Primal Scream

Get the latest from Beat

Primal Scream


W hether it’s a public image he’s created or just everyday life, Gary ‘Mani’ Mounfield – Primal Scream’s riotous bass player – still exhibits a younger man’s ‘burning-the-candle-at-both-ends’ energy and wit. But the man at the centre of two of the UK’s most influential bands of the last 20-odd years has earned the right to play whatever hand he damn well wants.

W hether it’s a public image he’s created or just everyday life, Gary ‘Mani’ Mounfield – Primal Scream’s riotous bass player – still exhibits a younger man’s ‘burning-the-candle-at-both-ends’ energy and wit. But the man at the centre of two of the UK’s most influential bands of the last 20-odd years has earned the right to play whatever hand he damn well wants. It was after all Mani’s smacked-out bass gave The Stone Roses their signature sound and has, since 1996, rumbled through all of Primal Scream’s records. But it was while he and his Stone Roses buddies were enjoying the start of what looked like a long, exciting career that a little Scottish band dropped the biggest acid-rock record of the times. The fast-changing underground club music scene in Britain finally got the benchmark album it had needed in Screamadelica and the bar was set. Primal Scream had arrived, and The Stone Roses suddenly seemed to get very wobbly indeed.

20 years on and Mani, who in another reality could be discussing a Stone Roses Don’t Look Back tour, is instead shooting the shit on his band’s re-visit to a defining moment in contemporary music. While singer Bobby Gillespie has continued to guide his band away from the warped psyche-rock of Screamadelica – Mani, who missed the wild, hedonistic ‘Scream of the early ‘90s, defies his leader’s wish to ‘chill-out’ with age. “I’ve been bugging the band to get stuck into the back catalogue for years and Bob (Gillespie) was dead-set against it,” he begins proudly. Having not been there for the initial hype around Screamadelica, in turn Mani had the objectivity to convince the rest of the band to bring it back to the stage.

“I think I’m more enthusiastic about it than Bobby or any of the other guys who played on the original album,” he grins. “I’m playing like a fucking juvenile and seeing the sheer beauty in it. I’ve been part of Primal Scream for the last 13 fucking years man, playing songs off this album… but the difference now is we’ve put a lot of effort into keeping to its original sound by stripping everything back and building it back up again for the shows,” he explains happily. “We’ve kept a lot of (producer) Andrew Weatherall’s original stuff – and it’s been a grind – but it was such a pay-off seeing 11,000 people at the Olympia in London going mad for it the other week.”

Of the two bands Mani played in to emerge triumphant so many years later, most people’s hard-earned would surely have backed The Stone Roses to carry on, considering Primal Scream’s patchy past and slow-to-capitalise-on-Screamadelica follow-up. History had other plans though, and while Mani saw his old band through to their end in 1996, he’d made a new home in Primal Scream before the amps had even been unplugged for the last time at camp Stone Rose.

“I think I’ve learned a lot more from playing in this band than I would have if the ‘Roses had kept going,” Mani claims. “I broadened me horizons when I joined this band, no question. I was always a big fan of Primal Scream because they were so similar to us (Stone Roses), if not musically, then personally. We had a lot of the same values and similar backgrounds, so we were all firm friends early on,” he remembers. “We used to always be slobbering over each other in clubs, ecstasy’d out of our fuckin’ minds out in Glasgow or Manchester… and so there was no doubt when the ‘Roses split up where I was headed.”

Just as the hazy groove-rock of debut The Stone Roses wiped out the competition in 1989, the following year-and-a-half belonged to Screamadelica. A young Mani was paying close attention and, he claims he saw a connection between what his old band had done previous to what Primal achieved in 1991. “I looked at it as the natural progression from us having, say break-beats on Fools Gold, and also the progression of a bunch of like-minded guys wanting to do something new,” he confirms. “You have to remember guitar bands weren’t being played in the clubs and acid house was taking over and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of cross-pollination in music if you can make it work. Primal Scream were ballsy bastards to try it, and only very few bands have managed to really pull off a thing like that.”

It seemed that the Glasgow lads had somehow tapped into that mystic cosmic funk and nothing they turned their hand to could fail. Indeed they managed to pass as a soul, psychedelic pop, acid house and blues rock band all in one release. “Too many bands out there now are scared to deviate from whatever their last album sounded like and Primal Scream was never interested in doing that,” Mani offers. “I mean if you want to do that, you might as well get a job in a fucking hat shop. Music should be a fucking tight-rope walk done by outsiders, ne’er do-wells, junkies and vagabonds, mate.”

Mani encapsulates the ‘Scream in this one sentence but his bravado, he reckons, isn’t reinforced by any universal love for the band. “Back home we kind of get ignored in a lot of respects. I don’t give a fuck what they say about us in the UK – I still think we’re one of the best fucking bands still doin’ it, but we don’t get a lot of support.” He adds, “But you know what, Primal Scream isn’t our job; it’s what we do twenty-four-seven and we know how to kick it from arsehole to balls, and I don’t see any other rock ‘n’ roll bands playing with the kind of feeling we give it.”

While Stone Roses’ notorious front-man Ian Brown spent most of the ‘90s in and out of trouble/prison, Mani fought, mouthed-off and shocked for all he was worth, but somehow got away with it. That is at least until last year when supergroup Freebass, on the verge of releasing their debut album, ended suddenly with a very public serve of humiliation from Mani to Peter Hook – the group’s founder and the ex-New Order bassist. Freebass, which also included ex-Smiths bassist Andy Rourke, was in Mani’s words, “Something to keep me match fit while the ‘Scream were doin’ nothing.” Mani accused Hook (via Twitter) of getting fat off Ian Curtis’s blood money for touring Joy Division with none of the original members. “God bless him though, and I apologised to Peter and we’re friends still, but in the end everybody bailed out of fucking Freebass.” Mani laughs, “What can I say, I’m from Manchester mate and we’re a bunch of gobby bastards so whatever I said at the time that was just me being me. That’s what comes from spending time with the likes of Ian Brown and Liam Gallagher in the pub!”

The bigger the gob, the much bigger than required bass amp and the cheeky stoned grin all suggest Mani has his priorities in order and failed supergroups aren’t among them. Right now his sights are set on winning over his Australian fans again following 2009’s sensory-annihilating shows. “I’m countin’ the days off on my wall chart until I can get on that plane and come over to Melbourne mate,” Mani barks. “Love the fuckin’ place, love the people and can’t wait to come and play for you all again.”

When the Screamadelica shows wrap up, it is already widely rumoured that the band are heading straight back into the studio to record album number 10. Mani’s sure of only one thing though, the new stuff will be ‘unlike anything they’ve done before.’

“Well we could end up doing a fucking skiffle album, you just never know,” he laughs, “that’s something we haven’t tried yet and we’ve been around for about 8,000 years now so maybe it’s time.” Mani says, cracking up, “We’re gonna turn into travelling freak show freaks like the bearded lady or the fucking human dick, you know what I mean?” he cackles. “There’s a kind of voyeuristic way in which people see Primal Scream, I think. They’re just staring going ‘what the fuck is that all about?’ So we can’t disappoint ‘em can we?”

PRIMAL SCREAM bring their legendary, epoch-defining album Screamadelica to life at the BIG DAY OUT at Flemington Racecourse on Sunday January 30 and perform that ground-breaking set, in full, at The Forum on February 2 (sold out) and 3 (tickets from and 136 100).