Puressence are (from left to right):
James Mudriczki - vocals
Kevin Mathews - bass
Neil McDonald - guitars
Tony Szuminski - drums
Island Records Puressence Biography - 15/06/98
It's not only Morris Albert who sung about feelings. Puressence have sung about them for a while now, with an extraordinary passion. Coming out of Failsworth, a suburb of Manchester, they'd even paint their name across town - high above the Arndale Centre or on the railway bridge across from the Hacienda - just to make their mark. And then there was the music.
Soul-baring, panoramic rock, a scorching swell of haunting melody and enormous conviction. Feelings? How many do you want?
It won them press salivation and cult adulation, through the build-up of the "I Suppose" and "Fire" singles and their debut album. In May this year. Puressence won commercial validation too, when "This Feeling" got thrashed on the radio and made the Top 40. The follow-up, "It Doesn't Matter Anymore", is an even more supreme, driven pop moment, and can only take things higher. Their new album "Only Forever", has the potential to take it all the way.
Since their early days they have improved so radically it caused a bidding war, won by Island, which released their self-titleddebut album in 1986. Two years on, it so happens that scorching, soul-baring is back in town after being run out by Britpop's ironic detachment. For Murdriczki, though, Puressence has always existed outside trends.
"At the end of the day, we operate in vacuum as far as possible, as if no other music has existed," he insists. "That way, you keep a freshness and an originality. We've been working toward this moment, finding our feet and our style, and we think we know what we are doing, and we do it pretty well. I think we are a breath of fresh air."
The band will only point to the essential influence, The Stone Roses, whose epochal Spike Island show in 1988 was the first ever gig for all of the band. Mudriczki and drummer Tony Szuminski were old schoolmates while guitarist Neil McDonald and bassist Kevin Mathews were fellow Failsworth teens with an eye and ear for the big occasion.
"I loved the way they were slightly aloof, and how the songs seemed to fit the times," Mudriczki recalls. "I wasn't even into guitars until then, but it turned me around.
Going by the sound Puressence eventually harnessed, it wasn't even as if the Roses were a direct influence. And going by the limitless range of Mudriczki's voice, they were anything but.
By no stretch of the imagination is it exaggerating to call it one of today's Great Pop Voices a swooping vibrato a startling voice in a thousand - "an extraordinary voice: (Time Out)," a counter-tenor voice of unnatural power and distinction"... the compliments have been widespread.
"Vocals are one of the main things that draw me to bands." said the vastly experienced Mike Hedges, known best for working with those other emotional expressionists Manic Street Preachers, and who produced four tracks on the epic (sorry, there is no other word for it) "Only Forever". "And James is a classic sounding vocalist, quite brilliant."
"I've sung since I was small, and I took it from there, but you have people recognise that you're good at something," the singer recalls. "I know I have a good voice, but I was guilty of not letting it flow, because I was emulating my influences. Then I thought, forget it which was scary, but you have to do what you feel."
This explains why Puressence have stuck by their emotional fireworks, which perfectly match the tension of this post-Ecstasy, pre-millennial age. Not that Mudriczki has claimed that "Only Forever" vouches for these times, just that their music is timeless.
"I'm singing about love, deceit, being let down, good times, bad times - stuff people in Victorian times wrote about, and stuff that people will still be writing about in five hundred years. I'm just telling stories, about what goes on in people's lives, but I try to get down to grass roots, back to basics. Nirvanas songs were mostly two chords but what they did with them was unbelievable."
There may be good and bad times, but things move on. In Puressence's own case, Mudriczki confesses he still feels that "not many people in this world can be trusted," but that things have changed since their debut album's cathartic stream of adolescent rage.
"The new album feels a lot more optimistic, because everyone in the band feels happier about things." He muses. "We've been learning, you know. We're not lying in your own pit. Things can be bad but they're never be so bad that you can't change it."
Too true, when you consider how far they've come from painting their name across Manchester, and disappearing in order to become world-beaters.
"It's all about striving." Mudriczki concludes. "I want to be better than everybody else, though I'm not saying we are, but I just want to be a classic band. When we step in the mud, I don't want the water to rush back in, I want to remain a footprint forever. It's giving enjoyment to people, like giving to charity. It gives you a massive sense of well being and satisfaction, if we can do that with something we're loving anyway, that's an amazing thing to do. It's the perfect job."
Taken from the Official Puressence Website www.island.co.uk/puressence/
Island Records Puressence Biography - 10/07/98
Maybe you thought you'd heard the last of the Great Pop Voices. You'd heard the primal scream of Elvis, the desperate howl of Iggy Pop, the haunted soul of Marvin Gaye. But then, maybe you haven't heard the angelic but strangely troubled falsetto of James Mudriczki, who possesses the voice of a cherub even though his mind and body are that of a Devil. James sings with Manchester's Puressence. He is finally ready to introduce his Soul, his Voice, and his Band to a world that has probably forgotten the last time a "pop group" played with such fire and such feeling.
"To me the best music is anthemic", insists James. "There's a tune on our new album called All I want'. It's like Bridge Over Troubled Water' meets The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore'. But fuckin' ell, that's the music that moves me, y'know. So that's the music we've put down."
There are two things you need to know, first, about Puressence. One is that they make music so emotional, so gigantic, so life-affirming as to make others sound emotionally stunted. The other is that whilst in-song James can be an angst poet to rank with Ian Curtis and Richard Ashcroft, casually dropping lines like This Feeling's "It's easy to crease me like a page/Why do I feel this way at such a tender age?", in life his band are exactly the opposite.
Puressence are unique in that they sound like they're made in Heaven although their teachers, tour managers, hotel concierges and various constabularies may be firmly convinced that they hail from the Other Place.
Perhaps it's all Failsworth's fault. The tiny Manchester suburb has spawned many a lunatic including blokes that drink ten pints for breakfast and a neighbourhood DJ dressed as a cowboy. In Failsworth, James is fairly normal, it's just in the world of rock his band's behaviour seems outlandish, which just shows how tepid and emotionless that rock landscape has become. Which is, of course, precisely why we need Puressence and their soaring Voice. A difficult, unruly but acutely sensitive youth from Failsworth School, Mudriczki first felt like an interloper when he got a scholarship at the private St. Beads in Moss Side. Shunned as a scruff by that establishment's sons of company directors, he eventually left to return to his old school only to find that he "got shit for being the posh one."
It was no coincidence that at this time James found his voice. All he needed was a band.
They didn't even know each other when they all caught the bus (yes, the bus) to their first ever gig, The Stone Roses at Spike Island. Oh, alright, James and drummer Tony Szuminski, then 17, had been at school together, and maybe they'd glimpsed local boys Neil McDonald and Kevin Mathews around, without realising it. But all four youths were at the same gig, unbeknownst to each other, experiencing some eerie, private catharsis.
"To me it was like Close Encounters'", muses James, "it was like we were being drawn towards this hill."
Matthews looked at Roses' bassman Mani and bought a bass. The rest followed similar trajectories, but it was a difficult baptism. Kev didn't even know how to hold the instrument, nobody could play and Tony's "drum beater" was somebody's old screwdriver. But at least they had James, and some unholy self-belief.
"We used to rehearse every day, for hours on end," remembers Matthews, as quietly insistent as his heart-twanging basslines. "Sometimes I think, How did we do that?!' Every day. For years! And there was Oasis next door. Other bands would come in for half an hour and fuck off. But they were in from early morning, really trying hard. And so are we. We could see that they had the belief, and so did we."
As the music developed and their escapades couldn't help be noticed (plastering buildings with massive paper letters spelling P-U-R-E-S-S-E-N-C-E was a typical stunt), Manchester indie Too Damn Loud released two singles and there was a further single with Rough Trade Singles Club. But the big breakthrough came a couple of years ago, when the band signed to Island.
PURESSENCE' eponymous debut album arrived in April 96, a huge, panoramic, surprisingly emotional record. The reviews bordered on the revelatory.
"Important and urgent... their self-analysis is delivered so nervously that you stand shocked as the storm clouds gather overhead" raved Melody Maker.
"One of the most hauntingly beautiful albums since Radiohead's The Bends'," opined The Telegraph.
"A debut LP worthy of ranking alongside similarly panoramic, guitar driven first by U2." Q.
1998 sees the record Puressence were born to make: "Only Forever", an album with the foreboding of their previous work but with a triumphant, sunnier disposition and, yes, radio-friendly choruses. It's an album full of life, hope and compelling post-Ecstasy generation pre-millennium blues.
Worthy of its epic status, the album is the work of Mike Hedges and Dave Eringa (both of whom previously worked with Manics), while the utterly beautiful "Standing In your Shadow" is produced by Mani - Kev Mathews' inspiration from those years ago.
"We're up, you know," urges James, a slightly more considered 24. "We're not about lying in your own pit. Things can be bad, but they're never that bad you can't change it. We can be angst-y, but mostly our music's about...lifting you right up in the fuckin' air!"
Angels with dirty faces, and this time, these little Devils have all the best tunes.
Taken from the Official Puressence Website www.island.co.uk/puressence/
Volume 14 Reading 1995 Special
They are the true defenders of the faith, believers in the power of the guitar, worshippers at the shrine of the great rock beast. The Manchester four-piece PURESSENCE burst on to the local scene at the tail end of '80s' baggy fall-out - young, brash and snotty, and brandishing big guitars a la the great, forgotten Chameleons.
They also had James Mudriczki, whose angelic tones soared above the gruff guffaws of their contemporaries. In those days, Puressence were managed by the bods at the local venue, The Boardwalk, who launched the Too Damn Loud label with Puressence's first two singles, 'Offshore' and 'Petrol Skin'. The band then burned up the Blighty toilet circuit before going to ground.
"We didn't disappear, we just rehearsed. We spent a whole year getting new songs together, working hard, learning to write proprt stuff," James explains in the chrome and glass surrounds of Manchester's Atlas bar - a Euro-media designer job fast becoming the haunt for wildeyed local musicians.
Eighteen months ago it looked like it was all over for the band. Dropped by their management and their record label, with no discernible fan base and a puzzled press that just couldn't get its head round their trad rock attack, Puressence copped the full force of the Manchester backlash.
"But that was good for us," says bassman Kevin Matthews. "It forsed us to go away and rethink. It made us tighter as a unit, it made us do the necessary work. These days British bands are ignored in the States and it's because they haven't done the ledwork. They don't rehearse, they don't do the gigs. We see this as a craft - we're learning to be songwriters, that's a skill and it takes time to learn properly. We're not interested in making it really fast and being fashonable and then fading away really quickly. That's not what we are about. We are patient, we're in no big rush to get anywhere."
Good job they signed to Island then, because the label is known for letting its bands grow gradually. Slow burners like U2 and Stereo MCs are prime examples if the remarkably cool hand Island play, and for Puressence they've made no exception. The band's debut majour single, 'I Suppose', hardly set the world alight, but then that wasn't the plan. Island are as atient as the band, who are satisfied just to be out there, slugging it out on the support circuit.
"That's suit us fine. We just want to work, to get out there and play - earn it, pay our dues or whatever you want to call it," James says. "We see ourselves very much in the rock tradition of stuff like The Who - proper working bands, bands that earned respect. We aren't really interested in modern music."
Out there in Failsworth, media hypes and blaggards talking up their careers are unheard of. The Good Mixer is a million miles away and rock music has to stand and fall on its own strengths. That is why Puressence talk about classic rock acts, the sort of dinosaurs that everyone has sprinted past, but whose commitment to their craft has made them sound fresh decades after their debuts.
Their story is an unremarkable one. Staunchly placed outside the trendier end ot the music scene, Puressence have stayed true to their roots. They stake their claim for your attention with their own sweat and their insight into what people are listening to.
"We are tight with our mates. our music reflects our background - a place like that is a long way from fashion. People in that part of town don't read the music papers," Neil states bluntly.
When they hooked up with new manager Jim Tracy last year, they dropped out of the scene for a while. The plan was to relaunch the band with big talk of a new sound, tell the A & Rs how much they had got their act together. In truth, they just carried on with what they had always done, while Tracy whipped up a maelstorm of interest.
Jim, who cut his teeth navigating Cud through some tricky waters, decided to play the long game. The unlikely svengali stuck the band into the studio for a brace of demos, played tracks to local mushc scene bigmouths and generally vibed everyone up. The tape was stuffed with killer tunes and, with a couple of low-key gigs under their belts, the band found themselves pursued by about 15 labels. At the tail end of '94, a gig at London's Roadhouse had a guest list crammed with reps from most of the fat-wallet companies. Tracy had played his cards well, coasting in on a combination of talent, fast talk and the fact that post-Oasis Manchester is no longer considered a musical desert.
The band are well aware of the huge '90s explosion of guitar music that has seen gigs packed with a whole new generation of fans, while the album charts are once again crammed with axe-wielding youngbloods. They know that they are in the right place at the light time, and even as we speak, the US is taking note of Britain's guitar renaissance.
"It's not just in Manchester; wherever you go now there are kids in music shops buying guitars," Neil says with glee. "We were recording tracks in Liverpool and we went to the local guitar shops and there were more kids in there buying stuff that I've ever seen before. There's definitely something going on. These are excellent times to be out there playing this sort of music."
This story is extracted from Volume 14 Reading 1995 Special
United Manchester Biography
"There's no chester like Manchester" - JAMES MUDRIZCKI
Failsworth's Puressence are unique. The voice of lead singer James Mudrizcki has to be heard to be believed; haunting and emotional with a Manchester accent success can not be far away!
Although it is mainly James' amazing voice that wins many rave reviews for Puressence, do not be fooled - the music is just as emotional too.
The band members (teenagers James, Tony, Neil and Kevin) met on a bus on their way to watch the Stone Roses play at Spike Island. None of them had tickets so they had to climb over a fence to get a taste of the magic atmosphere!
Kevin watched the Roses' Mani play his bass with such panache that he immediately rushed out afterwards and bought a bass guitar himself. The rest of the lads (who by this time had very little musical experience) followed suit and bought the necessary equipment to complete a band. It was decided when choosing roles that James should sing (a decision that has since proved fruitful!)
Through much practice their music developed and they decided on the name 'Puressence' - a name instantly identified by most Mancunians for the paper letters P-U-R-E-S-S-E-N-C-E which were notoriously plastered around Manchester city centre, on derelict buildings and on bridges (the most famous being the railway bridge opposite the Hacienda!).
Manchester indie recording label, Too Damn Loud, released Puressence's first singles "Petrol Skin EP" and "Offshore", before the band put out "Siamese" on the Rough Trade label. All three releases failed to chart however won the group a contract with Island Records.
April'96 saw the arrival of Puressence's self-titled debut album, which won rave reviews and was often compared to Radiohead and early U2. It produced the singles, "I Suppose", "Fire", "India", "Casting Lazy Shadows" and the haunting "Traffic Jam In Memory Lane", which also failed to score any real UK chart success.
The 1998 follow-up album, "Only Forever", witnessed what the critics described as a shift in Puressence's style, possibly as a result of the lack of previous chart success. The album captured the group in a more positive, lighter, chart-friendly mood, achieving astounding, often anthemic results.
Mani, the master of good-time music himself, appeared as producer on the brilliant single "Standing In Your Shadow". He has been a big fan of Puressence since their early days (he is also from Failsworth, Manchester). Not many young bands can claim to have their idol play a pro-active part in shaping their success!
Puressence went on to release as singles, the tracks "This Feeling" and "It Doesn't Matter", again neither charted in the UK.
Puressence have built a massive following in Greece and Japan, however it is the UK that they are still to find a hit. With their unique sound they have certainly found a niche that the record-buying public will soon catch on to!