|The Instant Automatons Archive|
Turn Everything Up Louder Than Everything Else
by Mic (guitar)
I remember it quite well. I had just moved to London (ish - SE18), having messed about up North with guitar and various mates. I was hooked - the guitar, 10 watt amp, speakers, volume. 'Twas the age of Garageland in the NME, Cassette Scene in Sounds, occasionally the Melody Maker would mention the indie cassette labels. Send £1 or a blank C60-C90, s.a.e., music is free-ish. Anyone can do it. Loads of stuff from Penrith to Scunthorpe via Brigg.
I sent for cassettes from Scunthorpe and in one was the plea for a guitarist. I couldn't really play, but - fuck, I loved the weirdness that came from that Low Farm address. Many letters later and that fab meeting at Street Level; disgusting toilet, 8-track tape, Kif Kif, Steffi, Grant - who were they? If only I knew. Then, a gig. Playing live at the LMC in Camden Town - Lemon Kittens, The Door And The Window, Mark Perry. A big high-watt stack, rehearsal, sound check, C# major - what a chord! Scared me to death, but I did it. Got through it.
Then up to Low Farm: Protag's mum - what a diamond. Funny house - up a bit, round a bit. Tight corners. Protag's bedroom: microphones, mixers, tape machines, banks of cassettes, timer set to record John Peel's show to listen to next morning. It was great. Getting the bus to Protag's - just one; Victoria to Scunthorpe. Weekend rehearsals for upcoming appearances and recording sessions.
Up until this point, the Automatons were quite experimental but when I joined…I dunno, maybe it was natural progression, but the music started to become structured. Less weird, but very intense lyricwise. The stories were weird, but the song structures were closer to the norm - but it was fab.
We did gigs in the strangest of places and met the most amazing people. We did gigs with The Mob, Zounds, Chelsea, Here & Now - a fine pedigree. That was a big buzz for me - playing guitar with me mates, not in the local but Doncaster, Retford, Notting Hill, Nenthead, Grimsby, Shepherd's Bush, Scunthorpe, King's Cross… I never thought I would play in a band and end up on a record - Deleted Records did that for me! It's a bit strange these days when Joe Tuneful and The Flamboyants can record themselves on Cubase and burn it off onto CD, but then I'm probably getting old. That's progress.
I loved the Automatons. I didn't mind one bit the travelling, the weird venues, getting mistaken for a Fulham fan in Huddersfield, kipping on people's floors after gigs, the veggie food, the magic mushrooms…It was sad when Mark said "That's enough" but I was hooked on making sounds, and so was Protag.
What did the Automatons give me? The ability to understand recording and sound gear, the near-urge to tune up and to have a bigger amp, and the knowledge that anything is alright as long as you like it.
And yes, I liked it a lot.