Matt Johnson (born 15 August 1961) is an English singer-songwriter best known as the vocalist and only constant member of his band The The. He is also a film soundtrack composer (Cineola), publisher (Fifty First State Press), broadcaster (Radio Cineola), and conservationist/local activist.
|Birth name||Matthew Johnson|
|Born||15 August 1961|
|Genres||Alternative rock, post-punk, new wave|
|Occupation(s)||Singer, songwriter, producer, publisher|
|Instrument(s)||Guitar, piano, organ, percussion|
|Labels||4AD, Some Bizzare, Epic, Sony, Nothing, Lazarus|
Johnson grew up with his three brothers, Eugene, Andrew (the artist Andy Dog Johnson), and Gerard, in East London. Much of his youth was spent in or around the Two Puddings, a London pub run by his family over the course of 40 years.
In 1979, Johnson placed an advert in NME looking for like-minded fans of the Velvet Underground, the Residents and Throbbing Gristle to form a band with him. The The began as a duo, then a four-piece, then a singular entity with a rotating cast of musicians that has included Johnny Marr, Simon Fisher Turner and Sinéad O'Connor. "I like to think of The The as a fluid thing", Johnson said in a 1993 Melody Maker interview. "People can work with me, then stop for a bit, then work again."
In 1981, Johnson released the album Burning Blue Soul on 4AD under his own name (since re-released under the name The The), still regarded by some as a much overlooked masterpiece. By 1983 Johnson and Keith Laws the artists signed to Some Bizzare that place the record with CBS to distribute Some Bizzare released The The's debut album Soul Mining now distributed by Sony . By 1986, Some Bizzare produced and released The The their second album Infected, which reached number 14 in the UK Albums Chart and remained in the chart for 30 weeks, making it the band's most commercially successful album to date. Infected: The Movie was the screen accompaniment to the album.
The The went on Some Bizzare release further albums through Sony Music including Mind Bomb (1989), Dusk (1993), Hanky Panky (1995), NakedSelf (2000) and compilation album 45 RPM: The Singles of The The (2002).
Johnson's younger brother Eugene died in 1989. The impact of this death on Matt Johnson and his creativity is a subject of the 2017 documentary THE INERTIA VARIATIONS, directed by Johanna St Michaels, which focuses on the life of Matt Johnson and the team who surround him. The film is named after an original collection of poetry by John Tottenham, and was later shortlisted for the 'Best Q Film' award in Q magazine's 'Q' Awards.
Despite not releasing any new music as The The over the course of 15 years prior to 2017, Johnson worked as founder and broadcaster of Radio Cineola, and also heavily collaborated with his brother Gerard, composing the full soundtrack for two of Gerard's films; Tony (2009) and Hyena (2014).
To coincide with the 2017 release of The Inertia Variations, Johnson collaborated with Johnny Marr again and released The The's first single in over 15 years - 'We Can't Stop What's Coming' under his own record label Cineola. Johnson dedicated this track to his late brother Andy Dog Johnson who died in 2016.
As well as a new single, Johnson released the Radio Cineola Trilogy Boxset on vinyl and CD format. In October 2017 The The also announced a comeback series of dates in June 2018 and will be playing live at three venues in London, UK including the Royal Albert Hall. The The are also due to appear as a headline act at Festival N°6 in 2018.
In November 2017, Johnson announced that he was hoping to form a new band and release new music by 2018.
In June 2018, The The kicked off the first three London dates of the tour, which was expanded in-flight to accommodate not only North America but also four Australian dates in both Sydney and Melbourne. The original line-up for the tour was:
- Matt Johnson - vocals, guitar
- Barrie "Little Barrie" Cadogan - lead guitar
- James Eller - bass
- Earl Harvin - drums, percussion
- D C Collard - keyboards
- "Today in History". Boston.com. 15 August 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
- "The Culture Trip - Tales From The Two Puddings". Culture Trip. 24 October 2016.
- "'I've got to get back to what I love doing': Matt Johnson on his long-awaited comeback". Ft.com. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
- "The The - 10 of The Best". The Guardian. 31 May 2017.
- "Matt Johnson presents: 'THE THE: Infected – The Movie'". Edinburgh Film Festival Official. 25 March 2017.
Johnson's screen accompaniment to THE THE's stunning album of the same name is a vital piece of 1980s British art. Featuring the work of four directors and locations including Peru, Bolivia and New York, the project saw Johnson embark on an epic artistic adventure in an attempt to match his music visually. The enduring power of Infected – The Movie lies in the intense, dangerous passion that Johnson invested in it at the time.
- St. Michaels, Johanna (24 June 2017). "Official Website of Director Johanna St. Michaels". Official Website of Johanna St. Michaels.
- Tottenham, John (16 September 2008). "The Inertia Variations". John Tottenham's Inertia Variations.
- "Q Awards Website". Q Awards. 15 October 2017. Archived from the original on 21 October 2017.
- Johnson, Matt (20 January 2017). "Matt Johnson's announcement of Andrew's passing". The The official website.
- "Radio Cineola Trilogy Box Set". Official website of The The. 25 September 2017.
- "The The announce first live dates in 16 years". NME.
- "The The Twitter Channel". twitter. 2 November 2017.
- Neal, Charles, ed. (1987). Tape Delay: Confessions from the Eighties Underground. SAF Publishing Ltd. pp. 93–103. ISBN 978-0-946719-02-0 – via the Internet Archive.
- Fraser, Neil (2022). Long Shadows, High Hopes: The Life and Times of Matt Johnson and The The (Updated Edition). Omnibus Press. ISBN 9781913172442