“One More For The Road” Mike Rutherford and Andrew Roachford talk to TWR about the new Mechanics album and tour. Interview conducted at the Empire Theatre Liverpool on Sunday 22nd May 2011. Interview conducted by Stuart Barnes and Alan Hewitt. Photographs by Alan Hewitt and Stuart Barnes.
It seems like ages have passed since we last had the chance to speak to Mike - well it was December 2004 folks! Anyway, we had the chance to catch up with Mike and Andrew for a chat about the new album in my own home town for a change. My thanks to both Mike and Andrew who gave of their time while both suffering from the after effects of flu. Thanks also to Steve “Pud” Jones and Carol Willis for all their help in organising the interview.
TWR: Obviously Mike, I think the first question is, seven years between Mechanics albums, what persuaded you to reconvene the band?
MR: Well, there was no sort of master plan I think, looking back I think really when Paul Young died, something changed. The chemistry changed and both myself and Paul Carrack felt it actually. We did one more album, Rewired which was a bit of… but I don’t think we should have done it, it was a nice thought actually and we are doing one track off it tonight acoustically, If I Were You and it sounds great. But the album was a bit sort of odd. Anyway, in my mind when Paul passed away we came to the end of an era really and the chemistry had changed and I put it away in my mind. Then it was a guy called Brian Rawlings who runs Metrophonic who do a lot of production stuff for a lot of people said “why not go back to the first thing; the name and the sound are there and just sort of see what happens. Write some songs, find some new writers, some might come on board singing wise.” The first time we did it I had written all the songs and didn’t know who was going to sing it! (Laughter). It was the same process this time round but it was kind of easier because Andrew came down earlier on and I sort of let it happen.
|TWR: When did you actually start work on the album…?
MR: Probably a couple of years ago. I am always writing bits and pieces and I always have bits and Andrew came down early on not so much to audition but to see if it was going to work and we wrote a couple of bits that day. We wrote Try To Save Me that day and it felt nice. The only thing I knew was that we needed two voices and one needed to be a kind of R & B voice and the other needed to be a rock voice. I mean, one of the special things about the Mechanics is that kind of R & B voice singing the kind of melodies we write.
TWR: That was one of the things that when you did the Rewired shows
was perhaps missing with Paul (Yong) taking care of one and Paul (Carrack) the
MR: And it was nice, yeah.
TWR: I haven’t seen the shows yet, Stuart has seen a couple of them but on the strength of the album, it looks like you have got that combination back again.
MR: It’s good isn’t it? It’s strong?
TWR: How did you go about finding two guys like that? After all, finding two guys who can take those roles on must have been difficult?
MR: To be honest the first two guys who came down first time round were Paul and Paul - Carrack and Youngie, and this time round the first two guys who came down were Andrew and Tim. A couple of people including my producer had mentioned Andrew but it really is down to luck. I think in Andrew’s mind Genesis were sort of very precise and organised and not like how we actually are which is more about feel, you know.
TWR: This time round you have got new writers and you have got Tim and Andrew involved with the writing right from the word go. What kind of difference does that make to the overall feel of the album?
MR: If I were to be honest with you by the time I had finished the album everyone was involved, Gary (Wallis) is still on drums, and we have Luke (Juby) who is the new keyboard player and if they had all been involved from the start it would have been easier.
|TWR: I notice you have got Harry (Rutherford) on drums,
has he been an asset?
MR: Yeah, Harry has been great. He engineered and mixed it which for me was a pleasure.
TWR: You seem to be back in the mood and feel of the Mechanics of old…
MR: I don’t try to do that, it just comes out that way it’s probably the chords I write, and the sounds I like, you know.
TWR: If you can, tell us a little bit about the ideas behind a couple
of the songs and one in particular; Heaven Doesn’t Care, that seems to
be a latter day Living Years, is there a story behind that one?
MR: It was written about an Iranian girl, Neda who was shot online, remember you saw her being killed. That was the inspiration for that one. Try To Save Me is really about people who go through life and get in trouble with drink and drugs and their family and friends try to get them out of it.
TWR: Did you find yourself at the end of the album with any material that didn’t make the grade?
MR: There is stuff I abandoned on the way, there are three or four songs that I didn’t bother to finish because there were others which were better.
TWR: And you always had the intention that once the album was done it was going to be performed…
MR: I think so, Andrew is a real live performer as is Tim. In the past Youngie was very much the front man while Carrack had a great voice. Now we have two front men in effect which is great. Change happens and when it is not looked for something good comes out of it, you know.
TWR: What has been the reaction from the audiences thus far?
MR: Really good. These three shows we have struggled a bit because Roger Waters has just done The Wall so Manchester and Liverpool tonight might be half a house but it isn’t about that and the reaction has been fantastic. I think what we are probably going to do is I forget how cold it can be when you have been away for twelve years? Seven years…?
TWR: Seven years since Rewired.
|MR: In terms of a proper UK tour though it is twelve
years and I think you have to remind people what the Mechanics are all about
and this tour has been a pretty good start and we are thinking of going
out again next springtime and keep it going. Change some songs and find
your following again, you know.
TWR: And of course, you are playing the Isle Of Wight Festival this year, that is going to be an experience…
MR: The Mechanics always work well playing big venues and some of the songs lend themselves towards a festival set, you know.
TWR: Have you got something different planned for that…?
MR: Less songs actually because we do an hour and thirty five minutes
but we will probably break a couple down into acoustic songs and some harder
hitting songs as well.
TWR: So what about the guys … what have Tim and Andrew brought to the writing that maybe wasn’t there before?
MR: Chris Neil is still involved but I haven’t heard from B A for a while actually. It is just different influences actually it is as simple as that. It’s not as if there is anything specific. Me and Andrew will go somewhere else and me and Tim will go somewhere else.
TWR: I suppose it is great to have so many people working on a project because you don’t get stale, everybody brings something different into it.
MR: Yeah, it has probably less keyboards to it, there is a bit more guitar than it used to be, less keyboard heavy which is probably quite good.
TWR: Where did you find Andrew and Tim? You said they came down for an audition…?
MR: Everyone knows Andrew and Chris Neil, my producer he has co-written stuff with Andrew somewhere and Brian Rawlings from Metrophonic were both saying try Andrew so I did. Tim once again came through Brian who knew him with his own band; Van Tramp which are quite a heavy band I think, and they said just try him, you know.
TWR: The inclusion of Andrew’s songs within the set was a surprise but they don’t sound out of place.
MR: They don’t? I think it works and two is about right, I wouldn’t do any more and I think Andrew would agree and two Genesis songs are nice. I wouldn’t want to do what some people do which is just go out and play the old stuff for me that’s not what gets me going. A lot of the past is nice. I would like to do more new stuff really but first time round and we have been away for twelve years and we do three new songs and we might do more next time. I think we have planted a seed this time, actually.
TWR: So, would you do another tour or go back into the studio and do another album…?
MR: I think we would do another tour straight away actually. In this day and age the record hasn’t done very well, record sales are struggling terribly at the moment and I think we can get a live following and see where it takes me. I will do some writing in between as I always do.
TWR: Do you find yourself on the road getting ideas and putting them down?
MR: I haven’t much this time round because there has been a bug going round and I have been feeling really crap for the last week but we have the rest of these shows and then the German shows.
TWR: Yes, it does seem to be pretty full on. I notice from the tour poster that a couple of gigs have been cancelled at the beginning of the tour…
MR: I think we didn’t get organised and some people weren’t available and it’s not like we do this all year round and I think we might go out again in the spring to keep it … fresh.
TWR: I think people will realise once they have seen the show that the band are back in the groove again and you will get your audience back and possibly get some new fans too.
MR: I can read what people are saying about it and they are saying its great an they’re really enthused about it. I think we probably should have done a tour first before the album, thinking about it actually it would have been a better way to reintroduce the band.
At that point Mike had to leave us and we were joined by Andrew for a further chat about the band.
TWR: Have you got the bug that seems to have struck everybody else down?
AR: Well yeah, today I am a lot better but the last few days have been…
TWR: Well we won’t inflict ourselves on you for long after all the last thing we want is for the singer to be without a voice. First things first, thanks for joining the Mechanics because Stuart has seen a few of the shows, I have only heard the album thus far but you and Tim have brought the spirit back so how did you get involved…?
|AR: With Mike? Mike found out that I was writing with
a guy called Martin Bussell who co-wrote some songs with Chris Neil and
he (Martin) kept on saying you know Mike is doing an album and he is looking
for a vocalist and you would be perfect. I was doing my own album at the
time and I was thinking this isn’t going to work. And he said would
it be OK if I passed on your number? And I got a call from the producer;
Chris asking me to come down to Mike’s place and meet Mike and have
I got there and had a chat with Mike and he had his set up and he played me a few of his ideas and we recorded loads of stuff and I thought yeah, I could bring something to this and started singing and picked up the microphone and kind of roped myself in! (laughs). Then someone asked me if I could time it right if I would be up for joining up and doing a couple of albums with the Mechanics. I thought about it and said, yeah. I have always loved the Mechanics I have always loved the singles that I have heard have always been up there for me.
TWR: The unusual thing this time is that you guys were involved with
the writing right away it always evolved with the other two Pauls they got involved
after a couple of albums. What do you think this has brought to the band…?
AR: I didn’t know that until I got involved who was writing and who wasn’t. Funnily enough on tour I used to bump into Paul quite a lot and our tours seemed and I have always thought what an amazing vocalist so I have always been a fan of the sound that he brought and both Pauls. The writing thing it just happened naturally it wasn’t like I said it had to be a criteria or anything I just had an idea and Mike went “Yeah, that works” and we kind of went with it so it was very organic.
TWR: That is always a better way to do something rather than try to force it. The echoes are there on some of the songs, you can almost hear it but you out your own stamp on it, it’s the Mechanics of old but with a new spirit to it. How have the shows been going so far?
AR: The shows have been great. As you can imagine the first couple of shows and we did a private party, it was Mike’s birthday and I am thinking these are hard core Mechanics fans used to the two Pauls and I am walking out and they are thinking what have we got here? And I thought they might be a little bit hostile but it has been great really.
TWR: Mechanics fans don’t bite.
AR: I didn’t know what to expect and I could understand that with a band that you have been following and all of a sudden there is a different bloke singing but so far it has been amazing, he’s (Stuart) been to a couple of gigs…
TWR: How hard did you have to fight to get your own stuff into the set?
AR: I didn’t. It wasn’t even my idea. Actually Mike wanted me to do it because years before he had bought some of my albums so in a way he was a closet Roachford fan anyway (laughs) and he was saying can we do this and can we do that? And I was saying OK, I though this was going to be a Mechanics show (laughs) but I’m up for the work! (laughs).
TWR: They work within the context of the show, they don’t sound out of place. It all gels nicely.
AR: We started jamming them in the rehearsal and that’s what we thought, yeah this is how this connects and its an honour for me bringing my music to people who might not know it. People might know Cuddly Toy but they might not know a lot of my records and so on that level it is great as well.
TWR: Will you try and get a few more in in the future?
AR: Yeah (laughs) exactly! You can’t blame a lad for trying!
TWR: Mike has said, and you are obviously pretty much committed until the end of the summer, but he has said that he wants to do more shows and hopefully this is going to be the reinvigoration of the Mechanics .
AR: The thing with Mike is as soon as he touches a guitar, it's that sound you know and that is the backdrop to the songs that you have known for so long and he gets that just by playing and he is unlike any other guitarist I have ever heard and I can recognise him blindfolded straight away. He just has that approach and it is very important to have that approach and that unique sound.
TWR: Easy enough to work with as well?
AR: Easy to work with yeah. He is very creative even when we are doing the sound checks and the gigs he is always searching and trying different things and for me that is the mark of a true artist and someone who has got a few more albums in them as well because hey aren’t just going over the same old stuff he is always trying to find new things and he is constantly doing it which is amazing actually.
We did the Prince’s Trust gig at the Albert Hall which was the first kind of thing I did with them and Phil Collins was there and I didn’t know at the time that he was throwing it all in and you can understand he has been doing it for a while and he has had problems with repetitive strain injury but at the same time I get the feeling that maybe he just needs a break and get the bug again because some people just can’t stay away from it, you know.
And that’s about it for this one. Once again our thanks to Mike and Andrew for giving up so much of their time prior to a show. Grateful thanks to Steve “Pud” Jones for his help on the day and to Carol Willis for organising everything for us in the first place.