So, I’m at the Coachella festival out in the Californian desert this weekend and I got to meet and interview one of my all time heroes Johnny Marr. Which was nice. I even got him to talk about my hometown Wood Green, where the Smiths recorded the single ‘Panic’ in 1986. He was a very, very nice chap.
Here’s the interview in full:
London Loves: I don’t normally do this, interviewing my idols…
Johnny: It’s alright. I’m nice.
London Loves: I've been told I can ask two or three questions, so I've gotta pick good ones.Johnny: Ok, I’ll give you good answers then.
London Loves: I’ll start off with a funny one…So, Margaret Thatcher’s dead. D’you reckon she listened to the Smiths?Johnny: Errr….I don’t think she er…. [LAUGHS] I don’t know, she probably likes Barron Knights or someone like that.
London Loves: [Think she listens to] Beethoven…?Johnny: Yeah..probably Beethoven over a Sunday roast
London Loves: …with Denis…Johnny: My thoughts about her dying are that, when you see the word ‘Thatcherism’, nobody can convince me that word is anything other than very, very negative. No matter where you are on the political spectrum. And I thought that David Cameron’s statement that she made Britain great was not only disingenuous but it was a lie and an utter insult to a few generations of families in Wales, the north of England and many places around the UK who have had to deal with the effects of her legacy for thirty odd years. So I thought it was really distasteful that he did that and beyond jingoistic bullshit.
London Loves: I think you’re right, I was born in 1979 the year she was elected so when I was 17 was when Blair got into power, I won’t blow his trumpet now but it was so amazing when New Labour finally got into power in 1997 because my entire life until I was 17 was just Conservative government which is just weird.Johnny: Right. Where was that then?
London Loves: What? Where?Johnny: Yeah, where?
London Loves: Well that was my next question right..I grew up in Wood Green in North London, and I was gonna ask you do you remember…Johnny: That’s where we did ‘Panic’
London Loves: [LAUGHS hugs Johnny] ..so you do remember it?
Johnny: I do remember it yeah.
London Loves: The Livingstone Studios…
Johnny: Were you aware of it at the time?
London Loves: No, I didn’t realise until…I knew it was in the Chocolate Factory, in the Wood Green Cultural Quarter but I didn’t realise until I read that book, Songs That Saved Your Life, which was an amazing book…Johnny: That was a good book yeah, that was the only [Smiths] book that I thought was any good.
London Loves: Yeah, Severed Alliance….I once won that book as a school prize
London Loves: Terrible. But, Wood Green. Do you remember recording Panic there?
Johnny: Yeah, very well yeah. I went to Wood Green as well to record with Billy Bragg when we did Greetings To The New Brunette and the b side of Levi Stubbs ‘Tears’ had this spoken word thing that I played The Four Tops ‘Walk Away Renee’ on and they were both done in Livingstone as well.
London Loves: Was it a good studio?
London Loves: Slough’s worse.Johnny: No you’re only saying that because you’re from Wood Green
London Loves: [LAUGHS] Wood Green’s fucking amazing. There’s a big Turkish community…Johnny: I remember there were some good places to eat there…
London Loves: And you recorded Ask in Finsbury Park which is down the road. I’m an Arsenal fan. That sound in the background on Ask… Ask is my favourite pop song ever recorded. You don’t like it that much do you?Johnny: Not particularly. I’m not crazy about it no.
London Loves: I absolutely adore it. And that chugga-chugga-chugga thing.Johnny: Yeah it’s a harmonica.
London Loves: You playing a harmonica?Johnny: Yeah, I like that bit because it’s just a sonic device that had nothing to do with clever musicianship or being commercial other than one of those… occasionally I get into a hook where it just goes [imitates the chugga-chugga sound] and it’s the same reason why I liked the thing that starts off ‘How Soon Is Now?’
London Loves: You played that SO well [here at Coachella]Johnny: Yeah the band are really good
London Loves: Haven? Yeah I just saw them walk past.Johnny: The rhythm section are great. The guitar player’s this guy called Doviak he’s like this mad scientist genius guy.
London Loves: So you knew him from back then?Johnny: Doviak’s played with me since 2002 and Iwan played with me when I played Patti Smith’s Meltdown and then Jack I produced in Haven.
London Loves: So it feels good doing your solo project?Johnny: Yeah, feels great. Especially as people like it. There’s nothing quite like people liking it to give you a bit of chutzpah.
London Loves: One final question, you know when you were in the Smiths you used to be physically sick from nerves before you went onstage, has that gone?Johnny: Yeah I started to lose that around the end of The The it was just pressure and always being on a 100% hype out. It’s not good for you but now I do so many shows…
London Loves: Yeah you were throwing shapes…Johnny: I never get too complacent before I go because I think about certain people in the audience and I think about them and it’s a fine line between getting yourself psyched up and making sure you sound good. If you’re too hyped out you don’t sound right, I don’t wanna fuck with my tunes.
London Loves: You feel confident now?Johnny: Yeah still get the jitters but nothing like I used to.
And then he was gone. Oh, after I took the photo with him. The man is basically a god.