Paul Draper

Former Mansun frontman and now a solo artist in his own right, Paul Draper reels off some of his favourite formative influences

Photo: Tina K

GARY NUMAN AND PRINCE

“I started off playing the guitar when I was 10. I was into The Beatles, because it’s compulsory being from Liverpool, but my first-ever gig was Gary Numan at the Deeside Leisure Centre in 1980. I really got into synthesisers after that. I bought a Casio VL-Tone when I was 11. Years later, when Mansun recorded ‘Attack Of The Grey Lantern’, I used it on that. It’s one of only two UK Number One albums to feature a VL-Tone. The other one is ‘Dare’. That’s the only thing we’ve got in common with Phil Oakey! 

“I’ve just bought an Ensoniq Mirage because that was the main keyboard Prince used on ‘Sign O’ The Times’. All the sounds on ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’ and ‘U Got The Look’, they’re all the Mirage. He combined it with a Minimoog and he used a lot of DX7 around that period. I preferred his earlier work because his main synth was the Oberheim OB-8, which Gary Numan used. Prince was a huge Gary Numan fan.”

DIAMOND DOCKS

“My whole family were Liverpudlians, but when I was little we moved to North Wales, which is only 20 miles away. If you move outside of the boundaries of the city then that’s it, you’re a plastic Scouser. So I’ve never been accepted as a proper Scouser.

“Liverpool is a port and that makes it a cultural superpower. A melting pot. The whole place’s culture is based around the docks. The reason music took off there, was because when rock ’n’ roll happened, all the records that were exported from America arrived there three to four months before they had them in London. The ships didn’t have containers, so records were robbed and sold for peanuts in the local pubs. It’s an accident of geography, but it meant rock ’n’ roll was always going to happen in Liverpool first.”

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO…

“My dad played the tea chest in a skiffle band because he couldn’t afford a drum kit. When his band didn’t take off, he decided to be a stand-up comedian, and that’s how I got into that. I’m a huge fan of surreal comedy. My biggest non-musical influence would be ‘Monty Python’. 

“The first two Mansun albums were very, very ‘Monty Python’. There were skits on them that were satirical ways of being a bit more progressive rock if you like. When we started the third album, ‘Little Kix’, the record company stepped in and said we couldn’t do it anymore. They basically wanted us to be a more indie version of Busted. I still pissed them off though, because I made the intro to ‘Little Kix’ one second longer than the intro to ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’, just so there was a bit more prog rock in it. ‘Monty Python’ is prog rock, to me.

“I was also really into Derek And Clive – Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.  It’s weird how your life pans out. When we came to do ‘Little Kix’, the label also said that we’d have to get a proper producer and asked me who I wanted to work with. I was like, ‘I want to work with Hugh Padgham’. They thought it was because of his work with Genesis or The Police, but it was actually because I loved Derek And Clive. Hugh engineered their ‘Ad Nauseum’ album at The Town House on Goldhawk Road. I listened to that a lot as a kid.”

PROGRESSIVE OBSESSIVE

“We bought a Mellotron from The Moody Blues when we first started recording ‘Attack Of The Grey Lantern’. That whole album is just caked in LinnDrum machines, Roland synths and Mellotrons. Of course, we were completely out of step with what was going on back then, and we would  still be today. 

“Everyone always uses the flute and string sounds on the Mellotron –  The Beatles did and ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ used those too – but when  we collected it from the Outer Hebrides all of the string loops were dead,  and the only thing that worked was the special effects. They’re the sounds that were used on the ‘Mr Benn’ BBC TV programme. We put those all over that first album. 

“I sampled all the sounds off it before selling it, and I’m still using those samples to this day. I bought it for £800 and sold it for about £1,200. It’s probably worth about four or five grand now, but I got my money’s worth  out of Justin Hayward and that Mellotron.”

THE BEST POLICY

“I’m just honest, you know, and you don’t get much of that in rock ’n’ roll. You just get caught out otherwise. In one of my early NME interviews I was asked what I thought of ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’, and I said, ‘Well,  I think he’s brilliant’. After that, I thought it best not to lie ever again, so I just say how it is now. 

“After the first Mansun album took off, I did a piece like this for the NME about my influences. I said that Gary Numan was my first gig, and that was  it! I got fucking crucified because he was out of fashion at the time. And then Gary turns up at a Mansun gig after he read the article. I asked someone if he came in a spaceship. It turned out he came in a car with his wife. There’s nothing good about being honest, but it is cool to say you were influenced by Gary Numan now.”

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