Oamaru police officer by day, rocker by night: meet Jay Morriss. Rebecca Ryan talks to the Machete Betty bass player about his double life, as part of the Oamaru Mail’s New Zealand Music Month series.
Morriss has been working as a frontline police officer in Oamaru, and he loves his job.
He also has a passion for music, playing in local covers bands Machete Betty and The Reveal.
Morriss moved to Oamaru with his wife and four children in 2014, after he graduated from the Royal New Zealand Police College.
“It’s been great, it’s been a fantastic move coming here,” he said.
“It didn’t take long to realise it’s a pretty amazing place, [with] a great art scene and everything we need as a family.
“We love it here.”
Music has always been part of Morriss’ life, and he has been singing and playing bass in covers bands for the past 20 years.
“Dad had a great record collection and singing just came naturally, really,” he said.
“I picked up playing musical instruments at high school – there was a band that wanted a singer, but I didn’t just want to be the singer on stage, I wanted something else to play.
“That’s how that came about.”
After about a year in Oamaru, opportunity knocked for Morriss when he was approached about an opening in local band Rock Bottom.
On the bass and vocals, he joined Megan Mitchell (vocals/keyboard), Sharon Murcott (drums) and Craig Conlan (guitar/vocals) in the band now known as Machete Betty.
“It was an easy job to slip into, because the band already existed – we didn’t have to start from scratch,” he said.
Morriss has also formed another band called The Reveal with Conlan and he enjoys the differences between the two.
“Machete Betty is more of a raucous rock band, whereas The Reveal has a little bit more dynamics to it, and the repertoire is more diverse.”
Morriss, who grew up in Ashburton, joined the police after returning to New Zealand from the UK, where he lived for seven years.
“I had decided over there that I wanted to get into policing – and luckily it’s a job that allows me to still play music as well. “It’s a good way to interact with the community. That’s one aspect of it I enjoy [and] hopefully it goes down somewhat to breaking any barriers that may exist.”
Morriss has a diverse taste in music, but said “it mainly falls into rock”.
“But effectively, anything with a good melody and harmony ticks the boxes,” he said.
“I really enjoy playing with other people. I think music makes more sense when you’re collaborating with others.
“There’s certain aspects about it that you just can’t recreate by yourself and it’s not until you’ve got that meeting of other minds, or other players, that it becomes hopefully something bigger than the people who are taking part.”
For Morriss, part of the appeal of Oamaru and the Waitaki district was its vibrant music scene.
“There are plenty of venues and everyone’s still interested in listening to live music,” he said.
“Having the Penguin Club here to foster new talent and provide a space for bands to play is superb.
“Plus there’s the addition of a number of events throughout the year .. opportunities that arise from the council and other organisations which means there’s always something that bands can do.”