You can make a map, but you can't show people the way : Remembering 2015 with The Mekano Set

I've just got back from my first trip to London in about four years. Wow. After a while you kind of feel that everyone has probably forgotten all about you. Was amazing to catch up with some old friends and trash a hotel room with Justine and Jewelly. OK maybe not trash it exactly but we certainly did leave a hell of a lot of dust and biscuit crumbs oh boy.

Batteries rebooted if not recharged, where are we, who and why?

What a mess. What an absolute brilliant mess. 2015 was about living - living in a way that I think I haven't in a long time: a lot of hiding away, listening to music, not worrying (or worrying less) about deadlines or trying to prove something illusive; trying to take a deeper look at what it is I'm trying to do, and once again making a more conscious effort to put the sounds that I want to hear onto the sonic canvas. But not just being locked away working on music, in a flood of cables and scraps of paper tattooed with coffee rings.

Jewelly enjoys a Small Berlin Gin + Tonic

Our trip to Germany really drove the feeling home that Britain - England at least - isn't really doing too well. Up and down the country I'm watching so many unique places and nights get shut down or cancelled one by one - to make way for designer homes or coffee shops (seriously - how many damned coffee houses does any one town need????) or the same old tired retro events.

Bands existing in a pre-1980s time-warp peddling bland 60s rock-pop are the norm once again. The kind of bands that belong in tourist-trap bars and wedding parties are being hailed as the saviours of rock and or roll. It's all just a bit fucking tiring.

Germany: its streets aren't littered with shattered glass and bodily fluids and they play more than just the safest most commercial options in the bars. Can you imagine living like that? And I have to say Youg Fathers were incredible live. All you need is those guys baring their souls and the drummer with some huge kick drums. Awesome.

We have Van

The Mekano Set @ Dumbulls

We played a handful of performances this year, each something different. At our best, every gig is an event because every gig is a little - or a lot unique. That has always been a big part of our genetic makeup: we're not predictable, we're not lazy. We once did a great hour long (soundcheck) set of upbeat noisy tunes to an audience comprising of Anarchistwood and Cowley Club heads in Brighton, and then did a fifteen minute, soft slow and gentle version of Don't Eat The Sweets as the main performance, and that was it. Because it felt right.

A night off

Pareidolia came out just at the end of 2014, so there was no new E.P. from us this year. However, in May we performed Water Flowing Up a Hill three times at the legendary Everyman Theatre in Liverpool; a new thirty minute piece specifically written Liverpool Light Night.

This was the first time we had really combined research, politics and adventurous sonics. It was a great opportunity to combine so many elements that bands nowadays can't often get away with: thirty minutes without breaks, thinly veiled polemic, no conventional beats or riffage.

Politics is not enough - it's doomed, it inevitably excludes and alienates someone, but it's there. How can anyone be apolitical in times like these? You are always signifying something, and a lot of the time it's out of your hands, but you can play around with it, and observe the results.

We also played gigs at The Gregson Institute and The Kazimier - another venue that has since closed down.

We finished off the year with a gig at Dumbulls: one of Liverpool's very last remaining underground, independent places.

Looping Kathy Bates backdrop @ Liverpool Dumbulls

It's easy to fall into a routine with gigs. I think sometimes we forget that we're not an Indie Band and while it's fun to go where you don't belong sometimes, it's not good to waste time and energy.

We have always struggled to find a way to present the sounds physically / visually. It's a side of things I'd kind of given up hope of ever sorting out. But it's become clear to me again that like it or not, the visual element is always going to be there: so you may as well play with it.

When we first started doing things live there was some debate about how we would go about it. One or two of us were adamant that they would in no way compromise: they would wear their dullest clothes on stage, they would not stand up whilst playing, they might not even face the audience. While we never tried to talk people out of this approach, it did make me realize that going down that road would probably draw more attention to them - not less.

Artwork by Joey Chainsaw

We look at the last E.P. again now and I think it's fairly clear that our whole thing gets a little clearer, more distinctive and refined with every release. I have no idea what the next one will be like - or even if there will be a next one.

We were all massively pleased with how Matchmaker came out: something that combined three distinctive voices (my 'Gothic Foghorn', Chucky's lost-in-space and Arthur's fragile child-pimp-magus), with a hint of Cocteau Twins going on in the warped-tape reverb.

There is as-yet unreleased material from those sessions. I have been working on some new ideas plus we've been playing around with some different formats in collaboration with ME PRESENTS (including a 'wide-screen' hardback book) . A compilation is hopefully on the cards, plus a new e.p. entitled Imaginary Weather that will hopefully be released on the usual formats, plus on cassette!!! It's all about the titles.

But I don't want to rush things and it's healthy I think to give sounds time to evolve a little between releases.

The Mekano Set Flash Books - Widescreen Version

A demo-page from a Mekano Set book

Frank Sidebottom + Invader Zim + The Mekano Set

I tell you one very important thing to say each time when longing come. You will say it first time and maybe notice nothing. Second time, maybe nothing. Third time, maybe notice something. Say: "I wish result of this my suffering be my own, for being". Forсe such as this have special results - makes chemicals, has special emanations. This saying can maybe take force from animal and give to being. And you can do this for many things for any denial of something that is a kind of slavery. - G.I.Gurdjieff

We also found time to indulge in other creativities between sessions, including our irreverent reviews and social commentary blog The International Cheese Fries Review: internationalcheesefries.blogspot.co.uk

Once again our web provider has failed to deliver - Mr Nathan Barnes a.k.a. https://www.yorhost.net - you'll be getting no more money from us and we advise against anyone using their services for anything online. www.mekanoset.net appears to be dead in the water - but we do have www.mekanoset.com and will be based their from now on.

There's still so much I want to do - there just aren't enough days in an hour.



Our website is down - apparently for good. www.mekanoset.com will be taking its place. Just got back from a wonderful trip to London (first time in three years??). Have a look out our instagram for some visual evidence of recent exploits.

Working on new material but trying not to rush.

We're still here. Hope you are too.

Will post a full news update soon.

The Mekano Set


Thomas Truax @ Drop The Dumbulls

Just about a year ago we were all set to play a gig with lupine troubadour Thomas Truax at Liverpool's louche boho loitering-hole MelloMello. We were understandably very excited about this. A day or two before the gig we discovered that the place had shut down. We were as equally un-excited about that.

We'd been rehearsing in the venue's basement on and off for a few weeks, partly because the place wasn't populated by the usual twitchy amateur DJs, poodle-haired rock kids and beige pantalooned hipster toffs. They had also stopped caring about whether they charged us or not - which should have been a sign that things weren't quite so mellomello behind the scenes.

We turned down the offer of playing a Jazz Night at Kazimier (which is now in the process of being shut-down too) instead, and thankfully a slot was found at the newly established home of the anti-hipster underground arts venue Drop The Dumbulls.

Truax is an anomoly. He's honouring a kind of tradition that barely exists in contemporary culture, with the exception of moments of Tom Waits, The Dresden Dolls, Nick Cave, P.J. Harvey.

He makes me think of antiquated carnival acts: those fairground games where someone in a striped suit and bowler hat guesses what you had for dinner once when you were nine; eerie Eastern-European stop-animation, fairy tales that end in death and destruction.

It's all oddly familiar, even comforting - but the instrumentation (a unique collection of automaton drums and found objects retro-fitted with echo-boxes and digital tape-loopers) gives him an edge of originality. And no, Truax is not Steam-Punk.

He isn't Steam-Punk in exactly the same way Michael Moorcock isn't Steam-Punk: some people just do their thing: some people try too hard to imitate that thing.

Where Amanda Palmer is readily and easily imitated (because nothing that she does is particularly original): the rag doll attire, the Brechtian theatrics, an upright piano sound and an effected 'politely appalled at the world' attitude; anyone trying to copy Truax is doomed to a life of singing into washer-dryer parts, endlessly pursuing the perfect pinstripe suit. Nobody needs to see that.

Truax is crumpled and quirky without coming across as annoying or too geeky. There is a definite nod to Tom Waits in the music - particularly on record.

And you can't fault his dedication to doing things his own way: with an array of unique, fragile home-made instruments that must be a pain in the ass to transport and set-up, he certainly isn't making life easy for himself.

We play Drop The Dumbulls Saturday 12th December, with Liverpool Electro Post-Punk Double Echo.


Image c/o http://thehearingaid.blogspot.co.uk/2010_11_01_archive.html

The Mekano Set


Everyman Theatre - Light Night 2015 - The Mekano Set - Alchemy

I remember this day quite well. It started after I'd logged my digital doppelganger offline. The sun was suggestive, the wind was lazy, even ignorant. 

In the blissfully immigrant ALDI I stood wearing a hat and listening to someone husky. This was an effort to smooth the edges of my guilt for not helping with the gear for the gig. Schweppes and lemons! And I've even bought Gin! Sim-sala-bim! 

Will the Everyman Theatre always smell like a new building? I was on-time-early and I was not wearing stripes (Zoviet / Gulag / The Prisoner / sailor homage) because I had to. 

I was wearing shirt and tie, which could have said many a-thing about me, but was, in fact, a lie. Among the commotion on the ground floor Milk greeted me with a firmly-Pink-Black-Triangle-Socialist-Party deliberacy. 

We went upstairs, my rubber soles squeaking black polished footsteps. He showed me the room, which was about the size of a Wilhelm Reich's Orgone accumulator. Great. As it was going to be used for exactly the same purpose. It had secret doors and invisible windows and carpet under the laminate. And 'behind-the-screens' back-projector. 

As we stood on the smoke-free balcony contemplating man made contradictions we saw Sandra Tsch cheerfully approaching the bread to make the Mek sandwich. She was also wearing stripes and her smile was real curved. Then we started setting up, but that part escapes my recollection. I began to feel dry. 

The pre-show existence is complete purgatory. Each of us picked a corner and began to assemble their transmission-communication devices. Once the three rivers were merged into one, the chairs were generated onto the bridge and the sky appeared in the mirror above. We were free to meet the angles in the staff communal area. So we took the staff staircase, which for it's undeniably Brutalist concrete properties will become a future location for the famous getaway scene in the not-yet-renowned ambient thriller 'Sterile Sinfulness', and in the communal area we met ourselves and had some lemons.

Arthur Habsburg, Liverpool / Münster September 2015

A live recording of the performance of 'Water Flowing Up a Hill' with visuals from the projections can be viewed at https://youtu.be/Q3FlV_0bu9w