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  • Mush: “I wonder if they thought Down Tools was going to be our last breath.”


Mush: “I wonder if they thought Down Tools was going to be our last breath.”

We talk to Dan Hyndman and Alex Grant from famed punk band Mush about their new album, Down Tools, changing sound and what the future holds for one of the UK’s up and coming bands

Photo: Sophie Jouvenaar

Your new album Down Tools is a marked shift from the albums that came before. Tell me about that decision.

Dan Hyndman: The general kind of idea was just to lighten things up a little bit. Not to take anything away from Lines Redacted, I think that album was quite refined and had a very coherent and distinct mood profile, which is what we wanted at that time. On Down Tools I think we just kind of wanted to do the opposite and the result is that it is a little bit more open to all ideas and feels a little bit looser and more mellow.

In that sense, how much is Down Tools a reaction to Lines Redacted?

DH: I guess it probably was quite a deliberate shift, but also, environmentally, there was a lot of changes in the band in between those two records. Lines Redacted was written more or less in the space of a month during lockdown. I think we definitely wanted to run in a bit of a different direction afterwards.

The label really didn’t like the title. They’ve never given us any grief about anything before… I do wonder if they thought Down Tools was going to be our last breath

Alex Grant: I also think that not playing live meant that we were probably less influenced by what
our peers were doing even on a subconscious level. I think when you’re playing live a lot, you have to tailor your music to the live experience more. On Down Tools we had the freedom to feel like we could do basically whatever we wanted on the set. We didn’t really care about how it was going to be presented live, and we didn’t have those kind of influences of just being a solo touring band.

Down Tools still has all the trademark swagger without the overt politicism. As you continue to grow, how do you reflect on older work?

DH: Maybe you could say that it is too self-aware, really, in the sense that yes, we probably were actively pushing against having that kind of Fall-esque sound. Which is ironic, really, because we are all really big fans of The Fall. We don’t want to get into slagging anyone off in particular, but the elements of The Fall that we enjoyed were maybe more musical. Which is kind of funny when things get labelled as Fall-esque for much less, it generally tends to be that most condensed and radio accessible version.

We definitely feel like that market’s oversaturated and there’s plenty of other sounds that we can plough into. Also, we’ve knocked out so many records by now that there’s a sense that we can just write something different. We can dip in and out, like with the mellow stuff on Down Tools. However, it takes a bit more confidence to do these tracks: we can knock out a punk track and punk album without really having to get into any level of vulnerability, whereas other forms are more exposed.

We’ve always fucked around with strange production techniques and strange instrumentation on our records. This time we just went for it a little bit more

AG: This latest record, this musical style, has always been in the DNA of the band anyway. We’ve been in the band for nearly ten years, just knocking around in a very immature fashion. But we were always doing stuff that sounded like this record. We’d got a bit burnt out on the angular sort of sound, really. We kind of reached a conclusion on that one.

How did that new found freedom in form affect the recording process?

DH: It was way more stressful in the studio because I think for the previous couple of records we just had 12 tracks and we pretty much knew exactly what those tracks were going to be while we recorded them, and then they got released just like that. On this record, I think we ended up recording about 20 tracks, and I wasn’t so sure what the album would be. There were some I thought were going to be on the album for sure, and honestly, some I thought were a bit bad.

So, the band kind of came together in a much more improvised form and recording process. For me, that turned the album into something really interesting. Honestly, there were a few tracks, and I was just thinking, ‘This is so awful’ after we recorded, and it was kind of stressful for me. We hadn’t found a permanent replacement for [Stephen] Tyson after he passed, so I was improvising a lot of the second guitar parts. Turning 20 tracks into about 12 was quite a lot of work, but at the same time it was fun as well.

Photo: Sophie Jouvenaar

What has that songwriting process taught you as a band?

DH: Well, it’s about what you allow, what you can get from the studio when you don’t have a fully formed idea of what something’s supposed to be. You might find something that comes across as a bit improvised and has mistakes. Even then, you have the opportunity to make a decision on that and allow it to be part of the track because those moments create a particular mood.

Whereas, I think if you have a longer period of time to kind of dwell on something and it becomes fully realised, then it’s probably very unlikely that you then deconstruct it and make it more uninteresting intentionally. That was interesting, the bits on Down Tools that I don’t think could have ever really been written or existed unless they were done off the cuff.

AG: I think there are actually a lot of similarities that maybe go unrealised. We recorded each album at the same studio, and there are aspects of Down Tools that have been on every album – little bits of
a few demos and a few minutes knocking around that we’ve worked on and then taken to the studio. I just think with this one, it was the least realised when we went in, but a lot of things are pretty similar other than a little bit more room for improvisation on the vocal front.

On the guitar, we’ve always fucked around with strange production techniques and strange instrumentation on our records. This time we just went for it a little bit more in the recording room, to lean into the things we’ve always done and really be more confident, less prepared.

Down Tools seems like a transitional moment for the band, both nominatively and thematically, so what’s next for Mush?

DH: With what we’re doing now, the only thing that we haven’t really done in the last three or four years is to actually take a bit of a break from it. We’ve been in this hyper productivity mode making an album a year, and I think we’ve taken that to its biological conclusion. Now, it’s about finding a new perspective and taking time to do some different projects in the interim.

Speaking about the name, the label really didn’t like the title. They’ve never given us any grief about anything before, and I can’t remember exactly what the problem was but, I do wonder whether if they just thought it was us suggesting that Down Tools was going to be our last breath.

AG: I just keep thinking about Spinal Tap and the last Spinal Tap album is called Calling It Quits.

  • Mush Oct 24, starts 20:00 Schokoladen, Mitte.

BIO: Mush is a Leeds-based punk band. On their third album, Down Tools, they take a marked sonic from their breakout sophomore album Lines Redacted. Swapping simmering post-punk for blissed-out psychedelia, this is a change of pace but a continuation in spirit for one of the real underrated gems grafting through the much lauded Northern English scene.