Is Manchester a city that is so proud of its musical past it still trades heavily on it, or one that has just given up trying to surpass what was produced before? That revolutionary 80’s period is still leant upon, and how: The Hacienda, now a swanky apartment block; “And on the 6th day, God created Manchester” T-shirts are still available in your size; and Peter Hook, having spent decades learning how not to run a nightclub, proves he has a sense of humour by opening a new, Factory-themed one.
This isn’t as bad a situation as some people would have you believe: celebrating past glories is one of life’s most rewarding pastimes. It’s just that this particular fertile period – and remember, it was one that spawned Joy Division, The Smiths, The Happy Mondays, New Order, The Stone Roses and all those other bands that are, if anything, lauded even closer to the heavens today – has overshadowed everything Manchester has ever done since.
A city that was so fully, overwhelmingly, endearingly, defined by a specific scene has struggled to shake off its shackles. Good bands have come and gone – but what of the scene? The vibe? The feel? Has enough time passed for a new group of bands to define their locale?
If a new EP, released this week, is to be believed, a new and very distinct Mancunian musical picture is emerging. One where the bands clutch to each other as firmly as they push away – bands that feed off each other, spur each other on, compete, and then go home and listen to each other’s records. The EP is called, aptly, Love And Disaster.
Featuring the toppers of various ‘Big In 2010’ lists, Delphic, as well as Airship, Dutch Uncles, and Jo Rose, it’s a disc that doesn’t just celebrate new Manchester bands: it digs deep into the creative psyche of them, reveals the complex interchange of ideas between them and mines fissures of hot rivalry – all of which powers what may be a nascent, genuinely new Manchester ‘scene’.
I spoke to Dan Parrott – once musical director of local TV station Channel M, and now the determined soul who put Love And Disaster together.
Did you just want to showcase your favourite new bands in Manchester? Or was there something else that drove the creation of the EP?
“Well – yes and no – they’re bands I really really love and so quite unashamedly are bands I want to push. They’re also bands I got to know from Channel M Music – bands I enjoyed showcasing, got on with and asked back for more. I wondered if this was too shallow a reasoning to justify the EP, but quickly realised that the that reason I kept getting them them back on the TV was a good enough reason for putting a record together”.
Why did you want to be so involved with a particular group of bands?
“Because, simply, they are bands I like. I showcased Delphic when they were very, very new – I caught them when they were young and I wanted to be part of the arc of their career, simply because they were great. They didn’t even have any tracks on their Myspace page when we had them on the TV show – they’d just play gigs at Night and Day in Manchester. But you could hear that they were so good and had spent a whole year just writing songs, and not gigging.”
So is it a vanity project?
“No – this EP is similar to what I did at Channel M anyway: I played what I liked then, and this is what I like now. The record was cathartic. Hopefully if they go onto big things, these bands will look back and see this as the start of their careers – and the bands can treat this as a full stop and, hopefully, a starting point. The remit of the record is to tie up and represent not only the sound of Manchester, but the new sound in the UK as well”
And what of this new Manchester scene? What makes it new? What makes it at all?
“It’s an undefined scene if you like. There’s a softly, softly approach – there are these bands together in Manchester but they’re not all the same. They’re helping each other out. They’re all working for each other. That’s perhaps what ties them all together – not their sound but the fact that they all genuinely like each other’s bands.”
So it seems like the Factory-era togetherness is still there, if not a unifying sound…
“Maybe. The bands are all mates, but it’s still disparate, not very organised. There are bands feeding off each other, but producing different sounds. It’s healthy competition. They appreciate what each other does – they go home and put each other’s music on the stereo. These are bands that will stick at it, and they have albums in them.”
What do people think of this new bunch of bands? They’re not what the public consider to be ‘Manchester bands’.
The reception has been really good – It was difficult getting all the contracts signed, but labels have actually been positive to get them grouping together. They know money isn’t necessarily the priority with a physical release now – but the bands’ stature is still important.”
“Take Dutch Uncles – they are way ahead of their time in many ways: incredibly talented musicians who use technology and creative invention to make their own new sound. I was annoyed that the NME didn’t pick them up previously, but perhaps it was for the best. They’re exposed now, and it’s the right time.”
“And of course Delphic are now being hyped, and are set to be big. Delphic meet all sorts of [industry] people now because they’re getting stellar. And they always push Manchester bands to these people because they love the idea of Manchester and Factory; not in a stereotypical way, but in the idea of a bunch of unusual, good bands that are unified.”
So maybe a new perception of Manchester’s music might emerge?
“Yeah – the whole point of the group photo (above) is to physically unify them together, to define them as a group. Hopefully it’ll be a really important photo in 5 years time – it uses a typical Mancunian warehouse setting but then that’s the point: it is still Manchester.”
Love And Disaster 1: New Tracks From New Manchester Artists is available now.