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Documentary Shows There’s Life After Oasis

Ben Robinson meets the documentary maker who’s showing there’s more to Manchester than the Oasis and The Stone Roses.

Written by . Published on August 16th 2012.


Documentary Shows There’s Life After Oasis

THE city is still awash with people excitedly gabbling about the June's goings-on at Heaton Park.

The euphoria that the 220,000 people felt on any one of the three nights on which the Stone Roses took to the stage is struggling to fade.

Manchester 2012 was transformed into Manchester circa 1989, even Dry Bar had a hearty crowd spilling out into Oldham Road once again. Only this time around the bucket hat wearing Baggies appeared more wrinkly and filled out than previous - although the Brown-esque swaggers were still present.

‘Manchester: Beyond Oasis’ is a feature length documentary about Manchester’s new generation of bands, artists, producers and promoters attempting to shift focus out from the shadows of Oasis and The Stone Roses

In a year of Manchester revivals that has also seen the Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets re-unite, The Roses managed to sound vital again. The songs sounded fresh and even strangely relevant after sixteen years of silence.

The future for the Brown, Squire, Mani and Reni as a band after this summer’s festival dates is uncertain. Perhaps they felt they had unfinished business, perhaps it was them writing the final chapter in their history, perhaps they’ll go back into the studio and produce another five albums. Time will tell.

Stone RosesStone Roses

Even Liam Gallagher got in on the newest wave of Manchester music nostalgia with his band Beady Eye playing two early Oasis tracks during their Heaton Park support slot. And it is the global success of Oasis that documentary maker Brett Gregory chooses to use as the jumping off point for his documentary showcasing Manchester’s new musical landscape in an attempt to move away from its domineering heritage.

‘Manchester: Beyond Oasis’ is a feature length documentary about Manchester’s new generation of bands, artists, producers and promoters attempting to shift focus out from the shadows of Oasis and The Stone Roses.

This is Gregory’s second film following 2010’s ‘Iceland: Beyond Sigur Rós’ made on a shoestring in the shadow of ash thrown out across Western Europe by the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption. Gregory along with friends, Nic Jackson and Alistair Topping sought to explore the relationship between Iceland’s music and the environment it’s created in.

Sigur RosSigur Ros

Gregory spoke passionately about what became the beginnings of his ‘Beyond...’ series of films: “We felt it meaningful to attempt to explore the reasons why, say, this place produces this type and/or level of music while this other place doesn’t. What are the people like? What’s their history? Why do they do what they do?”

After exploring and capturing the sights and sounds of Iceland and having their short film be picked up by the Icelandic Tourist Board the trio returned to their native Manchester.

Gregory and crew then set about hatching their 90-minute follow up documenting everything they were passionate about in their home city. As such they roped in artists including The Whip, Brown Brogues, Kirsty Almeida, Kid British, I Am Kloot, Milk Maid, May68 and Young British Artists to name but a few alongside interviews with independent producer Aniff Akinola, Co-Founder of Debt Records Louis Barabbas and former BBC Manchester Introducing producer Chris Long.

“Manchester is Manchester and always shall be: its music, its culture, its history, its people; its attitude, its productivity, its diversity, its impact.  Due to our financial circumstances and its distance ‘Iceland: Beyond Sigur Rós’ was shot without the preparation we would have preferred, it is unashamedly low-budget and, as a consequence, is 30 minutes in length.

"We knew from the outset however that Greater Manchester always had the breadth and depth out of which a feature length film could be built and, for the sake of posterity at least, we felt it our duty to sacrifice whatever we could to produce the project to the highest level.” said Gregory.

“With regards to the title, since our starting point in ‘The Beyond Series’ is the notion of ‘stereotypes’ and how people are encouraged to use these to help them simplify the world and make it more manageable, we settled on ‘Oasis’ because of the mediated Mancunian image they have encouraged and enjoyed over the last 20 years and which so many people still find instantly recognisable.”

OasisOasis

According to Gregory many of the current bands in Manchester cite more international influences rather than focusing on the city’s own musical heritage: “As with everything in life the past always looms large and the anxiety of influence is forever heavy if you allow it to be. However, throughout the duration of the production we’ve learned that while Greater Manchester’s contemporary artists are fully aware of the region’s musical past and its perceived effect from around the globe, they really try not to care that much: they just want to do their own thing and see where it goes.  In fact, they’re probably more influenced by Tom Waits, Kraftwerk and Madonna than they are by The Smiths, The Stone Roses or Oasis.” he said.

“They don’t really need any ‘help’ with their music at all, and it would be very patronising and discouraging to assume that they do.  How they manage and promote themselves in order to earn a regular living wage however is a different story.”

The film was premiered at The Ruby Lounge on Friday as Stone Roses took to the stage for the first of their three mammoth return gigs. The entire project was entirely self-funded by Gregory from a bank-loan he took out against the strength of his salary.

“When you take into account the accumulated equipment costs, talent, labour, administration, promotion, communication, etc, the final production expenditure often brings me out in a cold sweat and so I try not to think of it,” he said.

Despite the huge personal cost taken to complete the documentary over fifteen months, Gregory has allowed the film to be downloaded for free from his website for people to burn their own DVDs of the film and distribute them to friends to ensure as many Mancunian music lovers as possible see it. Currently focusing on this feature length release Gregory mentioned that he is soon planning to turn his attentions to the next project, ‘Liverpool: Beyond The Beatles’ if the ‘fates’ allow him to do so.

The documentary proves that there is more to Manchester at the moment than the resurgence of past greats. The Stone Roses may have performed their resurrection but ‘Manchester: Beyond Oasis’ shows that there are plenty of new heroes rising from the ashes of the city’s musical heritage.

You can watch ‘Manchester: Beyond Oasis’ and download it here.

You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenPRobinson.

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