Britpop boy’s solo dream: Paul Draper of Mansun talks about new album
He was the frontman of one of the most important bands of the 1990s. Paul Draper enjoyed huge success in Mansun, the Chester indie rockers whose debut, Attack of the Grey Lantern, lodged itself at number one on the chart and earned a platinum disc.
More success followed with Six and Little Kix until Paul developed cancer and the band ran its course. Put simply, their hearts were no longer in it. Drugs, fall-outs and the usual tawdry scenes played themselves out as Mansun came to an abrupt end.
Paul retreated to the studio for, erm, 14 years and after much persuasion has finally re-emerged. Older, wiser and doing it just for kicks, he releases his debut album, Spooky Action, today, on Kscope.
Lyrically, it’s biting and brutally honest – an autobiography set to captivating, addictive melody across eleven songs that peak then peak again, then peak again. Taking its cue from 2016’s two EP releases and recorded in collaboration with Catherine AD (the Anchoress) and long time Mansun collaborator PDub, The record’s eleven tracks veer from warped voodoo psych (Don’t Poke the Bear) to glistening synthetic soul (Things People Want); from warped, razor wire rock’n’roll (Grey House) to glorious widescreen analogue pop music (Jealousy Is A Powerful Emotion).
Collectively, they represent Paul’s strongest, most consistent set of songs to date – half a lifetime’s work condensed into just over an hour of perfectly formed music.
Paul is as thrilled as he is surprised to be released new music.
“I had a few little ideas left over after Mansun. But then I got busy working with Skin from Skunk Anansie and I shelved it. It started to gain a bit of momentum when there was a fan petition on Facebook for new music. Then there was a Mansun convention and the whole thing became inevitable.”
Not that Paul has been inactive during the past decade-and-a-half. He’s been immersed in the studio, making music with other people. “The studio is my true love. The solo album came together bit by bit.”
He’s also worked as a jobbing songwriter, with Frank Ocean, Savages, Pixie Lott and more. “The studio has done well. Things have been good. But after a while it seemed all my old music industry friends were messaging me to say now is the time to do a new album. The fans did the petition too. So I decided to give it a go.”
Paul’s return has been well-received. Last year, he released his first solo single via a subscription club and two more EPs followed. With an NME and a Guardian single of the week under his belt, he completed his record.
“Instead of producing another artist, I thought I’d spend some time on my own solo record. It’s what everybody seemed to want.”
Paul will be taking his record on the road and playing a sell-out tour in September, including a gig at Birmingham’s Institute 2 on September 23. It’s been a while since he’s been on the road but he’s looking forward to revisiting some of his favourite towns and cities.
“There’s a big residual audience and we’re playing in Birmingham to 600-700 people. We’re not talking about playing in the back of the pub. Most of the tour is sold out almost immediately. Now we’ve done the album we can see what the reviewers and the fans say.”
His memories of Mansun are mixed. “I think I probably just wish I’d left after the second album and crept on with my own career, instead of capitulating and letting the other guys have their way. I don’t think they did a good job, to be honest. But it’s history, you can’t live in the past. I’m not bothered now. I have so much going on in my life on a daily basis that I literally don’t have time to worry about that type of stuff.”
He’s taking his solo career one step at a time. There are no grand plans, he’s not seeking world domination, he just wants to make music that he loves and play it to his fans.
“The next step is the album. Let’s see how it does. We’ll go out on the road again in Febraury with bigger dates, including ones around the Midlands.”