Coming to national attention barely out of his teens when his band, The Uncanny X-Men, had a string of hit songs in the mid-1980s, Brian Mannix has spent most of his life in the public eye, as a singer, actor and television star.
Through it all, he retained his trademark light-hearted take on life, refusing to let circumstances bring him down.
“I love performing, it is great fun, of course it is, I wouldn’t be bothered otherwise,” Mannix said, flashing his well-known grin.
“These days we live all around Australia, so we just get together whenever a tour is coming up, like any band, we argue when we rehearse, but we are like brothers, you wouldn’t be anywhere else.”
Mannix said the band was a victim of its own success, initially earning a reputation as a hardworking, hard playing party band, rocking the thriving Australian pub rock scene in the early to mid 1980s.
“When we were playing pubs, our audience was 18-24 years old, but then we started to play Countdown, and suddenly we had a new audience of 14-year-olds, so we instantly lost the radio demographic, even though they were still coming to see us play every night.”
Describing the ensuing period as ‘slow death’ in a ‘tough’ industry, Mannix said the band struggled to deal with the situation.
“It was tough to be strangled out of the industry, you hear about footballers forced to retire early, well, it is just as tough for a musician to be told they are no longer ‘popular’.”
Despite the setbacks, Mannix remains upbeat, pointing out the entire X-Men band is still alive, unlike many of their peers.
“We are pretty grateful we can still play and have fun, we have lost so many people from the industry. (Mental As Anything singer) Greedy Smith was a real shock, it feels like you are going to funerals every four or five weeks.”
While his work on stage and in front of the camera is well documented, Mannix is a talented writer, director and editor, and is putting the finishing touches to an audio book due for release in the next two weeks.
“I don’t want to be on my death bed, and be wishing I had done something.”
So much so, he has written a film script that he hopes to get into production, The King Lives.
“The central figure is an Elvis-type character who was in cryogenic storage, but he gets defrosted, it is a bit like a Rocky Horror-style movie, I want to capture that feel.”
Mannix said he deliberately set out to polarise opinion with the script, knowing full well many people ‘will hate it’.
“I want that, I want you to either love it or hate it, the worst response you can get is ‘That’s Ok’, I want to keep pushing the boundaries.
“Rock and roll has to be a bit naughty, Elvis got banned from television just for gyrating his hips, you have to keep pushing.”
While his stage persona recites a mantra of drink and recreational drugs, Mannix said it is an overstatement.
“We make out there is plenty of drugs and alcohol, but that’s rock and roll, people expect you to have that lifestyle.”
Reflecting on his career, Mannix said if he was to tell his 15-year-old self what his future would hold, he said it would be impossible to believe.
“I have been really lucky, I have worked with John Waters in a play, Ben Mingay, I have toured with Leo Sayer, Russell Morris and Jim Keays in a Learjet, no way could I picture that starting out.”
When pressed to name a performer he would like to work with, Mannix said he would love to hear country singer Kasey Chambers do the X-Men ballad “50 Years”.
“I think she would do a great job of it, she has a great voice.”
For young performers, Mannix has some simple advice, don’t give up.
“It is the key to anything in life, there are plenty who don’t get on, but persevere, persevere, persevere, just keep knocking on the the door.”