1. How has 2008 been for you so far, and can you unveil
any of your plans for the rest of the year - from solo projects to new
songs, to the rumours of Mansun reforming
anything at all?
"Hi, I may as well get the bad news out of the way first. Unfortunately
there won't be one more Greatest Hits Tour for the devotees. Mansun
was put to bed and will never be resurrected I'm afraid, it was what
it was and that's it, finito. I know there's a fad for reunions and
stuff, but Dominic Chad would never do it so it can't happen and I think
Greatest Hits Tours are rubbish. It was best to end it where it was,
i.e. right in the middle of it if you see what I mean. Sorry. The bass
player was sacked at the end which led to the split, so that leaves
Andie and myself left standing and we'd look like a cross between The
White Stripes and the Pet Shop Boys. Hmm, there's an idea! Although
on the bright side, I'm currently working on my first post Mansun release.
I know it's been a while and I don't want to be the indie Scott Walker
releasing one record a decade, but after the band split, I put the fourth
album sessions together which took a bit of time and did a bit of writing
and production for other artists, which was something I'd been intending
to do for a while. I digress, so basically I've been putting the project
together this year and intend to work on it in the coming months."
2. A lot of people reading this interview will be Mansun / Paul Draper
fans, who are renowned for being very loyal and devoted - even hardcore!
What does this mean to you, and why do you think they have connected
to you and your music, in such a passionate way?
"Well I hope they are still out there so they'll be interested
in my new project, and it seems like a lot of people have joined up
to my Facebook and MySpace pages, which is encouraging, considering
they haven't heard the fruits of my labour yet. Of course the fans kept
the Mansun show on the road really, as it got a bit depressing at times.
If I was to be honest, I think people were passionate about the band
for a number of reasons. a) I never distinguished between b-sides and
a-sides on the EPs, so if you bought one you were getting more than
your average single. b) I think people connected with the lyrics. On
the first album the lyrics were pretty cryptic, but I think people connected
with the small town weirdo observations, which was the theme of the
first album. But after that, I wore my heart on my sleeve lyrically
and was brutally honest - I suppose it was my emotional outlet as being
in that band wasn't a happy experience for me. c) I think the gigs were
exciting, I always tried to perform as if it was the last gig I'd ever
get the chance to play..."
3. Is there anything that you would like to say to us?
"Err...? Hmm... Well, sorry we didn't play a full set at Glastonbury
in 1997, but unfortunately the gig was sabotaged by the enemy within,
as were many other things."
4. And now reversing this, what has been the best thing that someone
has said about yourself / Mansun?
"I don't remember anyone saying anything good to be honest! NME
really didn't like the band, which was a bitter blow, because I grew
up with NME as my musical bible and still read it to this day. I suppose
you only remember the bad reviews. I think the best review we ever got
was either "Shit Sandwich" or "More rock bollox from
them wankers from the land of gravel driveways". Although where
I grew up in Deeside, there weren't any gravel driveways. In fact, they
were all tarmac because those blokes used to come round with a truck
full of tarmac and tarmac everyone's driveways. They did such a bad
job, you could peel up the tarmac drive and lie under it like a big
tarmac quilt, which kept me amused for days on end in the summer holidays.
So that really hurt (not the review, just lying under a tarmac driveway
really fucking hurt!)"
5. Growing up, what was your biggest source for discovering new music,
and can you remember the first press coverage, radio airplay or TV exposure
that Mansun ever had?
"Well, NME was the one for me, and Melody Maker of course. TV-wise,
I got into new stuff from anything from The Tube to The Word. I'd absorb
anything really, as there was no Internet back in the day - it was all
6. For you personally, what have been some of the most important
albums from the last 50 years, and if you had to pick a favourite Decade
for music, which one would it be?
"Hmm, I can tell you the albums that had the most influence on
me. Revolver, Ziggy Stardust, Purple Rain and more recently, Songs For
The Deaf. I've always listened out for a combination of songs and production
- I'm not too fussed if something's cool or not. The ones I've picked
are all from different decades, so I couldn't pick one, but I guess
The 1950s were the most influential for rock 'n' roll overall, as that's
where it all started. I went to Sun Studios in Memphis, where it all
began, and it was an amazing experience."
7. And which artist / band could you not imagine music without?
"Prince. I love his body of work. I'm not so much a fan of his
singles, but I love his bootlegs, b-sides and tracks he did for his
protégés. If you're not convinced, listen to Erotic City,
17 Days, Something In The Water Does Not Compute, Joy In Repetition...
I could go on and on..."
8. Of all your favourite music, what's the ratio between mainstream
and alternative acts?
"Well Prince is supposed to be mainstream, but the stuff I like
of his is very avant-garde. Some of the stuff that's supposed to be
alternative is so bloody unimaginative, it's just mainstream indie-schmindy.
I like anything from The Carpenters to Stockhausen, so I guess it would
be a 50/50 split."
9. I would assume that it was your love of specific artists and bands,
that gave you the ambition to be part of a group that inhabited it's
own musical world - because Mansun never really fitted into any particular
music scene, at any time, and were almost thought of as a separate entity.
Looking back now, do you think this was a benefit or a hindrance?
"Oh, that was a nightmare. You see in The Music Industry, you have
to stick to very defined parameters of creativity. Really, The Music
Industry is very similar to The Fashion Industry - you have to change
the fashion every season to keep flogging new stuff to people, or the
profits will go down. It doesn't mean the last fashion was bad, it's
just out of fashion. If flares are in this year and skinny jeans next,
it doesn't mean flares are shit clothes all of a sudden if you see what
I mean. I think because Mansun were always out of fashion, it meant
we existed in our own world, but equally, we couldn't break through
to be a major act because The Industry thought we were uncool. We were
like a pair of flares I suppose."
10. Do you believe that rock 'n' roll is at its most interesting,
when it incorporates other musical genres and pushes boundaries?
"I don't know about that. Personally, I tried to push the envelope
for what Northern bands were supposed to be about, but seemingly we
fell flat on our face trying to do it, and we got steamrollered into
doing a commercial sounding 3rd album which I didn't agree with. Hence
I wouldn't tour it or do interviews about it, because I simply didn't
believe in it, although I liked some of the songs."
11. As well as a musician, you are also an accomplished producer,
but which producers do you most admire, and are there any records that
you just love the overall atmosphere / sound of?
"A lot of good production is really down to the sound engineer
or the mix engineer on a project. My style of production was really
ideas based. I learnt the technical side as I went along. I love the
sound of Revolver. I love the sound of The White Stripes records and
probably my favourite contemporary production is Songs For The Deaf.
I love dry, stark sounding records. Flood is a great producer; To Bring
You My Love which he produced for Polly Harvey was beautiful and dark
12. I know that among others, you have worked with Skin - but if you
could produce 1 artist or band right now, who would it be and why?
"It would be ME! I want to do my own record right now. Maybe I'll
look at working with other artists in the future, but not at the moment."
13. Does your environment and personal life affect your songs, and
has the way you work changed over the years?
"Of course, I just catalogue what's happening in my life in my
songs at any given time. The first Mansun record was about my life and
the people I met in Chester. The Six record was about being depressed
at the goings on in the band and my life in general. In terms of how
I work, it's still the same - I write loads of lyrical ideas in a notebook
and collate them into songs. Musically, I throw loads of little melody
ideas into a dictaphone and listen through them all and whittle them
down into potential verses and choruses etc... I chop and change them
all the time until I arrive at something that resembles a song."
14. How closely do your songs match what's in your head?
"They are a mirror image of what's in my mind at the time of writing
them. I've been criticised for making clever as opposed to soulful music,
but I can assure you, all my music comes from my heart or soul or whatever
you want to call it. Wherever it is or whatever it's called that music
should come from, that's where I dredge it from. I'd prefer to call
it desperation, although there isn't a physical part of the body that
you could call the desperation gland."
15. Are your songs evocative of the time in which they were created
/ do they continue to reveal themselves to you over time i.e. lyrics
"No, they are a fixed point in time - a record of who you are,
what you're thinking and my emotional state at the moment I write it.
All that arty farty bollox about "interpret it as you will"
is baloney from phonies. That just means they can't justify what they
are writing. Although I am very reticent to reveal in detail what I'm
actually trying to say in a song, as you don't want to reveal yourself
too much. Writing is a way of doing it while keeping your innermost
thoughts to yourself. Maybe I've just contradicted myself, oh well."
16. Do you have a favourite Mansun era / any favourite artwork, looks,
photographs and videos?
"I guess the first album cover was good and I liked that the best.
I thought we looked OK around the time of the second album. Pennie Smith
did a lot of cool photos for us. Video-wise, I liked all the ones we
weren't in as they were like little films. It didn't do us any good
commercially of course, but then we always shot ourselves in the foot
17. Mansun were, and still are one of the most collectible bands
around, but do you have your own personal collection of rare Mansun
records, promos, bootlegs, memorabilia etc?
"I don't own anything I'm afraid - I even threw my Gold & Platinum
Discs away in protest. I purged myself of anything Mansun related after
I discovered loads of money disappearing from the band's accounts. I
have a friend who showed me a book of collectible records and I was
surprised how collectible the records are. I wish I'd have kept them
18. On a similar note, I've long thought that the Mansun logo is one
of the very best band logos - but is there a story behind this, and
are there any particular band logos that you like?
"I liked the Mansun logo too. It was sprayed onto a wall somewhere
round Merseyside, then we took a photo of it and made a logo of the
graffiti. I wonder if it's still there? I don't really check out logos
these days as they all seem to be in a similar typeface, but I suppose
my all-time fave is The Beatles one, or possibly The Stones lips logo."
19. To date, what do you think has been the ultimate rock 'n' roll
"I think it was Mansun in Hong Kong. We were the last British band
to play in the Colony before the British Government handed it back to
the Chinese. We were supposed to play a gig which ended up as us being
perched on a guitar shaped glass balcony, playing to members of the
Chinese Communist Party. We were sort of duped into it. We smashed the
fucking monitors over the balcony and smashed our instruments up. We
caused a diplomatic incident and made the front of the South China Morning
Post and got deported. We had to hide in our hotel rooms until the plane
arrived. So much for Mao's Cultural Revolution, he missed out the rock
'n' roll bit."
20. As one of the first musicians to fully embrace the Internet, you
now regularly update your MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr accounts.
But what's the most memorable MySpace or Facebook message that you've
"Well at the moment, my Facebook page is more active with messages
than my MySpace one. Some of the messages are unbelievable. I have to
stay a bit removed from it to be honest. The Facebook and MySpace messages
range from marriage proposals to death threats, to requests for discarded
hair to offers of gigs at bar mitzvahs. But it's all good fun and I
try and reply to as many MySpace / Facebook messages as possible. Usually,
I spend ages replying to people only for them to message back saying,
"That's not really you." For some reason, people have this
impression that I have a big converted barn near Chester, full of drones
sending out MySpace and Facebook messages. We try to answer all the
messages that come through to my Website, or at least all the reasonable
21. What inspires you outside of music and what's your biggest vice?
"I love Architecture - I wander around buildings and marvel at
them. Sorry, you must think I'm even weirder than you already thought
I was. And my biggest vice? Ha ha, that would be telling!"
22. Are there any particular gigs that standout in Mansun's history,
and what were your favourite songs to perform live?
"I remember playing at Bath Moles club when we were caged in by
sheep-fencing. It was 100 capacity with about 300 people in there, and
they tore down the power cables and smashed my front tooth out by crowd
surfing into my mic-stand and smashing the mic into my mouth. Blood
everywhere, very cool!"
23. Of all the countries that you've ever been to / played in, which
have been the most satisfying to visit?
"I liked everywhere to be honest. It was a challenge to play in
front of any audience. If it wasn't a good crowd we knew we could turn
it round. That happened after Andie joined - because we were crap live
before that. He was the engine room of it all."
24. Do you have any interesting tales from your time on the road,
and what was your most rock 'n' roll moment?
"I couldn't possibly tell you what went on in that band. Firstly,
nobody would believe me, but let's just say I was the least rock 'n'
roll member of the band and let's leave it at that. You'd have to ask
the others if they're prepared to reveal their dirty dark skeletons."
25. What have been some of your personal highlights / defining moments,
during your career so far?
"There hasn't really been one highlight. There were loads of lowlights
I remember, but probably releasing Six was a highlight because it was
good to get something that wasn't mainstream, into the mainstream."
26. And of all your songs, which are you most proud of and why?
"I don't really like my own stuff, I've never really listened to
it. Andie played me Grey Lantern once, when we were stoned, and it sounded
cool enough. My fave song that I wrote was Until The Next Life, which
was simultaneously the worst recording, as it was just my home demo
released on the record which was a big mistake."
27. Having been making music since you were a young child, and been
a part of The Music Industry, what would now give you the most satisfaction?
"I don't really think anything tangible would give me satisfaction
now, that's all gone. I just want to make records I'm happy with."
28. Lastly, chips or cream buns?
either. You've made me hungry, I'm off for a Pot Noodle
A very special thanks to Paul, to Suzi @ Mansunite
/ pauldraper.net, and to Rosey, for all of their time and help.
"Life is wearing me thin
I feel so drained, my legacy
A sea of faces just like me"