Manraze’s Simon Laffy Interview: Covering Hendrix And Speed Recording

By: Rob Cavuoto

Like a mixture of dangerous chemicals, equal parts guitarist extraordinaire (Phil Collen – Def Leppard), rudeboy rock drummer (Paul Cook – Sex Pistols), and the righteous rhythms of a badass bass player (Simon Laffy – Girl), all together you have one hell of an explosive combination. Add to this concoction the experience of selling 75 million records and the attitude that comes from being at the top of your game and you’ve got Manraze. The band’s long awaited and highly anticipated sophomore album, titled punkfunkrootsrock, will be unleashed upon the masses on August 2nd.

I had the chance to sit down with all three members of Manraze for an exclusive interview series. The first is with Simon Laffy, where we discuss the modern day challenges of writing punkfunkrootsrock and some of the highlights of being in the band.

Manraze

Phil, Simon and Paul of Manraze

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Rob Cavuoto: I had the chance to speak with Phil, who told me about how you shared musical ideas for Manraze songs via cell phone, texting and email. Can you tell us about this unique and challenging approach?

Simon Laffy: Phil and I have been collaborating like this since the inception of Manraze, back in 2004. First off, we did a writing session together in London to formulate the sound. When Phil returned to California (where he lives), we’d then fire ideas back and forward across the web. He’d write something, send it to me and go to bed. I’d wake up, work on it, send it back to him and then sleep myself. It was a bit like musical tennis!

More recently, we’ve been playing ideas to each other using FaceTime or sending ideas straight from our phones to each other.

Rob: When and how did all those bits and pieces come together as songs and get recorded?

Simon Laffy: We tend to come up with fairly strong ideas to start with, like a chorus or theme for a lyric or a killer lick. Then we interact to bring the idea into more of a whole. Finally, all three of us complete the arrangements in the studio or at rehearsals.

Rob: How long did it take you record?

Simon Laffy: Super quick. We did 12 songs recorded in 11 days. We decided which songs we wanted to record before going into the studio because time was so short. The criteria was simply to record those which most accurately fitted the ethos and energy of the band.

Rob: How did it come about to cover Hendrix’s song “Fire”?

Simon Laffy: Among other things, we have always tried to emulate classic rock three-pieces from history (those which we most admire), namely the Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Police and Nirvana. We’ve been playing “Fire” live since our first gig at in 2005, and it’s a live favorite.

Rob: Any personal favorite tracks on the new CD?

Manraze

Manraze

Simon Laffy: ”Edge of the World,” “I C U in Everything,” and “Over My Dead Body” are three of my favorites.

Rob: What is the secret to writing a Manraze song?

Simon Laffy: Something musically exciting or compelling that we all like.

Rob: Where do you get your inspiration from when writing songs?

Simon Laffy: From all over: life, love, movies, books, music, history, current events.

Rob: With so many different musical styles by each of the member, how did you make all the songs blend to sound and feel like one cohesive unit?

Simon Laffy: It seems to happen naturally, since it’s us playing. Each song sounds like Phil singing or playing guitar, Paul drumming, and me playing bass.

Rob: How does this CD differ from your 1st album, Surreal?

Simon Laffy: I think it has pushed the boundaries further; it’s heavier, or more edgy, yet gentler and more subtle. I also think we have settled into our sound more. It all came about very naturally during the recording process.

Rob: What has the highlight been for you in launching Manraze?

Simon Laffy: I really enjoyed the Download Festival in summer 2009 and touring with Alice Cooper at the end of that year. I’m also really looking forward to our first US show at the Roxy in LA on 31st July.

Rob: How do you measure success in this environment?

Simon Laffy: I think it’s a success to do something you really love. It’s also a success to win the approval of your fans and your peers.

Rob: What are the bands touring plans for the US?

Simon Laffy: We hope to perform more dates in the US later this year and tour next year.

Rob: If you could choose any band or artist to go on tour with who would it be?

Simon Laffy: Foo Fighters, Green Day, Linkin Park, as they are some of my favorite bands!

Rob: Was there any apprehension of putting a group with Phil knowing that Def Leppard was his main focus and always looms in the background?

Simon Laffy: None. It’s a pleasure to work with Paul and Phil, regardless of other commitments that we all have.

Rob: What does the future hold for the band?

Simon Laffy: More gigs, hopefully – in the US, UK, Japan & Europe. Remixes of tracks from this album. Then album three!

Rob: Tell be a little about your relationship with Phil and how the band came together?

Simon Laffy: Phil and I became friends back in 1979 and have always remained so. We have a mutual respect and admiration for each other. It was Phil’s idea to start something outside of Def Leppard when he’d heard what I was doing back in 2003 and 2004 and liked it. He always wanted to get Cookie on drums, and luckily he agreed!

Rob: You and Phil have known each other for 30 years. What’s the one thing you knows about him that most people don’t?

Simon Laffy: The thing I respect about Phil the most is that he has complete humility about all of his immense success – he remains the same sweet guy that I met all those years ago.
Rob: What are the chances of a Girl Reunion with Phil Lewis?

Simon Laffy: Who knows? [Laughs]

One Comment

  1. DefDazz (6 years ago)

    This interview has been promoted on the Def Leppard Tour History website at http://www.deflepparduk.com/2011newsjul40.html

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