Having found that his phone didn’t record his interview with CLINT MANSELL, guitarist from legendary greebo band POP WILL EAT ITSELF and now hollywood composer, scoring such films as REQUIM FOR A DREAM, MOON, and BLACK SWAN, our man DANNY SMITH tries really to remember what was said.

Clint Mansell is not my older brother. That’s not unusual, lots of people aren’t my brother; Rasputin The Mad Monk, snooker champion and DJ Steve Davis, and Dawn French to name but a few. Out of all of the people that don’t have an elder fraternal connection, Clint Mansell is the most big brothery of them all though. In so far he occupies that space in my head. I’m the oldest of three and I know as an elder brother it’s your job to shape the taste of your siblings, share with them the cultural booty you bring back from the far oceans of adolescence and provide a treasure map for the next phase of their lives. I know how important this is because I utterly failed at that, and as a result, my brothers favourite albums are the Grease Soundtrack and Robson & Jerome’s eponymous first album.

I had to make do too, most of what I found was from my dad’s old record collection and things from jumble sales with cool enough covers to pique my interest. One of these such things was a compilation tape from the ‘94 Phoenix festival. I loved every song on it and played it over and over. The album had fifteen or so songs on it. But each song was a new band to discover opening a whole new world of scruffy guitar based music. The wedding Present, Billy Bragg, and best of all Pop Will Eat Itself.

I was too young to know anything of these bands, while they were big in their own time. They had slightly passed me by. I knew of “indie” music but up until then hadn’t got a way in. Culturally that album WAS my big brother turning me onto stuff I had no access too. But that went doubly for Pop Will Eat Itself. Not only were they the stand out song from that very important album, but also the PWEI song on that album is Can You Dig It? And if you’ve never heard it, stop reading and go do so at once – it’s the future you can probably stream directly to your taste buds by whispering to Siri.

Good isn’t it? And as you may have tasted, all the lyrics are a list of cultural items the band like. For the big brother deprived this is a jackpot. Comics, films, songs, a shopping list of influences and pop culture cream. A lot of which I still love.

I mention all this because it would explain why I was so nervous interviewing a member of the biggest brother* band from the whole greebo plateau that was forever above me. Not only that as my tastes matured Clint mansells career shifted. Now working with some of the most interesting filmmakers to come out of Hollywood of the last 20 years and scoring some of the most iconic scenes in recent cinema history.

My stomach was churning as the first couple of calls didn’t get answered. So after some texts too Press agents and whatnot I get through. Clints voice is deep and still carries a comforting non specific midlands accent. I remember asking for “Mr Mansell” waiting for him to tell me to call him Clint – he did not.

Maybe it was because I was nervous, or maybe it was just a special prank by gods I hadn’t talked to in a while, but Clint Mansell’s half of the call didn’t record on my app. That means you don’t just have to rely on my telling to find out what he says, but also my memory. ***

I tell him before I ask about his work as a film composer I’m going to start with a couple of questions about “Poppies” hoping that using the insider fans vernacular will be some sort of shibboleth to let him know how big a fan I was. He didn’t sound happy and dismissed PWEI as something he enjoyed at the time but “didn’t really think about it anymore”.

Not to be daunted, and because I stupidly had at least four or five other questions prepared, I tried again to draw him into talking about PWEI. I asked how he thought they influenced the musician after them. This isn’t a light question. PWEI were way ahead of their time. Quite early on they abandoned live drums for a drum machine and ignored the standard grammar of other indie bands. With chanting singalong lyrics from the Beastie Boys and samples from radio TV and movies mixed with basslines more reminiscent of later Prodigy and Big Beat. PWEI were the vanguard of the whole section of the late nineties, when the rock metal and indie scene started bleeding into every genre. They’re were that important.

Mr Mansell said he didn’t really think about it.

I move onto something else. On Mr Mansell’s website it mentions on a timeline both seeing David Bowie on Top of The Pops and buying Ziggy Stardust, So I ask how it was working with Duncan Jones (Bowies son) for the film Moon. Apparently Duncan Jones is “the nicest person in the world” but it was weird to work with someone whose picture (I’m presuming in a buggy being pushed by Bowie) you used have on your wall. “Tell me about it” is what I don’t say, but want to so badly.

As we were on the topic of working with people you admire I asked how he got to work with Charlie Brooker on Black Mirror. Apparently PWEI was Charlie’s second ever gig so he sought him out. My second ever gig was Megadeath, I definitely won’t be seeking Dave Mustaine out. Mr Mansell said of the emmy that episode won and awards in general that it was nice to be recognised but he never chased them, he hadn’t really won any awards anyway. As he said this I was staring at his own website under the “ACCOLADES” section where it says he won the Online Film Critics Society Awards Best Original Score, the DVDX Awards-Best Original Score, the Chicago Film Critics Award Best Original Score, the World Soundtrack Awards Best Original Score, the World Soundtrack Awards Public Choice Award, and the Online Film Critics Society Awards Best Original Score along with a sizable amount of nominations including the Golden Globe.

Mr Mansells movie work started with his partnership with Darren Aronofsky, starting with the tense and oppressive sci-fi examination of time travel, Pi, and would develop into such masterworks as Requiem For A Dream, The Fountain, The wrestler, and my favourite Black Swan. I remember him telling me how they met, a girlfriend introduced them.

The whole interview was happening because HE was promoting Loving Vincent, the first film where each frame has been painted with oils, the first film of its kind. It took nine years to make, which gave Mr Mansell plenty of time because they had to lock the edit quite early. I ask about his process. I remember He tells me every project is different he gets up early and works for a couple of hours before nine. “Before dumb journalists ring you up and start asking annoying questions?” i quip, noting the time it would be in LA. Ive listened to the recording of the conversation a few times, willing there to be anything but silence on the other end of the conversation. I swear when I listen back after that question the quality of silence is different. Reflecting the dense and awkward silence that actually followed.

It was when he was talking about his process I get the impression that as well as taking what he does seriously and as his art, Mr Mansell also has a workmanlike aspect to his practice. A person who has come to terms with his incredible skill in what he does but never forgets how lucky he is to gets to do it.

To wrap up I chance my arm and ask if he ever misses performing with PWEI. he tells me he still performs with people which is like perform with a band, but he’s relieved he doesn’t “ have to wear the leather trousers and shake my dreadlocks about”.

As I finish I tell him that I am a fan of PWEI and thank him them introducing me to my favourite film The Warriors, in those we dork out at the film, how the soundtrack is a massive part of the film and how timeless but dated it is. It occurs to me afterward that if they ever remade it, he should do the score. And as the only record I have of this conversation is broken. I definitely did that.

Pop Will Eat Itself is gone, and through hard work, skill, and some luck Clint Mansell has become one of the go-to auteur composers of his generation. He deserves better than this nagging questions from a fan with faulty equipment. But that’s the thing about big brothers, They don’t have to pretend to like you while they put up with your annoying questions. But their achievements force you to be better. Their example sets a roadmap. By the time you catch up with them they’ve evolved into something different. Never meet your heroes, but if you do get a chance to phone your big brother, take it.

*One interview recounts the story that Ned’s Atomic Dustbin needed an amp at the last minute for their first gig, PWEI obliged and stuck around for the gig. Later their championing of Ned’s got them signed.

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