Interview:Dominic Chad Total Guitar December 1997
|Interview With Dominic Chad from Mansun|
|Interview with Dominic Chad|
Interview with Chad in 'Total Guitar' Magazine dated December 1997
TOTAL GUITAR DECEMBER 1997
MANSUN - ATTACK OF THE GREY LANTERN As 1997 draws to a close, Mansun stand poised on the threshold of major-league success. Pat Reid talks to their resident axe demon, the man known only as Chad....
LIVERPOOL, late summer, 1997. In the renowned Parr Street Studios, the equally renowned Mansun are labouring over what will become their follow up EP to their Attack Of The Grey Lantern album. Lead Guitarist and uncannily Brian Jones-resembling person, Dominic Chad strolls over to the TG enclosure, offering tabs and Evian. After initial pleasantries, we embark on a brisk tour of the establishment. What we see is guitars. Quite a lot of them. "My main guitar's a black Gibson ES335," offers Chad. "With a Gibson tremolo. I've got a red one for backup and live." From the collection of guitars the band have access to in the studio, vocalist Paul Draper tends to use Les Paul Standards. The band also have a Rickenbacker 12-string, a Telecaster, a Melody Maker, a 330 and a Chet Atkins. And then there's the amps as well. For gigs Chad opts to play through an AC30 and a Blues Breaker in stereo. "I use a Boss compressor," he confides. "The CS-3 compressor and sustainer. Basically it's fairly subtle and just gives a little more attack to the notes." A subtly increased attack/notes interface is a major requirement for Chad, because most of what he plays is lead guitar, with very few chords.
Loud And Clear
"I've got the compressor on all the time, and the basic sound is the two amps. I use one of those Mesa Boogie V-Twin pre-amp pedals, so obviously then you've got two other channels. I've got one set up as a clean channel and one set up as a solo channel. That's my favourite sound, the solo channel on the Mesa Boogie, and I've got a Boss ME-8 effects unit - I use the pitch shifter and stereo delays on that with that lead sound." And that, in a nutshell, is the main guitar sound of Mansun, featuring on tracks as diverse as Wide Open Space, Mansun's Only Love Song, and the epic thrash-out at the end of Taxloss. "It's big," Chad summarises. "You've got the stereo delays bouncing all over the place, the pitch shifter just filling it out." It's this ambition and musical vision, coupled with a huge sound that sets Mansun apart from their contemporaries. "Paul's just playing the rhythm guitar," Chad explains. "But I wanted to have something where you could almost just have lead guitar, bass and drums and it still sounds big."
Grey Lantern Gear
In order to create their massive sound, Chad's fairly simple pedal board consists of a Boss ME-8 multi-FX processor, and the bizarrely-named Lovetone Meatball and Big Cheese. Chad's extensive range of guitars also includes his favourite black Gibson ES335.
"I just start improvising anything. If something good happens that was an accident, we'll certainly keep it in."
Structuring The Songs
While enigmatic frontman genius/weirdo Paul Draper writes the bulk of Mansun material, the lead lines are, naturally, Chad's territory. "A lot of it is putting back the little subtleties that you lose when you take an acoustic song and play it through a cranked up amp. Also we try to work out counter melodies to the vocal." It's not surprising then that the guitar slots in like an extra singer. "Pretty much," agrees Chad. "That's a trademark of our sound, I suspect; the fact that none of the melodies move with the accompaniment. Everything's pulled away from everything else. That's the way we hear melodies. There's a lot of vocal harmonies and counter melodies that we sing... but you can't do everything with a voice." If this approach sounds a bit scientific for an indie-rock-type band (albeit a very good indie-rock-type band), have no fear, for Chad can wig it out with the best of 'em. The live version of Take It Easy Chicken is often nearer ten minutes than it is five and on Wide Open Space, with its looped guitar, pitch shifter and stereo delay assault, Chad gets to play whatever he damn well pleases. "I just start improvising anything," he says of the often frenzied Mansun stage show. "We work quite a lot on eye contact and cues." To a certain extent this improvisational approach extends to the studio as well. "If something good happens that was an accident, we'll certainly keep it in."
With UK sales of 200,000 for Grey Lantern, Mansun are currently the biggest cult band in the land. Whether they can built on this success and cross over to a truly mainstream audience remains to be seen. But they're up for the challenge and are particularly enthused about taking the Mansun manifesto to America, on tour with the Seahorses. "We're really into touring," Chad says. "And we're really looking forward to touring the states on the same bill as John Squire. I guess by the end of the stint of touring we're quite looking forward to getting back in the studio, and then you do that for a while and you're itching to get back on tour again. One album into their career and Mansun are caught up in the recording/touring schedule. Their schedule is sewn up for the next six months - they tour America, where Wide Open Space has done well, then record that difficult second album. Reclining on the ugly but functional Parr Street upholstery, Chad seems tired - and he's fully aware that this is only the beginning.
So we talk of more mundane matters; which is better, gigs or recording? "On stage you can let go a bit more," Chad says. "I'm very conscious of trying to get things right in the studio, and also you're working it out at the same time as you're laying it down." The Mansun recording process is often torturous - at one point, Taxloss was a mind-boggling 96 tracks. However, the band have retained a rough-edged DIY indie ethic, blowing raspberries in the face of drop-ins, digital editing and other rubbish of modern pop life. In the early days, the band never worked with producers - Paul Draper handles those duties, adament that the records reflected the raw energy of first-take excitement. "I think you can probably hear that in a lot of the early records," Chad laughs. "They don't sound bad. But they could definitely be tighter. Even if I made a mistake, I'd just play over it and keep going. You hear quite a lot of 'scrapes' on the records, and that's where I've just lost it and started scraping strings to cover over it." String-scraping aside, Chad's technique is to lay down four or five tracks of guitar and then cherry-pick the best bits: "A lot of the time the first tracks have more energy and more spontaneity," he avers. "Although we do exercise a lot of quality control, we also do like to try and keep that feel." And with that, Chad stubs out his ciggy, heading down to the control room for another day on the treadmill...
Mansun Fact File
WIDE OPEN SPACE Joe Bennett talks you through Chad's ace one-string solo from this 1996 hit. Despite Mansun's 'indie' attitudes and devil-may-care studio techniques, Chad is very much a dedicated lead player. He generally leaves all the chord work to Paul, and the solo here is an excellent example of how the band construct guitar lines in the studio. You can hear a second lead line coming in halfway through the solo, playing an additional lead line which is entirely alternate-picked. This contrasts with the textural, effect laden bends of the main part. Chad is using his Boss CS-3 and ME-8, providing chorus, octave up pitch shift, plus ping-pong delay (500 ms delay time, with at least 10% feedback). The tone itself is a heavily overdriven but quite bright sounding setting from the V-twin pedal, although the second guitar has a more traditional rock tone.
FORMED?: In the summer of 1995 in Chester. NAME?: Long story - originally the band was called Grey Lantern, then A Man Called Son, which later became Manson. When Charles Manson's estate threatened legal action, they eventually became Mansun. Phew! EARLY DAYS?: The band's first four track cost them £150 to record and it consisted of Take It Easy Chicken, Skin Up Pin Up, Moronica and She Makes My Nose Bleed. OWN LABEL?: The first two singles Mansun released were on their own label, Sci-Fi Hi-Fi. Skin Up Pin Up/Flourella was an Indie Chart hit in November 1995. LIVE?: Earlier in '97 the band made a brief tour of the US and then returned to the UK for their own tour. They also supported the Manics Manchester NYNEX Arena.
- Total Guitar December 1997 Issue 38 ©1997 Future Publishing Ltd.
- MANSUN - Attack Of The Grey Lantern (1997-12-1). Total Guitar Magazine. Retrieved 2015-07-03 from angelfire.com.