Johnny Marr interview
LW: Thanks very much for giving me this interview. I’m a long-time fan so it’s a real honour
JM: You are welcome.
LW: I notice you spend quite a lot of time on Twitter interacting with fans and answering questions. Is it important to you to be accessible?
JM: I started on Twitter as an experiment, for fun. It’s not important to me to be accessible per se but I like interaction with fans sometimes. I’m not sure how long the Twitter thing will last but it’s been interesting. I’ve found that most of the people who call themselves my fans are good people and interesting and I like them. They are also usually funny.
LW: What prompted you to go vegetarian?
JM: Making a record called Meat Is Murder, that was nearly twenty five years ago. It wouldn’t have been right for me to play that song and not be vegetarian. The funny thing is that up until then my only interaction with animals had been “I hope this dog doesn’t bite me”, because I grew up on a council estate in England, but when I stopped eating animals I actually started feeling more empathy towards them, this was something I noticed.
LW: When did you decide to go vegan, and why?
JM: I became Vegan in 2005 when I moved to Portland Oregon. I’d been getting more and more health conscious and at that time I wanted to take things as far as I could. I like the idea of progress, and being progressive. Portland has a very liberal and modern attitude and a few of my friends there were Vegan. I’m glad I got into it. It’s a lot easier being vegan in the US than in Europe, there’s more cultural variety there, and therefore choice.
LW: Was the switch easy, and were there any particular foods that you missed?
JM: The interesting thing for me was that giving up dairy meant giving up deserts etc and therefore sugar, and then you’re into something else. Giving up things doesn’t mean sacrifice or misery to me, I see it as the opposite, it’s interesting. I “took on” being Vegetarian, I didn’t “give up” something, If you see what I mean. I like doing that. All of these things have made me more focussed and energised.
LW: Are your wife Angie and children Nile and Sonny also vegan or vegetarian?
JM: My family are all vegetarian. Angie was vegetarian when we met, I was fifteen and she was fourteen. She was clued up. I probably would’ve have become vegetarian even without the song I suppose.
LW: What’s a typical meal in the Marr household?
JM: Giant salads with lots of tofu. Thai food, pastas, Mediterranean, Mexican, spinach forever. My tour rider looks like the deli in Whole Foods.
LW: How do you manage food-wise when travelling, or on tour?
I try to make time to buy what I can when I can. As I say, the US is easier. I live off health bars, rice, salad and white tea. I hang out in Whole Foods and New Seasons far too much and I load up the bus with lots of stuff.
LW: What vegan treats are on your rider?
JM: Stuffed vine leaves. Anything with chilli and or wassabi. Vegan cookies disappear very quickly I notice.
LW: Do people rib you about being a vegan? If so, how do you respond?
JM: My roadie sometimes makes jokes about my being too weak to move things etc. It’s his job to move stuff. He reckons I’m obsessive about it. It’s a useful obsession if I am.
LW: You co-wrote ‘Meat Is Murder’ with Morrissey. What do you remember about the process of writing and recording the song that has gone on to inspire so many people to go vegetarian and vegan?
JM: He gave me the title and I went with a feeling. I came up with a tune that I thought was evocative yet unsettling and the band captured the right mood one winter’s afternoon in Liverpool. It felt heavy but strangely beautiful when we did it. I love that track.
LW: You’re pretty clean-living for a musician e.g. tee-total. What made you stop drinking alcohol?
JM: I just got bored of alcohol after a while and I fancied a change. I started to think of it as a bit of a counter productive drug. I don’t have any problem hanging out with people who are drinking, but things can get a bit…predictable.
LW: You’re also a bit of a fitness fanatic and run 50 miles a week. Do tell more about your fitness regime?
JM: I equate running with being progressive, so to speak. I don’t see it as a discipline or “straight” or anything. I think of the typical rock n roll lifestyle as being somewhat obvious and cliched for me these days. I suppose some people might think that it’s ok for me to say that because I’ve had the opportunity to live the rock n roll lifestyle and they would be right. I don’t preach or judge what anyone else does, each to their own. I just do what I think is right and most creative for me.
LW: Does your dog Riff go running with you? Who’s faster?
JM: If I took Riff out running I would end up in swamps and sand pits. She is definitely faster but I could out distance her easy.
LW: Is ‘The Bounce’, part of your fitness routine, or just a pre-performance workout?
JM: The Bounce is a habit I picked up, part wake up, part let off energy, and part “stop talking to me about stupid stuff as I’m about to go on stage”.
LW: Has your diet changed since becoming super-fit? (I hear you’re a spinach-freak)
JM: Yes. I used to not care about what I ate as long as it wasn’t meat. Now I can feel what I put into my body pretty quickly and how it affects me. I remember hearing Iggy Pop talking about this when I was in my teens and thinking it was odd but now I see that he was ahead of his time.
LW: You were a promising footballer and had trials for Man City. What position did you play, and is it true your penchant for eyeliner got you in trouble?
JM: Yes, the right winger with the Johnny Thunders hairstyle and eyeliner. No wonder I got kicked. I got fast though.
LW: Who’s your favourite City player, and why?
JM: My favourite City player would have to be Colin Bell, just because of his sheer class.
LW: What did it feel like to be nominated for an Oscar (for Inception) earlier this year?
JM: The Oscars was a pretty great experience. I don’t have a competitive bone in my body so I didn’t think about Inception winning until right up to when the nominations were read out, and then I really wanted to win for Hans (Zimmer) and Chris Nolan, and the film, which I think is great.
LW: Was it straightforward writing for the screen?
JM: Writing for the screen is straightforward in that it’s soon obvious if it’s not right. You don’t have the same thing with a record. Also, the director can have input and steer things, or should do, if it’s not hitting the correct emotion. It isn’t easy either though.
LW: You recently left The Cribs to focus on solo material. Is it right that you are starting a solo tour in October?
JM: I’m doing a show in New York in October and then touring in March 2012.
LW: Have you started writing your autobiography yet? What made you want to write one?
JM: I decided to write my autobiography because I’ve had so many offers it meant that there was obviously a demand for it. I’ve been too busy to start it. I will have to stop doing other things when I do it because I want to take it seriously and get it as right as I can. It’s a task.
LW: From the Youtube clips I’ve seen (e.g. one about lending a guitar to Noel Gallagher) you know how to tell a good story. Have you many more of those up your sleeve?
JM: There are a lot of stories I suppose. I wouldn’t want my autobiography to be all anecdotes, though there will be some for sure. A lot of things have happened.
LW: You recently had a (carnivorous) flower named in your honour at the Chelsea Flower show. Bet you didn’t see that one coming?!
JM: I can honestly say that I never imagined I’d have a plant named after me; a guitar, a pair of sneakers, sunglasses…ok, nice…but a plant? You’re right, I didn’t see that coming. It’s pretty cool I think; unusual.
LW: How integral has having a stable home life been to your success?
JM: My home life has always mirrored my state of mind. I’ve always valued having good people around me, not necessarily “stable”, often creative, and usually unconventional, but never “yes men”. My life has always been able to put creativity and art first. It’s working out alright and I’m very lucky.
© Louise Wallis
An edited version of this interview was published in The Vegan magazine (Winter 2011) ©