For those of you unaware of the rock trio Man-Raze, let us give you a brief history. Formed in 2004, Def Leppard’s Phil Collen, his former bandmate from Girl, Simon Laffy and Paul Cook – drummer of the mighty Sex Pistols – joined forces in a bid to start their new rock ‘n’ roll project. Although their live shows have been limited over the years, their first album ‘Surreal’ dropped in 2008 and it’s now – three years later – that the threesome have headed back to the studio and given us the highly anticipated sequel.
With ‘PunkFunkRootsRock’ recently released into the world for our listening pleasure, Paul took a little time to talk about the newest release, upcoming plans with the band and his views on watching the music industry change first hand.
The album’s name is, obviously, a tad less simplistic than ‘Surreal’, so what caused this amalgamation of words to be the worthy record title? “It just came from sitting down during an interview one day and they asked what kind of flavour was the album,” explains Paul. “Phil said “Well it’s a bit rock” and I said “It’s a bit funk, it’s a bit punk” and it kind of went on from that. It’s a bit of everything really. It just kept going on like that and I suppose that’s where it came from and we just stuck with that since it’s a pretty apt reflection of all the different influences of the album.”
“We do it quickly. We like to get things done quickly as a band. We don’t spend ages in the studio recording, we’re trying to capture the live feel really,” continues Paul, turning to the actual recording of their recent release. “That’s how it works. We get prepared before we go in. We had limited time and a limited budget, so we had to make sure that we went in there ready and banged it out. We do our homework first and try do it as live as possible. That’s what the general idea was.”
With only one record in their back-catalogue for comparison, how does he think this album compares to their 2008 debut? “I think we’re much more together as a band now and this is more “us”,” he explains. “I think we were still finding our way with the first album with a lot of different stuff and the way we chose to approach it. Whereas with this one, we knew where we were going and what songs were for us and which ones to discard. Stuff like that. It’s the natural progression of a band, I guess. I definitely think we feel more together as a band now and know where we want to go.”
“It’s early days yet, obviously, for an album; having said that, [the response has] been pretty good so far,” remarks Paul. The album has been out for a week or two currently. “It’s hard because no one knew who we were as a band or who was in it, but now more people are aware of stuff, so we’ve been getting the stuff out there more and people are more aware of who we are. It’s better. It’s a long old struggle sometimes to get your name around even though we’ve been in popular bands before.”
With being a ‘supergroup’ comes great opportunity but great pressure. Having the opportunity to start something new is obviously great, but is there ever a pressure to try and please fans of the various bands the members originate from? “No, no. We go in fresh. We’re actually trying to get away from that, really,” Paul begins. “Obviously, with our other bands – Sex Pistols, Def Leppard – that’s just a sound and people know what they get from those names. That’s what’s good about having another band is that you can push the boat out a bit more and just try different stuff and do whatever you want and have a bit of fun with it, you know? That’s what’s good about Man-Raze generally.”
“When you’re working with other people who are set in their ways… No, not set in their ways, but they have their own distinctive sound, and this gives us an opportunity to try more,” he comments, discussing the creative freedom offered with a new musical project. “With this stuff we can go out and do what we want. Not like freestyle jazz or anything like that or slinging anything against the wall, but we try and make sure that it’s good stuff we do within the band. It does allow us to be that bit more free. It’s good to have that little bit more freedom in this band.”
For those who have yet to hear the album, Paul describes it succinctly – “The title really says it all. It’s just three guys going and having some fun, being true to themselves and just doing what they want to do musically. There’s no restrictions. Three guys being free, being live, stuff like that.”
Touring has taken a back seat for Man-Raze over the years. Having played a limited number of shows in several years due to conflicting schedules and more, does this record stand a better chance of being toured? “I mean Phil’s busy right now with Def Leppard until the end of Autumn time I believe but we’re going to go to America in a month or so and maybe do a little bit of promo there when Phil’s free for a little while,” explains Paul. “From Autumn until the end of the year we’ll hopefully be able to get out there and play more live shows. We want to play everywhere. I guess mainly America and the UK because that’s where our audience is right now. It all depends on the reaction and whether people want to see us or not. It was harder the first time around because no one had really heard of us, so hopefully this time a few more people will want to come and see us and allow us to play live more.”
Although overall touring has been limited, the band were the chosen support for Alice Cooper’s UK tour in 2009. Did a tour with such an established artist help push the name out there? “Yeah, I hope so. Like you said, in your case you didn’t know who we were but you checked us out and now enjoy our music,” says Paul, referring to the fact that I became a fan through that tour. “It always helps playing with someone. A lot of people didn’t know who we were on that tour and hopefully they do now. That’s the idea: you’ve just got to get out there and play live and make good records. Hopefully we’ve made a good record! People check you out and, ideally, they’ll want to come see us.”
“Well obviously we do want to play a lot more because we haven’t been able to over the past few years due to one reason or another,” continues Paul, touching on what he’d like the future to hold for Man-Raze. “We’d been trying to get a new album out, which is obviously something to fit around tight schedules too but we’ve got that done now. We funded it all ourselves, did the promotion ourselves and it was getting hard work and we couldn’t do it anymore, so it was good when our label came along and decided to help us out. It was a great help and I think it’ll make things a lot easier from now on with music and touring. The label have been really helpful and stuff, so the plan is really to just get out there and do it.”
As cited in the introduction, each member of the band has quite the musical background preceding Man-Raze. Paul has been in many bands, the most notorious – of course – being the Sex Pistols. What is he particularly proud of from his career to date? “I’m kind of really proud of most of the stuff I’ve done with every band I’ve ever been in, right back from the Sex Pistols,” he begins after a pause for thought. “I think they all had their good bits from the Pistols, The Professionals, Chiefs to Relief and now Man-Raze. I’ve been lucky to be able to pick and choose what to do. Bits and pieces of all of them really. It’s all been really good. The good thing with Man-Raze, actually, is that it’s the first band I’ve been in that’s managed to do a second album. The rest of them, we just managed to get the one album.” Does he see Man-Raze hitting the third, fourth, fifth album stage? “Yeah, definitely. We really all enjoy doing it. We do have fun and the guys are good in the band and it’s been cool. Hopefully we can keep progressing as a band. As long as we keep progressing as a band and keep enjoying it and it’s all good stuff that we’re producing, then I don’t see any reason why we won’t keep going.”
Naturally, he – like most musicians – talks primarily about their own music in these scenarios, so we were keen to see what music was taking his fancy at the moment. “I don’t know really. I’ve just always liked the stuff I’ve liked, a lot of rock stuff from years ago… There’s a lot I check out,” he begins. “I like a wide variety of stuff in music – I always have done. With new bands, I try to check out some new stuff that’s going around but it’s hard. There’s so much new stuff floating around these days. My daughter Hollie is a recording artist now and she sort of keeps me in touch with what’s going on, you know? Her boyfriend’s band are really cool; they’re called The Crocodiles. There’s also The Dum Dum Girls – I don’t know if you’re aware of them – but I enjoy bands like that. There’s a lot of good stuff around, it’s just a case of tracking them down.”
Aside from the music, how does he view the industry itself? Having been on the music scene for a long time, he’s bore witness to the changes within music first hand. “Well, the biggest change is that I think there’s so much more music out there now. There’s so much more compared to when the Pistols first started,” he begins. “It’s so varied now and kids are obviously doing it themselves at some, which is another major change. I mean the music business is forever changing and evolving, I think, and it always will be. Right from back to records and cassettes, then CDs and now it’s mp3s and music done at home. It’s forever changing a lot; far more than other industries. I think it always will keep changing drastically.”
A parting question: is there anything to look out for from Man-Raze in the near future? “Not at the moment – no! Just our new album, obviously, since that’s just out. Hopefully people go out and get a listen to it and are pleasantly surprised by it. I know it’s a bit difficult to come from established bands and do this because people have a preconceived idea and they’re like “Oh, yeah another one of those… bla bla bla, whatever” but I think people will be surprised once they give it a listen.”
Man-Raze’s ‘PunkFunkRootsRock’ is out now and definitely worth a listen.