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INTERVIEW: Dean Manning

Pic by Emma Fletcher

Hi Dean, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Pretty good. As much as I love summer I am relieved it is over. It was blistering hot here.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Messy Time”?

Sure.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Messy Time is about the end of a relationship. It was the longest one both of us had had and I guess we thought it would last. We hit a bump that shook us up big time but we figured we’d work it out. We gave each other space. That space grew so wide we forgot how to get it back.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

Like most of my music videos there was a champagne idea on a beer budget but I think it came out ok. It started with a Greek artist Anastasia Carrots who drew a line portrait of me. We filmed her drawing then manipulated the footage reshooting it and messing it up.

The single comes off your new album Sunday Mountain – what’s the story behind the title?

Sunday Mountain is a fictitious place but I did go to a mountain one Sunday and had such a good time I wrote about it. It’s also combination of two words I like. Sunday, the day of rest and mountains, which put things in perspective.  Mountains have inspired so many songs – Sugar Mountain, Big Rock Candy Mountain, Kiss the Dirt (Falling down the Mountain) as has Sunday – Sunday Morning , Lazy Sunday, Sunday’s Best.

How was the recording and writing process?

The recording of Sunday Mountain was more carefree compared to previous records, probably because I didn’t set out to make an album. I’d be painting for a year and hadn’t thought about music. I visited my family in Sydney over Christmas. There’s a good size basement so I set up a few gizmos and flipped through my notebooks randomly putting down ideas without too much thought. I didn’t care if nothing came. It was just good to be playing again.  After a few weeks though things started taking shape and the record found it’s own momentum.

You brought some special guests – did you handpick them or how did they come on board?

Before Stella (Mozgawa, Warpaint) became the superstar she is, we played together in a band called Holidays On Ice with Angie Hart (Frente!). We released 3 albums. Stella’s based in L.A. these days but she happened to be visiting Sydney as well when I was there tossing round ideas so we went into Harvest Recordings together. A few days later I went back home to Athens, recorded and wrote more. I sent Justin Stanley the songs hoping he could mix them. Justin & I played in a high school band together so we go way back. By the time I got to L.A. to mix, I had a few new songs so we recorded them as well. The whole album was made in a few months with just the three of us.

What did they bring to the table?

A 10 course extravaganza with all the trimmings and the perfect wine for each course. Ok, but really, Stella comes at things like no-one I know. She’s always been like that, always surprising me in an inventive organic way. Justin is the sonic gatekeeper. Besides being a super multi instrumentalist, he pulls great sounds and puts them in the right place.

Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than working on your own?

For sure. I play in a group called Tinkerbellslutbaby. We’ve made a few records. When we’re in a room together an odd chemistry kicks in like magnets repelling and attracting. My mind and fingers go places I never knew. I love when that happens. I actually crave it. It’s tricky to recreate that feeling by yourself.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Everything is fair game. I draw on things around me. Family, friends, their stories, relationships, the good, the bad, the weird. Writing is a cathartic process for me. I’d like to think that personal experiences make for a better song than something contrived.

How do your other artistic backgrounds (painting, filmmaking) influence your music?

I go down the rabbit hole with whatever project I’m on. When I’m painting I might listen to music just for the pleasure of it but I’m not actually thinking about music, if that makes sense. So when I come round to making another album I feel fresh about it and vice-a-versa.

What role does Australia play in your music?

Australia was a big influence in my visual art, probably more so than my music. That said, when I lived in Australia I loved taking long drives. ‘Great Big Old World’ was written on a trip out to Alice Springs. These days, after a few years in Athens, Australia is still very much a part of me but in a more reflective way. Casino Town on the new record is all about Sydney. I’m not sure I could have written it living there. I needed the distance to see things.

Any plans to hit the road?

Yes, I’ve been rehearsing with a drummer and scoring the songs for cello. I’ll be playing electric guitar and vocoder. That could be the line up. An eclectic trio. We hope to be playing before the end of the year.

What is happening next in Dean Manning’s world?

Other than playing some shows and thinking about the next art series I ‘ve been restoring a 1950’s apartment. It may be a lifetime project it’s been going so s l o w l y but I don’t mind.  Today Mr. Malioras a wirey 70 something year old gentleman came with an ancient contraption and sanded the terrazzo floors. They came up a treat. It’s a dying art. People here tend to tile over the old floors. Err. Next up we’re stripping all the old wooden windows and doors. It’s a kind of meditation really.

WATCH MESSY TIME

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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