An Interview With Paul Draper (Part the Third)

To recap, we head into the third installment of the interview with Paul Draper having talked about his debut record Spooky Action, hatching a plan for conquering America, Six's impending 20th anniversary, Mansun conventions and cover bands, and a bit more besides. 

But wait, there’s more.

The importance of good fan relations (and Alsatians)? Yes. Things that are currently lighting up Draper's Spotify playlist? Of course. Some of his choices may well surprise you. A Mansun biopic? Why not? 

This was probably the silliest bit of our lengthy conversation, and I confess to having edited out some of the goofiest moments. Let's just say there were quite a few chortles, giggles, and even a guffaw or two.  

As the old adage goes, all good things must come to an end, and here ends the Fuzzy Logic interview with Paul Draper. I hope you've enjoyed this exclusive three-part visit with Paul even a fraction as much as I enjoyed sitting down with the man himself. Revisit parts one and two early and often. 

I know there are plenty of us who are thrilled to bits to see Paul Draper releasing music once again. 

Fuzzy Logic: It’s always seemed really important to you to be fan-friendly. Why is that such a big thing for you?
Paul Draper: Well, you know, when we started Mansun off, we just played in front of like two men and a dog. So fifty percent of our fanbase was Alsatian.

FL: That’s a third.
PD: A third. Yeah, sorry, I can’t add up. So yeah, it was more Alsatians than we had female fans. So we thought…everyone we met, we’d come offstage and meet everyone, and then when our CD came out we’d just go into all the local shops and buy it ourselves to try and get in the indie charts, and then we’d give them out to the audience and sign them. We genuinely didn’t take anyone for granted. And we just tried to make as many fans as possible. 

I think the biggest way we did that was just by supporting loads of other bands. We supported Shed Seven, we supported Sleeper, we supported Suede, we supported The Charlatans, we supported the Manics…you know, just kept building and building and building a fanbase. I think we answered every letter that was ever sent to us, apart from the proper nutters, you know. You just sort of avoid them, written in blood and all that. And we really were a fan-based band, you know. Maybe that’s why the conventions are still going.

And through doing that, we got into the media and then we got into the charts and on the radio and stuff. It wasn’t the other way…we just didn’t have a hit and they played us on the radio. It was the other way around. That’s sort of kept alive in the internet era, you know, them fans who were all part of it they have their own little Facebook group which has now grown pretty big, it’s like 15,000 people on it or something, and they have a good community, and there’s like a rival one, you know. And I go on there and ask them questions and stuff, and have a nose about. 

It is fan-led. Their conventions and things. We put that effort in not to take it all for granted at the start, I think. And I think the fans probably saw something in us as well, they probably saw we weren’t like perfectly-polished pop stars, they saw that we were just having a go, like “how did you get here?” They maybe saw something like that. I don’t know, I don’t know. I think another part of it is we did loads of EPs and loads of b-sides, and people like that. Lots of little elements that made it a thing, not a massive thing, but just a Thing that lasted.

That was it, really. Was that a good summarization of the endurance of Mansun? They’ll make a film one day, won’t they? Who will play me in it, Brad Pitt? The guy out of Harry Potter?

Ben: Jack Black.

PD: Unbelievable. Daniel Craig probably. I think Daniel Craig would play me.

FL: We’ve already talked about this song, but a few years ago you told me that your favorite song to play live was “Wide Open Space.” What would you say to that question now?
PD: Favorite song to play live? I think it’s “No Ideas.” I like that one the best. It’s one of the EP tracks, it’s not on the album. And we played it on the first night and it was terrible, it was a real stinker. So I thought, I’m never gonna get a moshpit going on this, so I’ll just emote a bit more. So I just sort of get more emotionally-involved in the lyrical side of it, and then just stand there and deliver the performance more, and then people really liked it. I’ve met a few people since who have said, “oh I like that one the best, I didn’t like it on the record but now when you perform it live it’s really good.” In rehearsals, that first time, rubbish. Now…I do this riff, like a James Brown, funky riff, and sing it at the same time, and I’m getting better and better. But then when it comes to the end bit where I go all “whooooo” I just stop playing cuz I just think, “I’m gonna fuck up here,” so I just stop playing the guitar and just go all a bit, you know, operatic. To focus on the vocal.

FL: Of course.
PD: No really, honestly, to focus on hitting the notes right. So yeah, that’s my favorite song at the minute because it’s just purely all about vocal performance. And so, it feels like an achievement doing that one live. That’s my new favorite.

FL: So, I have another favorite question…
PD: Gorgonzola. Purple. Gray.

FL: ...of everything you’ve written, what’s your favorite lyric that you’ve ever come up with? Or favorite song…
PD: Favorite lyric…I can tell you my all-time favorite lyric of all lyricists, first. Simon LeBon, “you’re about as easy as a nuclear war.” That rocks, doesn’t it? Noel Gallagher’s “slowly rolling down the hall faster than a cannonball,” that’s up there as well with nuclear war one, isn’t it…I don’t know. Ben’s favorite lyric of mine is the opening of “The Chad Who Loved Me,” what was it, I don’t even know what it is, something about shit.

Ben: Your shit tastes as sweet as mine.

PD: Yeah. The one about the shit. “You can’t deny that your shit just tastes as sweet as mine, sweet Jesus.” My mate’s a vicar now, you know, he really loves that. It’s sort of anti-religious, isn’t it? Can’t go to America and say that, they’ll burn your records. In Alabama they’ll be burning your Spotify playlists won’t they, on a big imaginary digital fire. So, I’m not saying I’m bigger than Jesus or anything like that. That’s Ben’s favorite lyrics. What about the other Jesus one, from Six? “I’m emotionally raped by Jesus?” That’s a good one isn’t it? 

I’ve got all this anti-Jesus stuff. A bit Catholic you see, I’m a left footer, I grew up a bit strict. But I’m really good mates with the vicar of [name redacted] now, and that’s not a TV show that’s the Vicar of Dibley. He’s just round there, round the M25. He wears this full thing, and all that, his robes and that that he does his mass in, but he’s got a drum kit in his vestry and he plays the drums, and he’s a big Mansun fan. He got into the first album, I think someone bought him, you know “Stripper Vicar” and all the Jesus stuff and all like that. So I’ve become really good mates with the vicar of [name redacted]. He actually came to the London gig and prayed for us before we went on. It was a good gig and all. I’m starting to believe it, meself. He’s a really good mate of mine, but he knows I don’t have much faith, and he knows I’ve written quite a lot of anti-religious lyrics…but I think he just likes the rock and roll element of it. He wears earrings and everything.

FL: Is that allowed?
PD: Yeah, he’s a really cool vicar.

FL: What have you been listening to these days?
PD: You know, in the age of Spotify, it moves so fast now that I can’t settle on anything. I used to love an album for like years, now it just lasts for a few weeks and even then only the best tracks on Spotify. So, recently I’ve listened to the new National album. People are mad about them over here. I listen to it, and it’s just like a load of old blokes moaning about stuff, isn’t it? With no tune. It’s like intellectual moaning, isn’t it? If you’re like me, working class, and you moan about stuff, they just think you’re an idiot, but if you’re The National, then you’re a genius. I haven’t really got into The National yet, but I’m gonna give it a few more listens. I’ve been listening to Gary Numan’s new album, really like the single “My Name is Ruin,” but not fully got into the album yet. It sounds like nine versions of the same thing, but then Gary Numan’s whole career is like two thousand versions of the same thing, isn’t it? I love Gary Numan, though. What else have I been listening to…new LCD Soundsystem record, sounds like a load of insipid blips and ambient, wishy-washy drivel, but again I haven’t listened to it enough to give it a real judgment. But that’s what people sort of like these days, isn’t it, The xx and stuff like that.

Ben: What about the Alabama Shakes?

PD: I love the Alabama Shakes album. She’s amazing, that record’s amazing. Some of the Foals records. But, I’m just thinking like recently, this week. Like, something like Alabama Shakes, I’ll just like it and stick it on me playlist, and I just get one massive playlist. And then, like an advert will come on the radio, like a Tom Jones record (Paul goes into Tom Jones voice) “She’s a lady”…it’s mad now, isn’t it, music’s just mad now. You don’t just buy the latest CD and listen to that and then think everything in the past is rubbish like the record companies used to tell you it was. If you’re on Spotify, it’s like you’ve got the whole world there. Anything. I could just listen to something in a pub and Shazam it…

I’ll tell you what I really like, Beak. You know Jeff Barrow out of Portishead. His band, Beak, that’s on Spotify. Listen to that. That’s brilliant. That’s brilliant. That’s right up my street. Sort of like, lo-fi electronic-y, it’s different than Portishead, but Beak. I’m into Beak. Oh yeah, Gizmodo. That’s our latest thing. Mark King out of Level 42, on the bass, Frank Zappa’s guitarist, and Stuart Copeland on drums. One of Talking Heads. And no wonder, like, the Police fell out, because there’s no songs in it whatsoever. It’s just Stuart Copeland just talking over the top, going (in a not entirely awful American accent) “I’m Stuart Copeland and I’m fucking better than Sting, he was a fucking asshole, listen to me, you should have put my songs,” it was like, fucking hell man, these songs are rubbish. But the musicianship is amazing. His drumming is off the clock. And the guitar playing…and I hate Mark King out of Level 42 but that was the only thing I’ve ever liked of his that fits in. It’s like Talking Heads but with amazing musicians. I really liked it. I thought it was Talking Heads but it wasn’t. It was part of Talking Heads.

It’s like the age of the track, isn’t it, it’s not really the age of the album. I quite like one of the new St. Vincent tracks. What else do I like? Loads of stuff…I really like the new Tori Amos single, that’s brilliant. I’ve always been a big Tori Amos fan. Little Earthquakes, her first album, is one of my favorite albums ever. And now, that latest track she did was brilliant. What else have I really liked…we just invent a name, and then see if there’s a band called it, and then we get into it. We were listening to The Crabs. Not The Cramps. The Crabs. They’re better than The Shags, and they were bad. Just look for all sorts of stuff, really.

But yeah, what else…that’s about it, really. Grizzly Bear, I’ve been listening to like one track off their new album. But they’ve got some nice chord changes, but it’s all a bit sensitive lumberjack. And I quite like a couple tracks off the new Liam Gallagher album. I like three of them. The rock one, though, that’s ace. That’s brilliant, that new one. I didn’t think I’d ever like Liam Gallagher, but I actually can laugh along with him now. I think he’s done it. I think he’ll beat Noel in the charts. Noel’s gone all dance, hasn’t he? He’s done an album with David Holmes with no tunes in it. Been liking a couple Liam Gallagher tracks. Of new stuff, just that really.

I’ve got all sorts. I just like classical music on my playlists and all sorts, you know. I just put it on random and then Clair de Lune comes on or something mad like that, and I just like try to then work it out on the piano doing chopsticks. So all sorts of stuff, really. But it is that age, isn’t it? I kind of like Taylor Swift’s new single, you know, the Right Said Fred one? “I’m too sexy…” I like the snare drum sound. I think Taylor Swift’s song’s quite a good pop record. We’re gonna sample that snare, aren’t we, call it Swift snare, and put it on a track. See if you get away with it.

FL: Be careful with her.
PD: No, no, we’re gonna give her a writing credit.

Ben: Not gonna give Right Said Fred a writing credit?

PD: No, fuck them, they’ve got enough cash. I’m gonna go on the news and just say “yeah, so I co-wrote this song with Taylor Swift.”

FL: That’ll beat Martine McCutcheon.
PD: Martine McCutcheon, she hasn’t got good snare drums. Any musician or any producer and all that, they’ll tell you that it’s got a good snare drum, that Taylor Swift record. Got good bottom end in it, nice American kick drum, you know. Boom in it. Good snare drum. I like it. So that’s about it for my musical taste, really.

Oh, like this year, I liked half of the Depeche Mode album. Thought the other half wasn’t that good. Don’t like the new U2 single. That’s a stinker, isn’t it? Played a bit of keyboards on Steven Wilson’s album, you know, the crown king of prog rock. That’s it, really.

FL: In 2008, you said Kate Bush’s song “Man With the Child in His Eyes” was your pick for best song ever written. Still?
PD: Probably, yeah. Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah. I think “Wuthering Heights” is amazing as well. “In My Life” by John Lennon’s up there as well. But yeah. If I could just go home and just sit at the piano and write that, I’d be happy. I’d just put that on the record, you know. Add a bit of strings in it. Great record that. There’s not really that level of songwriting around anymore, is there? It’s a shame.

FL: We’ve already kind of talked about this last one. But true or false: you’re already working on new songs.
PD: It’s what we’ve been doing today. Can’t get Ben out of the studio. Yeah we are, we’re working on a song for the next album. I think the record company were happy with the sales of Spooky Action, you know, I think we did like well over 30. No, that’s a joke, we did way more than that. I think they’re gonna sign us up for another one. I can’t escape. I’m trapped in it. I’m trapped in rock and roll again and I can’t get out. I don’t know what to write about for the next album. This album was just my vile hatred and disgust for everyone from the past. I don’t care anymore. So, I’ve gotta think of something to write about.

FL: Your disgust of Martine McCutcheon.
PD: Could be. Could be a concept album about a feud between two-bit unheard of pop stars. In the end they could either kill each other or marry each other, and then you could do like two alternate endings to the album. That’d be good, wouldn’t it. We’d sell twice as many albums. We’d have one ending that ends with a big marriage, like an EastEnders marriage, and then another one it just ends where you like stab her to death.

Ben: Or she stabs you to death.

PD: And then you could put them both out and see who wins in the charts. I can feel an idea coming together. Wow, man. This is how our meetings are like. That’s quite long for our creative meetings. Cool, let’s do an album about that. Not about a flying chicken and a dead vicar. Let’s do it.

[posted 10.19.17]


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