How we met: Mark Morriss & Matt Berry - 'the most challenging thing about Matt is how difficult he is to say no to'


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The Independent Online

Mark Morriss, 42

Formerly the lead singer of indie-rockers the Bluetones, who enjoyed considerable Britpop-era success, Morriss (left in picture) joined Matt Berry's touring band the Maypoles in 2012 and is now a solo, folk-tinged singer-songwriter. He lives in Kent

I'd only previously seen Matt in these macabre shows, such as [Channel 4's] Garth Marenghi's Darkplace and [BBC3's] Snuff Box, when I bumped into him at a small theatre called the Hen & Chickens [in north London], where we were both seeing a mutual friend doing live sketch comedy. I wanted to tell him I was a fan of his stuff, so I introduced myself and, lo and behold, he recognised me too, and the evening became a mutual appreciation society.

A few weeks later I got a call from him out of the blue, asking me to come in and do a slot on his Absolute Radio show, as a guest had let him down. I did a little acoustic session, and after that we began to socialise.

There's a misconception about Matt that because he's drawn to the dark side of human nature and cast as uncaring characters that he's misanthropic. As a comic actor, playing someone like Douglas Reynholm in The IT Crowd or Steven Toast [in the Channel 4 sitcom Toast of London] is gold, but in reality he's the easiest-going person I've met.

I knew he'd composed music for Snuff Box, and released an album, Opium, which I had, and I now see him as more of a musician. We did a charity gig together and had so much fun that we decided to put together a little acoustic tour as the Swedish Twins. We hung out a lot over two months, did some shows with a bit of his material and a few things I'd composed.

After the break-up of the Bluetones in 2012, he knew I was going to be more available, so he asked me to join his touring band, the Maypoles, as rhythm guitarist. I adore playing with them. It's a joyous release now that I'm not the focal point; I can happily groove away in the shadows. He's also appeared on my new album doing backing vocals on two songs, which I'm delighted about.

I think my role in our friendship is as the slightly more sensible older brother: Matt's a free spirit while I'm a little bit more reserved. When I go out to a bar, he coaxes me out of my shell, while I can help rein him in. He's got the constitution of an ox, though; when we're out drinking, I'm always the one who has to leave him in a club. And if I've stayed over at his, when I finally get up, he's already showered, had a fry-up and is ready to go again.

In the nicest possible way, I think the most challenging thing about him is how difficult he is to say no to, because he's so persuasive: he actually takes my "no" as the first line of negotiation. Many times I've been at his house hanging out for the evening but looking to catch the last train home. Then he'll put a hand on my shoulder and say, "You aren't going anywhere, son…"

Matt Berry, 39

Berry made his name in cult comedy series 'Garth Marenghi's Darkplace', in 2004. The actor has since appeared in shows from 'The Mighty Boosh' to 'Toast of London' . He has also released four albums. He lives in London

I'd been a huge fan of the Bluetones at university, and I absolutely loved "Slight Return", the single from their first album. About four years ago, we both went to see a mutual friend perform at a comedy gig and I casually said hi; within a minute he'd told me how he'd seen everything I'd done – and seemed to know more about comedy than I did. I liked him straight away, as he was very direct and personable

I asked him to come on my radio show, and he performed "Slight Return" in the studio. I told him I had an album I'd just done and I played it to him, and he seemed to be into it.

As we got on, we started hanging out, and we agreed to go to this charity session gig at the Groucho Club: Mark sung one of my songs and I sang the backing vocals, and then I sang "Slight Return" while he did backing vocals; I felt like a fan on stage with him and it was a huge thrill. And afterwards, we decided to do some stuff together.

Mark had loads of demos for a new solo album, while I had demos for my latest album, so we decided to tour together for two months. I'd not done the whole troubadour thing before – two acoustics, no equipment or support; we had a lot of fun, and Mark really came into his own. There'd be some promoter fobbing us off or not having our cash, and though Mark's this little chap, he'd square up and tell him, "Show me the money now, or we aren't going to play!" I learnt a lot from that.

I think a lot of frontmen for rock bands are bellends, but Mark couldn't be less rock'n'roll. He even folds his clothes while staying in a Travelodge; he's the neatest man in pop. And on nights out he's always very careful. We'd go out to a club and I'd tell him, "We're not going to die from a good night out." But I need that caution from him: you can't have everyone acting like an animal; if both of us had my attitude we'd never get anywhere on time.

The Bluetones were one of those rare instances of a band that never fell apart or fell out; they're all still great mates. But unless you're the Rolling Stones, and you can afford to gig for a month and earn enough for the rest of the year, you can't do it forever, so they amicably split. Mark always said to me that he'd love to go on tour without having to be the soul of the thing, so he joined our band. It's great to have a good mate around, and an extra ear, as I tend to do things on my own creatively – he's now one of the few I let see what I've been doing [before it's finished].

Berry and Morriss will be touring with the Maypoles from 4 April. For details: Morriss's new solo album, 'A Flash of Darkness', is out on 24 February (