Tag: Mesh (Page 1 of 7)

A Beginner’s Guide To GARETH JONES

Gareth Jones was born in Lancashire and while he played a number of instruments as a youngster, his interest soon turned to music technology with the purchase of a tape recorder.

He gained his formal training at the BBC and began working as an engineer in various recording spaces including Pathway, a small 8 track studio in North London which was frequently used by Stiff Records and where THE DAMNED recorded ‘New Rose’ in 1976. It was there that he worked on MADNESS’ debut single ‘The Prince’ in 1979. But it was his work with former ULTRAVOX front man John Foxx and his 1980 long playing debut ‘Metamatic’ that was to be his breakthrough.

This led to work producing esoteric acts such as TUXEDOMOON and TAUCHEN-PROKOPETZ; it was while working with the latter on the 1983 ‘DÖF’ record in Vienna that it was suggested that Jones mix the album at Hansa Tonstudio in West Berlin. At the time, it was the most high-tech complex he had ever worked in and prompted to his relocation to die Mauerstadt.

Many British bands began recording and mixing in Berlin as the exchange rate made things highly cost effective. It was while Jones was engineering the recording of the third DEPECHE MODE album ‘Construction Time Again’ at John Foxx’s own studio The Garden in Shoreditch that he proposed mixing the record in Berlin. He had been initially reluctant to work with DEPECHE MODE who he considered lightweight but was eventually persuaded by Foxx to become their Tonmeister.

Gareth Jones was a pioneer in the use of state of art digital equipment including the NED Synclavier and AMS digital delays; among his techniques was using the big ballroom at Hansa to capture atmospheres created by sounds being played through large amplifiers which were then recorded with microphones, creating a huge cavernous sound.

Although chiefly known for his work with synths and sampling, Jones also worked with more guitar driven bands such as WIRE, THE HOUSE OF LOVE, INSPIRAL CARPETS and MOGWAI as well as dark lord Nick Cave. After the fall of The Iron Curtain, Jones later returned to London where he remains today at his current base theArtLab within The Strongroom complex in London.

Having fought cancer in 2008, he continues to produce, mix and compose with a third SUNROOF album with Daniel Miller currently in progress. Meanwhile Jones had also provided his expertise and guidance to emerging studio personnel via the Red Bull Academy.

With a restriction of one track per album project and in chronological order, here are 20 tracks which form ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s Beginner’s Guide to the innovative career of Gareth Jones.

JOHN FOXX Plaza (1980)

Having departed ULTRAVOX, when John Foxx recorded his debut solo record, Gareth Jones was the engineer at Pathway, a studio known for its reggae sessions. While the aim was a starker vision of electronic music, both Foxx and Jones absorbed dub influences where things would be stripped back but one sound given all the power. As well as the surprise hit single ‘Underpass’, this aesthetic suited the dystopian ‘Metamatic’ opener ‘Plaza’.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘Metamatic’ via Metamatic Records


TUXEDOMOON Incubus (1981)

Impressed with the sound of ‘Metamatic’, TUXEDOMOON had originally sought John Foxx to produce their next album ‘Desire’ but unavailable, he put the American art rockers in touch with Gareth Jones. “Gareth was brilliant, fabulous” said the band’s Blaine L Reininger, “He was able to teach us; kind of organise us”. On one of the highlights was  ‘Incubus’ which used the same Roland CR-78 Compurhythm used as on ‘Metamatic’.

Available on the TUXEDOMOON album ‘Desire’ via Crammed Discs


JOHN FOXX Dancing Like A Gun (1981)

With a second album and studio both named ‘The Garden’, Gareth Jones was again working with John Foxx to realise both. After the colder overtures of ‘Metamatic’, Foxx had thawed out considerably after a holiday in Italy and as a result, traditional instrumentation returned. ‘Dancing Like A Gun’ contradicted its “Oppenheimer waltzing” line but blended synth with art rock to recall ‘Quiet Men’ from his ULTRAVOX days.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘The Garden’ via Metamatic Records


DEPECHE MODE Two Minute Warning (1983)

Working alongside Daniel Miller who continued as producer, Gareth Jones had DEPECHE MODE sampling found sounds around the-then derelict surroundings of Shroreditch to create a new sonic template in pop. Songs like ‘Everything Counts’, ‘Pipeline’ and ‘More Than A Party had socio-political themes while the Alan Wilder composed ditty ‘Two Minute Warning’ reflected the heightened Cold War angst of the time.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE album ‘Construction Time Again’ via Sony Music


FAD GADGET Collapsing New People (1984)

Frank Tovey had been intrigued by the sound of German industrial band EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN whose name translated into English as “collapsing new buildings” and their use of industrial equipment and found objects. So while recording at Hansa, he got Gareth Jones to record a large printing press nearby as the basis for a loop rhythm that became ‘Collapsing New People’, one of the best FAD GADGET singles.

Available on the FAD GADGET album ‘Gag’ via Mute Records


BLAINE L REININGER Mystery & Confusion (1984)

For his first second solo album, Blaine L Reininger was reunited with Gareth Jones at the production helm. Using Roland’s portable pre-MIDI holy trinity of the TB-303 Bassline, the SH-101 monosynth and the TR-808 Rhythm Composer synced via a customised cable, its highlight was the cinematic synthpop of ‘Mystery & Confusion’ which saw the TUXEDOMOON leader exude a distinct Eurocentric spirit.

Available on the BLAINE L REININGER album ‘Night Air’ via Les Disques du Crépuscule



An influential Neue Deutsche Welle band from Hamburg, PALAIS SCHAUMBURG were on the bill with DEPECHE MODE at the 1981 Mute Night at the London Lyceum. Their members included Thomas Fehlmann who went on to join THE ORB as well as produce ERASURE and experimental producer Holger Hiller. The percussive ‘Beat Of 2’ turned out to be their final single and was produced by Gareth Jones alongside Inga Humpe.

Available on the PALAIS SCHAUMBURG album ‘Parlez-Vous Schaumburg?’ via Mercury Records


HUMPE HUMPE Yama-ha (1985)

A slice of quirky Neue Deutsche Welle from sisters Annette and Inga Humpe, ‘Yama-ha’ was produced by Roma Baran who had worked on Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman’. The “shopping list” synth and sample number listing a number of Japanese tech and vehicle manufacturers was remixed by Gareth Jones. Incidentally the B-side ‘Memories’ was produced by Conny Plank. In the UK, the duo was known as SWIMMING WITH SHARKS.

Available on the HUMPE HUMPE album ‘The Platinum Collection’ via Warner Music Group Germany



With their early albums characterised by harsh shouting and screaming, when Gareth Jones was brought in to work with EINSTURZEN NEUBAUTEN, it was to provide a sense of order to the West Berlin group’s experimental metal-bashing. Using sampling technology to provide an avant-dance palette to accompany Blixa Bargeld’s fierce chant of “FÜTTER MEIN EGO”, the sinister rhythm was inspired by the sound of chopping up speed!

Available on the EINSTURZEN NEUBAUTEN album ‘Halber Mensch’ via Potomak


BRONSKI BEAT Hit That Perfect Beat (1985)

Featuring new BRONSKI BEAT singer John Jøn Foster following the departure of Jimmy Somerville, ‘Hit That Perfect Beat’ was a frantically paced HI-NRG track helmed by Adam Williams of THE SELECTER who had been co-producer on EURYTHMICS’ singles ‘The Walk’ and ‘Love Is A Stranger’. Impressed by his work for DEPECHE MODE, Gareth Jones did the final mix which replicated the pumping presence of ‘Master & Servant’.

Available on the BRONSKI BEAT album ‘Truthdare Doubledare’ via London Records


DEPECHE MODE Stripped (1986)

Rising from Tonmeister to co-producer during ‘Some Great Reward’, Jones continued in the role for ‘Black Celebration’. By now, Martin Gore’s songs had got bleaker and Bleaker. Inspired by German film director Werner Herzog, Daniel Miller wanted a dystopian intensity and the album to be lived, a feeling which ramped up when the band finished the album in Berlin. ‘Stripped’ was the “remarkable” single that heralded this darker direction.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE album ‘Black Celebration’ via Sony Music


MINISTRY Just Like You (1986)

Having debuted with the synth-oriented ‘With Sympathy’ album in 1983, by 1986 MINISTRY had become more abrasive with industrial elements creeping into their sound. Engineered by Gareth Jones but produced by Adrian Sherwood of On-U Sound, the beat driven ‘Just Like You’ featured a Fairlight CMI which mainman Al Jourgensen had been able to acquire as a part of the deal with Sire Records.

Available on the MINISTRY album ‘Twitch’ via Rhino Records


NITZER EBB Let Your Body Learn (1987)

Founded by Bon, Douglas McCarthy and David Gooday, with their musical premise of “muscle and hate”, NITZER EBB took the seed of DAF to develop a danceable industrial finesse. While Phil Harding of PWL fame produced and mixed most of their debut long player released by Mute, Gareth Jones and Daniel Miller teamed up to remix their energetic single ‘Let Your Body Learn’ which had bee originally independently issued in 1986.

Available on the NITZER EBB album ‘That Total Age’ via Mute Records


ERASURE Blue Savannah (1989)

After his DEPECHE MODE Berlin trilogy, Gareth Jones remained in the Mute family and began a long-standing working relationship with ERASURE. The concept of ‘Blue Savannah’ was Roy Orbison doing electronic pop. As co-producer with Mark Saunders, he provided an uncluttered backdrop to showcase the soaring optimism of what was to become one of the most universally loved songs by Andy Bell and Vince Clarke.

Available on the ERASURE album ‘Wild!’ via Mute Records


IRMIN SCHMIDT Gormenghast Drift (1991)

When Mute Records licensed the CAN back catalogue in 1990 via their manager Hildegard Schmidt’s Spoon imprint, there came the opportunity to work on new solo recordings with their keyboard virtuoso Irmin Schmidt. With Gareth Jones as co-producer, while there were vocals and contributions from bandmates Jaki Liebezeit and Michael Karoli, the closing instrumental ‘Gormenghast Drift’ was an atmospheric delight.

Available on the IRMIN SCHMIDT album ‘Impossible Holidays’ via Spoon Records


ERASURE Grace (1995)

An attempt at prog synth which Andy Bell referred to as ‘Bright Side Of The Sun’, the seventh ERASURE album saw Gareth Jones and Thomas Fehlmann work together as producers on the ambitious if flawed self-titled opus. While there was the brilliant under rated single ‘Fingers and Thumbs (Cold Summer’s Day)’, there were also beautiful emotive neo-classical moments such as ‘Grace’ among the highlights.

Available on the ERASURE album ‘Erasure’ via Mute Records


BOYTRONIC Living Without You (2002)

The 21st Century incarnation of BOYTRONIC saw the return of original frontman Holger Wobker. The anthemic ‘Living Without You’, which was one of two songs produced by Gareth Jones for the parent album ‘Autotunes’, utilised an impressive array of instrumentation including electronics, filmic orchestrations and rock guitars as well as Wobker’s impassioned vocals.

Available on the BOYTRONIC album ‘Autotunes’ via Strange Ways Records


MESH No Place Like Home (2006)

When it suggested that MESH work with Gareth Jones, the band were initially reluctant because of the inevitable DEPECHE MODE comparisons. But Rich Silverthorn remembered “He was a really nice guy. We spent about 10 days locked in eating Chinese food, laughing and mixing ‘We Collide’”. Of the six tracks Jones mixed, ‘No Place Like Home’ proved to be one of the most poignant songs of MESH’s career.

Available on the MESH album ‘We Collide’ via Dependent Records


GARETH JONES Safe Travels (2020)

On the milestone of his 65th birthday, Gareth Jones’ released ‘ELECTROGENETIC‘, his first album under his own name. Most of the tracks began as improvisations around a modular patch, then crafted in a blend of humanity and electronics. While in Detroit, he developed the subtle rhythmic pulse and absorbing keyboard overtures of ‘Safe Travels’, one of several poignant tracks commemorating his recently passed mother and mother-in-law.

Available on the GARETH JONES album ‘ELECTROGENETIC‘ via Calm + Collect


SUNROOF 1.8 – 2.3.19 (2021)

A studio collaboration between Gareth Jones and Daniel Miller, while this project mostly produced covers such as ‘Hero’ for ‘A Homage to NEU!’ in 1998 and assorted remixes, SUNROOF started playing live shows and finally released a debut long player ‘Electronic Music Improvisations Vol1’. It featured a collection of improvised modular experiments recorded in 2019, of which the energetic ‘1.8 – 2.3.19’ was the most immediate.

Available on the SUNROOF album ‘Electronic Music Improvisations Vol1’ via Mute Artists


Text by Chi Ming Lai
1 April 2024


A thoughtful electronic pop record, ‘Watching Sleepers’ is the debut long form release by BLACKCARBURNING.

Although the solo vehicle of Mark Hockings, lead singer of Bristol band MESH, BLACKCARBURNING features guests Mari Kattman, Neil Francis and Janne Marvannen of LAKESIDE X who take the lead vocals on a number of songs.

With the multiple roles of singer, songwriter, programmer and producer, Hockings addressed the existential crisis than emerged following the pandemic. While a number of tracks could easily have fitted onto any MESH album of the past 15 years, there are different paths taken, including songs in a more classic pop vein such as ‘Watch Me Die’ and ‘Love In Control’.

A man who has rarely given interviews as a member of MESH, usually leaving media duties to bandmate Richard Silverthorn, it was a pleasure to have Mark Hockings speak to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the collective ethos behind BLACKCARBURNING and the making of ‘Watching Sleepers’.

What was the seed that planted BLACKCARBURNING?

I guess this is starting to become a bit of a cliché, but this whole project started during the pandemic when I had a lot of quality time on my hands. I’ve always made music and worked a full-time job, but the amount of useable free time that opened up was unexpected, even though I continued to work throughout that time. I’m someone who has to fill free time productively, and this seemed to present an opportunity to do something different. Initially I just planned to write a few instrumentals and put them on Bandcamp. I even toyed with ringtones for phones.

The start of this whole project however was my work with Mari Kattman which went in a direction that I really didn’t expect. I’d done an instrumental and had used some vocal samples. I’d already done some work with Mari on a (so far unreleased) track MESH track called ‘Bury Me Again’ which turned out unbelievable well. I asked her to replace the samples I’d used to just give it a more natural and original feel, but it ultimately ended up as a full blown song.

That song became ‘Divide Us’, the title track from the third EP. Once I had that track, and endlessly gone over the possibilities in my head, I made the decision to try and write an EP. The EP became an album plus several EPs. That was essentially how it all started. It was the result of a number of gambles, text messages, blind leaps and of course, a global health emergency.

Is BLACKCARBURNING a solo project or is it more a collective with you as the musical director, a bit like how ELECTRONIC with Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr was?

Mark: If I reluctantly had to classify it, I would say it’s a new band. I would not have been able to do this without the help of my collaborators, so I also wouldn’t say it’s a solo endeavour. I might even disagree with the term ‘project’. That implies that it’s something temporary, and it isn’t. As the band moves forward, I’m hoping to create something that feels more permanent and structured.

You began tentatively with some EPs, but was a full-length album always the intention?

By the time ‘The Mirror’ was (self) released, I already had the bones of an album. The intention was to release that album fairly soon after the EP. However, I was lucky enough to be introduced to Christian Petke and COP International and a record deal was signed. This changed the trajectory significantly and essentially gave me more focus and breathing space to get more album material together and release three more EPs. This all sounds very organised and structured, but it really wasn’t to start with. I was in unknown territory and really didn’t have a plan as such. It all worked out because of COP and Christian’s support, vision and direction.

Had any of this material been written originally for MESH like ‘All About You’ or ‘Reset’ for example?

Mark: Actually, not really. The only track that I considered as a MESH track was ‘Echo Chamber’. I’ve kept this work separate from MESH. I’d written a number of songs for the next MESH album before I started BLACKCARBURNING and those songs are still waiting to be worked on. The MESH work is very much a collaborative effort so it’s been easy to keep the two things apart.

What tools and hardware were you using in composition and pre-production?

Mark: I’ve got a fairly hardware based setup. I’ve used a lot of modular and semi-modular on this album, but also workhorses like the Moog Sub 37, Sequential REV2, Moog Grandmother, OP-Six. The Stylophone GEN-R8 is also used a lot as it’s so dirty sounding. Roland’s ACB machines SH-01 and the TR-6s are also very useful and sound great.

I’ve used a more hands on approach to the electronics, the modular being a part of that process. But also I’ve been using a lot of SOMA gear like the Pulsar 23 drum machine, Lyra 8 (drone synth), Enner (difficult to describe – you play it my bridging electronic circuits with your hands), The Pipe (again – difficult to describe – you play it with your voice), and Ether (detects and amplifies electrical interference in the environment). I’d like to get the new Terra but it’s expensive. That will have to wait for now.

Are you quite into modulars?

I use a lot of Noise Engineering and Make Noise modular gear. I particularly like Morphagene, X-Pan and Q-PAS from Make Noise. But things like Voltage Blocks and Quad LFO from Malekko – these signal processors are so flexible and can be routed to any CV input, modular or not (like the S37). I’m a real fan of Behringer to be honest. The Pro-One and the 2600, and I’ve just bought the Pro-800. I pretty much own all their guitar pedals because they are robust enough for the studio and cost about £20 each. Behringer have changed the game for a lot of musicians wanting the sound of rare and expensive analogue gear, but can’t afford the entry price. They take a lot of criticism, but personally I’m on board.

I’m a big fan of loop stations and use the RC-505 and RC-3 to build up large vocal lines or make some big toplines with guitar or synth. The results are unpredictable and interesting and very useable in most cases. Software wise, the most used stuff is XFER Serum, XFER LFO Tool, XFER Nerve (drum machine), XFER Cthulu. I’ve got a couple of cloud accounts with UVI and Roland. The UVI stuff is amazing and I use it on every track somewhere. The ACB Roland cloud stuff is also excellent and gets used a lot.

Guitar wise, I just use a Line6 Variax (James Tyner) which is a modelling guitar so you can use it like a Fender, or an acoustic, whatever you want. I really love it. Everything is sequenced with Cubase Pro. The album was written with a combination of v11 and v12. Remote vocal sessions were done with VST Connect / Performer – an incredible piece of software which allows me to run proper singer / producer sessions in real time.

‘Watching Sleepers’ is a very diverse record, what influences were you able to bring into the pot that maybe you hadn’t been able to before?

Certainly with ‘Watching Sleepers’, I felt a little more free to explore avenues that maybe wouldn’t feel like they fitted with my work in MESH. I’ve never felt restricted in MESH, but at the same time there are certain boundaries or a corridor that you need to be mindful of. Most of the songs on the album probably wouldn’t sit comfortably on a MESH album as such, but there is obviously a familiarity there that I think still appeals to MESH fans.

I’ve been able to be a bit more into the weeds with the writing, programming and sound design knowing that the buck essentially stops with me – nobody was going to step in and rescue the songs if I messed them up. I’ve also felt a little more free to try new directions and just see where they lead – I could take my time and wasn’t under any particular pressure – that helps a lot.

Working with Neil, Mari and Janne also opened up somewhat of a can of worms. It was something I’d not considered really. Particularly with the live VST sessions with Neil, I realised I had control over a voice that far exceeded what I could do myself, and this presented a raft of possibilities that would not have been possible before.

Having Mari Kattman singing ‘Divide Us’ is something of an outlier for the album, was it written for a female lead from the off?

The general direction of the album was to try not to get too much into any kind of blueprint. I want to be able to use this as an outlet for some experimentation and musical exploration. From my perspective I think everything ties together nicely, and Mari’s track is a typical example of where I wanted to go with this, not unlike Neil’s ‘Love in Control’ or ‘You Do What You Want’ from ‘The Mirror’ single, or ‘The Ghost of Being Alone’ from the ‘Reset’ single, or Janne’s ‘You Heart is Like An Island’ etc. I see them all as having something “off- kilter” but at the same time, they are a coherent body of work. But then I’ve lived with many of these tracks for a long time, so I’m maybe not the best person to judge.

Was a throbbing Moroder-esque electronic disco tune like ‘The Mirror’ something you had always wanted to do?

Yeah, love that kind of stuff. I’m just generally a fan of arpeggiated bass lines. I don’t think you can go far wrong with a repetitive sequence and a Roland drum machine. Not so much of a fan of disco, but certainly Moroder. I’ve always loved the way bands like DAF, NITZER EBB and PORTION CONTROL used the technique, but I always longed to hear something like that with a little more melody. These influences still play a big part in what I try to do and they raise their head periodically.

‘Echo Chamber’ brings in vocoder and throughout ‘Watching Sleepers’, you use a variety of vocal processing and tuning techniques, what do you say to those who feel that technology should not be used on the voice as it is cheating?

Vocal manipulation is pretty much a mainstay of every record now. If you have the tools to fix vocal issues, then most people will choose to use them. It doesn’t make any sense to release something that contains fixable mistakes. That said, I did all the vocals on ‘Watching Sleepers’ with little to no tuning work, instead opting to re-sing them where pitching was a noticeable problem. I had the time to do this, so it wasn’t an issue. I think it made the album a lot more ‘organic’ sounding and opened up the dynamics in general.

HOWEVER – I’ve got no problem in taking backing vocals and tuning them until they are unrecognisable, completely changing the melody and timing. Creating artificial vocal lines using the DAW, or tape recorders, loop stations, vocoders – whatever – all fair game. I don’t know about cheating – I find excessively tuned vocals obvious and annoying. I like the natural sound of untuned or ‘minimally’ tuned vocals, but I certainly wouldn’t leave obvious flaws unfixed if I thought it made the record worse for it.

How did the idea of using other vocalists for certain songs come about? How much of the album had been completed before this happened?

As I said, it initially started with ‘Divide Us’ and Mari Kattman. She also later contributed to the track ‘Watching Sleepers’ and ‘The Grace of Heavy Lifting’. I then asked Neil Francis to do the vocals for ‘Love in Control’, which again was somewhat of a revelation. Neil subsequently sung on ‘Happiness’, ‘Get Ready’, ‘Hive’, ‘Have You Seen Them Fight?’ and ‘Watch Me Die’. He also did backing for ‘Losing Our Way’ and ‘Echo Chamber’. With Janne, the process was slightly different. With all the other collaborations I’d done to that point, I’d recorded the songs with my vocals and we worked from there. With Janne I wrote the track specifically for him, taking into account his work with his band LAKESIDE X.

You did a combination of joint and remote collaborations, an example of the former being with Janne?

All the collaborations were done using VST Connect apart from Mari, where we just swapped files. The same was true with Howie Venton and his piano contribution to ‘The Sound of Running’. That worked well with Mari and Howie, but I did find the VST Connect experience so much more productive and flexible with Neil and Janne. What was great is that we could work together in real time, trying ideas, making up new harmonies, talking about arrangement, adding new musical parts etc. without having to wait for files to be sent. I could do as many takes as I thought we needed and at the same time I could keep an eye on background noise, levels, popping, mic presence and so on. It’s a game changer for me and has opened up a world of possibilities.

Were you pleasantly surprised when Neil Francis presented this Gene Pitney vibe to ‘Love In Control’?

‘Love in Control’ is a track that both myself and Neil are very proud of. He definitely brought something special to that recording and it remains one of my favourite tracks on the album, if not of my writing career. I was always looking for a kind of 50s feel to that track, and he delivered something that was both vintage and contemporary. We’re both very proud of the results.

Do you have any particular favourite tracks on ‘Watching Sleepers’?

I love all of the tracks to be honest. It’s difficult to single anything out as they all have their stories and they all mean different things to me. I just love the album as a complete body of work. To me, it would be like naming your favourite part of a new car – sure, it’s possible, but it’s all about how it works as a whole.

You also recently did a cover of ‘The Other Side Of Life’ for the JAPAN tribute album ‘Still Life In Polaroids’, what inspired you to record a version of the ‘Quiet Life’ album closer?

I was asked to contribute to the Coitus Interruptus Productions’ album ‘Still Life in Polaroids’. I actually chose a different track, but someone was already working on it, so I went with ‘The Other Side of Life’ although I hadn’t heard the track for some time. When I finally got around to listening to it again, I’d forgotten that much of the track is instrumental and it’s pretty long. So I kind of arranged it like a single and tried to get to the meat of the song without making it too meandering. It was pointless trying to emulate the musicianship as I’m not that skilled. To me it has a great hook, but it’s somewhat buried on the original. It was fun and thanks go to Yvette Winkler for making it happen.

Where have you gained the most satisfaction in doing BLACKCARBURNING?

My main satisfaction with music is twofold. I love the programming and working with electronic instruments – it was the reason I started writing music in the first place and remains my passion.

Secondly, I love the moment when something is finished. Many musicians struggle with this part of the process and for those people, nothing is ever really finished. I’ve got very good at drawing a line under something and moving on, so that moment when that decision is made and I can listen to the track as a finished piece of work is very special to me.

What is next for you?

My primary focus over the next year is going to be new MESH material and new BLACKCARBURNING material. I’m setting myself up for a lot of work, but I’ve learnt to manage my time and my priorities better (work and people) over the last couple of years, removed a lot of time-wasting and general distractions that were stopping me from being as productive as I like.

I’m also going to take some holiday…

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Mark Hockings

Additional thanks to Christian Petke at COP International

‘Watching Sleepers’ is available now via COP International as a CD, deluxe 2CD + download from https://blackcarburning.bandcamp.com/





Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
15 July 2023


A product of lockdown, BLACKCARBURNING is the solo vehicle of Mark Hockings, lead singer of MESH.

While MESH have been on numerous concert outings with a live document ‘Touring Skyward – A Tour Movie’ in 2022, there has been no new material with bandmate Richard Silverthorn since 2016’s ‘Looking Skyward’ album.

Addressing the existential crisis than emerged following the pandemic, Hockings took on the challenge of multiple roles including programming and production, a legacy of him almost accidentally falling into the role of MESH’s vocalist. So far, there have been three EPs plus a JAPAN cover ‘The Other Side Of Life’ for the tribute collection ‘Still Life In Polaroids’.

Although a solo project, Hockings does not hog the limelight on BLACKCARBURNING’s debut long player ‘Watching Sleepers’ as special guests Mari Kattman, Neil Francis and Janne Marvannen of LAKESIDE X take turns as featured artists on a number of songs. As far as the material contained on ‘Watching Sleepers’ goes, there is no carry over from the previously released ‘Divide Us’, ‘Reset’ and ‘All About You’ EPs, save the title songs, albeit in different versions.

The opening salvo of ‘All About You’ is MESH in all but name with a suitably angst-ridden delivery and feisty backing that will keep the faithful happy. The spikey throbbing energy of ‘The Mirror’ provides a dark disco highlight away from the parent band’s template but with a rockier edge, ‘Reset’ ramps up the pace to MESH-like proportions. Something of a banger and very immediate with ominous orchestrated lines to boot towards the end, ‘Losing Our Way’ will also please Meshheads.

But taking different paths, ‘Echo Chamber’ brings vocoder into the vocal aesthetic for some emotive electronic pop while the sparse structure of the ‘Watching Sleepers’ title track brings in an unusual mix of acoustic guitar lines and dominant synth arpeggios.

‘The Sound of Running’ is archetypical MESH with female vox humana phrases and cut from a similar cloth, ‘Breaking Bones’ brings a moderate bounce and plays with interesting pitched voice manipulations for its intro hook.

With the four guest lead vocalled works, ‘Divide Us’ featuring the beautiful voice of Mari Kattman compliments the song’s varying tempos in utilising her range of understated and aggressive modes. Fronted by Janne Marvannen, ‘Your Heart Is Like An Island’ springs an aesthetic surprise and does something a bit different with its downtempo rhythmic stutter.

On the two numbers featuring Neil Francis, the mid-paced but rousing ‘Watch Me Die’ enters into crooner territory and his smoother timbre will surprise MESH fans. But another unexpected turn comes with ‘Love In Control’ which recalls the forgotten Romo duo ORLANDO in its acoustic six string assisted synthpop with Francis at the point of almost sounding like Gene Pitney. MESH fans will probably be scratching their heads but this is a classic pop ditty shows the songwriter aspect of Mark Hockings. A song that Hockings himself had troubling nailing, with Francis realising its potential vocally, a future as a songwriter for other singers may beckon.

Those who might have been disappointed with the BLACKCARBURNING EPs will be pleased with how ‘Watching Sleepers’ has turned out. Although there are perhaps are too many songs on it, this can be seen as a positive in that Hockings is clearing the decks to proceed with Richard Silverthorn to work on a new MESH album.

A thoughtful electronic pop record, ‘Watching Sleepers’ makes a fitting and largely enjoyable stop-gap before the follow-up to ‘Looking Skyward’ eventually emerges.

‘Watching Sleepers’ is released by COP International as a CD, deluxe 2CD + download on 23 June 2023 available from https://linktr.ee/blackcarburning




Text by Chi Ming Lai
20 June 2023

Vintage Synth Trumps with MESH

In 2017, Bristol’s MESH granted access to a film crew to document the second leg of their tour of Germany in support of their seventh album ‘Looking Skyward’.

Filmed in Hamburg, Cologne and Königsstein, as well as 23 live tracks presented in an engaging fast cut style capturing the energy of a MESH show, ‘Touring Skyward – A Tour Movie’ also includes honest interviews with founder members Mark Hockings and Richard Silverthorn.

There is additionally footage from backstage and during soundcheck, with each of the band including keyboard player Richard Broadhead and drummer Sean Suleman explaining their performance set-ups. Compiled like a musical road movie, there are other insights such as the band relaxing on the tour bus after another successful show and interviews with fans. As a live record and documentary, ‘Touring Skyward – A Tour Movie’ is everything that DEPECHE MODE’s tediously difficult to watch ‘Spirits In The Forest’ was not.

Richard Silverthorn joined ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK from his studio for a game of Vintage Synth Trumps and talked about the four and a half year journey to bring ‘Touring Skyward – A Tour Movie’ to their ‘Friends Like These’.

Your first card is a Korg Poly Six…

I never owned a Poly Six but I do remember when they were around. I just wasn’t really into Korg and I don’t know why! My first synth was a Pro-One and then I had some Roland stuff but I never had a Korg. I have a couple of Korgs now and I quite like them, I have an MS-2000 and a Trinity rack which I use a lot of pianos and things. Korg never felt “cool” to me, all the bands I was into, I never saw them play a Korg.

Who were you into?

For me, the first thing that got me into electronic music was the ‘Dr Who Theme’, as a kid it was like “woah”, I didn’t know what the hell it was, it was quite scary, unusual, bleak and amazing. Then there was the OMD stuff, Gary Numan blew me away… I was never really a big fan but the singles at the time like ‘Cars’ and ‘Are Friends Electric?’ were just leaps and bounds ahead of what anybody else was doing, it was such a big unusual sound.

Then, YAZOO and DEPECHE MODE were a big influence. I really loved up to and including ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’. ‘SOFAD’ has got a great grim atmosphere and you can really feel the angst. But after Alan Wilder left, I don’t think it’s been anywhere near as good. I have seen them a couple since, I find it all a bit lacking the atmosphere and energy it used to. I still find myself wanting to like it but I really don’t. I was also into the lesser known electronic pioneers like DAF, FAD GADGET and PORTION CONTROL.

So you have the ‘Touring Skyward – A Tour Movie’ film coming out. When you are performing, how conscious are you that the cameras are filming?

Yes, at the start…. we filmed three shows so you know which shows are going to be done and where the cameras are going to stand but by the time you’ve got on stage, you go into the routine of doing a show and kinda forget about them. To be honest, the six members of the film crew had SLR type cameras so it was very discrete.

So if you know you are going to be filmed for three shows, do you do things like co-ordinate stage clothes so that you are wearing the same thing on each night because in DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Spirits In The Forest’, Dave Gahan knew he was being filmed on two nights but wore two different coloured shirts so in the final cut, the colour of his shirt keeps changing!?

Haha… no, we wanted to feature performances from three shows, so it was in contrast to that, we were after a different look and feel for each.

Another card and it’s an EMS VCS3…

Really old, this is going back to the ‘Dr Who Theme’ in a way! This synth is way out of my league, I’ve never owned one and I’m not sure I’d want to… for me, it’s a noise generator, not so much a musical thing! I struggle with that like I struggle with that whole modular thing! I find it all fantastic but for me I find it distracting when I’m trying to write, I just don’t want to know it!

With the ‘Looking Skyward’ album, I did some modular stuff but everything was already written and the lines were there, but we started replacing those lines with modular sounds. On one track, I played a slide guitar-type effect and we decided to replace it with a modular sound… it took FOUR HOURS to replicate this sound, at the end of it, I just wanted to put the guitar back in!

In the end, we did use it and every time I hear it, I love it but only because I know how long it took. This is the thing with modular people, they know how clever it is and how long it took, but to the outside world, it could have been done on any cheap keyboard if you know what I mean. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the results but it’s so time consuming. If I had an EMS, it would sit here in the studio and do nothing apart from gather dust.

It’s been 4 years since the tour, how involved can you want to get in finishing the ‘Touring Skyward – A Tour Movie’ after so long, especially as the ‘Involved – Retrospective Tour’ has happened since?

The plan was for a film which after it was recorded was handed to the label for editing which obviously is a big job. Then things slowed down and it was beginning to frustrate me.

I had the original job of mixing the audio but after three tracks, I literally could not do anymore! I’d written the album with Mark and heard the songs a million times in the studio, then I reprogrammed all the songs for the tour, and then when I came back, I just physically could not listen to the songs anymore.

So I passed it over to our monitor guy on the tour Elliot Berlin and he had a few issues with some of the files so it was a bit of a disaster… then the Covid thing came along which slowed everything! It has taken forever and I had almost lost interest, but it’s now all come together and people seem to be quite excited about it so I’m glad to still be onboard.

What Dependent do with the boxed sets is second to none. Obviously it’s my boxed set but it looks fantastic, all the boxed sets they done have been amazing, they still think there’s a fanbase who are collectors who want vinyl, CD and something special they can hold. The last one was limited but they sold instantly.

Was there much post-production work needed on the recorded concert sound?

The final mix is from the tracks that were recorded… there is a massive temptation to pitch correct and autotune here there and everywhere, take off the bum notes and add new lines but because it went outside of the band to do, he just mixed what we had and it is just those 24 tracks of live audio. There are parts where I really wanted more ambient mics so that you could hear the audience, but they were missing… so it’s difficult to turn them up without bringing everything else up. It is an honest account of what a MESH show is like, it’s not polished up in any way.

The next card is a Multimoog, are you a Moog enthusiast?

My first synth was a Pro-One but I very nearly bought a Moog Prodigy. I then went almost through my whole career not owning a Moog but then 2-3 years ago, I bought the DFAM drum machine and a Mother32. Now I’ve got a Grandmother as well so I’m a latecomer to the party. I love the DFAM, it sounds sh*t but it sound so sh*t that it sounds really good, if that makes sense.

It gives you that weird horrible percussion thing, I love things that have got a character, that are a little bit out of tune and distorted. It’s very cool stuff. It’s semi-modular and very flexible.

Obviously this film is based around the ‘Looking Skyward’ album, did you feel the pressure of following-up ‘Automation Baby’? It was a tough act to follow…

I thought so as well, dead truthfully, even when I was writing for the album, I was quite anxious the whole time… thing is, you couldn’t play it to many people but I wanted to play it to somebody just to see if it was living up to expectations. Yeah, I had a hard time of it, it was a difficult album to make because I did really feel the pressure. I don’t know why ‘Automation Baby’ was such a success, obviously I liked it and thought we had put out a really good album, but it went bigger than we ever expected it to.

It was a difficult time and but ‘Looking Skyward’ did better in sales and chart position than ‘Automation Baby’ did… I’m feeling the pressure again now, with what can I do different or better with the next album. I liken it to LINKIN’ PARK, the first album ‘Hybrid Theory’, it was amazing, then the next one came out and people said “It’s sounds the same as the last album!” and everyone was disappointed. But then for the third album, they did something completely different and everyone then went “That doesn’t sound like LINKIN’ PARK!” You can’t win! *laughs*

You know what I mean, it’s that feeling and that’s where I am at the moment! I’m desperate to do something new, fresh and different but we need to keep the fans happy without disappointing them by doing the same thing. Sometimes it’s better just to shut off and try and do your own thing and not over think it.

Mark doesn’t do interviews very often but is quite happy to talk on camera, did that take much persuading?

Mark does do interviews but he is the “quiet” one, maybe haha… the film crew had full access all day and asked questions and he was quite happy to answer in a relaxed situation.

Richard and Sean each get a slot too, Richard’s bit explaining the keyboards was a bit like Alan Wilder in ‘101’?

Yeah, they do interview all four of us showing what we do on stage and going through all the technical bits…

Another card and it’s a Roland SH101!

OH! NOW YOU’RE TALKING! I’ve got one here in the studio. I have a story about my SH101.

When I bought my Pro-One back in the day, my best friend Gary decided he was going to buy a synth and the SH101 was a slightly cheaper synth at the time. He lost interest quite quickly after buying it so I acquired his synth at a good price and that’s the one I still have now.

Unfortunately he committed suicide when we were 21 and it made a massive hole in my life so my SH101 means a lot to me. I use it a lot, it’s a fantastic synth and I would never get rid of it. It has had a few repairs with the occasional switch dying but still fully functional. There are so many lines on all the albums that were made with this, great for just putting the sequencer into record, writing a sequence and transposing it around… the track ‘Confined’ from ‘In This Place Forever’ is pretty much all made with the SH101.

‘The Traps We Made’ features Raleigh Choppers, did you have one yourself when you were younger?

I DID! I had a blue one, a Mk2, that was my first bike! *laughs*

It’s a funny thing, Mark is about the same age as me so into the same kind of stuff and we often talked about Raleigh Choppers, it was a running joke. Then one afternoon ahead of the tour, he called me and said “I wanna do some filming, just come round”. When I got to his house, he pushed out these two Raleigh Choppers. It was the friend of a friend who collects them who let us play with them. So we spent about an hour riding down this street on these Raleigh Choppers and did a bit of filming.

Did you ever try and do Evel Knievel type stunts on your Chopper?

Yeah! Plenty of cuts and bruises, I still do now mate with my mountain biking and motocross! *laughs*

Evel Knievel was my childhood hero, I used to have a poster in the studio from the Evel Knievel UK tour and I had tickets to see him at Bristol City Football Club but he crashed at Wembley Stadium so the whole thing was cancelled! I was absolutely devastated as a young kid!

‘The Last One Standing’ has become something of a crowd favourite? Was that a surprise?

That one, yes! We always write to the best of our abilities, we’ve never put out anything where we’ve gone “Oh that’ll do”. But songs come alive when you play them live… you get different reactions but with that track, I don’t know why! It became one of the big things on that tour… I recently got our Spotify End Of Year things and that was the biggest streamed track of ours this year, 4 years on…, it’s still really popular! I don’t know why but you strike a chord with certain things, people warm to it.

It’s a bit like ‘Taken For Granted’, when we did it first time round, I really liked it and it was a great track. But then we played it at a show in Gothenburg and everybody started singing it at the end. It was like “Woah! This is a bit strange” but because of the internet, a video got posted up and at the next gig, everyone there starting doing it and it because this self-perpetuating thing and got bigger and bigger and bigger to becoming at standard thing to do at our shows now.

Photo by Bernd Schwinn

‘Taken For Granted’ has become your ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ type anthem…

You don’t know whether these tracks when you put them out, if they are going to be firm favourites or just another track… I still love playing it!

Are there ones where you’re enthused at the beginning of a tour but halfway through, you’re like “do we have to play this one, can’t we do something else?”?

There have been a couple… we reprogramme everything for the tour so it’s not just album backing track sh*t, when you see MESH, it will not be the CD versions. Sometimes, you programme something and you think it sounds great and it’s going to be good but then after two or three shows you realise “this isn’t quite working!”; you don’t know why and just drop it but we’ve always got a couple of spare tracks lying around for a tour and we try each night to chuck a different one in and try something. By the time you get to the end of the tour, you got this almost perfect set.

The final card is an Oberheim 8 Voice…

I haven’t got a great deal of Oberheim stuff, the only thing we had was Mark had a Matrix 1000, it was quite cool but kept on playing up, it would lose every 4th note because one of the voices was going. He had it repaired a few times but it took a bit of a back seat from then on because we were almost too scared to use it in case it broke down again.

In the film, there’s behind the scenes footage on the tour bus, the playlist was good fun and featured THE LIGHTNING SEEDS, RACEY and BONEY M… some fans have this impression of bands like MESH only listen to dark electronic music but that’s probably the last thing you want to hear when you are winding down?

That’s exactly it mate! Our German tour manager Jan Winterfeld really likes RACEY and other 70s and 80s nonsense… I find that so funny, RACEY are from Weston-Super-Mare which is just down the road from where I live! He plays BONEY M and SHAKIN’ STEVENS, it is that whole release thing all day there is that pressure, you are all doing your own thing, the stress of the day and the show then you get to the end, you have a few drinks and someone puts on that stuff and you’re like “Yeah! It’s relax time”… it’s all kinda funny when you’ve had a stressful day *laughs*

What’s your highlight from the film?

We did an outdoor show in Königsstein which is an old castle in Germany which came across really well and looked good.

But I loved all the clips on the tour bus… as a fan of other bands, I don’t really want to see the performance as I’ve probably seen that on the tour, I want to see all the nitty gritty stuff that goes on behind-the-scenes like the setting up and the talking to the band etc! This was one of the things we wanted to have on our film as it reminds me of a good time, that’s the thing that stands out for me.

Finally, is there a synth you covet, old or new?

It’s not a synth, it’s a sampler… I really want an Emulator II, just because every band I was into had one, it was a statement, like “Look at us, we’ve got some money, we’re cool!” – they were £8000 back in the day, which way over what I could afford. Then they came down to almost into the hundreds when they were superseded by something new and I wish I bought one then. I keep looking and now they’re back to £3000-4000 but I know if I had it, I would never use it. I’ve got an EMAX II which is far superior to the Emulator II but I just want it because it’s an iconic thing for me. I would hang it on the wall as a piece of art.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Richard Silverthorn

Special thanks to Stefan Herwig at Dependent Records

‘Touring Skyward – A Tour Movie’ is released on 28th January 2022 by Dependent Records as a limited edition 60 page photo art book containing a 3 ½ hour Blu-ray and two audio CDs, pre-order available direct from https://en.dependent.de/en/Artists/Mesh/Mesh-Touring-Skyward-A-Tour-Movie-Artbook-BR-2CD-mind325.html





Vintage Synth Trumps is a card game by GForce that features 52 classic synthesizers available from

Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
12th January 2021

HELIX Bad Dream

Shakespeare posed the question “If music be the food of love…” and over the course of popular music numerous couples have released work. From Ike & Tina Turner to Chris & Cosey through EURYTHMICS and more recently our own VILE ELECTRODES and WITCH OF THE VALE, all have shown what can be achieved if partners do more than spend their evenings watching ‘Love Island’ (let’s not mention John and Yoko though…)

Another romantic pairing who have released music are Tom and Mari Shear under the name of HELIX. Their 2018 debut ‘Twin’ was one of the highlights of the year and they have now returned with a new EP, ‘Bad Dream’.

Tom of course is well known from his band ASSEMBLAGE 23 who have been leading lights on the EBM / Industrial scene for some 20 plus years and he brings the muscular instrumentation and production from that project to HELIX but with a number of twists that will raise a few eyebrows.

All of this underpins the new Mrs Shear’s frankly spectacular voice which has been heard across numerous collaborations from her new husband’s SURVEILLANCE release to guest vocals with, to name a few, COMADUSTER and IVARDENSPHERE. More on those vocal skills in a moment…

Opening with the energetic ‘Run’, which picks up from where the ‘Twin’ album left off, this acts as an excellent appetiser for what’s to come. A fine danceable pop infused number, this will no doubt go down a storm not only in a club setting but also in the set at the, currently, infrequent HELIX live outings. Mari easily harmonises with herself in the layered vocals on the chorus to wonderful effect.

One of the great things about any side project is it gives the opportunity to try new things musically and this is evidently the approach taken on the next few tracks by Tom himself. ‘Slip’ opens with a laid-back percussion track underpinning effected samples leading into verse which sensibly allows the vocal to carry the thrust of the track.

As previously stated, I think Mari has one of the best female voices on the scene and this is proven on this track which allows her to be heard without swamping with unnecessary processing.

‘Kill The Unknown’ further allows Mr Shear the scope to do new things musically. This moves into almost ‘indie’ territory with live drums and, gasp, guitars courtesy of multi-instrumentalist Elias Black. These add an expected texture and bite to the track and shifts HELIX in another direction entirely.

Closer ‘Bad Dream’ is a brooding slice of electronica with an almost metal chorus which drops in and out of the arrangement that hinges around a frantic drum track. The accompanying remix included on the EP by MESH frontman Mark Hockings is actually my preferred version, again the ‘dancier’ mix will go down a storm in a club and the mix further highlights Mari’s great vocal take.

Closing the tracklist out is a mix of ‘Run’ by ex-IRIS member Andrew Sega under his HALLOWED HEARTS moniker. This is an almost goth interpretation with chiming guitars and a straightforward 4/4 drum track. Again, this version underlines how well this song will go down in a club set.

In the second part of Shakespeare quote at the top of this article he asks that we “play on”. On the strength of both the earlier album and this all too short EP, we can but hope that Mr and Mrs Shear do just that, there is much here to feed even the hungriest of souls.

‘Bad Dream’ is available as a digital EP from https://helix.bandcamp.com/album/bad-dream



Text by Ian Ferguson
5th November 2021

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