Man Parrish has led a long and wild life that's thrown up numerous contradictions- he's often credited with inventing hip hop, despite never really being a hip hop artist, and he's had chart topping hits around the world, barely seeing a penny in royalties. Indeed, industry bullshit meant Parrish stopped making electro pop long ago, turning his attention to soundtrack work and neo-classical composition.
So there was some excitement round the normally unflappable Ransom Note office when an eagle eyed staffer spotted that Parrish had just uploaded an electro cover of Yazoo's 'Situation'. What was going on? Was the man who wrote 'Hip Hop Be Bop', 'Boogie Down Bronx' and (lest we forget) 'Male Stripper' about to make a return?? Was the legend back in the saddle?? A few emails later and we arranged an interview with Parrish. This is one of the few cases where we're going to publish the conversation in close to it's entirety - it's a long read, but we can't remember the last time we spoke to someone as entertaining as they were willing to spill the beans. Plus halfway through our chat he was phoned up by Michael 'party monster' Alig, out from prison and looking to write a song - you don't get that in a Kasabian interview...
I: So we heard your cover of Situation on Soundcloud .
I: And you’ve only just recorded it?
M: Ummm, I did a version of it a year ago but it wasn’t the way I liked it. I’d put dance music aside because I was working on film score material and then I thought well what’s next? Everyone was bugging me to do something electro and I though ‘Wait a minute I’ve got this version of Situation lets pull it out and dust it off’, and I put it on and thought ‘this is really great.’ I gave it some now sounds and freshened it up a bit and uh knocked it out, and there it is!
I: So what now? Does this signal you’re about to start producing again?
M: I have not stopped producing. Most people don’t know that I’m doing film scores and movie trailers and vocalists and stuff like that. I've been working on an opera with somebody, it’s a Klaus Nomi Opera. For 15 years I had the longest running party in New York so I was doing that and that was bringing in a nice income, which stopped the need to produce other people. I didn’t stop producing, I took a break from it for a while- I went to Berkley School to learn film scoring and orchestral, so if you look at my Soundcloud page that’s my little orchestral area. My iTunes is my pop and my Soundcloud is my orchestral stuff. I spent the last year, year and half scratching up my skills doing, I don’t want to say ‘more serious’ works- as dance music is just as serious in my books- but I’m spreading my wings in different directions. I’m not a singer, I’m an artist if you know what I mean? People roll their eyes around when you pass that word around but you know, I didn’t start out doing hip-hop, I started out doing ambient and then experimental music. This is just a natural progression.
I: It’s interesting to hear that you started off doing ambient stuff. Is any of that material out there? Can anyone hear it?
M: We’re talking about 1972 and 73. You know, I had Moog Synthesiser modules all analogue. Home tape recorders. You just had a reel-to-reel machine with sound on sound and I would do layers of sound that way. It wasn’t called ambient then. There was no name, I used to call them Soundscapes for lack of a better word, but then it turned into ambient and experimental music and that was a very big part of me discovering music. I’m not schooled, I can’t read or write music. I don’t know an inverted chord from my ass! (Laughs) But, you know, I hear things and I can make them work that way.
I went from analogue synthesisers to different forms of dance music to dabbling with orchestra as sounds and putting them together in pieces of music. I haven’t closed the door on ambient music or dance music, I still do it. I just have a richer palette and wider palette. Instead of just synthetics now I have orchestral, choir and synthetic. I’ve moved into what’s called a hybrid category where I can do a little of everything.
I: Do you think there’s some sort of cross-over between your film score stuff and soundscape stuff?
M: Yeah, I mean firstly I have ambient stuff on my Soundcloud page – there’s a piece called Trippy, and I have ambient sleep music on to help me fall asleep at night. It’s my valium, it’s my drug. So I do have some of that on my Soundcloud.
I: So going right back to the start, it’s kind of amazing that in '72 you were making this sort of thing. How did you first come about having these keyboards in the first place? What was the catalyst?
M: Drugs. (Laughs) I was a heavy pot smoker back then. I was 14-15 years old tripping acid. I was quite the raver boy well before you know… I left home very early and was out in the wilds of Manhattan going to clubs every night being 15 years old. In those days nobody asked for ID, I looked like I was 18, every once in a while someone would ask how old I am and I’d say that I was 21 and I looked young. Nobody ever asked for proof!
I built an early synthesiser from a company called Radioshack and for $20-$25 they gave you an instruction manual. I never knew how to use a solder gun but I bought a solder gun and put together this little clear plastic box with a few buttons on it a knobs and oscillating filters and I would sit there and I would smoke myself into oblivion and turn the knobs and turn on my blacklight. (Laughs) I had one of those lamps that when the heat rose off the bulb it would spin around putting images all over the room and I’d sit there like a hippy even though I wasn’t, making sounds and getting high!
Then I realised I could record them onto a tape and record multiple layers. Again, I wasn’t a keyboard player I was sound maker. I was more like John Cage or Stockhausen.
I: Were they kind of inspiring you at the time?
M: Yeah, because there wasn’t much synthetic stuff. There was Walter Carlos and that was very cutting edge. But the earlier stuff, I used to go to the library at the Lincoln Center in New York and they had an audio library. You could sit down and listen to vinyl records. You would reserve a phonograph and you could sit down with these weird, bizarre, freaky looking headphones –they looked like spaceship headphones – and you’d put them on and I’d pull out whatever I could from the electronic section. That was when I realised that what I was doing was similar to what other sound artists were doing. It gave me faith, not tha I was going to get anything or get signed, but just that I was doing something right. I wasn’t completely mad doing sound that weren’t musical. I realised that people were also doing sound as an art form as well as notes.
I: Do you remember any of those albums that you listened to?
M: Uhhh, specifically no. But I do remember listening to Stockhausen, to John Cage, to an album called Tonto’s Expanding Head Band - it was THE stoners album! If you were a real stoner you’d light up a bowl and listen to that you know. This is one thing actually, today everything’s very single orientated. Back in the day you’d drop the needle on the edge of the record and listen to it all the way through, flip it over and then listen all the way through the other side. Album like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, or a King Crimson album, or a Yes album, those were journeys and paths and trips so these ambient albums – instead of a thee minute piece of music which was popular – were 15 to 17 minute long sound works.
So you know, like I said I didn’t know it but I was doing what everybody else was doing. I was very contemporary! (Laughs)
I: To a lot of people the jump from that to kind of music to being a foundational figure in the hip-hop world seems strange - was it just the avant-garde music of choice for you?
M: Well, you’ve got to remember 'Hip Hop Be Bop' was not really a hip-hop record, it was just adopted by the hip-hop community. I was more into Kraftwerk and that kinda stuff, so Hip Hop Be Bop was an experimental piece of music that was actually put together in the editing. It was all done on my 8 track tape recorder at home, we bumped it up to 24 tracks to put in some chants. The dog barks came from the Fun House in New York City where we used to go and listen to music and listen to acetate records. I those days before records came out you’d take it up and have an acetate made and we’d give it to a DJ they’d play it and stand in the booth and look out on the crowd and see whether we were doing the right thing or not. So we’d either scrap it or keep on going. We’d bring it to Jellybean Benitez there and standing next to him was a girl with black hair with a t-shirt that said ‘I’m Madonna’ and we used to call her the skank because she wasn’t even famous then! So, by adopting the dog barks, when Hip Hop Be Bop was played the kids lit up, I say kids they were my age, and yeah they lit up because we did something unique in that club. We were barking back to them, which was a sign of approval.
I: Would they bark in the club if they liked a tune?
M: Oh absolutely! And later on in the states this guy had a TV show and he did the dog barking so he kinda spread that out even further. But that was something that happened you know, firstly in the Fun House then later spread up to the Fever and the Bronx. A good record would come on and ‘WOOF! WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!’
It was freaky the first time you heard it, you’d get scared shitless like ‘What the fuck is that!’ It was pretty amazing though and we included it on the record and then the radio stations picked it up because kids were listening to it and then we spread it out. I need to say that hip-hop was a lot different then. Hip-hop is a jazz term. It’s your hips hopping, you’re dancing. Rap was things like Rapper Delight, Sugar Hill Gang that type of stuff. Later on, hip-hop and rap became one thing. Hip-hop, when Hip Hop Be Bop was out in the Bronx, was dance music., urban dance music. It wasn’t about the rap. I fact I think Boogie Down Bronx was one of the very first early records to take hip hop, which was electronic dance music (known as electro now), and put rap to it. That was usually funk, like Rappers Delight with a guitar, bass and live singers. Some records like Planet Rock, they sang their lyrics, they really didn’t have raps on it. So we took rap and electronic music and blended them together and that’s how we got Boogie Down Bronx.
So in that sense I wanted to be Kraftwerk. I was emulating Kraftwerk but I lived in New York City on 14th and 9th in the meatpacking district with garbage trucks and sides of beef so it was urban and the music I was listening to was urban but the style I wanted to be was Kraftwerk. Kind of just by influence, it was coming in through the windows every day in the street and in the subway and it all blended together and that’s how the hip-hop community… I wasn’t hip-hop back then! If this is all making sense at all…
I mean, a lot of people don’t know that history! So I’m thankful, and love that some people say that I coined the word hip-hop. It was around since the 40’s but I was the first person to use it on a record as a title and I was also back then - most producers were putting out singles – I was the first artist to put out a full length album, and that kind of gave me a little bit more credibility. I was seen as more of a 'real' artist than Soul Sonic Force. Soul Sonic Force were just as credible as I was, but they were just putting out singles and I had an album. So in those days you weren’t considered a 'real' artist if you didn’t put out an album. Had they taken all their singles and put it out on an album it would have been more ‘credible’ in the eyes of the music business, which I think is totally unfair.
I: So what was your relationship like with the rap community?
M: Well, I was this white middle class kid that was living in Manhattan you know, at the edge of Greenwich Village just round the corner from the projects, so there’s gay people on one side, urban kids on the other, rich people here and meatpackers & prostitutes. So I was at the apex of this crazy, wonderful, diverse thing. I didn’t grow up in the projects, I didn’t have the kind of troubled problems that rappers later on had and rapped about you know what I mean? I didn’t have a wonderful existence – my mum’s schizophrenic, I left home at 14, I had to survive on the streets, so I had my own tough things but they weren’t the kind of social equality that rappers spoke about. I was a white! So I wasn’t segregated. So my perspective into it was different and some people were saying ‘Hey you’re a white dude you don’t know what rap is about.’ But I wasn’t a rap artist! Some people in the rap community took my music and in fact I had some reverse discrimination in some places when they found out I was a white guy. But for the most part I’m glad that the rap community took my record and consider it a classic. For that I’m grateful, how could I not be? But I was a dance artist, I wasn’t’ a rap artist.
I: And then it blew for you on a crazy degree, on a worldwide scale. You had this really intense period and I read that you left the label because you didn’t want to release an album that you’d recorded for them.
M: No, what actually happened is that I was on a small independent label and they didn’t pay me and we wound up selling over 3 million records. I never got paid for it. I was a 22 year old kid, I signed a 1 page contract and basically gave up my music, my rights, my grandmother, and my future first born. I kept saying, ‘Well when’s my money gonna come in?’ and I was noticing that it was going from an office of 2 people to an office of 10 people, he buys a Porsche and then he buys a plane, he buys a house in….
I: Did he literally buy a plane?!
M: Yeah yeah, he used to have a plane. He called himself Captain Mike because of powering up the plane. And I said I’m not doing anything else until, my rent was $500 or something like that, and I’d go up there and be like ‘I don’t have any money!’, and he’d be like ‘Go out and do a live show then and make some quick cash, your money will take 6 months to a year to come through’ and in the meantime he’d be doing coke and that kind of stuff. It was a classic rip-off. I stopped doing music and I started doing some production stuff, and I was picked up by David Bowie’s manager through a friend of mine who was doing a demo for Electro Records, I was in the studio while she was doing a live demo performance and the president of Elektra came in and they introduced me and he was like ’Man Parrish? Wait wait lets talk about him!’ And they made me stand outside and then Bowies manager comes outside and was like ‘These guys really want you, you know I could manage you if you want?’ I was like ‘uuhh sure!’ Then he said ‘We’ll get you off the other record label and onto this label don’t worry, you’ll finally be a real artist. 50/50 right?’
Well at the time I didn’t know that managers aren’t legally allowed to take any more than 20%, well he took 50% and there I was again. All the money went into his bank account and not in mine. So I went from being in the frying pan to being in the fire! But you know, since then I’ve learnt a lot on music law and stuff. But I stopped doing music because everything I did I wasn’t getting paid on. And I got tired of making other people money when I was struggling. I mean, I’ve done everything from flying the Concorde to being on public assistance and welfare with food stamps. I got tired of making other people rich, put it that way.
I: With Hip Hop Be Bop, do see any of the money from that now?
M: Now it’s absolutely changed. I have lawyers and we had to sue people and you’ve got to remember there was a curve on that record. Most of that $3million by US law, thanks to our fucking lobbyists, you can’t actually go back any further than 6 or 7 years to sue somebody. If you didn’t realise you’ve been fucked for 7 years then in the eyes of the law you’re stupid and you deserve to lose. It’s pretty fucking crazy! Most of the big money from there is gone, but I’ve done a lot of stuff with other artists and I managed Village People and Crystal Waters, I had the longest running insane party in New York City for 15 years every Sunday and I wasn’t making records, I was making money from doing that. Why go back and make a record and give up stuff that paid my mortgage and paid for my car! (Laughs)
I stopped making music for about 8 years because every time I did something it would end up on a compilation. And we were like who’s distributing this stuff? We finally found out who, it was a company out of Canada called Unidisc. They just took anything that I had and ripped it off, put it out on a CD and I didn’t even have the money to go to a lawyer as that’s somewhere between $30-40,000 here in the US. And I just stopped doing it because I knew that anything I did would just get pinched and put up. And I wasn’t making anything so why am I doing this for other people?
I: I see. You always had quite a lot of success over here in England…
M: Yeah and it’s not only been my stuff, you know that Man to Man record, that was actually Paul and Mickey Zone who use to come to my house and pay me $50 to record in the studio, and they were friends that I grew up with. Now my studio was an 8 track tape recorder in my bedroom and I looked like a mad scientist. There were a whole bunch of keyboards on top of other keyboards and a small computer, mac 512, I think we had my first sampler, the uhh Emulator One back then. And yeah, they’d pay me $50 and I’d get a whole bunch of these Man to Man records when, it’s when Stock, Aitken and Waterman was around, and high energy was a thing and I was like ‘yeah I can do that!’ So I’d hold down a note on the synth and it would go ‘Duh duh dum duh duh dum duh duh dum’, you know it was easy!
So one of the songs was Male Stripper and I thought ‘Oh this is fucking ridiculous, what a piece of shit’, and a year later someone comes up to me me and says ‘Hey you’ve got this record it’s number 17 on the British pop chart it’s gonna go to number 12 next week and they think it’s heading towards number 1.’ And I said ‘What Record?’ and they said it was Male Stripper and I said ‘I never did a song called Male Stripper!’ and they said ‘Man to Man meets Man Parrish!’ And I was like ‘They put that record out with my name on it?!’ But this was somebody who I knew from the neighbourhood and I’d known for years and thought ‘what the hell we’ll just put his name on it’, I mean I had played the music and did the vocal on that and all of a sudden I have a pop record in England that’s going up in the charts. It took me another 3 months to contact Paul Zone and when I called him on the phone he was like ‘Oh yes I was meaning to tell you…’ You know, he was in the UK and I knew what was going on, they knew I don’t look at charts. And he was like ‘We’ll split everything a third, we’ll go three ways’ but of course I never got anything from that.
M: But you see, those things allowed me to do other things. And you know I am bitter about it and wished I had the money, but these things allowed me to do other things e.g. brought me to centre of attention to a lot of people that otherwise might not have known who I was. It was a wonderful piece of promotion that got me out there. People were like ‘That’s a weird man, who’s Man Parrish?’ and you know as the internet got bigger and better people were able to research me and find out what it was I was doing. I’m not bitter about it, I would probably do it again even if I wasn’t going to get paid as it really helped me in other ways and allowed me to get other work.
I: In that period did you find yourself over in the UK at all?
M: I mean, I was there for the Man to Man stuff, also at the time Boy George had called me to work with Marylyn, the guy in his apartment was my writing partner and my best friend so I was over there the same time that all that happened. So as Man Parrish I’ve never performed in the UK or DJ’d in the UK, but I was there for doing some remixes and for some promotional kinda stuff.
I: And out of interest, I didn’t realise you’d managed Crystal Waters, were you managing her when she did Gypsy Woman?
M: Right after that. She had the record out, she was on one of the Pauly Graham Companies, and a good friend of mine, Vito Bruno, was managing her and couldn’t really handle her and we were friends and he asked if I wanted to come n and help him manage Crystal as he couldn’t do it on his own. So I said okay and then he asked if I wanted to go out on the road with her and I said ‘Okay sure sure’ and he was like ‘She’s a little tough, very strong willed!’ and I said ‘Nah I grew up around fucking junkies and drag queens, I can handle anything.’ But Crystal and I did not get along, she was a black girl and I was a white guy with a black girl inside! (Laughs) We were like two black girls fighting! We clashed, it didn’t work you know. I did it for about six months or so and it didn’t work you know.
I: What would you fight about?
M: We weren’t fighting about anything specific, I just have a very strong personality and so does she. I had records out and we’d go places and people would go ‘Crystal Waters, oh wait Man Parrish come over and talk to me!’ It was some of that and some of the fact that I was a white guy and she had a black manager, which was fine and I totally understand but a lot of little things made big things until there were a few blow ups and I was like ‘Forget it I can’t deal with this anymore.’ We actually got held up in Turkey because the promoter tried to rob us. I had like $30,000 in my little belly pouch and the promoter came in and started asking us how much we got paid in Germany and how much was our show in Sardinia and then was like ‘You must be carrying a lot of money?’ and I’m from Brooklyn. I was like wait a minute what’s going on here, he pulls out a .22 calibre gun and points it and goes ‘I want your money.’ Now, I’m 6’ 4” and he was about 5’ 4”. So I lifted him up, I probably could have got shot in the face, I bend his hand back and throw him out the door by his collar and slam the door. And it wasn’t until then that I realised I could have been killed!
So I immediately called New York and I said what had held us up and they said to call the embassy and get them to get her out of there, which we did, then Crystal and I had a huge fight as she was like ‘Why did we have to go?!’ and I said ‘This guy had a gun and was trying to take your money…’ Then she said to me ‘if he held a gun to you, you must have done something wrong…’ And it was at that point when I said ‘Fucking, you know what. I was standing between your money and a gun and that’s what you have to say to me. Go fuck yourself.’ Then that was basically the end of it.
M: There you go dude, that’s a good story for you! (Laughs)
I: Dude that’s a great story! (Laughs) Would you get on with Crystal if you saw her now?
M: I saw Crystal at the Music Awards, I was presenting at the Dance Music Awards a couple of years ago and she was dating Freedom Williams from uh…. What’s it called?
I: I dunno uhhh, I’ll look it up.
M: Get your Google going!
I: What kind of a journalist am I? I should know it!
M: As a DJ you should know it.
I: As a DJ I should know it…
M: I’ll type it in give me one sec.
I: C+C Music Factory.
M: Yeah, C+C Music Factory. Anyway I saw her and she went ‘Oh heeeyy’ and I looked the other way and spoke to Freedom and he’s like ‘Yeah man we need to get together and do a new record!’ And I was like ‘No.’ You’re batshit crazy I don’t wanna deal with this right now. And Crystal was looking over her shoulders and looking at her shoes and looking at the sky, we were polite you know, that fake sort of housewives of New Jersey smile. ‘Heeyy, how aaaareee yoouu?’ It was alright, but I don’t think we’d go to dinner together or sit down for several hours and have a close chat. That was from her, not from me I have to say.
I: I’m curious, now there’s a generation of you in New York that are the survivors and the generators of this kind of music which is suddenly now in America getting loads of recognition, are there people that are bitter that they didn’t get the same attention in their day as kids today are getting?
M: If you look at it this way. EDM, which is a dumb term but I think there has to be some sort of term, is bigger than it ever was. We couldn’t get the same kinda of thing on public radio only on smaller dance stations and in clubs. So I think it’s great that there are DJ’s out there making $20,000, you know DJ’s are using pre-recorded things and filling Wembley Stadium, hands in the air kinda stuff. It’s bringing more people into the genre. A lot of people in the younger generation came in through that, liked the music did their background research and wound back up at me. I think it’s great. I’ve got more recognition now than I did back in the 80’s. The internet and social media is a really massive help. People are getting interested in the roots and were the people that started this kinda stuff. I was never out to do dance music and I was never out to do dance music. I was always into music but I couldn’t read it so I couldn’t join a band. Having a drum machine and a synth allowed me to avoid the whole band thing and do what I wanted by myself. I’m glad that kids are into it and it’s bigger than ever! I think it’s wonderful. I don’t know how other people feel from my generation but the more people on the bus the bigger the party! You wouldn’t have called me in the 1980’s, firstly because you’re not as old as I am, but secondly…
I: Yeah, well I was ten in 1990 so…
M: But had dance music not happened you’d probably be listening to rock and roll or something and that would have a been a small little underground you know… Music that was done in the 80’s, Human League and that kinda stuff stood in the 80’s and it a was pop kind of music from then. But the electro stuff we did back then was discovered by a new generation and became classic and timeless in a sense. It didn’t stop. In fact it’s still growing. You know, I know, everybody with a computer that’s got Ableton live or Logic or Fruity Loops can do record. I think that’s fantastic! I don’t see it as a threat, I had 40 years headstart on them!
M: I’m 56, you know what I mean? Sorry one sec I just need to take this call…
I: Fine fine!
M: (Laughs) You’re never gonna believe who that was!
I: Who? Tell me tell me.
M: Do you know how Michael Alig is?
I: Yes of course I know who he is!
M: Yeah that’s Michael on the phone! (Laughs)
I: Fuck off! I didn’t even realise he was out of prison.
M: Yeah he’s out of prison. He talked to me about producing a record which I don’t think I’m going to do but I’m gonna meet up with him. I wanna hear all his prison stories because I’m a sick and twisted fuck! (Laughs)
I: That’s incredible! How long has he been out for?
M: I knew him before he went into prison and before all that stuff went down. Today you go out to clubs and party but if you want friends you have online social media. Back in my day there was no online social media. If you wanted to get laid you didn’t go online and meet somebody off a porn site or something, you had to go out to clubs and meet people there. So I was in clubs every night of the week since I didn’t really have a regular 9-5 job. So I knew of him and we knew of each other, but after he came out of prison, through a friend of mine, he contacted them and asked if he could contact me. I knew what he wanted but I said sure! He’s only been out a month of two and he wants to meet up and he wants me to produce a record. It’s a little bit of a hot subject so I might not do that but I’ll definitely meet him and I want to hear his prison stories. I wanna hear how he got fucked in prison! (Laughs)
I: (Laughs) Well I guess if he wants to put a record out someone will do it…
M: Yeah I mean there’s somebody, there’s a big producer here who is gonna try to take his story and clean it up and take it off Broadway and this producer is a major major tv producer here in the US and they’re already writing the book for it and getting it out there.
I: It’s a bit morally dubious ... he’s a killer!
M: And he’s not only a killer, he chopped him up and threw him in the river!
I: Oh mate… Lets turn it into a TV show!
M: But would I do Charles Manson’s record if he came out of prison? Fuck yeah! (Laughs)
I: He’s got good songs though.
M: I haven’t actually really heard any of that…
I: Yeah he’s got some good tunes man!
M: We’re talking Charles Manson, not Marilyn.
I: Yeah I know, Charley!
M: Oh great, oh cool. Maybe I should a remix or something then!
I: This could be a new thing. Your new gimmick!
M: I’ve already done trannies and fags and hustlers. Now I can do killers! This fits in with my bad boy image there you go. You want hip-hop? This is the real hip-hop.
I: Talking of the bad boy image, I heard a rumour that you’d made a bunch of money running adult websites. Is this true?
M: Yeah absolutely! In the 90’s when I wasn’t doing music I needed to have a job and I’m not the kind of person that can jump on tube and go work in a office 9 till 5 but I still have rent and later on a mortgage and car payments to make. And I was a good old-fashioned perv like every healthy boy was and I did a bunch of porn websites. It was a great job, put it that way!
I: Did you say you were starring in them yourself?
M: No!! I was filming them. You know what’s really funny? I did websites but I would never go in front of the camera. I think it takes a lot more balls than I have to actually sit in front of the camera and do the helicopter!
I: I imagine that must have been quite a lucrative breaking market…
M: In the beginning it was because other than buying porn, bandwidth eventually became good enough to download and stream porn. You’ve got to remember that when I was around when the internet was only compuserve and a link was an inverted form of text that would take you to another text page, and we thought that was cool! Then you had bbs bulletin boards where people had modems and a computer set up in their home and you would dial up and 16k board and download one dirty picture for all that. And it was like ‘Wow!’ But when the bandwidth was there and people wanted to get unique content fetishes or… I wasn’t into the fetish stuff although I had a fetish site I wound up selling it… If you wanted certain content it was easier to stream it or download it than it was to go to a porn store and walk out with ‘Mumma Got big Tits’ or ‘Granny Fuck Video’. So for a short amount of time it was actually lucrative.
So in those days the market became very crowded and the bigger companies came in and were competing. I only did it for a couple of years as I wasn’t really able to compete.
I: Do you think there is a parallel there between that and your experiences with electro in terms of being in the right place at the right time?
M: Yes, absolutely! Look, I left home at 14 years old, I was in the continental bathhouse, I was in the Andy Warhol factory with all the Andy Warhol starlets floating around, I came down from the ceiling at Studio 54 performing my record with Bianca Jagger and Mick Jagger… I step in shit in a wonderful way. I happen to always be in the right place at the right time. I was just doing my thing, and I was just going with the grain instead of against the grain and wound up being attracted to situations and people… I hate to use the word energy as it sounds so new age. You get what I’m saying, I was there at the right time whilst it was happening. I was into what I was doing. I was just letting things flow so I wound up in these wonderful situations. Bad situations too though.
I: Do you think that New York was critical?
M: You’ve got to remember that back then it was a mess. The police only pulled you over if you were murdering somebody; it was a little bit like the Wild West. There was garbage on the street and homeless people and crime… So being a freak wasn’t as crazy as was shooting or killing somebody if you know what I mean? There was a lot of freedom to just be who you were. In East Village where punks were happening, you’d often walk down the street and see people with purple hair and safety pins and all that kinda shit. Or trannies and just crazy colourful people in fluorescent clothing, and you just don’t see that anymore. Back then, you’d go to a party and be like ‘Hi I’m a musician what do you do?’, “Hey I paint with my faeces on canvas and sell it. And you’d think ‘Oh okay, you’re an artist.’ You know what I mean? It was a lot more liberal back then.
I just saw a thing on the news where a four year old kid was expelled from school, and it’s going on his personal records, because he leaned over and he touched a little girls chest, her tits. And these righteous do-gooders and so easy to scream conservatives, it’s ridiculous. It was much more liberal then than it is now. If you were the freak you were the freak! You were the neighbourhood freak, that’s all! Now they comes after them with brooms and torches and run them out of town. ‘Our children, out families, our lifestyle!’ It was a lot different back them.
I joke that I was brought up by trannies and freaks and the homeless but that was the crap I ran with because they weren’t judgemental. Everybody was fucked up. If you weren’t fucked up they probably didn’t want to be with you.
I: So, one last bit about yourself because this has been great and we’ve got so much to work with. It’s been so good talking to you Manny! I’m curious to know, if you were to suggest to someone to listen to your back-catalogue to the things that people might not be aware of, so you know the soundscape stuff or the film scores… What would you point them towards, what are you most proud of?
M: I have two favourite pieces. I have something called Requiem For A Queen and I have another called The Weight which I just did. Some really quiet peaceful deep music. I can do my trumpets blaring, I can do my funky synths blaring, and I can play the shit out of a drum machine and all that kind of stuff, but it’s the peaceful deep stuff that I reach down into. And just really quite mellow music, stuff that people would never expect me to write, I write now that I’m older.
Hey, I’m 56 years old so my tastes are quite wide! At 12 years old I worked at the metropolitian opera house. I was an extra on stage holding a spear. I grew up around discos and opera and classical music so it’s all been in and out of my life throughout.
Also, I just did a track with Visage and I love how it came out! It’s like 80’s retro with steve stange. And of course I’m really happy with Situation.
I: Manny thank you so much it’s been a pleasure talking to you.
M: Okay, let me move on to Michael Alig now. If you don’t hear from me in a couple of days check the river.
Words: Ian McQuaid