Getting To Know: Prawn Prison
Above: Prawn Prison
When was Prawn Prison born?
I’ve been writing towards the concept for about a year now but properly birthed it in January. I wanted a project where the subject matter of the tunes was reflective of my experiences, in my own brummie accent with all its blemishes. The name was inspired by a short story i wrote about being trapped in a sanitised middle class existence, and i found i enjoyed writing songs that explored how to break free from this prison, or at least how to submit to its suffering instead.
Had you been involved in any creative projects before?
I was the frontman for Manchester band Harpans Kraft for about five years which was a great experience for my creative development. We played with many great bands that i'm sure will make it to Jools Holland's green room at some point, deserving or not. My personal highlight of my time with Kraft was going down to London and hiring a Boris bike out to fly around the capital, filming a music video for an England footy tune called Euro Vision.
What inspired your move to Manchester? What influence has it had creatively?
The initial move was mainly inspired by a drunken idea with a mate in Sheffield, but i’ve always resonated with Manchester’s culture and knew I’d probably end up there at some point. I wanted to get my writing out there and be in a band and saw it to best place to move. I’ve lived in Birmingham and Sheffield, and enjoyed their specific scenes, but i found Manchester more accommodating to the creative outlets i’m interested in - like poetry and photography. It’s allowed me to experiment with my performances and meet like-minded artists, as there are a lot of varied venues and crowds that indie artists can play. Elsewhere, in my experience, there are more exclusive scenes, where there needs to be an element of reputation or conformity to get the same opportunities as in Manchester.
Coming from the concrete paradise of Birmingham too, i enjoy the fact that in Manchester it seems you’re never ten minutes from a park. I do all my best writing on walks so i find i’m more productive when sat amongst nature rather than outside a defunct Debenhams.
Any spots in Manchester you'd recommend?
Hmm, i’d struggle in this day. If you’ve got a bit of money then the New Century Hall is a rated venue. I saw john cooper clarke there on its reopening and they gave me a tote bag so i feel obliged to shout them out. But that’s all. I used to be a champion of Northern Quarter because there’d be a nice atmosphere around there with people drinking in a rare partially-pedestrianised part of the city. But now its more accommodating to those cosplaying dead pop-stars and ordering overpriced cocktails. The place will be student accommodation in ten years, but then again, so will everything. My local in Burnage, the Victoria Inn, is a proper boozer.
You previously fronted the band Harpans Kraft. How does going solo differ in regards to the recording process and overall experience? Does it feel more vulnerable?
In a way it feels less vulnerable now i’m solo. There’s great comfort in only having to justify yourself to the critics in your head. Although it’s harder now in terms of composing the instrumentals, i’m relishing the new challenge. It’s been refreshing to approach songwriting with the concept and tone of the lyrics coming first, with the instrumentals following suit. I miss the feeling of being in a band, when it all clicks into place and you start to think that maybe you are Oasis, but now i still get that same feeling, just usually with my kettle and keyboard as collaborators.
The recording process seems to be a lot more enjoyably lonely too. I feel the absence of people in the studio, but only as much as i feel great relief that I’m not having to wait around for six hours to lay down a vocal track. I was beginning to see why Mark E Smith drank so much.
I really love the artwork for your music. Did you put it together yourself, or is it part of a collaboration with another artist?
Thanks! I did the artwork myself, with the creative motivation that comes with being skint. I wanted to capture a feeling of the uncanny, something familiar but unsettling, and ended up designing about fifteen different neo-liberal prawn inspired pieces of art. I picked the cross-eyed-men-in-suits design a minute before i submitted the track for release, because i found it amusing that no women were on the cover for a song called Ladies who Lunch. I’ve managed to stave any regret that usually comes with a rushed decision!
The music video will also be out at end of June, which i created with the help of Ai, so i’m well i’m excited to get that out.
Ladies Who Lunch is such a great track. How quickly did the concept for the track come to you?
I appreciate that. I knew i wanted my first song to have a simplistic eeriness to it, that introduces the world of Prawn Prison. I started by digging out a poem i wrote years back about snobbery, a story about me being the servant to the Ladies who Lunch - the Daddy’s chalet in Italy visiting, Live Laugh Love believing, Heat Magazine reading, types. Then i looped the bass and synth over and over one evening, and improvised the chorus and monologue at the end of the song. Combined with the poem and the words i came up with that evening, it developed into a tale about me being turned away from the Bullingdon club for having trainers on. The overall form of the song came quickly from there, and I knew i wanted to include an Ai voice to deliver the last monologue to reflect the patronisingly engrained Etonian old boy voice we all have inside us criticising our ways.
Are all your tracks written based on lived experience? Or do you try and change it up on each song?
My tracks all definitely come from a place of truth within my life, but then i usually distort them enough away from my surroundings to feel comfortable discussing them. I’m drawn towards the cyclical nature of human behaviour, and what means we use to justify this doomed-to-repeat-our-mistakes state. I’ll take a true feeling or modern phenomenon and apply it to a time or place in the past, usually with a wife called Linda by my side. I'm very character and concept driven, and i think that's inspired by all the faces i'd be surrounded by as a kid, being brought around pubs by my parents, where i'd be shoved in the corner with 50p for the pool table, to soak up the stories of people that used to be someone in 1983. And they'd tell me about 1983 constantly, but I'd always find the truth they omitted from their anecdotes much more interesting, and imagine the scene for myself and go on to write stories from these. This must have effected my style now, taking a truth and distorting it enough to be palatable. So yeah, it’s rare I’ll ever write a song that is not relevant to my life, but i will just embellish them enough for the truth to be deniable.
What can we expect from Prawn Prison for the rest of 2023?
My second single ‘On & On (& On)’ is being released towards the end of July. I’m really happy with it and it’s definitely one of the best songs i’ve written that encapsulates the feeling of modern apathy. In regards to gigs, I’ve also been offered some slots in Manchester so i’m currently in the process of sorting out the logistics of playing live. For now i envision it’ll be me up on stage on my own, but before the end of the year i want to add a bassist to the project.
Besides that, my releases will be consistent and there's whispers out there of me writing a song with another Manchester band in the near future. I’m really enjoying the freedom and challenges of doing it all on my own, how proactive and disciplined i need to be at all times. There’s a very satisfying creative fulfilment at the end of it all that makes it fun to explore and motivates you to carry on daily, so there will be plenty more ramblings from me to come.