Keep it real: Independence vital for Manchester’s musical heartbeat, says Clint Boon

Adding judge to his repertoire, DJ and musician Clint Boon is helping open the door for unsigned talent, in a bid to keep the city’s spirit of rock and roll alive.

The likeable 50-something is a veteran of the music industry, hailing from what he dubbed the ‘Madchester’ days of music, but that hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm.

Lead keyboard player of the now reformed Inspiral Carpets, who released their first album in 20 years last October, Clint remains a prominent figurehead within the city.

Juggling the drive time show on radio station XFM with djing and a forthcoming Inspiral’s UK tour with fellow indie stalwart’s Shed Seven, Clint’s world is dominated by his passion for music and supporting unsigned talent.

“I’m a big fan of new music and I love helping musicians get up that ladder,” he explained. “I managed to get a career out of the music industry because people gave me opportunities so I’m still very much trying to help new bands.”

Sitting on the judging panel for the Manchester Pale Ale Refreshing Sounds competition, Clint is part of a nationwide search to find the best new, unsigned music acts.

Working alongside music producer George Atkins, founder of 80 Hertz Studios, the competition gives hopefuls a unique opportunity to get noticed – one that Clint feels is still necessary despite artists having greater control over sharing their music online.

“Any tool that helps a band get to the next level is an important one. 15 years ago that was Myspace, when I was starting off with my band, fanzines and cassette tapes were vital tools so I think when you get a competition like this, it’s just an amazing opportunity to get onto that next level.”

Launched by Manchester brewery JW Lees, the top prize includes the chance to record a professionally mastered track, create a music video and perform at a headline gig.

“The prizes that MPA are giving away here aren’t cheap, it’d take a band a long time to save up for this,” he added.

As the conversation moves onto to Clint’s own relationship with music, he described the parallels between Manchester in the Inspiral Carpets’ heyday and now, with the city notorious for its eclectic sounds.

“There’s a wave of bands and ‘singer songwriters’ working in Manchester at the moment laying down what I believe, will be the next generation of amazing music.

“One of my nicest memories of ‘Madchester’ is the way we all supported each other. We went to each other’s gigs, we hung out together and bought each other’s records.”

Though away from the media spotlight, he said, Manchester’s music scene is still thriving with a ‘diverse selection of music styles’ coexisting underground.

The Gramotones, Blossoms, Prose, Nude, Danny Mahon, The Tapestry, the Kindest of Thieves, Alias Kid, Brown Brogues, JJ Rosa, Black Rivers, Jordan Allen are just a few of the bands and artists he listed to watch out for.

“I’m sure in time someone will come along, package things up and give it a cool name again. But for now we’re a happy city, busy making the next generation of wonderful and influential music.”

Clint’s unique position as part of both the new and old generation of music, has given him clear perspective on the developments within his industry.

Using Twitter and SoundCloud to discover new music online, by his own admission, he’s ‘totally immersed’ in the digital age and new way of communicating. 

“It’s a very digital experience and I’m totally immersed in the digital age. As a music maker, a music lover, and a music consumer, we just live in this amazing world at the moment. There’s never been a better time to make, send or listen to music.”

Touching briefly on a more recent innovation, Jay Z’s Tidal – the first artist-owned music streaming service with a fee for users, the 55-year-old verges on sceptical.

“What I saw was a lot of multimillionaires in the room talking about this product that they’re going to benefit from and it’s hard to know whether it’s coming from the right angle,” he said.

“As an artist you deserve to get financial benefits from what you’ve created but is it going to benefit the man in the street – the music consumer?”

With music lovers globally celebrating Record Store Day yesterday, Manchester’s prolific status for cultivating homegrown talent means the city will have a notable buzz.

A guerrilla movement from the US, it’s in its eighth year in the UK and a perfect time to reflect on what makes independent music so special. 

“The important thing with the independent record shops and labels, and bands that do a lot of things for themselves is, staying true to the soul of what Rock and Roll really is.”

Describing rock and roll as ‘music of the working classes,’ Clint reminded me the genre in its embryonic stage was ‘just kids with a guitar singing about stuff that touches them and emulates some of their heroes’.

“It’s nice to keep that spirit and as soon as you become part of the corporate machine, it changes,” he said.

“The bottom line with Record Store Day is, these record shops are passionate people selling records to passionate people.

“It’s raising awareness of this amazing underground culture that’s now starting to come overground again, the fact that it’s a success, and so that the man in the street knows that vinyl is coming back into prominence.”

Clint explained that his hectic schedule, including a 14-year DJ spot at South Night Club, won’t deviate much for Record Store Day as it’s already ‘dominated’ by his ‘passion for music.’ Finding time to visit Manchester’s famed record shops over the weekend, he’s clearly enamoured by their presence and continues on an almost philanthropic tangent.

“[Record shops] live and breathe for music and it’s a great thing to have in your blood. If everybody in the world loved music as much as I and my friends do, there wouldn’t be wars and the world wouldn’t be in such a mess.”

Back on the frontline with the Inspiral Carpets after an nine-year break, their current single, Let You Down, is an independent release through Cherry Red Records.

Gearing up for the Apollo Festival in York this summer, as well as promoting their self-titled fifth studio album, Clint and his band mates are ‘excited, happy and in the zone.’

“The Inspirals is almost like a hobby again but it’s a hobby that made us a lot of money because we manage ourselves. There’s no pressure, we’re not worried about selling records anymore because our lives don’t depend on it, we’ve got other things to feed our families.”

Overwhelmed by the positive response from their fans, Clint is glad to be reunited with the gang and admitted they’ve been together constantly since 2003.

“It’s that gang, it’s those five people that started making music 30 years ago that are back together. Things have changed, we’ve got a lot of kids between us now, some of us are going grey but we enjoy being together, and enjoy the sound of the music that we’re playing.”

To follow the Inspiral Carpets go to www.inspiralcarpets.com

For more information or to enter the Refreshing Sounds competition visit www. www.manchesterpaleale.com/refreshingsounds

Picture courtesy of idi0tech, with thanks.

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