As the guest editor of The The Official Tour Book I have been able to follow and observe Matt Johnson very closely in the creative process and preparation of the 2018 Comeback Special.
I recall sitting at a table in a Shoreditch cafe, towards the tail end of 2017, with a very enthusiastic Johnson sharing with me his vision and plans to reactivate The The with a tour and the line-up of the band he would be taking with him.
The upcoming tour provided a wonderful opportunity to continue the series of interviews we had done in the past and add a new chapter. When we were about to set a date for the interview Johnson suggested to kill two birds with one stone; could I interview him in one session about the tour for the 200% website and the official tour book programme? There was, though, more on his mind; would I like to be the designer and the guest editor of the tour book programme and interview the other collaborators of the tour as well? Of course, I was delighted and it seems that Johnson was capable of killing three birds with one stone.
On the day of the interview I unexpectedly met the band members. They were going out for a drink to decompress after a series of good rehearsal days. We went to ‘The Golden Heart’ and started to talk about football as the pub was about to live broadcast the first leg of the Champions League quarter final match, Liverpool versus Johnson’s arch rivals Manchester City. The atmosphere in the band felt like hanging-out-with-your-friends-and-play-music-together. They were relaxed, trying to pull each other’s leg and discussed the progress they had made during the day with the songs. Later that evening, after we finished our takeaway pizza, I interviewed Johnson extensively about what made him to decide to go on the road again, his expectations, the band members and the set list.
Meeting the band members first in an informal setting and getting to know them a little bit was helpful for the interview later. I was able to discuss The The’s music from their perspective as musicians and what it is like to play the music on their specific instrument.
Matt’s life during the rehearsal period has been absolutely mental. He rehearses intensely with the band up to eight hours a day. Before and after the rehearsals he has to deal with the business and organisational side of the tour such as meetings with the tour management, publicity, pr, promoters, merchandise, tour book programme and also the proofreading for the first official biography of the band Long Shadows, High Hopes; The Life and Times of Matt Johnson and The The by Neil Fraser to be published in June. On top of that he is managing himself and running his own record company too.
Although Johnson is extremely busy he always remains friendly, patient and up for some banter. He is a great organizer, good at delegating and possesses great social skills by starting each conversation by asking how you are and meaning it.
Over the next five upcoming days we will reveal on our website each of the members of the band – one per day – starting tomorrow with Matt Johnson himself. Stay tuned!
Written by Thierry Somers
More: Matt Johnson features in 200% #2. You can order your copy here: https://200-percent.com/product/200-magazine-issue-2/