The hot sun is beaming down on the face of the rhythm guitarist playing onstage in Mexico in 1999. On occasions he gazes up to the sun, he is slightly blinded by its glare and he is annoyed that he has left his sunglasses behind in the dressing room but happy he is no longer a plasterer from Manchester.
The congregation of fans sing in unison to the hits, even though the rhythm guitarist is feeling an overwhelming sense of joy and fulfillment with each chord, he cannot afford to show his emotions. That is not the rock and roll way, you must stay cool and not appear fazed by the occasion.
He glances across the stage and gazes at his friends, as the powerful music pumps out of the speakers. They gaze back but with no acknowledgement nor a smile, that is not the rock and roll way. He bows his head and out of eye shot he smiles as he fondly recalls the journey the band have taken to get here. As the song comes to an end, the crowd applauds, while the lead singer acknowledges their delight. The rhythm guitarist thinks, this is a good life, but also he knows for himself it is time to say goodbye to Oasis.
Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs, (born 23 June 1965, Burnage, Manchester, England) left Oasis at the tail end of 1999, after eight years of being one of the most important and exciting bands the world had ever seen. The reason for his departure may vary, but the fact remains the same, Bonehead was no longer in Oasis. Oasis would carry on for a further ten years without him, until they came to the end of their journey in August 2009.
Oasis were without doubt the classic and talented lad’s band from Manchester. Stylish outsiders in dapper clothes, oozing with self-belief and attitude and with a love for Mod, The Beatles, Punk and terrace culture. Oasis certainly took the world by storm, with their anthemic music and rock and roll antics. They seem destined to break the US, with record sales of around ten million, but alas they never became a household name like their predecessors The Beatles, a band they so badly wanted to emulate. Yet it has not stopped Oasis from being an influential and important band.
With money in the bank after living the high life and after a stint in a variety of bands, DJ-ing , acting and being a BBC broadcaster, Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthur’s life has gone full circle, returning as rhythm guitarist with fellow Manchester band, The Vortex.
The Vortex is a band following in the tradition of most great Manchester groups like The Stone Roses, The Smiths, Inspiral Carpets, Joy Division, Happy Mondays, Oasis and many more. Sharp and intelligent musicians, with us and against world mentally and with powerful songs that demonstrated their drive and determination.
The Vortex uses the traditional line up of drums, bass, guitars, vocals with a blend of soul music and samples. Their sound is raw, rocking, soulful, ‘poppy’, fresh and very much in your face. No wonder they are creating quite a stir on the live scene. With a new album recorded, a string of dates and a growing fan base, 2010 could prove to be a good year for the band and take them onto greater things.
With a massive love for Oasis, and being converted to the sound of The Vortex in 2009, ZANI thought it would be good to chat to the cool rhythm guitarist of these bands, Bonehead.
Matteo Sedazzari from ZANI caught up with Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs at a Snooker Hall on the outskirts of Manchester, as he was shooting a few frames in-between recording and playing live. He was keen to talk about The Vortex, Oasis and much more.
ZANI – Paul you joined Vortex Christmas 2008, please tell us a little about the band, I take it you are happy there?
Paul – Really enjoying it, the band have been going a couple of years. I knew of them around the gig scene in Manchester, went to see them one night and I was asked to join them on stage for a couple of numbers which I loved. This became a bit of habit that I would join the band for a couple of numbers and that is how I joined The Vortex
ZANI – Being at the right place at the right time?
Paul – You could say that.
ZANI- You said recently that The Vortex are the first band that have turned you on in the last ten years why is that?
Paul – Yeah they are. I have been in few bands since leaving Oasis in 1999. But with The Vortex, I never thought I would capture that feeling I had with Oasis in 93/94. The whole attitude and passion, that whole gang mentality-with The Vortex I am getting that feeling again.
ZANI – A second wind
Paul – For sure.
ZANI – Tell us about the other band members, I heard they are real characters.
Paul – It is like chalk and cheese, and everyone is their own character. I got to know them really well last year, we’ve got Jackie the backing singer, who is the professional, she gets up there and does her thing, and she has got a good voice. We’ve got Nick on Bass, personally I think he looks as cool as fuck on stage, when he is doing his bit, he looks like he owns the fucking place. As a person he is a strong character, as he lost three close family members in a two month period, to come through that and still believe in the band, shows strength and determination.
ZANI – He seems a very strong minded person.
Paul – We’ve also got Mike the singer. He has grown from strength to strength this year. Maz the guitarist writes the songs with Sean the drummer. Maz has got a job in the office, I don’t know what the fuck he does, but I think it is with computers. In the day, a mild manner office worker, in the evening a rock and roller.
Ah, Sean the drummer, you might need two hours on him. He is passionate. He is passionate beyond passion. He is 100 per cent rock and roll, when he is let on the loose on a drum kit, he rocks. He believes in The Vortex, and nothing will stand in his way.
ZANI – I like it, the way a good band should be. I heard that The Vortex has that Manchester swagger, I assume that goes along with the likes of The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays, is that right?
Paul – Everyone goes on about this Manchester sound and swagger, it’s an attitude that doesn’t necessarily come from Manchester , Primal Scream aren’t from Manchester , and they have what is called that Manchester swagger, whatever it is.
ZANI – One of my favourite albums of all time is Screamadelica by Primal Scream, which uses a lot of samples , and that is something that The Vortex are doing.
Paul – Yeah we use a lot of dance loops, and we’ve got Jackie, the wonderful backing soulful vocals. It’s more of an attitude then a swagger, Oasis had it. It’s confidence and a passionate thing, and The Vortex have got in abundance.
ZANI – I hear The Vortex are in the process of recording an album, do you know when it be will be released?
Paul – There is no release date yet and remember we are just an unsigned band from Manchester. When I joined the band in December 2008, I said we need to gig and develop, which we are doing now, and we are doing everything in-house, without any record company or management support. Any money we earn we just put back into the pot, and without giving anyone their commission. We have an album recorded, whether we release it ourselves or via a record company, we don’t know at the moment.
ZANI – It sounds like it is a good co-op of creative people.
Paul – It is and It’s working. I said to the band we don’t need a Manager, we can do this ourselves. It’s not hard to badger or phone people, I will look after the money side. At the end of the day, if-and it is a big if-a record company wants to sign us, then that’s cool, but you know what the record industry is like at the moment? It’s shit. But do we need a record company? Do they really exist? I don’t know.
ZANI – You know that, you can release the album via your own MySpace, FaceBook or even your own website?
Paul– We are slowly doing that, getting our name about without a record company. We did a two week tour of Europe with no press or any promotion. I said to the band, let’s do the tour, back to back with no days off. Let’s see how we function as a band, I even drove the fucking bus during the tour.
ZANI – You drove the bus?
Paul – Oh yes, we had no outside influences, no mates no wives, no girlfriends, just us and “let’s have it”. If we come out of that, we move to the next level. We came out of that tour smiling, and every night we packed out the venues. After the short European tour, we knew we could do this on our own.
ZANI – So you have taken the role of the Tour Manager/ Manager in The Vortex?
Paul – Tour Manager, Roadie, Guitar Tech, Psychologist
ZANI –The Father figure, so to speak. But management is a group thing.
Paul – Yes and I play guitar in the band as well. But I am really enjoying it. I don’t mind taking these roles on to make The Vortex work. But management is a group thing
ZANI – Alan McGee says your stance is better then Slash’s. So as a young boy did you practice your stance in the mirror after watching Top Of The Pops?
Paul – Never practiced my stance in my life, it’s not in my blood to practice a stance or trounce around on stage.
ZANI - What are your ambitions with The Vortex, are you taking it day by day or is there a Master Plan?
Paul – We are taking it day by day, but the band is growing, with word of mouth, usage of the Internet and we are not pushing it on the press side yet. We are not hounding NME, The Guardian and other papers like that.
ZANI - You were in a band called Moondog One named after Johnny and the Moondogs, an early band name used by The Beatles which you could describe as a super group as it had Andy Rourke and Mick Joyce formerly of The Smiths in there, were you a big Smiths fan?
Paul – I am a massive Smiths fan
ZANI – Would you say The Smiths were a strong representative of the Northern Subculture?
Paul – No, not really. I would say Oasis were representative of Northern attitude then The Smiths. A lot of people around Manchester frown upon The Smiths, as they saw them as a student’s band, and I would say “you are not getting it.” They missed the irony and the wit of The Smiths.
ZANI – I know, and to me Johnny Marr is a great guitarist and snappy dresser. Another scene from Manchester that was brilliant, was the ‘Madchester’ scene, were you a regular at Factory’s Records The Hacienda ?
Paul – Yeah I went in 1984, before the ‘Madchester’ thing and I was in a band with my brother at this time. We used to play at local bands on a Tuesday night at The Hacienda, which you would get around 30 people. But I used to go every Friday and Saturday for a good night out with me mates.
ZANI – I suppose it was the common goal for all local bands to sign to The Factory Records?
Paul – Yes everybody wanted to sign to Factory, and me and my brother were no different.
ZANI – How come Oasis never signed to Factory Records?
Paul -Tony Wilson passed us by.
ZANI – His lost. The name Vortex is a good name, it stays with that English heritage of great band names like The Who, The Sex Pistols, The Jam, and many more. Does the name derive from the Noel Coward’s play, about a London socialite and her coke addicted son, called The Vortex?
Paul – I thought that myself, but I haven’t asked the band where the name came from, if I mentioned the play to the band, then the band would say “What?”
ZANI - Staying with Manchester, the city is always associated with producing great bands, now The Vortex are carrying on this tradition. What is it about Manchester that it produces such great music?
Paul – I think the city has got Celtic roots. There is a big Irish community in Manchester, as there is in Liverpool. Every body back in Ireland plays a musical instrument, so they bought that heritage to cities like Manchester. People would learn an instrument out of boredom or a way of escaping. People would get the guitars out and have a sing song on a Friday night with a few beers, as a way of release. That has always been my take on it.
ZANI - Good point. You had a dabble in acting, as you have appeared in the Internet Comedy Svengali. Did you enjoy appearing in the show?
Paul - I loved doing it; It was a laugh a minute.
ZANI – Do you still watch Svengali on the net? I had a cameo in the show.
Paul – All the time, I can’t wait for the next episode. I have seen your cameo as well, with your blue hat on.
ZANI - Do you think their insight into the music industry is correct?
Paul – I think it is perfect, it sums it up exactly the way it is. Alan McGee says that everybody knows a Dixie. I was a Dixie, Liam was a Dixie and Noel was a Dixie. When we walked into Creation Record’s office to be signed, we were all like Dixie’s. When we came down to London on a train, and got to Creation Record’s office, I was expecting a big skyscraper building. But when the taxi took us to a back street in East London, I said to the others (Liam and Noel), “Are we in the right fucking place or what?” We were like three Dixies getting out of the taxi, saying it must be the right place because it is the right address. We started walking up these old stairs with these photographs of Neil Young, Marc Bolan and we made a mental note.
We walked into the office, and Alan McGee was sitting behind his desk, he said to us, “What are you into to?” Straight away, we went “Oh you know Neil Young, Marc Bolan” reeling off all the pictures we had seen on the wall, McGee goes “Genius, man that is what we are into to”. We really blagged it.
ZANI - I like it. The Vortex have been described as the band Oasis should have become. I suppose as a founder member of Oasis, and The Vortex coming from Manchester, the association is always going to be there. Does that bother you?
Paul – No, we were saying this the other day. We were doing a gig, and the poster outside the gig, said ‘LIVE TONIGHT, BONEHEAD’ in big capital letters. Then in small letters The Vortex underneath it. We were laughing, and I said “One day they will get over the fact that I was in Oasis” But that will be a long way into the future, and we have to accept that I was in Oasis.
But there is a lot of curiosity value in that, people will come and see an ex-member of Oasis, and it seems to be working.
ZANI – Let’s talk about Rain a band named after a Beatles song. Before you became Oasis and Noel joined, did you have the drive, discipline and determination that was so apparent in Oasis?
Paul – No, it only came in, when Noel joined. Rain was all about having a jam at the weekend, after working all week, a release. It was a couple of beers, and a muck about. That’s before Liam joined. But when he joined, we thought “hold on we have now got a front man” but we only had three songs. But then Noel joined, it was then “Hang on, we’ve now got the front man and the songwriter” with songs like Live Forever and Shakermaker.
Then we started to develop the songs that Noel had written, the whole attitude and belief started to come together and we knew we could do this.
ZANI – That sounds exciting. Are their any early bootlegs of Rain, knocking about?
Paul – There might be, but it wouldn’t be much cop.
ZANI – I won’t stay with Oasis too long, but I read you said Oasis should have bowed out after the second night of Knebworth. Do still stand by that statement?
Paul – Absolutely. Always will and I will keep saying it. So much happened from getting the record deal with Creation to playing Knebworth, it happened so quick. But we knew and believed we were going to achieve something. We knew it would be big. But if someone had said to me that you will have a quarter of million people in a field shouting your name, I would have never believed them.
Knebworth was a pinnacle, it went beyond what we believed we could achieve. I mean it was up there. After that I just thought, where else do you go? I think if we had just bowed down and at the end of night, said “Thank you, good night, thanks for coming along for the ride and we are Oasis” we would have gone down in History, as ‘oh what a band’ We would have never been forgotten man.
ZANI – Last question on Oasis. You saw them with a new line-up at Birmingham, but you would have liked to have done one gig or at least one more song with them, to quote you, “you still know the chords to ‘Rock and Roll Star’”
Paul – I would have loved to have been asked, but I don’t think it would have been a good think to do, because by that stage, I had already got over the fact that I had left Oasis. It took me two and half years to get back on track and be me.
ZANI – I can well imagine that. What record made you want to become a musician?
Paul – I started playing the piano at four. I used go through my brother’s record collections. I suppose I used to play along to a lot of Bob Dylan records, but it was music in general that made me want to play the guitar and my older brother’s amazing record collection. But there was no particular record that made me what to pick up the guitar.
ZANI – The famous older brother-mine was always a big influence on me. Final question, what makes you happy?
Paul – Life at the moment, and what I am doing.
Well ‘Bonehead’ seems happy, revitalized, enthusiastic and persistent. He relishes the mentor come Rhythm Guitarist role. The Vortex has given him a new lease of life as a musician and being one of the lads, something that maybe he has been secretly missing for many years since he left the Gallagher brothers. In addition The Vortex are learning the ropes fast from a man who really has seen and done it in rock and roll.
As an individual Paul is warm, humble, bright, generous and hard working. He is far from resting on his laurels. He is forward thinking, and that is refreshing to see.
So when The Vortex are playing a packed stadium, their rhythm guitarist may very well be seen to bow his head out of every one’s sight, smile and fondly recall the journey they have taken to get here.
That is the rock and roll way.
© Words – Matteo Sedazzari/ZANI Ltd
Published with kind permission – view original source