When Matty Healy’s drug ad­dic­tion threat­ened to de­rail his band, the front­man pulled back from the brink just in time.

The story so far: THE 1975 be­came one of the world’s big­gest bands by stealth, while mes­sianic front­man Matty Healy sank se­cretly into drug ad­dic­tion. Sylvia Pat­ter­son meets the quar­tet in Eng­land and Los An­ge­les to hear how he pulled back from the abyss so as to push his group into a new gal­axy.

JUNE 2018,

An­gelic Stu­dios, Northamp­ton­shire. In the tran­quil sur­round­ings of the sun-parched English coun­try­side, Matty Healy is fid­get­ing on a sofa in a fog of cig­a­rette smoke, bleached-out hair on end, wear­ing what ap­pear to be rags: a shred­ded art­work T-shirt, flo­ral trousers and manky no-longer-white ho­tel slip­pers. He’s talk­ing at three times the speed of av­er­age hu­mans. “You have to go to re­hab be­cause when you’re not on drugs, the only thing you can think about is get­ting the drugs,” he’s rac­ing on, spelling out the thought process which took him to Bar­ba­dos on Hal­loween 2017 to rid him­self of the daily heroin smok­ing habit he’d ac­quired over the course of the pre­vi­ous four years (the ma­jor­ity of The 1975’ s vis­i­ble life). He chose Bar­ba­dos “be­cause it’s a long swim back to Lon­don.” He car­ries on, rapidly. “Soon as you take the drugs you go, ‘Oh, I don’t need these fuck­ing drugs’, so you go [ breezily], ‘OK, I’ll go to re­hab’, you get to re­hab, week one, ‘I need the drugs, ev­ery­one’s a c**t, what you talk­ing about, of course I need the drugs, are you men­tal?’” He’s in­tense, gal­lows-funny, chaotic, choco­late-drop eyes star­ing straight into your own: you’re lis­ten­ing three times faster just to keep up. As a lit­er­ary ado­les­cent and be­yond, Healy fell hard for the ro­mance of the heroin-strung-out cre­ative, a Bur­roughs/ Beat poet ob­ses­sive, just like Pete Do­herty, “but I hated Pete Do­herty, so I did it in se­cret”. Un­like with Do­herty, re­hab suc­ceeded, now con­vinced he’ll be clean for­ever at 29 (he’s even given up booze, though the con­stant weed re­mains). “I’d rather have the per­son’s life back than any kind of ‘cool’ legacy,” he notes, with­er­ingly. “I’d rather have seen Kurt Cobain grow old and cringey and end up on I’m A Celebrity. Who gives a fuck about be­ing cool? And with sui­cide, right, we tend to think they woke up one day and made a de­ci­sion to do that. In­stead of think­ing they prob­a­bly woke up ev­ery day find­ing ways to not do that. Lis­ten, I’ve been there. I don’t have a lot of self-es­teem. But if you’re into mu­sic au­then­ti­cally be­cause it saved your life, that’s your job for other peo­ple. The pur­pose.” In 2018 Matty Healy is less the com­edy-mega­lo­ma­niac of his mid- 20s, more brac­ingly hon­est, sen­si­tive and con­fes­sional, an al­most alarm­ingly smart scat­ter of re­lent­less ki­netic en­ergy. He drives the agenda of The 1975, the stu­dio walls pa­pered with the mar­ket­ing art­work for third al­bum, A Brief In­quiry Into On­line Re­la­tion­ships, in­clud­ing the quote: “If I don’t get to see the beauty of the end of cul­ture: Then at least I’ve seen the cul­ture of the end of beauty.” He pow­ers through a dis­sec­tion of our rag­ing, “ra­dioac­tive” con­tem­po­rary dig­i­tal dis­course, quotes Carl Jung and Ni­et­zsche, loathes de­hu­man­is­ing post-mod­ern irony and be­lieves in mis­sion state­ments: this year, to cul­tur­ally re­in­state “sin­cer­ity and au­then­tic­ity”. In bands from the age of 10, he spent his ado­les­cence in­doors cre­at­ing what would be­come The 1975 with his school-friends in Cheshire from the age of 13: co-song­writer/pro­ducer/drum­mer George Daniel, bassist Ross Mac­Don­ald and gui­tarist Adam Hann. With his some­time By­ron-es­que curls and pretty-boy fea­tures, Healy was a swoon-pop front­man archetype, but no la­bels would touch this band’s mu­si­cal idiosyn­crasy. In de­fi­ance they launched them­selves, through their own la­bel Dirty Hit in 2009 (ini­tially set up by close friend and man­ager Jamie Oborne), their first two al­bums reach­ing Num­ber 1 (The 1975, 2013) and the lu­di­crously-ti­tled I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beau­ti­ful Yet So Un­aware Of It ( 2016, also Num­ber 1 in Amer­ica). Colos­sal with teenage girls and be­wil­der­ing to ev­ery­one else, they were car­toony ’ 80s retro-pop – Du­ran Du­ran, INXS, with echoes of One Di­rec­tion – be­ly­ing lyri­cal foren­sics on ad­dic­tion, de­pres­sion and mad­ness. Two songs in 2016 hinted at great­ness: the sub­lime, dream­scape sin­gle Some­body Else and the del­i­cate acous­tic She Lays Down, Healy’s eu­logy to his mum’s post­na­tal de­pres­sion and co­caine ad­dic­tion (some­time Cor­rie ac­tor and Loose Woman Denise Welch, who found the song “heart­felt, beau­ti­ful”). No typ­i­cal pop fare here. Fans duly re­cip­ro­cated. They etched tat­toos of his lyrics, wor­shipped him as the Harry Styles of emo-pop. Lorde and Halsey cov­ered their songs, they sup­ported The Rolling Stones, sold out Madi­son Square Gar­den. The job de­scrip­tion/pur­pose he’s just spelled out came so true, so fast, “it messed me up: let­ters from kids say­ing we’d saved their lives.” The main­stream be­yond youth cul­ture, though, took no­tice only as re­cently as the Brit Awards 2017, win­ning Best Bri­tish Group, their per­for­mance of chirpy synth-pop sin­gle The Sound in­ter­cut with out­takes from mock­ing de­but al­bum re­views (view­ers thought they’d been cy­ber-hacked through the TV): “Is this a joke?” “Do peo­ple re­ally still make mu­sic like this?” “Pre­ten­tious.” “Punch-your-TV ob­nox­ious.” It was smart, funny, sub­ver­sive and au­da­cious but even to­day, oddly, they’re a pe­riph­eral pres­ence. “The big­gest band in the world no­body’s ever heard of?” baulks Healy, taken aback (in his world, un­der­stand­ably, he’s mas­sive). “Well, ev­ery­thing we’ve done has been ir­reg­u­lar.” He’s ir­reg­u­lar com­pany. He talks so com­pul­sively fast that he has what he calls “tics”, rapidly press­ing the tips of all his fin­gers, one by one, onto the thumbs of both hands like the pin­cer move­ments of an in­sect. “And I’ve got this left, right, here, here, here thing,” he ex­plains, pinch­ing his shoul­ders, arms, knees, the kind of bizarre OCD rou­tine you see from ten­nis ti­tan Rafael Nadal. His speedy mind is specif­i­cally why he chose heroin: to cut the noise dead.

“The 1975 are in­cred­i­bly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion. And what is the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion? It’s mu­si­cally all over the place and it’s par­tic­u­larly men­tally un­well.”

“I envy other peo­ple,” he la­ments, point­ing to his bub­bling brain. “It’s just go­ing go­ing go­ing, you wake up, ‘Fuck­ing hell, again.’ And the first time I did it [ heroin] I was like, ‘Uu­u­u­u­uuh. There it is. There’s the si­lence. There’s the still­ness.’” This is Healy’s My Drug Hell story. He de­lib­er­ately de­cided back in June to “stop ly­ing” and em­brace “the truth”, move past the “shame” of the rock’n’roll cliché which had made him “a worse writer, per­son, friend, part­ner, son, hurt­ing peo­ple, and I care way more… about other peo­ple than I care about my­self, I know that’s sad, but I re­ally do.” In re­hab, he re­ceived phys­i­cal, heart­felt, dif­fi­cult let­ters from his band­mates spelling out ex­actly how they felt, has taken vol­un­tary weekly drug tests ever since as part of the band’s rou­tine, “prison- style”, and been in ther­apy “all the time”. He tells a lengthy story about the horse called Fa­vor which saved him back in Bar­ba­dos, through equine ther­apy (which he ini­tially rolled his eyes at). It took hours with a trainer to de­velop a re­la­tion­ship with the beau­ti­ful, black, el­e­gant Fa­vor who, at first, “didn’t give a fuck”, ig­nor­ing the di­shev­elled young hu­man in the throes of with­drawal. Even­tu­ally, Fa­vor wouldn’t leave his side, giv­ing Healy “mas­sively pro­found rev­e­la­tions”, see­ing in his new hoofed pal “strength, power, in­de­pen­dence, gra­cious with its time, with­out ego; hu­man qual­i­ties I lacked. I learned to be a bet­ter per­son. It changed my life, y’know?” How did that change the way you feel about your­self ? “Well… it’s like… to be a horse, isn’t it?” he muses. “You don’t

have to tell a horse to love it­self, d’you kno what I mean? Or to eat the right things, sleep at the right time. They do what’s best for them­selves. And they don’t judge them­selves for it. They just do it. Be­cause it’s what you’re sup­posed to do.” He then plays work-in-progress ed­its from A Brief In­quiry…, its lyri­cal themes “the ne­go­ti­a­tion of love, fear, sex and loss in the dig­i­tal age.” It’s about how hu­mans to­day are do­ing any­thing but what’s best for them­selves, and judg­ing them­selves and ev­ery­one else be­cause of it. There’s a sub­text, adds Healy, of “a deep in­quiry into… my fears.” By the time it’s fin­ished in three months’ time it could be the al­bum of their gen­er­a­tion.

Los An­ge­les, Septem­ber 2018. Through a huge, ranch-style wooden gate high in the Hol­ly­wood Hills, Matty Healy am­bles across the glass-fronted open-plan kitchen/liv­ing room of a res­i­den­tial stu­dio wear­ing a new hair­cut, a short-sided, raven-black mop, and what ap­pears to be a hes­sian potato sack. It’s a calf-length, oat­meal frock­coat which makes him look like Kirk Dou­glas in the 1956 Vin­cent Van Gogh biopic Lust For Life. He, though, sees “Phil Collins”, on Top Of The Pops in 1981, when Collins perched a paint pot atop his piano af­ter his mis­sus left him for a pain­ter and dec­o­ra­tor, and Healy was eight years from be­ing born. The 1975 are liv­ing here, fin­ish­ing A Brief In­quiry… and be­gin­ning their fourth, Notes On A Con­di­tional Form, due next May. Healy loves LA, “it’s re­lent­lessly bright, pos­i­tive, ac­tive, healthy, beau­ti­ful”, per­fect for the mil­len­nial life­style de­fined by so-called self-care and well­ness (apart from US-strength mar­i­juana), in­clud­ing daily early morn­ing work­outs with a per­sonal trainer. Healy’s re­cov­ery is go­ing well, though he’s aware he’s cut him­self off from trig­gers, and you won­der, three months on from My Drug Hell, how he feels about his pub­lic state­ments to­day. “I just wanted to apol­o­gise to my mum,” he cringes, head down. “You can’t be a par­ent and have that kind of thing out there and not think, ‘Well, why didn’t I…,’” he fal­ters. “You think it’s your fault, d’you kno what I mean? When it’s com­pletely not.” The kitchen-liv­ing room is busy: band mem­bers lounge with girl­friends, along­side blue-haired Filipino artist No Rome, signed to Dirty Hit, soon puff­ing on a gi­gan­tic, Wu-Tang-style brown blunt (which brings two words to mind: The Fear). We re­pair to the wood-pan­elled stu­dio where Healy plays the fin­ished A Brief In­quiry…, fin­gers air-play­ing the tini­est touches, in per­fect time. Of the four sin­gles al­ready re­leased this year, mostly perky synth-pop (lead sin­gle Give Your­self A Try was a chim­ing amal­gam of goth and pop), only one is as­ton­ish­ing, Love It If We Made It, a fre­netic col­lage of con­tem­po­rary ref­er­ences (“Con­sul­ta­tion/ Degra­da­tion/Fos­sil fu­elling/Mas­tur­ba­tion/Im­mi­gra­tion/Lib­eral kitsch/Kneel­ing on a pitch/I moved on her like a bitch”), which is,

notes a now-beam­ing Healy, “proper epic!” The rest is a reve­la­tion: dra­matic whooshes of com­pressed, multi-vo­cal ef­fects, scur­ry­ing beat­box stoner-freak psychedelia, as if Aphex Twin joined Kid A-era Ra­dio­head, and a cul­tural first, a para­ble nar­rated by Ap­ple’s Siri, where the char­ac­ter’s “best friend”, the in­ter­net, cheers him up by show­ing him “the peo­ple hav­ing sex” and agree­ing with ev­ery­thing he says. There’s a por­ten­tous, Joy Divi­sion-es­que mur­der bal­lad (Healy knows lit­tle about Joy Divi­sion, “Er, I’ve been to Mac­cles­field?”), an­other lyri­cally wres­tles with Healy’s heroin-shaped “20 stone mon­key on my back”, over echoes of Fleet­wood Mac and, un­fea­si­bly, ’ 70s easy-lis­ten­ing crooner Pe­ter Skellern. Two songs com­prise the fi­nale: I Couldn’t Be More In Love, a glo­ri­ous swoon of im­pas­sioned grief with an un­apolo­getic, stand-up-for-the-key-change mo­ment. It might yet be the great­est X Fac­tor win­ner’s song ever writ­ten and if that doesn’t sound much of a stretch, it could be a Michael Jack­son bal­lad in the style of Harry Nils­son’s im­mor­tal With­out You in 1971. In the soar­ing closer, I Al­ways Wanna Die (Some­times), Healy la­ments, “sing the blues, there’s no point in buy­ing con­crete shoes”, around a ce­les­tial falsetto, a thrum of ec­static fi­nal­ity slid­ing into a Beethoven flour­ish, a cliff-hang­ing rev­erie-in-cello. “You want the Hol­ly­wood end­ing and then the end­ing,” thrills Healy, of the be­witch­ing false end­ing. “Like The Grad­u­ate.” It’s dra­matic, sin­cere, ridicu­lous, of­ten bril­liant (def­i­nitely not a joke), im­pres­sively self-pro­duced and cre­atively en­hanced by what Healy calls “George’s OCD”. Healy, ev­i­dently, free from his nar­cotic flat-line, has be­come not only a bet­ter per­son but a sig­nif­i­cantly more imag­i­na­tive mu­si­cal force. If there are hints of Ra­dio­head here, they’re more Cold­play in re­verse: a promis­ing young band who’ve spec­tac­u­larly evolved, in­stead of cre­atively de­volved, a band un­afraid of the dark, and the real.

The 1975 are in­cred­i­bly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion,” Matty Healy now de­clares, un­der azure skies, panoramic views of LA stretch­ing out be­low. “And what is the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion? It’s mu­si­cally all over the place and it’s par­tic­u­larly men­tally un­well.” We’re on the stu­dio board­walk pa­tio, on white leather so­fas, Healy puff­ing on a spliff. Cannabis, since ado­les­cence, has been a brain-sta­bil­is­ing force, “very much so”, even the “very strong” newly le­gal Amer­i­can kind. How come he doesn’t feel as if he’s on acid? “Years and years of tol­er­ance.” He’s si­mul­ta­ne­ously eat­ing healthy, salad-based fare from a brown pa­per bag de­liv­ery, “Sorry, I’m starv­ing!” He’s less manic to­day, no sign of those pin­cer-move­ment tics, but his mind speeds on, dis­sect­ing the ma­nip­u­la­tive forces be­hind on­line life, like lis­ten­ing to a triple-speed TED Talk tu­to­rial on YouTube. He’s knowl­edge­able, sci­en­tific, knows how Google works (our searches are in­di­vid­u­alised, which re­in­forces in­for­ma­tion, lim­its our reach), how the dig­i­tal “at­ten­tion econ­omy” works, us­ing “the slot ma­chine ef­fect” to keep us hooked across Twit­ter, Face­book, YouTube, Net­flix, “mind-con­trol­ling the whole of so­ci­ety”. How we’re chem­i­cally ad­dicted to the dopamine hits of val­i­da­tion (and emo­tion­ally

“Soon as you take the drugs you go, ‘Oh, I don’t need these drugs : OK, I’ll go to re­hab.’ You get to re­hab, week one, ‘I need the drugs, ev­ery­one’s a c**t, what you talk­ing about, of course I need the drugs, are you men­tal? ’”

skew­ered where there’s none), de­clares on­line ad­dic­tion de­nial “iden­ti­cal” to drug ad­dic­tion de­nial, “and the whole world is en­abling you.” He’s seen his gen­er­a­tion’s self-es­teem plum­met, the rise of anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion, sui­cide, self-harm – “it’s as­tro­nom­i­cal, I’m sure that cor­re­la­tion is real.” Then there’s ev­ery­thing else. He was 12 years old when 9/11 hap­pened, a mem­ber of Gen­er­a­tion Spooked which un­der­stands the world is cor­rupt, run by crooks and char­la­tans (glar­ingly so to­day), who knows, as The Wire once told us, the game is rigged, y’all. “It’s like the hy­per­nor­mal­i­sa­tion idea of, ‘I know that you know that I know this is all fucked up,’” he scoffs. “So there’s a mas­sive dis­trust.” Af­ter all these years in 21st- cen­tury pop, then – of the me­dia-trained, of the pleas­antly priv­i­leged and the thud of the av­er­age mind – we have among us a Mad Pro­fes­sor Of Pop. If there are echoes here of the young Richey Ed­wards, the long-miss­ing gui­tarist/the­o­rist of the Manic Street Preach­ers – his polemics, slo­ga­neer­ing and cyn­i­cism, at least – mer­ci­fully for him he’s also sen­si­tive to ex­is­ten­tial won­der. He grew up bog­gling at cos­mol­o­gist Carl Sa­gan’s im­mor­tal Pale Blue Dot speech, “as a kid, I got the in­signif­i­cance”, an enor­mous toke see­ing him fly­ing down a worm­hole to 1968. “Quan­tum ideas, sub-re­al­i­ties are in­ter­est­ing but our in­ter­ac­tion with other hu­man be­ings, that’s the realest of the real real real,” he ex­hales. “What is real is this now, it’s us talk­ing about what is real, is what is real. So to not make that as beau­ti­ful, ex­cit­ing, un­lim­ited and pur­pose­ful is point­less. The magic of re­al­ity I’m a mas­sive fan of. I envy the faith­ful but I don’t need to be put here for any other rea­son than a mush­room.” He en­thuses over the rise of pop science, over author Yu­val Noah Harari’s Sapi­ens: A Brief His­tory Of Hu­mankind (which in­duced “a bit of a ner­vous break­down”) and so­cial­ism. “Karl Marx is sexy again,” he mar­vels. “Now, young peo­ple into the Kar­dashi­ans are talk­ing about so­cial­ism. It’s weird, man! Be­ing pro­gres­sive is pop­u­lar.”

Matty Healy’s in­fi­nite the­o­ris­ing could be, in some ways, an in­ner-life avoid­ance de­vice. He men­tions his girl­friend, the 22- year-old Aus­tralian fash­ion model Gabby Brooks, whom he partly cred­its with his cur­rent sta­bil­ity. “I love Gabby a lot, and she’s been re­ally good for me,” he de­cides. “And it’s hard be­ing with me be­cause I’m so in­su­lar, y’know?” It’s an odd thing to say: he seems so open. “I’m not in­su­lar when you get in. But the gate’s kind of locked.” His life­long de­pres­sion he de­scribes as “bru­tal”, some­thing he’s loathe to talk about (other than in his lyrics) be­cause to­day ev­ery­one

“You don’t have to tell a horse to love it­self. Or to eat the right things, sleep at the right time. They do what’s best for them­selves. And they don’t judge them­selves for it. They just doit . Be­cause it’s what you’re sup­posed to do.”

else does: artists, so­ci­ety, the young Roy­als. “It’s quite en vogue to do so. I don’t wanna be part of that.” With the gate locked, we talk about the cul­ture of men­tal health any­way, about ubiq­ui­tous “toxic mas­culin­ity” and he suc­cumbs to The Fear. “I fear say­ing I don’t think it’s a great thing,” he frowns, per­haps mind­ful of a loom­ing Twit­ter­storm. “I’d like to re­tract my state­ment. It’s too im­por­tant. And it’s been a cor­ner­stone in my life, in my mu­sic.” Healy’s de­pres­sion he calls “com­pres­sion”: he’d re­act emo­tion­ally iden­ti­cally to news of “my dog dy­ing, or win­ning the lot­tery. But I’ve seen worse, even in my fam­ily.” He wants to help, it’s what I Al­ways Wanna Die (Some­times) is about, now tak­ing his role as po­ten­tially life-sav­ing pop star not only se­ri­ously, but lit­er­ally. “Peo­ple should talk about sui­ci­dal thoughts,” he now urges. Be­cause you’ve had those thoughts? “All the time.” All the time? He sighs. “When­ever I get de­pressed, and that’s been reg­u­larly in my life, that’s a thing, right?” he ex­plains. “It’s like pain re­lief. So I think it’s al­right for peo­ple to un­der­stand that think­ing about killing your­self… it’s not men­tal to think that. Think­ing about it is very dif­fer­ent to plan­ning it. And if you’re a fan of The 1975, and if you’ve re­motely planned it, then I’d love it if you saw some­body and told them ex­actly what hap­pens with those thoughts. I’m not a sui­ci­dal per­son, I don’t wanna con­fuse peo­ple, but to think, ‘This is too hard, killing my­self would be eas­ier’ is some­thing a lot of peo­ple think. And maybe wouldn’t wanna ad­mit. And I’ll ad­mit it freely.” There’s a quote: “Don’t make a per­ma­nent de­ci­sion for your tem­po­rary emo­tion.” Is that what you mean? “Yeah,” he nods. “Your body is a set of chem­i­cals and some­times they don’t work very well. Time be­comes ag­o­nis­ing, like be­ing on acid. You see peo­ple have their day and you feel like you’ve lived two weeks. Cos you haven’t moved, like you haven’t got­ten out of bed. Learn to sit in it. Ride it out. Pa­tience is a fuck­ing virtue.” In the last two years, mu­sic cul­ture alone has known many sui­cides and drug-re­lated over­dose fa­tal­i­ties, ac­ci­den­tal or oth­er­wise, young or oth­er­wise, all men: Ch­ester Ben­ning­ton from Linkin Park, Chris Cor­nell from Soundgar­den, Scott Hutchi­son from Fright­ened Rab­bit, Avicii, Lil Peep, Mac Miller. Healy knew Miller “a lit­tle bit”, they played Aus­tralia’s Big Day Out to­gether in 2014, had lunch, smoked weed to­gether. His face crum­ples. “I don’t wanna ride on his death.” His eyes brim with tears, turns his head away. “It re­ally up­sets me. It’s just sad, man. He was a good per­son. In­cred­i­bly tal­ented.” Ever since he’s been strug­gling, he ad­mits, “with guilt”, for talk­ing openly about opi­oids which may have been in­volved in Miller’s fa­tal over­dose, feel­ing he might have helped “le­git­imise” Xanax specif­i­cally. “I feel like a wanker,” he says, for be­ing truth­ful about drugs full stop. “But it was ei­ther that or keep ly­ing and feel like a wanker any­way.” Now, he’s in­censed. “I hope each one [ of the re­cent deaths] scares the shit out of every­body,” he ex­claims. “It’s not a fuck­ing game! The one in 5000 ec­stasy pills within a batch at fuck­ing Cream­fields in the ’ 90s, that’s one thing. A fuck­ing sup­ply-and-de­mand in­dus­try that’s the same as fuck­ing McDon­ald’s? Where any­body in a fuck­ing Prius can sell you some dodgy Xan­nies? That is not a game. I had to be on a fuck­ing is­land, with the sea stop­ping me from swim­ming back. It’s a cul­ture that is not a fuck­ing game.” He looks shaken, for­lorn. We talk about mu­sic in­stead.

Matty Healy’s ran­dom, decades-span­ning mu­si­cal taste be­gan be­fore the dig­i­tal democ­racy even be­gan, back in the 1990s. Aged 10, through his dad’s clas­sic rock/soul/blues record col­lec­tion (the ac­tor Tim Healy, famed for play­ing Les/Les­ley in Benidorm), “I knew more about The Moody Blues than fuck­ing Joy Divi­sion, d’youknowhatImean?” His favourite ’ 90s song isn’t from Brit­pop or dance cul­ture but the New Rad­i­cals’ You Get What You Give, from 1998. His first eureka mo­ment was Michael Jack­son at Wem­b­ley, aged eight, in 1997. “My mum sur­prised me and I cried from the sec­ond she gave me the ticket till af­ter the gig,” he beams, his spirit el­e­vat­ing at the metic­u­lously-de­tailed mem­ory. “Fuck­ing, the show starts, right, silk screen up, his 20- foot shadow comes up, boof! In the hat, boom, shoom, gah! The screen drops, it’s him, ev­ery­one went freezes, mouth agape] and then went men­tal… that’s Michael Jack­son. I hadn’t seen him on Google Im­ages, y’know? I re­mem­ber danc­ing and danc­ing and danc­ing and danc­ing and danc­ing for fuck­ing hours and hours. It was fuck­ing sick.” It’s the first time to­day he sounds truly young. He fell in love with mu­sic pre­dom­i­nantly through ’ 80s movie sound­tracks, “and that’s how I see my life, as a se­ries of scenes, and what would the mu­sic be like for that scene? Not in a wanky way!” He loved both mu­si­cals and al­ter­na­tive rock sin­gles, “Rise, Pub­lic Im­age, Just Like Honey, The Je­sus And Mary Chain” and by 16 had “a hard-on for” ob­scure Amer­i­can emo, “Min­eral, Sunny Day Real Es­tate, Amer­i­can Foot­ball”. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, he loved Mariah Carey, Björk, Kate Bush, Ca­role King, Joni Mitchell, “so many in­flu­en­tial women in my life” and es­pe­cially Whit­ney Hous­ton. “I was in love, oh young Whit­ney was my fuck­ing dream!” he ser­e­nades, de­scrib­ing his orig­i­nal blue­print for The 1975 sound as “mu­sic which sounded like I Wanna Dance With Some­body but lyrics like Hal­lelu­jah by Leonard Co­hen.” His sub­ur­ban mid­dle­class home life was “men­tal”, a ’ 90s mu­si­cal party house rev­el­ling in booze and jokes (his dad had been a stand-up comic), lib­eral at­ti­tudes to sex and sex­u­al­ity (his ma­ter­nal grandad was a drag queen), hung out with his dad’s old welder mates and the odd show­biz pal (the first gui­tar he ever played was Mark Knopfler’s from Dire Straits). With zero in­ter­est in school or a proper job (post-school he worked in Chi­nese restau­rants and call cen­tres), his pop star dream was never in ques­tion. Asked sim­ply where his un­wa­ver­ing drive comes from and he barely un­der­stands the ques­tion. Spells of si­lence whoosh around many fal­ter­ing starts. “You know what it is? I just fuck­ing love mu­sic,” he an­nounces. “The com­bi­na­tion of mu­sic, cul­ture and di­a­logue and how pow­er­ful they are. Be­cause art and cul­ture is the only thing that tran­scends… ev­ery­thing. It’s non-ex­clu­sive. Mu­sic is anath­ema to all the fuck­ing bull­shit. It’s the op­po­site of ev­ery­thing that’s wrong with the world.”

This Hal­loween, ex­actly one year on from his flight to Bar­ba­dos, Matty Healy leaves LA to move out of his East Lon­don home, head­ing in­stead to West Lon­don, away from the drug en­ablers and trig­gers. He’s be­come en­thralled by nat­u­ral things, “I’m all about raw ma­te­ri­als” (hence the hes­sian sack), his ar­chi­tect-built new home made en­tirely of con­crete, “like a lit­tle con­crete church, hyper-mod­ern, beau­ti­ful, full of light.” Next April, he turns 30. “I like ma­tur­ing,” he de­cides. “It forces you to stand up, be a man, take con­trol of your­self. Fuck­ing do some ex­er­cise.” Be like the horse? “Be like the horse. I feel at my most au­then­tic. I’ve made a record I’m happy to put out at 30. It doesn’t feel younger than that. I don’t think I look 30...” Has it ever been a bur­den be­ing good-look­ing? “Oh!” he splut­ters. “I can’t an­swer that, can I? I don’t cu­rate a world where it has much im­por­tance. That’s why I dress like a fuck­ing pain­ter and dec­o­ra­tor.”

Back in the kitchen, Healy joins his band­mates and ex­tended fam­ily, his best friend George Daniel tok­ing from No Rome’s car­toon-sized blunt. It’s now dusk, a cres­cent moon hangs over the glit­ter­ing metropo­lis be­low where hu­man­ity ne­go­ti­ates love, fear, sex and loss in the dig­i­tal age. Right now there’s no 20- stone mon­key on Healy’s back, only his gig­gling girl­friend lit­er­ally on his back, her legs wrapped around his waist. For the young man in the Vin­cent Van Gogh frock­coat, who doesn’t be­lieve in Hol­ly­wood end­ings, the sad­ness may never go. But tonight, in the real-time biopic of his life, Matthew Healy is Fa­vor the horse. Do­ing what he’s sup­posed to do.

“I just fuck­ing love mu­sic!” Healy at work in the stu­dio, LA , 2018.

Close to the edge: The 1975 (from left) George Daniel, Ross Mac­Don­ald, Healy and Adam Hann, LA, 2018.

Get­ting on fa­mously: (left) Healy on­stage at the TRNSMT fes­ti­val, Glas­gow, 2017; (be­low) with par­ents Tim Healy and Denise Welch, 1994; ( be­low right) young Healy learns his trade.

Those life­sav­ing pro­fi­ciency medals are NAME in the HERE bag: The 1975 make a splash in La La Land.

The 1975 blithely ig­nore the “No run­ning, no bomb­ing” sign.

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