# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Paul Draper - Interview

  by Denzil Watson

published: 23 / 5 / 2022

Paul Draper - Interview

In the Autumn of 2017, former Mansun frontman, Paul Draper, returned from the musical wilderness to release his much-acclaimed debut solo album 'Spooky Action'. Draper also returned to performing live and building his solo career, while at the same time revisiting the legacy of his former band. Plans to release his second solo album ‘Cult Leader Tactics’ in 2019 were scuppered by the onset of COVID-19. With restrictions lifting in 2021, and the album finished off in lockdown it was finally released in January 2022. Arguably his greatest work since Mansun’s debut opus, ‘Attack of the Grey Lantern’ in 1997, Pennyblackmusic caught up with Paul Draper to talk about ‘Cult Leader Tactics’. PB: I’ve had a good listen to the album, and I really love the way that the album flows. The tracks segue into each other a bit like on ‘Attack of the Grey Lantern’ did. Was that the intention? PAUL DRAPER: Yeah, yeah. I’ve sort of gone back to the start. I’d got a lot of things I wanted to say out in previous records, so I’ve gone back to writing through characters in a theme and short, concise pop songs, while occupying that hinterland between a bit prog and a bit pop. PB: It’s about four or so years on since ‘Spooky Action’. I'm guessing you started writing the album before lockdown, but with some work being carried out during lockdown and COVID 19? PD: Yeah, it was due to come out May 2000. So it would have been about two-and-half years ago, basically, but COVID reappeared, and we put it back and then we had cancelled two tours. And with that being the case, I dropped a couple of tracks off the album, and working in my own home studio, added three of the more electronic tracks because I couldn’t get together with the band. So, it was sort of a product of the times and a combination of that and a band record that we were making before COVID. So, I added some electronic stuff, using some remote working practises during COVID and as soon as COVID was lifted we got it out. It seems like a long time, but it was ready to go a while back and we just tinkered with it and I'm finally out and about doing it now. PB: I know this was all forced upon you and wasn’t through choice, but do you think it's become a better record for it? PD: Well, it’s a different record. That's for sure. As just mentioned, we dropped off a couple of the more rockier tracks to make way for the electronic ones. I think it is a more relevant record because I amended some of the lyrics. One track was about Brexit, and it's become a little more about COVID. So yeah, there's a lot more COVID-related things in there, so it's a lot more up-to-date available. PB: And talking about rocky tracks, I really like album opener and lead track, ‘Cult Leader Tactics’. It's quite a muscular start, isn't it? PD: Yeah, I had that one straight away after we did the last album, which was synth heavy and electro, so I thought it would be nice to start with a full-on rock track this time around. So it was always the plan to start with a big rock track, yeah. PB: Is it aimed at anyone in particular? I was getting music business vibe. PD Yeah, if you put an amalgamation together of all the people who've screwed me over in the music industry and my career, put them all together and make them into one character singing their own song. That's him, or her. PB: I really like the album title. Is ‘Cult Leader Tactics’ a phrase you coined yourself? PD: Well, you know, it's just something that I came to through osmosis. It's a way of describing the dirty tricks or Machiavellian methods of getting on in life. So, it was just my way of putting it and making it what it is. PB: What's the worst cult leader tactics you've been on the receiving end of? PD: I wrote the book about it called ‘Cult Leader Tactics simultaneously to making the album. So, it's an album and a book. The sixty-page book comes with the four-disc deluxe edition of the album. When you read the book, the darkest chapter of what happened to me was one called ‘Talking Behind Your Back’. All the chapters in the book are things that really happened, so you can read it all and listen to my life experiences. But I guess they resonate with pretty much most people in most industries and in most of their affairs of the heart, in life and family relationships and all sorts of things, really. PB: With a book to accompany the record, you really immersed yourself in this, didn’t you? PD: Yeah, I simultaneously wrote the book and the album, so, if you read the book and then listen to the album, the whole thing will make a completely different experience for you. If you listen to the album first and then the book, you'll go, “Oh yeah, the album’s all about the book.” My suggestion, if you want the full experience, is to read the book and then listen to the album in the box set in the immersive surround sound DVD that comes with it. Sitting in the middle of it and listening to all of the coded references, all the way through it, you get a full multimedia experience from it. PB: You said that you changed some of the lyrics. I'm guessing that’s true on to the second track ‘The Internationale’. I picked up on various references about Boris Johnson, and about him being a naughty boy. Were they some of the lyrics you changed and updated? PD: No, not really. That was my Brexit song. ‘Cult Leader Tactics’ was getting on in life by Machiavellian methods. I never saw Boris Johnson as being for or against Brexit. I just thought it was a career move he made. But then obviously, as things went on, I changed a few of the lyrics to make it a little bit more COVID-related. People call me up now and say, “You just made that as some novelty record,”, but that wasn’t the case. PB: I've not actually seen the lyrics written down yet, but did I hear you sing “you’re a tiny little cock”? PD: The original lyric was “Jacob Rees-Mogg” and obviously, Jacob Rees-Mogg was integral to the Brexit situation, so me and my engineer P-Dub thought, “Oh, it's a bit too obvious and a bit too Brexit.” So we took out the word Jacob Rees-Mogg and we portrayed it as Boris Johnson being a tiny little cog in a bigger machine. So that was one of the lyrics we change from it being a purely Brexit song to more of a COVID anthem. So no, tiny little cog, not cock! PB: Okay, that makes sense now. I love the way the record keeps flowing and I really like the string treatment of the title track. That works really well. PD: Yeah, well, again, that was a product of the times and Gam[aliel] who is my string arranger, who plays in a really cool band in Peckham called Sweat. He's a great string player and I gave him some MP3 tracks from the album, and I thought it could be at the end of the album, where he just goes to a medley of different melodies and solos and just gets runs from a few different parts of the songs with the root notes and the melody lines. And then I just thought it would be good as a song in its own right. He sent it me back and he put it all in a key, which is E Flat Minor. And it worked well as a piece on its own on the album. It was a product of the lockdown. He did it on his own and sent it in remotely. PB: Another standout track for me is ‘You've Got No Life Skills Baby’. I really like the video for that. It looked like you had lots of fun making it. PD: Yeah. Well, I guess in this modern world it's me sending up myself as being a bit of an idiot, or men being idiots, in a woman-dominated world. That was the overriding idea of that song - the never-ending idiocy of men in a woman’s world. PB: The chorus remined me of the melody line in the Mansun song ‘Stripper Vicar’. PD: Yeah, everybody said that. I didn’t think it sounded anything like that at all. But these days you put stuff out and your audience tell you, straight away, what it's like and loads of comments come back on the social media. I guess it’s that sort of metre of the lyric, but most artists are only one-trick-ponies, and you just do what you do and try and do it well. It's when you start copying other things that it’s a bit fake. So you know, I am what I am, and that's what it is. PB: Something else that I've noticed that has continued from your Mansun days are your song titles. Whenever I see your song titles, I always want to listen to the song, like for example ‘You Killed My Fish’. That's a really wacky name for a song. Did someone really kill your fish? PD: Yeah, that was an old enemy that killed my fish. But he’s not my friend anymore. I did think of that one as maybe being a single, but I’m not too sure whether it's quite good enough to be a single. PB: I didn't really find a weak song on the album, to be honest. PD: Well, that’s good. Thank you very much. PB: And then we come to one of the more electronic tracks, ‘Everybody Becomes a Problem Eventually”. It took me by surprise a bit. I got a bit of Depeche Mode/Kraftwerk vibe on this one. So again, is this about a particular person or is it like ‘Cult Leader Tactics’ and a bit of an amalgamation of experiences? PD: Yeah, it's ‘Cult Leader Tactics” used in affairs of the heart. A personal experience of someone using cult leader tactics against me. PB: So it is about particular person? PD: Yeah. PB: I'm guessing you don't really want to say who it is? PD: No, but it's in there somewhere. PB: I heard a reference that they were “living down the road from Johnny Vegas.” PD: Yeah, so you can narrow it down a bit. PB: We’re then on to the albums first love song, ‘Annie”. PD: Yeah, 'Annie' was just an old-school love song I had, but the powers-that-be would never let me put it out. They didn’t think it was right for me. I found out the band wanted it to be morphed in a different direction, so I had some dirty tricks and cult leader tactics played on me for that song not to come out. There’s a chapter in the book called “You Can't Have a Song Called Annie” that includes all the reasons why it never appeared on the album. So by putting it on the album, I defeated the cult leader tactics that were imposed on me. Also it's a nice, positive spiritual love song that just sits in amongst all the satire as well. PB: Yeah, and I thought that worked really well. PD: It works sonically. But there is a reason for it being there. PB: It's quite emotional lyrically, isn't it? PD: Yeah, it's just a straight-ahead love song. I very rarely do them, but if I get to a point in my life, I just need to blurt it out and that's one of them. PB: And again, I presume about a particular person. PD: Yeah, it's a person. PB: From your past or someone from recent memory? PD: From my recent past to be fair. PB: I'll make a stab in the dark, and I'm probably wrong, but is it about Catherine Anne Davies, a.k.a. The Anchoress? PD: No, No (Laughs) And if it was, I wouldn’t tell you. PB: Okay, that’s fair enough, that the writer’s prerogative. Then we’re on to ‘Talkin’ Behind My Back’. I think that one is fairly self-explanatory. Did you find that during the lockdown when we were all locked up and became very inward-looking and a little bit paranoid? PD: No, ‘Talkin’ Behind My Back’ was a scam I had done to me some years ago and makes up the darkest chapter in my book. It’s about how you can get people into conversations, get them to talk about all the people and if you're evil enough, you can then go and tell another person they were talking about you behind their back and then watch that chaos explode. It's just a song about some dirty tricks that were played against me a long time ago and then I wrapped it up in a little bit of a rock and roll song. PB: I did notice a little while back something on the social media. I think it was on one of the Facebook pages and somebody had obviously done something pretty bad, and you were saying “Right, that's it. I'm walking away. I'm not releasing the album.”. Do you remember that? PD: I have a bit of a lockdown meltdown. Yeah, it was a lockdown meltdown where I jacked in doing music and I wasn’t going to put this album out. As a rule of thumb, I have a team that does all of my social media for me but because I was locked down I gained access to the social media channels. But yeah, I was certainly going to jack in my musical career and do something else. So I had this album in the bag and after a couple of weeks it all calmed down, and the record company and publisher called me and said, “This is such a brilliant album, Paul, and an honest and raw record of what you have been through. Just put it out”. So I said, “Okay, I'll put it out but I’m not going to do any interviews or stuff like that. Just put it out”. It's grown a little bit more from that, but we’re just putting it out as a piece of art. PB: That leads me on to my favourite track, ‘Omega Man’. I think it works really well, especially with Steve Wilson's vocals. In fact, until you come to the chorus, I wouldn't have known it was a Paul Draper song. PD: Yeah, well, it was an odd one in the way it came about. Steve sent over his bit first and I bolted the chorus onto it, but it wasn’t powerful enough. So. I sent it to my drummer, and he did something at his home studio. And then Wilson asked Bo our bass player to add some bass and we had it in a rough form and then me and Wilson sent the whole thing over to PDub who pulled it all together. Luckily. We've all got home studios and we pulled it together. So this is my first ever truly internet collaboration. And it was just out of absolute necessity and the fact that none of us could meet and make music, but it worked and went out there, and it's on the album. PB: I love the video. You went to some effort and flew out to Pripyat and Chernobyl, didn’t you? PD: Yeah, it was lucky really because it was after the lockdown, but prior to the Russian invasion that’s going on at the minute. Just in that little gap between where Omicron came back and the Russian invasion or potential invasion, and when the rules slipped, we got out there. And of course, we got all footage of the Duga radar, the ‘Woodpecker’ as it’s known. We got the film all passed by the Ukrainian military. We had to show them everything. But I tell you what, if we went out now, I highly doubt we would get the footage passed. It was just a really lucky moment in time. PB: It's a sensational video, including the footage where you are stood beneath the fairground carousel. It’s very iconic, isn't it? PD: Yeah, it's quite a frightening place. You get used to it, but it makes you have a lot of thoughts. We’re now obviously decarbonising the world to get rid of one problem but we've re-nuclearizing in the world and you go there, and you think, “Are we just replacing one problem with another massive problem?” PB: I thought that the song and the video worked really well together. PD: Thanks a lot. We got hundreds-of-thousands of streams, as they call it today, so, yeah, it was big in our world. People liked it. PB: And then there’s the album closer, ‘Lyin’ Bout Who U Sleep With’. There's a real connection there with lockdown and the lockdown choir you assembled. I thought that it worked really well and was a strong message at the close of the album with all your little helpers. PD: Yeah, it's a satirical album, it's a dark satire on getting on in life and being a bit of a twat. But I didn’t want it to end like that, so it was a case of “Disregard this, wake up every day and try and be a good person”. All the way through making the album, in 2018 and 2019, we wanted to get some Gospel singers in and sing that at the end as a positive, almost spiritual experience. We'd ran out of time, so we just posted on social media asking if people would help us out and e-mail this address. I sent them me just playing guitar and singing the melody and they just sung the chords, the gospel chorus, on their iPhones, and just sent it in. I think we crammed about 300 people on it, and they all sing the chorus for me. It doesn't sound like a gospel choir or anything. It's like 300 people singing into an iPhone. So it is a brilliant way to wrap up the album, and I'm really pleased we did it. It was a case of necessity and it's what I call a “classic COVID rock record”. It was made through all sorts of bizarre ways, and just whatever it took to get it finished. PB: There’s obviously some quite dark stuff going on, but to finish with that simple message of “let there be love at the end of the day” was really strong and positive and really worked really well. PD: You could listen to all the tips and tricks, and read the book but if you read the book, as well, there’s an epilogue at the end of which says “Ignore all this. Wake up every day, and be the best person you can be. Smile at the world and it might smile back at you if you are lucky. And live a good life and you won’t have to employ these tricks”. And the message of the book is the message of the album, really. I think it’s an old school album. It has got a start where it introduces the characters, the Machiavellian evil music industry guys, and it goes through exploring the themes. And then it goes through the love song to ‘Annie’ and ends on a positive note. PB: And then next up, you've got you've got a UK tour coming up. Beyond the tour, what's the plan beyond that? PD: In April I've got I’ve got two separate recording sessions booked for two albums I'm working on. Then beyond that, we’re working some more live dates. Different types of gigs in different parts of the world. So more recording and more live. I'm just really getting back on it now, and I don't want to fall back off the ladder. I want to keep going as modern-day troubadour. Keep going, baby! PB: That’s great to hear, as there was a big gap between Mansun and finishing in your first solo album as well, wasn't that? PD: Yeah, when Mansun furnished I did Skin’s solo album and the ‘Kleptomania’ box set. Both those things took me about three years. Then I started my solo album, ‘Spooky Action’, spent a year on that, so by the time I finished all that, it was 2008. So I rented a studio in London, and I ran my own studio where I produce quite a few different artists and rented it out to the likes of John Legend and Savages. I produced some new artists, including The Anchoress. And then finished off ‘Spooky Action’. So although it seemed like I’d disappeared for a while, I’d never really stopped. Even though I wasn’t on ‘Top of the Pops’. I was constantly working on different projects. PB: I really do think the new album is fantastic. I’ve followed your career right from Mansun’s ‘EP1’ to date and I think it's definitely up there with the best thing you've done, so congratulations and I hope it does well.. PD: Brilliant. Thanks. Really appreciate that. It really does make it worthwhile. PB: Thank you.

Band Links:-

Play in YouTube:-

Picture Gallery:-
Paul Draper - Interview

Paul Draper - Interview

Paul Draper - Interview

Post A Comment

your name
ie London, UK
Check box to submit


Denzil Watson speaks to former Mansun frontman Paul Draper about his satirical second solo album 'Cult Leader Tactics' which was completed during lockdown.


Interview (2018)
Paul Draper - Interview
In our second interview with him, former Mansun front man Paul Draper talks with Denzil Watson about touring his debut solo album 'Spooky Action' after a nearly fifteen year absence from the stage and the soon-to-be reissued Mansun back catalogue.
Interview (2017)

live reviews

Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 14/9/2017
Paul Draper - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 14/9/2017
Denzil Watson at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds watches ex-Mansun vocalist Paul Draper make an understated but impressive return after an absence of fourteen years to full live work to promote 'Spooky Action', his debut solo album.

digital downloads

most viewed articles

most viewed reviews

Pennyblackmusic Regular Contributors