Interview: Manu Francois
It’s an honor to have you here in the Sanctum and get to know you better, Manu! Let me start by asking: Why music? How did life lead you to express yourself through music? How did it all start?
Hello Spyros and thank you for having me on your blog. Music has always been my twin, my means of expression, of escape, of joy, of release. My father put me on drums when I was 3 years old back in the Caribbean. Then growing up in New Zealand, I got into the Metal scene and began drumming for a band called Athenic, a progressive, ambient, technical death metal band. Perhaps you’d enjoy our music, I’ll leave a link to some of our material at the end of this write up. But yeah man, music, with it’s infinite variables, it’s freedom of motion, be it quantised or free flowing is a beautiful pool in which to create. Music is a dance to the gods, it is an expression of the shape of our soul and to what degree we can pour our infinite potential into a creative and evocative sound can make you smile, laugh, cry, scream, feel elated, feel connected, and most particularly.. dance! So I will always have a home in music, and music will always have a home in me.
Is Manu Francois a full-time musician or are you occupied by another job/activities as well?
I am a full time musician. I don’t make a great deal from it at this stage but that doesn’t bother me too much. I know the potential is in me to do so and I will actualize this. Being an independent musician is a lot more complicated than just playing and creating music. You’ve got to do aaaalllll this other administrative work that can be truly soul sucking. We are musicians, not necessarily marketers, computer savvy etc, and feeling that it is your responsibility to amass a crowd to your music in this day and age can be an intimidating thing as well. But you know, it all depends on how you view your music and what is important to you, why you do it.
Your discography starts with the LP ‘Check It’ in 2017. What does this album mean to you and what was your vision behind it?
'Check It' is a Rap and Song album. An experimental venture into what I thought would be my quickest road to fame and fortune. Naïve as it is, I was looking to become a famous artist in the Mainstream, so my thought was, do what the Mainstream is doing. You know… Try your best along the way and infuse yourself, your mind into it and maybe it’ll get picked up. But nothing really came from this album except people getting the feeling that that was the way I was going with my music. Music is a gift man, it’s more than just a route to fame and fortune. I’ve been taking the road manufactured for me for way too long, so when I wrote ‘Humanity’ it was a break away from that. I felt a strong need to show the listening world the shape, color and landscapes of my heart and soul.
I was shocked to discover the turn you took with your latest EP ‘Humanity’ sound-wise. How did you go from a heavily electronic-driven direction to this completely stripped sound?
My birthday is in September and my darling fiancé Alisha bought me this charming wee cigar box guitar for my birthday. We called it Ciggi, the Cigar Box guitar. At this time, I had already a produced album in the finishing stages, this album is called ‘Tronic Love’ and it is unreleased. I still have it. It is a pop album and it’s pretty cool. But just when Alisha gave me this guitar, it was during a time when I was going trough some tough emotions due to some unresolved social drama that I let get the better of me. I had emotions inside that I needed to get out in a healthy way. So when I immediately started creating on Ciggi, these songs just poured out of me. 5 songs came and were written and recorded in 10 days, and they all fell into place in the right order to create the experience that I felt was true to my being.
How does it feel showing the world this new side of you embodied in ‘Humanity’?
It feels fantastic. I am excited to release it because, you know what? I am proud of this EP. The music is simple and sweet, deep but unpretentious and genuine and that is something that I appreciate came out of me. That is the real me inside the layers of social conditioning. So at some point, I realized that I don’t want the Karma that is created from expressing something that I don’t feel fully aligned with. If this journey is not about showing to everyone what the system has told you you need to show them, then it is about expressing what is truly your intention. What is the creation of the real you. What is important to the real you. THE REAL YOU. I have a family on the way now, and that is all that I care about. I want to become more in tune with the real me, I know him well, but it’s easy to loose touch if we play faces all day.
To me, it feels as if your acoustic sound reflects a newly found confidence, maturity and peace of mind. Is this true or am I misled by your laid-back instrumental direction?
You’re absolutely right brother. There is nothing more freeing that surrendering yourself to the reality of who you are. People are not to be feared, their thoughts, opinions, if they are not truly righteous and compassionate, then their opinions are manifestations of crookedness within them, and that is not your Karma to bare. Just get on with being you. You can’t live life to please everyone, and no one is above you in this life. We don’t live life to amass hundreds and thousands of “friends”. Actually, it is precious to have a small circle of friends, whom you can really trust and give your 100 to. And everyone else, just treat with compassion and understanding and you will have a momentary kinship with anyone you pass.
Is there a song in Humanity that holds a more special place in your heart? Also, can you give us the story behind ‘Roads’?
All of the songs on Humanity EP mean something to me, however the title track ‘Humanity’ comes from a deep place in me. A place that has caused me much pain and suffering in the past. So that song is special to me and I hope that it reaches the places it was meant to along the way. ‘Roads’ is the reminiscent song on the album. It was important to have this song because it is a piece of me, not just as a human, but of Manu. The boy who grew up with his mother and sisters in a beloved family house up in Halswell, up on the hill and nooked in the trees. Who watched the clouds go by on sunny days and thought of the unknown of what was to come. The boy who grew to embody and realize his traumas as the years passed. The boy who is still here learning his manhood.
If you had to pick one of your albums and one of your songs to reach worldwide recognition, which ones would you choose and why?
If I were to pick one, it would be this one, ‘Humanity’. After all, this one is the truest representation of who I am really, and it is the first album that is truly, in my eyes, my gift to the world. For once, I am not concerned with what I get in return. It just gives me fulfillment knowing simply that people will listen to it. I trust in this album to reach the heart of my tribe worldwide, anyone who lets this music in is accepting and appreciating my creation, me. For once, I don’t hope, I trust that this album will be a gift to many. A solace, an understanding, akin.
Are there specific artists that might have inspired your sound? Also, can you share a few names of both older and newly-discovered artists/bands that deserve our attention?
This sound? It’s hard to say really, they’re just sweet songs. Not too much inspiration being taken from other artists as I wrote it, just kinda pulling from how I am inside from all my years of music consumption, experimentation and preference. But if I were to name two artists I can feel play a hand in my sound in different ways on this album, I would say Ben Howard and Bob Marley.
Are there plans for 2022? New releases, live shows etc?
2022, we’ll see how we go. I will always be able to perform my music in the free lanes, on the streets out busking etc, this will always be an honr and a pleasure. I hope that things will open up, opportunities will be available to perform, and I can only hope that the people come out on top of this scenario. Best wishes and good luck to everyone who read this article and took time to listen to the EP, I hope it served your spirit well. And thank you Spyros for having on your blog today, it really as been a pleasure. So Thank You. PS. Here is a link to the beginning chapter of the string of drum videos I have from the recording of Athenic’s album Chapters Of The Osireion. The recordings themselves are only available on my soundcloud (Manu Francois). There are 7 Videos in the Chapters.
Enjoy Francois on Youtube: