Interview:Mansun - 01/03/2009
|Interview - Mansun|
|Interview with Paul Draper|
|Date:||1st March, 2009|
2008 marked the 10th anniversary of Mansuns’ epic, prog-pop album, Six. 2009 – [sic] Magazine was born and decided to put Six into its Hall Of Fame the ‘Classic album revisited’ section. Brett Spaceman caught up with writer/frontman Paul Draper on all things Mansun, past and present.
Brett Spaceman: Attack Of The Grey Lantern was a number one album and around it were plenty of hit singles. Were Mansun set up (financially) at the point? Or did the revenues all kick back to Parlophone?
Paul Draper: Haha, I’m not going to discuss financial matters with anyone I’m afraid.
Spaceman: You’ve said in the past that you were still leaning how to play on your early records. How did you get signed then? On the basis of your strong image?
Paul: We had no image to start, we got signed as we made our own record, people heard it and signed us up from that.
Spaceman: What was it like working with Devoto? (so early on, too)
Paul: Pretty good, he’s got a great voice and is a great lyricist.
Spaceman: Is it fair to describe Mansun as a kind of glam Beatles? I mean, Taxloss was a real giveaway. (Taxman) but by no means the only reference point.
Paul: Haha, great analogy, I would think that’s a great way to put it!
Spaceman: When you arrived at the point of writing/recording Six, what kind of state were the band in? Where were your heads at the point?
Paul: The band was broken by that point, I struggled on and Six came out of that, if the band had been together we could have made a much superior record. I really didn’t know what was going on with the band, so I kept out of it.
Spaceman: Six MUST have been a concept album? (I’m not sure Attack isn’t a concept album either, btw) What was the concept?
Paul: There was no concept to Six, it’s only viewed like that because of the segues.
Spaceman: Six is always compared to OK Computer. I guess because it is progressive, because of the label and because of the time it came out. Do you accept that? Is it annoying? Flattering?
Paul: Attack of the Grey Lantern is comparable to OK Computer, the use of mellotrons, the arrangements etc, Six is a progression of Attack of the Grey Lantern, I think Six is more like Kid A.
Spaceman: When you made Six did you have complete artistic freedom? Were you in any way pressured to go the direction you took? Did anyone advise against it?
Paul: I did exactly what I was able to do at the time considering the problems in the band, nobody told me what to do on the first 2 albums, only on the third one.
Spaceman: Were you aiming for some kind of greatness. Or taking the piss?
Paul: Haha, both, I was trying to be as good as I could, but there was a lot of tongue firmly in cheek all over the Mansun records.
Spaceman: Do you like Six?
Paul: Some of it, I view it as a lost opportunity.
Spaceman: Lyrically I must say Six is incredibly poetic. You seem to have the weight of the world on your shoulders. It’s introspective, world-weary and almost defeatist which is quite at odds with the music which is bold, brazen and hugely ambitious. Was that clash deliberate or accidental?
Paul: I just write from where I’m at, at any one time, so Six is just a product of where I was at that time lyrically, I was very sarcastic and angry when I was younger, these days I don’t really give a shit about anything.
Spaceman: Whose idea was it to place the two main singles at the end? Were you purposefully trying to challenge? Did it alienate some Mansun fans? Was Six commercial suicide?
Paul: I placed the singles at the end to be awkward, I thought it was artistically superior to do that. Six was commercial suicide, but only coz I didn’t complete my vision for how I wanted it because of all the problems around I couldn’t focus to get it as good as I wanted.
Spaceman: If Six is seen by some as some kind of Albatross how come it went Gold?
Paul: Coz people expected Mansun to be bigger than they actually became, but it was because the band was never together as a unit.
Spaceman: What happened after Six?
Paul: I got the sack as a producer, then reinstated for Kleptomania but Chad wasn’t happy with the working methods of the band so we had to leave it before release and go our separate ways.
Spaceman: Was Mansun a democratic band or did you lead? At what point did tensions between Dominic and yourself surface?
Paul: There was a democracy from my point but the others didn’t want it to be like that, they thought the best option was to try and hoax me so they didn’t have to have jobs, very sad.
Spaceman: Why did Little Kix fail? Wasn’t the single (I can only disappoint u) your biggest hit?
Paul: It was a big hit but the management wanted a soft rock album made behind my back for some reason and I got manipulated into releasing it.
Wide open space
Spaceman: You had a massive following in Japan? Any ideas why? Did this sustain the group beyond any natural point of collapse?
Paul: It was because I put ‘sun in’ in my hair, I kid you not. The band reached its natural point of collapse naturally.
Spaceman: I guess you were always under pressure to play over there? Did this take its toll?
Paul: No I liked going there very much, and Hong Kong.
Spaceman: What was the biggest public or critical misconception about Mansun?
Paul: Dunno really, I think people judged us on the singles, whereas I liked the first 2 albums.
Spaceman: What finally brought the end? Is it true one of the band stole funds? Ergo – Kleptomania (Mansuns’ 3 disc collection of rarities bought out after relentless fan pressure)
Paul: Chad wasn’t happy with the working method of writing and recording, but didn’t want to implement his own writing and recording method so we simply had to go home and end the band, simple as that, he simply wasn’t happy with any possible way of working.
Spaceman: It has been a while since Mansun. Why the period of inactivity and what has brought you out of it?
Paul: Nothing’s brought me out of it, I’m still inactive release wise but I always work on music, it’s been part of my daily life since I was 10 years old, that’s never changed and I doubt it will ever change.
Spaceman: Can you tell us about your solo aims? Is it a singer-songwriter project?
Paul: I am working on many projects at the moment, one of them is doing my own project where I am writing performing and producing it, I’m not sure how it will see the light of day but I’m going to send some tracks out free to my mailing list which believe it or not is still very big and loyal.
With My Vitriol at Astoria farewell gig Spaceman: You played with My Vitriol recently. How did that come about? Was that fun? How’s their new stuff sounding because they’ve been quiet almost as long as you, haven’t they?
Paul: I’ve been mates with My Vitriol for years, it was just a favour.
Spaceman: How do you look back on Mansun? With pride? Regret?
Paul: I see it as a missed opportunity. There was no more I could do to make the music any better, if the others weren’t happy with the music, then I couldn’t do any more and off I went, they can do other things with their lives I suppose if they were unhappy being rich and famous.
Spaceman: Finally – Dark Mavis? Your alter ego?
Paul: No, he’s a very old friend of mine. My alter ego’s the Grey Lantern, didn’t you know that?
[sic] Magazine extends its thanks to Paul and to Suzi for making this interview possible. Read our retrospective review of Six in ‘Classic Revisited’. Readers are also advised to bookmark Pauls website and mailing list in particular where new material will soon surface. Links below.
The best of Mansun
Legacy- the best of Mansun is available now on Parlophone.