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Mel Bowen

Mercury 13 / Photographie DR
Si vous êtes amateur de la scène musicale de Liverpool, le nom de Mercury 13 ne vous est certainement pas inconnu. Aux cotés de Field Music, I Am Kloot, John Head, Pete Wylie ou encore Aviator, Mercury 13 est un groupe qui prend le temps de vivre sa musique avant de la vendre. A l’aube d’un nouveau single et d’un premier album fort attendu, rencontre avec Mel Bowen, son leader charismatique qui évoque l’esprit du Merseyside, The Jam, le Labour Party et la soul de Gil Scott-Heron. — Pascal Blua

A Psychadelic Whirl of Mersey Melody
“The people, the clubs and bars, the love of music is equalled only by it’s love of football.
What could be more beautiful?” —
Mel Bowen

Stereographics — I guess the band’s name is in reference to the group of astronauts selected by NASA in the early 60? Why this choice?
Mel Bowen — We chose the name Mercury 13 because apart from it being a cool name, it also has a fascinating back story. As socialists we will always sympathies with anyone denied opportunity on the grounds of their race or gender. The Mercury 13 women demonstrated an equal or even superior astronautical ability to their male counterparts at the time but were denied space flight for simply being female. Nothing has changed really, inequality still exists, it’s just dished up a little warmer these days. As we don’t have a woman in the line up i suppose we are tipping our hat to the sisters!! :0)

How the band was formed? Around what desires, what ambitions?
We’ve all been friends for years playing in different set ups. Myself and Gary met up at a Who Concert in Knowsley Hall and decided it was time to form something together. I knew a guy called Nonny that played trumpet, keys and has a great voice so we met up and discussed ideas. Right from the beginning we decided that this project was going to be different from other stuff, it was about making music rather than money. We can at least say we’ve achieved one of our aims as we’ve not made any cash!!!
But the aim is always to create and perform music that excites us, if other people enjoy that is of course a bonus. We don’t really see ourselves as a band in the traditional sense but more of a musical project. We love to invite other musicians in from outside of the core unit. We will experiment with any form or sound as long as it excites us. We are keen to experiment and mix up genres etc, nothing is off limits in the Mercury 13 universe.

What are the roles in the band? Can you present each members?
Mel Bowen – Singer/Songwriter and Guitar.
Gary Hart – Bass Guitar and Vox
Nonny Jackson Twist – Trumpet, Keys & Synth and Vox

You are from Liverpool. The city has a strong musical and human identity.
Being from Liverpool means something special for you?
Only one core member of Mercury 13 actually comes from Liverpool and the other two are from the surrounding Merseyside area (woollybacks from over the water). The city has always been our musical base as well as our playground.
The heritage of Liverpool musical culture has always been to look out rather than inwards. The musical teapot of Liverpool is a very special brew and it tastes fantastic. Liverpool has always been an amazingly vibrant city that is demonstrated brilliantly through it’s music. Growing up in and around the Liverpool has definitely coloured what we create. The people, the clubs and bars, the love of music is equalled only by it’s love of football. What could be more beautiful?

Do you feel like being part of a Merseyside musical scene? Being close to some bands?
We are closer to some bands than others. Bands like Professor Yaffle and Aviator are good friends which is great because they’re both fantastic bands. I wouldn’t say we were part of a scene as such though.
The one and only Mick Head, Shack and the Red elastic Band are never far away from our turntable. Personally I am never happier than when i have a ticket to see Mick Head in my pocket, it’s always a special Liverpool night when Mick is playing in town.

“Searchlight” from Mercury 13 debut vinyl single on Cooking Soup (2012)

What are your musical background and references? The Jam seems to be a huge reference for the band. Why?
Mercury 13 has got so many different influences to mention. I loved The Jam growing up for their energy, clothes and lyrical ability to make you sit up and pay attention. The Jam also introduced us to artists like Curtis Mayfield and Gil Scott-Heron who blew us away immediately and have been the benchmark ever since. We tend to have a love of anything psychedelic and folk ridden which is as far removed from The Jam as can be.
The Liverpool music scene of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s is as much a part of our DNA as anything the rest of the world has given to us. Timeless Melody was written by a scouser and is probably one of the greatest pop songs ever recorded. If we could get within an urban mile of recording something half as good as that, i’ll die with a smile.

On your facebook and twitter accounts, there is some mentions about Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the labour Party. Is Mercury 13 a politicized band?
It’s difficult not to be politicised in the current climate. The current UK government is a Kleptocracy (a government that steals off everybody else for their own personal gain). It’s our people that are being robbed and we can’t stay quiet about that. It’s nothing new, governments are corrupt, politicians are all the fucking same the world over but we don’t have to like them.
Jeremy Corbyn does seem to be different from the other duffers. He’s talking about a more socialist and equal way of doing politics. He’s at least appearing to be representing the people at the bottom and we support him in that. The UK has become and increasingly unequal place to exist and so anyone challenging that state of affairs has to be good in our book.

How did you met the Cooking Soup Label? You released a single in 2012 and nothing since I believe? Is it deliberate?
The searchlight single was always planned to be a one off collaboration.
We are planning to go into the studio very soon to record an albums worth of material. We intend to release a single first entitled ‘Moel Famau’ which is a song written about a well known Welsh beauty spot. You can stand on top of Moel Famau and see seven different regions in one place with the naked eye, amazing place!!
I think it’s important that when you do release something that it’s something your 100% happy with. Our second single Cities and Satellites was recorded in a day. I wish we would of taken more time on that one because it’s a massive anthem type of a tune. The other members felt that the beauty of this recording was the punk guerrilla approach to how we recorded it, but arguably more time in the production would have helped, it’s still a boss track though!! :0)

You’ve been supporting Field Music, I Am Kloot, John Head, Pete Wylie and becoming a big draw at gigs and festivals. What are your plans for the future?
As we said earlier, our plan is to go into the studio and record a load of music that we’ve been working on of late. There is no master plan for Mercury 13 other than to try and create the best music we can possibly create  Our motto has always been ‘music for music sake’. We just want to keep making music with our mates and hopefully take that music out to as far and wide as possible.
It’s always especially exciting when someone from another country says they enjoy our music, there is no better buzz. It’s ultimately why we make music, for people to listen to and enjoy.
Mercury 13, live is a very versatile animal. Our set moves from a minimalistic acoustic and trumpet affair through to a psychadelic whirl of mersey melody. We love to play live and we would love to get over to France to do some shows at some point very soon.
Watch out for next single Moel Famau coming very soon!!!

Mel Bowen
Octobre 2015

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