"A chat with the Chief Mechanic" TWR talks to Mike Rutherford about the current tour and other activities. Interview conducted by Alan Hewitt and Stuart Barnes at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool on Thursday 9th April 2015. Photographs by Stuart Barnes.
So, TWR managed to catch up once again for a brief pre-gig chat with Mike about his current activities with The Mechanics. Over to you, Mike…
TWR: This is really a catch up really since last year when you went out on the road in the UK and Europe and you have done the same again this year, but this time you went back out to the States. What was the decision behind taking the band back out there after all these years?
MR: Someone asked us! (laughs). I think what’s interesting is it helped having done what I call three tours. The second tour was not really a tour, we just did a couple of shows at the likes of the Shepherds Bush Empire and those dodgy Apollo’s and dodgy clubs and I didn’t want to do a tour and do a dead loss so I think this is our third year touring and have seen how it has gone really. The first year everything was a bit cold, the second year, we did smaller places the same as we did last year and it kind of had a vibe, you know it was the old fashioned word of mouth and hopefully the band is good and people like it and this year’s tour has sold out so I saw how the pattern worked. There was no short cut to do it, I did it when I was twenty two.
TWR: The great thing this year is hearing the news about this place being completely sold out and this is a BIG hall and it is completely sold out tonight which is great news.
MR: Good. In a sense, knowing that I don’t think we would have done it without that, as it is quite a challenge uphill and hopefully we have done the same kind of thing.
TWR: What kind of places were you playing in the States?
MR: Theatres, fairly small theatres pretty much and it wasn’t full at all but I sort of know how it works, you know what I mean? It is actually the old fashioned word of mouth.
TWR: Was the reaction good?
MR: Very good. It was great and as I said if I hadn’t seen England doing how it has done then I probably wouldn’t have done it as it is tough but it was always a good audience and a good reaction.
TWR: We have heard in the sound check before, you are obviously working on new material. How far down the line are you with that?
MR: Well we have actually got five or six new songs which I am very pleased with and which I thought I would work with on the road but I made a mistake. You can work on the road. If you have written them and arranged them then you can work on them but there are bits that aren’t arranged and trying to arrange them as we did at sound checks in America is a nightmare really. You just can hear it right, you know what I mean? And so we’ll probably do another song in the next couple of days.
TWR: Are you actually going to road test any of these?
MR: We have got two but the trouble is it is so hard… I could do it in the studio in a few days what would take me twenty sound checks, you know it is hard to work them in. Once you have got an arrangement , you know what you are aiming for. We haven’t got there yet, we have just got the songs.
TWR: It looks like you are multi-tracking recording the soundcheck…?
MR: I am recording them because we haven’t got a recorded version of the new songs so I can say to the sound man this is how it should sound and I have recorded the song we are playing tonight, Let Me Fly and I recorded it, took it away, got a decent mix of it and so we played it in the sound check and got the mix right .
TWR: You sound checked two new songs tonight I think, one was Let Me Fly, has the other one actually got a title yet?
MR: Yeah, it is called Out Of Love and I am pleased with what I am doing. I have worked with Clark Daschler from Johnny Hates Jazz, he has come on board with a bit of writing and it helped actually. He was originally a song writer, Clark. This time round I have gone much more… I think lazy with lyrics, because B A (Robertson) was so great! (laughs) and I have got lazy. And all the songs are kind of lyric led this time I have been writing lyrics and I have come up with some great titles such as a song called When The World Stops Loving You and when it is lyrically led it is important .
TWR: Musically it has always been about moods with The Mechanics but the lyrics are very important because they communicate your fundamental message, so if you have got those on board then you have won half the battle I suppose.
MR: There are others where I haven got a main title and stuff and I have persevered with those.
TWR: Is there a plan towards potentially a new album?
MR: Yeah, absolutely. I have been dragging my feet a bit I think but these new five or six songs have really got me going and they sound very Mechanics-y, but a bit different too.
TWR: I suppose as you say and as the rest of the guys said when we spoke to them last year, you had to get the vibe going in the first place and once you have got that going then the impetus helps you along too I guess. I am assuming you are still recording at The Farm or are you recording at home?
MR: I write at home but I record at The Farm. We are not commercial any more so we will carry on recording there.
TWR: So, you are off round the UK with The Mechanics at the moment, and then festivals later on….
MR: No, not too much European stuff until the end of May and then we have got a couple of weekends over the summer but that’s enough. At my age because last summer I kind of lost a whole summer, a weekend here then back for five days and on paper it looks ok but in reality it lost the fun (laughs). We will have done about forty or fifty shows this year which isn’t bad. If we can we shall go back to the States because in a sense you want to go back again next year if you can because if you don then you have missed… the whole point in doing it is building it up again. It was a small start but we shall see what comes out of it. We haven’t done that many gigs, that’s the whole point you know I never thought of The Mechanics as a touring band and we did one tour and then did another about five years later.
And with that we conclude our chat with Mike. Once again we would like to thank him for taking the time to speak to us on what was a busy day. Our grateful thanks also to Jo Greenwood at TSPM for organising everything in her own inimitable fashion and to Steve “Pud” Jones for all his help in putting this together.