Johnny Marr — Smiths guitarist, Modest Mouse producer and more — released his solo debut early this year. After touring the album around the world, he hits the House of Blues Anaheim next week. In the print issue, we spoke to Marr about the Smiths, being a good frontman and what he's been up to the past two decades. Here's the rest of what we talked about.
On Universal suing the creator of This Charming Charlie, a comic strip on Tumblr that switches out original dialogue from Peanuts comic strips with lyrics from songs by the Smiths, ostensibly on Marr's behalf
“I haven't seen the site, so I don't have a problem with something I haven't seen. I was told there was some legal issue, that they needed permission and they hadn't asked for permission I grew up in the UK in the late '70s so Charlie Brown doesn't mean much to me, so I don't care either way.”
On being part of the Smiths vs. Modest Mouse:
“The Smiths were such an important part my life; I was so young [he was 20 when they released their eponymous debut] and my life changed from being a poor, frustrated musician to being in a big band as a pop star in a group that was so loved and inspired others because it was such a success. It was such a big part of my life and I'm often reminded of it. And that's a great thing.
“But being in Modest Mouse was an amazing time in my life. I was in a band of Americans, an English guy in an American band. It was particularly creative group of people with an amazing chemistry and I wouldn't be able to say that if the evidence wasn't there on the record (2007's We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. If you listen to the album we made, it was a really good record. It was a document of great chemistry.”
On the Manchester sound:
“The underlying idea of The Messenger is my experience of living in Britain.”When you're away from your home city, you're more compelled to write about it, whether that's because you're homesick or you've got more objectivity, I don't know. Growing up in the city influences you, and as I've grown older I've continued to see beauty, energy and stories in it.
“The simple reason behind going back to the UK to record The Messenger is that it's a good place with a good vibe. I didn't want the record to be too mellow. And my studio is there; I wanted the record to have a European vibe. I went back there not because I'm nostalgic or sentimental, but I went back there because the things that influenced me that I wanted to be part of this record happened there. So it was more like a notion, not just about pulling something out of the Manchester skyline. My musical roots grew from there, whether it was The Sound of the Underground or the Buzzcocks or Siouxie and the Banshees, who are actually from Manchester.
“But now I think I can make my own record anywhere in the world. Probably not Hawaii though; I'd spend all my time playing ukelele with Eddie Vedder.”
On his next solo album:
“I'm writing songs at the moment. Me and the band are out playing gigs and I'm trying to write in between playing live songs and record as we go. We're hoping it will be out for summer next year.”
Johnny Marr performs at 8 p.m. on Oct. 31, at the House of Blues Anaheim, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., (714) 778-BLUE (2583), http://www.houseofblues.com/venues/clubvenues/anaheim/ $27.50, all ages