by Herb Wright
TransAction London Correspondent

Not many people have come back from the dead since Jesus, but Ian Brown's one of them. When the Stone Roses disintegrated, guitar genius/writer John Squire having quit and Brown fronting a final disastrous headliner at the 96 Reading Festival, the British press crucified him. Okay okay maybe one can take this analogy too far- but one thing's for sure. The resurrected Ian Brown is going to stay around a lot longer than Jesus. There's Unfinished Monkey Business, see, just like he's titled his debut solo album out on Mercury in the US this October.

Here's a fast-forward of Brown's story to get you up to speed. As the 80s drew to a close, a jangly Manchester band called the Stone Roses had taken on a quasi-religious status with Britain's youth. Four arrogant, spotty lads- Reni on bass and Mani on drums as well as Squire and Brown- with a stoned look and an affrontery to make a song called
I Am The Ressurection an 8-minute blissful generation anthem. They inherited the disarming honesty of fellow Mancunians the Smiths but drew on the sorted dance sensibilities of the Baggy Scene centred on the infamous E's-and-gangsters Hacienda Club. A megagig at Spike Island directly inspired the likes of Oasis and many other Britpopers to shape the 90s.

Then an endless legal struggle with their record label, big Geffen dollars arriving on the scene, and a mysterious dissapearance of the band for 2, 3, 4...five years! A 2nd album in 94 called The Second Coming- a rockier sound, yes a classic but slightly only slightly less than the debut epynonimousStone Roses. They toured again- sometimes brilliant, sometimes rubbish. Then Squire quit, but that was not that. Then Reni quit. The last gig at Reading saw a band stuffed with sessionmen, notably guitarist Aziz Ibrahim. It was the end.

Brown sounded bitter about Squire and his ego and his coke. When Squire returned in the Seahorses with his own line-up of unknowns and a load more guitar tunes, it was strangely unexciting. Still, at least he was trying- what about Brown, the man who many felt tried to fool us with a Roses line-up of stooges and fell on his face? He was never an instrumentalist, now he couldn't even sing. History, a dead man.

Then early this year a fresh, exciting sound started flowing out of British radios. NASA voices leading into a confident, high-octane pop masterpiece called My Star- it's Ian Brown, singing giddy nonsense about military missions to Mars, yes really! This previewed an album that may just be the best UK album of 98. It's mellow, groovy, dancey, it's about a vibe rather than tunes. And what a vibe- Can't See Me may be the slinkiest club pop since the Happy Mondays (it's got Mani and Reni on it). Noel Gallagher's buried somewhere on a few tracks.

Ice Cold Cube was the last (post-Squire) Roses song, it's here, it doesn't sound like the Roses at all. There's an easy sinisterness permeating it and much else, especially in Aziz's guitar, even though it's not a guitar album. Most sinister isWhat Happened To Ya which has the post-Squire Roses line-ups from Reading, and the attack is as direct as Lennon's How Do You Sleep- the target being Squire's ego instead of McCartney's. I asked Brown to confirm this.

IB: The actual words were written by our keyboard player (Nigel Ippinson). It was just a couple of days after Squire had left the group. No coincidence. It was the way he left the group
HW: How do you feel about Squire anyway and what do you reckon to his new band the Seahorses?

IB: They're flat

HW: Was Oasis the real inheritor of the Stone Roses as the best, and are the Verve or Embrace now in that position?

IB: No disrespect to any of those bands, they're all great bands. But the difference is we had a great beat. Reni and Mani, they're the best rhythm section in the world. The best.

HW: Is there something special about Manchester that it's dominated UK music so long?

IB: It's the fact that it's not London.... there's not that pressure. If you play your 3rd or 4th gig in London, after you've got a buzz going, (and it's not right) that's it. You can grow in Manchester, away from all that music business. There's only 3 or 4 places to rehearse. (But) there is a Manchester mafia and you do need to deal with them.

HW: Like Tony Wilson (legendary Factory Records head and Manchester's music guru)?

IB: I've got no problem with Tony!

HW: How much money would need to be put on the table for you to consider a Stone Roses reunion if Squire, Reni and Mani could be up for it?

IB: Nothing.

HW: So it's just down to Squire.

IB: Yeah.

HW: You seem happy to have left the indie-guitar vibe behind- how would you catagorise
Unfinished Monkey Business

IB: You can't catagorise it. It's just music that makes you feel good.

HW: My Star was out-and-out commercial brilliant pop- any more songs like that?

IB: I've got about 5 or 6 tunes I'm working on at the moment... I'm just about to record with DJ Shadow, I'm doing the vocals on something called Be There. It should be out before Xmas. Then maybe a party LP without the drugs.

HB: And what's your position on drugs?

IB: Squire is a cokehead, Oasis are cokeheads, they say it. Not me. All I have to say about coke is it's a joker.

HW: Aziz Ibrahim was dismissed by many as just a session man, but his contribution here is big. How would you describe his role in your music?

IB: He co-wrote 3 of the tracks (a further 2 are joint efforts by that last Roses line up including Ibrahim- HW). He's one of the great guitarists. I was learning as I went along, learning lots of different instruments... Aziz translated a lot of what I was writing in my head into music.

HW: How do you feel about gays?

IB: I don't have any problem- what some people have said, that's bullshit. All I said was that the Roman and Greek civilisations were run by gay men. I've had scholars confirm this. I've got absolutely nothing against gays. But dead white male civilisations.... It's been blown up beyond all reason...

HW: How do you feel about America?

IB: I love it. The Roses played dates here. I'm seperated from me kids, I've got a girl(friend) in New York, so I spend a lot of time here. There's a lot more energy in New York than in England.

HW: If you could share a smoke in a remote hut on a tropical island with anyone- not your girlfriend- who would it be?

IB: Her sister!

It seemed a suitable note to leave Brown, relaxed, confident, cool. Assurance has replaced arrogance. Brown's a man who paid his dues when what the world was waiting for was more Stone Rose, and he's moved on and found his own star. There's10 shows in the key US cities, including the CMG in New York November 6th. No support band- it's not surprising he's got DJs instead, and he's dead proud about DJ Spooky playing. So, go check out the Monkey Man- he's no joker.

Back to Sept/Oct Issue

Back toIndex Page