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theartsdesk Radio Show 32: a conversation with Matt Johnson of The The | reviews, news & interviews

theartsdesk Radio Show 32: a conversation with Matt Johnson of The The

theartsdesk Radio Show 32: a conversation with Matt Johnson of The The

A two-hour chat with leading post-punk artist on fighting skyscrapers, an East End childhood, Johnny Marr and laziness

Matt Johnson: a 'Charming Man'

Peter Culshaw’s occasional global music radio show returns with a two-hour conversation with one of the most innovative and enduring post-punk artists.

Matt Johnson, under his nom de guerre The The emerged into the shiny 1980s with some music that has lasted more than most, notably with the album Soul Mining with its classic songs and mix of despair and euphoria.

With its warm lyrics and unusual-for-the-time sounds like accordion and melodica, his work was opposite to the ”Cold Wave” of the time with its Numanesque synths and automaton chic. Other albums we discuss  and play extracts from in the show are more culty albums like his debut filmic Burning Blue Soul and the more experimental Mind Bomb.

We discuss, among other things, the London post-punk era of the likes of Scritti Politti and This Heat, being brought up in the famous/notorious pub The Two Puddings, haunt of pop stars and gangsters, being an autodidact and leaving school at 15 to work in a Soho studio. He talks about filming in South America, his conservation work trying to stop eyesore skyscrapers in the East End, and his long collaborations with the likes of guitar hero Johnny Marr. Unlike Marr’s earlier collaborator Morrissey, who also dealt with existential angst, despair and flashes of joy, Johnson actually is a Charming Man, very bright and engaging.

Johnson had a 15-year break from releasing music, but did set up a publishing company and wrote film music for his brother's films and worked on The Inertia Variations, based on poems by John Tottenham. But he’s back, baby, with The Comeback Special – a live album recorded at the Albert Hall two days after his dad died, and a fine film directed by Tim Pope.    

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