Johnny Marr Weighs in on Older Generations of Musicians Still Performing, Discusses His Affiliation With Indie Rock

According to Johnny Marr, the former guitar player of The Smiths and the famous indie rock guitar icon, it’s great that we’re seeing older generations of musicians still performing live. Sure, there are varying opinions on the matter, some even claiming how these old-school musicians are doing this as a cash grab at their age. However, according to what Marr said in an interview with Rick Rubin on the legendary producer’s podcast “Broken Record,” it’s awesome to see them doing this.

The two touched upon the topic when Rubin mentioned Neil Young and how he’s still doing it as casually as ever. Marr, however, said that he never watched Neil play live but also added that he met some other greats (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“But I’ve met a few ’60s musicians, which obviously is very, very fortunate. Just a few of them, a handful. And they really care about playing.”

Johnny Marr - Somewhere (Official Video)

And, most importantly, even at their age, these musicians still genuinely enjoy doing what they do:

“I might sound obvious, but the most important thing is, if there’s a guitar in a room, they will pick it up and they’ll play it.”

“Ronnie Wood is like that, Donovan [Scottish singer/songwriter] is like that, Paul McCartney is really like that. Those people? Hats off to them.”

How Soon Is Now - Johnny Marr Live At The Crazy Face Factory

And as Marr also mentioned, we’re fortunate to have these musicians still performing:

“Ironically, it has kind of come around, where some of those older generation musicians go out, and they appear to do it because they love it. Whether that’s your thing or not, but the Rod Stewarts and The Whos and the Jaggers and Springsteens and all those sorts of people, Joni Mitchell, even now coming back — it’s nice to see that those people, who could be just sat on their boats, or sat under the palm trees, or spending all the time with the architects and all of that, they appear to be out there doing it.”

“Because maybe they know something that we don’t, which is, you know what — there really isn’t anything better.”

Johnny Marr on his collection of guitars and returning to music | ITV News

And, of course, Johnny Marr is still active as well. Sure, being born in the early 1960s, he belongs to the next generation. But nonetheless, it’s still impressive to see him inspired to make new music. Marr’s latest release was 2022’s “Fever Dream” — an impressive 16-track effort and his highest-charting solo release so far. Apart from that, Marr is also pretty active live, although, at the moment, there aren’t that many shows in his schedule.

During the chat, former The Smiths axeman also reflected on his association with the indie rock movement. Of course, it’s not that simple to define what indie rock is. Additionally, Johnny doesn’t feel like putting himself in a box. But he has nothing against it. As he explained:

“I like what bands are. I like what indie rock is. For one, I don’t put myself in a box too much, but I like the area of music that I work in. I still feel like that there are surprises in that area of music.”

What’s also important to Johnny is that he feels like he grew as a musician after starting his solo career, basically “doubling his mission” so to speak. He continued:

“Obviously, we can go off on these different tangents about all kinds of different music, but my mission, I think, almost got doubled when I got the solo band together. I’ve felt like I had this freedom to pull in all my influences that really go back to people like Sparks [’70s art rock duo].”

Johnny Marr - The Joy Of The Guitar Riff

“It’s an interesting thing, because what you love is such a subjective thing, obviously, and I think you get to a point in your life where you kind of go back to as an influence. You really do draw on those things that were your first loves.”

And to Marr, it’s all about looking forward as well. Although very respective of his influences and his previous works, he claims that he’s not so nostalgic:

“I love being in the modern world. I’m not particularly a nostalgic person, but the area of music that I’m working in — guitar music, I guess, melodic, I suppose…”

Johnny Marr - Counter Clock World (Live)

“I don’t use terms like ‘art rock’, but I’m fine with being called an indie musician. To me, it’s all what used to be called rock music, anyway. I used to call myself a pop musician for the longest time until I started recognizing that pop music is something very, very different now.”

Again, it’s hard to define what indie rock is. And, more importantly, it’s hard to really put Johnny Marr’s solo works within just one of the predetermined and widely accepted genre labels. But whatever you call Marr’s music, there’s no denying that he’s inspired such a wide variety of musicians.

Johnny Marr - Getting Away With It (6 Music Live October 2014)

Photo: Julio Enriquez (Johnny Marr Gothic Theatre 05.16.19 (47105686724))

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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