Hailing from Chester, England Mansun were first tagged as Reni-hatted Oasis wannabes. After releasing a couple of singles on their own label (Sci-Fi Hi-Fi) they signed to the major Parlophone, home to Blur, Supergrass and Dubstar.
In 1996 they released four EPs which contained anthems that melded indie guitars with drum machines, soaring melodies and leanings towards prog and psychedelic rock. Each EP charted higher than the one previous. The song titles and subject matter were also delightfully barmy, and included tracks such as as “Egg Shaped Fred”, “Take it Easy Chicken” and “Stripper Vicar”.
In early 1997 Mansun released “She Makes My Nose Bleed” which made number 9 on the UK charts, and their debut album Attack of the Grey Lantern went in at number 1, going gold (100,000 copies sold) in the first week.
Led by a clergyman’s son, Paul Draper, the band also contained Dominic Chad (guitar), Stove King (bass) and Andy Rathbourne (drums). During 1997 on a brief tour-cum-promotional visit to Australia we chatted with the friendly and politely charming Chad.
The album Attack of the Grey Lantern debuted at number 1 on the UK album charts, which was very impressive. Did you have any idea, or did you expect that at all?
We had no idea. It was quite surprising. The last single we released before the album (“She Makes My Nose Bleed”) went top 10. So I suppose we thought it might be a top ten album, but no idea it would do as it did. It was nice.
The album is very ambitious, do you think you surprised a lot of people with the depth and scope of the album?
I certainly think people weren’t expecting some of the stuff, it was quite different from some of the EP’s.
Do you have any favourites from the album yourself?
Well the “Chad Who Loved Me”…
How does it feel to have a song named after you?
Yeah, good I suppose. It was probably the result of me being the butt of everybody’s jokes that day in the studio.
Paul (Draper, Mansun’s lead singer/songwriter) seems to have a lot of confidence with Mansun, with comments like the REM one (“if we didn’t think we could be bigger than REM we’d give up”). How do you feel when he makes those sort of statements?
Um, yeah, it wasn’t particularly about REM, it could’ve been about any one. It was more about that there’s no particular limit of what we want to achieve. We just want to do as much as we possibly can. And go as far as we possible can.
You’ve got a bit of a reputation as band of being wild boys on tour. How accurate is that perception?
I don’t know where that comes from, to be honest. People have commented on us as people in our private lives, and any comment outside of gigs is completely unqualified, as nobody sees us outside of gigs. We don’t hang around anyone from the industry outside of gigs. All it is, is that we go against the grain in Britain as far as live performance is concerned, as most British bands stand very, very still and go through the motions every night and move very little. We’re a very energetic live band because we enjoy playing live. And I guess people see us and misinterpret that aggression as what we’re like offstage.
Whatever, people write all sorts. The best you can do is talk to people and hope they’ll include something of what you say in what they write about you. If you don’t speak to people at all they’re just free to write whatever they want. Because they will write about you.
It seems to be very much Paul’s band from what I’ve read. How much input do you and the rest of the band have, songwriting wise, and image wise etc.?
We’ve released a couple of co-written tracks, and the ones we’re starting to write now are co-written. As far as it goes, Paul actually writes the songs himself but the recording process is still a team effort. We often come up with different ideas for Paul’s songs.
Did any songs come out totally different from when you went in to the studio?
Yeah, a lot of things came up different to what we expected. A lot of things that were expected didn’t even happen, and a lot of things happened which were completely spontaneous and not part of the original plan. All plans change because something like music, you can’t stop a musical idea or song coming in your head and if it does and it’s too good to ignore you can’t not do it, just because it wasn’t part of the original plan.
From the live reviews I’ve read it seems that you are very energetic live and the crowd get really into it?
Yeah, certainly the crowd do, and partly because we’re into it. Because you tend to project your attitude onto the audience and theirs’s back onto you. The songs are very different. Live we’re more of a energetic rock act, I suppose, and the studio is the place where we do the experimenting. We just translate everything onto two guitars bass and drums for the live show and it works.
Do you think you’ll go for a concept type approach for your next album?
It depends what you mean by concept. I mean if you call our first album a concept album, in as much as we had an idea of what we wanted it to be like before we started making it. So if concept album means that you’re intelligent human beings and you think about what you’re going to want to record before you do it, well, that’s what we do.
Have you started writing for the second album yet?
We’ve got about two or three tracks that we’ve started recording. There’s one that’s completed but the main body of work will come later.
Do have any grand plans for the USA?
We’ll certainly go over there for a tour later in the year. The album comes this month (April) and the first single will be “Wide Open Space”. We want to go everywhere, and play in all these different places and hopefully make some fans.