We spend the afternoon with Johnny Marr discussing clean living, creativity and the art of non-doing. We take a peek into his life as a musician, and explore his sources of inspiration.
CAN YOU SHARE HOW YOU FIND INSPIRATION + CREATIVITY THROUGH MAINTAINING A CLEAN LIVING LIFESTYLE ? WHAT PRACTICES DO YOU ENGAGE IN TO ENHANDE YOUR WELLBING + THERBY PROMOTE CREATIVITY + INSPIRATION?
Energy is important. You have to preserve what you have and cultivate it, and if you don’t have good energy nothing seems to happen. Running is my main thing I guess and that energises you long term and short term. There are times when I don’t feel like it but I never regret it when it’s done. I like that Bob Marley had the song “Lively Up Yourself” about running. I’ve done it for years now. I don’t drink alcohol, I’ve haven’t drunk for about fifteen years or something, and that definitely helps to keep your energy clean, no doubt about that. I’ve been vegetarian since 1984 and I went Vegan in 2005. I got into meditating in the nineties just for the exploration at first and I go through phases of that. The Taoism approach is interesting. Like most people I always think I should make more time for it. It’s very good for clearing out the static. Keeping interested in things keeps you interesting as an artist I think. I can’t imagine how you would create anything without maintaining a real interest in new things. I’ve always been pretty passionate about my interests. It’s really important to enjoy your passions whatever they are. It all comes back to energy.
WHO ARE YOU FAVOURITE ICONIC MUSICIANS THAT HAVE EMBRACED CLEAN LIVING AND STILL PRODUCE BRILLIANT + SUCCESSFUL MUSIC ?
That’s a good question. I don’t know if it’s a clean living thing but it’s no coincidence that the great artists are dedicated and definitely have a strong work ethic and you can’t be that for very long with a destructive lifestyle. The artists I like are often outside of rock n roll such as Aldous Huxley and David Hockney, Marcel Duchamp. All these people produced great work up until the very end of their days. Musicians like Bowie, Kraftwerk and Eno are obviously disciplined. You can get away with a certain amount of hedonism when you’re young and rock culture has traditionally been set up like that but it doesn’t last long if you don’t want the work to suffer. No matter how unhealthy my lifestyle may have been the work, songs, recording process was always the most important thing to me and it’s just not cool to be messy when you get older anyway.
We’ve WE’VE WATCHED BOWIE SPEAK ON THIS SUBJECT IN NUMEROUS INTERVIEWS. IN 1977 SURING THE MAKING OF HEROES HE WAS QUOTED SAYING
“The thing that was most exciting about it all is that I found without drugs I was still writing very well and that was the most rejuvenating feeling of all, you don’t need to get stoned out of your head to write well”
What WHAT SPECIFICALLY DID YOU LOVE ABOUT BOWIE. WHAT IS YOUR BEST MEMORY OF HIM?
There’s so much you can say about David Bowie as we’ve seen recently. The main thing I loved about him was that his life was about his art. Let’s put it this way, when you’ve achieved as much as David Bowie; decades of hits, awards, massive acclaim and worldwide recognition and you still choose to make records and play concerts because being a rock singer is the best art form then that’s really inspiring. If being in a band was still good enough for Bowie then it’s good enough for all of us.
LAST TIME WE SPOKE YOU MENTIONED A CONCEPT CALLED PSYCHOGEOGRAPHY WHICH EMPHASISES PLAYFULLY OBSERVING AND BEING AFFECTED BY URBAN ENVIRONMENTS. WHAT PLACES HAVE INSPIRED YOUR CREATIVITY AND PROPELLED YOU TO WRITE?
I always was influenced by whatever environment i found myself in. When I was younger that would’ve been the inner city and around Manchester and then wherever I was in the world or tour or whatever.All the bands I liked sounded like their environment. You could tell the early Stones and The Kinks were from London for example and The Smiths really did sound like Manchester. I always found Los Angeles to be inspiring for some reason, probably the light, and I’ve written songs there. I decided to live in Portland Oregon because I found the place to be very creative. That was more of a cultural consideration because the city is set up so well for an artist, with a lot of resources and an artistic community.
Who WHO WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO OUR READERS TO INVESTIGATE TO FIND OUT MORE ON PSYCHOGEOGRAPHY ?
Psychogeography is fascinating especially when you take it back to William Blake and Baudelaire, Paris at the turn of the last century and The Situationists. It’s very rich culturally through all the literature alone and then you to explore it yourself wherever you may be but especially in cities is very interesting. It can involve architecture and poetry and is ultimately political in my opinion, with a small “p”, as in personal. It’s a whole world that does exist that just depends on how you’re looking at things.
It IT MUST BE FULFILLING FOR YOU, AFTER A LIFETIME OF BEING ONE OF THE WORLD’S BEST GUITARIST TO SUCCESSFULLY ACCOMPLISH THE ART OF WRITING LYRICS. CAN YOU GIVE US SOME INSIGHTS INTO WHAT INSPIRES YOUR LYRICS?
It’s important for me to be singing about things in the world around me. I tend to look outside of myself for subjects, things I see in the culture. Lou Reed was particularly good at that, and David Byrne too.I I try to avoid getting into expressing my own innermost feelings too much, mostly because t’s been done badly a lot in pop music and there are enough confessional songs out there already. However songs tend to convey you’re own vision of things in the end no matter what. I like to write about what’s around me like cities and buildings and other people. That might change in the future. It’s important too that the words sound are coming from the same place as the music. They don’t have to be profound all the time, in fact some of the greatest records are very simple and fit the music perfectly, Blondie’s Union City Blue for example. I loved T.Rex’s records and the words were often nonsensical but they worked perfectly.
YOU HAVE STUDIED THE TAO DE CHING AND UNDERSTAND WU WEI (the art of non-doing) AS THE CENTRAL THEME. BEING SUCH A HIGH ACHIEVER, YOU ARE A GREAT EXAMPLE OF HOW PARADOXICAL WU WEI IS. CAN YOU SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON HOW YOU INCORPORATE WU WEI INTO YOUR LIFE AND HOW THIS SUPPORTS YOUR BUSY SCHEDULE?
Most people will understand the phrase “in the flow”. The concept of everything coming together in an effortless way. It’s the desired state on stage and for athletes I guess and to be able to live life that way would be pretty useful. Wu Wei is described in the Taoist philosophy. It’s a fundamental aspect in the Martial arts, the idea of getting a more satisfactory result through using ‘non doing’ instead of trying too hard. Surfing is another good example. There are definitely times in life when it’s actually better to do nothing, more productive even, than to do something. It’s more difficult than it sounds.
Photo Credits Jon Shard.
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