Back in the comfort zone

That the two Brits, Mark Hockings and Richard Silverthorn aka Mesh stand for top-class electro-pop with goosebumps guaranteed for many years is not really news for most of us. And yet it seems as if they could memorialize themselves with their latest album "A Perfect Solution". Even the band says it's their best album to date. We chatted with Rich about the new album.

Rich shows his delight about the current euphoric response to the single "Only Better" and is also hoping for a good reception for the album: "Fingers crossed! So far the feedback is really positive. The song is very strong and people are obviously very excited about it and looking forward to the album." The band don't really need to worry, however, because the single debuted at number 84 on the official charts and number 2 on the DAC. "We are very happy about it", Rich says modestly. "We have already been in the charts before, with the Mark-'Oh-collaboration. It's a step in the right direction and means that people bought the single, and that's really good." Definitely a right step for the band was also to hire a producer for the fine-tuning again. Former Depeche Mode producer Gareth Jones helped them with "We Collide". This time they oriented towards Germany and asked Olaf Wollschläger, who already gave the albums of In Strict Confidence and Melotron a crisp sound, for the mixing. Rich tells us how it came about: "Our label suggested to let Olaf do a radio version. So we sent him all the files. We liked the whole sound of his version, so we let him mix the rest of the album too." The band points out that the album "was as always written and produced by us in Bristol. We already did high-quality recordings of all songs, but we liked the idea of letting it be mixed by someone else to get a different feeling for it. We knew Olaf from other bands with whom he had collaborated, so we thought, it would be a good idea to involve him. He rifled through hundreds of audio files we sent him." Mr. Wollschläger was a – audible – good choice, even if the studio stay was not always easy for Rich. "After all I came to the conclusion that it was really good what he did. But first everything he modified sounded wrong in my ears. It was really difficult for me to adjust myself to the things he had changed. Therefore it was hard work at the beginning. But in the end it went really well. Eventually I just sat back and let him do the stuff. I only changed a bit here and there. It was very similar to the situation in which we had been the last time with Gareth. It might have been tiring for me, but in the end Olaf got the most out of it. He's a great guy. I like him very much and we laughed a lot. I have much respect for what he has done and I know he has spent many hours. It was a great experience."

Not only in Olaf's studio is there certainly plenty of cable, but also in the artwork for the single and album. If you know that Rich is a qualified electrician, you may perhaps make a playful context. Rich laughs: "No. That was the idea of the photographer. It was just a coincidence. After we had taken the press photos with all the cable everywhere, we decided to stick with them. On every print there's a kind of cable and this story with the building on the album... it somehow keeps all together. This was definitely not because of my job!" On closer examination of the lyrics on the album, the impression suggests itself that the cable stands as a metaphor for the different connections between two people and Rich agrees: "Yes, it's about connections, also emotional connections, sad relationships and such things. It's a kind of visual language in order to connect it with the content of the songs. It's not intended as a kind of concept. If you listen to the album, you get your own idea of it anyway. It's only the visual aspect of the matter." In addition to various cables and sockets, there's also this associated house appearing repeatedly on all the press photos and especially on the cover of the single and the album, that has obviously seen better days. And as with a house, you have to work well together in a relationship, renovate and repair, so it doesn't decay – a very striking image that reflects the content of the lyrics on the album perfectly. "Yes, I think, that's it," says Rich. "It's about relationships and we want to say that – even when you go through tough times, get stuck and everything goes wrong – there's always a light at the end of the tunnel and there's something that makes you get through to it. You know you need to work on something, and maybe it just doesn't look that great, but as long as you work on it, there's always a way. I think that's what we want to say with the majority of the songs." It also seems that there's a piece that has a central key function both lyrically and musically - "It might be the perfect solution" says the chorus of the song "Who Says?" and thus also the album title is taken. "Yes, I think this is the song on the album that sums up everything," Rich confirms. "It's almost like a kind of argument. One person says something and the other person says something different or they even accuse themselves of the same things. 'Yes, perhaps it doesn't always work, but maybe it's the perfect solution, and that's the reason why you're still together.' Very obscure."

As pessimistic as the lyrics of mesh may always sound, it’s not due to the private situations of the two musicians that they deal mainly with problematic relationships because both are in long-term relationships themselves, Rich is even married for some time. He tells: "I know that Mark writes about things he hasn't necessarily experienced himself, there are rather observations which he's recently made of some of his friends. Good friends who were together for a long time and suddenly separated, where you didn't know at all what had actually happened. It's not about any particular person, it's more about general things." Things that occupy the band since their debut "In This Place Forever" and with whom they deal in their lyrics. On the previous album "We Collide", one was almost struck that the band gradually turns to other topics, because the lyrics of, for example "Can You Mend Hearts?" deal with the difficult issue of child abuse. On "A Perfect Solution", however, the focus seems to be on lyrics about relationships again and maybe even more than on all previous albums. "I think especially on "We Collide" Mark tried to get away from all the relationship issues somewhat. The most were rather observations from other relationships, such as that between father and daughter or son, or the lyrics were written from the perspective of a child. With this album, we have returned again to what he can do best. It's almost like a step backwards to something with which we feel comfortable. The last album was what the sound concerns more commercial than this album. There, again, we just did with which we felt most comfortable," he says with a grin, adding: "We like the idea of writing an album that is a kind of soundtrack to the life of a person. We get so many e-mails from people writing to us that our pieces helped them through hard times and mean much to them. And when people say things like that to us, that's the best compliment ever for us. Our albums are something like friends to them. If they don't feel so well, they listen to it to find some hope, inspiration, whatever you want."

Since you shouldn't break with good traditions, one question arises again concerning this release, whether, like in the past, a second single will follow. Rich is optimistic: "I think so. We've been away for quite a while now. It doesn't seem so long to us, but not being active in the business for three years is quite a long time. Our record company was initially only interested in publishing a single and then releasing the album. They said: 'Let's release a single first and see how it works.' But the reactions to the single were so good, that there'll probably be a second one." What song it will be, Rich doesn't want to give away yet. But that's still not enough, because firstly Rich is vigorously busy with preparations for the upcoming tour, "secondly, we're working on another track for the limited edition of the album. There will be a vinyl single which will be part of this package. There will be an exclusive track on it that won't be on the album, and we're just working on it. It's a good feeling, almost as if we're writing a B-Side", he grins. If you keep an eye on the posted messages on Twitter by singer Mark, you can learn from them that mesh are also planning some modifications concerning their stage techniques. So there shouldn't be any more regular video projection, but a structure with four screens. Rich puts it ironically: "Yes, we wanted to meet this daft challenge. When we started this whole video thing, we were one of the first bands that did that. Today, a lot of bands use videos. Therefore, we told ourselves that we need to try something new to improve ourselves, something no one expects. We now have this setting with four screens, all of them are synchronized with the music, on which different images and things move across. The focus will no longer be on a large screen. I mean it's really funny - when at certain songs there runs a contextual video, you look in the front row of the audience and realize that no one is no longer looking at you. We might leave the stage and no one would even notice! Hence we wanted to incorporate more of this element in the show. At least that's the plan. I haven't seen yet how it looks finally, so it will be exciting."

Daniel Kugler, Zillo