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|8 January 2003:|
|- ||Stove King's 29th birthday|
|5 June 2003:|
|- ||Dominic Chad's 30th birthday|
|8 September 2003:|
|- ||Andie Rathbone's 32nd birthday|
|26 September 2003:|
|- ||Paul Draper's 31st birthday|
|No releases are scheduled at present, but the band hope to release the first single early in 2003 with the album following soon after|
|MANSUN.ORG Poll: 'Mansun' New Tracks|
Mansun previewed five new songs on their May 2002 UK/Ireland tour, to be featured on their forthcoming album (working title 'Mansun') - pencilled in to be released at the end of 2002/early 2003. From what you heard, which of them did you most like?|
"The worst thing people could say is 'Oh, their alright, I suppose', because we're not all right, we're a really exciting live group and we make interesting records which are challenging and different and totally beyond the scope of what British bands are doing at the moment."
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Did You Know?
Paul was thrown out of art college for producing all his paintings with a ruler.
Want to hear what the guys are up to, directly from their own mouths? Just call the Mansun Ansaphone, run for over 5 years from Stove's house, and you can hear a regularly updated recorded message left by one of the band, and even leave your own for them if you like. For more info see the Mansun contact page.
New Musical Express Interview
Saturday, May 10, 1997 - Category: Interviews
ATTACK OF THE JAPANESE LANTERN!
OK, so top pop fashion monkeys MANSUN may not have exactly been bombarded by lanterns while touring Japan and environs, but they were: Beseiged by loony fans! Banned from rock venues and radio stations! And, erm, made to talk sensibly to STEPHEN DALTON. Ouch
The flame-haired girl looks normal enough. It's only later, much later, that she reveals her scars. And by then it's too late.
Apart from her Kurt Cobain obituary T-shirt, a cartoon facsimile of that famous NME cover shot, there are a few signs that the young Japenese fan is morbid or distressed. She has been following Mansun around Tokyo for three days, even posing for NME's photographer with them, just like dozens of others. In Japan, stalking and fan worship are just a knife edge apart.
But on Mansun's last night in Tokyo, it all gets a little hairy. Half the band and their crew, around 20 female fans and NME end up in Club Milk, a shadowy drum'n'bass den 30 feet below Tokyo's eerily spotless, crime-free streets. Crammed with semi-clad strippers, Yakuza gangsters with eye-patches and all manner of peacock-strutting style scum, this sleazy subterranean warren seems straight out of A Clockwork Orange. It's totally Mansun, even down to the incongruous snapshot of pie-faced Simon Le Bon above the spiral staircase. In the room where band and entourage settle, huge portraits of gender-bending pre-pubescent girls with swollen dicks hand from blood-hued walls. Welcome to the Japanese mentality - as seen from the inside.
Even in such disorienting suuroundings, everyone is mildly freaked out when Nirvana Girl rolls back her sleeves and reveals the legend 'MARILYN MANSON' carved across both forearms in shiny scar tissue. And when she pulls out a Stanley knife and begins slashing away at her own flesh, all hell breaks loose...
As the screams die down, Mansun guitarist Dominic Chad, who has been ignoring Nirvana Girl for most of the night, calmly stems the blood with a tissue. Drummer Andie Rathbone is less sympathetic, angrily storming away from the bloody scene.
The madness soon subsides, however, and Nirvana Girl gets plenty of sympathy from everyone present - including Chad, which was probably her original intention. But the party's over. Slowly, everyone drifts away. Mansun mania has hit hight tide - for now. And at least nobody died. This time.
LOOKING BACK, the hysteria in Club Milk seems like a fitting climax to Mansun's Asian tour. Sulkily charismatic singer Paul Draper's oft-noted resemblance to both Kurt Cobain and Richey Manic is clearly more than cosmetic to some fans. Mansun are already a band that people obsess over.
The next morning, we are assured that Nirvana Girl is in good health and full of regrets, while Chad plays the incident down as "just a bit of stupidity in a nightclub... she was just looking for attention, just a kid". He also emphasises that the girl was obviously more fixated on risible pantomime goths Marilyn Manson than Mansun themselves. The similarity in names is mere coincidence. Not guilty, your honour.
But Mansun-mania is not confined to isolated incidents in nightclubs, of course. Throughout their Japanese jaunt, only their second ever, the band's hotel is besieged by armies of teenage girls who have abandoned work or college just to shadow the Chester quartet's every move. They talk lovingly about "Mr Chaddo", with his exotic blond locks and his "kindness". Paul's "shyness" is also a big hit.
Some of these girls might be full-on groupies, sure, but Mansun don't take advantage. Not even lanky, affable bassist Stove, who reportedly shagged himself comatose on their previous visit. Most of the girls seem happy simply hanging around in the lobby all day. They carry cameras, autograph books and album sleeves to sign. No Stanley knives are in evidence.
Nor is Mansun-mania just that familiar bin-in-Japan phenomenon common to British groups. Madness has been stalking these mixed-up kids since even before they hit Number One in the UK with their surreal, cinematic, queasily majestic debut album 'Attack Of The Grey Lantern' in February.
First there was the album launch on the Isle of Man, a spectacular two-fingered salute to the metropolitan music industry which culminated in a drink-throwing, table-smashing ruck. Then there was the heaving hysteria which greeted Mansun's first headline British tour, followed by similar levels of rabid enthusiasm when they kicked off their first global jaunt in Australia.
They caused a staff walk-out at an Oz TV rock show after playing 20 decibels louder than the union maximum, and stormed out of a Malaysian TV recording themselves when Chad's dishevelled blond moptop was deemed 'illegal' under local law. Then they discovered that almost all their singles were banned by Malaysian radio because of their 'religious' content, and the venue where they were due to play had been firebombed the night before to prevent a lame local band playing evil Western-style pop music.
But Malaysia was nothing compared to Hong Kong, whee Mansun managed to get themselves banned from the Hard Rock Cafe chain after sparking a mini-riot.
"It was for Hong Kong radio," recalls Paul. "Everyone who came to see us had been to see Suede a few weeks before, which had basically blown their minds and given them a real taste for us. But they were slapped down. They didn't go mad when we were onstage, it was when we left - the kids basically had enough of being shoved at the back. So they piled through the bouncers, piled through the TV cameras and went mad... they weren't geared up for a Western band, basically."
Maybe not, but then hardly anyone seemed geared up for Mansun's surprise nuclear success, going gold with '...Grey Lantern' in its first week of release and blasting labelmates Blur off the Number One slot. With sales currently at 165,000 and climbing, the self-produced opus seems to have surpassed all exectations - even those of the band's own label Parlophone. It almost looks too perfect.
"You can't plan it all that well," protests Paul. "You can't plan a Number One, that's for sure. Parlophone put the Blur album out and our album the week after, so it probably caused a lot of problems us knocking Blur off Number One."
But you must admit something decidely odd has happened here. Just a year ago, Mansun came across like drunken provincial wasters in permanent identity crisis...
"Absolutely, which is proof that we didn't have any master plan," nods Paul, "we just probably had a lot of willpower. Basically, we didn't have a manager, didn't have a record deal, and out of sheer ignorance we thought, 'Let's put a single out' - because we had a publishing deal. And we kept banging them out, so by the time we came to record an album, we had, like, 25 tracks out. So the album was pretty much like making our second album."
Now, though, Mansun are managed by the same team that handle Cast and a hefty fanbase has been established with constant touring and a year of solid graft has been rewarded with a Number One album. NOne of which quite explains the record's huge, ambitious, ridiculously confident range - from the swooping James Bond strings of 'The Chad Who Loved Me' to the twisted punkadelic splendour of 'Dark Mavis'. Not so much the rushed manifesto of ragged indie gobshites, more like a mid-career rock-opera milestone.
"We've always said from day one, we're not into indie," Paul insists. "We're not some cult band, we've always wanted to be a big group. I'm sure if we'd completely failed and fallen on our arses we'd still say we wanted to be a big group."
Where other comercially successful bands guiltily cite Can, Wire and Arse Bracket as influences, Mansun shamelessly talk in REM and U2 terms.
"People still namecheck the same stuff," sighs Chad. "Small, cult bands - the Stooges, the Velvets (Small!? Er, not too sure on your music homework there, Chad - Ed). Which is great, we're into them too, but we're also into the big bands, the big performers and we tell people that.
"We tried to sign to an inder label but we fonud there weren't any!" Paul recalls contemptuously. "People turned up but they were just the same guys from major labels! Then we looked back at all the bands we thought were boss over the years and thought, 'God, they were ALL on major labels - from the Pistols to Bowie to Led Zepplin to The Who...' And at the end of the day it's such a shit way to rebel by just hating a record company. There's been a million bands who probably would die to be a big group, but just wouldn't dare admit it. They should come out and f---ing say it - we said it when we were nothing."
Indeed they did. But what a long, long time ago that seems now.
POPULAR MYTH paints Tokyo as a high-tech, high-rise, future-funky mega-city which exceeds even the supercharged fantasies of Blade Runner. This is a steaming bowl or arse with noodles. Tokyo is the most conservative, clean-cut capital on earth; a huge designer-label shopping mall which toddles off to bed by 11.30pm. It's almost as if London's glitzy, overpriced tourist haven of Covent Garden started growing outwards and never stopped.
And into those immaculately dressed, ultra clothes-conscious streets, four unshaven British snotgoblins have just emerged from their protective minibus. Pursued by the inevitable entourage of screaming fans, Mansun are wandering through Shibuya, Tokyo's concentrated shopping and leisure zone.
Here at Club Quattro, on the fifth floor of a monster retail complex, the foursome will play two shows: the first good, the second superlative. Delights promised by the venue on future nights include local talents like Shortcut Miffy, Freaky Fatbottom and Hot Hip Trampoline School - and you thought Mansun had image problems. Sadly, our short visit doesn't coincide with these intriguing soirees.
Stumbling through Shibuya, the Mansun family don't even look like they belong inthe same decade as each other, never mind the same band. Paul wears polar fleece and bondage trousers, Chada space-age jumpsuit and Suede dog tags, Andy a leather pimp greatcoat and tartan flares and Stove the full Edwardian hippy garb.
From post-baggy gonks in casual threads to polysexual mods in make-up, frilly shirts and safety pins - the Mansun fashion show has been a long and messy one, almost as if they were dressed by colour-blind art terrorists from the Playschool costume department. Never mind their aliens-have-landed effect in Tokyo, Mansun draw disbelieving gasps in supposedly seen-it-all sophisticated Britain too. There's something in the way they randomly remix classic pop uniforms which, despite its stupendous naffness, still manages to provoke extreme reactions. And all across the globe, the response is always the same: what the hell are they playing at? And how long can they get away with it?
Paul downplays Mansun's shape-shifting nature as the playful antics of four naive Chester yokels - but then Paul downplays most things.
"At the start, we didn't have a f---ing clue what we were doing, we just wore anything," he admits. "We've f---ed up a few times and probably grown up in public, but now I think it's important to do whatever you want. But the pretence that things just happen is wrong - we try to be original and loads of people tried to do that: Bowie, The Beatles..."
True, but they changed their image with every album, not every single.
"Yeah, that's what we've learned, ha ha! Every 18 months, not every three months. It's probably over enthusiasm, seeing people like Bowie's different guises and thinking, 'Great! Let's try that...'"
Hmmm. This disingenous country-boy routine doesn't quite square with Paul's normally sharp, thoughtful, pop-literate nature. Isn't there more to Mansun's skin-shedding games? A secret mission to trash rock's accepted codes of good taste and bombard us with visual disinformation?
"But if we were doing that, the first thing we'd do is disguise that fact in an interview," he smirks. "So then you'd have to decide whether I was telling the truth or an amazing liar trying to put out disinformation."
Right. So you are an amazing liar?
"Not really. Chad is, though."
Were you wearing punk-rock gear in pre-Mansun days?
"I didn't have zip-up trousers because I didn't know where to get them, but I still wore some pretty bizarre things at school. I went through a lot of phases - I went through a hip-hop phase as well. I was really into NWA and Public Enemy. The first version of '...Grey Lantern' used the breakbeat from 'Straight Outta Compton', but we never finished it in time to use it for the album..."
Bizarre connections, but they make sense. Think about it: hip-hop militancy buried in classic rock poses. Punk aggression married to glam posturing. Battered provincial pride expressed through multiple spiky guises... the Mansun Street Preachers, anyone?
Paul smiles. "Anyone who wears mascara gets compared to us," he muses. "I like the Manic Street Preachers a lot, yeah, they seem to have a lot of integrity. They wanna be a big band as well, and they come from a small town. But the reality is that we're just four lads from Chester. I've got Doctor Martens and I've got Adidas trainers, and I wear both... but not at the same time."
IT'S NOT enough, though, for the biggest new band in Britain to write themselves off as "just four lads from Chester". Especially since, despite being rising sons from Tokyo to Tunbridge Wells, Mansun are also Britrock's most screamingly unlikely success story. Their wilfully obscure lyrics and appalling puns, their clumsy directional swerves in music and image - it all seems so thunderously, heroically WRONG in an age of coolly calculated Britpop and drearily orthodox Ladrock. Oi! Mansun! Nooooo!
And yet The Kids clicked with Mansun almost immediately. They got it, whatever 'it' might be, and clutched the foursome to their fluttering hearts. Like the Manics, Mansun have already amassed a feverish subculture of fanzine-friendly devotees. And all this from a band who sing lines like "the lyrics aren't supposed to mean that much...".
Which is the paradox at Mansun's heart. They may write about cross-dressing clerics and suburban eccentrics with the gentle observational wit of Eddie Izzard, but there is something much nastier festering beneath this surface surrealism, a snide stew of class hatred, f---ed-up sexuality and disillusionment with life's shitty compromises.
"I love Eddie Izzard," confirms Paul, "he's right on our sense of humour. Chad showed me this Eddie Izzard video and I said, 'F---ing hell, that's US! That's us talking!' And he wears mascara as well. Anyone who's vaguely humourous but vaguely serious, and wears mascara, has probably got some connection with Mansun."
But isn't there a darker intent behind the humour? A spite-fuelled agenda which most Mansun interviews ignore?
"There is an element of that," nods Paul. "People draw you into conversations about '80s pop music and you think, 'Great'. Then you get tagged as going on about '80s pop music all the time... but one of the things we talk about a lot is the absurdity of life. Going right back, things like 'Drastic Sturgeon' are just about how f---ed up the world is. Sometimes you have to stop thinking about it to be able to function. You're either born with privilege or you're not - and if you write about it you expose it."
Mansun: subversive iconoclasts masquerading as chart-friendly clowns?
"There's loads of sarcasm," Paul nods. "We're all into sarcastic British humour. And a song like 'Taxloss' is basically attacking the sacred - just taking the piss out of The Beatles really, because when we first started, The Beatles were like this ironic thing that had spawned a new generation of bands. We sat around listening to a few Beatles records and said, well, it's great, but not as good as as 'Never Mind The Bollocks' or 'Ziggy Stardust' or 'Nevermind'..."
'Taxloss', of course, is Mansun's roaringly good new single, a bile-filled pastiche of rock's most feted deities. But is there a more serious political dimension to Mansun's absurdist social satire?
"I'm personally apolitical because I think the whole political system is a sham," sneers Paul. "Though having said that, in reality, nothing can be worse than the Tories. So if the Tories declared the elections null and void and made the country a dictatorship, would we get up and carry a pitchfork? The answer's probably yes."
It doesn't have to be that extreme. Would Mansun, for instance, play a benefit for the striking Liverpool dockers?
"Definately, yeah," Paul nods. "I grew up in a staunch Labour family. All my uncles are retired dockers and merchant seamen. But from what I can see, people have just lost any soul. Britain just feels like it's got no soul for a fight any more - and probably the miner's strike crushed all that."
Paul dismisses Tony Blair as a power-hungry closet Tory but namechecks Arthur Scargill as a man of integrity. Not entirely apolitical, then.
"Deep down, if there was any political philosophy I would subscribe to, it would probably be communism. I think any right-thinking human being would be communist at heart, yet the reality is you can't defeat human nature - and human nature is greedy, back from caveman days, when the biggest caveman beat up the smallest caveman and got the fittest cavewoman. That's basically the structure of things and it never really changed."
If you've just tuned in, this is a party political broadside by Mansun. You know, the gawky ones with the frivolous image and wacky lyrics. The Day-Glo muppets who call themselves "a-political" but advocate taking up pitchforks against the ruling class. The confused, contradictory, passionate little sods.
How much of Paul's sour worldview comes from being born working class in a post-work age?
"Probably a lot of it, yeah. I think the working classes in Britain wallow in their working classness, and that's why bands won't say they want to be mega-successful..."
But the real working-class heroes, from The Beatles to the Pistols to the Manics, have all wanted to be huge.
"Yeah, they wre probably dissatisfied with what they were doing and where they were," says Paul. "And probably their motives weren't that dissimilar to ours when we started."
Paul claims he doesn't write love songs, only hate songs. What fuels this hate?
"The hate mainly comes out of thinking about how appalling the values of the world are. You're born, you come out of the womb and you're either blessed physically or you're not. And if you are, you've got a good chance of having some happiness in your
life, but if you're not, you're two-nil down before you start."
Are Mansun among the blessed or the cursed?
"I think... we've triumphed against all odds."
"The odds stacked against us are that we're four guys from a nowhere town with no connection to the music industry who suddenly had a Number One album. That's probably a triumph of willpower."
Maybe you were already on the winning side but didn't realise it. Your talent and looks have already brought you considerable fame and earning power, after all. And you come from Chester, not Chechnya...
"Well, there's your greater mystery of the world," sighs Paul. "If aliens came down tomorrow you'd probably still be worrying about the same miniscule little things you always worry about. It's all down to your own happiness in your own brain. I mean, if you're Eric Clapton or some multi-millionaire, but in your own brain you're unhappy, then you're not blessed. But if you're a peasant farmer in China who thinks, 'F---ing hell, life's amazing', then you are."
So you're still dissatisfied with your lot?
"Yeah. Disillusionment with eveything, really, that's me. I can't speak for any of the others, but that's basically what comes out in the songs."
Bloody hell - Paul and Nicky Wire should start a comedy duo. So what would satisfy him?
"I dunno. I thought maybe once I was in a band I'd be happy, and to a certain degree I am. But at the same time, I do think the world is a completely absurd place and that's always gonna be fantastic fuel for me to write songs. Maybe the time will come when I think life's great - and I'll probably never make another
good record in my life."
SO WHERE do Mansun go from here? First, they have their biggest British tour yet, then shows scheduled in Europe and America. They are being courted by Bowie to play some support dates in the summer, and Paul has been invited to join Dave and Lou Reed in a commercial for BBC arts programmes (Perfect Day). A lyrical collaboration is also planned with Howard Devoto, founder of The Buzzcocks and Magazine and another of Paul's childhood heroes. An album of b-sides is being discussed too.
Dreams come true, then, surely? And yet there remains a core of seething dissatisfaction at Mansun's creative heart. But why? Chad has defeated his problems with alcohol, Paul has thrown off his repressive Catholic upbringing. Now Mansun are on top of the world but apparently unimpressed with fame, sex, drugs and the
rest of pop's chocolate box. Politics leaves them cold, religion makes them angry, yet they are clearly hungry for something more. So - from despair to where?
"I had a Protestant and a Catholic mum in good old Bono tradition, and I don't know what that does for me," croaks Paul. "But I'm definitely looking for something... f---ing hell, I'm gonna say another U2 thing..."
You still haven't found what you're looking for?
"Yeah, ha ha! I'm definitely looking for something but I don't know what the f--- it is. But when we got to Thailand we met all these people who were into Buddhism and Chad's been into Buddhism and Taoism for ages."
Paul produces a book given to him by a Thai fan, The Way To Peace And Happiness. Both Paul and Chad were impressed by this country's relaxed attitude towards death and karma.
"But you almost feel like a c--- turning up in Thailand and raiding someone's culture like that," sighs Paul. "It's just so shit."
For Chad, though, studying Taoism seems to have given him a direction in his recovery from alcohol abuse.
"It's about Tao, I suppose, being at one with everything," he says. "And I'm more at one with everything when I'm sober, I'm a happier person."
Paul chips in: "It's about not f---ing smashing hotels up as well, and putting huge bills on other bands' room charges..."
Which band was that?
"I'm not saying, but we won't be touring with them again."
Bloody hell - so Chad's given up booze and got religion already. Fast-forward rock'n'roll lifestyle or what? All he needs now is a trout farm.
"I always said that to him," nods Paul. "If he could have stretched out everything he did in the first six months of our band into five years, he'd be a legend. But unfortunately he did it when nobody gave a f--- about us, so we wasted all these great rock'n'roll moments."
Chad looks disconsolate. "I suppose I could always become a fast car fanatic..."
But if all this spiritual questing sounds dangerously Kula Shakey, don't worry. Mansun still have their feet on the ground and their sense of humour intact. They aren't about to take us on a cosmic trip just yet.
"I'm just into talking about all this stuff with Chad," says Paul. "We buy books and get stoned and talk and laugh about it. But at the same time, I like football as well."
Buddhist footie fans. Chart-topping outsiders. Working-class heroes with pop royalty eating out of their scabby hands. Anti-religious zealots fired by spiritual hunger. Mansun, you see, remain a boiling mass of contradictions which they themselves are still resolving, never mind us trying to make sense of them. No wonder they look and sound so hellishly confused.
But at the heart of it all is Paul Draper's burning mission to wrestle his demons into submission. And whatever he's battling - class, religion, self-loathing, musical stagnation - he's come to far to give up now.
"What are we fighting against? I dunno," he sighs. "We don't need to tour as much as we do, and we don't need to record as many songs as we do to be successful - but we do, and I don't know why. Maybe I'm trying to build something. I don't know what I'm trying to achieve, without mentioning that f---ing U2 song again. Probably on the inside I'm fighting against something much bigger than music or where you're from or what your background is. It's probably more to do with... life."
Some people's scars are on the inside.
©1997 IPC Magazines Ltd.
© 2002 David Nattriss, natts.com and Parlophone Records.
This page last updated: Friday 24 May 2002