IN CONVERSATION: Micko and the Mellotronics

IN CONVERSATION: Micko and the Mellotronics

Micko Westmoreland is a modern polymath. After a career as an electronic film composer, and film actor – playing the eloquent non-speaking ‘Jack Fairy’ in Todd Haynes’ 1998 glam rock extravaganza ‘Velvet Goldmine’; he eventually utilised his guitar and songwriting skills with his eponymous band Micko and the Mellotronics in 2017.

Their overall sound? Very riff-based with Micko’s clenching vocals. Imagine early Buzzcocks crossed with the Only Ones, along with Pere Ubu and Young Marble Giants jostling for post punk supremacy. Not brit pop or new wave revivalists. More of a highly developed individual combo with their agenda mapped out from day one.

They are now finally set to release their debut single, ‘The Finger’ today(27th September). It features a killer bassline c/o the Specials’ Horace Panter. Their as yet untitled debut album is definitely in the pipeline.

Autumn being the season of mellow fruitfulness, I caught up with the Mellotronics: drummer Nick Mackay; bassist Vicky Carroll; lead guitarist Jon Klein (formerly of Specimen and Siouxsie and the Banshees), and of course, Micko for an enlightening Q&A:

What are your dates of birth and places of birth?

Nick: 1 July 1986, St Mary’s Hospital, Portsmouth.

Vicky: London, 1977. I mainly grew up in the Midlands.

Micko: 3 May 1969, Leeds.

Jon: 1960, Bristol.

What was your first ever gig as a punter and the year or your age at the time?

Nick: My Mum used to play guitar in a folk band. I guess my first gig would be something like the Albion Band, aged four or five. I think somewhere in Winchester as part of the folk festival.

Vicky: Metallica, Milton Keynes, 1993. I was 15.

Micko: I think it was Rush in 1980. ‘Permanent Waves’ tour at the Queens Hall in Leeds. They played the new wave influenced ‘Spirit Of Radio’ – a single at the time. It brought the house down!

Jon: Accidentally saw Yes at the Bristol Colston Hall in 1975. We were at the ice rink over the road, and found an open door. The hall was very dark, and I have no memory of the music!

I know the musical CVs of Micko and Jon. Vicky and Nick, can you tell me yours pre-Mellotronics?

Nick: The first ‘proper’ gig I did was at the Air Balloon in Portsmouth when I was 15/16. We did a passable cover of Hendrix’s ‘Fire’ and ‘ Pride And Joy’ by Stevie Ray Vaughan.

At Sheffield University, I picked up guitar, and started writing songs and played in the bands, the Inner State Circus and the Additives, and gigged around the Sheffield area for a few years. The two EPs that my band recorded were produced by the Arctic Monkeys’ producer, Alan Smyth.

Moving to London, I moved back to playing drums and started a two-piece band called Barricades with my friend Jordan Laughlin, and released our second EP year. Currently we are on hiatus, but I am certain we’ll be back. It was at a Barricades gig that Micko saw me, and the rest is history. I’ve been a Mellotronic for almost three years.

Vicky: I also play bass with indie pop band Owls Of Now.

What is the recording process like for you as individual members? Do you work out parts at home beforehand or is it a democratic affair?

Nick: With Micko’s demos for songs, he always has drums from the computer- which I think is his idea of what he has in mind for the song. So I try and base around that, but that develops into something of my own making.

Vicky: It’s a bit of both. Generally, I’d start with my live part, and then adapt this with input from the others. Jon’s got a real talent for getting great performances out of people. I’ve learnt loads from working with him on the album.

Micko: I work up a demo at home – that gets re-built bionically by Jon when I go into his studio. When we get to rehearsal, most stuff has been worked independently so everyone has an idea what they are doing.

What has been your favourite Mellotronics gig to date? Was it a turning point?

Nick: Probably one of the 100 Club gigs. I don’t know whether any gig has been a turning point or not. I guess when we first played with Jon; that gave us a fuller sound vital for Vicky and I as the rhythm section.

Vicky: My first gig with the Mellotronics was supporting the Television Personalities at the 100 Club last November. It was a benefit gig for Daniel Treacy with some big names supporting. A fantastic way to kick off a new venture.

Micko: I think it was the 100 Club about 18 months ago. T’was ace bananas.

Jon: 100 Club with Television Personalities was fun. As was David Devant and his Spirit Wife.

Your audience’s age has been mainly 30s to 60s. Do you strive to reach out to a younger generation or aren’t you bothered?

Nick: I know for a fact some people in their 20s have seen us, and I think that they have enjoyed the set. I’m not bothered really. It would be nice for all ages to like us.

Micko: Anyone who comes across it, is warmly welcome.

Jon: There’s been younger kids at shows. My friends’ kids prefer retro styles over contemporary pop.

The new single, ‘The Finger’. How are you feeling about this release? Butterflies in tummy or laissez-faire?

Nick: I just hope that it does well enough. It’s a good first single and a good video.

Micko: It is our first important release as a band. Horace Panter of the Specials is guesting on bass too. So we are hoping it’s going to get to many ears.

Jon: I feel good about it. It’s a fun lyric and the music is an interesting mix of feeling.

‘The Finger’ is released on September 27 on Landline Records

Micko  & The Mellotronics play The Lexington, London on September 28 (with The Monochrome Set)

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