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Q&A: Badly Drawn Boy interview

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The Scene caught up with Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy, to talk Manchester music, football and copping off...

The Scene: What makes Manchester so special?

Damon Gough: It's the people that give Manchester the character. It's nowhere near the size of London but it's still got an attitude that it's an important place, geographically and culturally. For my purposes, when I first moved to Manchester it was a great place to meet like-minded people and it kick started my career.

TS: Do you feel a part of the Manchester music scene?

DG: I've always had an affinity with Manchester music, although what I do is a little bit removed from any other Manchester group or artist. A lot of Manchester bands get the hardcore Manchester following, an overspill of Oasis fans, but I don't really benefit from that, I'm not seen in the same way.

I was a big Smiths fan in the early 80's. Andy Rourke's played with me, the bass player from the Smiths; I know all the Smiths apart from Morrissey. He's a bit aloof. I know Liam and Noel [Gallagher, of Oasis] a little bit. The Doves are really good friends of mine. They used to be my backing band.

TS: How has Manchester changed for you?

DG: Manchester's changing so much -- every other major city is experiencing the same thing. My mum says she doesn't recognize the Manchester where she grew up. Progress is one word for it, I suppose. It's kind of homogenized. It's a shame that a lot of places lose their character but in Manchester's case when the IRA bomb went off in '96, right in the center, the bomb made quite a lot of damage. Since then it's changed, mostly for the better, but I suppose it's your high street chains which make every city feel one and the same.

TS: Let's talk football: tell us about Manchester City and Manchester United.

DG: I became a City fan mainly by default and not wanting to be a United fan. I remember the 70's great City team with Dennis Tueart, Peter Barnes, Dennis Law. My mum's family are all split down the middle, half City, half United.

It's said that most City fans are the real football fans in Manchester. It's a bit unfair for United fans to say that; it's just that United is so international as a brand. Most people I meet or know side with City. It's just something about the feel of City -- the fans are so loyal and when they do well it's such a good feeling.

I don't get to come to as many games as I would like, but when I do it's always special, especially if you see a win. It's the season's job done if we beat United. I support United in Europe -- at least I try to -- but there's always a bit of jealousy there 'cause United have always been the more successful side.

TS: Where did you used to take girls in Manchester?

DG: I didn't really do much dating; I've had a series of long relationships. But there's a club in town called "South" where I used to go to meet young ladies. That was the copping off place in Manchester for a long time.

TS: How did your music career get started?

DG: I was living in this commune with a few friends up past Blackburn. They all decided to move to Chorlton so I moved with them and I really started to take making music seriously. I met Andy Votel one night DJ-ing and Andy had this ambition to start a record label. I had reams of ideas from hours spent in my bedroom playing guitars and keyboards. Andy was one of the first people I played some of my ideas to: he showed some belief in me and decided to start a label called Twisted Nerve Records. I had the stupid name, he had the label.

TS: Can you tell us where you got your name from?

DG: There was a cartoon called "Sam and his Magic Ball" in the 70's. In one episode, the main joke was a character who was a really bad drawing. He was really upset because all the other characters were finished. I made up the moniker based on him. It was only intended to be for the first EP but it became so notorious that I ended up having to stick with it. I'm pretty tired of the name now, to be honest. People actually refer to me as Badly Drawn Boy, which is actually quite an odd thing to have to cope with.

TS: How would you sum up Manchester?

DG: It's the general pride, the hustle bustle of being in a working class environment. It's a weird thing to say you're proud of, but Manchester's still got that vibe even though it's more cosmopolitan now. Glasgow is the same kind of thing and that's what the city thrives on, I think, people going on about their daily business.

I've always been asked why so many bands come out of a place like Manchester. You grow up with not the best prospects in the world, just a good working life. I worked as a printer for years; that's what my dad did as well, and that was probably my destiny if I haven't found a talent for making music. The great bands from Manchester made me think it was possible - the Gallaghers and before them the Roses, all people that out of necessity found creativity to get them out of the place. But then you come back to it because it's still a place you love. So it's that great relationship where you want to get out of the ghetto, so to speak, but once you're successful it never leaves you. I stay here because I still like the vibe of it and it's in my veins.

TS: How does Manchester inspire you?

DG: Whenever I come back to Manchester I feel I'm at home. I can feel the city around me, the trees, the way it looks, the way it feels and it inspires me to write music. I love traveling the world and seeing other places, but I do most of my writing in Manchester in my back garden or the kitchen if it's too cold, with the TV on. That's where home is. It's the place I want to be if the world ended.



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