Former Mansun front-man Paul Draper returns with his long awaited ‘EP ONE’ Friday 10th June on KScope. XS Noize Editor Mark Millar had a chat with Paul ahead of the release.
Hi Paul how does it feel having new music coming out soon?
PD: When I did the Anchoress album with Catherine Anne Davies, we didn’t know if it would be as successful as it was. The album was received well critically and it got into the independent album charts. She’s just done some shows and the London show has sold out already. It’s gone really well for her. At the very start, to get some publicity for the project that I produced with Catherine, I stuck my head out and did some interviews for the first time in years. The music press had moved very much off from paper to online, so literally there were loads of people who were interested in speaking to me.
I spoke to Catherine and said, “If you want me to do interviews, I can get your name out there”, and she said, “Yeah, fire away”, and so I did bits n bobs of interviews and before I knew it there was a Mansun convention, where all the fans turned up to. I think there are 10,000 on their Facebook group page now. So that’s when the offers started coming in. I had a bunch of record company offers to do a solo album. I never thought I would do a solo album I thought I would be a studio person, which is my real love. There are 4 parts to being a musician – there’s the writing part, the promotion, the playing live, and being in the studio. Two of the four bits I’ve carried on doing, I’ve never stopped doing them and I never thought I would be a front person again. I finished Catherine’s album and she went off with Simple Minds to play as a live keyboard player and as part of the live tour. That left a huge void in my life, because I thought I would do another Anchoress album.
I hit a cross roads really. I had the offers to either do a solo album or do an album for another artist.? There were various offers. I spoke to Catfish and the Bottlemen at one point about maybe producing some tracks for them. Then I thought “I’m going to do it, I’m going to produce myself”. (Laughs) That’s how I viewed it in my head. It’s taken a long way to seeing myself as the front-person. I just see it as producing myself rather than someone else. (Laughs)
I took the plunge and did it and the time seemed right. I’m not an angry young man anymore, chasing the charts. I’ve never ever stopped making music, so if people like the type of music that I make even though some of it is a bit odd, there seems to be an audience there, so I’m doing it with a completely positive outlook. I hope people like it.
Why have you decided to release an EP before your album ‘Spooky Action’? Are you just testing the water first?
PD: We had a lot of tracks recorded. We had an albums worth and I had just about enough tracks to do some more stuff, so we talked about just putting the album out. It was the record company KScope Records who I signed with who put forward the idea of doing an EP and obviously Mansun had a long history of doing EP’s. We did 14 consecutive EP’s. I thought it was a good idea., I thought it would be less risky than just putting an album out there and it would be a good introduction for people to remember who I was and what I was doing and we were in a bit of a left-field pop band. An EP is a nice gentle re-introduction into it rather than going straight in with the album after doing nothing for such a long time.
Can you tell me about the EP?
PD: The lead track off the EP, ‘Feeling My Heart Run Slow’ was played at the Mansun convention. Someone had a bootleg of it. That’s the only thing anyone has ever heard and is the only track that is going to be on the album. There are three completely exclusive tracks for the EP we have some radio edits and mixes for digital versions but we are doing full proper traditional 12’ vinyl with four tracks on it, right back from the 70s it will be the real deal with a big piece of artwork on it. It’s going to a real great traditional piece of art. We have put the front cover online already, so people have already seen the artwork.
I have seen the artwork., It’s great. What inspired it?
PD: I was looking for an artist to work with and was fortunate enough to be introduced by a mutual friend to Anthony Gerace who is a collage artist. He showed me some of his stuff and I said, “That’s brilliant”. He had been manipulating pictures and photographs of people and I asked him would he do one for me? He did the EP and he’s doing the album cover for me. It seems to have gone down really well. We are really focused on getting the artwork really great and making a really traditional product. I really want to champion vinyl so we are having a 12’- 4 track EP with a beautifully designed cover that’s something from a bygone era but it somehow seems completely modern as well. We are not going to set the charts on fire but we are doing a beautiful piece of art in terms of the music and the artwork, lyrically, and the musicianship is fantastic. I think the whole package as an EP is a beautiful re-introduction for anyone who is a fan of Mansun.
Who did you work with on the EP?
PD: I worked with the engineer who did ‘Six’ – Paul ‘P Dub’ Walton, he came on board and engineered and mixed the record and I have a fantastic artist with Anthony Gerace doing the artwork. I just want to be a very high quality artist. Mansun was the pop music of its day although some people see us as being a very left-field subversive thing because we changed and did all different styles of music and we did. It was a crazy band but we were the pop music of the day and now I’m not. I am my own artist and Mansun has become a revered left-field pop project and I want to continue that lineage in my music.
It still sounds like me as soon as I open my mouth. My lyrics are probably a bit odd and dark still, but the whole thing has freshness and relevance. I remember Bono always saying, – “There’s no point making music unless you’re relevant”. What he means is: – you’ve got to keep up to date, and so I have. There’s no point in remaking ‘Taxloss’ or doing anything that sounded like the 90s. It sounds fresh and modern and I’ve incorporated lots of things that I love, like analogue synthesisers had a massive rebirth in music, so I bought some great synthesisers and used them. I’ve used them with my band, ‘The Anchoress band’ as we call them who are John and Stacks., My rhythm section and I played all the guitars and bass. It’s been a really fantastic experience doing it with some class musicians. The EP has been brilliantly played, and sonically it sounds superb, and it’s going to exist in its own little box. We are not trying to be a pop group, or do anything other than create my own art and have it in its own space.We are really proud of it.
What songs are on the EP?
PD: For the lead track, ‘Feeling My Heart Run Slow’ I wrote a song with Catherine Anne Davies AKA The Anchoress for it. It was good to get her involved. The song is called ‘The Silence Is Deafening’, written specifically for the EP. I also collaborated with Grammy nominated ‘Prog-father’ - Steven Wilson; he is signed to the same label as me. I emailed him about a year ago and said, “Do you fancy meeting up for lunch?” We met up and I asked him about the KScope label and asked him “what are they like?”
He highly recommended them for allowing artists complete freedom to do what they want. He went on to do an interview with Paul Lester where he said he was a big Mansun fan and how Mansun were very influential on his work. So when it came to do my first EP I asked him if he minded me sending over a track I had been working on to see if he had any ideas? He played bass, guitar, and some synthesiser on it and sent it back. We battered it back and forth and built a very quirky track together called ‘No Ideas’. We are hoping people will really like it; it’s something a little bit different from both of us and I think people will really love it as collaboration. It’s a great piece of music and very original. Steven’s contribution is fantastic and I’m eternally grateful for him to play on my record. The Twilight Sad is one of my favourite bands at the moment. I’m friends with Andy from the band and I asked him if he would be up for doing something on the EP. He had heard the lead track and he said, “Give me the vocal track on that and we will do a Twilight Sad re-imagining of it”.
It’s fucking brilliant! It’s basically me singing “Feeling My Heart Run Slow” with the full Twilight Sad band playing behind it. It sounds brilliant – very dark and industrial. And they are the four tracks that make up the EP. It’s a really interesting piece of work; it’s me with my rhythm section predominantly, the Anchoress, Steven Wilson and the Twilight Sad, all collaborating on it, so it’s a fantastic piece of art and I really want to promote the vinyl piece, it deserves to be played on a record player. In my mind I’m making a 12’ vinyl EP, because when I was 18 I would go out and buy 12’ vinyl EP’s and I viewed them as a valid piece of art and I got into a lot of artists through that physical media and I don’t think a lot of people are doing it now. I want people to go to their local record store and buy my EP on vinyl; it’s going to be great.
Have you started practising your rock star moves again?
PD: My first photo shoots are coming through, so I haven’t practiced my ‘windmills’ yet. I’m just starting to get the ‘Rock Star’ poses back again. I’ll see if I can still remember how to lean on a wall and look cool in a dead end street in the East End of London. (Laughs) It’s an odd experience, but it’s like riding a bike, it sort of looks glamorous but it’s the elements of the job you have to do so you can make the music. When I was the archetypical angry young rock star I would throw my toys out of the pram and refuse to do everything (laughs) but I’m more than happy to do anything now. I’m really privileged to have such a long career in music.
I have been a professional musician for twenty years now and I feel really privileged that I have achieved that. I am more proud of the fact that a lot of people who have gone on to be professional musicians have told me that they were inspired by me or my song writing such as Menace Beach, Pulled Apart by horses, Steven Wilson and The Joy Formidable. There are so many current relevant musicians shaping music now that were influenced by Mansun and have spoken to me. For me to step out from being a studio musician and having all my contemporaries respect what I’m doing is pretty humbling really. I’m probably a lot more chilled out with the experience of doing it.
Once the EP is out and obviously people will hear the album, I will have to go into a whole other space that’s going to be a lot more difficult, getting back into rehearsals and taking the whole thing on the road. That’s a whole other area that we have yet to navigate.