After a year which saw him play a run of sold-out solo dates and return to the charts with his first album in over a decade, former frontman of chart toppers Mansun, Paul Draper is gearing up for a busy 2018.
First up for Paul, who grew up in Connah’s Quay and attended St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School in Flint, is a UK tour which will see him play two sets.
First he will play tracks from his acclaimed recent solo debut Spooky Action and the two EPs that preceded it then after a short break he will play Mansun’s classic debut Attack of the Grey Lantern in its entirety to celebrate the 21st anniversary of its release.
“I never thought what we did with the solo album would become as successful as it did,” says Paul.
“I thought it would just be one of many projects I did, but then it went into the top 20 and it was number three in the vinyl charts.
“The first tour sold out and now they’ve booked me on this huge tour so it’s a whole new ball game and I’m just being swept away with it.”
After a long gap away from the music scene, during which he has continued to write and produce other artists, the popularity of Paul’s return was exemplified by a signing session he carried out at Mold’s Vod Records which saw his fans queue all day to meet their hero.
“Vod was brilliant,” he laughs. “I used to chat with Colin Barber, Vod’s owner, on Twitter and I always said I’d do a signing there and it came true.
“There were people from everywhere where I’d grown up and I was there for hours singing. It was just brilliant and according to Colin I was their number one selling artist in the shop last year – North Wales is the only place where I can beat Ed Sheeran!”
Originally released in February 1997, Attack of the Grey Lantern reached No 1 in the UK album charts, propelled by a run of huge singles, including Wide Open Space, Stripper Vicar and Taxloss, and a fervent live following.
It was with that following in mind Paul set up an online poll to see whether people would be interested in hearing the Mansun back catalogue performed live by Paul and his current band.
After an overwhelming response that produced support in roughly equal measure for AOTGL and its follow up Six, Paul decided that he would visit the records sequentially, promising dates performing Six later in 2018.
“To be honest I was glad AOTGL came first,” he laughs. “It’s a bit more commercial and has a wider appeal and is also probably a bit easier to play!
“The Manchester Ritz which is the nearest show we’re doing to North Wales holds about 1,500 and as a solo act I’d never believe I could play somewhere like that because effectively I’m doing shows that are as big as the Mansun shows again.
“We’ve put in a lot of work into making the live show sound like the album so hopefully people will really enjoy watching it.
“It was so long ago I’m quite emotionally removed from it now because I’m so involved in my solo material, but it’s stood the test of time when a lot of records from that time have fallen away.
“In the new streaming world Mansun are getting millions of plays and I think I can stand up and play that album to people knowing it doesn’t sound dated.
“For some, especially those who were a teenager at the time, its a special album and seeing it live will be a great experience for them.”
Once the tour finishes they’ll be no let up for Paul, 47, with the news Mansun’s entire back catalogue is currently being completely overhauled for a series of super deluxe reissues over the next few years, which will include the story of how, in the frontman’s words, Mansun “started out as unknown underdogs from Connah’s Quay to outselling the Spice Girls”.
“We were a Britpop version of the Sex Pistols,” says Paul, remembering the band he formed with bassist ‘Stove’ King, lead guitarist/backing vocalist Dominic Chad, and drummer Andie Rathbone.
“Great while it lasted, but then imploded magnificently. Someone recently told me ‘I really loved Mansun because you were like a prog-musical version of The League Of Gentlemen’.
“Make of that what you will. I was just a working class product of the art school system from a small Welsh town. People just think we had good songs.
“We did so many EPs, played 200 gigs a year, we shook every hand. We never took any fan for granted. Those fans never went away.”
It’s those fans who have stuck by him who are now reaping the benefit, with Paul keen to pay back their 20 years of support.
“It’s a whole new musical universe these days,” he says.
“I’m not a pop star in the pop charts any more. I’m an independent artist and it’s amazing how much that level of success can shift when you have an established fanbase.”
But what about those Mansun fans from Chester and Deeside? Will they finally get a hometown gig where they can welcome back their returning hero?
“That is definitely going to happen,” he insists.
“I want to play Wrexham and Chester and one day I want to come back to Connah’s Quay and play the Civic Hall or hire a big tent and play Wepre Park. That’s the dream.
“I can’t say anything yet but I’ll definitely be in North Wales in the not too distant future and it will be spectacular.”
l Paul Draper plays Manchester Ritz O2 on Thursday March 1. Tickets available from www.pauldraperofficial.com