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Interview:
Solo career is Johnny Marr's new "Playland"
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

For decades, being a solo artist was the one thing Johnny Marr did NOT do.

The guitarist and songwriter came to fame during the 80s with the Smiths and also formed Electronic with New Order. He's been part of The The, Modest Mouse and the Cribs, and he's appeared on recordings by Talking Heads, Bryan Ferry, Pet Shop Boys, Oasis, Beck, Tom Jones, Pearl Jam and many others. But 2013's "The Messenger" was Marr's first bona fide solo album, and the quick arrival of "Playland" in October seemingly demonstrates a commitment to stay on that path.

"Well, that's the kind of pace that I've always gone -- if I'm running my own bands, anyway," says Marr, 51, a native of Manchester, England. "The Smiths used to do stuff pretty quickly, so I guess to me it's not really that unusual. It's the culture I come from.

"And the bands I was inspired by when I was younger and from the times I came out of were all, like, an album-a-year sort of thing. These days there's so much wrapped up in 'campaigns' and that kind of terminology that it seems unusual to put a record out within a year of the first one. I do understand that, but to me I just didn't see any reason to stop."

Marr says the more aggressive tone of "Playland" was a product of being on the road to support "The Messenger;" many of its songs were written during that touring cycle, in fact, and "Playland's" first single, "Easy Money," was even recorded mostly in the back lounge of Marr's tour bus.

"The vibe of touring brings a lot of things to the music," Marr explains. "It's to do with the way you're sound checking every day and you're kicking around ideas there, and the way you feel as a band and the music you listen to before you go on. All those kinds of things speed into your day to day writing. You've always got one foot on stage.

"It's a really healthy situation to be in if you're making the kind of music that I make right now. I wanted ('Playland) to sound very much like we do live and capture the energy of the way the band are, which I think we did."

Marr, who's played on Bryan Ferry's latest album and also on former Oasis leader Noel Gallagher's next effort, plans to forge ahead on his own music in the future, though he's talking about a series of EPs before another full album. He may also have a chance to revisit the Smiths in the near future, too; the group which broke up acrimoniously in 1987 has been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though Marr himself doesn't seem particularly impressed.

"The band only get to hear about it third hand...journalists asking me about it," Marr says. "We've not been formally informed, which makes me think that any organization that lets the band be told third-hand has to get their (act) together.

"I guess the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is something Roy Orbison is in and the Isley Brothers should be in...and Bruce Springsteen's probably in it, right? That's what I know about it. I'm not sure whether the Smiths are the kind of band who need to be in it or want to be in it, really."

Johnny Marr and Meredith Sheldon

Sunday, Nov. 23. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Saint Andrews Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit.

Tickets are $32.50.

Call 313-961-6358 or visit www.saintandrewsdetroit.com.


Web Site: www.saintandrewsdetroit.com

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