After what was seen as a disappointing third album with "Little Kixx", Mansun stepped out of the limelight and re-assessed the situation. Over the past 15 months they've been locked away recording the next album which looks set to include live favourites "Slipping Away", "Secrets" and "This Is My Home".
The album is said to recall the experimental elements of their classic second album "Six", while harking back to the crafted songs of their debut. We caught up with guitarist Chad to discuss the truth behind the rumours and how he things Mansun will return stronger than ever.
Q: Its literally been 15 months out of the limelight and you just did two warm-up dates before tonight in Manchester, the first official date of the tour. Is it a daunting process coming back after such a long time away?
A: Do you know when you do something for a long time and then you don't do it? Very often you can't be arsed and I was just thinking its going to be like that and feel really weird, but as soon as we got on stage it was straight back into it.
The first gig (Wrexham) was sort of a homecoming with friends and family, but Manchester has always been our best audience. We've always said that Manchester is like our home gig because we never walk on stage anywhere else and get a bigger cheer from just walking on stage.
Over the five or six years before we started this album, the half a dozen rows would be the same people everynight....which is cool. Its great to have such a strong following, but I think all this time away a few people would have cooled off a bit. But then again there are new people checking us out.
Q: I believe the injury to your hand held recording up by about six months. What actually happened?
A: I hit a wall and broke my hand and I couldn't use it for a couple of months. I had a pin through the bone...I say its a pin, but its more like a metal rod though the bone...and what they do is bend it round so they can pull it out when they need to.
The hook in the end of it is right next to your wrist joint and when the swelling goes down I started getting this spike pushing out. When it started happening I thought something had gone wrong with the operation. But it was just the end they pull it out with and it scrapes against your wrist..you just can't do anything about it. That's the way it is!!!
It really was a moment of stupidity and I really did shit myself because its the last thing you want to do when you play guitar. But is was the right hand to do, because if it would have been this hand (left) it would have taken a lot longer to do.
Its always good to do something like that because it means you won't do it again.
Q: Do you view it as starting off again in a sense?
A: Well, yeah. That is how we've sort of viewed it. We weren't totally enamoured with the way the last album worked out, so we didn't really hammer the touring on that. We ended up taking a keyboard player out with us because me and paul played alot of organ and piano when recording it...and it just ended up turning into a different band.
I think we all feel the same way, that we are literally starting again. Its like being in new band and it is alot more exciting that it was on the last record. The new stuff rocks a bit and we've been trying to put the stuff down live in the studio. With this stuff were taking it home and enjoying listening back to it as a fan almost...its like being in your favourite band!!!
Q: Going back to what you were saying about "Little Kixx". You're not actually playing any songs of that album in the forthcoming tour. Was it a case of you weren't happy with the album or simply that the songs didn't work live?
A: It just wasn't great to play live. I think what we need to do is go back to that record...and that is probably something we will do for the next tour... and pick out of favourite songs which are "Disappointed", "Comes As No Surprise", "Until The Next Life". There are a few great songs on there, but we need to look at them and re-arrange them so we can play them as a band with just guitars.
Q: This album, which you're midway through recording, is trying to get back to that live sound. I guess really this tour is a case of re-evaluting the songs you've already recorded and looking at ways to get down the new songs. Would you say?
A: Its something we haven't done before...which is seeing how the songs work live while arranging it. Were starting to get ideas of how we can re-arrange the things we've already recorded. The fans might be mad into the intro and not so into the middle eight so we might go back and increase the intro and cut the middle eight out. But we'll definitely be making some changes at the end of this tour.
We've got an album, but were just going to spend the summer doing one more session in the studio to make it better because Paul's written a couple of new songs while we were rehearsing for the tour. No doubt by the end of the tour we'll be able to put some new stuff in which we haven't recorded yet...and they may well be good enough to make the album.
We've been around for 7 years now and not of people nowadays last for that song...and hopefully we will last for a lot longer. I just think that you're as good as your last record and when we put the first single out of the new record that will be how good we are. But we've not done away with any of the creative side of it so in away its got the best elements of the other 3 albums - the good songwriting, the creative arrangements, the interesting sounds - but like the first album the songs are quiet immediate.
Q: With this whole process of gauging the fans reactions to the 14 tracks. What happens if your favourite tracks don't get the reaction you expect, and the least favourite tracks get ecstatic reactions?
A: To be honest were only really playing our favourite new ones and our favourite old one's. So the one's that we are well into, we just want to see how we can make them better. But as I say we'll be putting some brand new stuff in later on and that will be a total test run for those songs.
Q: I was reading through the initial reports for these first two gigs. If we could take the time to take a look at the tracks individually. "Slipping Away" is reported to be you're Oasis style track. True or false?
A: I don't think it really does sound like Oasis, but I never know what we sound like. I think people are probably saying that because after just hearing a couple of times live it does have a real rock & roll thing. But some of the subtleties in the melodies may get lost when you play them live because were not as good at playing it live as we will be by the end of the tour.
Q: And "Secrets" is your full on 3 minute punk track harking back to a incessant Sex Pistols riff?
A: Its kind of like a tribal drum beat and quite sparse. There's a bit of a big outro on it, but most of it is pretty punk rock.
Q: And on a totally different wavelength we have a Mansun ballad with "This is My Home"?
A: Its kind of got a Neil Young "Harvest" vibe about it. The idea of it was to be a ballad, but to have an almost hip-hop breakbeat with jazzy guitars over the top of it.
Q: Are there any songs which stand out at the comeback single?
A: I think "Keep Telling Myself" is possibly the first single. Or maybe it could be "Slipping Away"...or another one we have which is "Getting Your Way".
Q: If we could go back to what you were saying about the creative arrangements of the new songs and the interesting sound. Do you ever see yourself heading down the same route as "Six" again in terms of these overblown epic freeform songs?
A: Yeah, but there were a few mistakes with that record and I don't think it was so much to do with the content of the record. I think we could have done without having Tom Baker on it...but we were huge Dr Who fans and Tom Baker, the guy is Dr Who. He agreed to come and speak on our album so you're not going to go and say no.
A lot of stuff was just naivety, we were having so much fun making that record and we just didn't know that people were so f**king cynical. That is the one thing that is the biggest f**king problem with this country - is that people are so intent in being so f**king cool all the time that they forget to enjoy themselves.
If we had a massive hit record and than another and started selling millions of albums. If you're a U2 or a Radiohead then really you get to the point where you get all the things you want to do. When you're a band like us who had one album, that has been a hit, but you're still not the biggest band in the world by any stretch of the imagination and we went out to do that album where it was us doing everything we wanted to do in one record.
We could easily do Six and leave out the few that things that people take the piss out of. The cover was one thing and we had nothing to do with that. We didn't like it and it was to late to do anything about...that's what made people say it was a prog rock album because the cover looked like something from Marillion or Genesis. The content of the album wasn't prog rock and no-one can say that any song on that album sounds like 70s prog rock. Over the top doesn't mean prog rock and everything on that album sounded totally modern from the guitar sounds to everything.
I do think that some of the music on the album is the best music we've made. But at the end of the day, having got to the end of making that record, I guess we could have sat down and taken "Six" and made it into a four minute song with a verse, a chorus and a middle 8. And taken "Shotgun" and done the same thing. They would have been absolutely fantastic songs. "Cancer" had a fantastic melody and if we had done that as song instead of the massive opus it was. People didn't give the tunes a chance because they didn't look past the structure of the album. That is our fault, but sometime you have got to do what you want to do and be prepared for people not to like it.
I think the reason were enjoying making this album so much is we've got as much creativity as there is on "Six", but we've kept it structured. This is the first time I feel like I'm in my favourite band so its a good band to be in.
Q: Finishing off. You were talking earlier in the interview about feeling like a new band again. How do you think you're going to fit in with the current music climate?
A: I think people are getting into guitar bands again. There's been a few years where it all went a bit boring plodding middle of the road and now there's a few interesting bands out there. Hundred Reasons and the Music are really cool and I really wanna hear The Shining. I really think this year could be one of those great rock & roll years.
We've seen bands comeback from almost being over and they're back on course. I think we've been away long enough for people to forget us dressing up like idiots. We dressed up for a reason and it worked...people took notice of it. The Strokes image of being cool is 70s America, whereas we were never cool - we were acting like idiots!!!
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