Article:In the Studio With... Mansun - 30/05/1998
Article published by MusicWeek on the 30th May 1998
Parlophone A&R director Keith Wozencroft got his reward for assembling one of the most highly regarded artist rosters in the UK last week when he was promoted to MD. And one of his first priorities will be one of last year's great critical successes -Mansun.
As Music Week joins the band in Studio One of Olympic Studios - where the likes of The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix recorded legendary records - while they work on their second album Six, Wozencroft is already talking of it as having worldwide breakthrough potential.
That's some claim considering it was just over 12 months ago that the Chester quartet surprised many by debuting at number one with the Attack Of The Grey Lantern album, which sold 170,000 copies in the UK.
The former A&R director says, "Six is a very challenging album from what I've heard and I'm very confident of its potential. The band are probably our biggest homegrown rock project currently - they're premier artists now."
Certainly the belief, not least among the act who have recorded a new EP The Legacy for release on June 29, is that the resulting album will be seen by many as the band's OK Computer - an ambitious, intricate and powerful rock record. Wozencroft adds, "It sounds nothing like anyone else. Paul [Draper, songwriter/frontman] wanted to do something he felt was fresh but didn't kill the quality of the songwriting. It's a real grower, though it's not formatted as verse-chorus-verse-chorus as it was in the past." In the studio, producer Mark 'Spike' Stent hunches intently over an Apple while guitarist Dominic Chad stands awkwardly in a vocal booth wearing headphones. He nods politely as Draper sails past into a small back room where a pile of guitar effects pedals line a shelf offering an early hint to the album's direction. Draper explains that the long build-up to Attack ... means he feels the band are way beyond the usual difficult second album. "I felt like I'd progressed on to the second stage of the band with that album. I was writing songs about weird comic book characters but that defined my songs for most people. We could have made a dead safe record, very commercial because the melodies are strong, but we didn't want to do that, so the structures became weird," he says.
Searching for fresh inspiration, Draper began to keep a diary of his thoughts and conversations which has provided the basis for Six, a complex and dense-sounding affair that emphasises the speed with which the band have grown.
The EMI group's new president, Tony Wadsworth, points out that Mansun fans expect the band to break fresh ground. "People who like the band are prepared for them to experiment and head in different directions - that's what makes them so exciting," he adds.
The Legacy EP is less than indicative of the band's direction. "It'll stick out like a sore thumb compared to the album," says Draper. Of the three other tracks on the EP, one is written and sung by former Magazine frontman and close friend Howard Devoto. "He's been a big influence on us, just through discussions about how he put his songs together, his philosophies and his approach lyrically," adds Draper.
The sound of Six is harder-edged than previous material and almost totally guitar- based. This is partly a result of two and-a- half years solid touring in which the band have become a very tight unit and
partly because Draper and Chad were determined to explore guitar sounds.
Recording began late last year in Liverpool's Parr Street with regular engineer Mike Hunter before progressing to Eden and then Olympic where Stent became increasingly involved.
"We wrote most of the new songs on the road so when we went into the studio we set up exactly as we would live and just put everything down to tape, choosing the best takes," adds Draper.
Wadsworth says he is completely behind Mansun and Wozencroft in ensuring they achieve worldwide status. "The aim now is to shoot for platinum-plus here and to make some real headway in the rest of the world.
They've made a start in the US with Wide Open Space earning a lot of airplay and there's real anticipation for their next step there," he adds.
World domination might seem a long way away, as Mansun embark on a short tour of out-of-the-way venues in places like Lincoln, Shrewsbury and Maidstone. But doing the obvious has never been theirs or Wozencroft's style. Mike Pattenden
Artist: Mansun Label: Parlophone Project: EP /album Songwriters: Draper /Chad/ Mansun Producer: Mansuri/Mark 'Spike' Stent Studio: Parr Street/Eden/Olympic Publisher: PolyGram Music Released: June 29/Sept '98