It’s no secret that both Mike and myself are huge fans of Man Without Machines and have been for quite some time now. I’ve known main man Adam Lockhart for longer than either of us care to remember as well, mainly from when our paths crossed in our respective tours of duty on the local live scene: Adam as the front man of Condition Blue, me, a Candy Store Prophet. This sometimes makes it difficult to write objectively about the music and, also, somewhat fearful that someone whose work you’ve previously appreciated may have came up with a dud in a new project, but I guess we’d have done the Scottish male thing and ignored that when our paths crossed. You know the kind of scene. ‘How’s the band?’ ‘Oh fine’. Move on to the next topic quickly.
Anyway, all that is irrelevant as Man Without Machines are a fantastic live band and last year released a cracking debut single ‘Something’s Happening Here’. They don’t play a massive amount of shows, not because they are lazy – Adam also serves time in Spare Snare and instrumental group The Devotional Ensemble as well as making films – and the other members of the live band can be seen gracing the stages in a number of other bands including The Hazey Janes. So it’s always special to lure them out to play a show or to catch them live and they never fail to produce the goods.
However, it is a different kind of goods that have been produced other than a fantastic live performance. Regular readers of Manic Pop Thrills will be only too aware that they have gone and released a debut album The Kreuzberg Press on their own label Man vs Machines, preceded by a single and video from the album, opener, ‘Even Still Even Though’. The album is pretty much everything I’d hoped it would be from the live shows, delivering twelve classy, edgy electro-pop songs with a punk-pop beating heart. As Mike (the boss) has already reviewed the album here and I’m due to review it elsewhere (the pay ain’t that great here) I shan’t dwell to much on The Kreuzberg Press other than to demand that you all go out and purchase it now. It’s a clever, catchy and thrilling album, packed full of potential singles and no filler in sight.
With the album released on Monday 4th March Adam kindly had a chat about The Kreuzberg Machine, Man Without Machines and we didn’t have to resort to talking about the football (actually we don’t talk about the football) or the weather.
How does it feel having the album out now? What did it feel like getting the finished artefact in your hands?
It’s great to get it out, and a bit of relief as well, it’s been brewing for a while so I’m glad that we got there. It’s only on CD and download at the moment, but if there is a demand for vinyl we might see about putting a limited number out on that too.
What has the reception to the album been like?
Most people seem to really like it, it’s been getting reviews of 7-8/10, which is good, but some people really hate it. I’d rather it was a bit marmite than being lacklustre and just wash over. I’m pleased that most people enjoy it though.
What inspired the title The Kreuzberg Press?
Well it’s that very interesting area in Berlin where all the counter culture in art and music has gone on for many years, Bowie and Iggy Pop used to hang out there in the 70s and it’s almost an icon for the cold war tensions with Checkpoint Charlie being located there. It’s more the essence of the place I’m trying to convey rather than the place itself.
Several of the songs have quite a political / social commentary aspect to them without necessarily being overly preachy? What is your approach to lyric writing?
The lyrics always come after the music. I find it more difficult to write the lyrics than the music. I’d rather there was some sort of message or theme there than it just being the classic boy meets girl or let’s have a party thing. Although saying that, ‘Even Still Even Though’ is based on word play more than anything else.
Can music influence a listener’s political or social views? Does it still have that power or did it ever have that power?
I think so, my intention is to get people thinking about things rather than being ‘preachy’ as you said before. I think music and art have always been a pipeline to rouse people’s thoughts about political and social issues. Both, in good and bad ways.
Man Without Machines was very much originally a solo endeavour in terms of recording the album. How does playing live with a full band effect (if at all) your approach to the songs?
When I was recording the album I didn’t really think about how it would be played live, I didn’t want that to influence it too much. It was later that we tried to work out how we were going to do it live. The main difference live is that we use real drums and not drum samples or drum machine sounds. We used to use some backing tracks with click tracks that Michael (drummer) would play along to, but now it’s all completely live. Also some of the tracks on the album were recorded with different parts on the same synth so live we have to use different synths, which makes it sound a bit different.
What advice would you give to bands or artists looking to put out their own album?
First of all they need the enthusiasm and persistence to see it through to the end. Secondly they need to realise the costs involved if they want to do it properly. You have recording, mixing, mastering, manufacturing costs and if you have the money – promotional costs. Any part of that process you can do yourself then you should. Digital downloads are cheap to organise and arrange through sites like Band Camp, but manufacturing costs are quite high, especially for vinyl.
Can you please tell me a little bit about your video for ‘Even Still Even Though’?
The video was shot and edited in about a week and a half, much quicker than the video for ‘Something’s Happening Here’. It was directed by video artist Emile Shemilt and shot by photographer Steven Crichton. It pays homage to glitches and deterioration in old video/TV’s and old 16mm film.
Are there any plans to release the song as another single?
Yes, it came out the week before the album on download only. It comes with a B-side called ‘We’ll Get Through It’.
What next for Man Without Machines?
Well, we’ve got plans for another video, most likely for ‘In Salt’, off the album and I’m in the process of trying to organise a short tour. I’m also doing a remix for the Grand Gestures and trying to come up with some new ideas.
Man Without Machines are supporting Kid Canaveral at the Cool Cat Club at Beat Generator Live in Dundee on Saturday 16th March. Also on the bill are Randolph’s Leap and Luna Webster. Advance tickets at £6 each are on sale online here (stbf) and from Groucho’s (w/obf!) whilst the show is on Facebook here.
A reminder of the brilliant debut single ‘Something Happening Here’: