Paul Draper talks exclusively to The Downloader...
With brooding post brit-poppers Mansun imploding in May 2003, songwriting crux and disheveled genius Paul Draper went to ground; hounded by the demons of broken relationships, label troubles and the country¨s shifting musical desires (Jet – two-chord Ozzie trad-rockers - were the type of band riding high in the charts). Today, for the first time in 3 long years, Paul Draper finally surfaces and gives his first post-Mansun interview exclusively to The Downloader.
Prepare yourself for some pretty meaty revelations・..
Hello Paul, How's post-Mansun life treating you?
Very good. I went traveling for a while; I traveled round route 66 in the USA for a while in a soft top mustang, writing some tunes etc. I also went to Memphis and Nashville and lived down there for a while, - music towns basically - writing and taking it easy, I always knew that that cowboy hat would come in handy one day!
How long did it take you to adjust to 'normal life' without the band, schedules and being managed 24/7?
Once I returned from the USA I went to live in the south of France for a while, so by the end of that I had decompressed from band life. I enjoyed lying in bed till 3 in the afternoon, but it became boring after a while. After that I went back to the UK to put together the ¨Kleptomania¨ package after EMI asked me to do it. I then set about writing my new record, albeit at a slower pace than I¨d worked with the band, but I¨m back up to full speed now, and happy to be in the studio most days.
You've been quoted as saying you didn't think much of ｀Little Kix¨, do you wish you'd never made the record?
Well we had to make a record because that¨s what we did, its just that ｀Six¨ was perceived as being so weird and got such terrible reviews (that) I was sacked as the bands producer - to reign me in from going off on a tangent I suppose. They figured ｀Attack Of The Grey Lantern¨, then ｀Six¨, what next? Drum and bass? Tubular fucking Bells? They got what they wanted, a commercial record. A few people involved in the making of the record told me later they had been briefed to make the record 'ILR' friendly. ILR is Independent Local Radio, who play Lighthouse Family and middle of the road shit. As I wasn¨t the producer I was simply the singer and a musician once I'd done the demos. I couldn¨t stand by it and that led to the end of the band in a long drawn out sort of way. I was later reinstated as producer and embarked on the fourth album 'Kleptomania' but the animosity over ｀Little Kix¨ meant a lot of hostility and despair all round, especially in the studio. I did my best to complete it but it wasn¨t to be. I thought it was going well, Getting Your Way, Keep Tellin¨ Myself, Slipping Away, Home, I liked them all, it¨s how I saw the eventual record sounding. Chad and Andie were on fire in the studio, its the first time we felt a real closing of ranks of the three of us to make a great rock record. The Little Kix fiasco actually worked for EMI coz I Can Only Disappoint U was our biggest selling single!
It (Little Kix) just crippled the band as an artistic force, although I like I Can Only Disappoint U / New Beginning, because of the Linn Drum machine at the start, and I made sure we beat Dark Side of the Moon with a longer intro. I like Comes As No Surprise' and 'Until the Next Life', but it was terribly recorded though, it¨s basically my home demo, yet I thought it was one of my best songs. I liked Forgive Me, but EMI took all the perverted sex lyrics out of the verse, so from being a prince pastiche it was compromised into a m.o.r track, I had no say as I wasn¨t producing! I hated ｀We Are the Boys, like the track Fool it started out as a two fingers up to everyone (ironic/sarcastic/ pisstake /delete as appropriate), but the people surrounding us liked it and wanted to polish it up. If I¨d have been left to doing it like AOTGL or SIX, they¨d have come out as sarcastic, lo-fi and ironic. Irony was Mansun¨s life-force, but irony and rock n roll just don¨t mix. Critics have a short amount of time to judge an artist, I took everything deadly seriously and earnestly, it¨s just my sick sense of humour made everything seem like 'Mansun; what the fuck are they doing? But that¨s the point. I didn¨t want to be a boring standard 'flinging thru the sky, in the back of my minds eye' type of writer. I do observe and reflect, just in my own way. I¨ll decipher the meaning of the singles on the greatest hits album (due for release in the summer) and hopefully on my own site we¨re going to add every song I¨ve written and I¨m going to list what the lyrics are about.
In a way I knew Goodbye was going to be the last track we would release, not because I wanted it to be, I just felt hurt about the direction we'd been funneled into and I felt I¨d let the other members of the band down and that they wouldn¨t forgive me, well that¨s sort of half true, but there was no one fighting harder for the bands integrity and freedom in the marketplace. Six was held over me, so I had no power.
Do you think the band would still be together if you hadn't made Little Kix?
After Six we would always have had to have been produced by someone else because as I found out, major labels will not release music like Six. Effectively Six was us throwing away a commercial platform, but I'd rather do that than not be true to the music I want to do. I¨m not being pretentious, I mean physically I just couldn¨t do it, you could see it on my face.
How's the recording of your new material going?
Good, I¨ve got 8 tracks I¨m happy with, but loads of other stuff on the periphery that could make it on the record. I¨m not going to be precious about holding it back but let¨s see how things develop. I¨ll put some tracks on my new website when it launches, possibly demos to start. The album will come out in due course but I'll have the website online way upfront of the record and I'll hope to have a lot more interaction with the online community as there are people still interested even. I feel like I need to make it up to them. Anyone who¨s on the Mansun.net mailing list will be automatically notified once my own site is online, so if you¨re not on it, go to Mansun.net, register and you'll be informed when it goes up.
Can we expect a huge departure from your previous work as Mansun was 99% you, lyrically and musically?
Well, I realised years ago, I can¨t help sounding like me, which anybody who writes for themselves can¨t help but do. You are who you are as a writer and I accept I have a style, it comes and I cant help it or have any control over it, but I try to keep running away from that so the stuff I¨ve released in the past zips from one to the other end of the musical spectrum. I¨m always trying not to be me if you like. Is it a departure from Mansun, well I suppose it is, it¨s shall we say, eclectic!! I¨ve got some electronic tracks, but there¨s just me and a piano. It¨s hard to say what your own stuff is like, but shall we say 'varied' is the best way of summing it up.
It started only electronic, but then I got into playing some drums and built up some band tracks as well. My main fault musically (apart from the tunes and the words!) is I have a really short attention span, so once I¨ve finished a track I don¨t want to do another one like it and zip off in another direction with the next song. I¨ve got an archive of songs going back to when I was 10 on old cassette tapes, so I¨m never short of songs to work on as such, its the direction and arrangement where it all goes off on one.
The last full studio album and particularly Kleptomania became a lot more personal, gone were the Penelope Cheapskates and Moronicas, is your new material a continuation of this?
All the Penelope Cheapskates and Moronicas were a phase. They were all real people I knew or had met, and that was my life experience at the time, but it was all hidden beneath what I thought of as John Lennon type 'eggman, sitting on a cornflake, goon show, Spike Milligan' language. Unfortunately for me a lot of people thought I was just spouting drivel, but it all meant something to me! I didn¨t realise people would think it was a 'concept' because I didn¨t even know what a concept record was, it just happened. I just tried with the first 2 records to make them as interesting as possible.
I never listened to Six until last year when Chad and I had a listen to the mix and we spent about 20 minutes rolling round on the floor. Not many people got it though, I think people took the cover seriously, I thought it was fucking hilarious! We wanted to be as outrageous as possible, but it didn¨t work the public liked stuff more like Northern Uproar and Bis. We sat down and wrote out what would be the craziest thing we could do, and we thought a harpsichord opera narrated by Tom Baker, so we did it. At least people think he's funny now on Little Britain.
Have you been working with any outside producers/musicians?
Yeah I wrote about 10 songs with Skin, about half of which came out on her album, 'Fake Chemical State' released earlier this year. I also produced a track with her called 'Alone in my Room'. We had a mutual friend who introduced us some time ago, so when Skin started writing for her new album she knew I hadn¨t started a new project yet so we just tried to get together for a few days to see if any of our ideas gelled and we had a good time. It went from there really, it was very casual, some writing, some demoing and I went into rehearsals to capture some of Skin and her band playing the new songs just for reference, which was fun.
Are you planning on a large scale album release or are you going o rely on word-of-mouth to promote the album?
Sign up to the pauldraper.info mailing list and you¨ll find out about the music as it comes along. Promotion? Word of mouth? Who knows, I¨m just going to make a record and see if anyone likes it.
How do you feel about the release of you're new material are you loathed to be know as 'that bloke from Mansun'?
Not really bothered about being 'that bloke from Mansun', its better that being 'who?' but its just part of the territory i suppose!
The whole 'cult following' that surrounded bands like Mansun, Manics etc seems to have almost died out, can you see it picking up?
Possibly that was a nineties thing, I don¨t think it'll happen again. A band like Mansun had a big following but didn¨t get on radio/TV as much as pop artists so it seemed underground / culty, nowadays if you¨re underground you can get to # 1 just through being an underground band because the web is the new underground. Although Mansun was on the web, it had no power to influence the charts etc in those days, its different now, and people have the power over the marketing men if they want it.
Have any new bands influenced any of your writing/recording?
Not really influenced it but I listen to every good new record that comes out. I listen to mainly old stuff, Neil Young, Motown, Kate Bush, Talk Talk, Magazine. Sonically the way things sound these days, then yes I¨m influenced by that because I love working in the studio and keeping the studio side of things up to date and the sound of what you are recording filters through that and hopefully you sound contemporary and relevant.
What do you think about the current music scene, do any bands stand out?
I like the bloc party album very much, I like the Open, who I saw in London this Feb. I also like the Arctic Monkeys records.
Has there been any point when you've felt like giving up music and taking up something completely different a la Stove (Mansun¨s bass player) with his race car driving?
Not really, I¨ve been making music since I was 10 so it¨s sort of irrelevant if it¨s coming out commercially or not, I still just do it anyway for myself although a lot of my stuff is just for myself, the best example of that would be the hidden track at the end of Kleptomania Disc 1. I always do stuff like this, but I wouldn¨t release it normally, that was a one off because I could get away with it and no one¨s going to really hear it anyway.
Are you surprised by the amount of interest there still is in your music, particularly on the web, after such a long period of ｀musical¨ absence?
I¨m very humbled and grateful to everyone online for still showing an interest in my music, hopefully the new stuff will be a positive and enjoyable experience for all (that means fuck off you internet stalkers, big brothers watchin you!). I¨d also like to apologise to anyone who took my last batch of interviews last year the wrong way. I didn¨t know how to discuss Mansun due to the events of the split, I'd like to say a sincere sorry to anyone who took it as me dismissing Mansun¨s music, it was just my sick dark sense of humour as self defense against the criticism which was going to come at the record, same as the Peter Robinson-NME interview.
I did eventually pluck up the courage to listen to the 4th album sessions fully and realised we could have released it after all. I met EMI not long after the split and they would have liked us to finish the album properly and do a tour, with Love Remains as the first single from the album. Unfortunately the band weren¨t all in contact at the time so Chad and I put the Kleptomania package together instead, and it wasn¨t something I was in a very positive frame of mind about, putting out a load of half finished recordings. Ultimately Mansun died a tragic and untimely death, unfortunately chronicled by the fourth album sessions, so thank you all so much for still being here and living through it with us.