Exclusive Johnny Marr Interview

Posted on Tuesday 6th October 2015 19:30 by FreckFest

There’s a popular wisdom that you should never meet your heroes, but when Johnny Marr gives you a call, you answer. Driving home from rehearsals in Manchester, he’s easy-going and funny, and a real motormouth. What follows is just a tiny snippet of our chat.

Craig McAllister. Tell me about the last couple of years. It seems to me that it's been quite full-on and intensive - two albums (The Messenger and Playland) written, recorded and released a year apart and toured around the world and back again. This is the sort of behaviour I'd expect from a band with it all to prove, not from someone who's made his mark in the world and who, by now, should be sitting back admiring his body of work from the comfort of an easy chair.


Johnny Marr. I'll take that as a compliment. I really enjoy my work. It's what I do and I'm good at it. It's actually been 10 years of non-stop action! I joined Modest Mouse in 2005, just in time to record the We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank album. That album really took off in the US and we toured there for a few years. It was pretty great, playing in a band again. Then, as fate would have it, Modest Mouse decided to take a break from touring and at the same time, The Cribs asked me to join as a guitar player. Without so much as a pause, it was back to being full-on and intense all over again. But I like that. I'm not into taking a year off.


Over my time in The Cribs I collected lots of ideas for songs. My travels informed what I was writing about, and as I wrote I had a specific sound in my head for a group that could play them. It was important to me that the band I put together should operate like the best bands; we should live in the same city and we should all be friends. I'm lucky that my best mates also happen to be the bass player, the guitar player and the drummer in my band.


The Messenger was released in 2013 and was really well-received. This gave me the encouragement to keep going, and I got on a bit of a roll. The songs that ended up on Playland the following year were very much a narrative for city life. I've always seen the two albums as a pair. Playland was my 'difficult second album', but I think I pulled it off. It sounds vital and NOW!

CM. And now, following the double whammy of the two LPs, you have a tour that will see the Messenger/Playland era come to a close and immortalised for posterity in your first live album, the aptly-named Adrenalin Baby (due for release in November).


JM. Yeah. The live album. I'm really proud of it. It's a really good document of the time. I've kept it to one CD (although it'll be a double LP) as it's short 'n sweet and doesn't outstay its welcome. It's a good representation of the live set. Hopefully, people who come to the shows will enjoy it as a reminder of what the shows were like, and those who never made the shows will get an idea of what the live set is all about. I wanted it to sit alongside my favourite live LPs, albums like Bowie's 'Stage' and Iggy Pop's 'TV Eye'.


I remark that my favourite live album is The Ramones' 'It's Alive' and we have a long chat about the merits of it.


JM. Oh yeah! The energy on that is amazing. D'you know, I stole my copy! I wasn't sure I was going to like it, so I 'borrowed' it from the local newsagent and never gave it back. It's a brilliant album, isn't it? Like all the best live albums it has volume and energy. Hopefully, people will get that from Adrenalin Baby.


Adrenalin Baby is a good potted version of Johnny's current setlist - half a dozen or so tracks from The Messenger/Playland era, a cherry picking of the Smiths tracks he plays live, Electronic's perennial Getting Away With It and a garage band ramalama run through of I Fought The Law. It's Alive indeed.


Looking at the tracklisting of the album and scrutinising the playlists from the recent tours, it's clear that Johnny holds his back catalogue dear to his heart. I was given the strict brief from his management to keep the chat to his current projects, but during our conversation he regularly referred back to his time in The Smiths – “When I wrote Bigmouth Strikes Again…”, “Meat Is Murder was a pretty good 2nd album, wasn’t it?”, “Y’know, The Smiths really blew me away! I’m defined by them and I can quite happily live with that.” Given the time, he would’ve talked all night.


Johnny has promised “my usual high octane, celebratory mass and communion” when he comes to Kilmarnock . Amazingly, a handful of tickets remain for the show. You should probably get one before they’re all gone.

The full version of this interview is over at www.plainorpan.com  Well worth a read!

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