Johnny Marr on his Killers collaboration, new music and The Smiths’ Glastonbury 1984 set

Before Johnny Marr went on to be such a big part of Glastonbury 2019, with his own solo set and also joining The Killers on stage, he sat down with NME to tease what was to come, as well as share his memories on what it was like when he first played here with The Smiths and tell us what to expect from his new material.

Watch our full video interview with Johnny Marr above

The action culminated tonight with Marr coming together with The Killers for their headline set to perform The Smiths’ classic ‘This Charming Man’ and the band’s own ‘Mr Brightside‘. But before it all kicked off, Johnny teased NME that a huge surprise was on the cards.

“I am gonna do something that will be unexpected,” Marr told NME. “Obviously if I tell you, then it will no longer be unexpected.”

We asked if it could be another on-stage reunion of Electronic with New Order’s Bernard Sumner.

“Barney’s not in town,” he replied. “It would definitely have involved Barney if he was in town. You’re talking about Electronic getting back together. No it’s something else. It’s not completely unrelated to that man though, now that I think about it. There’s a little bit of six degrees of separation involved.”

As the rest of the Glasto line-up, Marr was enthused that rock and indie were so prevalent, but more so by the diversity of what was on offer.

“It’s really nice to know and to see that guitars and melody are still on the agenda. Quite often there’s a debate going into Glastonbury about guitar music, EDM and all of that and it can all get a little bit hysterical. From what I see, Glastonbury is big enough for all kinds of music. For the UK festival-goer and UK music fan, maybe their minds are big enough for all kinds of music. I kind of think we’ve got to that point, really.

“I’ve got mates who are talking about Stormzy’s set, I didn’t see it, but they’ll be out watching Fontaines DC later and really digging that and then maybe Neneh Cherry. I think we’ve got a pretty healthy attitude towards diversity in music, from what I see.”

Johnny Marr live at Glastonbury 2019

Looking back on his colourful history with the festival, Marr opened up about how his first Glastonbury appearance with The Smiths was a pivotal moment at Worthy Farm – laying the groundwork for the many changes that the ’90s rave movement would later bring to festival cultural.

“The Smiths played in 1984, and back then it was a very different deal,” said Marr. “This was pre-rave culture. Festival culture as it is now couldn’t have really happened without rave, God bless it. In the ’80s, the idea of people getting together in a muddy, cold field was sort of a hangover from the early ’70s and ’60s. You had Woodstock and that set the template but it never had its own thing really until the rave days, and that’s what we know today. You know, hospitality tents and cash machines, all these different fields, 70 odd stages and all that.

“When The Smiths played Glastonbury in 1984, there was the big field, the other muddy field, then there was the shit field that no one went in. In each of those fields, as I remember it, there were ancient people dancing around in the cold in various states of undress and organic chemical refreshment trying to bring the government down – so it was great.”

He added: “Back then though, it kind of when from kind of being the ’70s copy of the ’60s ideal to in the early ’80s when you had to really have a lot of heart to come out to Glastonbury – whether you were in a band, or certainly if you were in the audience. Certainly, a lot of that heart and attitude was political. It was a political act. Now we all know that families come out here, grandparents, grandchildren and it’s a more communal celebration now. It’s a rite of passage and completely different in every way.

“Back then it was a bit bleak, but Michael Eavis has always told me that The Smiths’ performance changed what Glastonbury was about. That was very gracious of him and very kind, but I think that we were the first of our kind of band to play to a big audience I think. I remember being out on the stage thinking ‘What the hell are we doing here? People just don’t get our music. They’re waiting for Amazulu.”

Did he sense the significance of Glastonbury at the time?

“Absolutely not. I felt like a complete interloper. Like an imposter. The songs were really short and really fast and festival music wasn’t traditionally like that. We were a little bit of an anomaly but I was being a little bit modest because we did alright.”

Johnny Marr

Johnny Marr

Looking forward to the rest of the year, Marr said that he’d soon be announcing “a couple of special shows” and releasing new single ‘The Bright Parade’ in September, before hibernating to work on something new.

“I’m going to come off the road for a little bit and do something else, write some new stuff or start a different project,” Marr told us. “I feel like I’ve been touring now for years. I just want a little bit of a break to record, write some new songs before I take the show on the road again.”

He continued: “‘The Bright Parade’ more a psychedelic, sped-up shoegaze. That’s probably a contradiction in terms. Running shoe gaze. ‘Bright Parade’ is this thing that’s where I’m at right now, and I’ve purposefully left my options open to see where I go on the next album. It was always have energy about it, because we’re a live group and I can’t really imagine anything that I wouldn’t want to put on the stage. It’s not always the case. You can do conceptual records and conceptual music for a different purpose, but I’m so into performing and playing the guitar live on stage.”

As for the sound of his next record, Marr said that he was “excited” by the “creative mystery” of the many

“I don’t know where the new record is going to go, which is what I’m excited about. In some ways, coming off the road in my mind is a little bit like putting the breaks on and letting the airbags go because I’ve been playing live so much. Physically, I’m wondering how that’s going to be because I’m so used to the touring bubble. But, I’m really looking forward to the creative mystery.”

“”The politics of the self is not really something that I’ve explored much. I’m just really not feeling. World politics and creativity seem like two separate planets to me. Two separate universes, in fact. I just can’t equate any inspiration or joy from world politics for a number of reasons. Not just because it’s bleak, but because it’s dumb, you know? I’m more into the human quirks and my own and other peoples’ motivation. The human quirks are what interest me more at the moment rather than bureaucratic and establishment quirks.”

Watch our full interview with Johnny Marr above to see him discuss his potential move into acting as a “European villain”, the idea of reuniting Electronic or joining New Order, and much more

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