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On paper, a band containing one part Def Leppard and one part Sex Pistols would seem incongruous. But as it turns out, it's exactly the mixture of elements that works for the electric trio known as Manraze. Formed in 2004 by Def Leppard guitarist/songwriter Phil Collen, Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook and bassist Simon Laffy, Manraze have emerged as a full-blown musical entity with a potent sound mixing elements of punk, pop, rock, and reggae. In an exclusive interview with GRAMMY.com, Manraze discussed their formation, playing as a trio, their recording philosophy, and their latest album, Punkfunkrootsrock, among other topics.
Collen and Laffy are past musical acquaintances, having both been members of the '70s UK glam-rock band Girl. In establishing Manraze, they set their sights on only one drummer candidate. "We wanted Paul to be the drummer," says Collen. "I knew Paul … because we're all from London … and [Simon and I] said it would be great if Paul was the drummer. I literally saw him on the street two days later. ... And here we are."
Following the release of an EP, Skin Crawl, in 2005, the band issued their debut album, Surreal, in 2008. The album showcased the trio's diverse palette, from the driving punk aggression of "Turn It Up" to the power pop-inflected "Halo" and reggae-inspired "Runnin' Me Up." The band subsequently toured briefly in the UK, playing smaller venues compared to Def Leppard and the Sex Pistols.
"Phil and myself, we're used to our other bands playing in bigger arenas," says Cook. "When you do a small gig, you have to come up with the goods really, because everyone's right there looking at you."
As a three-piece, Manraze echo the makeup of classic bands such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Nirvana and the Police. The format provides an exciting contrast for Collen, who celebrated his 30th anniversary in 2012 as the guitarist in the five-piece Def Leppard.
"It's very different," says Collen. "The three-piece thing is pretty amazing. The fact that there's an amazing dynamic and we ebb and flow like it's a single moving entity. That's something I've never experienced before."
The band convened in 2011 to release their sophomore album, Punkfunkrootsrock. True to its name, the album is a mish-mash of styles with standout cuts such as "Over My Dead Body," "Lies, Lies, All Lies," "Closer To Me," and an electrifying cover of Hendrix's "Fire." Manraze followed the album's release with their first official concert in the United States on Oct. 2, 2011, at the Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood, Calif.
While Manraze take advantage of the convenience afforded by technology, they subscribe to a more organic recording philosophy. Punkfunkrootsrock was recorded over a period of 11 days, according to Collen.
"We exchanged music ideas using the Internet largely because we'd all be in different continents quite often," says Laffy. "Eventually, we all found our way to London and recorded [the album] extremely quickly."
"Everything went down [in] one or two takes," adds Collen. "I think it was better for it. I think you can labor it. If you go over too many takes, it stops being a performance and stops being an inspiration and it becomes a chore. … This particular album, it was choreless."
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