Paul Draper
On His Past, Present & Future…
March / April 2008
Questionnaire: Steve Bateman

"It was an 'outsider thing'. The kind of 'outsider thing' that has lured lost souls into the dark labyrinths of obsession throughout the decades: Pulp's twitching-curtain sleaze, the leopardskin gaudiness of the Manic Street Preachers' Useless Generation, The Smiths' NHS geek-chic, Joy Division's catacombs of Camus. It was that defiant radiation-burst of savage individualism that often defines a band as a 'cult' and its fans as 'devotees'. The kind of 'outsider thing' that gives the misfits some place they can fit. But even alongside rock's lengthy parade of eccentrics and non-conformists, Mansun stood out a mile."

- Mansun Kleptomania Foreword Extract

Sorely missed and underrated, seems the most appropriate way of opening an introduction for any new article about Mansun, as for many fans, they were always so much more than just a band or a mere part of the soundtrack to our lives - they were as the sleeve quote above proposes, an 'outsider thing', and they were iconoclasts who we could all relate to. For they had that intangible quality, a connection / bond with people that goes way beyond actions or words, and which intrinsically, only a select few - 'The Mansun Family' - can ever fully understand or appreciate, each in our own unique and special way. Perhaps this is why Mansun's fate from beginning to end, was to remain as an esoteric 'cult' group.

Exploding onto the music scene in the late '90s in the wake of Britpop as Manson (later changed to Mansun for legal reasons), the Chester band - Paul Draper (lead vocals / rhythm guitar), Dominic Chad (lead guitar / backing vocals), Stove King (bass) and Andie Rathbone (drums) - were renowned for being "wilfully different and difficult," constantly side-stepping expectations and modifying their sound and image. As an active unit, their first ever release was the limited edition 7", Take It Easy Chicken, on their own Sci Fi Hi Fi Recordings label in 1996 prior to signing with Parlophone - with songwriter Paul once joking how the group said, "You give us some space and we'll metamorphose into the huge stadium rock band that you desire. And they believed us!" They then recorded 3 albums, Attack Of The Grey Lantern, Six and Little Kix + 14 EPs, before their sad and eventual demise in May 2003.

At the time, this was due mainly to band fatigue, troubled 4th album sessions, financial issues and their dissatisfaction with the commercial / polished nature of their previous LP, Little Kix - which had a softer, more accessible sound that EMI had pressurised the group into doing. And for the benefit of the uninitiated, the record company actually took matters into their own hands, by hiring an outside producer and relieving Mansun's creative leader / visionary, Paul Draper, of his usual production duties, as they wanted to ensure that there were enough songs that could be played on Independent Local Radio. On top of that, even some of Paul's lyrics were edited!

Thankfully though, the grandiose, imaginative, conceptual, complex and innovative music that Mansun made (particularly Attack Of The Grey Lantern and the OTT prog rock and musical segues of Six), lives on. And it is so ambitiously stitched-together, has so many twists and turns, and is filled with so much adventure, depth, melancholia, humour and baroque melodrama, that you'll constantly find something new with each and every listen, never knowing where a song is going to take you next! Spiked with Paul's cryptic, eccentric and unconventional lyrics (permeated with characters such as Dark Mavis), right through to his latter day, startlingly honest and soul-bearing confessionals - all sung with majestic and mellifluous tones - both Mansun's and Paul's music, should unfailingly continue to find its way into many people's lives for a number of years to come.

Summing up his time in the group, Paul candidly explained in one interview, "People thought I was an arrogant bastard, when really I was cripplingly shy. Going into The Music Industry didn't do me any good because I was massively over-sensitive to criticism and alienated myself from the band, who just wanted to party. I'd work 15 hours a day - it was my whole life... I got reinstated to produce the fourth record and I was made up because I love studio work. That's when it all turned to shit. We sacked the bass player who'd been taking hundreds of thousands from our account. When we confronted him, he broke down on the floor, crying, 'I'm evil, I need help.' He signed away all his royalties, but it was depressing to be betrayed like that."

"I tried to keep it together and, in 2003, we booked the house where Radiohead recorded OK Computer. The atmosphere was horrible. One night it all kicked off; we broke into the wine cellar, picked out the best bottle of champagne and got twatted. There was a lot of shouting and aggro... People were saying I was a delusional paranoid schizophrenic, in fact, with the stress of it all, I got a malignant tumour and had to have five courses of radiation therapy before having it cut out. I had a load of Gold & Platinum Discs, and I threw them away, I was so fucking sick of it all... By the end I felt cured and free. It was never about selling units. I wanted to be like Bowie - commercial but creative. Thom Yorke manages it. But then, Colin Greenwood never stole money from Radiohead's accounts."

After the band spilt in 2003, Paul travelled around the USA writing songs and also lived in the South of France for a short time, before later reinforcing how much the group's legacy means to him, by overseeing the release of 2 posthumous Mansun collections. Firstly, there was 2004's lavish value-for-money 3CD Set, Kleptomania, which was meticulously compiled by Paul and features the aborted 'lost' 4th album sessions (an idea originally brought to life through an online petition by fans), non-album singles, b-sides, EP-only tracks, rarities, demos and unreleased songs. And more recently, there was 2006's aptly-titled Legacy, a Best Of culled together this time by Paul and Chad. Each compilation is as essential as the other, and not only do they acknowledge the love fans still have for Mansun, but they also stress Paul's own undying love for the band, his music and the fans, as evidenced through his detailed liner notes and thanks for our support!

But what's happening in 2008? Well, in amongst the rumours of a possible Mansun reunion, Paul continues to produce other musicians, has been recording with Chad and is still working on solo material, recently disclosing, "I think it's going to be a really eclectic record - that's the best way I can describe it. I've got my own style of songwriting, I know that, but it's the recordings where I try and challenge myself and try new directions, to stay relevant and contemporary, and hopefully this will be an evolution and a departure from my previous work." In early March, I contacted Suzi @ Mansunite with a R*E*P*E*A*T Interview request, and Paul generously agreed to complete an extensive / revealing e-mail Q&A (as and when he had time to), in which he openly discusses his Past, Present & Future. And with his Official Website ( also now online, I'm sure like all Mansun fans, you'll agree with me when I say, it's great to have him back…

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. How has 2008 been for you so far, and can you unveil any of your plans for the rest of the year - from solo projects to new songs, to the rumours of Mansun reforming… anything at all?
"Hi, I may as well get the bad news out of the way first. Unfortunately there won't be one more Greatest Hits Tour for the devotees. Mansun was put to bed and will never be resurrected I'm afraid, it was what it was and that's it, finito. I know there's a fad for reunions and stuff, but Dominic Chad would never do it so it can't happen and I think Greatest Hits Tours are rubbish. It was best to end it where it was, i.e. right in the middle of it if you see what I mean. Sorry. The bass player was sacked at the end which led to the split, so that leaves Andie and myself left standing and we'd look like a cross between The White Stripes and the Pet Shop Boys. Hmm, there's an idea! Although on the bright side, I'm currently working on my first post Mansun release. I know it's been a while and I don't want to be the indie Scott Walker releasing one record a decade, but after the band split, I put the fourth album sessions together which took a bit of time and did a bit of writing and production for other artists, which was something I'd been intending to do for a while. I digress, so basically I've been putting the project together this year and intend to work on it in the coming months."

2. A lot of people reading this interview will be Mansun / Paul Draper fans, who are renowned for being very loyal and devoted - even hardcore! What does this mean to you, and why do you think they have connected to you and your music, in such a passionate way?

"Well I hope they are still out there so they'll be interested in my new project, and it seems like a lot of people have joined up to my Facebook and MySpace pages, which is encouraging, considering they haven't heard the fruits of my labour yet. Of course the fans kept the Mansun show on the road really, as it got a bit depressing at times. If I was to be honest, I think people were passionate about the band for a number of reasons. a) I never distinguished between b-sides and a-sides on the EPs, so if you bought one you were getting more than your average single. b) I think people connected with the lyrics. On the first album the lyrics were pretty cryptic, but I think people connected with the small town weirdo observations, which was the theme of the first album. But after that, I wore my heart on my sleeve lyrically and was brutally honest - I suppose it was my emotional outlet as being in that band wasn't a happy experience for me. c) I think the gigs were exciting, I always tried to perform as if it was the last gig I'd ever get the chance to play..."

3. Is there anything that you would like to say to us?

"Err...? Hmm... Well, sorry we didn't play a full set at Glastonbury in 1997, but unfortunately the gig was sabotaged by the enemy within, as were many other things."

4. And now reversing this, what has been the best thing that someone has said about yourself / Mansun?
"I don't remember anyone saying anything good to be honest! NME really didn't like the band, which was a bitter blow, because I grew up with NME as my musical bible and still read it to this day. I suppose you only remember the bad reviews. I think the best review we ever got was either "Shit Sandwich" or "More rock bollox from them wankers from the land of gravel driveways". Although where I grew up in Deeside, there weren't any gravel driveways. In fact, they were all tarmac because those blokes used to come round with a truck full of tarmac and tarmac everyone's driveways. They did such a bad job, you could peel up the tarmac drive and lie under it like a big tarmac quilt, which kept me amused for days on end in the summer holidays. So that really hurt (not the review, just lying under a tarmac driveway really fucking hurt!)"

5. Growing up, what was your biggest source for discovering new music, and can you remember the first press coverage, radio airplay or TV exposure that Mansun ever had?
"Well, NME was the one for me, and Melody Maker of course. TV-wise, I got into new stuff from anything from The Tube to The Word. I'd absorb anything really, as there was no Internet back in the day - it was all so limited."

6. For you personally, what have been some of the most important albums from the last 50 years, and if you had to pick a favourite Decade for music, which one would it be?
"Hmm, I can tell you the albums that had the most influence on me. Revolver, Ziggy Stardust, Purple Rain and more recently, Songs For The Deaf. I've always listened out for a combination of songs and production - I'm not too fussed if something's cool or not. The ones I've picked are all from different decades, so I couldn't pick one, but I guess The 1950s were the most influential for rock 'n' roll overall, as that's where it all started. I went to Sun Studios in Memphis, where it all began, and it was an amazing experience."

7. And which artist / band could you not imagine music without?

"Prince. I love his body of work. I'm not so much a fan of his singles, but I love his bootlegs, b-sides and tracks he did for his protégés. If you're not convinced, listen to Erotic City, 17 Days, Something In The Water Does Not Compute, Joy In Repetition... I could go on and on..."

8. Of all your favourite music, what's the ratio between mainstream and alternative acts?
"Well Prince is supposed to be mainstream, but the stuff I like of his is very avant-garde. Some of the stuff that's supposed to be alternative is so bloody unimaginative, it's just mainstream indie-schmindy. I like anything from The Carpenters to Stockhausen, so I guess it would be a 50/50 split."

9. I would assume that it was your love of specific artists and bands, that gave you the ambition to be part of a group that inhabited it's own musical world - because Mansun never really fitted into any particular music scene, at any time, and were almost thought of as a separate entity. Looking back now, do you think this was a benefit or a hindrance?

"Oh, that was a nightmare. You see in The Music Industry, you have to stick to very defined parameters of creativity. Really, The Music Industry is very similar to The Fashion Industry - you have to change the fashion every season to keep flogging new stuff to people, or the profits will go down. It doesn't mean the last fashion was bad, it's just out of fashion. If flares are in this year and skinny jeans next, it doesn't mean flares are shit clothes all of a sudden if you see what I mean. I think because Mansun were always out of fashion, it meant we existed in our own world, but equally, we couldn't break through to be a major act because The Industry thought we were uncool. We were like a pair of flares I suppose."

10. Do you believe that rock 'n' roll is at its most interesting, when it incorporates other musical genres and pushes boundaries?
"I don't know about that. Personally, I tried to push the envelope for what Northern bands were supposed to be about, but seemingly we fell flat on our face trying to do it, and we got steamrollered into doing a commercial sounding 3rd album which I didn't agree with. Hence I wouldn't tour it or do interviews about it, because I simply didn't believe in it, although I liked some of the songs."

11. As well as a musician, you are also an accomplished producer, but which producers do you most admire, and are there any records that you just love the overall atmosphere / sound of?
"A lot of good production is really down to the sound engineer or the mix engineer on a project. My style of production was really ideas based. I learnt the technical side as I went along. I love the sound of Revolver. I love the sound of The White Stripes records and probably my favourite contemporary production is Songs For The Deaf. I love dry, stark sounding records. Flood is a great producer; To Bring You My Love which he produced for Polly Harvey was beautiful and dark sounding."

12. I know that among others, you have worked with Skin - but if you could produce 1 artist or band right now, who would it be and why?

"It would be ME! I want to do my own record right now. Maybe I'll look at working with other artists in the future, but not at the moment."

13. Does your environment and personal life affect your songs, and has the way you work changed over the years?
"Of course, I just catalogue what's happening in my life in my songs at any given time. The first Mansun record was about my life and the people I met in Chester. The Six record was about being depressed at the goings on in the band and my life in general. In terms of how I work, it's still the same - I write loads of lyrical ideas in a notebook and collate them into songs. Musically, I throw loads of little melody ideas into a dictaphone and listen through them all and whittle them down into potential verses and choruses etc... I chop and change them all the time until I arrive at something that resembles a song."

14. How closely do your songs match what's in your head?

"They are a mirror image of what's in my mind at the time of writing them. I've been criticised for making clever as opposed to soulful music, but I can assure you, all my music comes from my heart or soul or whatever you want to call it. Wherever it is or whatever it's called that music should come from, that's where I dredge it from. I'd prefer to call it desperation, although there isn't a physical part of the body that you could call the desperation gland."

15. Are your songs evocative of the time in which they were created / do they continue to reveal themselves to you over time i.e. lyrics and themes?

"No, they are a fixed point in time - a record of who you are, what you're thinking and my emotional state at the moment I write it. All that arty farty bollox about "interpret it as you will" is baloney from phonies. That just means they can't justify what they are writing. Although I am very reticent to reveal in detail what I'm actually trying to say in a song, as you don't want to reveal yourself too much. Writing is a way of doing it while keeping your innermost thoughts to yourself. Maybe I've just contradicted myself, oh well."

16. Do you have a favourite Mansun era / any favourite artwork, looks, photographs and videos?

"I guess the first album cover was good and I liked that the best. I thought we looked OK around the time of the second album. Pennie Smith did a lot of cool photos for us. Video-wise, I liked all the ones we weren't in as they were like little films. It didn't do us any good commercially of course, but then we always shot ourselves in the foot commercially."

17. Mansun were, and still are one of the most collectible bands around, but do you have your own personal collection of rare Mansun records, promos, bootlegs, memorabilia etc?
"I don't own anything I'm afraid - I even threw my Gold & Platinum Discs away in protest. I purged myself of anything Mansun related after I discovered loads of money disappearing from the band's accounts. I have a friend who showed me a book of collectible records and I was surprised how collectible the records are. I wish I'd have kept them now!"

18. On a similar note, I've long thought that the Mansun logo is one of the very best band logos - but is there a story behind this, and are there any particular band logos that you like?

"I liked the Mansun logo too. It was sprayed onto a wall somewhere round Merseyside, then we took a photo of it and made a logo of the graffiti. I wonder if it's still there? I don't really check out logos these days as they all seem to be in a similar typeface, but I suppose my all-time fave is The Beatles one, or possibly The Stones lips logo."

19. To date, what do you think has been the ultimate rock 'n' roll statement?
"I think it was Mansun in Hong Kong. We were the last British band to play in the Colony before the British Government handed it back to the Chinese. We were supposed to play a gig which ended up as us being perched on a guitar shaped glass balcony, playing to members of the Chinese Communist Party. We were sort of duped into it. We smashed the fucking monitors over the balcony and smashed our instruments up. We caused a diplomatic incident and made the front of the South China Morning Post and got deported. We had to hide in our hotel rooms until the plane arrived. So much for Mao's Cultural Revolution, he missed out the rock 'n' roll bit."

20. As one of the first musicians to fully embrace the Internet, you now regularly update your MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr accounts. But what's the most memorable MySpace or Facebook message that you've ever received?

"Well at the moment, my Facebook page is more active with messages than my MySpace one. Some of the messages are unbelievable. I have to stay a bit removed from it to be honest. The Facebook and MySpace messages range from marriage proposals to death threats, to requests for discarded hair to offers of gigs at bar mitzvahs. But it's all good fun and I try and reply to as many MySpace / Facebook messages as possible. Usually, I spend ages replying to people only for them to message back saying, "That's not really you." For some reason, people have this impression that I have a big converted barn near Chester, full of drones sending out MySpace and Facebook messages. We try to answer all the messages that come through to my Website, or at least all the reasonable ones."

21. What inspires you outside of music and what's your biggest vice?
"I love Architecture - I wander around buildings and marvel at them. Sorry, you must think I'm even weirder than you already thought I was. And my biggest vice? Ha ha, that would be telling!"

22. Are there any particular gigs that standout in Mansun's history, and what were your favourite songs to perform live?
"I remember playing at Bath Moles club when we were caged in by sheep-fencing. It was 100 capacity with about 300 people in there, and they tore down the power cables and smashed my front tooth out by crowd surfing into my mic-stand and smashing the mic into my mouth. Blood everywhere, very cool!"

23. Of all the countries that you've ever been to / played in, which have been the most satisfying to visit?

"I liked everywhere to be honest. It was a challenge to play in front of any audience. If it wasn't a good crowd we knew we could turn it round. That happened after Andie joined - because we were crap live before that. He was the engine room of it all."

24. Do you have any interesting tales from your time on the road, and what was your most rock 'n' roll moment?
"I couldn't possibly tell you what went on in that band. Firstly, nobody would believe me, but let's just say I was the least rock 'n' roll member of the band and let's leave it at that. You'd have to ask the others if they're prepared to reveal their dirty dark skeletons."

25. What have been some of your personal highlights / defining moments, during your career so far?
"There hasn't really been one highlight. There were loads of lowlights I remember, but probably releasing Six was a highlight because it was good to get something that wasn't mainstream, into the mainstream."

26. And of all your songs, which are you most proud of and why?
"I don't really like my own stuff, I've never really listened to it. Andie played me Grey Lantern once, when we were stoned, and it sounded cool enough. My fave song that I wrote was Until The Next Life, which was simultaneously the worst recording, as it was just my home demo released on the record which was a big mistake."

27. Having been making music since you were a young child, and been a part of The Music Industry, what would now give you the most satisfaction?

"I don't really think anything tangible would give me satisfaction now, that's all gone. I just want to make records I'm happy with."

28. Lastly, chips or cream buns?

"Hmm… either. You've made me hungry, I'm off for a Pot Noodle…"

A very special thanks to Paul, to Suzi @ Mansunite /, and to Rosey, for all of their time and help.

"Life is wearing me thin
I feel so drained, my legacy
A sea of faces just like me"


wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looking forward to it. (Laughs). It's difficult to say because the last few months have felt strange, it's felt like going down a plughole. I've got a real sense of vertigo at the moment. So I can't tell you that I'm looking forward to it. I will get through it and find where I land after that. That's what will happen.

Lucy: 'Taxidermy' and 'Drink Me' are quite drastically different in their musical styles, so what kind of sound can we expect from the 3rd album?
KJG: We don't know yet. We're playing a lot of new material tonight so you'll be able to judge that for yourself. When I'm this close up to it, it's really difficult to tell. I'm on a bit of a negative slant today, b