'He can't destroy history': Johnny Marr on veganism, Man City and Morrissey's legacy

Last modified: 12: 39 PM GMT+0

The former Smiths guitarist answered questions on his golden days, life as a clean-eating rock star and why he ‘draws the line’ at Kanye West

That’s all, folks

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

I'm off now. Thanks to everybody who's sent in questions and hard luck to all you curmudgeonly bastards below the line. See you down the road somewhere.

Ellie Arnold Pole asks:

How did you come up with your sensational hairdo?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

Haircuts have always been important to bands. David Bowie, Siouxsie, Arctic Monkeys, Duran Duran, Kate Bush, Karen O, Chrissie Hynde. I've always been inspired by the girls as much as boys. Chopping it, colouring it, growing it, whatever it takes. It's one of the best bits of being in a band. Watch this space...

BradGoodman asks:

The outro on Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others is fantastic and those little harmonics still make me tingle every time I hear it. What do you consider the best guitar work you’ve ever done – Smiths and post-Smiths?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

Nice. That is a good outro. Best guitar work I've ever done - How Soon Is Now. Dogs of Lust, The The. Fly Trapped in the Jam and Dashboard, Modest Mouse. Cheat on Me, the Cribs. Half a Person, the Smiths. The Messenger. Luckily there's a lot I like.

'Performing with the Last Shadow Puppets was really poignant for me'

Klaara asks:

You played with The Last Shadow Puppets in 2016 in London and Manchester, can you tell us what’s the story behind that? and on the subject of Alex Turner – what do you think of the new Arctic Monkeys record?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

Okay - this is what happened. When I was writing my autobiography and I got to the part where the Smiths were about to break up, I was writing about Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me as not only does it remind me of that time but it's my favourite Smiths song. I got a call from Alex inviting me to play with the Shadow Puppets and asked if I minded playing a Smiths song. For some reason I assumed they wanted to play Last Night... or something like that. I was in a very weird headspace as I was writing about the breakup - a bit frazzled, slightly burnt out and strangely emotional. Then I got a message that they wanted to play Last Night... We played it in Manchester first and I'd forgotten that the Smiths had never played it live. It was a nice moment and went off okay but when we played it again at Alexandra Palace, and opened the show with it, confetti was raining down on everybody from the ceiling and it was a really poignant moment for me. There's a good recording of it on YouTube, it was just another one of those weird things that happens in life sometimes. I love the new Arctic Monkeys record - it's very self-aware and feels like another chapter in an ongoing long story.

Which records in your collection are you most embarrassed by?

blibbka asks:

Which records in your collection are you most embarrassed by? Any particularly guilty pleasures?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

I don't believe in guilty pleasures. Where do you draw the line? Disco? I'll always like disco. But watch out... I love John Coltrane. McCoy Tyner. And yes, it is jazz. I draw the line at Kanye West though.

McCoy Tyner.
McCoy Tyner. Photograph: David Redfern/Redferns via Getty Images

Updated

NormanF66 3d ago01

How do you feel about the way Manchester Inc is putting Happy Mondays, New Order and the Smiths on coasters and mouse mats? Do you get royalties from each tea towel sold?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

It's so naff. Most people think it's a joke. They've got it very wrong - and no, we don't see any royalties.

What happened to Manchester's music scene?

Laurence Bury asks:

How did Manchester manage to maintain such a distinctive and internationally celebrated music scene over 15 years (to the early 90s) and what has (not) happened since?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

There's a big cultural explanation for the creativity in Manchester that goes back to the Industrial Revolution and the arrival of the Irish community, the Jewish community and the West Indian community, amongst others. All of these people set out their own entertainment culture. Manchester had more clubs per capita than any other city in Europe during the 1960s, which made it a very vibrant live scene during the beat boom and early pop years. All the important artists played there all the time and in turn inspired a generation of up and coming musicians and thinkers and radicals - not only in the city centre but which spread out to the suburbs too. So when the punk scene exploded, there was a strong culture of musicians and radicals ready to go. When I was growing up, Buzzcocks were a very big band and having them around and so successful was a big sign to me that it could be done. So the Fall, the Smiths, Joy Division and New Order - the whole Factory scene - was a result of all of this. The Mondays, Stone Roses followed on from us and Oasis and Doves followed on from that. It has its own scene now and is still vibrant and a big music town - but the next big thing, and the next big scene, isn't really happening in any major city in the UK, or the USA for that matter.

PeterRossJourno asks:

You’ve talked about recording the new album in an industrial space with a view of the Pennines. I wondered about the extent to which you think landscape and cityscape seeps into the music you write? Is it possible to hear Manchester and the north in your guitar sound?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

I do think that environment affects your work and mindset and emotions. In my case, I became aware of this quite early on, for instance when we did Hand in Glove, I thought it sounded like our immediate world outside - and still does. The Messenger was recorded partly in Berlin for that reason and for Playland, I decamped to London for the same reason. Call the Comet's been made in the top floor of an old factory on the outskirts of Manchester, which has directly informed the sound of some of the songs. You'll be able to hear for yourself tomorrow - songs like Actor Attractor, New Dominions, My Eternal all feel and sound to me like my view from the factory and I wanna do more of it.

barciad asks:

Who do you think was the best British guitarist of the 1990s?
Squire? Butler? Coxon? Greenwood?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

It's not really a contest, is it? I like Graham Coxon for one thing and Bernard Butler for something else entirely.

blibbka asks:

What is your favourite guitar chord?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

'Tips for aspiring musicians? Do not bunk off to the pub'

Holliroddi asks:

Any tips for aspiring musicians?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

Don't listen to anyone who says you can't do it. Trying to be great is the best reason to want to do it. Do not bunk off to the pub. Learning everything you can about the history of other musicians is a help. From what I know, anyone who was innovative in any of the arts was an expert.

NaomiSundial asks:

What is your favourite film soundtrack?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

Once Upon a Time in America, Morricone. It's powerful and evocative, has all the classic Morricone motifs and eccentricity, and I can listen to it without needing to see the film. Still stands up.

america

Updated

Is Morrissey in danger of destroying all that was good about the Smiths?

Commenter asks:

Is Morrissey in danger of destroying all that was good about the Smiths?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

You can't really destroy history, can you?

Updated

VerulamiumParkRanger asks:

Have you seen Mark Gill’s film England is Mine? And did Laurie Kynaston’s portrayal of you bring back memories of those magical early days?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

I haven't seen it. I thought I might but I kept forgetting to see it. I felt bad that I hadn't seen Laurie Kynaston's version of me because I've been told he's a good guy and did a good job. I heard the film wasn't that good though.

England is Mine
England is Mine Photograph: Essoldo Pictures

Updated

eoghanmcgale asks:

As a 16-year-old, it is clear that the Smiths are just as popular among teenagers nowadays as they were 30 years ago. When writing your songs, were you aware that they were timeless?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

No, I wasn't aware that they were timeless but in all truth I was hoping they would be. I wouldn't have expected it to turn out that way and it's weird that it has. I think when you're writing a song you just want it to either feel right or be impressive and that's plenty to be going for. All the other big stuff is too much to think about and certainly something you can't engineer. Otherwise you'd be doing it all the time and if you could, there's something that doesn't seem right about that anyway. Writing songs is about hopeful inspiration, craft, work, joy and plenty of mystery. I love all of that.

ID6106899 asks:

Who was your guitar hero growing up? Are there any young guitarists in bands now who impress you?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

My favourite guitarist is Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I know they've been around a while but I like everything Nick does. There's plenty of bands around with good guitar players including my son and his band, Man Made, and if people wanna make something of that, fuck 'em.

ID6595890 asks:

Loved your book – a warm, funny telling of an extraordinary life. But did Shelley Rohde know about your “interest” in the works of LS Lowry when you moved in at 17?!! Did she ever find out, how did that conversation go?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

Indeed! My new landlady was absolutely not aware of my recent interest in LS Lowry. I was reminded of the episode every single morning I walked down the stairs as she had a huge poster of her book cover on the wall. It was quite weird and I did take it as a sober reminder of a bit of luck. It is weird how these things turn out.

Watered asks:

As a man with a conscience, do you regret the source of the income for Man City or can you forgive it in return for long-awaited success?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

I don't feel like there's anything to forgive. If any fans deserve a turnaround it's Man City fans. The club feels like a good place to be and a good place to go but we'll have to see how things pan out. There's plenty of jealousy around too. Happy days...

Thatonethere asks:

Who do you consider to be relevant these days?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

I don't mean to be weird but I always bristle a bit when I think of the term "relevant". There seems something pompous about it. I think anyone's allowed to do anything they want and if it clicks with people that's fine. Music should be above judgement. There is good and bad but relevant to who? And who sets the rules? I like Goat Girl though, Courtney Barnett, some old stuff too.

Goat Girl
Goat Girl Photograph: Andrew Benge/Redferns

Which three albums would you take to Mars?

Legs O’Hagan asks:

When we have to get on the spaceship to go and live on Mars and you’re only allowed to take three albums – which will you take?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

Raw Power - Iggy and the Stooges; VU - Velvet Underground; Big Hits (High Tides and Green Grass) - the Rolling Stones.

srdjan_uk asks:

What is your secret?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

I wish I had one. After all these years of blah blah blah and why why why etc, I think it would be quite nice to have a secret. Maybe I don't need one. I might work on that.

Darren Henderson asks:

Which period of your career are you most proud of?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

Early days and now, for real... for many reasons. But new things feel better in new times and if it's going down great then I'm gonna enjoy it and why not.

Updated

JimmyCascade asks:

What is your favourite Beatles album?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

Klaara asks:

How is it being a vegan rock star? What do you eat on tour?

User avatar for johnnymarr2018 Guardian contributor

It's excellent, occasionally challenging - can be frustrating - but worth it. Basic is fine for me sometimes - big salads, big tofu, brown rice, exciting sauces and dressings. Nothing wrong with skinny fries. I think veganism is sweeping the culture now for all different kinds of reasons - some commercial, but that's okay. It won't be entirely mainstream but completely widespread very, very soon. Each to his own but it's a good thing.

Johnny is with us

…and ready to answer your questions!

Johnny Marr for a webchat

Post your questions for Johnny Marr

The word “jangling” is now commonly used to describe a certain kind of indie guitar band, but it would never have come about without Johnny Marr. The lines he laid down with the Smiths – dextrous, melancholy and ringing with energy – are some of the most admired in all music, but his career has continued way beyond that band’s 1987 demise.

As well as a series of solo records – the latest of which, Call the Comet, is out on Friday – he has cropped up on a hugely varied number of records and tours, from Bryan Ferry to the Pet Shop Boys, Modest Mouse, Girls Aloud, and the Hans Zimmer soundtracks to Inception and The Amazing Spider-Man II. More recently, there was a spoken-word album made with Maxine Peake that addresses homelessness, and his memoir, Set the Boy Free.

He will answer your questions on anything from across his life and career in a live webchat from 12.30pm BST on Thursday 14 June – post them in the comments below.

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Johnny Marr review – Manchester rock royalty wrests legacy back from Morrissey
Marr plays Smiths showstoppers, spliced with songs from new album Call the Comet, and is unafraid to tackle Morrissey’s vocal pirouettes

Mark Beaumont

17, May, 2018 @12:42 PM

Article image
Johnny Marr – review

The dapper 49-year-old doesn't stint on the Smiths numbers, but his light, attractive voice is better suited to his new album – aired in full tonight, writes Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

15, Mar, 2013 @5:33 PM

Article image
Johnny Marr unveils details of autobiography, Set the Boy Free
‘I wanted to convey a feeling of breaking free, that has been a constant throughout my life,’ the former Smiths guitarist says

Harriet Gibsone

21, Apr, 2016 @2:08 PM

Article image
Johnny Marr scotches Smiths reunion rumours: 'Nigel Farage on guitar'
Marr alluded to his political differences with Morrissey, after a fan asked about rumours of a 2020 tour spread by ‘a trusted source’

Laura Snapes

07, Nov, 2019 @12:03 PM

Article image
Ian Brown and Johnny Marr to record music for TV series

Tired of being pestered by Stone Roses/Smiths reunion rumours, the pair are to form a Mancunian soundtrack supergroup instead

Sean Michaels

30, Sep, 2009 @8:40 AM

Article image
Johnny Marr on the Smiths, Morrissey and putting politics back in pop

With the release of his first solo album The Messenger, the former Smiths guitarist talks to Dave Simpson about finally embracing his old sound, David Cameron and why he and Morrissey don't talk any more

Dave Simpson

11, Jan, 2013 @7:00 AM

Article image
Johnny Marr: The Messenger – review

Johnny Marr's second solo album is like a whistlestop tour through his musical career – and will be loved all the better for that, writes Michael Hann

Michael Hann

24, Feb, 2013 @12:04 AM

Johnny Marr: The Messenger – review

The guitar legend's first solo album proper edges back towards the vintage jangly sounds – but you can't help imagining it with a certain singer, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

21, Feb, 2013 @10:35 PM

Meet Tw1tterband, and their fan Johnny Marr

The brainchild of one unemployed Twitter devotee is a world first – a band whose members have never even met

Chris Salmon

02, Mar, 2011 @3:23 PM

Professor Johnny Marr: Salford, here I come

The Smiths and Modest Mouse guitarist to teach composition and performance of popular music at university.

Paul MacInnes

18, Oct, 2007 @11:49 AM