Paul Draper talks us through the making of his new album Spooky Action...
Immediately after the demise of his big-selling post-Britpop band Mansun in 2003, singer Paul Draper threw himself headlong into recording solo material and was expected to come back firing with a debut solo album, but it never came.
Instead, Draper focused on his production work, helping the likes of The Joy Formidable and Skunk Anansie’s Skin, running his recording studio, and staying out of the limelight, all until late 2013.
In October of that year, Draper floated the idea that he was considering releasing material from his abandoned unrecorded solo album, if there was enough interest, after a petition was set up on Facebook with fans clamouring to hear new material. This finally spurred Draper into action, he dug out the songs and has now polished them up to make Spooky Action, which finally arrives today.
We spoke to Draper about why it had taken so long and what it’s like remastering yourself...
You’ve had these songs for a long time now, why are they only seeing the light of day in 2017?
“It was an album that I’d planned on doing in 2003, but I got sidetracked, various writing and production projects got in the way. I set up my own studio in London and I was working, so I just had odd days here and there to tinker with it. I didn’t really feel relevant at that point, I didn’t know what I’d contribute as an artist back in 00’s so I just focused on working in my studio.”
Why did you decide to dig them out?
“One of the albums I’d produced, the album from The Anchoress, got quite a bit of critical acclaim. I’d done a duet with her on the album and co-written some of the songs and that prompted some record companies to start circling me like vultures, asking if I was ever going to do this solo album. It was good timing, my studio had just been bought and was being turned into flats. I had the choice between setting up another studio or doing this project. I moved all my gear to my engineer’s studio and I dug those songs out from 2003 and 2004 and I polished them up. It was a long break!”
Was it an odd experience? Listening to tracks that were well over 10 years old?
“It was. Some were really sketchy, some were more finished, some just need polishing up, though a few still had guide lyrics, a lot of filler. There’s a three disc box set of the album that’s got everything, all the outtakes, you can really see how I’ve changed and improved them. This album is really a resurrection from the dead.”
Did you enjoy it? It must have been a new experience, re-mastering yourself…
“I did. That’s really how I viewed it initially, it was more as a record producer, I didn’t really feel bothered about being the main man, I wasn’t gigging, so the way I viewed it was more as a producer, taking something that was already underway and finishing it. It was odd to get myself back into a headspace as a singer again, but I managed it.”
What kind of album is this lyrically? Did you make many changes? Presumably, there’s quite a big gap between the 2003 you and the 2016 you?
“After leaving Mansun the songs were particularly spiky. Lyrically I would describe the album as my thoughts about leaving a messy situation in a rock band and getting that all out. It was very cathartic at the time, it’s how the lyrics came to me and they were very easy to do. I’ve written characters and stories in my songs, there was none of that this time, it was me getting down my thoughts and feelings, getting some clarity.”
Was it odd going back to those feelings?
“I can talk about it dispassionately now, I’m not sat here waving my fist at the other members or management, it was a different life. I’m a record producer and solo artist now, I’ve enjoyed doing that way more than I ever enjoyed being in a band, I feel like I’m right at the start of a curve now, I’m not a popstar anymore, I’m a producer digging out my old tracks. I never thought I’d tour again, but we put one on sale and it sold out. I made no concessions to the record company, I’ve done this for my own enjoyment, but I do hope it’s the start of a whole new journey.”
Was the record always going to be called Spooky Action?
“I wrote that down years ago and it’s stuck the whole time. Even before I wrote the album it was called that, I couldn’t go back and change it!”
Finally, what’s your live set going to be like? Is it going to be just solo material? Or a mixture of everything you’ve ever done?
“I asked the Mansun forum what the fans wanted to hear, whether to focus on the old stuff or the new stuff and the answer came back as new stuff, which is what I wanted to hear. The bulk of it will be Spooky Action, but I’ve also got two EPs I did last year. The Anchoress is coming out with me and we might do one of her songs. I’ll throw in a couple of Mansun songs, they’re my songs, I like singing them, but I’ll be mostly new stuff. I have no interest in being a nostalgia act.”