"All About The Album - 15 Questions" - a brand new section at the RockUnited site where any recording artist with an recently released CD is confronted with album questions (15 of them, duh!). If you'd like to have your material up here, email: urban "at" rockunited.com (simply replace "at" with your standard @ )
TOM MANSI & The ICEBREAKERS: "Perils A Plenty"
TOM MANSI & The Icebreakers, "Perils A Plenty" literally reeks of Rock Pop and Punk of the eighties. Dude, it's the attitude of U.K. working class heroes such as Elvis Costello, The Clash, The Madness, vs. the more sophisticated Tom Waits and Steve Miller Band. Indeed, Tom Mansi & The Icebreakers are on the very brink of success with their new monster of an album recorded in their own studio with the help of legendary producer and mix engineer Tony Platt (AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Bob Marley, etc, etc). The UK band deserve the praise as this could just as easily have been a multi-million selling record under the correct circumstances and era?
How has the reaction to your latest CD been?
Really positive. We are very pleased that "Perils a Plenty" sounds a lot more like we sound live, it has a lot of energy and our fans like that too. Reception in the press is mixed, with some people loving it, and then the odd weird review, like "if you like good musicians playing good songs live this would be a great record, but since nobody wants that it's shit..." WTF?
How long did this CD take to make from start to finish, recording-wise?
Well, we obviously had some songs written before (the 12 songs on the CD are distilled from about 50 songs all in three different versions) and had the luxury of recording and testing them in our own studio, Shock & Awe in North London (www.shockandawestudios.co.uk) over he period of a year, but the actual recording of the final album took about two weeks in our studio, followed by a week of legendary engineer and producer Tony Platt (AC/DC, Bob Marley, Bad Plus...) mixing it in his room at Strongroom studios.
What kind of 'sound', production wise, did you have in the back of your mind, prior to entering the studio?
We wanted to capture the raw energy that people like in our live shows, much more punk and band-in-a-room then our more polished (and A&R'd) previous record.
What kind of input did the producer have during the process?
We self-produced the album with our engineer, friend and fifth member Stevan Krakovic. As a reality check we had another friend and producer, Rory Carlile come in a couple of afternoons and he provided us with very useful feedback and some great ideas (for example the claps on "Need Want", that Stevan hated at first and now loves and the metal clanks at the beginning of "Man Overboard"). But the most important thing he did was to give us the confidence that we are on the right track with recording raw and live and making sure we didnt give in to the dark side (clicks and unnecessary overdubs).
And are you pleased with the final outcome? (sound - production wise)
It is the best album we ever did and we are proud of it!
Did the producer (you) use any (weird) experimental miking and/or recording techniques?
All reasonably standard stuff, the most important influence on the sound was probably the U47fet that Stevan bought before the recording session and that we put in front of absolutely everything. The weirdest thing was probably recording the metal clanks at the beginning of "Man Overboard", which had the whole band including Rory hitting all sorts of drums, metal boxes & spiral staircases spread across the studio all under the watchful eye of a stuffed buzzard and the watchful ear of a omni microphone (and doubled).
How did you go on about capturing your 'live sound' in the studio, or perhaps you didn't
Have the band play live in the room, with Ams isolated outside and guide vocals in a sort of half-booth. The only overdubs were vocals & percussion (and metal clanks) and maybe one additonal guitar solo.
Please inform us about your favourite songs and lyrical highlights and why?
All of us have different favourite songs, but probably "Perils A Plenty" which we all wrote together (incl Stevan) and "Need Want" (which is the first take from the demo recording) are the highlights. "Perils A Plenty", which is obviously also the Album title track, captures the whole vibe of the album and the band at the time. The album was recorded in two angry weeks after the band split from their previous record company and management and half the members had split from their girlfriends and we were all fed up with the music industry and constant demands to comply to various norms that we just let go, sitting on top of our little treehouse studio in High Barnet (which also features on the album cover) and do what we want. "...Up on the top where we belong, battered by the winds but we stay strong...", "we're never coming down from this hill no more".
Any overall theme of mood that you're trying to capture while writing songs?
We do try and create an atmosphere within the songs we write, inject the excitement that we have in our live performances. Some of our songs try to tell a story, others are just good time tunes with less focus on the lyrical content.
Does your vision for coming up with music get affected at all by time?
Directions for songs change all the time but we have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't. Sometimes a song that didn't seem all that good becomes better over time and vice versa.
Did the record company interfere with anything on your "sound" and songs?
Well our previous company did, they constantly tried to push us in a direction that did not come natural to us and did not realise what we are actually good at. We had to force them to release our biggest hit so far, Radio 2's single of the week and Mark Lamarr's best of 2008 "Holly", which the record company saw no chance of going anywhere. After a while we realised that while being nice people, they really didn't understand what we were doing so we split up with them (which really is a bit like ending a relationship) and starting our own label, Metric Acorn. While it is a lot of work running your own label, we never looked back.
Are there any 'crazy' behind the scenes anecdotes from these sessions that you can share with us?
We almost killed and ate each other in a cannabalistic orgy when we were locked in the studio over a weekend. Then someone ordered pizza.
How would you describe the sound of your new CD to any potential new fan?
Raw, blues-based punky Rockabilly with Jazz influences. Bob Dylan meet the Clash.
Who are your influences and heroes? (music-wise)
Tom's biggest hero is Charles Mingus, which he might or might not be the reincarnation of (Tom was born on the exact day Mingus died). Captain Beefheart, who very sadly died recently, Tom Waits, Jack White, AC/DC and various others.
If there's anything you'd like to add, say, please do:
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Interview by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,