The dark visions of the The's Matt Johnson stirred the imaginations of such diverse artists as Nine Inch Nails, Better Than Ezra, and Sinead O'Connor. Johnson was born in London, England, on August 15, 1961. Johnson had his first band Roadstar when he was only 11 years old, performing mainly covers. At 15, Johnson quit school and began writing to music publishing companies, finding employment at De Wolfe as a tea boy. Johnson eventually started to use De Wolfe's recording studio for his own demos. In 1979, Johnson had an ad run in the New Musical Express asking for a musical collaborator; synth player Keith Laws answered Johnson's request, and the two formed the The. The group debuted at the Africa Centre in London's Covent Garden on May 1979. In the '80s, the The became less of a band and more of a Johnson solo project supported by a revolving door of musicians like Thomas Leer, Jim Foetus, Neneh Cherry, Jools Holland, and Sinead O'Connor. However, Johnson needed a stable lineup that he could tour with. Johnson hired former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, drummer Dave Palmer, and bassist James Eller, releasing Mind Bomb in 1989. Mind Bomb and its follow-up, Dusk, featured some of the The's most successful songs in America, tracks like "The Beat(en) Generation" and "Dogs of Lust." Angered by the lack of promotion given to the The's 2000 album, Nakedself, Johnson enabled listeners to download it for free on the group's Internet site.