Antony and the Johnsons is a music group presenting the work of Antony Hegarty and his collaborators.
British experimental musician David Tibet of Current 93 heard a demo and offered to release Antony's music through his Durtro label. The debut album, Antony and the Johnsons, was released in 1998. In 2001, Hegarty released a short follow-up EP, I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy, which, in addition to the title track, included a cover of "Mysteries of Love", a David Lynch/Angelo Badalamenti song and "Soft Black Stars", a Current 93 cover.
Producer Hal Willner heard the EP and played it to Lou Reed, who immediately recruited him for his project The Raven. Now gaining more attention, Hegarty signed to US-based record label Secretly Canadian, and released another EP, The Lake, with Lou Reed guest-performing on one of the tracks. Secretly Canadian also re-released Hegarty's debut album in the United States to wider distribution in 2004.
Antony's second full-length album, 2005's I Am a Bird Now, was greeted with positive reviews and significantly more mainstream attention. The album featured guest appearances by Lou Reed, Rufus Wainwright, Boy George and Devendra Banhart, and circled themes of duality and transformation. I Am a Bird Now featured arrangements by Maxim Moston and Julia Kent and was mixed by Doug Henderson. In September 2005 Antony and the Johnsons were awarded the Mercury Prize for the best UK album of 2005. Rival Mercury nominees, and favorites for the prize, the Kaiser Chiefs suggested that Antony got in on a technicality; despite the fact he was born in the United Kingdom he spent much of his time in the US – although they later apologized for the suggestion that he wasn't a deserving winner.
Antony and the Johnsons collaborated with experimental film-maker Charles Atlas and presented TURNING in November 2006 in Rome, London, Paris, Madrid, and Braga. Thirteen women from New York City were presented in intimate live video portraits during the course of the concert. The Guardian called the piece "fragile, life affirming, and truly wonderful (five stars)". Le Monde in Paris hailed TURNING as "Concert-manifeste transsexuel".
Antony and the Johnsons' 5-song Another World EP was released on 7 October 2008. Antony and the Johnsons' third album, The Crying Light, was released on 19 January 2009 and went to #1 on the European Billboard charts. Antony has described the theme of the album as being "about landscape and the future". Nature, death, love and the role of the artist were explored across ten tracks, which included the single "Epilepsy Is Dancing." The album was mixed by Bryce Goggin and included arrangements by Nico Muhly.
Ann Powers wrote of The Crying Light for the LA Times online, "it's the most personal environmentalist statement possible, making an unforeseen connection between queer culture's identity politics and the green movement. As music, it's simply exquisite – more controlled and considered than anything Antony and the Johnsons have done and sure to linger in the minds of listeners."
After touring throughout North America and Europe in support of their new album, Antony and the Johnsons presented a unique staging of The Crying Light with the Manchester Camerata at the Manchester Opera House for the 2009 Manchester International Festival. The concert hall was transformed into a crystal cave filled with laser effects created by installation artist Chris Levine. Antony and the Johnsons went on to present concerts with symphonies across Europe in Summer 2009, including the Opera Orchestra of Lyon, the Metropole Orchestra, Roma Sinfonietta and the Montreux Jazz Festival Orchestra. At Salle Playel in Paris, Antony appeared in a costume designed for him by Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy.
After two sold out concerts at the Sydney Opera House, Antony and the Johnsons ended their recent touring in February 2010 in Tokyo. Antony, Johanna Constantine and William Basinski performed at the Sogetsu Hall with butoh master Yoshito Ohno, the son of the 103 year-old dancer Kazuo Ohno, whose image graces the cover of The Crying Light. Kazuo Ohno died in June of that year, and Antony wrote an obituary for the dancer in The Guardian.
In interviews around the world in 2010, Antony described his work on Swanlights and The Crying Light as "a collision between joy and a sense of hopelessness". Antony said he was struggling to come to terms with the idea that he was part of a society that was having a "virulent" impact on the earth. He suggested that the degradation of nature was partially a result of the subjugation of women and earth-based spiritual systems. Antony also blamed the collapse of humanity's sustainable relationship with the earth in part on the rise of patriarchal religions that suggest the destiny of humanity to be "a paradise elsewhere". Interview Magazine describes Swanlights as "an emotional personal call for global, collective change".
September 2010 saw the release of the Thank You For Your Love EP which includes covers of Dylan's "Pressing On" and Lennon's "Imagine". The Sun listed Thank You For Your Love as single of the week on 27 August 2010.
Antony and the Johnsons released a 4th album Swanlights on 12 October 2010 through Secretly Canadian and Rough Trade Records. Simultaneously, Abrams Books published a book edition of Swanlights featuring Antony's drawings and collages with photography by Don Felix Cervantes. Antony and the Johnsons performed "Thank You For Your Love" on both the Late Show with David Letterman and Later... with Jools Holland in support of the album’s release. In October 2010 Antony was invited to "takeover" The Guardian's music and arts page that ran for weeks leading up to the release of Swanlights. Stereogum placed Swanlights in its Top 50 Albums of the year at #8.
In tribute to Kazuo Ohno, Antony and the Johnsons performed on 30 October 2010 at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke's and featured the film "Mr. O's Book Of The Dead" directed by Chiaki Nagano and starring Kazuo Ohno.
In January 2011, Antony was a guest on "Winterguest", a program on Dutch Television's VPRO channel and was interviewed by Leon Verdonschot.
In 2010–2011, the song "Her Eyes Are Underneath The Ground" from the album The Crying Light was chosen as one of the five stimuli that the International Baccalaureate Organization chose for the IB Theatre Arts PPP.
On 26 January 2012, the Museum of Modern Art in New York produced a sold-out performance by Antony and the Johnsons, entitled "Swanlights" after their fourth studio album, at Radio City Music Hall, a collaboration with laser artist Chris Levine and set designer Carl Robertshaw. Hailed a triumph by the New York Times, the spectacle was prefaced by a speech from Dr. Julia Yasuda, who said: "I am concerned about nature changing and dying. Won't you please help her? Otherwise the world will be too lonely". The New York Times entitled their article about the concert as "Cries From the Heart, Crashing Like Waves".
Antony and the Johnsons released a live symphonic album in August 2012 entitled Cut the World; it features a track called "Future Feminism", which consists of a speech in which Antony disparages patriarchal religions and advocates for a shift towards feminine systems of governance as part of an effort to avert global ecological disaster.