Paul Draper
On Attack Of The Grey Lantern – 3CD Special Edition
June 2010
Questionnaire: Steve Bateman

In 2007, a special 10th Anniversary AOTGL Mansun MySpace blog stated: “Released on 17th February 1997, Attack Of The Grey Lantern shot straight to number one in the UK charts in its first week of release. Combining rock, pop and even dance elements, the album sounded like no other yet it proudly wore its influences on its sleeve. Prince, U2, Tears For Fears and Duran Duran were just some of the comparisons people made when they listened to the album. The band were on tour during the recording of the album so it was recorded in various locations around the UK. Paul explains: ‘The first tracks were started at a cheap 24 track studio in Ealing called Sonic Studios where we recorded She Makes My Nose Bleed; this was before we were a band and before we were signed. We then moved to Tim Speed’s studio in Liverpool and recorded Naked Twister and then on to Parr Street in Liverpool where the bulk of the album was recorded. Most tracks started off with a drum loop printed to tape then I’d put a rhythm guitar track down with a hum vocal. It didn’t really make sense to anyone but me, but I had it sketched out in my notebook how it was gonna end up, minus the track changes here and there.’”

Another part of the blog added: “Ever the perfectionist, Paul cut some classic Mansun songs from the final tracklisting: ‘It started off as a studio project encompassing lots of songs that were eventually cut from the final release. The Most To Gain, Moronica and Flourella were supposed to be on it but they fell by the wayside as I didn’t think the songs were good enough.’ A little known fact is that Paul recorded a few of the songs on his own: ‘The tracks I played on myself were You, Who Do You Hate? and I played Wide Open Space minus the drums. Everything else was myself with Dom Chad playing his little lead lines in bits of verses and choruses which lifted everything quite a bit.’ The album was also unique in that it found commercial success without much promotion and, more importantly, without trying to be mainstream: ‘It wasn't meant to be a commercial record but it just sort of clicked at the time because people liked the EPs we’d released over the previous year. What it did do was free me up to make some more creative music over the next couple of years as I never felt too comfortable with the more commercial elements of the album and the band in general.’”

Having answered an in-depth Q&A for R*E*P*E*A*T in Spring 2008, Paul has now graciously filled in another Questionnaire for us (which also acts as a companion piece to our Attack Of The Grey Lantern – 3CD Special Edition review), where he peels away some more of the LP’s layers and addresses the magic and math behind AOTGL, his memories of that era, as well as shedding some light on his solo material. Famously impressing and influencing scene labelmates, Radiohead, upon its release in ‘97, Paul, Dominic, Stove and Andie, celebrated having a # 1 Album in the company of DJ Steve Lamacq after completing a week-long run of promo! And full of gratifying and mesmerising songs, Attack Of The Grey Lantern is a record that 13 years on, keeps on giving…

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1.To begin with, why did you decide to release the Attack Of The Grey Lantern – 3CD Special Edition now, and what are some of your fondest memories of writing and recording the long player?
“It was EMI's idea originally, but I’d wanted to get the other tracks from the bands EPs out there for a long time, as they hadn’t seen the light of day for a long time and haven’t been available for a long time. I remember we spent a lot of time in the studio as we'd recorded about 36 songs for the sessions. Mostly the recording sessions were in between touring and I’d spend quite long hours in the studio; the best times were when one of the songs would be recorded and it'd be obvious it stood out and was destined for the album, that was the most enjoyable part of the process.”

2.As you were the producer, what do you feel the sound engineers and mixers brought to these sessions + did your original demos / ideas change a lot, or are the finished studio tracks faithful to those early versions?
“Oh a lot, my part was arrangements and ideas, sonically I knew nothing at that point and learnt a lot from the people we worked with. I never did original demos but had the idea for how I wanted the song to be in my head and tried to implement it accordingly, so there were no early versions, the record is just what came out in the studio from the songs I’d written.”

3.Are there any songs in particular, that surpassed your expectations?

“Not really, I always felt like I’d push a track as far as I could take it then abandon it – you can never fully-realise what’s in your head but you get as close to it as possible.”

4.In your liner notes, you wrote: “I never said it in the press but Lennon (and Prince) were my inspirations for most of this record.” Could you expand on how they influenced you?
“Prince, as he was a writer and producer and played different instruments and I wanted to emulate how he made records, and Lennon in terms of lyrics. Those 2 are my musical heroes.”

5.Was there a moment where you felt like AOTGL was starting to come together / its character was beginning to shine through, and then, do you remember how you felt when the LP was finished (along with the artwork), and you could hold your own record + buy it in the shops?

“It only fully came together in the mastering room on the last day, as I had all the different parts in different places and joined them together at the end. It was great having the final record, particularly the vinyl version as it felt like a culmination of a lot of work. I never actually saw it in the shops as I was away touring most of the time back then.”

6.Were there any alternative titles / artwork ideas?

“I had the artwork idea right from the start so that was always fixed. The opening track was called Desperate Icons originally and She Makes My Nose Bleed was originally She Makes Me Bleed, but I thought that sounded too earnest. In retrospect it wasn’t.”

7.Are there any major changes that you would now make to the album, and what was the most valuable lesson that you learnt from the sessions?

“I like the album as it is and have never thought about making any changes to it. The most valuable lesson learnt from this album is get a proper bass player in the band who is not sociopathic.”

8.How involved was the process of remastering the record for its 2010 reissue, and do you have any plans to release a Special Edition of Six in the near future, perhaps with The Dead Flowers Reject included?
“EMI looked after the mastering side of things and I’m not sure of the exact plans for the rest of the b-sides coming out, but I’m sure that will unfold in due course.”

*Interestingly, when AOTGL and Six were released in The States in the late ‘90s, Mansun’s US record label insisted on changing the running
order of the tracklistings for each album, feeling that they would be better suited to the tastes of American music fans that way. So, the more commercial-sounding / accessible songs were placed up front, sadly interrupting the intended flow and feel of the long players, with Stripper Vicar even being replaced by Take It Easy Chicken, possibly
through fears of upsetting the Bible Belt?*

9.Do you think the length of an LP is important, and what are some of your favourite long and short records?
“It depends on the record, I like Dark Side Of The Moon and With The Beatles. Long and short records respectively, it depends on the songs.”

10.For people who might just be getting into Mansun for the very first time, I feel that the Attack Of The Grey Lantern – 3CD Special Edition, shows how versatile a songwriter you are, from creating songs with elaborate arrangements right through to simpler acoustic tracks. But from all of your favourite artists / bands, are there any intricately produced and stripped-down songs that you admire?

“I like a broad spectrum of stuff; I love Kate Bush and some of her productions and arrangements are very intricate, but also I love early Beatles which is straight to the point, before they expanded into something else more complex before exhausting that direction and going back to their roots. It’s about the feel of the song and how to present it, not how complex the arrangement is. Some of Prince’s stuff is stark and bare and its brilliant for it, Something In The Water (Does Not Compute), Darling Nikki, Head, Bob George, Movie Star, genius stuff.”

11.Ian Curtis believed that “every song you start, you should finish.” Would you agree with this?

“I’ve got loads I’ve never finished now, but back then I finished everything up to a point and put it out, but I’d say every song you start, you abandon at some point and let it go, you never truly finish anything.”

12.In reference to how much The Music Industry has now changed and with less pressure from some labels for artists to have massive commercial success, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore recently said: “Bands can be themselves again.” What are your feelings on this statement, and how do you think Mansun would have fared if starting out in 2010?

“Oh, I don’t know how we'd get on now, we had a rough time back then ‘coz it was all about lad rock and we didn’t fit into that scene. Anyone can do what they want now if you want to do it for fun or you have a passion for it and stick it on MySpace, which is dead anyway or give away mp3s of your songs. The thing is, most bands don’t want to be themselves, they want to be whatever it is that makes them rich and famous and get laid, read a bit of Freud.”

13.Speaking of new groups, did you enjoy working with The Joy Formidable on Greyhounds In The Slips and how did this come about?
“The Joy Formidable are from a town near to where I grew up in North Wales so I knew about them because of that. I went to some of their gigs in London and we were introduced by a mutual friend, so it was a bit of fun and also helping the cause of North Wales!”

14.Can you tell us anything about your solo material, and also, a lot of fans still wonder why the exclusive track for subscribers to your mailing-list was never sent out?
“I am up to my neck in production work and writing for other artists at the moment, but I will definitely let my solo material hear the light of day sooner rather than later. Just let me deal with it in the best way I can, but I would say thanks for the patience you’ve shown in waiting to hear new songs and they will definitely come, I’m just waiting for the stars to align if you know what I mean.”

15.Lastly, is it rewarding for you, to think that Attack Of The Grey Lantern is regarded by so many people as one of the great debut LPs of all-time, and do you have any favourite debut records?
“Hmmm, not sure what my fave debut album is, but probably Never Mind The Bollocks, just for the sheer impact on the whole music world and quality of the songs and the production is truly explosive. Nevermind had the same impact as well, sonically and culturally. As regarding our record, I do hear that a lot about the best debut thing, but there were loads of issues regarding that record that I only found out about retrospectively, which makes it less rewarding as it impacted the following records. But that’s just me, I’ve always been a cynical bastard LOL!”

Be Seeing You

A very special thanks to Paul, and to Scott @ EMI Music, for all of their time and help.

“I’m in a wide open space, it’s freezing
You’ll never get to heaven with a smile on your face from me”

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?