British rock legend, Mani, a member of The Stone Roses and now of Freebase and Primal Scream, comes to Shanghai this evening (Friday April 16th) for the first gig of a two stop China tour. Mani will be supporting Puressence, another UK act also from the city of Manchester, with a dj set at Shanghai’s Mao Livehouse this evening.
Where: Mao Livehouse, 570 Huaihai Xi Lu 淮海西路570号
From: 9PM onwards
Cover: Advance tickets are RMB130, and RMB150 at the door. Buy them at www.maolive-sh.com
Shanghaiist sat down with him to talk about his experiences in Asia, what he’s up to at the moment and his first Mainland China tour.
You’re a man with a lot of touring experience with Stone Roses first and now Primal Scream, what can you tell us about the background to your China tour?
Mani: Well, the guys from Puressence are very good friends of mine and I watched them start a band and grow up and I became quite proud when they achieved success in England. It’s good to see friends make it and I’ve always been a firm supporter of them and the just happened to ask me if I’d like to come along and do some djing at their gigs. I’ve always wanted to come to China; I’ve never had the chance to come with the two bands I’ve been in and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to come and have a look.
You’re doing a dj-set here in Shanghai and then in Beijing, could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your music?
Mani: If you look at The Stone Roses, who are basically a white guitar rock band who somehow crossed over to the acid house movement. We were always keen on black music like some of the motown and funk, so that used to cross into The Stone Roses. Obviously, that’s the same with Primal Scream, we’re like a traditional rock band, but we also use influences from funk and soul and motown and stuff. So that’s two bands that have been able to blend two different styles of music to their thing. With djing that I do I just play a lot of songs that have influenced me really, so you’ll hear anything from some funk, to house, to classic British independent music. There’s all sorts of stuff, but basically when I dj it’s the music that’s influenced me.
Kevin from Puressence talked a lot about the Manchester link and he was very excited about what he called ‘bringing a bit of Manchester to China…’
Mani: Yeah, that’s exactly what I want to do with my dj set as well. You’re hearing a lot of classic Manchester bands at the past and present, it’s something that makes you what you are. There’s been a great heritage of music out of the city of Manchester and I think that every band of successive generations that have come from Manchester will always reference similar things. We have a kind of distinct style.
At a personal level and with The Stone Roses and Primal Scream what would you say your biggest influences were?
Mani: For me it all started with The Clash in 1977 and a band from Manchester called The Buzzcocks, very influential. I’ve always followed The Beatles and The Birds, all these great sixties band, that’s where the Roses and the Scream have you got their kind of balance. Then I was influenced a lot by bits of hip-hop and a lot black music, I’m a really big motown fan. It’s like making a recipe, there’s everything going in the pot and then you see what you’ve got.
It’s going to be very exciting to see what kind of a recipe you come up with in your time here in Shanghai. Do you have any big hopes or fears in coming to China?
Mani: I never really listen too much to preconceptions and other people, I like to discover and experience things for myself. I really want to see a lot, Shanghai’s supposed to be the Liverpool of China and it looks like a very progressive city. It’s an amazing looking place from what I see on the Internet and really I’ve always had a love affair with the East. I’ve travelled to Japan and Thailand, I suppose the closest I’ve been to Mainland China was the four or five times I’ve been to Hong Kong.
I’ve got Chinese friends in Singapore who say ‘you should go to Mainland China, we’ll take you, you’ll have a brilliant time’. I’d love to see the Great Wall, I’d love to see Tiananmen Square; to be there, and to be with the people will be amazing. It’s a place I feel a great affinity with and I’ve known many Chinese people in my time; it’s going to awesome just to be there. For me you could say China is a like an undiscovered wonderland, until you go somewhere, experience it and immerse yourself in the culture, you’ve got to do that to know how a good place is y’know?
You said you’ve been a Hong Kong a number of times and elsewhere in Asia. What kind of correspondence and fan base do you have in China?
Mani: Massive! It’s heart-warming to know that if things aren’t necessarily going as well for you in Great Britain, you can still go somewhere in another country. I was recently in Hong Kong doing a djing set there and often at times it’s a lot of expats who will come out, but recently a lot of Chinese folk came up and they were great! Really knowledgeable about the music and the like. Because China was so closed for so many years, you don’t really know what to expect, but I think the kids now definitely know what’s going on. With the way technology’s moving and people looking out of China, I’m expecting the kids to be bang up to date with what’s going on. One of the greatest joys in life is know that you’ve made some effect on people in a place that you’ve never even been yet. I just can’t wait to come, I really, really can’t.
Can you talk a little bit about your experience with the reception of British music in Asia?
Mani: The first experience of going to Asia was Japan in 1985, it was like stepping into the movie Bladerunner, it was unreal, and such an alien environment to what we’re used to in the West. I just fell in love with the place. It’s the fastest growing economy on the planet, China’s going to be the world leader in industry and everything. It’s great to see, it is like a flower opening up; it’s going to be beautiful. I would say that the strength of China at the moment financially means that a lot of bands that in the past wouldn’t go to China because they didn’t think it was commercially viable now can. You’ve got such a strong economy I think it will open the floodgates and more people will want to come and have a look.
What are you views on the future of music in the digitalized age, in particularly in a country like China where so many people are connected to the Internet and download music illegally?
Mani: Well, downloading, I don’t think it can be stopped. The Internet is a great tool and it’s a great thing for the spread of information, used responsibly. I don’t think you can ever stop dialogue, y’know people should just accept it…it’s a great way to get people to listen to your songs, it can help to strengthen the musicians and bands. Basically, it’s about distribution and getting people going to gigs and shows.
A lot of people right now are saying that touring and live music is where the money’s at. Do you agree with this and what do you think of Western music’s compatibility within a Chinese frame?
Mani: The touring aspect is probably the most enjoyable part of it. Records aren’t what it’s all about anymore, it’s about outside entertainment and if you’re cut out for it and enjoy it then it’s a great thing to do. China will be a great place to tour, it’s responsive and it’s gonna happen. Music is an international language and it can transcend all cultures and barriers, but at the end of day of the day music is music, whether it’s English or Chinese. It’s free to experiment with, but that’s the beauty of being a musician; I just it out there and see what people think.
China tour aside, what else are you getting up to right now?
Mani: At the moment I’m having a little quiet time with the Scream, we’re going to start touring again from November. There’s a demand for us to go out and tour, which is going to be exciting for us and we’ve already started to work on that. I’ve got a side project called Freebase, which is with Peter Hook out of New Order and Joy Division and Andy Rourke out The Smiths, so we’re going to be out doing some gigs with that. I do bits of djing, not very often, but when I was offered to come to China I just had a chance because I’ve always wanted to come. A bit of busy boy at the moment! Lots of different things going on, but I like to be working and I like to be busy.
Do you see yourself making touring in China a more regular occasion?
Mani: I would love to bring Primal Scream to China, absolutely love to do it. Maybe if I meet the right people when I’m there and we can get a little connection made. It’s something I would really, really love to do, because it’s the last great untapped market and there are millions of Chinese people that could get off on Primal Scream’s music. We would love to do it!
Any final remarks?
Mani: All I want to say is: come on China, come at me with what’s you’ve got!