johnny marr, ex-guitarist and founder of the Smiths, who's also played with The The and a zillion other artists, has stepped up to the mike as frontman in his new band, Johnny Marr and the Healers.The Healers section of the band is ex-Kula Shaker bassist Alonza Bevan and Ringo Starr's son, Zak Starkey, on drums. Marr did originally find another singer, but Starkey and Bevan stepped in to say they preferred Marr on the mike.
His original vision of the Healers was "a collision in the desert between T-Rex, the Stooges, Eno, Beck and the Wailers."
Marr, who wrote all the Smiths' music, continues to be a fine writer and guitarist. The Healers' new album, Boomslang, is simultaneously laid-back and aggressive, atmospheric and colourful rock.
While much of the music world moves toward more technological sounds, Marr is heading the other way after his stint with Electronic, featuring Bernard Sumner and Neil Tennant.
He does point out that there are tracks on the last Electronic album that could have passed as Healers tunes.
"Maybe because I listen to electronic stuff, it kind of frees up my mind to make guitar music myself. There is guitar music that I like, but I wish there were more rock and roll bands out there. But after nine years of Electronic and then the stuff I've done with, say, The The and Beth Orton, it's time I turned the volume up a little, just for a while."
Marr got the name of his latest band fromThe Secret Doctrine, by Madame Blavatsky, the 19th-century Russian psychic and spiritualist founder of theosophy. Marr discovered Blavatsky while reading Jung, who had an interest in theosophy.
"I'm well aware that she enjoyed, shall we say, a dubious reputation," he says. "But she seemed to be a fascinating person and, despite her rep, she must have had something going on.
"Pablo Picasso was a theosophist as well, so I thought, "If she's good enough for Picasso and Jung, I might was well check it out.' I'm interested in those kinds of people, though I'm not looking for a path or anything."
The word "healers," says Marr, just kept jumping out at him while reading The Secret Doctrine, and though he wasn't necessarily looking for a band name, "I do recognize a great name for a rock and roll band when I see one."
Similarly, the title of the Healers album came to Marr in a dream. A snake came to him and said, "I am Boomslang. I am Boomslang."
"It looked like the one out of The Jungle Book, but slightly trippier. I woke up and wrote it on a notepad. When I got up in the morning I looked it up on the Internet and discovered that it is in fact a snake, which I immediately attributed to this cosmic pastoral visitation and was most pleased with myself.
"Later, I was talking to a writer friend of mine who told me he'd been talking to me a year ago about a documentary on the snake, and that's where I got the idea.
"But I still believe it was cosmic, and I'm not being told any different."firstname.lastname@example.org
Johnny Marr and the Healers at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Sunday (January 26). $25. 416-532-1598.