I first met Alain Whyte when I was labouring under the, mistaken, belief that I was the second coming of Morrissey. It didn’t matter to me that Morrissey wasn’t dead (creatively or physically) I just knew that I was to be His Masters Voice for my generation.
That involved cultivating a quiff, dressing like, moving like and attempting to sing like Morrissey. I gathered a hardy band of similarly delusional people around me and formed a group called “This Years Model”; we thought that was very clever because it meant we would always be in fashion. Seriously. I’m not making this up. I was utterly without talent, had no style, was obnoxious and doomed, thankfully, to failure.
However, before one memorable gig we discovered that we were to play second on the bill to a band called Johnny Panic. Lead singer Ben (Gunstone) introduced himself to us and chatted for a while. When he found out we were all massive Morrissey fans he sighed, paused and then explained that his lead guitarist was a chap called Alain Whyte.
When I regained consciousness and was assured that his wasn’t a lie and that Alain Whyte actually was in the building and would be playing in front of my little eyes I nearly wept.
Guitarist and songwriter with Morrissey since 1991...he was responsible for more of my favourite songs than any other person (yes, even Johnny Marr...my apologies to those who will view this as nothing short of blasphemy) and was a performer I had followed around the country to more gigs than I can even count. After the show, which took place in front of less than a dozen people, Alain chatted with us and, due to the limited budget of the Johnny Panic tour ended up sleeping in my little brothers bedroom alongside Ben Gunstone. Getting up in the morning to find one of your heroes eating cornflakes with your dad at the kitchen table is a good memory to have.
Alain is now a songwriter for a wide range of diverse acts including Will.i.am, Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna, Kid Cudi and his own project “Setting Fires” as well as continuing to provide killer tracks for Morrissey. Living in L.A and happily married now it was great to be able to sit down and ask him some questions about his career, movies and Morrissey.
Given that he has toured the world, played on the same bill as David Bowie, sold out the biggest arenas and worked with some of the biggest names in the business I wondered what moment from his time working with Morrissey really stood out from the rest.
“My time working with Morrissey was very memorable in a lot of ways. I was able to play some amazing venues like Wembley Arena at the end of the “Kill Uncle” tour and the Hollywood Bowl in 1992. I’ve also been to places in the world I would never have been to; Argentina and Chile are particular highlights for me. Recording each of the albums and working with great musicians and producers has been a delight too, when I think back on those times and those people it’s impossible to pick just one highlight.”
For a man who is living in L.A and successfully mixing it with the A list in the music business Alain is remarkably unaffected. He is warm, outgoing, friendly and very funny. He litters his conversation with silly stories, noises and jokes. It’s sometimes difficult to remember that he really has been a part of the rock and roll world for so long, a place that normally leaves people battle scarred both physically and mentally.
Let’s fantasise for a while now and set about making “Alain Whyte: The Movie”. Who would you like to see cast in the lead role and who could ever take on board the part of Morrissey?
“It’s got to be a young Johnny Depp, no? Maybe I’m just biased! He’s an amazing actor though and he can play guitar too so he would be perfect...and he does a mean English accent too. As for someone to play Morrissey...wow, thats a tough one. The person who played him would have to be able to capture his voice and his phrasing, since the way he speaks is so much of his character. Also, not many people look like him so finding someone to play him wouldn’t be easy.”
Music would obviously play a big part in that movie so what would you have playing over the opening and closing credits? Let’s have two of your own songs and then two by other artists.
“I think I would have either “First of the Gang to Die” or “This Means War” from the Setting Fires EP for the opening credits and then “The Edges Are No Longer Parallel” over the closing credits. “The Edges...” is one of my favourite Morrissey tracks and I think it would be a great ending of “Alain Whyte: The Movie”! If I were to choose music by other people then I love “Hollow Man” by The Cult, it’s a proper rocker and it would be a great track to open a movie then I would want either “Mystery Train” by Elvis or “Don’t Come Back Knocking” by Buddy Holly to close it.”
For someone who loves film as much as I do I’m afraid to say that I can’t remember what the first film I ever saw was but I can tell you the first time I saw Alain play live (1991, Caird Hall, Dundee...Kill Uncle tour fact fans) but what about you Al, can you remember the first film you saw at the cinema?
“I was about 14 and I went to see “Bugsy Malone” at a theatre in the West End of London with my dad. It made a huge impression on me. Even now it’s one of my favourite movies. The seventies were such a great time for movies and I can remember going to see classics like “Jaws”, “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease” at the cinema.”
If you were only ever going to be able to see one movie for the rest of your life what would you choose?
“The one film that made the biggest impression on me was “Loving You” from 1957 which was Elvis second movie and was about his rise to the top. It’s easy for people to be critical of the movies Elvis made but in all honesty if it wasn’t for that movie I don’t think I would be in the position I am in now, that’s how much of an inspiration it was to me.”
A quick fire round now Alain...
Which movie would you select for a first date to ensure that the evening ended well?
“Oh man! I’m a married man now...you can’t ask me that! Well, if I wasn’t married...women like a guy who can make them laugh, right? So maybe something like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” which really made me laugh or a light hearted Elvis movie. If those failed then maybe the classic “From Here To Eternity”.
A movie to let the world know you were happy?
“I have to admit that I am a sucker for a really silly comedy and movies like “Caddyshack” or “Dumb and Dumber” . They always make me laugh and put me in a good mood so I would go for one of those.”
A movie to let the world know you are sad?
“I’m a pretty positive character so I would probably try to choose something that was feel good to set me right again. If I had to choose something more downbeat to reflect that sort of mood then maybe something like “Million Dollar Baby” which has such a sad ending.”
What about now Alain? Can you say anything about what’s going on with you?
“At the present I have been working with a team of writers called Free School and we have been doing songs for various pop artists. I’ve also just released the first Setting Fires EP with Mat Devine from Kill Hannah. I’m really pleased with it. It’s available now on iTunes so you should go out and buy it! “
There you have it, a shameless plug for his new project and he’s gone, back to the sunshine or, more likely, back to the studio.
Alain Whyte, there spoke a true friend.