SEAN McCANN (Ian Brown's ex-bass player / Audioweb / Badly Drawn Boy) speaks to This Is The Daybreak about his career to date, and his current musical project, The Story of Swan. Thanks to Sean for taking the time to answer these questions.
Martin Merchant (lead singer, and, I do believe, the voice of Rastamouse !) was an old friend of Ian's back from their mod days I think - and I met Martin at the legendary Dry Bar sometime in 1991. We got chatting, and he told me he had a band and needed a bass player, and I was in. We were originally called The Sugar Merchants (Sugar is Martin's nickname), but eventually after a few years became Audioweb - with Robin File on guitar and Maxi drumming. We released our debut album in 1996. Ian Brown, when he was asked what he was going to do after the Roses split, said "I'm going to listen to Audioweb's new album..", or words to that effect, which was a big deal for us. Ian was always very supportive of us, and came to see our live shows fairly often. Anyway, we had another album out in '98, did a tour with U2 (played Wembley stadium twice) and were due to tour with Ian when he got sent down to jail. Not doing that tour and getting dropped by our label - Mother records - who got swallowed up by universal music, led to us splitting up. We felt at the time that we were just banging our heads against the wall as Britpop was big - we didn't really fit into that scene, and it was hard getting anywhere.
Robin and myself got a gig working with Badly Drawn Boy just after he won the Mercury prize in 2000. Damon (Badly Drawn Boy) had a few temporary bands, including Doves at one time, but wanted to form a permanent unit for his upcoming tours. So I did that for a while, and then I get a call in late 2001 from Ian's manager at the time, asking if I could play bass for some upcoming shows. Also he needed a drummer and got Maxi in too - which was even better. We did UK, Europe & Japan tours for 'Music of the Spheres' and the festivals all through 2002, and some early demo recordings for Solarized too, which ended up being used in the final mixes. Then I started working with Badly Drawn Boy on his recording sessions for new material back in Manchester, and Ian went on to change the band line-up (to accommodate the Roses songs that he was introducing into the shows I think) so I stopped working with him. It was genuinely a happy time and an honour playing with the great man, and I still have to pinch myself now to think I was up there on stage with him. Glad Maxi is still representing the Audioweb massive up there too. I did a couple more tours and albums with Damon, and have now moved to New York City, where I'm writing this musical/opera extravaganza !
Which bass players in particular have influenced you in your career ?
Growing up, it was actually John Taylor of Duran Duran. Although I think he was actually the first guy that I realised played a bass guitar (and all the girls fancied him). But really I'd always liked the sound of the bass and as I grew up in a house with older sisters in the seventies it was things like Motown (James Jameson mainly), Stevie Wonder (Although he actually played synth bass.. but man, the funk!) and of course Paul McCartney. Later, I got into reggae - guys like Robbie Shakespeare and I always had a soft spot for Jah Wobble.
Ian Brown was always very praising of Audioweb in the mid '90s. Did you first meet Ian while he was in the Roses, or later ?
I met Ian for the first time while he was still in the Roses.. '95 I think. I think Martin (Audioweb's singer) introduced me to him in his car on Deansgate from what I remember... Ian was always really supportive of Audioweb.
What were your first and last gigs with Ian Brown ?
My first was De Montfort University, Leicester (November 2001) and my last gig was Cardiff Arena (December 2002). Just looking at the gigography on your site...I didn't realise I'd done so many !
Which gig(s) with Ian did you enjoy most, and why ?
The shows in Japan were great fun.. So exciting and different, and the Japanese love Ian ! Fuji Rock Festival was a fantastic experience...And it was there I met the legendary Mr. Toast (an inside band joke I'm afraid).
I was at the 2002 Witnness Festival (now called Oxegen). Ian always gets a great reception at this festival - what are your memories of that appearance ?
My main memory was of it being very wet..pretty muddy I think by the time we got there.. it was a struggle getting to the stage. But I also remember it being such a great show too.. as always in Ireland. I know that our dressing room was next to the Chemical Brothers who I used to hang out with when they were starting off in Manchester, so that was cool to catch up too... oh and lots of booze.
What demos did you work on for Ian's Solarized LP ?
Home Is Where The Heart Is & Solarized.
On the tour that followed your departure from Ian Brown's live band, he started to perform Stone Roses songs. Which Stone Roses songs would you have been particularly keen to perform live ?
Any of them !.. It would have been cool to play I Am The Resurrection.. bass lines don't come much more recognisable than that (or I Wanna Be Adored for the same reasons).
Can you tell us about the background of your current project, The Story of Swan ?
I was in LA, where I'd moved to from Manchester, and started writing some tunes with the thought of putting an album out. I was one of the writers in Audioweb and hadn't released any of my own stuff since then. The songs slowly came together and I noticed they were starting to have the same theme about Hollywood and the people who go there. So I thought I'd make it a story based concept album about fame and the perils of celebrity. From there it just evolved into a basis for a musical - but not a Broadway 'Annie' kind of thing, more of a performed live show that had a narrative to it. I moved to New York about 2 years ago, and finished the thing off. It took a while ! I recorded it in a few different studios here and in the UK, and got some friends to play on it. Alex Thomas, who currently drums with Air, and there's a girl from NYC called Melati Malay who sings three of the tracks on the album.
Your current direction marks a shift from previous music projects. What influences are there on this project ?
I was just trying to write songs that I could fit a good narrative on, so I wasn't looking for any styles really. The whole piece is (hopefully) going to be performed as a musical/opera (I haven't worked out quite what it is yet !). I suppose I just wanted to write good catchy tunes that had a bit of an edge to them. I was pretty restricted by the recording conditions too - most of the songs were played on entirely by myself with just a computer.
When can we expect to see this work performed live ?
I'm hoping to get it up and running in early 2012. It seems a long way off, but I'm planning to release 2 more albums, and perform the whole thing in one piece. Prior to that, I'm hoping to do one-off smaller performances. For example, I have a good friend, Marie Dalziel, who is choreographing a dance project for some of the songs at Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts in the next few months.. I'll let you know !
Where do you hope to tour the project ?
I'm going to start with a residency here in New York for a month to sort production out, and then take it from there. Ideally, I'd like to take it everywhere.. especially Manchester.
Where can your current work be purchased ?
I think the main download stores are all covered.. the details are all on the website: http://www.thestoryofswan.info - but if you're just wondering what it sounds like (or are skint) then drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) and you can have it ! It's main purpose is just to get the ball rolling for the performance which is scheduled for early next year. I know there are still free downloads available on bandcamp too: http://www.seandmccann.bandcamp.com
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