“I find I express myself in a sentimental, nostalgic way”: Paddy Mann on 21 years of Grand Salvo

“I find I express myself in a sentimental, nostalgic way”: Paddy Mann on 21 years of Grand Salvo

Words by August Billy

We speak to Paddy Mann about the origins of Grand Salvo ahead of his headline show for RISING Festival.

Paddy Mann is celebrating 21 years as Grand Salvo. He’s released seven albums under the project name during that time, the first of which, 2000’s 1642-1727, was made when he was just 22 years old.

While Mann had been writing songs and playing in bands for a number of years, it wasn’t until early 2000 that he realised he could work independently of a band.

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“I started seriously trying to make songs just with myself,” he says, “I took some four-track recordings to a guy I knew who was recording a friend’s band I was playing in and I asked him, ‘Could you please put these on DAT tape?’ because that meant it was legit.

“Anyway, he liked them and he was just starting up a label and he decided he wanted to release them.”

The guy was Richard Andrew, drummer for the Underground Lovers, and the label was Pharmacy Records, which has put out albums by Kim Salmon, Silver Ray, Black Cab and Andrew’s solo vehicle, Registered Nurse.

“It was just run out of a house in Clifton Hill,” says Mann. “He was a great music lover and really dedicated in terms of the recording process. So I would go ‘round and we would spend days just recording.

“It was such a magical, nurturing environment for the recording process. It was really amazing.”

1642-1727 came out in November 2000, after which Mann and Andrew got to work on Grand Salvo’s next album, 2002’s River Road. Mann relocated to London following that album’s release, finding a new label and new in-studio collaborators. But his early recording experiences with Andrew left a lasting impression.

“We mixed it all onto tape and literally me and Rich would have our fingers on the faders,” he says. “The mix was part of the performance, which is something that’s gone from music. Every mix would be different, so there was no perfecting it to within an inch of its life. It was always a bit in flux.”

1642-1727 introduced Mann as a thoughtful, detailed-oriented songwriter with a thorough application to his craft. His process and vision has undergone substantial growth in the years since, but he’s never strayed too far from the tastes and aesthetics displayed on his debut album.

“As with all first albums, [1642-1727] was mainly just a collection of songs that I’d gathered and some new ones that we did at the time,” Mann says. “It was way more hodgepodge, but I still knew that I wanted to create an atmosphere across the whole album and that it would feel like dipping into a world of some kind.”

Mann has approached this world-building task with greater diligence on subsequent projects, most notably 2009’s narrative-focused LP, Death, on which he endeavoured to infuse the storytelling characteristics found in books, movies, and radio plays.

As grandiose as that might sound, Mann has always had a knack for penning simply formulated, readily accessible pop songs that have the capacity to stir up deep and resonant feelings in the listener.

“I find I express myself in a sentimental, nostalgic way, so that kind of relies on a certain sweetness, which I find I can only access with pop songs,” he says.

Mann’s penchant for moving sentimentality is generously displayed on his latest release, 2018’s baroque masterpiece Sea Glass – a career highpoint.

Sea Glass was supposed to be a quick easy one and then I started getting bogged down in the arrangements,” Mann says. “But then I just thought, ‘Ah well, I may as well just go for it and put everything I want to on every song.’ And it was quite fun, but also a little bit nightmarish.”

Songs from both Sea Glass and 1642-1727 will feature in Grand Salvo’s RISING setlist, along with selections from the five intervening albums.

“The first album is the one that’s more distant so it’s more interesting to do those songs because I can barely remember how and why they were created,” says Mann.

Mann – who’ll also be playing bass for co-headliners The Orbweavers – will be backed by a choir and a small percussion and synth ensemble for the special 21st-anniversary performance.

Grand Salvo is performing at Comedy Theatre on Sunday June 6 as part of RISING festival. Grab tickets and find out more here