Interview with Manny Zennelli of Closure in Moscow
Mansur Zennelli, better known as “Manny”, of the band Closure In Moscow, took some time to talk with interviewer Angie Knost about a variety of subjects while on the Van’s Warped Tour 2010. Closure In Moscow is an Australian progressive-rock band that formed in 2006. They have become well established in their own country, and for the past year and a half have been concentrating on sharing their sounds with the US. Manny plays guitar and sings for the band, and also has lots of interesting things to say about commercialism, Guitar Hero, and of course, music.
Of the interview circumstances, Angie said, “This could be called the first of my Bathroom Series of interviews. The Warped Tour has a very efficient system of getting interviews scheduled and arranged, but tours of this magnitude often have space constraints due to the sheer volume of bands being interviewed by the press at any given time. During the middle of the day, the press area became so crowded that I was asked to move my interviews into the only available room, a nearby bathroom.
The lavatory environment led to some interesting impromptu discussion, such as Manny’s explanation of how toilets flush completely differently in Australia, that the water circles the other way, and that people don’t “TP” houses in Australia, but he was familiar with ‘TP’ ing from seeing it done in American movies.
While reading this interview, picturing Manny sitting nonchalantly on the toilet seat, with me facing him as I leaned up against the cold tiled wall, tape recorder in hand, might add a bit of levity despite some of the serious subjects we ended up broaching. “
Angie: Have you been on the Warped Tour before ?
Manny: Never. This is our first Warped Tour. We’re absolutely stoked. It’s sort of a surreal experience. Fun times!
Angie: Are you on the duration of the 2010 tour ?
Manny: We’re on the full tour, yes.
Angie: Have you seen much of the United States before?
Manny: We spent the whole last year here. We relocated from Melbourne, Australia. Yeah, we we’re touring pretty much the entire year. Then we went back for a couple of months. Now we’re back for this…
Angie: What do you think of the mixture of older and newer bands, and different genres, on this Warped Tour? Do you think it hurts or helps promote?
Manny: I think a tour of this magnitude, the diversity of the line up is what makes it good. On our stage we have a hardcore throw down band. Then we go to a pop-punk band. Then we go to a us, were kind of prog-rocky. Then we go to another stage, where there is Suicide Silence, which is brutal. Then I saw Pierce The Veil play. With that diversity, it helps a lot of bands as well….I mean, I listen to heavy stuff; then I’ll go home and rock out on Radiohead. People have eclectic tastes, so I think a tour like this definitely helps that.
Angie: What is your role in the band, other than the obvious playing guitar and singing? Are there other duties you assume such as organizer, promoter, etc?
Manny: I think we’re all even spread [in terms of handling various aspects of band business]. We’re all like a family. We help each other out. I don’t want to say I’m the organizer per se… We can all pretty much do it. On this tour, I’ve been acting tour manager. We couldn’t bring any crew out, so we decided to do it D.I.Y. We thought if we were going to do it, we might as well do it punk rock, so we do it in a van and trailer by ourselves….Generally all of us are pretty hands on, and like to help out.
Angie: What are some of your influences and favorite bands?
Manny: We draw influences from everything, honestly . I draw influences from soul music, R&B, chill out music, stuff you wouldn’t expect… Our singer listens to a lot of 70’s progressive rock, like Yes, King Crimson and Frank Zappa — stuff like that. After I’ve listened to a lot of metal, I’ll listen to soul, R&B, funk. Some of the guys listen to this, and I think it keeps everything fresh and diverse, if you draw from those influences. Off the top of my head, in terms of influences, I’m rocking Angie Stone. I’m rocking a band called ILS; they’re from the UK. Sort of like chill out music; good times.
Angie: When you play here versus when you play in Australia, are the crowds different. Are the kids different in any way?
Manny: Very different. They’re different here because we haven’t been exposed to them as much. We spent 3 or 4 years, before we even got here, in Australia, just touring around and playing shows. We built up our name over there. That was great because it allowed us to come over here and do the same here. It’s such a larger market. You’re talking 30 million people to 330 million people. I think in terms of the crowd, we’ve been getting good comments and reviews and whatnot. So when we come out, though they may not be into it, they’ll be listening intently . And our crowds have been great. It’s chalk and cheese at the moment in terms of crowds. But I’m hoping that’s gonna change…
This tour alone, because we spent last year touring, we’re getting so many people coming up to our tent, or seeing us around and saying, “Hey, I like your album…. I’m so into you guys, I love you guys……” It’s just so surreal, because were an Aussie band; now we’re in America kind of doing the same thing. It’s pretty cool.
Angie: So have you had any experiences where your fans have done something crazy or fanatical. Are you getting bras thrown at you or anything?
Manny: Yes, we’ve had some weird things…We’ve had people give us locks of hair. That’s some Beatles stuff there…crazy. Which is cool, it’s really cool. We’ve had people cry and break down in front of us….
We don’t see them as ‘fans’; I see them as friends. You appreciate music; we’re in the same boat, really. So when we get up there, we’re not like, “We’re king deacon, we’re playing” .
So I think that’s something appealing about us to people, especially on this tour. They can just come to our tent. We’re usually out there. You can come say “hey”, listen to music, talk… whatever. That’s supposed to be music; we all get sucked in for life. This whole “We’re the band” [attitude]….some bands take it too far. There should be a healthy balance.
Angie: What do you think about the current state of the music industry, as far as how much bands are expected to have things online and have a presence, and piracy…things like that ?
Manny: Itself is the worst thing that happened to the music industry. The music industry sucks. Every facet about it sucks. It’s become not so much how good a band you are, how good an artist you are, but how good of a salesman you are…Especially on a tour like this, especially in this country, if you’re a great salesman, you can sell your CD to kids, regardless of if your band is rubbish. You’ll be big, because of the sheer numbers of selling CD’s.
I think that’s something that the media does. I think the internet has done that a lot, in terms of mp3’s and what not. Our whole band believes that technology will save everybody. We’re waiting for that singularity where technology will free everyone, and kill all the monotonous and mundane jobs and that sort of stuff. Just that whole rise of technology, especially music, it’s killed a lot of bands. It’s made a lot of bands as well. You just have to evolve with it, I think.
People now are expected to have Twitters and Facebooks and MySpaces, all these social networking things you’re supposed to be on 24 hours a day…telling people “Now I’m going to the bathroom…now I’m walking down to catering….now I’m gonna walk here”. It’s a bit of both [good and bad]…
If people are in to that, it’s sweet. We have a twitter account. I tweet stuff. Upload a photo. It’s mainly because you get it back. I feel if people take time out to Tweet us, we might as well reciprocate. I don’t have a personal one. I would never sit there and say “hey I’m chilling out, doing this…” That’s the lamest thing in the world to me.
Angie: The warped tour is known for tents full of merchandise, lined up as far as the eye can see. It’s become a massive marketplace in it’s own right…products, products and marketing all around. It seems to have become acceptable and even expected for music to be capitalized on in every possible way. In Australia, is music this commercialized?
Manny: Not as commercial as this place. It’s getting there, which is getting really scary. Not to say that America is an evil place, but it kind of is at the same time. When you turn on TV here, you’re seeing pharmaceutical ads, you’re seeing stuff like…I saw an ad for a pill the other day that’s supposed to be like an ‘in between work’ pill., where like, when you’re feeling down in the day, you just pop this pill and it will pep you back up….until you can get home to take caffeine or get your vitamins and all the rest of this sh*t. I think as a nation, you guys are kind of conditioned through media outlets…just to be…it’s capitalism at its best.. “Buy this, sell this, you want this, this is the greatest, this is the best.” Essentially, all the tents out there….it comes down to money really, doesn’t it? If we didn’t have money, there’s no way in hell any one of those dudes would be out there slinging sh*t. So, it’s kind of like a traveling supermarket. This show is great; it’s absolutely amazing. It gets you exposed to so many cool people. It gets your music out there. You get to meet so many cool bands and work with such lovely people as we’ve met. At the same time, it has negative connotations as well. Like the merch area for instance. You’ve seen it , you walk through and it’s like, you can’t walk 10 meters before people are like “Oh, listen to my CD! Listen, listen!”; you’re getting haggled like you’re in Turkish markets or something….
I’m glad it’s not like that in Australia, yet, but it’s getting that way. It’s kind of scary that the whole world might turn like that, really. Unless we abolish money…but that would lead to another whole….
Angie: …big philosophical conversation…
Manny: We’d be here for hours. I’d need to get a coffee. [both laugh]
Angie: It seems like some punk rock enthusiasts in the”old school” mindset…call them punk ‘elitists’, ‘purist’s, whatever….have trouble reconciling the commercialism. It’s funny the way things have progressed over the years with the over abundance of merch and such, and kids here just seem to take it for granted, and don’t seem to feel like they’re being sold to.
Manny: Maybe. I think in general, in the world, but America in particular, it desensitizes people. I mean, people can get on YouTube now and see someone getting slaughtered, you know what I mean? And pharmaceutical adds, and “Buy, buy buy!”, that’s just the norm here. We’re not a band that’s going to walk in front of you and say “Buy my CD!” We’re not going to do that. When a band like that is thrown into a market like this, it’s very apparent that it’s not your music that sells your band, it’s the type of a salesman you are. And that gives you such a disgusting feeling, to our entire band…all of us, you know?
There are punk rock elitists and purists, like what you said…it’s tough because you’ve got some great bands that refuse to mold to the way the system is now, and they go down the toilet because they get overshadowed by the next type of pop-salesman or something. We’re getting mad philosophical now, aren’t we?
Angie: We are!
Manny: We are. Hey! You haven’t asked me mundane questions, which is good. Most of the time, you get…boring questions.
Angie: [Smiles]. Thank you, Manny. That’s good to hear. You certainly haven’t given any boring answers.
Are there any issues, political, social or otherwise, that are dear to the heart of your band?
Manny: Things that are dear to our band?….It’s money, honestly. We think that money is evil. We think that if we got rid of money and became a resource-based economy, worldwide, that things would be great. And I think through technology, once we do reach that singularity, because knowledge is exponential, obviously… We’re at the precipice of it now, where it’s just going to boom. Once that happens, I think the world will be a better place. People kill for money, people starve because of money. Why? Why should that happen? It’s sad.
…There’s a guy called Jacque Fresco; he’s out of Florida, and he’s putting together a thing called Venus Project [see thevenusproject.com] . He’s basically going to build a resource based economic society. And he’s going build it in New Zealand. The man’s a genius…. This guy invented 3D cinema [bare-eye 3D cinematic projection methods] 30 years ago. The reason why he couldn’t do it was he needed more money, and Panavision wouldn’t give it to him. This is a guy that’s trying to do some good things that are getting overshadowed by big, bad capitalist business. That’s something that’s dear to my heart. But we could talk about this all day. [laughs]
To say something in terms of being on Warped Tour, I’d say, “Support your bands”. Go out to shows. And think, you know what I mean?…don’t get music just shoved down your throat. Think about if you like it . If it moves you some way, help them out.
Angie: On a lighter note, when you’re not playing music, what are some non-musical things you enjoy doing?
Manny: Besides hanging out with friends and family that I don’t get to see on tour, I like rock climbing; I’ve been getting into rock climbing lately. We’re all fairly large video game nerds.
Angie: Do musicians play Guitar Hero?
Manny: I do, and I suck at it. I can’t believe it, man. I’m so bad at it. I can play some songs at expert but then I’ll be at my friends house and his little cousin comes over and just shreds DragonForce on expert in front of me. And he’s just looking at me while he does it, and I’m like, “Learn a real guitar, man”. If you invested the time you put into this [Guitar Hero] into that [real guitar] you could create something amazing, as opposed to playing dots on a screen. It’s still fun, though, don’t get me wrong.
We all just hang out…try to keep it real. Touring life is really different from normal life. Your days blur together. Like I have no idea what day it is right now. What is this now, Sunday… Monday? It’s just a surreal way to live life. And it’s very cool.