"My country might be in shambles right now, but I'm the king of these shambles": The Wanton Bishops' Nader Mansour on the beauty of Beirut

Nader Mansour portrait
(Image credit: Sama Beydoun)

Evolution can be a dirty word in the blues genre. But while Lebanese duo Nader Mansour (vocals) and Eddy Ghossein (guitar) set out throwing traditional shapes on The Wanton Bishops’ 2012 debut Sleep With The Lights On, Ghossein’s exit has seen the singer stir in electronica, Eastern motifs and processed vocals. 

“I never promised you blues,” Mansour says of new album Under The Sun. “I promised you honesty.”


Presumably you’re you pleased with Under The Sun

Yeah. As much as you say you don’t care what everyone thinks, that’s a lie. We’re the most insecure species out there, musicians. We need that validation. Love me, love me, love me, if you please. 

What do you mean when you say you’re “finally getting to the core of the music I want to make”? 

I started with the blues because it was accessible. They built a whole culture around those three chords, and for a non-musician, back then, it was like, okay, I’ll learn these chords then I’m in. Maybe mess with the sound, make it more electric, more violent. But ten years teaches you a lot, and it put me on the road to my origins, those being oriental music. At the same time, I was DJ-ing and doing a lot of electronic music. And at some point I discovered I can actually sing, versus screaming. 

How has your fan base reacted? 

Some people were saying: “You’re selling out, going for something that’s not blues”. I was like: “Dude, as a matter of fact it was harder to sell this to agents”. Everyone wanted me to do another blues record. I’m grateful to whoever listened to us, but please, at no point come and tell me this is not the sound of The Wanton Bishops. I am The Wanton Bishops. So if I wake up and I want to do a reggae record, I’ll do it.

What time of the day should we listen to this album? 

You definitely shouldn’t listen before sleeping. It might induce nightmares. I’m very critical of the society we live in and that I’m part of, so I’m part of the problem. It’s like holding up a mirror and not liking what you see.

Don’t You Touch The Radio is the heaviest song you’ve ever done

We looked at the record and it was a little too colourful, psychedelic and electronic. Everyone was like: “Dude, what about a straight rock’n’roll banger to remind us of the old-school Wanton Bishops?” I was like, alright, let’s knock one out. One chord. No chord changes. At the same time, I was seeing this much younger lady. She was much more rock’n’roll than me. That’s where the lyric came from. She was asking me to be wild, and I was like: “Can I sleep?” So it’s an ode to ageing rock’n’rollers. 

Why did that relationship end, was she too much for you? 

No, actually I ended up being a little too much – but on the monogamous side. She wanted wild, but she wanted wild for herself. 

The song Beirut is a love letter to your troubled home city. Wouldn’t it make your life as a musician easier if you moved abroad? 

I tried it. I went to Paris. But I woke up one day and I was like: “What the hell am I doing here? Everything is working. Everything is fantastic.” My country might be in shambles right now, but I’m the king of these shambles.

The Wanton Bishops' Under The Sun is out now via Gnu Roam/ Kartel Music Group.

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.