Interview: Mani

Legendary Madchester psych dance band the Stone Roses are as big as Manchester bands get although they’ve thrown in the towel some 10 years ago. At the right place and at the right time, the Roses’ fusion of rock and dance during the early days of rave propelled the band to international stardom. But a lengthy legal dispute with their label crippled the Roses and after 2 albums, they disbanded. JUICE speaks to amicable bassist Mani (also of Primal Scream – another pride of Manchester) who was down in KL recently to play a DJ set for new hot night This Feeling KL about the realities of rocking over 40, quitting while you’re ahead and throwing darts at Margaret Thatcher.

Is this your first time in Malaysia?
Yeah. I’m the kind of guy who just likes travelling so when I got the opportunity to come here I jumped at it you know. I got to see the Petronas Towers man. One of the wonders of the modern world!

What did you think of it?
It’s huge man! It’s big ain’t it?

Does it remind you of anything?
I don’t know man. It’s like a temple to money. A temple to Monetarism.

We know how money sucks man! When people talk about the Stone Roses, there’s always that sad bit about the legal bullsh!t you guys had to go through.
After we signed the deal for the first album, then it was just business man! We’ve been really embarrassed we signed this really sh!t record contract and we were just being exploited and still are. I think we decided to try and escape from the record deal and then all the problems really started and all the momentum we created just went to nothing. After we’ve been through all the court cases I think we really fell out of love with it. Then we signed with Geffen and did the Second Coming and it was okay but it’s really hard to regenerate the momentum we lost.

After duking it out in the courts for 2-3 years, you guys reportedly took 347 days, working 10 hours per day to record Second Coming. That’s a long time.
Yeah. We used to always just hang out together the whole day and play music. Either that or sit in front of the TV or go get drunk in a pub somewhere. But we were much happier creating music.

But why didn’t you just jump into the studio and work it out?
I think we just got bored of each other’s company. When you’re together that long, things really start to piss you off about people. And I think it’s healthy to have breaks. I think everyone lost a bit of love after going through all the legal stuff that took 2-3 years to do. It became a little bit more force and wasn’t natural after all that. We just fell out of love with it. And we always said if we didn’t enjoy doing it we would stop. But we didn’t and we went to make the 2nd album which was difficult times because we weren’t really getting on and we were drifting apart. Everyone was having kids and getting married and moving in different directions. So it wasn’t like a gang thing anymore and we began to see less and less of each other socially. I think that was what made the 1st album so easy because we were solid as a little team. We hung out together outside of gigs and we kind of just started drifting apart. It happens you know and it’s natural. Your best friend you have is not best friends with you for life. Then you have the distractions. First it was all about the music, and now it’s all about changing nappies.

What do you think of Second Coming now?
I like it. I think people were a bit too quick to judge it because we changed our sound too radically. We learned how to play better so we just wanted to show off. But I think John Squire we let him loose too much with his Led Zeppelin infatuation. We should have checked him a bit on that. I think it’s more of a rock album, there’s not really much soul it in. I still like it because I think we got some really good moments on it. It’s funny now people have come to me and appreciate it now years later. But I think people expected us to repeat what we did with the first album and only bands like Coldplay does things like that. We wanted to play something different. Not repeat ourselves that’s all. We just tried something new and it didn’t work. But if you don’t try you don’t know.

So do you remember the first time you jammed with The Stone Roses?
Actually I was in a band with John Squire before the Stone Roses even started. We were altar boys. We used to see each other in these clubs in Manchester. So we started a band and it was going okay but it kinda fizzled out. I went away travelling around Europe and when I came back John started the Stone Roses. We were fans of The Byrds and Love and it was kinda like jungly. Kind of West Coast psychedelic. Very 60s influence but with kind of political edge like the Clash. So we wanted to use nice melodies and harmonies and have a message to give people as well. After punk I started opening my ears to a lot of things. I got really into like Motown and funk. I leaned more into the black music side of things. Funkadelic and Parliament and things like that. Ian Brown used to say I was the blackest white man he ever met. It was insane. I am a white man with a black man’s soul.

We saw him a couple of years ago in Bangkok. He did a cover of ‘No Woman No Cry’. Are you guys into reggae?

Well he always does Bob Marley songs. He loves reggae music. Yea one of the influences was Bob Marley. We grew up listening to black music, soul, funk, reggae. So that doesn’t surprise me at all. Ian is brown, but I’m black!

When John left the band, why did Ian turn down (Guns N Roses guitarist) Slash’s offer to join the band?
I don’t think he likes Slash. Just seems out of place. I don’t think he would’ve fit with him. As much as he probably is a great guy and all but he’s not from Manchester!

So you shared his sentiments then?
I think he is a great guitar player but maybe not right for us. But he did well with the other roses didn’t he? Guns N Roses I mean.

Before the Stone Roses disbanded you guys had some pretty awful shows. Why didn’t you call it quits earlier?
Well when John Squire left, we should have just finished it. But when Reni went too… it’s difficult to replace a guy like that. The other guy who came in, Robbie, did quite well but he was never gonna be Reni. When John left he couldn’t take it anymore. There were a lot of problems within the band and with him and Ian and things that happen. When John left we should have just gone game over. But me being the stupid fool I am, out of sense of loyalty to Ian, I stayed with him and we did 5 shows that were shit man, not good. It took the shine out of it for a few people. Ian was all over the place, singing it out of tune and not focused. So I think we made a mistake by not ending it.

You’re also in Primal Scream. Compared to the Roses, you guys are still around still making music yet Primal Scream is a much more confrontational band with more controversies. So what’s the secret with Primal Scream’s durability?

The secret with the Scream is that we adapt and change. Any band that just keeps doing the same old sh!t time after time should be working in a bank not making music. You should use music as a platform. To be confrontational, be controversial, be political, upset people, you know. That’s what rock and roll is suppose to be about. Conflict and controversy a little bit. We don’t deliberately set out to do it; it’s just how we are. We’re not regular guys in that way. We got big mouths and sometimes we say the wrong things at the wrong time and upset people. But the Screamers always want to embrace new ideas and we are always constantly listening to what’s going around and see if we can use anything from it. Cause if you keep doing the same thing you get bored. Musicians got to keep excited or you get complacent.

John once said music is “a young man’s game.” What are your thoughts on that?
Yeah he loves that quote! But I don’t know really. It’s cause John has been up there on his own painting, so he can paint till he is 50 if he wants. I disagree. If you think you’re relevant and have a passion and a love for it, keep going till people tell you you’re sh!t.

So when you hear a band like Kasabian, do you hear bits of Primal Scream?
Yeah I f*cking do! Totally! I like Kasabian, they’re my boys. I hear lots of Primal Scream in there.

You wanted to be a chef in college as well.
Well my dad and my brother were both chefs. I ran away and joined the circus man. The rock and roll circus man!

Did you ever cook for your band mates?
No, I cooked for my wife. I’m quite mean in the kitchen sometimes.

It also says in your Wikipedia page that you’re dart enthusiast…
I don’t know where this came from. That’s a load of sh!t, I’m rubbish at darts! Someone else played that in Singapore and I watched it on the TV but that’s a game played by foul old man in pubs. It’s not for me man. Give me Manchester United any day of the week!

If you could throw a dart at anybody who would it be?
Maggie Thatcher. I’d throw a bomb at her!

Do you have any classic rock and roll moments you can share with us?
There has been many. They will all be in the book when I write the book. We have been naughty. We have been very very naughty but we are still here to tell the tale and that’s the best thing about it. I watched a lot of good friends who got into drugs and died early. No more for me though. I wanna live forever as Oasis said. But you grow up and you grow out of things. It’s undignified to still think you’re 18 when you’re 45. Primal Scream is a band that has done a lot of growing up recently. Better off for it. More focused now. It’s all about the music and not about the partying. The Artic Monkeys and Kasabian are 23, 24 year-old guys let them go partying all night yeah! Cause it hurts when you’re in the mid 40s man. It takes you 3 days to get over 1 night. We ain’t got no time to waste like that. So the Artic Monkeys can do the partying now. And if they need to know anything they can ask us.

Mani was down for a DJ set at Havana on 27 February 2010. To find out what happened, checkout our report.

Image Ben Liew