Thursday, October 27, 2011
Mannequin Men: interview!!!
Had the pleasure of catching up with kevin from the Mannequin Men about their new album, tour and upside down pizza...
For those new to you guys quick introduction - tell us who you are and what you play...
Kevin- i play guitar and sing, Seth-plays drums and also sings, Ethan-plays guitar, and Miles plays bass
Have you been in or are currently in any other bands?
we all have a few side projects kicking around. i'm in a band with Seth called Calibrated Crematorium that's put out a couple records and is kinda a pop project. Mannequin Men has been the family car though for quite a while so most of the stuff before that you likely haven't heard across the pond.
You're based in Chicago - as an outsider it looks like an awesome city with a strong music scene supported by some great local labels, tell me about the area... Where's the best spots to buy records? Go to shows?! EAT?!! (i saw on telly something about upside down pizzas - do you REALLY have upside down pizzas?!!) (REALLY!?!!)
Ha. I honestly don't know but I can say with all honesty if there is upside down pizza here and I'm missing out on it I'm going to have a real problem with that. Possibly, you're thinking of Chicago deep dish which has the sauce on top? Dunno. I'm pretty serious about pizza so maybe a bit of research is in order. Reckless Records is probably the best record store in town and Ethan works there so maybe that's a bit of homerism. Permanent is great for newer stuff too though. There's tons of places to go to shows so it's a bit hard to nail it down. Some really great DIY spaces making names for themselves like a loft called Mortville. Best club around has been the same best club since I was too young to get in and that's definitely the Empty Bottle. I love Chicago and we all do, it's where I was raised and it still feels like a brand new suit.
Are there remnants of the Blues, Jazz, R’n’B and early Rock ‘n’ Roll Chess Records brought to the city? Any surviving characters or landmarks around that keep that memory alive?
That's a great question with a kind of unfortunate answer. First of, yes, there's still a memory of that in people here but you have to really seek it out. Just last year at the Taste of Chicago Andre Williams played and you kinda see the heads coming out of the woodwork. Syl Johnson, Twinight Records and that kinda stuff will always be in the hearts here, but Chess Records, was commodified a long time ago so it's definitely not the same....not that it could be I suppose.
What was the first type of music made an impression you?
I'd love to say it was something real cool or strange like Beefheart or something but it was likely when I was about three years old and starting hearing my sister playing Michael Jackson records around the house. That music had a power that has yet to be matched. It was a language, and I couldn't get enough of it.
How did you find your new label Addenda Records ?
Addenda had put out a record by a band we all mutually adore (The Eternals) and so when we were looking around for people to do the record we figured we'd ask if they'd be into it. They were really excited and genuine about their interest and we're really happy we decided to work with them. I've known Dustin (one of the owners) for almost eight years now and he's a real true blue music guy. Having people like him behind your stuff just makes you feel even more bulletproof.
I like to ask bands whether they prefer playing live or being in a studio recording, you guys have combined the two on ‘Mannequin Men’ – what made you decide to make the new record in this way?
Pretty much listening to Tonight's the Night and reading Shakey. There's a saying that I truly believe in, and that's "you can't polish a turd". If your songs stink, no amount of studio trickery is going to solve that. I think we wanted to go and try to do it ourselves and let the songs be what they are.
Gary Panter returned to do a second album cover for you guys – he really out did himself! Did you guys share any ideas with him for the piece or did you just let him go away alone and work his magic?
This one we kinda let Gary run with it. The first thing he sent wasn't really what we had in mind even though it was great and we were pretty worked up about what we should do. Gary has become a friend of the band and he's the sweetest guy on the planet, but we didn't know what would happen if we asked him to rework some things.
He was totally sweet about it and two days later sent us the current cover which was a total 180 from the first. We all adore it and adore him and couldn't be happier to work with one of the greatest living artists I can think of. He's a total hero of the band.
What are some of your favourite record covers?
Oh man. another good question...i'm going to forget so many. I really like Damned Damned Damned, historie de melody nelson by serge, on the beach, ...and don't the kids just love it by the televsion peronalities, maggot brain by funkadelic....goes on and on. I'm pretty into rocksteady from the 60s too and jamaicans at that time had such a clever aesthetic, very simple, beautiful record covers.
The Neil Young documentary 'Don’t be denied' was on TV the other night over here – have you seen it? It’s covers snap shots of his career and he reflects on what he’s done so far – noticed you guys are pretty big fans what’s your favourite Neil Young period?
definitely have seen it. we're all pretty into Uncle Neil. I know it's a huge cliche to say you celebrate someone's entire catalog but I'd have to say I do. I'm most into the holy trilogy (time fades away, on the beach, and tonight's the night) but it changes day to day. The man is a genius and a legend and a loser and everything in between. An incredible career and he's the punkest motherfucker that ever lived.
He also talks about the change of direction his music took in the eighties - "they were criticizing me for changing my style so much and people couldn’t comprehend that you could believe what you were doing even if you didn’t do the same thing over and over again." With the word ‘matured’ knocking around with this new record are you coming up against that a little? Miles touched on it here i was wondering what the rest of the band thought?
Yeah, I think we're a little worried that the punk kids will think we're old and shitty, but we've never been all that connected to the drunkenness and chaos and shit that those kids love, it was more a product of trying to figure things out. So at this point, you kinda just let go of that worry and just enjoy the fact that you're doing something you believe in. In this business that's a hard spot to get to and mean it.
You guys did a split single with Jack Oblivion – if you could collaborate with anyone else who would it be?
tough one. if it could be anyone ever it'd be nice to work with Bob Darin in his late 60s period. Some of the most beautiful, creative, and well written songs i've ever heard. If it had to be a living musician, I guess it'd be ok to jam with Crazy Horse.
You’re about to head out on tour are there any favourite spots you’re looking forward to revisiting?
we really like hanging out in Canada so it'll be nice to go back there. the last time we were in montreal I had the flu and threw my arm out trying to bounce a super ball over power lines on a dare so i didn't have a really good time. i'm looking forward to getting back there for sure. Also, we're playing Cake Shop in Manhattan and that's one of my favorite clubs in the US so I'm pumped to get back there too I suppose.
Have you planned what you'll listen to while you're on the road? (making road trip mixes is the best!)
Ha, yeah, we just got a new van that has a CD and tape player which is a total luxury for us. We're all working on mixes and things of the sort to bring along. Probably be everything from Eek-A-Mouse to Kevin Ayers.
A recent Twitter post said "If I was directing a movie about our band I'd cast the guy who plays Lincoln Lee on Fringe to play Seth." - who else would play the rest of the band?
well Ethan would be played by a young Jack Nicholson, Miles would be a shaggier haired Jesse Eisenberg which is a comparison he'll hate and probably contributed to my reasoning for making it...and I'll go ahead and say that Jean Paul Belmondo can play me. Yeah, that works.
What's the future for Mannequin Men?
Well, we were listening to some R. Stevie Moore in the car on the way to a show recently and we are all kind of excited about making a really strange studio record next, maybe throwing a lot of curve balls and having fun. We'll be touring the west coast in March around SXSW and we'll likely start writing again in the period between the tours so we'll see.
'I'm full of dust and guitars' - Syd Barrett - if you were cracked open what would be inside?
gonna be hard to top that one...i would say closed doors with faint noises coming from behind them.
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Find copies of the new album here