- Tue, 2009-08-04 13:45
Formed in Manchester in 1984, vocalist Ian Brown, guitarist John Squire, bassist Gary Mani Mounfield, and drummer Alan Reni Wren released their eponymous debut album in 1989. Little introduction is needed for a band and a record that went on to define a generation, inspire countless musicians, artists and fans, and pave the way for the development of many new sounds, ideas and forms of musical expression.
April 2009 marked the 20th Anniversary of the release of The Stone Roses debut album. The anniversary is marked with an excpetional Collectors Editon of the album.
I Like Music caught up with Mani to chat about The Stone Roses history. Now bass player for Primal Scream, we talk about the history of the Roses, early recording sessions, rehearsals, inspirations and more. Find out why he thinks now is the time for someone to stand up and cause a revolution in music...
"I Like Music because… it's a tremendous springboard to live beyond your wildest dreams. If we can do it, so can you. Do it.” Mani
ILM: For many, The Stone Roses are a huge musical inspiration. How does it feel to have had such an impact on so many people?
Mani: It feels good to still be alive, breathing and walking the earth. Knowing that what we did 20 years ago has impacted and affected people's lives in such a way is just heartwarming. It’s uncanny man, every city in the world that I'm ever in I'll get stopped at least five times a day walking down the street, slapped on the back or shook hands with. People just say “thank you so much for the music that changed my life.” It's good to know you've done something right in life. For once!
ILM: Who are your musical inspirations?
Mani: For me right, it began with people like The Clash, The Buzzcocks, The Pistols and The Damned. Then I learnt all about the Northern soul stuff, the scooterboy, The Who, The Jam. I mean, there's so many. The Specials and all the ska stuff. There's so many influences. Stuff from the 60's like The Birds and Love and The Beatles. There's a lot out there to draw from.
ILM: When did you realise you wanted to be a musician?
Mani: When I first saw The Clash and The Pistols. I just thought "this is me man. This is what I'm gunna do."
ILM: Mick Middles, author of ‘Breaking into Heaven: The Rise and Fall of The Stone Roses’ writes about witnessing your early practice sessions at The International. He describes your basslines as “Little gold droplets falling from the songs”…
Mani: Bloody hell. That makes a change from him calling me a cock...hahah!
ILM: Haha! What were those early practice sessions like? It's all very well with hindsight to say that there was 'magic in the air' but did you feel that?
Mani: Do you know what, at the risk of sounding really big-headed and arrogant, we always knew the songs were going to be massive. We used to rehearse for eight hours a day, every bloody day, barring the weekends. Things don't happen that quick. They have to be worked for and earned. We more than put our time in for that album.
ILM: What music were you listening to around that time?
Mani: When we finished rehearsing we would all just hang out in each other’s flats. Everything was centered around smoking too much weed and listening to great music. Hendrix, Buffalo Springfield, Arthur Lee and Love. Very melodic. A lot of West Coast, Californian, psychedelic kind of stuff really. We wanted to couple the beauty and the harmony of The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield, and try and get the politics and the thrash of The Clash in there as well, you know?
ILM: John Leckie produced your debut and he's now re-mastered the Collectors Edition. What were those early studio sessions like?
Mani: We'd put that much time into the songs before we got to the studio, that when we got in there it was all about experimentation. Pushing the boundaries of the songs. We tried loads of backwards stuff and sticking things here and there. The songs were already great in their essence. But with studio trickery and that bit of magic you get through working with a great producer they reach a higher level. The songs were like seeds that we planted and then when we were there they just blossomed. It was amazing. The best of times, honest to God. It wasn’t stressful. We loved being in each others company. We were all trying to show off to each other and we were all egging each other on. It was great you know?
ILM: Other studio sessions haven’t lived up?
Mani: There's other recording sessions that have just been a bloody nightmare. It's like banging your head off a brick wall, i.e. the second Roses album. But the first album was great. It just flowed. Everything was pouring out of us you know? We were channeling some higher force man.
ILM: The Collectors Edition package features a DVD of the 1989 Blackpool Empress Ballroom gig. What do you remember from that gig?
Mani: We took a real chance booking out an 8,000 capacity venue. We'd do things like that. We used to really over-stretch ourselves. We found it challenging. The next thing you know, there's 8,000 people there having a right old jolly by the seaside! It was brilliant! We were walking round Blackpool all day and it was full of kids who were all dressed alike and had the same attitude. It was an absolutely tremendous feeling to have pulled it off you know?
ILM: The Spike Island gig has become another legendary concert in its own right, with some calling it ‘The Woodstock for the baggy generation.’ Though there were many reported issues, sound problems etc, what was it about that gig that made it so memorable?
Mani: Once again, we just managed to get 34,000 people in the middle of a bloody field next to a chemical works! I personally didn't enjoy that one as much though. There was a lot of mis-management coming our way. Bad things going on by our ex-managers, who were basically just a pair of fucking crooks man. They pissed on our cake that day. I didn't enjoy it in the slightest. I sound like a bit of a slapped arse now, don't I? I mean yeah, 34,000 people there, but it was horrible. The manipulation. The rip-offs going on from our management were disgusting. Other things take the memory of it. I suppose you've just got to accept it, as they say, shit happens.
ILM: Having experienced that manipulation, what would be your advice to bands/artists starting out?
Mani: Get a good lawyer and get a good accountant.
ILM: The internet and free downloads are another issue affecting musicians and artists at the moment. What are your feelings toward the love/hate relationship between the internet and the music industry?
Mani: The last Scream LP sold virtually nothing because people were downloading it off the internet. I wanna say this, if you were working in a butcher's shop and you were cutting up pieces of meat all day, customers couldn't just walk in and take joints of beef for nothing could they? That's your art and it's been turned into a bloody give away. Disgusting.
ILM: Do you think there is a solution?
Mani: The only thing that can be done about it is that people should start selling their own stuff via the internet. Cut record companies and everyone else out. The artists, historically, have always received a very paltry percentage of any sales. Now it's getting even worse. You're receiving nothing for all the hard work you put in. I think it's time for a revolution in music where bands do it for themselves, getting back to the old, independent cottage industry thing. Keep hold of as much power and control as you can and keep hold of the money. Why should you be paying for some big fat bastard to go out on an expense account lunch? It's time for someone to stand up and cause a revolution in music.
ILM: Who knows who that's going to be and when that's going to happen…
Mani: A lot of people just play it too safe at the moment. They just go for getting paid and not upsetting anybody. If you wanna do that, go and get a job in Barclays bank. Music is supposed to be populated by vagabonds, pirates and ne'erd-o-wells who want to take risks and are a bit edgy, you know?
ILM: And The Stone Roses were always anti-establishment?
Mani: Yeah. We've always been a bit revolutionary minded, we're republicans, we're anti-monarchy, we're anti-establishment. We wanted people to get on to the streets and smash it up and burn it down, you know?
ILM: Hence the lemon on the front cover of the debut?
Mani: Yeah. Ian met a guy who had been in the French student riots in 1968 and he said they used to suck lemons to negate the effects of tear gas. That decision was kind of a revolutionary, call to arms sort of thing.
ILM: Perhaps a similar call to arms within the music industry is needed now? Without any disrespect to Primal Scream, is there any chance of a Stone Roses re-formation?
Mani: Wanting to just leave it where it is, is a great school of thought. There's also another school of thought that every subsequent generation didn’t get a chance to see us. It would be a perfect opportunity for them to see us before we're fat and bald. If it happens, it happens. But you know what, I'm having such an excellent time in Primal Scream, I don't really care…
ILM: If it comes about, it comes about…
Mani: Yeah. Scream have just been on tour, we’ve had a couple of months off and then it’s festivals. I'm itching to get out and play, we're on really good form at the moment.
ILM: What music have you been listening to recently?
Mani: Do you know what? I've just been listening to lots of me own stuff! I've been surrounded by it for so long. I like Twisted Wheel, old Jonny and his boys are good. I like the kids from The View. We took them out on tour a couple of years ago and it's great to watch them go off and get a couple of number one albums. The good ones are out there. They are starting to get through again. Which is heartwarming.
ILM: Out of all the gigs you’ve seen as a music fan, which ones will you never forget?
Mani: I've seen hundreds! The last one I found mind blowing was Echo and The Bunnymen doing Ocean Rain at The Albert Hall. They're really good friends. It's one of my favourite LP's of all time and they’re one of my favourite bands of all time. That was very special indeed.