Matt Johnson

Johnny Marr

IN CONVERSATION . . .

PART 5.

J: So obviously, after Mind Bomb, your world was rocked really wasnft it? You had a lot of sadness in your life before

you got into making Dusk.

M: Yes. This was actually halfway through the tour. Eugene, my younger brother, died. That really changed everything.

Really fractured my familyfs life and threw all of us, myself included, into quite a deep depression for a number of

years. Thankfully, in that kind of situation, there was something therapeutic for me to turn to, to help me get out of

it, which was songwriting. And so putting those feelings I had into songs I started working on the 'Dusk' album,

particularly 'Love Is Stronger Than Death'......

J: Exactly, yeah. When I look back on it, considering what you were going through, we went into the studio and did -

particularly you and me - I think we did the 'Shades Of Blue' EP, with 'Solitude' on it, and 'Dolphins'. It must have

been hard for you doing 'Dusk'.

M: It was and I remember being in the studio and feeling quite spaced out a lot and I also remember Dave Palmer pulling

me to one side and saying - it was a bit rich coming from Dave - but : "What's up Matt, you seem sort of spaced out,

you don't seem yourself", because he was used to me directing him very specifically gNo, that beat is not quite right....

this beat is not quite right.h But I just felt really spaced out. Really, really weird. I just didn't feel like I had my

feet on the ground or something. And I could really sort of feel that I was there, but not there, which was a very

unpleasant feeling for me because I was having to fake it a lot of the time.

J: I didn't know that you bastard! I thought I was doing great.

M: I think we all did do great, but there were moments when it was just very difficult for me. But of course what we did

differently with 'Dusk' to 'Mind Bomb' was that we recorded it at my studio, which I'd just recently bought, and recorded

it live as a band, which was something we wanted to do because of the success of the previous tour. We worked with Bruce

Lampcov who did a brilliant job. He'd remixed a track from 'Mind Bomb' and wefd got along well with him so we decided to

work with him. We met him again at some point on the 'Mind Bomb' tour to discuss ideas and I think he actually recorded a

few shows of ours in Detroit. Going into the studio we had DC Collard on keyboards whofd joined on the tour. We recorded

it, primarily live and then we did some overdubbing once the backing tracks were done.

J: 'Love Is Stronger Than Death' felt classic when we were doing it didn't it? It was a real sort of emomentf wasn't it?

M: It was a hard song to write because of the subject matter, but I was very, very happy because I felt the version that

we did perfectly captured what I was trying to say.

J: We were doing 'Dusk' with the band and, as usual, it was quite intense, I was pretty out there myself, but I remember

loving it and for me it's my favourite album that I've ever been on.

M: And what about when youfd drive to the session in your new sports car?

J: Well, my memory of 'Dusk' is that I'd just got that brand new Alfa Romeo Spider and I'd only just passed my driving

test. I'd get up in the morning feeling really good and then drive down the Embankment with the roof down in the Summer

and it's a beautiful sunny day, people are waving, Ifm just like Dick Van Dyke with a real spring in my step and then

I'd get to the studio which had been rechristened 'The War Room' and so I'd say good-bye to the day and my new flash

sports car and then I'd go down the stairs into this dark basement with these dark red psychedelic oil wheels turning

and all these clouds of incense burning ...

M: People stripped off down to their underwear, the heating full on, like a nice big sauna. The Psychic Sauna we used

to call it.

J: Exactly. You were listening to a lot of Blues around that time as well weren't you? Robert Johnson.

M: Yeah and Howling Wolf, whofs probably my all time favourite blues man. Although I love John Lee Hooker and

Robert Johnson Ifd say Howling Wolf was my favourite. Maybe that influence is evident on some of the stuff? Lots of

dirty vocals, distorted harmonicas and juiced up guitars. On 'Mind Bomb' you shared duties with Mark Feltham who played

... did you play 'Beat(en) Generation' or did Feltham play?

J: No I ...errr ... no, maybe Feltham played on it.

M: Yeah, I think he did, and he played on 'Good Morning Beautiful' and eViolence of Truthf. Incredible musician.

But then on the tour you were playing and you played all the harmonica on 'Dusk'.

J: 'Slow Motion Replay',

M: Which was absolutely beautiful, that harmonica part was ...

J: We kind of worked that bit up on tour. You were kind of kicking
'Slow Motion Replay' around ...

M: And you were playing the harmonica on the tour as we were going on and ...

J: It became quite a big part of the thing didn't it?

M: Yeah. You wrote the harmonica part for 'Beyond Love'. And then of course on 'Dusk' we had it on 'Love Is Stronger

Than Death', 'Dogs Of Lust' particularly. That song, particularly the video, really captured what I was saying about

getting away from me trying to be an actor. It just captured a performance. I just love the performance that Tim captured.

J: It has nakedness in there as well ... which always helps.

M: It has nakedness. But also you brought along that little tub of tablets that you dosed us up with. I believe we had a

few tablets of emedicinef and a couple of bottles of Tequila. Then we got the three aircraft hanger heaters brought

in and turned them up full blast. I remember James worried that his bass guitar was melting. He was looking very

concerned but I donft think he got dosed up. He was being sensible while we were off on another planet. Fantastic.

J: I was a bit too sort of ... erm ... I'd forgotten that I even had my guitar on at that time.

M: But that may be my favourite video. It's raw, we had the music cranked up and it really captured the live shows.

The fact that it was also filmed in my studio, where wefd just spent the better part of a year recording the album,

also added a nice twist.

J: The first take, Tim sprayed us with glycerine to look like we were sweating ... because we just weren't sweating

enough. I thought you were winding us all up when you started saying "No. No. No. it's not hot enough, we've got to

get more heaters", into this tiny little room! But it had the desired effect.

M: It really captured the atmosphere I thought and again that was another song ...

J: Where New York starts to come back again. Well it had never gone away really but there's a cross between New York

and London there. In 'Sodium Light Baby' which, when we were doing it, always felt like a ride through the New York

night to me. But then I knew about the sodium lights in London and your attraction to those. And then with 'Lung Shadows'

you've got shadows in there again. And of course in 'Love Is Stronger Than Death' is gThe cold light of mourning.h

So again it's that consistent imagery. New York, London, lights and shadows. So were you considering moving to New York

at that time?

M: Yeah, on and off. Ever since I went there for the first time I knew I was going to live there at some point, it was

just a case of choosing the right time. Of course there was the film eFrom Dusk 'Til Dawnf, which we shot there and

which I personally prefer to the 'Infected' film. That was a very intense and strange experience because we went on a

magical mystery tour with Tim (Pope) when we were doing the 'Slow Motion Replay' video.

J: Well, we had two vans which we were moved around in and the crew were all speaking in codes so we didn't know which

location we were going to. I didn't even know it was a mystery thing! There was a double bluff going on with me because

when you told me to come out and do it, you said to me something like: "Oh yeah, we're going to do a Midnight Cowboyh,

me and you walking around New York shot from the streets of a car. No mention of being on live porno television,

Midnight Blue, Taxi Talk, or meeting Danny the Wonder Pony or miming on Annie Sprinkle's bed with her writhing all

around us in front of an altar of vibrators. I don't remember that being in Midnight Cowboy! But yeah it was an intense

experience. The bit where the guy breaks into tears ...

M: He's dead now that guy. I sometimes go back to that bar. We went back a while ago and found out he died shortly

after that film, which was really poignant. As we were standing round watching that, everybody, the whole crew was

like ... ooofff ... ouch.

J: But it's asking him that question, because the premise of that video was going around asking these different,

odd people what's wrong with the world, and amazingly most people answered gPeople don't respect each other's race

and difference of opinionh and gThere isn't enough love in the world.h But asking that guy the question was like

someone had turned a key inside of him wasn't it? Okay, so during 'Dusk' you've got that perennial connection between

London and New York, so had you made your mind up to move to New York then, when we were doing 'Dusk'?

M: It was on my mind, but my mind wasn't made up until after the tour. We made the film, I then formed a new band in

New York and went on another world tour. Towards the end of the tour personal circumstances made up my mind. But it

wasn't that cut and dried. I kept the place in London and travelled between New York and London, but started staying

in New York more and more until I realised I was really living over there and not in England. So it was like a cross

fade as opposed to a hard edit.

J: Were you looking towards New York influencing you more in your music? We spoke earlier about your environment

being important to you.

M: Yeah, I think I was really. I was over there for 7 years and although I was writing a hell of a lot I only released

1 album. Which is not very productive!

J: Your Football Manager game didn't come back out of the box did it? (laughs)

M: No, no (laughing)

J: But you became a father didn't you.

M: I became a father. Which as you know is life altering. Then when I continued work on NakedSelf after my sonfs

birth it changed shape a lot. Ifd recorded tons of material, so there's a huge amount of stuff which is actually

waiting to be finished. Probably about 3 or 4 albums worth of material recorded in New York, but only one album has

come out of it so far. I spent a lot of time just riding around on subways and taking notes all the time, and walking

because Manhattan is just more conducive to walking everywhere. I love walking.

J: Tell me about it! I know all about your legendary long walks through New York.

M: Hours and hours just walking, taking notes, riding on the subways. All the different noises, different smells, the

different light you get over there. It all influences you I think.

J: So where did you record 'Hanky Panky'?

M: At my studio in London. That was the period I was in between London and New York. I recorded it live in my studio

in London but then shot the video on top of the Chrysler building in New York. That was an interesting shoot. People

initially thought wefd used projections or digital animation because a short while after that video came out there

was an advert featuring the athlete Carl Lewis leaping from the gargoyles on top of the building, but all done with

digital animation. You can fake a lot of those things nowadays if youfve got the money. But Sam Bayer (the director)

and I wrote out how it was going to be filmed. I always had a fascination with ... I can't remember the name of the

woman who took these amazing photographs in the 1930's. She sat on the gargoyles and was taking pictures from them.

I was always fascinated by those. So I wanted to figure out a way of getting out onto the gargoyles. And we actually

did get out onto the gargoyles. It was in January and it was freezing cold. I wanted to go out and stand on the

gargoyles but unfortunately I wasn't allowed to because of the insurance situation with the production company, being

america and all. So we got a stunt double and there were two things we did. First thing was that we used him in the

shots when you see the helicopter circling the building. That's actually him on the gargoyles. When you see me on the

gargoyles, itfs actually a fake gargoyle - a life size replica - that wefd put on the flat roof of the skyscraper

next door to the Chrysler, so you see the view of the Empire State Building in the background. Wefd hired this

Vietnam veteran to circle closely round the spire of the Chrysler building and the tricky thing was that the Chrysler

buildingfs management didn't know what we were really doing- wefd pretended we were just filming for an advert and

we just wanted to film the view from the windows. And the security guard - I think it was the Super Bowl or something

- he just sat there chomping on his pretzels with his little outfit on and his feet on his desk watching the game on

his portable telly... and he went gYeah, sure go ahead.h and waved us past. So we all sneaked into the rooms at the

top giggling. The Vietnam vet circling the building was one of only a handful of helicopter pilots in New York who was

actually licensed to fly that close to a building, and he's circling round really close by now. I'd actually sneaked

onto the edge of a gargoyle myself and nearly went over the edge, it was so cold and slippery. So in walks the stunt guy,

dressed up in all my clothes, and he looked completely grey, ashen grey. Looking completely terrified. Like he really,

really didn't want to do it, and I said to him gWhat's up, are you ok?' and he said gWell, actually I'm really

nervous about this shooth, I said 'hYeah? But you must have done tons of things like this. You're a stunt man, you

do this all the time?h and he goes gYeah, but my speciality is fires ... not heights.h (laughing) Fires not heights!

He had vertigo! He was so terrified, and he went up there and he was literally stood like a statue (laughing) and he

had the harness on and everything but it was still terrifying really, because it was 1500 ft or whatever, straight

down, and they're not that wide those gargoyles. Maybe 6 ft wide, slippery cold metal and slightly sloping, right

over the edge. It is really, really scary and you're thinking gIs the harness going to hold if I slip?h (laughing)

Anyway when the Chrysler people found out they literally hit the roof and banned people from filming up there.

Not sure if the banfs still in effect. That was the only video for that album. We didn't tour it but Hank Williams

is a songwriter I've always loved and I just felt like it was a low pressure project to do. I was just enjoying being

a singer rather than a songwriter. Interestingly enough in America it was voted one of the top country albums of the

year and Colin Escott (Hank Williamsf biographer) wrote me a nice letter saying he thought they were some of the

best versions of Hank's songs he'd ever heard. To top it all off I got a lovely signed book from Jett Williams,

his daughter, who said "My Daddy would be proud of what you've done with his songs.h So there you go.

J: Fantastic. I remember you getting into Hank Williams and I didn't really expect that the album was going to

sound like. It sounds like a TheThe album, and I think it kind of shows what a distinctive sound you've got really.

'I Saw The Light' particularly, could have come off 'Naked Self' or 'Dusk' I think.

End of Part 5

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