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INTERVIEW: BRIAN MANNIX, June 2020

| 22 June 2020 | Reply

INTERVIEW: BRIAN MANNIX, June 2020
By Shane Pinnegar

He’s Australia’s answer to Dudley Moore, a pint sized, twinkling eyed, rapscallion and larrikin quick to tell a story or crack a joke and act the class clown, taking the piss out of himself as much as anyone else.

He is former Uncanny X-Men frontman Brian Mannix, who you will know from such ‘80s pop-rock hits as How Do You Get Your Kicks (co-written by ex-Skyhooks bassist Greg Macainsh), Time Goes So Fast, The Party and 50 Years. You might also have caught him guesting on TV music quiz show Spicks & Specks, or acting in a myriad of TV and movie roles, appearing in multiple musical theatre productions, presenting his popular sports podcast Ruck n’ Roll, touring Australia with his Absolutely ‘80s tribute band alongside Scott Carnes (Kids In The Kitchen) and Dale Ryder (Boom Crash Opera), or any of a host of other ventures. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he’s never burnt out or faded away.

His latest project is an isolation-borne album of party rock favourites assembled with his mate Tim Henwood and The Androids, which is being crowd funded through Indiegogo for just a few more days. Hit Me, as it is titled, will feature Rebel Yell, We’re Not Gonna Take It, Baby One More Time, School’s Out, T.N.T., Pretty Vacant, Rock n’ Roll Outlaw and more, and promises to be a great addition to any good time music collection.

You’ll have to be quick to hear the album before its wider release next year. For now only pledgers on the IndieGoGo campaign ( https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/brian-mannix-the-androids-exclusive-pre-order/x/20538191#/ ) have the chance to grab a signed CD, download, stubby holder and/or poster – and only until this Thursday, 25th June, 2020.

Brian’s son Max helps me sort out a convenient time to call and have a chat with his Dad, and with little-to-no ado I get the singer of such Aussie pop-rock classics as Everybody Wants To Work, The Party and 50 Years on the blower to get the skinny on the new album. Mannix quickly finds a quiet spot away from a blokey sounding background hubbub, and we are away.

The most pressing subject is, of course, the new album Hit Me, the track list for which reads like the best Friday night party set list ever.

“Yeah, it’s a funny one, isn’t it?” Mannix laughs – which he does a lot during our fifteen minutes. On the phone he is exactly like the guy you see on TV or on stage, hyperactive and always ready with a cheeky smile, firing a veritable machine gun barrage of gags and quips in every direction. “I was wanting to do something a bit rocky rather than just always do Absolutely Eighties, and I and The Androids recorded Rebel Yell for some reason. I mean, there was nothing else to do – ‘cos we were going to do some gigs, but we couldn’t because all the gigs got cancelled and the theatre show I was doing [a Travelling Wilbury’s show called End Of The Line] got cancelled.

“So Tim [Henwood] said, ‘why don’t we make an album?’ And I said, ‘well, there’s nothing else to do!’ And so he started picking a few covers, and I said, ‘well I wouldn’t mind doing an Alice Cooper song.’ And since he had [The Androids song] Do It With Madonna on there, I said can I do an original as well… so anyway, Tim engineered it and produced it and mastered it – and all I did was sing, pretty much in a day and a half I did the whole thing!

“It’s come out really well. Tim’s one hell of a producer,” before referencing the crowd funding campaign, where he’s been joking about on and off for the past few weeks. “I posted that if we could sell seven copies then we could [afford to] record a verse and a half of a chorus [laughs]. Of course we’re still doing that, and it’s going really well. I think we’ve raised enough to finish the album and it’s pretty much done now, so it’s all good.”

Mannix confirms that the track listing is made up of personal favourites of the duo.

“Well, yeah, it probably is actually. I’m a big fan of Alice Cooper and I certainly have always loved Brittany Spears’ Hit Me Baby One More Time. To sing that is just great. [laughs] I’m really pleased with it. And Tim sings the Rose Tattoo one, Rock n’ Roll Outlaws.”

Court jester he may be, but Mannix has a romantic side as well, and has managed to slip a love song to his wife onto the record as well. Of course, being Mannix, he’s done so in his own inimitably cheeky fashion.

“We did Bowling For Soup’s Stacey’s Mom – you know that one? ‘Stacey’s Mom’s got it going on…’?” he laughs. “Well, my daughter’s called Casey, so we changed that to ‘Casey’s Mom’s got it going on,’ So it’s all happening and that’s what we’ve been doing all this time during COVID-19.”

Mannix says he’s known Henwood for a few years now, having met through his daughter.

“I’ve got a mutual friend, he produced a Countdown play at Crown a few years ago that my daughter was in, and he’s a manager. My daughter, she’s a very good singer, and he arranged for her to go down and record a song and write a song with Tim. And it was really good – I was really impressed by it. Then [Tim and I] both did the 2006 Countdown spectacular. And I was talking to him, telling him how much I liked Do It With Madonna and what a great song I thought it was. And, you know, thanking him for working with my daughter, and we sorta just became friends and we both like punk pop. So we sorta liked the same sort of music, and so it just sort of worked.”

I suggest to Mannix that there are some creative projects going on that probably wouldn’t have happened if we weren’t all in lockdown, so maybe there is a bit of a silver lining to the Covid-19 crisis.

“Oh, absolutely,” he agrees, then launches into another fun story. “In fact, a mate of mine – James Morley, who used to play bass with The Angels – called me, and they were doing a song called Feels Like Home, and he said, you know, record yourself at home singing a line and the chorus of this song, which I did. Anyway, they went and worked their magic on it and I’m watching the video and I’m seeing this guy – I know this guy, he’s great, and I know that guy from theatre, he’s doing it really well, there’s all these really cool people, then blow me dead, it’s Suzi Quatro in it! So I said, ‘how good is this – I’ve gone and made a record with Suzi Quatro!’

There’s one to cross off the bucket list, right there.

“Yeah – record a song with Suzi Quatro – ticked off!” he laughs gleefully.

As mentioned in the intro, there’s not much Mannix hasn’t done. TV and movies and theatre and radio, The Uncanny X-Men, Absolutely ‘80s, The Countdown Spectacular, and loads of other stuff. Hard to believe, but Mannix turns sixty in October 2021, so is there anything special on his bucket list that he’d like to cross off before then?

“Well, I think I’m going to get my neck fixed up before I turn sixty, it’s starting to look a bit old, time’s starting to catch up with me,” he laughs self-deprecatingly, before being serious for a brief moment. “So I need to get a bit of a run in front of that. But I always wanted to be a film director. I’ve made a lot of short films and video clips and stuff, but I want to make a feature film before I die. I’ve got a couple of scripts that I’ve written. So I think in the next 12 months or so I’ll make a feature film, which probably won’t make any money, but at least I’ll be able to say that I did it. I don’t wanna be lying on my death bed saying, ‘you know, you never got around to making that feature film.’”

That’s unfortunately the downside of the creative arts nowadays – there’s not a lot of money in it unless you’re that one in a million.

“Yeah. Look, you know, music doesn’t have the currency that it used to have. People expect music for nothing these days, so it’s very hard to make decent money out of it,” he explains. “But on the other side, you have to say, well, hang on. I do what I like doing. I get paid to do what I like doing, I’m paying all my bills, and I’ve got a job where somebody gives me a slab of beer [every now and then]. I’m a pretty lucky guy.”

Chatting with Mannix his good mood is infectious. He seems devoid of pretention and realises how lucky he is to have enjoyed such a diverse career in the entertainment business for so long. If he peppers his stories with some well-known names, he’s not name-dropping as such, he just gets to hang with some cool people. I wonder if he would ever tap his undoubtedly impressive address book and put together a duets album of some sort?

“Well, you know, I never thought I’d be doing a record with The Androids,” he declares. “I never, certainly never thought I’d be working with Scott Carnes [in Absolutely ‘80s] – Kids In The Kitchen were never my favourite band by any stretch of the imagination! But you know, I do a duet with Scott most nights when we work together. So you know, you just never rule anything out do it. Who would I do a duet with, I wonder, who’d be good…”

Not Suzi Quatro, of course – been there.

“Nah – done that! Check,” he laughs proudly. “But yeah, that’s something I can look at down the track. Absolutely.”

Never one to sit around doing nothing, Mannix has also just started a new podcast.

“Yeah. It’s called Life Of Brian,” he confirms. “We have a guest on, somebody that I like – the first week we had Wilbur Wilde on. Then last week we had Peter Hitchener, who’s a newsreader in Melbourne and next week we’ve got Kevin Sheedy on.

“I’m trying to get Dick Smith. I reckon Dick Smith would be a really interesting guy,” he continues. “We might have Adam Hills too. We’ve put the word out to him, so we might have him or Myf [Walhurst, Hills’s Spicks & Specks co-star]. So that’s going really well. I think the first weekend, we charted at number seven or eight or something. So that was pretty good. And I’ve still got my Ruck n’ Roll podcast, which is just stupid and gets sillier every week, it’s great. So yeah, you know, I keep myself reasonably busy, but not so busy that I have to get out of bed before 10:30!”

I explain to Brian that the last time we spoke was about five years ago, when his autobiography 50 Years was still attached to major publisher Allen & Unwin. At the time he wasn’t happy with them trying to trim his story in order to shoehorn it into a certain cookie cutter format. Not long after the publishing contract went the way of the dodo and he published the book himself using crowd funding. Due to the nature of social media, somehow I then didn’t hear about the campaign until it was long finished and to this day finding a physical copy of the book is nigh on impossible.

“You can get it on Amazon though,” he offers helpfully. I prefer physical product in everything, I have to admit, but I am very keen to read his story, so I might just lay the money down. Mannix goes on to tease about another volume. “I’ve got a new book out at the moment – well, it’s not out yet because of this album with The Androids, I didn’t want to overload people – so it’ll be out down the track. I wrote a book about my travels in America called Hell, I Didn’t Even Like Al Green – you gotta read the book to find out why.

“But most importantly, it’s an audio book as well. I’m just waiting for Audible to finish processing it ‘cos the first time they did it they left out a chapter! So that should be out in a month or so. And the beauty of it is, your first book for Audible is free, so everybody can get it for free and I’ll still get paid!”

I sincerely think that it’s great that the irrepressible Brian Mannix has got all these different things going on and has always kept busy rather than just slide away into obscurity.

“Nah, you’ve got to keep busy,” he says, imparting a crucial home truth, “and keep enjoying what you’re doing – because if I’m not enjoying what I’m doing, how can I expect anybody else to?”

Hey, it beats working for a living, doesn’t it?

“Oh, absolutely. Well, you know, I wouldn’t mind just getting a little bit bored, kicking back and watching some Larry Emdur on TV in the morning,” he laughs sarcastically (well, I THINK he’s being sarcastic). “But if I see Penny Lane with that eye mask one more time – or that guy with the ladder that turns every way, then I’m over it. He’s a good guy, Larry, but those ads on those shows are just… bloody awful. ‘Here’s Dustin Hoffman to talk about his new movie – no it’s not, it’s James talking about some fricking shit!’”

We divert into a mutual rant about morning TV and the paid advertising that makes up so much of their content, which I won’t share word for word in case we get sued or something. Suffice to say, Mannix is as entertaining as always. Finally, once we both stop laughing, we wrap things up.

The background noise rises again as Mannix returns to his friends and the last thing I hear before the phone disconnects is a bloke’s voice addressing Australia’s favourite lovable larrikin with a bemused, “Where the fuck have you been?”

I daresay Brian Mannix has been just about everywhere, and he’s far from done yet.

CLICK HERE to pre-order the new album by Brian Mannix & The Android, Hit Me by Thursday, 25th June, 2020

 

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