Things That Are Not Understood – Man Without Machines interview

Adam Lockhart could, arguably, be the busiest man on the local music scene (writes Andy Wood). In addition to being a member of the legendary Spare Snare he is also a member of The Devotional Ensemble, an experimental set-up who recently provided a live accompaniment to a screening of the British dystopian film, High Treason. That was an amazing show, the band providing an excellent soundtrack that was effective without being over-powering or drawing attention to the musicians to the detriment of the film. However, with the excellent Man Without Machines Adam comes to the fore as singer, guitarist and principal songwriter. And such good songs they are as well.

After a quiet period Man Without Machines released a rather fine debut single ‘Something’s Happening Here’ and supported Django Django before headlining their own single launch. Both shows were fine showcases for the band with their exuberant, driven and highly melodic songs really coming to the fore. As a band they seem a lot more relaxed and the songs have a real impact both on record and on the stage. I’ve listened to the unmastered debut album dozens of times and it gets me every time and the live shows are pretty special as well. The album officially comes out early next year and this may be your last chance to see Man Without Machines before they emerge from the shadows as one of Dundee’s (for now) best kept secrets.

Adam kindly answered some questions about technology, vinyl and eyeliner ahead of Friday’s show supporting Meursault at Beat Generator Live!

AW – How did it feel to finally get your debut single ‘Something’s Happening Here’ out in to the world and what has the response to it been like?

AL – Yes, it was good to get it out eventually, I saw it as a precursor to the album, to get a bit of attention, the response has been really positive. It got a couple of plays on BBC 6 music and other radio channels so I’m quite pleased with that.

AW – In an age of MP3’s, downloads and CD’s why did you chose to release the single on vinyl?

AL – Well, I wanted it out on some sort of physical format. No one buys CD singles anymore so it had to be vinyl. I’m a sucker for nice artwork and packaging. There’s also something really cool about 7”s, people are still buying them, even if they don’t have turntables – it’s about the object. The downside is they are expensive to have pressed, so by the time they end up in the shops they can be £4-5 each. It was still released as a digital download too.

AW – How frustrating (if at all) has it been that your debut album has been recorded for quite a period of time but still hasn’t been released. Why has it taken so long and when can we expect to see it?

AL – There have been a number of factors. There was a period of touting it around a few labels but in the end I decided to set up my own label, Man Vs Man to release it. I didn’t see the point in putting it out via a small indie label when I could just as easily do it myself and have more control over what’s happening. So, the setting up of the label has taken a bit of time too. The album will likely be out in January 2013 with a single, Even Still Even Though, (digital only this time) coming out round about the same time.

AW – You’ve not played live much this year but the two gigs I’ve seen (supporting Django Django at the Doghouse and the single launch night in Dukes Corner) were pretty memorable, all in a good way. How much do you enjoy playing live?

AL – I really enjoy playing live and I want it to be entertaining for everyone and for us. I like a good audience that you can react to and I enjoy a bit of friendly heckling too. We will be trying to up the ante as far as live shows go when the album comes out, and we are looking at doing some sort of tour.

AW – Do you have any rituals or routines prior to going on stage?

AL – Everyone does their own thing; we don’t have any specific rituals as such. I like to be at the venue as early as possible, to have a look around, a bit like when you see footballers walking around the pitch before they get changed. Once we’re sound checked that’s me relaxed and ready. Val used to disappear immediately after we’d played but she tends to hang around more these days.

AW  – The forthcoming album was pretty much recorded as a solo project, are there any plans to record in the future with the band?

AL – I would imagine that there would be some real drums on the next album. Other than that I don’t know yet, I’m getting a few ideas together for that at the moment. I’ll be using samples a bit more.

AW – In addition to Man Without Machines you play in Spare Snare and also as part of The Devotional Ensemble. How do you adjust to each band? Do you have to compartmentalise each project/band or is there a degree of crossover in your approach to them?

AL – When I go into each of these I’ve got a different mind-set going on, because I know that the end product is going to be different. The Devotional stuff takes a similar approach to Spare Snare, it’s the same line up except for Jan Burnett. When we record with Spare Snare these days, we normally work out a few ideas then form a few tracks that we record and then Jan will add his touch to it. With the Devotional Ensemble it’s improvised around ideas, so it’s never the same thing twice. There are some ideas that I’ll come up with when I’ve got my MWM head on that I’ll think are more suited to the other bands, so there’s always a bit of crossover.

AW – The video for ‘Something’s Happening Here’ is pretty cool. Can you tell us a little about the making of it please?

AL – This was shot at Duncan of Jordanstone and Mills Observatory in Dundee. There were only 2 of us in the band at the time, but by the time it was finished there were 5 of us. It was directed by Peter Richardson, who had worked with the likes of Blur, Supergrass and the Stranglers on promo videos. The idea is that the scientist is affecting the band with his experiments and the 2 of us are playing a ‘pointless’ game of throwing bits of paper. It reflects what the song is about, which is where people are doing things that are not understood at the time, but are appreciated after they are dead. (e.g. artists, musicians, scientists, social thinkers etc.) Oh and I’m not wearing eyeliner as people keep saying, it’s the lighting that makes it look like that ;-).

AW – What plans have you for Man Without Machines in the coming months?

AL – Well there’s the album coming out and hopefully the tour. We’ll be doing a couple more videos. I’ve started working on some new ideas for the second album, hopefully that one won’t take as long to come out as the first one.

AW – Anything else that you’d like to add?

AL – We’re open to gig offers and such like so please get in touch with any ideas.

Man Without Machines support Meursault at Beat Generator Live in Dundee on Friday 9th November. Doors at 7:30 pm and the opening act, Blood Indians, will likely be on shortly after 8 p.m. Tickets on the door will be £8 but advance tickets at £6 are still available from Groucho’s in Dundee or online from Brown Paper Tickets and We Got Tickets. The gig is on Facebook here.


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