25 September 2008

The Verve's guide to Manchester

Most Stateside folks know Manchester as the dreary, grey factory town that once inspired Joy Division to cut so many dark tunes and the dismal place where Ian Curtis cut his days short. Others may associate “Madchester” with baggy pants, multi-colored pills and 24-hour debauchery, which bands like The Happy Mondays embraced wholeheartedly to escape their cobblestone confines.

Now, Simon Jones, bassist of newly-reunited The Verve and native of the greater Manchester area, has turned the Guide on to the city’s ongoing rebirth and lion-proud people; even challenging the formerly undisputed King of English cities…yes, the foggy London town. Here, let Simon lead you through his city’s rising urban hymns.

What does Manchester mean to you?

Actually, I live in Chester, which is probably the midpoint between Manchester and Liverpool. But I have lived in Manchester and it’s not far away from me, so I do go watch bands when they’re in town. It’s a great city for music; it’s got a great history with the New Order and Joy Division days, and Stone Roses—a city full of people who are very passionate about music.

What’s your favorite Manchester venue?

Well, I’m going to be biased here, because I played with a live band at the Opera House in Manchester with Gorillaz and it’s really quite amazing. It’s not a regular venue—it’s an old, beautiful opera house; kind of a Victorian sort of theater. It’s a great place, but not somewhere that bands are playing all the time. The Manchester Music Festival happens every year and they put a selection of bands at the Opera House. That’s how the Gorillaz thing came about.

Are there any venues for up-and-coming bands?

For small bands, there’s the Night & Day CafĂ©. I wouldn’t call it a dive, but it’s a small bar where they book bands and there’s always great things going on. I’ve seen lots of bands there when they’re just starting out. It’s a great little venue.

We all know about the “Madchester” scene. How has the city’s vibe evolved since that infamous era?

Since the early days of “Madchester,” a lot of money has been pumped into Manchester. I think it started with the Commonwealth Games. It’s undergoing a major regeneration. It’s a beautiful-looking city now, almost unrecognizable to what it was 10 years ago. Parts of Manchester that were shitholes before are really beautiful places now. You walk around now and there are these big posh department stores. Really, it’s a great city. It’s very cosmopolitan. There’s everything that you’d expect from a big city…you know, it’s the second city to London.

Oh yeah?

I think that for a northern town, Manchester has such great things going on. I lived in London for 10 years and London is London, but to be honest, it’s great to be back up north where I’m from. I feel like it’s been redone in the years that I was away. To finally be given the funding to regenerate is an amazing thing for the city and gives the people a lot of pride. The people of Manchester are proud of their city, and they’re going to think they’re number one. And I don’t think that’s a bad mentality to have.

What would be the one thing that gives Manchester a “one-up” over London?

The people! That’s the biggest rival, the people in the north are outgoing… they’re the greatest people in the world as far as I’m concerned. They’ve got such a great sense of humor. Sometimes, when you’ve got hard lives—because people of Manchester still have hard lives—you still have lots of great outlooks on life.

I lived in London for 10 years and I didn’t know my neighbors. Up north, you know everyone who lives on your street. It’s a much friendlier place to be, really. I think London’s quite cold, anonymous, and straightforward. There’s a much freer, easy-going vibe in Manchester. It’s all about the people.

Source: Filter-Mag.com