Davey Macmanus Interview

framework_logoCamden Review have a long and revealing interview with Crimea frontman Davey Macmanus up, and they’ve clearly done their research. To read, or re-read, exactly what makes Davey want to give up the music biz and dissapear halfway across the world, check it out right here. Or, if you’re reading this in a few years time, hit more, cos it’ll still be there ;) . Proper charity will come ASAP.

Interview – The Crimea’s Davey MacManus on Amazing Grace
Jazz Cafe

The Crimea: Owen Hopkin, Davey MacManus, Andrew Stafford and Joe Udwin

Published: 25 July, 2013

ON DAVEY MacManus’ last night in South Africa, a young girl was found five miles from the slum she lived in, legs tied, mouth taped, abandoned and drunk on the highway.

Davey, lead singer of Camden band The Crimea, has spent the summer seeking help for young Grace – his charity Amazing Grace’s namesake – calling the authorities daily but with no joy.

“She was 10 years old, pregnant, kept being raped, had TB, never been to school,” says Davey. “They kept burning her and beating her for stealing food. I just couldn’t even get her into care. That’s why I’m going back to start a children’s home. There’s 40 or 50 kids just like her who weren’t being protected in any way. That was really sad. I didn’t feel like I had a choice, I have to go back.”

This is Davey’s explanation for the unusual announcement that not only are The Crimea about to release their third album, but that this will be launched on the day the band split up at a one-off gig at Jazz Cafe (July 30).

Double album Square Moon has been five years in the making – their best “by a million miles” – and Davey has been busy. He trained as a nurse and, as the only white man in a slum of 300,000 people in South African slum Diepslot, dubbed by Louis Theroux “the most dangerous place in the world”, he brought in instruments, teaching the children to play, and set up a centre for orphans, which was subsequently stripped bare in a robbery.

Undeterred, he plans to return and set up an orphanage funded by his charity, despite protestations from his parents and amidst martial law and shootings for the most minor of prizes.

“The low points in Africa happen every single day – seeing children suffering and alone in the world with multiple health issues, just daily carnage, non-stop sadness and pain, so much hardship. There’s no law and order.

It’s martial law. If you steal a mobile phone you get killed. I saw that happen lots of times. I saw someone get killed for stealing taps.”

While working 12-hour shifts at a HIV clinic, Davey would teach music in the evenings, bringing countless instruments on each visit.

He says: “I brought 250 harmonicas, guitars, an electric piano, drums for 30 kids to play at once, a drumming circle. The high point was walking around the orphanage late at night, there’s no electricity, everybody cooks in a fire, hearing the harmonicas at every campfire.

“Every night I was singing around campfires. I preferred it to singing onstage. I felt like an old 60s singer – you’ve got no mic, you have to project your voice. Somehow you have to be more powerful when you’re not hiding behind everything else. It’s just you and a guitar.”

But his work came with considerable risk: “My charity spent £7,500 on this centre for orphans and sexually abused children, we’d feed 300 kids a day last summer and everything got stolen. You just have to take that risk. I don’t want to build a children’s home 10 miles away from the slum surrounded by barbed wire, I want the children to grow up in the environment where they’ve been all their lives and it has to be in the centre of the slum.”

And his job inevitably drew attention from unwelcome sources: “I was staying in a shack and those people were good to me. I was working with children being sexually abused. There’s always an abuser there and it’s the danger there from them. The minute I turn up on the door it means that you’re doing something to your kid. I just hope to ingratiate myself to the community and make them feel it’s their orphanage and make them proud of it and not come in the middle of the night and steal everything.”

Davey has lived a life of extremes. On a mountain at 17, he found himself giving CPR to a cub leader for two and a half hours – the man died. This, and the early death of his aunt, a nurse, sparked his desire to become a nurse: “Now I’ve given CPR so many times you wouldn’t believe and brought so many people back to life so I’ve vanquished my demons.”

After a fleeting flirtation with farming he formed a band and signed to Virgin with The Crocketts, aged 19, working as a parkkeeper, binman and street sweeper before living the life of a king with The Crimea.

The latter was championed by John Peel after Davey slipped him a demo while sweeping the streets around Russell Square (Peel went on to play all 11 demos on his show), the band toured with Smashing Pumpkins twice, were signed to Warner Brothers, toured the world and made the headlines by being the first to release their second album as a free download.

But Davey is a somewhat reluctant character, lasting six months in his ambitions to become a farmer, studying countryside management.

He says: “It was my grandfather’s business and I was very keen to go into it me but I was just a confused kid and so I chose the first thing in the book. But my heart wasn’t in it.

“I just got tired of being a musician. All you do is talk about yourself all day long and put your hand up in the air saying, ‘me, me, me’. I never even meant to be a musician, it didn’t suit my character. I wasn’t a happy musician and it didn’t matter where I was in the world I was depressed and sad, New York. LA or Australia, I was just not feeling it and just wanted to do something different with my life.”

And, although now compelled to return to South Africa, this is more of a vocation than a deliberate intention: “I never wanted to be a fundraiser or start a charity, it’s just not my thing, but I don’t have any choice, I just have to do it so I’m doing it.”

He says the band is proud of the album: “I’m a massive perfectionist. It’s the first release we made without the pressure of a label in 18 years. I really enjoyed the process and really went to town and made the record I was happy with. Our biggest supporter is Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol). He helped us finance this album, and lent us his engineer to mix it. He paid for the expensive stuff, all the things I couldn’t do at home to make it sound like a professional piece of music. Everybody wants to sound like Radiohead so he helped us. We were very lucky.”
As for the rest of the band?

“Everyone’s had to enter normal life after years of having a kind of exalted lifestyle. Maybe they did it better than me, I don’t even know how to pay a bill. In the last three years they’ve all done well in their own personal lives. So they’re happy.”

Having declared he’s not planning on coming back, has Davey considered what he would do if the album is a huge hit?

“Not really, no. I’m sorry, I haven’t, I’m just going there and that’s it. For me it’s the best album we’ve ever released by a million miles, I’m so proud of it. I’m really grateful we managed to sign another record deal – the third one at age 36. We’re not that fat and we’re not that bald, we’re just lucky to find another deal. It’s a miracle.”

For more info on Amazing Grace follow @DaveyMacManus on Twitter or find him on Facebook.

Interview by Roisin Gadelrab for Camden Review, 25th July 2013.

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