(English version below)
(Neu: Biografische Angaben von Jon Langford zu allen aktuellen Bandmitgliedern unten!)
"The most revolutionary group in the history of rock 'n' roll." (Lester Bangs)
Letztes Jahr haben die Mekons ihr sage und schreibe 40jähriges Bandjubiläum gefeiert, und 2019 kommen sie zum ersten Mal seit 2011 wieder auf Europa-Tournee – und zwar mit einem neuen Album, Arbeitstitel „Deserted“ (auf dem großartigen Glitterbeat-Label, VÖ 29.3.2019).
Gegründet als Punk-Band aus dem Umfeld der Gang of Four in Leeds, wandten sich die Mekons in den 90er Jahren zunehmend dem US-amerikanischen Country zu - heute nennt man es: Americana. Oder nennt es einfach: Folkrock? Folk-Punk? Wie auch immer: "These twisted folk have laughed more laughs, cried more tears and writ more tunes than you can shake a stick at whilst building a reputation as one of the very best live bands on the planet."
Die Mekons sind Sound-Abenteurer, Punkrock-Fundamentalisten (jedenfalls, was ihre Haltung angeht), ausgelassene und spielfreudige Musiker*innen und absichtsvoll Außenseiter des Musikgeschäfts.
Immer aber waren die Mekons dezidiert politisch, ohne sich, ihre Haltung oder ihre Musik jemals zu "verkaufen": Ihre erste Single "Where Were You" brachte ihnen einen veritablen Undergrounderfolg ein, 1984 unterstützten die Mekons auf Konzerten den Streik der britischen Bergarbeiter, das 1998 erschienene "Me" beschäftigt sich mit dem neoliberalen Egoismus der 90er Jahre, und zuletzt kämpften und kämpfen die Mekons engagiert gegen den Brexit.
"Mekons are more than a band and more than a bunch of cracking musicians who play in various other bands. Throughout their history they have worked collaboratively and collectively with everything credited to the band, never to individuals." Oder, wie es Jon Langford ausdrückt: "Everytime we have tried to split up we have found ourselves in the pub the next day. You can split up from your spouse but you can’t leave the Mekons."
Heute sind sie acht Leute in der Band, zwischen 50 und 60 Jahre alt, und „bei allen Veränderungen haben die Mekons den Ethos des Punk in die Gegenwart gerettet“ (Klaus Walter, DLF):
„Die Mekons haben immer versucht, ihre Arbeit in einen größeren Kontext zu stellen: Fragen von Klasse, Gender, Macht, Geschichte, das geht zurück bis in die Anfangstage. Vielleicht ist es weniger unser Sound als die Art, wie wir mit Informationen und Material umgehen, die interessant ist an den Mekons.“ (Jon Langford)
Inzwischen verteilen sich die Bandmitglieder rund um den Globus, von der englischen Provinz über Chicago und Kalifornien bis hin nach Sibirien.
Aber was heißt eigentlich „Punk“ im Jahr 2018? Eine mögliche Antwort geben die Mekons, die sich auch mehr als 40 Jahre nach ihrer Gründung immer noch auf die Grundwerte des Punk beziehen, auch wenn sie musikalisch ihre Antworten längst anders, nämlich gleichzeitig vielfältiger und feiner formulieren.
„They are a punk band but they don't play punk rock, exactly. They mess around with country, reggae, cabaret, folk, Eastern music and whatever else they can shake loose in their cultural scavenger trips.” (Greg Kot, Sound Opinions)
Und eines ist klar: Live waren die Mekons schon immer eine der tollsten Bands des Planeten!
"The Mekons have earned a reputation for the best live show around - an out of control party bursting with razor sharp wit and bouncy, rubber band rock. They're the best kept secret in rock'n'roll and you'll love 'em." (Interview Magazine)
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“There's never been a band quite like the Mekons. Unmarred by breakups or breakouts, undefined by genre, geography, or ego-trips…no rock outfit's ever been this committed to behaving like a true band, with all the equanimity and familial bonding implied.” – Rolling Stone
This legendary group from Leeds, have written contemporary music history for the last 40 years as radical innovators of both first generation punk and insurgent roots music. Their new album was recorded in the desert environs of Joshua Tree, California and is drenched with widescreen, barbed-wire atmosphere and hard-earned (but ever amused) defiance.
The return of one of the planet’s most essential rock & roll bands.
When punk exploded in London, fast and brash and full of fury, up in Leeds the Mekons came blinking into the light at a much slower pace. Singles like “Where Were You” and “Never Been in a Riot” (both from1978) fractured punk’s outlaw myth with the ordinariness of real life. During the next decade, as country singers donned cowboy hats and slid into the stadiums, the Mekons celebrated the music’s rough, raw beginnings and tender hearts with the Fear and Whiskey album (1985) and went on to demolish rock narratives with Mekons Rock’n’Roll (1989). For more than four decades they’ve been a constant contradiction, an ongoing art project of observation, anger and compassion, all neatly summed up in the movie Revenge of the Mekons, which has ironically brought an upsurge in their popularity around the US as new audiences discovers their shambling splendour. And now the caravan continues with Deserted, their first full studio album in eight years
And desert is an apt word. This time there’s an emphasis on texture and sounds, a sense of space that brings a new, widescreen feel to their music, opening up songs that surge like clarion calls, like the album’s opening track, “Lawrence of California.”
“We were recording at the studio of our bass player, Dave Trumfio,” Langford recalls. “It’s just outside Joshua Tree National Park. Seeing Tom [Greenhalgh, the group’s other original member] wandering in that landscape looked like a scene from Lawrence of California.’ And then, ‘Wait a minute, there’s a song in that.’”
The band arrived with no songs written, only a few ideas exchanged by email between Langford and Tom Greenhalgh, the group’s other original member.
“Things emerged. At one point we had a sheet with a few words written here and there. Everyone added bits and by the time it was finished, it only needed a few changes to be able to sing. Somewhere else there are two lyrics sung over each other.”
Five days of brilliant chaos let their thoughts run free, from the almost-folk wonder of “How Many Stars” and the wide open space of “In The Desert,” to the oblique strangeness of “Harar 1883,” a song about French poet Arthur Rimbaud’s time in Ethiopia, inspired by photographs Greenhalgh has of the period. And then there’s “Weimar Vending Machine.”
“That starts off about Iggy Pop in Berlin,” Langford explains. “There’s a story that he went to a vending machine and saw the word ‘sand’. He put his money in and a bag of sand came out.”
It’s a gloriously unlikely, cinematic image to use as a springboard into the album’s longest song, a piece that shifts between darkness and joy, powered by Rico Bell’s piano and Sally Timms’s clarion voice. It’s one to provoke thought and questions, but that’s hardly unusual for the band. They’ve always revelled in the surreal and the bizarre. What stands out on Deserted, though, is the space and clarity in the sound, with Susie Honeyman’s violin taking a more prominent role on a couple of the tracks.
“Susie’s wonderful,” Langford says. “You play something to her, she thinks for a minute them comes out with this haunting Highland beauty.”
Even the impromptu instrumental sessions find their way into the record, sometimes transformed and spacy to add texture to a song, elsewhere simply allowed to float free and form the tail to “After The Rain,” the album’s closer. The studio itself becomes an instrument here, and much of that is down to Trumfio, whose production credits at his Kingsize Soundlabs include Wilco and the Pretty Things.
“Even during the mixing, Dave pushed us into some new sonic territory all the way through,” Langford recalls.
The tweaking and effects take them about as far as they can go from 2016’s Existentialism, which saw all eight members crowded around a single microphone in a tiny theatre in Red Hook, New York, recording live in front of an audience. Deserted offers a different kind of freedom. Of space and stars and wide-open land. Of possibilities and past. But mainly of the future.
It’s fresh territory. But that’s always been what attracts the Mekons. They show that four decades doesn’t translate to becoming a heritage act. Instead, they keep experimenting, from the jagged, spaced throb that powers “Into The Sun,” revolving around the drums of Steve Goulding and Trumfio’s bass to the barely controlled anarchy that’s “Mirage,” or a countrified homage to “Andromeda.” Everything is possible, everything is permitted. 41 years after that first single they’re still moving. Still defiant, still laughing, still joyful. Never underestimate some happy anarchy, and never write off the Mekons.
Deserted, perhaps, but they’re back to tip the world on its axis. Again.
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mekons from left to right:
Jon Langford a.k.a. Joshua T Landfrog (Chicago, Wales): founder member 1977, originally the drummer, Jon sings, plays guitar, performs with Three Johns, Waco Brothers, Four Lost Souls, Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Men of Gwent, Skull Orchard and paints
Sally Timms a.k.a. Sahara Timms (Chicago, Yorkshire): first sang with mekons in 1982, enjoys a parallel solo career and has performed with The Dirty Three, Magnetic Fields, Marc Almond, Pete Shelley, Freakons. Moxie Tung, The Shehees, Skull Orchard
Susie Honeyman a.k.a. Florence of Arabia (Bethnal Green, Scotland): joined mekons in 1983 as a violinist. Susie’s other projects include Echo City, Little Sparta, Fire Engines, The Higsons, Rip Rig and Panic, Vivian Stanshall and an art gallery in London called the Grey Gallery
Rico Bell a.k.a. Yucca Bell (Aptos CA, Wales/Liverpool): accordionist and singer since 1985, an acclaimed oil painter who has made a series of solo albums with his band the Snake Handlers and worked with Martin Barre of Jethro Tull & the March Violets
Tom Greenhalgh a.k.a. Tom E Kalaharihalgh (Devon, England): Founder member vocalist and guitarist since the mekons formed in Leeds 1977, Tom is a multi-media artist and has also been a member of Edward II and the Red Hot Polkas and King Tommy’s Velvet Runway
Dave Trumfio a.k.a. The Baron Waste (Chicago/LA USA): Began working with mekons as a sound engineer in 1994 and has played guitar, keyboards & most recently bass in the band. Other projects include Pulsars & a new Dark Wave combo Viktor Fiction
Lu Edmonds a.k.a. Tak Lu Makan (Citizen of the World): a mekon since 1985 first as a bassist but now on stringed instruments including the saz, cumbus and oud. Formerly a member of the Damned, 3 Musthaphas 3, Billy Bragg and the Blokes currently a member of PIL and Les Triaboliques
Steve Goulding a.k.a. Steve Gobi(Brooklyn, UK): joined mekons in 1985 on drumkit, other projects include Graham Parker & the Rumour, Gang of Four, Waco Brothers, The Cure, Elvis Costello, The Associates, David Bowie, Roxy Music, Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric, Fond Farewells