Johnny Marr is a musical treasure, an iconic guitarist who’s legacy can only be matched by a handful of recording artists.

Now 51-years old, the Manchester local has dipped his feet in many successful musical projects. Obviously the beginning of his career saw him partner with a lad named Steven Morrissey, forming one of the most iconic bands of the twentieth century, The Smiths. But boy, that’s not all.

The NME labelled “Godlike Genius” has also worked with New Order lead vocal and guitarist Bernard Sumner on the alt-dance group Electronic as well as guesting on The The with Matt Johnson in the ’80s. Flashing forward a couple of decades, he also recorded and toured with the likes of Modest Mouse and The Cribs, before at long-last releasing his sublime solo work which saw him stand in front of the mic, wielding the 6-string for The Messenger and Playland in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Aussie hearts broke at the start of the year when the guitar virtuoso was forced to cancel his January/February tour due to personal reasons, however, Marr, a self-professed man of the road, vowed these dates were to be rescheduled, and later that month, it was confirmed he would bring some heat to melt away the cold of the Australian July.

In the build-up to Marr’s return, we spoke with the legendary musician on some epic gigs he’s got coming up, why performing in smaller venues rocks harder than anywhere else, what he plans to do whilst he’s in Australia as well as a very special journey back in time as he dissected the iconic Smith’s album Meat Is Murder, a record that celebrated its 30th anniversary in February 11 of this year.

In preparation for his July Aussie tour, Marr & Co. are warming up with a shows in the UK first, “We’re doing a few, four or five now, we’re playing the Albert Hall in a few weeks, that’s always an event of course, then we’ve got a couple of club shows” he said, before casually mentioning “then we’re playing a show with The Who, too, it’s a nice mixture it’s good to mix things up not to play the same kind of places all the time.”

“The sweat, being able to see everybody’s faces, you get into this kind of little siege mentality next things you know nearly two hours has gone by and you’re soaking wet, that’s got to be a good thing”.”

Yep, how’s your FOMO now? Johnny Marr alongside The Who at Hyde Park – for a fan of British music, one could only dream of such an insane experience, “It sounded like an interesting night, it’s in Hyde Park, the band are gonna have a good time playing in Hyde Park, so I quite like that, I like accepting gigs that the band are going to like.”

Despite performing in front of thousands of screaming fans, Marr, as one would probably expect, is an artist who prefers intimacy at his gigs, “I like our own little club shows better than anything.

“I like that everybody’s in it together it feels that way, the sound is usually good for the kind of music I make. And the usual things that everybody always talks about, the sweat, being able to see everybody’s faces, you get into this kind of little siege mentality next things you know nearly two hours has gone by and you’re soaking wet, that’s got to be a good thing” this is good news for Aussie Marr loyalists, the prolific artist set to perform venues that’ll let any punter get up close and personal with the stylish guitarist.

For any Marr fan, it’d be obstinately remiss to shelve his founding musical output with legendary Smiths, and with their brilliant and very out-spoken sophomore record Meat Is Murder having ticked-over to its 30th birthday in February, our conversation inadvertently ended-up on the subject.

Casting his memory back some thirty years, Marr took us to the mid-’80s as he recounted the importance of the album that spawned such staple Smiths songs like ‘That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore’, ‘I Want What I Can’t Have’, ‘The Headmaster Ritual’ (a tune that Marr frequents live to this day) and of course, ‘How Soon Is Now?’, a career defining moment that was eventually included on the reissue of the LP.

“It was a lot of responsibility for a 19 year-old to a follow up the first record and all the expectation and all of that but I guess you’re kind of very fearless when you’re young and I just didn’t really let on how scared I was”.”

Straight off the bat Marr revealed that he was basically forced to produce the entire record despite having never worked on anything of that stature in his short career, “the responsibility for producing just sort of fell on my shoulders, even though it was quite daunting, it ended up being a good thing for the group and a good thing for me,” laughing, he went on “everybody just assumed I’d be able to do it so I couldn’t really back out of it.”

Even though Marr looks back on this time with a bright filter, this was an extremely difficult task for even the most esteemed of producers to tackle, with England already at the knees begging for more Smiths material after the critically successful release of their eponymous debut that contained tracks like ‘Hand In Glove’ and ‘What Difference Does It Make’ not to mention the singles ‘William, It Was Really Nothing’, ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ and of course, ‘This Charming Man’ that followed, Marr not only needed to continue writing top quality music, but also was in charge of piecing each element together.

The multifaceted maestro detailed this, “It was a lot of responsibility for a 19 year-old to a follow up the first record and all the expectation and all of that but I guess you’re kind of very fearless when you’re young and I just didn’t really let on how scared I was so,the rest of the band thought I’d be able to do it so I just, I just stepped up and fair play to ‘em for putting me in that position, I just kind of went with it.

“I think by then we’d also done a couple of the John Peel Sessions and I’d learnt about recording on those John Peel Sessions very, very quick so I just kind of did what we’d done there, in some really weird, funky cold studio in an industrial state in the middle of Liverpool, I think the record has all of that about it. I’m glad I didn’t know a lot of the rules because it’s got from I remember of it, it’s got a certain kind of maverick spirit in the production.”

Meat Is Murder hit shelves in 1985, the record laden with Morrissey’s powerful, unabashed and brutally honest lyrics that coupled with Marr’s jangle indie-pop prowess made for a daring piece of both musical and political output.

Both Morrissey and Marr’s prerogative shone obviously from the outset, with the album name and title track a haunting closer with the bizarre sounds of cows moo-ing backed by a slow, haunting riff and what sounds like terrifying factory noises mixed with Morrissey crooning “do you know it’s not “natural”, “normal” or kind the flesh you so fancifully fry/the meat in your mouth/as you savour the flavour/of murder.” 

That’s not to mention the band opening their sophomore record with the unforgettable words of ‘The Headmaster Ritual’ “He does the military two-step down the nape of my neck/He grabs and devours/He kicks me in the showers/I want to go home/I don’t want to stay” it’s fair to say The Smiths were fearless, they had something to say did not give a fuck who it offended on the way.

“We liked sticking our necks out” Marr flatly attested. “You can make records with vague titles and mysterious designery lyrics, the music, the lyrics and the singing stuck its neck out, that was a big part of what we were about, I can’t really imagine us doing anything musically beige or lyrically beige.”

On the music itself, Marr spoke with a spine tingling sense of reverence, “Well, ‘Headmaster Ritual’ from a guitar point of view is kind of unusual, I hadn’t heard anything like that from anybody since, I guess it’s stayed unusual and that kind of sticks out in my mind and I always like ‘That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore’ the music is very stirring in that, the thing about that album was that going into it.”

In a recent Q&A published by The Guardian, Marr revealed that his “happiest moment” was “Waking up in a dark hotel room in Bayswater one winter’s evening in 1984, to find I’d recorded How Soon Is Now? through the previous night.”

A career-defining song, ‘How Soon Is Now?’ is unlike anything else the band ever produced, has been cited as a starting point for sub-genres like shoegaze with fans and critics across the globe unanimously agreeing that it’s the Smiths track to hear before you die.

Yes, ‘How Soon Is Now?’ is not on Meat Is Murder, it was however on reissues in years that followed, having been recorded around the same time as the second album, taking-off from his comments with The Guardian, Marr confidently explained why it was his happiest moment, “I’d never wrote anything like it before and it had an absolute killer riff on it, I loved the demo, and when you love a demo, you are really nervous that don’t fuck it up in the studio. When the record turns out to be better than the demo that you already love, happy days!”

“Lets put it this way, we wouldn’t have swapped our record for anybody else’s that’s more of a fair assessment”.”

Having been released at the beginning of 1985, Meat Is Murder stood out against in a year that was incredibly strong for music.

In the US Tom Waits dropped Rain Dogs, and proto-grunge alt rockers The Replacements released Tim, however the middle of the ’80s was a turning point in the UK, Kate Bush killed it with Hounds Of Love, Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms kept the UK rock dream alive whilst The Jesus & Mary Chain’s Psychocandy scared the world with its fuzz, whilst the band’s two contemporaries New Order with Low Life and The Cure’s Head On The Door were both received extremely well.

Marr reflected on the brilliant and innovative music that was spilling from the UK’s shores, making it emphatically clear that he bestowed zero competitiveness against any other artists at the time, “I didn’t hate all the other bands around, personally, before I formed The Smiths, I saw The Cure a couple of times and I liked them.

“Me and Andy were the youngest in the band so we liked a lot of the music coming around because it felt like it was for our generation, I guess The Jesus & Mary Chain were even older than me, so because I was young I didn’t have this sense of looking over my shoulder and seeing some young up-starts knocking us off our position, it’s not my nature I just like good music – I don’t care if other bands are doing great stuff other than I just like it. I never see music as a competition that just seems like some kind of playground shit to me.”

He continued, “in the case of New Order I was interested in what they were doing. It was a matter of liking their records, I knew that we were all involved in doing something different. I think we thought that our record was better than everybody’s, lets put it this way, we wouldn’t have swapped our record for anybody else’s that’s more of a fair assessment.”

After sharing a personal insight into Meat Is Murder, we returned to the present day, Marr detailed what he’s looking forward to most (outside of performing, of course) when he is in Australia.

“I like just walking around all the cities, if I’m playing any cities that have got bridges I always like taking photographs, any modernist architecture, they’re the kinds of things I like in any country in the world really. I just walk around looking at buildings and looking at bookshops, I’m not particularly bothered about cultural landmarks I’m just really interested in architecture and walking around late at night, that’s what I like to do” he admitted.

As mentioned, Johnny Marr will be in Australia for the month of July, and interestingly, his last show is on Wednesday 22nd July, and Splendour In The Grass begins on Friday 24th, we asked if he was a potential performer at this year’s fest. Not giving everything away, he laughed, “I played that festival a couple of years ago and it was insanely hot if I can get a hat and I’m not on too early then I’d love to play, man.”

Johnny Marr Australian Tour Dates

Saturday, 18th July 2015
Metropolis Fremantle, Perth (18+)
Tickets: Oztix | 1300 762 545

Monday, 20th July 2015
Enmore Theatre, Sydney (All Ages)
Tickets: Ticketek | 132 849

Tuesday, 21st July 2015
The Gov, Adelaide (18+)
Tickets: Oztix | 1300 762 545 | Moshtix | 1300 438 849

Wednesday, 22nd July 2015
Forum Theatre, Melbourne (18+)
Tickets: Ticketmaster | 136 100