When JOHNNY MARR was temporarily banned from driving in 2011 because of a speeding ticket, he decided to put the time to good use, retreating to a Manchester studio to record an album.
“[The ticket] was just me being stupid,” says the founder of legendary rock outfit The Smiths. “It was kind of rock star-ish, which is a bit corny.”
But Marr isn’t a typical veteran rock star. The British guitarist doesn’t believe in living in the past — appropriately, he co-wrote The Smiths’ biggest hit, “How Soon Is Now?” — so he’s long-resisted lucrative offers to reunite the iconic group. Instead, he’s releasing his first solo record, The Messenger (Sire/ADA, $15). The swaggering title track, which boasts spangly chords and a chorus that floats as carefree as a kite, epitomizes Marr’s mission to create an album of “modern guitar art pop.”
“There’s something I wanted to get from shows and records that I wasn’t getting,” Marr says of his motivation. “So I decided to do it myself.”
While this marks the first time the 49-year-old Marr has gone it alone, he has ventured beyond his Smiths roots before, having been a member of bands such as Electronic, The Pretenders, Modest Mouse and The Cribs. In 2010, he even teamed with composer Hans Zimmer to score the movie Inception.
“My career’s a little bit more like Brian Eno’s than Keith Richards’,” Marr muses. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”