‘Oh Manchester, so much to answer for …’ Without doubt, the city in the North of England is one of the most important ones of the past fifty years when it comes to independent music. The sheer amount of legends who started their career in this place never fails to amaze when you take a closer look at the list – The Smiths, Oasis, New Order, Elbow, Buzzcocks, Doves, Happy Mondays etc. Manchester’s pop musical history is a rich one and I personally can always recommend a trip to the city, just the way Elbow showed us around a while ago.
But there’s way more to discover beyond the obvious picks and countless Morrissey tribute bands. Dom Thomas might know more about that than many other people in town. The passionate DJ, ‘Finders Keepers’ co-founder and head of psychedelic pop project Whyte Horses has been active in the cultural field of his city for decades now and knows a lot about the hidden musical treasures of this place. So, that’s why NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION considered him to be the most pefect curator for quite a special Mancunian mixtape in the form of a selection filled with quite unusual suspects. And yes, that also includes the Bee Gees and Joy Division‘s first incarnation Warsaw. It’s a joyful and educational experience, to say the least.
And speaking of ‘experience’: I’d like to recommend you the recently released new Whyte Horses album Empty Words once again as it’s a wild and yet catchy pop ride, including Thomas and befriended collaborators like Elly Jackson aka La Roux. Learn more about Thomas’ relationship with the Mancunian music scene and his thoughts in the form of a little Q&A below before getting sucked into his tremendous tape.
Manchester is generally considered to be one of pop’s most iconic music cities. How is your impression of it? How can one imagine life as an artist in Manchester these days?
Very different to how it was in the heyday of the 90s. In the Madchester days bands coming out of the city had some kind of thread or camaraderie. It was a unique point in time, probably never to be repeated there were so many good bands with proper ideas and talent. There’s no scene in Manchester whatsoever now as far as I can see. The problem is that there’s just a load of bars everywhere whereas it used to be the Hacienda or a couple of other places and things that fed off the main institutions making a more concentrated scene. The bands may have had their feet in the sixties and house music but they were original and weren’t just treading a line. You had people like Tony Wilson and Factory just before that taking an intellectual thought out approach to every detail of what music could be.
You can’t compare that time to where we are now musically. I think that hangs around peoples necks like a noose, you get people raving about bands like Elbow and that kind of thing but its incomparable.
The lack of new bands making music I wanted to hear was my main inspiration in starting Whyte Horses. I’m proud of the heritage of the city and I want to make Manchester music great again, if no-one else is gong to do it then we’ll have a go. At least the competition is poor so we’ve got a better chance of doing well.
There are the obvious Mancunian legends everybody knows about but what are some of the city’s most underrated artists in your opinion and why?
Thats a really tough one, probably us! Seriously I’d be lying if I was to say there was any other music or artists coming along that didn’t pale in comparison to whats gone before, I really wish there was so I could get excited about something. The last great songwriter from Manchester was Badly Drawn Boy, I’m not joking since that there’s been nothing. I know a lot of other people probably feel the same as me, it’s not the done thing these days to say how you feel in the music game for fear of pissing off someone who might give you another rung on the ladder but thats the stark reality.
What’s the song in your mixtape people should take a closer look at?
I think the Durutti Column song is a perfect representation of someone trying to make beauty out of the grimness of the town. Vinnie Riley has hit the nail on the head for me with Sketch For A Summer. I often think that we are always looking for a bit of sunshine or a chink in the sky where a tiny bit of blue comes through. Thats probably why some of the best Manchester bands are drawn to those jangly guitars its synonymous with sunshine, the West Coast.
In a previous interview you said that there hasn’t been a good new band coming from the city in 10 years. Did that change in the meantime and if not – do you maybe have an explanation?
I meant 15 to be honest… I’m probably going to sound like a broken record here, but its just a lot of people not focusing on melodies in my opinion. The Stone Roses melodies were incredible, they were our Beatles. The hours of pain needed to write those kind of classic songs seems to have gone. It seems like lots of bands are jamming stuff out or writing to riffs or starting in the computer. You could say the same about design or any other creative industry, maybe its down to anyone and everyone being able to have a go at doing it. The noise is drowning out the talent, at least in the pre-internet era you had to be somebody to be somebody, or have a bit of talent or be an incredible blagger to get to the top of the tree. I really wanted to try and describe this sort of thing in the new album, making social commentaries and putting them to decent music.
The second Whyte Horses album Empty Words is out now on all digital platforms and will arrive in physical form on April 20 via CRC.
01. The Stone Roses – Pearl Bastard
02. Badly Drawn Boy – Cause a Rockslide
03. 48 Chairs – Snap it Around
04. The Hollies – He Ain’t Heavy
05. Justin Velor – Oscillations
06. The Durutti Column – Sketch For A Summer
07. Georgie Fame – Peaceful
08. Bee Gees – Massachusetts
09. Northside – Rising Star
10. Together – Hardcore Uproar
11. Warsaw – Shadowplay