Being Paul Draper: Part Two – Spooky Action At A Distance
Following Part One of Louder Than War’s Paul Draper interview comes the concluding part in which we find out about the possibility of future Mansun projects and the potential release of Draper’s lost solo album, the name of which we can exclusively reveal is “Spooky Action At A Distance”. Photograph right © Suzi Meredith.
The folder I caught sight of on Paul Draper’s hard drive contained the solo album that over 1400 fans want to hear. Until now, only a handful of people knew the title of the album; and according to Draper have often asked “what the fuck does that mean?”
Albert Einstein coined the phrase “Spooky Action At A Distance” to describe the nonlocal interaction of objects separated in space – things that are connected to each other over a distance.
After Mansun’s acrimonious split, Draper was “in a very dark frame of mind”. His solo record is “a collection of individual rock songs that (he’d) come up with in the States”.
And now, the title makes sense. “Spooky Action At A Distance” is Paul Draper a long way from home, looking back at his past, in England – strange events from a different time and a different place. It was remote viewing – Draper writing about things he couldn’t see but could certainly still feel.
He was clearly distressed at the way Mansun ended. After all, it was his disillusionment with the music industry that caused him to pull the plug on “Spooky Action At A Distance”, confining it to legend. Initially it was a bone of contention for EMI, the label set to release it, but it is now just a spin-off from the Mansun story.
Looking back at Mansun now, a decade’s worth of perspective has enabled Draper to reach a position where he is “relatively cool with what it is”. Draper and Andie Rathbone, the band’s drummer, have discussed several “worthy and creative” ventures they would like to make happen one day. Performing the “Six” album live in its entirety is one such idea.
“Six” is a majestic mindfuck of a record where each song segues into the next, weaving together themes such as ‘The Prisoner’, Taoism and Winnie the Pooh. Would it even be possible to play such a complicated album live? Paul believes it would because contrary to popular belief, it “was recorded onto a piece of tape” and is “just guitar, bass and drums”.
There have also been “vague whisperings” of a “Six” reissue. At the time they planned to release a double album on vinyl because Mansun had “made another album worth of songs for the EPs”. Paul and Andie have talked about “collecting the b-sides together and reissuing all the EPs” or doing a tour “just playing b-sides”.
If “Six” is reissued, Paul promises, “there will be a second album with it”. I point out that “Six” celebrated its fifteenth anniversary this year, to which Draper responds, “maybe there’ll be a sixteen year anniversary – that would be very Mansun, wouldn’t it?”
Finishing “Kleptomania”, says Paul, to “mix it properly and get the right running order” and “go and tour it” are other goals that have been discussed. Not to mention the ‘fictitious’ fifth album Draper always wanted to write.
Another objective, should Mansun reform, would be to release a cover of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter”. Draper credits a meeting with Paul McCartney eighteen months ago, as the reason he started writing songs again, but it wasn’t the first time they’d met.
The two Pauls met at Air Studios during the Mansun days. As a massive Beatles fan, this was a big moment for Draper. Macca asked Mansun to cover “Helter Skelter” but Draper declined because he “always refused to sing cover versions”. “If by a miracle Mansun ever reformed, I would make sure we did Helter Skelter to finally give Paul McCartney his wish”, he tells me.
For Draper, Dominic Chad’s involvement is essential for any Mansun reunion. Without it, he feels it would not have “the same kudos”. Paul describes Chad as an underrated guitarist “equal to the best” and Rathbone as “probably the best rock drummer of that era of British bands”. Unfortunately, as we know, a reunion is currently impossible because Chad simply doesn’t want to do it. But who knows what the future holds?
With Paul Draper now looking back at his time in Mansun with a degree of fondness, it must be difficult to listen to his solo album, which was written “from the perspective of just coming out of a dying rock band”. Draper dug it out because of the petition for its release, “to see if it’s still relevant”. He’s not sure that it is, which is why he may put out a single next year to “see if anyone likes it”.
Draper may also resurrect his Sci Fi Hi Fi label, which he calls “the world’s most exclusive record label” because it only ever released one record – the first Mansun (then ‘Manson’) single “Take it Easy Chicken”. I can’t think of a more fitting label to release the lead single from “Spooky Action At A Distance”, with all its UFO connotations. If a Mansun reunion isn’t going to happen, then maybe Draper alone could make good on his promise to Paul McCartney and stick “Helter Skelter” on the flipside of a 7” solo single.
Paul describes “Spooky Action At A Distance” as “a hard, rock record” with no segues – just a “series of fuck-off rock tracks”, like The Beatles “Revolver”. If he ever does decide to release it, he would “re-record and re-sing it” rather than release the unfinished, home studio version that currently exists, exactly as Brian Wilson did with “Smile”.
Except for one confirmed song (Lyin Bout Who We Sleep With), I don’t know what’s in that folder on Paul Draper’s hard drive or how long it might take for it to be dusted off, polished up and released. Ten years on, the title has more resonance, with even more distance from events it was written about.
There is a lot happening in the world of Paul Draper right now. He is busy working on various projects and “happy doing (his) thing”. Concrete plans for next year include the launch of The Anchoress. He will also play on at least one track on the album by his mates Menace Beach.
After that, he will consider what to do with his solo material. Whether “Spooky Action At A Distance” will ever see the light of day remains a mystery. Paul Draper’s fans can only hope that the truth is out there.
If you want to hear Paul Draper’s solo album then don’t forget to sign the Facebook petition here.
All words by Martin Leay. More work by Martin on Louder Than War can be found here.