7/09/2016

Abuse, Stalking, Racism, Leave Voters and Englishness



Last night my partner was verbally abused and stalked by a vocal Leave voter, because she 'looks Polish'.

These proud people increasingly believe it's their duty to voice their misinformed opinions and misguided beliefs, and to demonstrate through vile, disturbing and illegal actions.

My partner is beautiful and she happens to be one of the most alive and sweet people I've ever met. Like all British people, she isn't 100% English. I'm sorry but no one is - even racist, predatory lowlifes.

Voicing your tragic, ill-informed tabloid poisoned views to people who can only perceive you as wilfully ignorant, broken and dangerous. Following a lone woman around at night in your car. When you 'won your country back' did you believe that this kind of illegal activity would somehow become acceptable?

Your notion of a pure Englishness is a total fiction. Your behaviour is just downright sinister. Is this the English way now? Verbally abuse random people because they don't conform to your tiny, imaginary perception of Englishness? And then follow them around the streets? Gods help you man, because you clearly do need help.

Do you get tired of yourself? Do people around you look tired when you're around? Scared even? All that negativity must be a drain. Because it never leads anywhere does it? It never makes you any friends, and does nothing to help the unfortunate people that have to listen to your ill-informed nonsense, and watch your creepy, illegal behaviour. When you're driving around late at night, alone in your car, what exactly are you looking for? What are your intentions?

Are you touring the land that you believe you've reclaimed, for your imaginary English tribe? Are you laying the blame for your own struggle, isolation, fear and confusion on people with even less power than you?

Look up from the pages of the fear mongering tabloids, see the world around you: you won't find your enemies. Look at yourself: are you behaving like a rational, dignified Englishman?

Get some help man, before you fall too far.

I could make jokes about pasty, illiterate skinheads clad head to toe in fake sports gear - but your lack of education and physical appearance are just random acts of birthplace, beyond your control. Like everyone else's.

The vast majority of people in this country make conscious decisions to not behave like hostile, predatory racists. Hell, they don't even need to decide to live this way, it's basic human instinct to not behave like an enraged animal.

You're wrong man, and your behaviour is criminal. You're not an avenger of the oppressed white male, you're just wilfully making life worse for yourself, and the people around you.

Until you look up and beyond the lies of the tabloid headlines, you'll never see what it is to be British; you won't represent Englishness, and you never will.

mekanoset@gmail.com

5/18/2016

BERLIN II



THE LANDING PARTY

We're having a picnic on the landing outside the apartment we're renting. We're back in Berlin. We're on the landing because the keys we've been given don't fit the lock. The key fits, but the teeth won't work the mechanism.

We've all had a rough time recently, our collective impatience has no fuse. Justine is on the phone in negotiations with the landlord, her tone balanced between humor and hostility:

"You told Milk we could get access to the place from midday? I've been trying to get in since 3 pm? It's now 11 pm."

In reply, I hear the landlord say, real casual like: "What would you like me to do?" As if none of this is his fault. I picture the snake from The Jungle Book, coiling around a phone line.




WE'RE NOT REAL(ISTIC)

We Meks are a nomadic people. We're from everywhere and nowhere. We have come from across the globe in pursuit of the perfect dirty deep-space groove and we are always moving. Bands are supposed to be 'from' a place. But we're not a band, and we're not from anywhere.

We were going to Berlin, then things happened that meant we weren't going to Berlin. Now suddenly we're in Berlin. Sitting on the landing, we are reminded that in the life of The Mekano Set, nothing is ever straight forward.



The Double-Sucker-Headed Arrow of Not Paying Attention


I have a new song I want everyone to contribute to in some way: Everyone on the same song at the same time - something we've never done before. It's not realistic. But when did we ever care about realism?

We have very rarely all been in the same place at the same time. We once had five of us on stage at the same time, but that was an accident. We've had more members in the audience than on stage more than once. Some of us have never even been introduced. Anyway, there's no time, and not all of us are here, it's not going to get recorded today.

A Landing-Party


It is after midnight when we finally gain access to the apartment. It's another hour and a half before we have privacy.

By way of apology, the landlord offers us a tiny plate of antipasto. What we'd really like is a cold bottle of sparkling wine, and a locksmith. We'll settle for an absence of men we don't know coming and going.

The landlord suggests we find somewhere else to stay for the evening. From the table where we have arranged our warm beers and flight cases, our collective gazes suggest he leave, which he does, through a hole in the floor.


SWEET TOOTH?


(NOT LITERALLY) AN EYE FOR AN EYE

The sound we're looking for is something akin to a satellite, picking up random radio signals, drifting further and further out into interstellar space, gathering dust and debris.

I frequently find myself wanting to make references to escape plans, maps, escape routes secreted between rooms, between buildings. I think 'I Made You a Map' was the best idea I had. Just the title.

Liverpool still has a little mystery to it. It doesn't quite conform to the maps. Berlin is the same. We are drawn to places with uncharted territories because we don't like the idea that everything has been quantified, understood, answered. The questions are more fun than the answers. The answers never quite satisfy. And nor should they.




Throughout our stay we keep seeing and hearing references to eyes and teeth. To the point where it stops becoming interesting and starts to get annoying. I try to think of 'an eye for an eye' in the sense of giving up on a closed view (accepting answers to mysteries), and opening up to a wider view (observe without making assumptions; get energy from the friction that creates where your brain itches from unanswerable questions).

We're talking about this when we look up to see that we're standing outside a record store called Oye. There is a tooth graffed on the wall. We carry on walking and pass tooth after tooth, eye after eye, on posters and signage, in songs and in books outside second hand stores.

Gurdjieff talked about the idea of giving up the materialistic view of life for a more objective, energetic view. Not sure about the teeth though. Food for the spirit as well as the body? Germany has the best wheat-free foods, and they play more than just mainstream music in the bars. So that's good eating on both counts.



Awesome Doorways


Berlin is warm. The sun is shining. The people are relaxed, the streets aren't strewn with bodily fluids and shattered glass. Our frazzled attitude seems anachronistic. We don't have a lot of time. We find Madame Claude's bar, one of our favourites. I have new material to finish, but life has gotten in the way. Everyone is entitled to a holiday.





We sit in the park again, reminding ourselves that we have itchy feet, we're hungry for more, our eyes want new sites.

All too soon we have to go our separate ways once again. It's too warm. And then there is a storm. And flights are delayed AND we're too early. And when I get back home, in the morning my coat is still wet with Berlin rain.


"Path within, signposts without." Whitley Strieber, The Key.

4/25/2016

Songs That Shaped My Brain



I got tagged to list some music that I like and I got carried away. I needed the distraction. Doing things like this remind me that I do have not entirely obscure influences and I am not actually operating in the dark:

Leftfield + Toni Halliday : Original. Leftfield were a House / Trip-Hop act (but) this and Open Up with Johnny Rotten confirmed their Alt credentials. Electronic / dance music was the music of people from all kinds of scenes. Early raves and clubs didn't have a uniform. They certainly weren't the kind of places you'd find the white trainer brigades and you'd see everyone from older hippie types and Madchester heads to Goths and Grebos and everything in-between. It's a shame that things have become so divided again but that's the way the old boys network want it. Divide and rule.

I'm pretty sure this is how I got into Pil and then the whole Post-Punk thing. Those two singles made me see that dance music wasn't just about clean, laminated safe sounds. Their work, along with people like Underworld and Autechre had that edgy, dark side that is the secret ingredient to a good tune. If something is too positive, or too negative, it's never going to feel nourishing enough. I still have this on vinyl (covered in bleach and Directions Poppy Red) so I'm claiming it as an 'album'.

Cocteau Twins: Otherness e.p. Again, on really heavyweight vinyl so Album. This helped me onto the path of using guitars as sound-source, instead of synths. This is a really dubby ambient re-mix set by the Seefeel bloke. Cocteau's Simon Raymond has to be one of the most underrated musicians of the 80s and 90s. Playing bass with an actual bassy tone at a time when most were opting for macho twang and plodding route notes, he’s also a great pianist and guitarist, and got a lot more out of those old 60s surf 6 string basses than The Cure or Joy Division ever did.

Kate Bush: The Dreaming Because my parents had it and growing up listening to this introduced me to the idea that it's not just your ears that 'listen' to music. Because shivers down the spine and hairs on end. Seeing her live was the single most moving gig I've ever been to. And the spooky-pop vibe. The emphasis on percussion, drone notes and groove. Big influence.

Curve: Cherry I heard this when I was still in school. Dean Garcia's from-the-heart mix of grimy growling bass and dirty beats and Debbie Smith's gritty-funky non-macho guitar woke me up on every level. They also looked effortlessly cool. I had never had any interest at all in making / playing music until I heard about 30 seconds of Clipped on some crappy TV show. I'd always seen guitar music as too macho and dance music too middle-class and this helped me cast off a load of useless snobbery.

Techno Animal: Re-Entry: At a time when I totally did not want to hear anything even vaguely melodic, this confirmed for me idea that beat + noise + drone = more than enough. It also made me realize that it doesn't matter what the instrumentation is, if the end result works, it's doesn't matter whether it's guitars, synths, samples or the god-like sound of Jon Hassell's trumpet.

I've followed Bug Man's work ever since. I've seen / heard him go from strength to strength in the pursuit of the perfect slice of noise and groove. Heavyweight music without the machismo, electronic but massively dirty and organic. I've been pursuing that ever since.

Kind Migas Sound: Aroo: This and their live shows at the time pretty much defined everything that I wanted to do with The Mekano Set: immersive sound, lights aimed at the crowd, a wall of sound and smoke. Pure bliss-out noise with solid beats. Playing the mix not just playing a vintage bloody Fender guitar. K Martin laying out vast yet intimate sonic spaces for Kiki and Roger to explore with an intoxicating cocktail of emotions, uncertainties, fears and longings. Awesome.

Talk Talk: The Colour of Spring but any and all of their albums. The voice. The voice! Is he shouting or is he whispering??? The way that the band was a drummer and a bassist without a guitarist meant so much power and room were devoted to the beats and the melodic bass. The zero-tolerance to industry / journalist bullshit, the no compromise attitude and the fact that they were obviously influenced by all kinds of music made me realize that that tends to be what real musicians are about.

Hawkwind Hall of The Mountain Grill: I was lucky to find this when I was about 10 - it brought down a lot of the barriers of ignorance and fear that I was growing up around. This was rock but also opened my ears to experimentation, drone, groove, electronics, heavy bass end, psychedelics, real punk attitude, singing in working class British accents, ignoring preconceived genres and just mapping out your own space.

Scorn: Evanescence: This came out four years before Massive Attack started exploring darker, minimalistic, Post-Punk inspired Trip-Hop on Mezzanine. Again, a mix of great looped / programmed / sampled beats; heavyweight bassy bass and guitars that totally push the barriers of what a guitar can do. On heavy vinyl too.

The Sisters of Mercy: Floodlands: my Dad had this on cassette and he'd play this, Bryan Ferry and Ian Dury on repeat whilst we drove around the wilds of Wales as kids. Deep, almost crooning, edgy vocal styles... But I forgot all about it until years later me and my friend met a bunch of Indie Techno Goth girls and introduced us to the world of Alternative culture (we were not alone!). The minimalism, the 'spooky pop' vibe, the baritone vocal, melodic bass and massive drum-machine grooves must have made their mark. Spooky Pop music is the best pop music. Weirdly I can't get my head round any of their other stuff - it all sounds too much like drug-fueled Metal.

Magazine: Play: My long time musical collaborator Ade B (Mutate / Stray Dog City) introduced me to the world of Post-Punk properly at a time when I had become sick to death of guitar music. The guitar is there and it rocks, but it also has an exotic, angular edge and works with the other instruments to create the groove. Barry Adamson's bass is just incredible. No bass player has ever had a better tone to my ears.

Tricky: Maxinquay: The voices. It's all about the voices. Also, as a massively commercial album  at the time it was obvious that Tricky and Martine were freaks like us. I heard this at a time when there didn't seem to be any music that spoke to me or wasn't trying to reduce me while listening to it. It was soothing. The world is fucked, let's fall asleep in a space-ship and watch it on TV. You could totally hear Tom Waits, Indie guitar music, real Hip-Hop and The Specials in their sound and attitude. I loved the fact that Tricky was tough but in a vulnerable way and he seemed totally into embracing his feminine side. Martine's voice is a kind of medicine.

Climate of Hunter by Scott Walker: another one I was lucky to take on board when still a kid. It's massively stripped back and only really goes to the same couple of places over and over again. It's just that voice, a pounding beat, some nicely understated fretless bass, droning synths laying low and a hint of crashing guitar here and there to beak the ice. There's something wonderfully post-apocalyptic about the whole flavour of this album. This, and the first three songs on Nite Flights by The Walker Brothers reveal Walker as someone who was more than able to transcend his times. He's gone on to do some of the most extreme, adventurous music of someone in his or anyone's position. They weren't brothers you know? The emptiness made a big impression on me. I don't have the guts to do anything half as spacious.




1/21/2016

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



Mekan Rising by Lee C




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.