Former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr has signed a deal with ArtistDirect's iMusic label for the January 2003 release of the as-yet-untitled debut album from his new band, the Healers.

Former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr has signed a deal with ArtistDirect's iMusic label for the January 2003 release of the as-yet-untitled debut album from his new band, the Healers. Marr is backed on the set by the Who drummer Zak Starkey and former Kula Shaker bassist Alonza Bevan, among others. The album will be released via iMusic in the U.K. in conjunction with Marr's own as-yet-unnamed label imprint; international release plans are not yet finalized.

The Healers is the first project Marr has led since he left the Smiths in 1987. In the ensuing years, he has joined New Order's Bernard Sumner for three albums as Electronica and played with everyone from the Pretenders to Oasis and The The. The new group is expected to tour North America sometime next year, having already played a handful of dates over the past two years in the U.K.

The upcoming album will feature 11 new songs and a heavier rock-oriented sound than Marr past work. The artist performed one of the tunes, "Down on the Corner," on Neil Finn's recent Nettwerk live album "Seven Worlds Collide." That set also found Marr playing guitar on a Finn-sung version of the Smiths' classic "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out."

"I've been lucky enough to collaborate with people I respect and have really enjoyed all the records I've done," Marr said in a statement. "But there's things I want to do and a sound I want that I can only get with my own band."