Mick Head and the Red Elastic Band guitarist talks his new solo record as The Cold Explodes

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The Cold Explodes

Known to a few, heard by many, Getintothis’ Ian Salmon takes a look at the man behind The Cold Explodes haunting self-titled debut.

I’m sending all the ships to sea, in the hope that they’ll fail me.

There you go, that’s a taster, that’s a way in. Shall we do this in moments? Moments are important, moments are what makes the music take hold of you.

Ten minutes to ten, Sunday night; Formby bypass onto the Coast Road to Southport. The rain that had been torrential earlier had faded away but the wind remained, the wind and the darkness and the cold and the loneliness; the emptiness of the sand dunes to the right, the river and the desolation of the endless beach to the left. And, at that very moment, The Cold Explodes’ self titled debut, with its dark heart and its longing and its despair and its haunting Ocean Rain washes weaving their way from the iPod, made more sense than anything ever. It’s the moments, the moments pull you in.

You may not know the name The Cold Explodes, Getintothis didn’t when the first e-mail arrived and had no idea of the sad beauty to follow. You may not know Manilarajj, the man behind, the man who is The Cold Explodes but you may have been in a room with him, Getintothis definitely has. Several rooms. Rooms like The Kazimier, St Georges Hall, The Bridewell, The Philharmonic. Manilarajj appears on guitar for one of the many and varied incarnations of Michel Head & The Red Elastic Band. If you’ve seen him filling this role then you’ll be more than aware that he’s a spectacular guitarist. Which begs a simple question; why does his first solo album contain so little guitar, exchanging his primary instrument for orchestral depths and haunting piano? We took the sensible route and asked the man himself:

Relive the last night at the legendary Kazimier

“I love guitar so much, especially when I play with the Red Elastic Band, I just think I love piano more. For me, it’s become a more versatile writing tool than guitar could ever be, a piano enables me to lose myself and become wrapped up in a world of subconscious.”

So, what does this world of subconscious, this different world give us? With the haunting swirl of the first single, Send The Ships (yeah, those ones that he hopes will fail him and how lost a lyric does that sound?), the sparse loneliness of Violet Springs’ sparsely plucked guitar and the whispered suggestions of threat and danger wrapped up behind The Canyon’s Blue’s somnolent trumpets, what is ‘The Cold Explodes’ telling us?

“Send The Ships is about unresolved situations, my trying to put right part of what I didn’t want to rectify.” (Manilarajj’s website – thecoldexplodes.com – hints at this ‘taking extreme lengths to resolve situations that were supposed to lay unresolved’) “I wanted it to manifest so far out of control that there would be no way back” he continues, “The whole album is shrouded in an isolation that takes you beyond loneliness, I don’t know if you’ve been there but it’s a dark place. If this album doesn’t put you there lyrically (even momentarily) then the music will.

Violet Springs fairy tale waltz seems key to this, “That’s one of the most beautifully isolating songs for me and it’s been the topic of many debates as it quite literally unfolded before my eyes. I was in a terrible place and that song was the result. I feel like I had very little to do with it and the question is ‘was it my subconscious talking or something else? Something lurking externally, choosing its moment? That thought unnerves me but not as if all of this lies within. The world is, at times, incredibly dark and we’re all influenced by that, whether we like it or not but this album, for me, goes beyond any fear.”

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The darkness. You can’t stress the darkness enough. It’s a dark work but with shots of hope lighting the way. It’s in the lyrics, it’s in the sound of the piece. We’re feeling the presence of Mezzanine era Massive Attack, the balladry of Bill Fay with some of the hope worn through, the haunting beauty of the last two Talk Talk albums (we’re all on board with the last two Talk Talk albums by now aren’t we?), maybe a touch of Tom Waits. Is this the line that Manilarajj sees himself stepping into?

Interestingly enough, I’m not influenced as such by any of the guys you mention, maybe Tom Waits a little but my influences are so very varied, from Rachmaninov and Chopin to Radiohead and Richard Hawley to Four Tet and Queens Of The Stone Age.” And as he says that, I can see where each of those influences comes into play on the beautiful construction of The Cold Explodes. I can see the orchestral grandeur, the piano decoration, the half hidden vocals, the skittering acoustic and electric beats but there’s one artist that stands above all for Manilarajj;

Nick Drake. I remember walking into HMV on Church Street and as I set foot on the first step, this name came into my head as clear as day: Nick Drake. At that moment, for me, Nick could have been anyone: a politician, a footballer, a movie star but I went and searched for him. I nearly fell over when I found him there amongst a pile of CDs. I came away with Treasury. I put it on that night and heard River Man. That was a real moment in the shaping of me. I became obsessed with him, with his music. Lyrically he’s wonderful, melodically astounding and his guitar playing is breathtaking. There’s more to Nick though, mysticism aside, for me, he is pure magic. The loss of Nick Drake saddens me, he’s had a profound effect on me.

The effect comes through. The effect is a total belief in music, it’s an immersion in the moment, it’s an immersion in the mood.

For a man who has played guitar and toured with Sami Yusuf (nine million album sales, absolutely massive, Manilarajj is his acoustic guitarist of choice) and Michael Head (you know him, you’re familiar with Mick, you’ll hear him adding backing vocals to Send The Ships within seconds of putting this splendid album on and if you’ve seen the full Red Elastic Band show – let’s say at The Kaz – then know that Maniarajj already loves you for the ‘intimacy of Mick’s gigs, the circular motion vibe with the crowd’) Manilarajj has made his solo debut in/as The Cold Explodes with a wonderful, dark, chilling work of haunted beauty that will tell you that “you’re safe at a distance, you’re safe where you are.”

Embrace the moment.

  • The first playback of The Cold Explodes is on Saturday February 6 at the Bluecoat Chambers, School Lane, Liverpool.

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