The British band Mesh is back with their latest album Automation Baby. Powerful, romantic and energetic. As always, the two Brits manage to present their synthpop anthems to their fans. Already now, this work produced by Olaf Wollschläger ranks as one of the best albums of the year. Sparklingphotos talked to the keyboardist and composer Richard Silverthorn about the new album, life on tour, guitar and orchestra music and James Bond.
What's the meaning of the album title Automation Baby? It sounds a little bit like Achtung Baby! by U2?
Rich: I personally was also a little concerned that people would think that. (laughs) The record company came up with the idea when we played the song Automation Baby to them. The album simply had to be given this title because the name sounds just so catchy and you wouldn't expect it from a Mesh album. The title puts it straight what makes up a CD. The album is about consumption, excessive use of technology, social media, e-mails. There are many people in the world who are very lonely, even though they have all this information and the technology and the album title Automation Baby sums it all up.
I believe that you are particularly popular in Germany. What do you think is the reason for it?
Rich: I think there's a good electronic scene in Germany. Germans love all varieties of electronic music which they keep in their hearts. Bands like Depeche Mode are almost treated like gods, even if you think back a long time to bands such as Kraftwerk you can almost say Germany is the home of electronic music. And the German fans also like what we do.
A cool track off the album is, in my opinion, Taken For Granted which plays with some dubstep elements. Did the idea for this come during the production of the CD?
Rich: When we were on the big US tour a few years ago, someone of our road-crew played Skrillex and that was the first time I listened to dubstep in a such a very cool way and I thought: this guy is doing something new, something electronic music just need, something really different. And then I started listening, just like my adolescent son who listens to a lot of dubstep. I just love these elements and I wanted to include a few effects so that the album sounds a bit more aggressive.
The funny thing is I had the same idea to pack dubstep elements in synthpop and then I listened to your album and I thought: Damn! You were faster!
Rich: Oh my God, now I feel very bad! (laughs)
You have talked about your America tour. What do you like best when you are on tour?
Rich: Mh...the catering.
Rich: I think the best thing while touring is meeting people. All the preparations for the concerts are a complete nightmare for us. Until we are finally on stage and play the first shows, it's really hard work. But when you're in the groove then, meet the fans or hear them singing the songs, that's the biggest thing what you can experience while playing music. And that's the reason why we can hardly wait to be on the road again.
Can you remember your first performance and how you felt?
Rich: Oh my god. We played in a very small pub in Bristol called "The Mauretania" and I was in a blue funk, there were a lot of friends, as it's with most bands that you chomp all your friends and family around. But is was a good performance although we were very frightened.
Mark writes all the lyrics and they're mostly about love, relationships etc. Has he experienced everything personally? Is it autobiographical?
Rich: He often writes about things he sees but not necessarily about what he's experienced himself. He observes many things on TV or reads about them in the newspaper or he tries to put himself in the thoughts of other people, to write from their position. He's not even a depressive personality, although the songs come along partially dark and meaningful. He's just a normal guy making music.
What would you recommend to newcomer bands: to produce their music themselves or to go to a producer?
Rich: I think if you can do it yourself it's a big achievement. Most bands you find in the charts today are made by producers, even the songs are written for the performers. The whole music from the factory kills the real music and there's a big creative hole as there should be bands who write their own songs. It's nice to see when bands do everything themselves, from songwriting to production.
You often use guitars to enrich the typical Mesh sound. Would you dare to produce a pure rock'n roll album?
Rich: I don't think so. We use guitars to give the sound a rocky touch. My personal taste in music is less rocky. I like the combination of both things. I like the aggressiveness of electronic music and we use live drums amongst others to give the song a harder frame. I think we aren't that good musicians to come around the corner with a pure rock album.
What music do you listen to privately? Are there any favourite bands you prefer?
Rich: I have a wide range of music taste. As I already mentioned, I like listening to a lot of Dubstep stuff at the moment. Trance, alternative music like Muse, Nine Inch Nails and also e.g. the composer Craig Armstrong who does a lot of melancholic orchestra music, that's fantastic and that's what I like.
Speaking of other bands: Which artists would you like to cooperate with in future?
Rich: I don't know to be honest. I've always been a big fan of Trent Reznor and what he does with Nine Inch Nails and as I already mentioned of Craig Armstrong. He composes a lot for string orchestras and I know that he collaborated on the Massive Attack album. It would be a big dream to cooperate with someone like him who could rearrange our songs classically with a big orchestra. We haven't been able to implement such a thing.
You never know, maybe that'll work out eventually!
Rich: Maybe, that would definitely be great.
How would you describe the perfect pop song?
Rich: Perhaps a song that is very catchy, not at first glance, but a song that has a meaning. It must be well structured and give something to the listener. Something, that just keeps in your ear.
Which song on the new album is your favourite?
Rich: That's a difficult question as each track has another meaning for me. But for the first time since I write songs I said to the record company: Born To Lie is the single! I just knew it that it's a very strong song and from the commercial point of view the strongest track on the album. But also You Couldn't See This Coming. It's very sensitive and I always get those bumps when I listen to it.
What have you planned for the Mesh tour? Will there be a few surprises?
Rich: If I would tell you that now, there wouldn't be any surprises, right? We always try to bring something different on the stage. Mark is currently working on some videos, there will be much media, many pictures. Some things for the album were written on the iPad. We have, for instance, used many loops and we are considering to present such things live as well by playing on iPads and iPhones. We haven't tested it yet, but if it works, you will experience it on stage.
This could already be seen in the Making of Automation Baby on YouTube.
Rich: Yes, these are really very useful tools.
If someone asked you if you would like to compose the theme song of the next James Bond film, would you like to do that?
Rich: Oh yes, I would love to do that. We were already told once that it would fit and if you made it as band then you go down in history.
Maybe you might need a female voice. Many songs were sung by female artists.
Rich: A-ha and Duran Duran have already done it, so there's still hope for us.
We, for one, keep our fingers crossed!
Frank Stienen, Sparklingphotos.de