Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mani (Primal Scream) interview: 2011


Whether it's a public image he's created or just a day in the life, Gary 'Mani' Mounfield – Primal Scream's riotous bass player – still exhibits a burning-the-candle-at-both-ends young man's energy and wit. But the man at the centre of two of the UK's most influential bands of the last 20-odd years has earned the right to play whatever hand he damn well wants. It was after all Mani's smacked-out bass gave The Stone Roses their signature sound and has since 1996, rumbled through all of Primal Scream's records. But it was while he and his Stone Roses buddies were enjoying what looked like start of a long, exciting career that a little Scottish band, who so far had little to crow about besides two lack lustre '60s influenced rock albums, dropped the biggest acid-rock record of the times. The fast-changing underground club music scene in Britain finally got the benchmark album in Screamadelica it had needed to set the bar high. Primal Scream had arrived and The Stone Roses suddenly seemed to get very wobbly indeed.

20 years on and Mani - who could in another reality have been discussing a Stone Roses 'Don't Look Back' tour - is instead shooting the shit on his adopted band's re-visit to a defining moment in music. While singer Bobby Gillespie has continued to guide his band away from the warped psyche-rock of Screamadelica – Mani, who missed the wild, hedonistic 'Scream of the early '90s, defies his leader's wish to 'chill-out' with age. "I've been bugging the band to get stuck into the back catalogue for years and Bob (Gillespie) was dead-set against it." He begins proudly. In his time as a member of Primal Scream, Mounfield hasn't felt first hand the level of hype that was created by Screamadelica. He's unabashedly in agreement with the media and the public that the album was their peak and in turn had the objectivity to convince the rest of the band to bring it back to the stage.

"Well I think I'm more enthusiastic about it than Bobby or any of the other guys who played on the original album." He says, grinning, "I'm playing like a fucking juvenile you know, and seeing the sheer beauty in it. I mean I've been part of Primal Scream for the last 13 fucking year's man, playing songs off this album but the difference now is we've put a lot of effort into keeping to its original sound by stripping everything back and building it back up again for the shows. We've kept a lot of (producer) Andrew Weatherall's original stuff – and it's been a grind – but I tell you what, it was such a pay-off to see 11,000  people the other week going mad for it at the Olympia in London." He continues, "To me, the songs on that album deserved to be brought to people who maybe weren't old enough to hear them the first time around or weren't even born yet. Playing to the festival crowds, like we have been recently, you're not always playing to the converted you know like in the club shows, so I hope we can turn those people onto something they maybe wouldn't have ordinarily liked or heard before. That's the power of music, man."

Gillespie & Mani
The frank-talking bassist was enjoying Stone Roses first year of success when Screamadelica hit like the freak storm nobody could've predicted considering Primal Scream's patchy past and slow-to-capitalise follow-up. Of the two bands to emerge triumphant years later, most people's hard-earned would surely have backed the 'Roses to carry on. History had other plans for Mani though, and while he saw his old band through to their end in 1996, he'd made a new home in Primal Scream before the amps had even been unplugged for the last time at camp Stone Rose. "I think I've learned a lot more from playing in this band than I would have if the 'Roses had kept going." Mani claims, "I broadened me horizons when I joined this band, no question. I was always a big fan of Primal Scream because they were so similar to us (Stone Roses), if not musically, then personally. We had a lot of the same values and similar backgrounds and so we were all firm friends early on." He remembers, "We used to always be slobbering over each other in clubs, ecstasy'd out of our fuckin' minds out in Glasgow or Manchester and so there was no doubt when the 'Roses split up where I was headed."

Mani (middle back) with Stone Roses
Just as the hazy groove-rock of the Stone Roses wiped out the competition in 1989, the following year-and-a-half belonged to Screamadelica. A young Mani was paying close attention and, he claims he saw a connection between what his old band had done previously to what Primal achieved in 1991. "I kind of looked at it as the natural progression from us having, say break-beats on Fools Gold, and also the progression of a bunch of like-minded guys wanting to do something new." He confirms, "You have to remember, guitar bands weren't being played in the clubs and acid house was taking over and there's nothing wrong with a bit of cross-pollination in music if you can make it work. Primal Scream were ballsy bastards to try it, and only a very few bands have managed to really pull off a thing like that." One of keys to Screamadelica's sound was the work of not one, but five producers. Apart from Andrew Weatherall's overall weaving of samples, loops and thick beats, it was DJ Dr Alex Patterson (a.k.a The Orb)'s co-production on Screamadelica that had dance fiends grabbing for the twelve-inches'.

"It was all just a time of pure fucking genius on many levels, you know." Mani says, "The world's greatest DJs came from that scene and Alex (The Orb) did, in my mind, the fucking best mixes of those songs on Screamadelica." The Orb remixes of Higher Than The Sun and Slip Inside This House have arguably become the essential versions over the album mixes. Those all-class singles extended the album's shelf life for two years as Loaded, Movin' On Up and Come Together continued their assault on the UK top 40 between February 1990 and February '92. Each one demonstrated a different side to the band while remaining identifiable as Primal Scream. The Glasgow lads had somehow tapped into the mystic cosmic funk and nothing they turned their hand to seemed to fail. How else could they have passed as a soul, psychedelic pop, acid house and blues rock band all in one release?

"Too many bands out there now are scared to deviate from whatever their last album sounded like and Primal Scream was never interested in doing that, you know." Mani offers, "I mean if you want to do that you might as well get a job in a fucking hat shop. Music should be a fucking tight-rope walk done by outsiders, ne'er do-wells, junkies and vagabonds mate." Mani encapsulates the 'Scream in this one sentence but his bravado, he reckons, isn't reinforced by any universal love for the band. "Back home we kind of get ignored in a lot of respects. I mean, I don't give a fuck what they say about us in the UK – I still think we're one of the best fucking bands still doin' it, but we don't get a lot of support." He adds, "But you know what, Primal Scream isn't our job, man it's what we do twenty-four-seven and we know how to kick it from arsehole to balls and I don't see any other rock n' roll bands playing with the kind of feeling we give it."
While Stone Roses' front man Ian Brown spent most of the '90s in and out of trouble/prison, Mani fought, mouthed-off and shocked for all he was worth, but somehow got away with it. That is at least until last year when supergroup Freebass, on the verge of releasing their debut album, ended suddenly with a very public serve of humiliation from Mani to Peter Hook – the group's founder and ex-New Order bassist. Freebass, which also included ex-Smiths bassist Andy Rourke, was in Mani's words, "Something to keep me match fit while the 'Scream were doin' nothing." He confesses, "I might have tainted a good friendship there, I'm such a gobshite sometimes, but we put a lot of effort into making that album and I should have been there to promote it instead of slagging Hooky off." Mani accused Hook (via Twitter) of getting fat off Ian Curtis's blood money for touring Joy Division with none of original members. "God bless him though, and look, I apologised to Peter and we're friends still, but in the end everybody bailed out of fucking Freebass." Mani laughs, "What can I say, I'm from Manchester mate and we're a bunch of gobby bastards so whatever I said at the time that was just me being me. That's what comes from spending time with the likes of Ian Brown and Liam Gallagher in the pub!"
Mani's salutes 'The Man'. 

The big gob, the much bigger than required bass amp and the cheeky stoned grin all suggest Mani has his priorities in order and Stone Roses reunions or failed supergroups aren't among them. Right now his sights are set on winning over his Australian fans again following 2009's sensory-annihilating shows. "I'm countin' the days off on my wall chart until I can get on that plane and come over to Melbourne mate." Mani barks, "Love the fuckin' place, love the people and can't wait to come and play for you all again." He adds in a festive tone, "Melbourne for me is like Australia's Manchester, man. It's got that pure love for music and I never have to worry about having a shit time when I'm there." When the Screamadelica Don't Look Back shows wrap up, it is already widely rumoured that the band are heading straight back into the studio to record album number 10. Mani's sure of only one thing though, the new stuff will be 'unlike anything they've done before.' "Well we could end up doing a fucking skiffle album, you just never know." He laughs, "That's something we haven't tried yet and we've been around for about 8,000 years now so maybe it's time." Mani says, cracking up. "We're gonna turn into travelling freak show freaks like the bearded lady or the fucking human dick, you know what I mean?" He splutters, "There's a kind of voyeuristic way in which people see Primal Scream, I think. They're just staring going 'what the fuck is that all about?' So we can't disappoint 'em can we?"


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