NME Festival blog: Johnny Marr reveals how Naughty By Nature inspired him to be the best version of himself

“[Their] philosophy sounded so empowering to me.”

Johnny Marr has revealed that it was rap group Naughty By Nature who inspired him to be the best version of himself, as far as health and fitness is concerned.

In a new interview, Marr revealed that he met the iconic hip-hop trio whilst shooting a video with The The‘s Matt Johnson in New York sometime during the early 90s.

“We were in some pretty gnarly parts of town during the song,” he told HipHopDX. “A couple of the Naughty By Nature crew were with us to take care of us. I really liked the late ’80s, early ’90s hip-hop scene, you know, where there was 3rd Bass, basically East Coast and West Coast.

“And I thought it had been genuinely psychedelic in the way that really good late ’60s jazz was. But the limitations of the technology – in other words, before samplers were able to change key and time – meant that the music was genuinely progressive by accident.”

Admitting that he would spend his evenings watching Yo! MTV Raps during his stay in New York, the former Smiths guitarist recalled seeing some of Naughty By Nature’s music videos.

“I spent a lot of [time] watching MTV and I found the best stuff around at that time,” he said. “I was interested in asking a couple of the guys from Naughty By Nature, ‘How come in a lot of your videos and interviews, you guys are always working out all the time?’ Coming from British indie rock, I’m nothing if not curious [laughs]. I wanted to learn and they sat me down and went into this really good explanation.”

He continued: “It was about this whole philosophy around young black men needing to be strong and as together as you could possibly be and educating yourself because today, particularly the government, was flooding the projects with crack, and the last thing you need is to be the effect of that. You need to be on top of your game. That philosophy sounded so empowering to me and positive. It just made me want to make myself as strong as I could. I also quite liked that it was the opposite of the cliché of [an] indie-rock musician.”

Inspired by Treach, Vin Rock, and Kay Gee, it was then that Marr said he started running more and going to the gym on a more regular basis. Even now, at 55-years-old, on occasion, he still finds time to run several miles before a gig.

“When you’re younger, you’re given this message that being obsessive is really bad for you,” he continued. “And understandably, if you’re obsessive about the wrong things or things that are unhealthy then, sure, it’s bad for you. But when you get a little older, being obsessive can be pretty useful.

“So by nature, I was sort of a Mancunian rock guitar player who wants to stay up late watching YouTube videos and then getting up at noon and fucking around. But, because I know myself pretty well and I wanted to break out of that usual rock same cycle, I used my obsessive nature in a way that was kind of good for me.”

Back in February, Johnny Marr has shared the new video for his latest single ‘Armatopia’.

The song is Marr’s first release of 2019. The musician said of the track at the time of its release: “‘Armatopia’ is the odd state we find the ecology and ourselves in today. Have those in control made people feel like there’s only one thing left they can do? ‘We’re smoking till we burn out’, so we dance and party. It’s Eco-Disco for 2019.”


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Straight from the NME


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