I have known Matt Asner for what seems like forever.... I have tried to support him with all his musical endeavors and was excited to hear that his band Grand Manner (who recently reformed after disbanding in the early 80's), have a new release coming out. I got the chance to talk about the band reforming and the new EP called "This Perfect Day."
Punk Globe: Who were the original members of Grand Manner?
Grand Manner was Matt Asner on vocals, Ron Russell on Guitar, Sean King on Bass and Steve King on drums
Punk Globe: Back in 1982 when Grand Manner formed. Matt had left a fairly successful band called Insect Idol. Were the other members in other bands as well?
Sean: Yes, me & my brother, Sean and Ron Russell had a band called Arsenal with Tony Rugalo of The Question (His father was Pete Rugalo - famous songwriter/ band leader-He wrote the theme to Leave it to Beaver) as the singer.
Punk Globe: I was very instrumental in getting Insect Idol some pretty cool shows in the Bay Area... Matt, tell us about some stand out shows from Insect Idol played?
Matt: Well our very first gig was opening for The Vktms at Berkeley Square. We played the Mabuhay Gardens and all of the other iconic Bay Area places. I loved playing San Francisco it was a wonderful adventure and the beginning of something special.
Punk Globe: Tell the readers a bit about the scene in Los Angeles in 1982.
Steve: It was incredible, there was so many clubs. Such as Anti Club, Cathay De Grande, Lhasa Club, The On Club, and off course The Mafia Club of Hollywood Club Gazarris, where my band Arsenal won the battle of the bands contest. But the most incredible scene at the time was The incredible Camp Cahuenga . Which to this day is probably only known to a couple of thousand people if that. We were about 30 teenagers all best buddies. Mostly made up of all the hipsters and musicians. I don't think anyone was over 21 except Brian Fox the God Of Mod. So anyway we all decided to rent out a run down 5 bungalow Apartment building right above 101 freeway on Cahuenga. Basically we all scraped buy on Beer, Ramen and anything else that would keep us awake. We all opened our door to each other so we all helped each other. But we all really survived by having 4 monster parties a week. Thursday afternoon till Monday morning. Since most of us were guys, and all in Bands . We didn't even have too invite anyone. We had all the little rich valley girls and plenty more from Hollywood. I remember nothing but women with money and treats. At that period it was nothing but Punks, Goths, and the mod and New Wave scene was just starting to grow.
Sean: It was amazing! Fresh, new and so inspiring. We would play go out to or play new clubs 3-4 days a week. The music changes our lives and inspired our style in so many ways. And the fashion was so cool.
Matt: Well 82 was amazing. You had a bunch of bands bursting out of the punk movement which was still going strong. Bands like Wall of Voodoo and Dream Syndicate, The Go Gos, were making waves in the mainstream. The Untouchables were getting big. The punk scene changed everything but in LA it got way too violent. There were lots of mini scenes happening and the great thing was that everyone intermingled. It wasn't odd to find a punk band, a ska band and a post punk band on the same bill. The metal scene was the only really isolated scene. The early 80's were wonderful because we could actually make money playing clubs. We probably played 4 times a week. A year after we formed we were incredibly tight and getting a lot of attention. We would sell out shows on a regular basis playing with bands like Banner, who later became Lions and Ghosts, Ashes, The Question, What is This
Punk Globe: Who were some of the band's inspirations back in 82'?
Matt: I think we all had different tastes. Ron was a big U2 and Simple Minds fan. I loved the Bunnymen, Bauhaus and the Cure. But all of those British bands in the post punk world rang our bells. I very much remember the guys playing Zeppelin all the time. I would stand there not knowing what to do and they would play Dazed and Confused. I don't think I appreciated Zeppelin until way after we broke up. For Steve, Ron and Sean I think there was a heavy California influence in the music. Surf, metal while I came from a punk background. I think it really became its own sound.
Punk Globe: Tell the readers about some of your first gigs?
Steve: My first remembering gig was when we played with Faith no More at Cathay de Grande. We were all broke and out of beer and drugs. There were a lot of Orange County punks and even The Butthole Surfers.The night ended when I threw a drumstick at a kids eye and then my brothers bass got stuck in that 7 foot ceiling
Punk Globe: You also played some pretty prestigious shows tell us about them.
Matt: We got lucky. We were all partiers and we were selling out shows so a lot of promoters were giving us big gigs. Our manager at the time, Eldon Jay Spooner was getting us opening gigs for The Damned, Suburban Lawns, the Suburbs, John Crawford from Berlin and I had been great friends for years and we opened for them many times.
Steve: We all of a sudden we're at the top of the Music Connections weekly live charts. Shit we even were ahead of Jimmy and the Mustangs, Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs. We were also starting to headline and no longer had to tear the town up with flyers to attract crowds. Most of our gigs Sold out, it seemed that we were always one step ahead.
Punk Globe: If memory serves me right you were getting alot of labels who were checking you out? Did anything develop?
Matt: At the end of my stint with the band we had major labels at every show. Sometimes 3 on the same night. CBS, RCA were really interested. But we as individuals had been presented with a fork in the road and I was going down one path and the other guys were headed down the other. My partying days were over and that really created a divide for us. I went on to the Big Sky and they continued with Grand Manner with a new singer, Patrick Davis and signed a big publishing deal with BMG. But I always felt that we had unfinished business.
Sean: We had a lot of interest from some of the big A&R guys. But we never got a record deal (mostly our fault- too much over indulgence).
Steve: We had labels coming to almost every show especially Mike Sicus from Arista and Lionel Conway from Island records.
Punk Globe: When exactly did the band decide to part ways?
Steve: I think it was around 83 -84. In those days it was all about who had biggest followers and who could Create the most hype simply out of playing. I think we all were growing into different genres of music
Punk Globe: You credit Social Media connecting you all back up again? How long had it been since you had spoken?
Sean: Steve and I hooked up with Ron and our former singer Patrick Davis about 8 years ago through Facebook. And it turned out that they both lived within 1/2 mile of both of us. We started playing together again. I hadn't picked up a bass in about 10 years. But it came back to me pretty fast. I stayed in touch with Matt, but never imagined we would all be playing together again. And we have all grown so much musically.
Steve: For me and Sean about 26 years or so.
Punk Globe: What exactly brought the reunion show at Molly Malones to happen?
Matt: We talked about getting back together and we decided that we would start rehearsing. The first rehearsal we walked in, set up and started playing like we had never stopped. We played every song and well right from the start. After about 3 rehearsals we knew we had to play live. I had known Mike Giangreco for years and he offered us Malone's. I really like the sound in that room. So we said yes.
Punk Globe: I remember coming to the show and that it was very crowded almost claustrophobic... I guess that show really got you guys jacked up because you had another show not to long after. Had you already been in the studio working on your new EP then?
Matt: We knew we wanted to record. But weren't sure about how, when or who.
Punk Globe: How did you hook up with Bob Demarco?
Matt: I knew Bob through my work with Autism. I admired the hell out of him and we spoke one day about doing some work together and we both jumped at the chance to make Grand Manner that chance. Bob is a genius. I don't say that lightly. He is also one of the most generous people I have ever met.
Punk Globe: Tell the readers a bit about Bob.
Matt: Bob knows how to push you. It's a difficult place to be. You are playing or singing something and Bob thinks you can make it more. He knows the way to do it. He worked hard on the performance of the drums, guitar and voices. I would do a couple of takes and he would say to me - "I think it needs to be more." We would do these exaggerated takes where everything was pushed out at maximum force then we would find a compromise and it would fit perfectly.
Punk Globe: What made you go with an EP rather than a full length LP?
Ron: We wanted to take 5 songs and really explore them. We knew we wanted one to be a cover and we wanted it to be from the time we were first together. Matt had the idea of doing The Killing Moon and once we played it a couple of times we knew that was the one.
Punk Globe: What are the advantages to recording in 2016 compared to 1982?
Sean: The technology has grown so much. Everything is recorded digitally and then run through "Pro Tools"(the best recording software). In the early 80's everything was recorded with Analog tape. And the mixing boards were huge! Now you use a computer with a monitor to mix.
Matt: Yeah it's just so much easier to do it. But we tracked in a big room. So that was like it was back in the day. Getting the music out to people is so much easier these days.
Punk Globe: On "This Perfect Day" the title name, you have some seasoned players appearing with you. Bob Malone who works with John Fogerty and Petra Haden of the Haden Triplets. Tell us about that?
Sean: First of all, it was the most fun I ever had recording. Bob Malone was incredible. He played an old "Hammond" organ through a "Lesley" cabinet. He had such a cool sound and added some great melodies to the songs. Petra completely blew me a away. First with her vocal range. She has like a 5 octave range. Then, with the way she was able to come up with these incredible harmonies and melodies right on the spot. Her violin playing also added so much to our songs. They are so "haunting". The whole experience was great.
Matt: Bob Malone was a good friend of Bob Demarco's. he was over doing dome work and Bob D asked Bob M to play and Malone just really hit it out of the park. Petra came in and just really blew our minds. I had worked with her on a concert before and was familiar with her vocal work so I knew she was talented. But I never knew how talented. She just killed everything and came up with so many really cool ideas. She was such a treat to work with.
Steve: Bob Malone simply genius what he does with that Hammond v3 organ. Also bob played throughout, when you add remarkable talent. If they are humble which all 3 are, you are going to bring more textures and layers to your songs . Especially when you are only 3 instruments to begin with .Petra just loved the sound and was absolutely haunting . , I am shocked she isn't a superstar.
Punk Globe: is there a launch date for the Ep and are you planning any release shows for the Ep?
Steve: We release on 3/31 but you can pre-order the album at a discount. A big yes on the shows. We will let you know.
Punk Globe: Any tours planned and are you planning on doing any video's?
Steve: We are all working so touring would be difficult. But the gig here and there will definitely occur. Definitely doing some videos, looking at different directors.
Punk Globe: Any ultimate dream shows that you would like to play?
Matt: I would love to play a festival. I have been to so many and never had a chance to do that. I would also really like to play one of the benefit shows that I put on. I really try and separate things so my feeling is let's see how the EP does.
Sean: My dream show would be to open for U2.
Steve: My personal 3 would be Tool, Annie Lennox and U2 and of course Cheap Trick.
Punk Globe: Any last words for Punk Globe readers?
Matt: We hope you enjoy the EP. We had so much fun making it.
Sean: All I have to say is that this band reunion has created a spark in my life that I haven't felt in a long time
Steve: Music is something we all need in our lives . Music has changed my life both for the good and bad. Never give up on your dreams. Be humble and open minded and at the same time stand behind your convictions. Remember rhythm is the first thing you hear and feel and also the last thing you hear and feel before passing on!!!