We linked up with the super busy and talented Johnny Dutch and Danny Graft who make up 2/3s of the alternative rap trio – The Manor. The two have been jetting back and forth between the UK and Ibiza this summer, celebrating their new deal with Virgin Records & filming their biggest music video yet due to really propel them to brand new heights and we wanted to hear all about it.
Firstly, there’s meant to be three of you. Where is Scotty Stacks?
Johnny: Scotty is at a food festival in Sheffield. He’s running his own business called Tiger Bites and listen, it’s a great little bit of food he puts out but at the same time he’s always been an entrepreneur so he’s got like five different hustles on the go and this is one of them at the moment which is doing very well.
Are the three of you always around then to make music when you need to?
Danny: Erm.. Not always.
Johnny: Danny’s probably been the most on the ball out of the three us.
Danny: Hasn’t been much to do to be fair.. We ain’t done a lot of work though, have we?
Johnny: Yeah I know, that why.
Danny: Hahaha, nah we pick up the pieces, it’s like one of us will have an off week or two and the other two will be on the ball. It’s rare that all three are off it or that all three are on it, it’s up and down init, it’s like anyone.
Johnny: Everything can be sorted out through WhatsApp, every single thing.
2018, you’ve put out 4 tracks so far this year. In the 7 years or so that you’ve been active this is probably used the most music you’ve put out by this point in the year. Why’s this?
Johnny: Yeah, since 2011 but there’s been a lot of downtime during that journey, we’ve had periods, like the ‘retirement period’, where we had no money, in the early days it was always a case of trying to get money to get down to the studio. So everything took longer (to get to this point), we just like to have fun but this year I feel as though we focused which is why we’ve got so much out.
Danny: In our last deal we had a year where nothing really happened so then come December/January we were like look we want to have a proper go at this and we put out ‘The Sesh’ and ‘How You Feelin’ and that was a good comeback, everyone liked the tunes – they’re probably our most successful tunes – then there were alot of changes at the label.. We managed to get ourselves out of the deal, did a song with The Orchard and it was straight into the Virgin deal, straight after our show at the Forum (Kentish Town) in April. And yeah, with Virgin it was the total opposite, immediately – they’d only heard about five songs, like all five – they wanted a tune out straight away so we got Tyson Fury out straight away. Literally, two days. We went out for a drink with them, met them, signed a deal, next day we went studio and finished it, that tune came out two weeks later and it was straight onto Ibiza; getting the video planned for that, touching up the song.
How’s that helped your confidence in the industry? Having that kind of backing.
Danny: Definitely, yeah because we’d only had one deal and it wasn’t a great one. It started good but then it started (to change). A label is like any company it’s about the people who work for it so if the people who you signed with and you trust go, you’re working with strangers.
Jonny: Yeah and it’s like, I don’t mind throwning them under the bus but you’re working with no-one at Parlophone and I think it’s common knowledge that they are going through a bit of a transitition, where they’re trying to get in new staff and rebuild the label we just unfortunately signed at the wrong time because historically, it’s an unbelievable label but we signed at the wrong time, we lost a staff member that almost like family to us so the deal went south and we were fortunate to get into the Virgin deal, it’s a military operation.
Danny: It is.
Johnny: They are the most succesful label in the country and I now know why. They’re fully behind their artists, they’re on your case every day, when you say you’ve got a team, you’ve got a team. We wake up to so many messages everyday, what is it.. 29 WhatsApp groups?
Danny: It’s like having 15 girlfriends!
You’re pretty down-to-earth guys and seem to be coping with the increased pace of your lives pretty well. What’s been the key for you?
Johnny: The thing is.. Without giving out age away, obviously we’re a little bit older than a lot of the kids that blow up..
Danny: ..And we’ve been in the game ages.
Johnny: We’ve been preparing this for seven years.
Danny: Nothing’s been overnight, it’s been very, very, very gradual so if we’d have got it ten years ago, we’d be.. We’re pretty bad anyway.
Johnny: I’d be in rehab.
Danny: I’d be dead.
Johnny: When you got out of that ‘27 Club’ phase, I jumped for joy!
Danny: All that said to me was I wasn’t that good of an artist otherwise I would’ve died at 27! I tried my best that year as well, I tried my best.
How’d you handle Ibiza this time round then?
Johnny: After years in this game you learn how to control your drink and drugs.
Danny: Even this, the video we’ve just shot. We’ve shot it in the most ravy place on Earth and we thought that was a great thing but we went out there three days early and (after) were like ‘rah we’ve actually got to go work now..’ and were going to clubs like Amnesia and having to come home, doing villa parties and having to kick out birds and get up like, didn’t kick them out though! At the end of the shoot, we shot all day, and they’ve tried to say, the commisioner from Virgin who’s a great guy and our manager Rich, they were like ‘right Dan, there’s going to be plenty more of these.. You’re going to have to kick them out.’ and I was like ‘do you want to see a grown man cry in Ibiza?’. We ended up kicking out all the geezers. Got a few Manor fans in the process.
Johnny: Going back to that, as I said, the video is probably the most authentic bit of content of that will come out, for something that’s supposed to be contrived, movies are supposed to be contrived but that is the realist.. For me it was bang on.
Your previous works are definitely just that though.. Authentic. What makes this one more impressive?
Johnny: Because it shouldn’t have. For me, it shouldn’t have been. I feel as though when you get a big budget and you’ve got a big song which touchwood is going to do numbers, then the video, normally, you lose a bit of the authenticity of what you had.
Danny: Getting that balance is hard and that’s why, I mean, the label loved him as well but that’s why we knew we couldn’t have any other director doing it other than our mate Elliot who’s been doing it for years because he’s done big budgets for everyone but us, we’re the only act he hasn’t had a big budget for we’ve scrimped and saved on everything, we’ve done three grand, fucking 100 quid jobs, everything, and we said it from the off, we were like if we’re going to shoot a video(with a big budget) we want to see what we’ve done already but with that gloss, that extra money that can help him do big things – you know what I mean?
Your sound. On any platform that you put it on, the majority of people probably won’t get it but then the minority of people who do will absolutely love it and they become your fans. Obviously, that’s great, almost ideal but are you looking to expand? And if so, does that mean commercialising at all?
Danny: We were having this discussion last night and were saying like.. we dabble, we like all types of music but when we dabble with the harder stuff – because we grew up on grime, we started as a grime/garage collective – it doesn’t translate as much and we know that we’ve got a massive fanbase in London, it’s all pretty much London and that it’s been hard hitting up north because we haven’t had the radio plays, we’ve never been on TV.
Johnny: And we’ve not treated it like a British thing. We’ve been very London-centric, all of our bars are very much references to London life. From the very start, I don’t feel as though we’ve been open-minded enough, not even really open-minded, we just haven’t really targeted hitting the rest of the country, which is where I feel our fanbase actually lies because it’s British and when they hear it, they cotton onto it. We did a show in Manchester and kids were coming in from Wigan, Blackpool, the north-east because they heard that we were in town. They are loads of little pockets (that likes our content) but they can’t really access it because we haven’t given it to them.
Danny: We started reaching out through SBTV and that was a platform that reached all around the country and wasn’t road, it wasn’t drill, it was just urban and across-the-board, you’ve got so many different (sounds) on SB but where that’s now dropped off and platforms like Grm Daily and Link Up have come to the fore we don’t create any of those sounds.
Johnny: More often than not the majority of your fanbase is going to be from London and the urban parts of the country. But what we’re trying to do is attack the suburbs and the Midlands and the places that aren’t represented. You know what it is, the only reason I’m saying this is because we’ve got Ibiza sitting there and I feel as though Ibiza is the sort of track which is big enough potentially to sort of knock down any barriers that we’ve had to getting out to the rest of the country.
What’s the thought process behind your tracks? Seems to have like you simply have a laugh, to a beat.
Danny: Yeah, it a lot like banter. It is just shit you’re thinking of at the time.
Johnny: I tell you what, in the early days we used to make our songs stand out a bit because we’d hear phrases round the way, like you’d hear Dan’s old man (without Dan’s old man there wouldn’t be certain phrases that would become synonymous with the group) say some things and you’d think.. That’s fucking mental, that is! Didn’t make any sense then but make sense of them.
Danny: We’ve been doing that for years now.. Just knicking little sayings people have said around us.
Johnny: Using them as inspiration. That’s why it’s called The Manor! Because for me, it was so influenced by what was happening around our manor.
Away from Ibiza.. What’s happening in the Uk that your fans should be aware of?
Danny: We’ve got Bestival before returning to Ibiza, the weekend before. A bit annoying because we did it last year in a caravan all pilled up and then this year we’ve got it like the day before Ibiza. So we’re going to have to go a little bit easy on Bestival.. Save ourseleves for Ibiza, then we’ve got Rise festival and SW4 in August.
Johnny: And what else? And we’re doing.. Leeds?
Danny: Oh yeah. Leeds – we’re er.. Relentless’ opening stage thing in Leeds.
Johnny: Isn’t there something else we’re doing?!
Danny: I don’t think so.. We were gonna do Example’s after-party but I don’t think we’re doing that now.