Though it’s been a couple of years since the last Man Man LP was released, rest assured that the Philadelphia outfit’s prolific and insatiable frontman has been hard at work putting together a brand new album. Shedding the band name, Ryan Kattner has retained his moniker, Honus Honus, while carrying on the Man Man legacy from his adopted home of Los Angeles. Coming together with a whole new band, new production, and an assortment of indie film and music celebrities, the upcoming release, Use Your Delusion, finds Honus continuing with his trademark blend of humor and desperation, keeping it in the realm of ultimate tragicomic relatability. With songs that pull from the full range of influences that he’s touched on over the last 13 years (balkan, appalachian folk, blues, rock, heavy metal, doo-wop, mariachi), while incorporating plenty of new sounds, the album is certain to satisfy both long-time fans, as well as those who may be completely unfamiliar with his previous catalog. Just as Life Fantastic (2011) and On Oni Pond (2013) saw Kattner reaching new maturity and musical evolution with Man Man, Use Your Delusion reflects musical growth without losing the soul and heart that makes the artist’s work so deeply appealing.
Experimenting with a more direct route this time around, Kattner is currently offering pre-orders for Use Your Delusion (including some fantastically unique rewards) via Pledge Music. With the album slated for release in October, Honus Honus took the opportunity to showcase his new band/material earlier this year, touring as the opener for Islands, the group fronted by his Mister Heavenly bandmate, Nick Thorburn. During their Seattle stop, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Honus for a conversation to find out more about this new project. Lacking a space to do the interview in the venue, we squeezed into the tour van along with a crew of sound and video people, who accompanied us while filming a documentary about their tour.
Wow, there’s a lot of people in here.
This isn’t even as many people as we travel with in the van. Usually we’re 8 deep.
Dude, I could never ever tour with anyone. I get ill on long trips.
Oh well, that’s always why I sit shotgun, so I don’t have to sit back there.
In the early days of Man Man we used to tour taking out one bench seat.
Oh, that seems so much better!
But we had all the gear stuffed between the seats, so you couldn’t even sit normal. You had to sit with your legs up. And no one had a view from this row back, because we had gear just piled up along the sides.
Yeah, we had to sleep in the van, so no one would steal our gear.
That’s smart, though! I know too many people who’ve gotten their gear stolen.
We’d have to draw straws, so I’d end up sleeping in the van all the time. Sometimes, just so I could have some privacy… But, you see weird shit staying in a motel parking lot at night. I’ve definitely woken up with someone looking into the van.
Gosh, how do you even handle something like that when you’re hungover? I imagine, especially at the beginning, that was probably a lot of nights.
Well, we couldn’t leave the van running; gas was a premium for us, because we were making basically the same guarantee that I’m making tonight.
You’re not making money, so you kind of have to save everywhere. And so, I would just sleep in my boxers, because it would be so fucking hot. But you don’t want to roll down the window, because you never know what kind of weirdo will reach in the van.
So, I’d sleep with a baseball bat and I had a wolf mask — like a werewolf mask.
Again, with the wolf theme.
Well, it was sort of like if someone was going to try to break into the van, the last thing they’re going to want to deal with is some naked dude in a wolf mask with a baseball bat.
Oh no, I wouldn’t.
The baseball bat is in here somewhere; we had to use it last night?
I gave it to Yuumi because she was in a room by herself.
Gotcha, that’s fair.
Anyway, welcome to my green room.
Oh, thank you! It’s very classy.
Just as an initial question — because, I’m sure a lot of people have this question — you’ve always considered Man Man to be kind of a solo act, because you’re the one who writes the songs, right?
And your writing process doesn’t allow for a whole lot of input until after the song has been…
After the skeleton of the song has been put together…. People come in and they– I’ve been lucky enough to play with amazing musicians, so I’m not going to tell them what kind of guitar parts to write to a song. And they come up with cool stuff.
But why not go by Man Man this time? Why go by Honus Honus?
Eh, trying something a little different.
It’s just like start over, kinda?
It’s just like we’ve been doing things so hard for so long, and people just got burned out and needed a break.
Well, that’s fair.
People have like family and kids and mortgages now.
Well, I know that Christopher Powell (Pow Pow) wasn’t on the first album, right?
Uh, he wasn’t, and on the second record I had to coerce him into joining the band. I spent like half of my $1,500 budget to get him to come in and play drums on the record. And he was awesome and he did, but he wasn’t in the band initially. We had my friend Evan, aka Moonbeam, play drums. So, Chris was like the third drummer that came in.
P: But it feels like Man Man has… I mean, the first time I saw you was 2007, maybe 2006, I think.
It was Six Demon. Six Demon had just come out. And Powell was the drummer, and there was such a stage dynamic between you. And it seems like, since then, that dynamic seems to have defined a lot of what Man Man was. And he had a kid, right?
Yeah, he had a kid. A handsome little son.
So things are a little bit different in his life. Is that part of why it’s not Man Man, or…?
It isn’t anything, you know. It’s just so he has time to figure out what’s going on in his life. We’re just on different trips.
And I don’t have the luxury to stop making stuff.
‘Cuz I’m an insomniac, so I have to constantly…
*laughing* Spend your whole night just figuring out what you’re doing next.
If I’m not doing something, I’m going crazy. And the only reason this record got done was because Cyrus [Ghahremen]— Did you like his guitar solos?
I like the raccoon tail on his guitar, too.
He’s the one who really pushed me to make a solo record.
Which is strange calling it a solo record, because it doesn’t change the way I write songs, but whatever.
One of the things I actually thought was really interesting, when I was going through your Ask Me Anything on Reddit, was — I didn’t know this — I don’t think I ever read it anywhere, or talked to you about it before, but you said that you had initially imagined Man Man as having a female front person, as a singer. And tonight, with Mini Honus Honus (Yuumi) — which I’ll have to also ask about; how did you meet, how did that come to be — but is this kind of fulfilling that initial desire to have a female front person in the band?
Yeah, I found my spirit animal.
She’s not even a human being, she’s just this force.
Yeah, she’s got so much energy.
She’s really amazing.
So, how did you meet her?
She and her husband, Tomoki, were fans of Man Man. Actually, the first time that I really connected to them was the second show they came to at The Crocodile, like two years ago.
So they come from Seattle? Or live in Seattle?
No, they just came to see us play.
Wow, that’s dedication.
And I dumped an entire bottle of water on her head — I think, for “End Boss,” which we played tonight. And she was just in it, and feeling it, and afterwards I apologized, but she was like, “No that was awesome!”
I saw some videos from the show last night and you played a different Man Man song?
Oh, we played “White Rice.” But I think with Man Man stuff, we’ll just save that for if we’re headlining, because as an opening act already, you’ve gotta really sell your material to people that don’t know you, or don’t even want to see you.
Is that something that you think is kind of a fun part of starting over and not playing as Man Man; sort of having to win the audience over again?
Yeah, it’s fun. I never thought I’d be trying to do that again, but fuck it. I mean, I’d rather do that than quit.
Yeah, I mean, I’ll say that, for me, and I know for other people who saw you early on with Man Man, that there was a certain kind of stage energy and stage performance that you and, especially with Christopher Powell had…
You can just call him Pow Pow
Haha, I feel weird calling him that. Ok, Pow Pow. You and Pow Pow would throw things across the stage and you had this sort of performance aspect that I thought was really compelling and interactive with the audience. And it seems like you and Mini Honus Honus also have that kind of energy.
I’m ruining her.
Are you ruining her? Please.
I don’t know. I think I’m creating a force to be reckoned with, that I won’t be able to…
*laughing* She’s gonna go do her own shit and surpass you.
She should! She’s amazing. If all I accomplish in this life is to get her going, then I did something. But it could be like an Akira type thing.
I really hope not.
Destroy the world.
I really, really hope not.
You aren’t going by Man Man, but you’re still going by Honus Honus.
I was curious why you’re not just Ryan Kattner.
Eh, cause who gives a fuck about Ryan Kattner?
So, you already have a lot of followers and…
Well, it’s an interesting thing — and I’m definitely experiencing it going out and playing shows as Honus Honus — it’s very strange that people who like Man Man don’t really…. It’s weird. I mean, you look at the first Man Man record to the last Man Man record, and there’s one person who’s throughout all of them, and they don’t really… it’s just strange. I experienced it with Mister Heavenly, where there really wasn’t any Man Man crossover with Mister Heavenly, and it’s weird. I’m not really changing how I’m writing the music, so…
Yeah, I would say I actually feel like the album that you’ve come out with seems like a kind of logical progression from On Oni Pond. You have this almost 80s style kind of gothic industrial rhythm and then like funk guitar on top of it.
Cyrus on the mountain top guitar solos.
Which I fucking love!
What’s crazy about his guitar playing, too, is no pedals.
No guitar pedals, and I’m not using any keyboard pedals, the bass player is using no pedals. There’s no pedals in this band, which is really insane. I mean, I think it’s insane. If you play music… to play guitar like such a badass that he is and have no pedals, that’s crazy!
I really love the energy in the show.
And the thing about it, which is really exciting, is that it’s just gonna get better. Because this is only… we haven’t even played double digit shows, yet. This is maybe our ninth show ever.
And the second show on tour, right?
And the second show on tour… and no, this is only our seventh show ever. And we’re still figuring it out, and I think once we don’t have to think about, “oh this part comes next, oh this is a weird count,” it’s just gonna get weirder and more fun. That’s kind of how Man Man evolved as a live band. Once we didn’t have to think about the songs anymore and they were just kind of second skin, it just got crazy. And that’s what I’m excited about, because these are all badasses.
Yeah, they are.
It’s great because it’s been a long time, and obviously don’t read between the lines, but it’s really nice to be in a band with people who just wanna have fun when there’s absolutely zero money. It’s fucking awesome.
I mean, I didn’t want to be sleeping on hotel floors again fifteen years into making music, but fuck it. If anything, then nobody owes me anything. Ever. And I think people forget that. You just gotta hustle always. And it’s great that I’m playing with people who just– They don’t care; they’re just doing it because it’s fun. Because, really, that’s what music is.
I hope so. I hope the reason you’re making music is because you want to and not because it makes you money.
Yeah, once money enters the equation and that’s all you worry about… You need money for stuff, but when that becomes your thing, that just fucking sucks. I love money. I have no aversion to it. If someone wants to give me money to just play music, sure I’ll do it.
You definitely do kind of a wide variety of different styles of song on the solo album…
It’s funny you’ve heard it.
I know, right?
No one’s heard it.
I’m so happy to hear it. I really enjoyed listening to it.
It’ll grow on you.
It didn’t need to grow on me, I liked it immediately.
I mean, it makes sense after Oni Pond. It’s the direction we were going.
I will say that having read that you were kind of channeling the Tro Lo Lo guy for “Empty Bottle,” seeing you perform it, and even listening to it on the recording, I was like, “this is incredible” *laughing*
So, why did you do that?
I don’t know, it just felt right. I just wanted to do something lounge singery. But also, we’re talking about “Empty Bottle,” and my biggest fear is that I’m gonna be just a bottle collector homeless person. And so that’s what that song’s about, because the record’s about LA — like weird LA. But that’s why I thought it would be funny to close the record, because that’s my biggest fear, that I’m gonna be broke and living under a bridge.
I hope you never get to that point; I’ll say that.
Not a positive outlook, according to that song.
Did you feel like you were able to do a little bit more of a variety of stuff because you weren’t going by Man Man?
I’ve never really worried about it.
You have a pretty wide range of stuff on one album.
I think that was also maybe a reason to call it a solo record, which still is weird to say, but just because people might be more open. Because I feel like people who like Man Man, they’re few and far between, but people who do like Man Man, it’s one of those things where they just want us to keep making songs that I wrote when I was 23, and I just have no desire to do that. They’re fun to play, but I’m not that person anymore.
Yeah, I feel like the energy is kind of the most important aspect of it. You still have the same kind of energy on stage.
Invested. Yeah, there you go.
I saw Cody from Shannon and the Clams in the crowd tonight.
Oh shit, he’s here?
I saw him; I saw that mustache.
And Cyrus, he played in Shannon and the Clams.
And I know Shannon Shaw is on the record.
Yeah, I guess Cyrus had done something with them, and then through him we got her to sing on the record. And then she asked him to go on tour and play keyboards. So he went on tour with them for like six weeks. He played keyboards. He’s a genius.Our friend Shannon Perry, her band…
Oh yeah, they’re great. She’s a maniac on stage.
Gazebos, yeah. It’s funny, because before I knew what your situation was on tour, I was thinking of messaging you and saying you should have them open for you, since they have a good Seattle following.
Oh yeah, maybe if we come back and headline. Or we could open for them, I don’t care.
Yeah, I didn’t see Shannon Perry, but I did see Cody.
Cody is great.
How was it working with Shannon Shaw?
She’s great. She came in and nailed her parts. Our voices are kind of in the same range, though,
You both have that growly kinda sound. That makes a lot of sense that you two would work together, actually.
She has a really nice, very 80s-sounding spoken word part that I wrote for her on the “Delusion” song, which we don’t play that part live.
Well, I actually met Cyrus through Jon. I met Jon through Mister Heavenly, where we did a benefit concert in Portland. Lance Bangs did it. And I met Jon that way. Whenever we play shows in LA, we like to have comedians open up for us, so we headlined a show at The Fonda the year Breaking Bad’s finale was, because it fucked our show so hard. It was our big LA show, we’re headlining this huge venue — for us, huge — and then it’s the Breaking Bad finale, so no one was at our show. But Jon opened up for us and he played some kind of hippy dippy bongo sax dude, and Cyrus played bongos, and that’s how we first met.
*laughing* I can just imagine that.
And then Mary I met through Justin [Carlton], who’s shooting this. And it’s kind of ironic actually, because Michael [Cera] played bass in Mister Heavenly, and Nick and I were working on the Mister Heavenly record in Seattle, and we took a break to go see Scott Pilgrim and we left the theater, and I was joking with Nick like, “You should text Michael and ask him to tour with us, ‘cuz he looks like he can play bass.” And so Nick texted him…
And turns out he can play bass really well.
And it’s funny, I just met Mary through Justin, because Justin directed a short film that I’m in with Mary.
Oh, that’s cool.
My acting debut. Which, when you’re acting opposite Mary, it’s like she carries everything. Ruben [Contreras] shot it.
Was it ok?
It was ok. I get to sing and dance. We have a song and dance number together.
Well, that’s pretty good.
Ruben? / Justin?:
It looks fucking awesome.
It was fun. Mary’s amazing. Her voice is amazing and she sings all over the record.
One of the questions that has kind of stuck with me — and especially, because your single is “Heavy Jesus,” which is in a similar vein — is, especially in Rabbit Habbits and On Oni Pond, you have like… “Jackie” is a character, and you’re telling a story about her and then, you have “Fangs” on On Oni Pond, which is kind of similar in that you’re telling a story about a female almost anti-hero character that’s very compelling– not necessarily a good person, but you’re invested. And I feel like “Heavy Jesus” also has that same kind of narrative storyline, again about a female anti-hero character, which is confirmed even by the video. And I’m kind of curious about that; I’ve just not really heard anyone else write a song like that.
Well, women are just more interesting.
Ha, I agree!
And there’s more than enough people writing… I don’t think enough people write great songs about female protagonists. It’s a crime. I don’t know. It’s funny, because I’ve never really thought about that, like, “oh, I write a lot of songs about women.” But, why not? I mean, great, powerful…. I don’t know, I like girls.
Well, and I mean, women are used in songs, especially written by men, as a foil, like “you broke my heart.”
“Oh, woe is me.”
Yeah, “Poor me because this woman did this thing to me.”
I think it’s more interesting to write a strong female character. For me, it’s ways of trying to avoid the rock lyric tropes, because most people don’t give a fuck about lyrics, but I’m essentially a failed screenwriter, playwright. I have to get it out somehow.
Yeah, you can definitely tell, like that storytelling talent.
It’s more interesting to me to tell stories about… I’m just a big ol’ girl on the inside.
Just trying to get out.
I mean, you saw my bedazzled suit.
I love it.
The great thing about that suit is that I had it– Just total coincidence, I went to this place in Boyle Heights in LA, and I didn’t know it was the hub of mariachidom in America. And the tailor who made my suit didn’t really speak any English, and so, as he was measuring me, he said to me, *whispers* “Three Amigos? El guapo. [sic]” He made The Three Amigos suits, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and Mariachi El Bronx.
Oh, I’m not familiar with that one.
I was in the right hands.
And then a friend of mine, from Seattle… The first time I Airbnb-ed, we were working on Mister Heavenly stuff, and Joe Plummer booked me the Airbnb and I was kind of wary because I didn’t think any normal person would want like a rock dude Airbnb-ing in their house. And she ended up being amazing, we became really good friends. Her name is Paula and she’s from Seattle, and she was a Burlesque star in New York in the 80s and 90s. She knew like Rupaul, and so when she saw my mariachi suit on instagram, she said, “mail that to me, and I would love to bedazzle it and put rhinestones on it.”
Yeah, she fucking came through.
This is like a national project.
My Seattle roots run deep. Joe Plummer was here. Recorded in Bear Creek with Mister Heavenly.
Oh yeah, Bear Creek’s awesome. I know several people who have recorded up there.
Paula’s here. She’s awesome.
Well, I don’t know that I have much more to ask.
Well, thanks for listening to the album.
Thanks for letting me hear it. I have to say the first song, “Vampire of the Valley” reminds me so much of a choir track. I’ll send it to you.
Send it over. That song for me, I mean with every record, I always, in my mind, I have a couple words that I really wanna try to work in lyrically. And I think for the longest time, I’ve wanted to work in ginormous…
Ginormous boob monster, yeah.
I feel like that song kind of runs along the edge of being really silly and being really profound.
Well thank you, that’s my life.