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Mike + The Mechanics - Interview in Dresden (II)

GNC interview with Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar


A relaxed atmosphere backstage in Dresden, Andrew and Tim have been very interesting and likeable chatpartners during our first interview at London's Hard Rock Café in 2011 and so they felt comfortable to talk to a familiar face backstage in Dresden. Christian Gerhardts at down with them to discuss the spirit of the all new Mechanics ...


GNC: The show was great, it was an inprovement to last year - although that was good already

Tim Howar: Oh thanks - I think we had some time with the band, that makes it easier


GNC: People enjoyed the acoustic set in the middle. I was a bit suprised to hear you sing Everybody Gets A Second Chance ...

Tim: Oh yes, because that was done by Paul Carrack.


GNC: Speaking about the set - I was a bit surprised you only play 2 songs from the new album - is there a specific reason for that?

Tim: I think, for us, we are new to the whole thing. We have to include more Mechanics-songs now, because next year we will tour Living Years so it will probably get a bit bigger next year. So, for Mike and for all of us - just to have the variety, we have to include different numbers in the set. We do not want to be stuck to what we played last year.

Andrew Roachford: I think it was kind of weird because it was only a few days ago that we realized - hold on a minute - there's only two songs from the new album and we thought we had more still in but ... we just tried to rehearse some older songs and we put together a set of what works together. So it just happened and it went that way, but we were thinking actually to introduce more new songs in the set.


GNC: You played I Get The Feeling and The Way You Look At Me during the first couple of shows and then they disappeared. Why is that?

Tim: You know, our set is like 100 minutes or something and it was a bit longer in the beginning. We thought it was okay but it seemed a bit too long. Because you want to leave the audience wanting more. For us it felt long. It felt a bit too slow also.

Andrew: Sometimes when you choose a set you look for certain songs to bring a certain energy to the set. And then we had I Get The Feeling and Something In The Way You Look At Me and they were not adding anything more to what we already had. But we try to make it a full round set. You can't do everything. Some songs you go like - ok, well - we already covered that here and there but who knows? When I tour on my own, I sometimes change it night by night and there are no rules - you just do what kind of feels good.

Tim: Yes, but I also think the crowd is more waiting for the big hits. You kind of have an up-feeling and if we were playing to a lot of couples and they are all really loved-up then we could do The Way You Look At Me or even slower stuff, you know? But here, we have mostly a lot of Genesis fans and a lot of Roachford fans and they want to hear their tunes so if we bored these people with too many love songs, we'd lose them.


GNC: Speaking of that - last year you played Nobody Knows and If I Were You and you sang these two together...

Tim: For us, now, we could put those back in any time. But if we do not put the new one in, if we don't play them now, then next year we come to play a bit more to celebrate Living Years, then we won't have that option.


RoachfordGNC: You mentioned there are a lot of Genesis fans in the audience, that was the reason I asked this question and also, they are used to 2,5hrs setlists. So you often get to hear "The Mechanics show was really good, but it was rather short" compared to what they are used to from Genesis, so people keep asking, why are they only playing 100 minutes?

Tim: I think Genesis is a really prog kind of outfit. So the songs, by nature, are longer, with bigger intros, instrumental parts .

Andrew: It's a completely different concept of the show. That's it.

Tim: The Mechanics are built for the radio. Mike wants to have us on the radio. So, from Silent Running on, it was the 4-5 minutes song concept or a 3 and a half minute hit. Even songs like The Way You Look At Me they all fall in this category.

Andrew: The more I work with Mike, the more I have respect for him because I love his intuition about these things. He just feels it's right to do this kind of show. If he thought it would be right to do a more Genesis-esque ... longer show he would but he works by his intuition and I think he is right.


GNC: How do you feel with the situation that your drummer changes almost every night? That must be a bit strange.

Tim: Well Ben and Gary trust each other very much, but they are still different.

Andrew: They are, but we get used to the shift. It's not really a big difference. But sometimes I turn around and see Gary and was expecting Ben ... (laughs).


GNC: Andrew, you tour a lot on your own also, but on your website the Mechanics tour is hardly mentioned?

Andrew: I think some of the dates we have put up there and we spoke with the management and we decided to promote it their way and we want to keep it as a separate thing.

(Andrew and Tim are coughing and sneezing)


RoachfordGNC: Oh, you both sound like you're suffereing from rather bad colds.

Tim: I have a cold for 4 days, especially my throat is sore. And I also had food poisoning last week. It's a bit difficult right now, but it's still okay to play.

Andrew: Normally when you tour in July in Germany it's warm and the sun is shining. And this time, it's cold - and also the coach is cold. We were freezing. And it's also wet.


GNC: It's almost like Canada, isn't it?

Tim (laughs): Well, we have like 30° 4000ft up in the mountains, so it's not always cold in Canada.


GNC: Been there 10 years ago in November ...

Tim: Well then it's really cold, yes.


GNC: You come from Canada, I know you did Musicals, you have your own band van Tramp with a slightly more rockier outfit. Is it a correct conclusion to say your musical career is over, probably also due to your age?

Tim (shouts): NO! Not at all. It's not (laughs). After this show I will be right back into a show at the West End. But we have not signed the contracts yet, so I can't tell what it is. Tony Smith does that for me as well. So, I'll be doing another show and hopefully do some writing ...

Andrew: Someone as good as him, it's never over, it's impossible (everybody laughs)


GNC: Well, it seems like most actors or dancers who appear on musicals and other stage productions they have to disappear when they have reached a certain age, that's why I am asking

Tim: Well, it changes and it depends what you want. But for me I was very fortunate to be able to do rock and then films and television stuff and musicals, yes. So it's also like keep being employed and I like that! I did these concerts and then I am going to a rock show in the West End. That'll keep me busy for 6-8 month per year, so I have time for the Mechanics. Then I will also have concerts with Orchestras around christmas time, doing diofferent kinds of stuff like stuff from Queen for example. And then - I will also be working on a solo album. I'm doing a solo album and then you guys can come in and play for me (laughs).


HowarGNC: So you compete with Andrew reagarding solo albums

Tim: No, we are never competing, this is so different. He has got this R&B thing in his voice and I could never compete with that - wouldn't want to cause I enjoy it so much. And when it comes to the screaming stuff Andrew says - just go ahead and do your thing (laughs). But we support each other. But also, when I do my solo album, it will have complete different elements. It may have more of a jazzy feel, maybe more of a Crowded House feel, maybe a bit mechanics, but that kind of vibe. A couple of years ago I even wrote some stuff which is kind of Gabriel-style. It's important to have that mix. Other than that, I just like to play gigs, also local gigs and that for many years to come. But coming back to Musicals - yes, I will definitely go back to do that.


GNC: Speaking of writing - Mike said that you (Andrew) and he did some writing already, but did you two every write some stuff together and Mike sayd 'that's nice, could fit on the next album'?

Tim: No! We should! What I miss in the bus is a guitar!

Andrew: Mike is very open as well. He's a lot more open than people would think. He's into so much different stuff. We could write something together quite easily. And Mike is like ... during soundcheck he was messing around with his guitar and I asked 'what's that, is that one of your songs?' and he said 'I didn't even know what I was plaing' so he's constantly creating - but doesn't even think about it. I love that - he's completely intuitive and natural.

Tim: There you can see why Genesis were so prolefic. Even when Gabriel left, they might have thozght 'what are we going to do with all these ideas?' and they never stopped thinking like that. So the songwriting was very strong from everybody involved

Andrew: It's Strongwriting (laughs)


GNC: Mike said that in 2013 there will be the 25th anniversary of Living Years and Andrew recorded a new vocal version of that particular song - so what do you expect from 2013 - only a anniversary tour, a new album?

Tim: I think it's important, especially for fans .. there wil also be new tracks, extra ones on that 2CD. It's important for us to celebrate that. But this anniversary is gonna come around once and it's coming because Mike wants to do it. He might any time say ... like when his grandchildren grow up he'd say 'I've had enough' or even if Genesis say 'we're touring one more time' so this might be the last time he plays Living Years out. And we will have some publicity for it and that opportunity and the time to go back and look at the tracks. You never know. Mike says never say never regarding Genesis, so there could be this one last Genesis tour any time. And that would take a lot of time and during that time - there are no Mechanics. So when we are doing Living Years, Mike wants to celebrate that and do it a different way and maybe introduce it to an new generation.

Andrew sings 'talking about This Generation (laughs)

Tim: When I first said, I will be doing the Mechanics things, I did not get anybody saying 'that's really cool' from people in the 40ies or fifties - it was in fact my buddy, who is 21 years old saying 'oh my God, I am a huge Mike + The Mechanics fan' and this is a younger generation and they seem to be passionate about it. So I think it's very smart with this anniversary tour, just to do it in a different way rather than a normal tour.


tim HowarGNC: Going back a bit - three years ago, you didn't know each other, I think and you also didn't know you might end up with the Mechanics - at least as a part time project so how does it feel, do you feel like this is a one-off chance or is it more like let's see how it goes?

Tim: It came out of nowhere. We were asked, both of us.

Andrew: There are no long term definitve plans. Another album and tour is likely but nobody knows for sure. Does it feel like something good? You never know - we want to go as far as we can with it. When we fiest came together with Mike it was all like new thing, because the whole idea was more like some people thought we could work together. And we are exploring it. It may just be a temporary thing, or it may grow into something else.

Tim: It's fun, we have a good time, Mike has a good time ... like today, we had a funny start into the show. We're not one of these groupd who are so serious about playing. Mike likes to play a bit loose, he likes to play like a band. We are very lucky to have that feel. That's where I come from, I left Musical Theatres to play in a band. I wanted to have something that was loose which is more from your heart. And that's where you (looks at Andrew) also come from, you're making music, have your own fanbase. So as long as Mike has a good time and we have a good time, we'll keep going. A couple of years maybe? I don't know!


GNC: It's interesting to see - last year when we met in London at the Hard Rock Cafe you had not been on tour yet and now you have and feel much more relaxed. You were very excited back then to see how it works and now that it works you feel very relaxed and confident.

Andrew: Right - and we are not like "well, year it's ok" - we not bored at all, I am curious to see if there was another album, how that would be because we now know each other far better. Because we came in cold on the last CD.

Tim: We met in the studio! We came in, looking around at all the gear, guitars and stuff and different people came in to do little bits on some tracks and we didn't know most of them - there wasn't really a band.

Andrew: It's a challenge when something has already a certain stamp or is a trademark. People have certain expectations, I mean the 'Publikum', and Mike has his own ideas about the Mechanics. I believe, personally, that you have to keep evolving.The fans will understand, if the next Mechanics album will sound a bit different as long as it is good. And that's the thing, and it's better rather than make the new album sound like the Mechanics in 1987 or something.

Tim: By keeping it about the songs. Mike plays things a certain way, it will always have that sound. And we add soul or rock edge to that. So it's a combination and as long as everybody can do the job for what is needed it will always be The Mechanics. There needs to be a soul singer who plays keys very well, there needs to be a rockier voice. We heared other guys who tried to sing on that. They could do the stuff, but they didn't have that extra. It doesn't have to be a Paul Carrack imitation or something. Mike said early on to me 'you sing it like Paul, but you are not imitating Paul'.


GNC: That's interesting, because the fans think that you two are the perfect Pauls' replacement, yet not just an imitation of them. And you bring it to a new energy on stage and some people say you sing The Living Years better than Paul Carrack did and you sound better on Word Of Mouth.

Tim & Andrew: Oh, that's good to hear!


GNC: How much does it bother you that album sales were beyond expectations?

Tim: It's our responsibility, isn't it?


GNC: Is that important for you or just a sidenote?

Tim: YES it is important! Of course I'd love to see Mike + The Mechanics back on top!

Andrew: I think it's important - it's not great when you say the album is not selling amazingly because I do believe like Tim has said - there is still a big market for the Mechanics. So, when things are not going in the right way, it is frustrating. But also I feel things are growing. Mike wants to keep playing, but at the same time you can't keep living in your past success, you have to keep moving forward. Just keep going, another album and another album, eventually people will get it again. Because then they will realize that it's not something just nostalgic. That's very dangerous, being nostalgic!

Band backstageTim: And what's great ... you know, Mike can go and play a certain amount of Genesis songs any time. But Andrew and myself, we don't have that position, we do not know a lot of the Mechanics stuff yet. We will be spending the next 1-2 years getting our versions of the Mechanics stuff together. We can't expect the fans just sitting in a room and hope they like it. They have to hear us play the stuff. And then they go - yes or no. And that was why we did something like I Get The Feeling only once. We weren't getting it back from the fans - maybe also because it was a really rainy day in Kiel. Those fans were amazing in Kiel, though. These people were stuck in the worst weather I've ever seen. And then it got nicer and nicer ... but we need to play it for the fans - it has to be us. And then Mike has to say "that's good" before it becomes part of the set. And then we can move on to the new music. I think we would be idiots not to record new music.


GNC: The thing about I Get The Feeling was ... people were discussing, which songs would be nice to hear and among the favorites were Nobody's Perfect from the Living Years album ...

Tim: That one was on the table ...


GNC: Perhaps you'll be doing that next year anyway. And another one was Why Me from the same album and then A Call To Arms, which is VERY popular among fans. But I Get The Feeling was never on any list, so it was a big surprise and maybe an odd choice.

Tim: You know, Mike had an idea with I Get The Feeling, Andrew and me , we trade our vocal duties, we did that last year as you know and Mike said, oh there's this song, I Get The Feeling, that might work with both of us singing. So we tried it.

Andrew: Sometimes you do things, it doesn't work. That's live. You've got to go and try it. And that's a good thing. If every gig would be the same and perfect, that would be boring! So after gigs you realize that one song did not work well, and that's good it keeps you being inspired and working on things. And I Get The Feeling ... funny enough if we kept playing it, we may have found a place in the set where it works, maybe change it. But it didn't fit in this time.


allGNC: What about the M6-album? That has been completely left out for the second time now.

Tim: All The Light I Need is a great song!

Andrew: Yes, we were thinking about that one. But isn't Nobody Knows in M6? Ah, no - that's from Living Years.

Tim: We have to leave something for next year. We will also probably do a lot from Living Years of course.

Andrew: Well, we do not see the albums and say - let's do songs from each album. It's more like Mike says to me and Tim 'what do you think we could do live' - so it just happens that this time round we didn't pick any from the M6 tracks. What we want to do is make the show as strong as we can. And that means sometimes you can't bring these songs.


GNC: Today, there were about 700 people, you also play festivals with 10,000 - what's the difference for you, what do you like more?

Tim: The immediacy of 700 people is special. The festivals are important when the big songs come in. Like Over My Shoulder - that always works. As long as we have enough in our set that makes a crowd of 500 or 700 happy, then the big shows will take care of themselves. I find the smaller gigs harder.

Andrew: I like the smaller ones in a sense that it feels like a family in a room. If you can get a little bit like that on a gig with 10,000 people, then you got it! You can make it actually feel smaller.


GNC: You will be touring this year solo?

Andrew: Yes, we will be back, also in Deutschland. [tour dates available here]


GNC: Will you come with a band or solo?

Andrew: No, I'll be there with a band, 4 people are involved. I am happy to be back in Germany.


GNC: Ok, thanks Tim & Andrew for your time!

Tim: A pleasure, as always. We'll keep in touch!

Andrew: Yes, we appreciate a lot what you do and questions are always interesting!


Interview & transcription: Christian Gerhardts
Photos: Holger Lorenz

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