In retrospect, I wish I had picked a shorter name than that because it never fits on the marquee.
What is it about Morrissey that appeals so much to the Mexican-American experience?
I like the theory that because we're a passionate people and Morrissey is a passionate guy, that's why we gravitate toward him. His lyrics are so melodramatic and over the top about the feeling you're experiencing at that very moment. A lot of Spanish-speaking music is the same way. You could cry a million tears and I would swim through them to get to you, that kind of thing. Then there's the loneliness and isolation feeling that we, as Latinos growing up...Morrissey's experience growing up Irish in Northern England was probably not unlike what Latinos experience.
When did you first realize Morrissey knew who the Sweet & Tender Hooligans were?
In 1999, he opened his tour by saying, "Hello, we're the Sweet & Tender Hooligans." That's when I realized, "Oh my god, he knows who we are." Later, as it turns out, at an autograph session, I was like the 127th person in line and, as soon as he made eye contact with me, he was like, "Oh, there you are." I gave him a look and said something to the effect of, "Oh, you know who I am?" And he said, very jokingly, "Of course I know you. It's as if I was looking in the mirror." Right after that, his words were, "How was the show last week?"
You've stated in the past that Sweet & Tender Hooligans is a hobby, not a livelihood. Yet very few musical artists ever felt the need to acknowledge their tribute bands like Morrissey has. That's pretty impressive for a hobby, don't you think?
It sure beats bowling.