Allow us to get a little metaphorical this week, for there’s another underground Liverpool well worth seeking out. It’s one that ensures the grass-roots, the off-radar and the radical community still has a healthy foothold in a city centre of chain-stores, coffee-shops and hen-party pub crawls.
And yes, it’s literally underground, too. So it ticks all our subterranean and subversive boxes.
The Liverpool Social Centre, Next To Nowhere, operates out of the basement of the wonderful News From Nowhere bookshop, and is a muster station for the city’s social activists, holding meetings, talks, film nights and gigs. And everyone’s invited.
“Our basement space is run by the Social Centre Collective,” News from Nowhere’s Mandy Vere tells SevenStreets. “It’s a really thriving scene,” Vere says, “drawing people from a range of backgrounds in community activism, animal rights, the anti-war movement and anarchist groups. As it grows, and more people get involved, we expect this diversity to increase.”
It’s not exactly short on diversity as it is – the space is used by sewing clubs, Liverpool’s freeconomy group, linux users and poets. All human life, hatching their plans (and catching up on a little needlepoint) in a Bold Street basement.
The centre’s always looking for volunteers – and actively encourages people to get involved. But if you want a taste of what’s on offer, and a talk about radical economy* just doesn’t hit the spot, check out their calendar. The Social Centre is also a regular performance venue, showcasing some of Liverpool’s finest underground talent in a relaxed environment with an ace vegan caff attached…
SevenStreets favourites, Mashemon, are producing some of the city’s sharpest, innovative and incisive music. Fusing edgy art-rock with electronica, urgent guitars with deft lyrical observations, they’re just about everything you’d want a pop group to sound like right now. But few do.
Regulars at the Liverpool Social Centre, they’ve headlined events staged by Love Music, Hate Racism and Catalyst media’s excellent Nerve Magazine. They’ve also played at Mercy’s excellent undergound Biennial venue, The Cooperative.
Straddling grassroots philosophy with essential, accessible music isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Mashemon make it look easy. And, to their credit, they never have to resort to drenching John Prescott.
“We’ve been involved with the Liverpool Social Centre since it opened three years ago doing bits and bobs with the cafe and Merseyside Animal Rights,” Mashemon’s Rocky O’Rourke tells SevenStreets.
For Mashemon, the space offers an alternative to many of the city’s well-trodden, and ever-so-slightly dispiriting circuit venues. And it fits their world view perfectly.
“Recently we’ve played some shitty gigs around town where people only turn up to see their mates and then get off. We wanted to try something a bit different in the Basement where people could settle down with their own bevvies, have a bit of food, enjoy some films, poetry and then some decent music. People who came stuck it out for the whole night and that felt like a small victory.”
SevenStreets has tried, and failed, to describe your music. Can you do any better?
Ronny Kong: Dense would be a good word. Girth would probably be good as well. Dense music with plenty of girth. And loud. It gets better the louder it gets. Along with the guitars, bass and singing we also have recourse to a multitude of other instruments and sounds and we don’t like to be stingy.
Rocky: Instruments that fizzle and crackle are usually deployed and when in doubt we whack Mellotron sounds across everything. We also like to use everyday sounds like the flickering fluorescent lights and hectoring public tannoy announcements. Listen closely to Brick and you will hear someone repeatedly telling you that smoking is not allowed on all underground stations.
Rocky: It’s a really unhip thing to say but I can’t stop listening to it. I’m in too deep now to provide any objectivity. I think our newer tunes are slightly more feral with a higher lyrical body count.
Ronny: We didn’t record them all at once but did it over the course of a whole year, so I think it is a good representation of where we were at the time each song was finished. I can hear the evolution of our sound over our first year and it’s immensely satisfying to be able to hear that.
You suggested people did ‘something creative’ to get a free copy of your CD. Any takers?
Rocky: Sadly no one has taken us up on our suggestion to indulge in an act of public nudity and post up the evidence on our facebook page. But good deeds have been done. A good friend created a piece of Mashemon related art and someone claims to have rescued an old lady who was stuck up a tree. It’s funny though, some people would prefer to give us money rather than do something as simple as smile at a stranger. Funny old world.
What would be in the Mashemon manifesto?
Rocky: We’ve both come up with loads of ideas of things to do to keep things interesting. Most of them don’t progress beyond scribblings on beer mats but I quite like that. Give me anticipation over fulfilment every time.
Ronny: …and as a result there would be nothing actually in the Mashemon manifesto, but there would be a large collection of beer mats waiting for inclusion. I am of the opinion that we shouldn’t make shit music, so we try not to do that. The music is supposed to be emotive rather than polemical; I think that makes it more personal. So our opinions influence what our subject matter might be, but don’t necessarily form the content. Discuss.
Any Mashemon moans you’d like to get off your chest?
Rocky: This is very tempting but I don’t want to turn into a cantankerous old duffer so I’ll limit myself to the one: Cricket’s refusal to stop selling fur.
What are you listening to right now?
Rocky: We listened to a lot of incidental music from 60’s spy programmes like The Champions and The Baron when we recorded Removal Music which definitely seeped through on tracks like “Making Lists”, Edwin Astley and Ron Grainer and all that stuff. I suppose early Roxy Music and Berlin era Bowie are always with us but this week I am mostly listening to The Wild Beasts.
Ronny: I have Scott Walker’s Tilt on a lot since Rocky bought it for me and Plastic Beach by the Gorillaz since I bought it for my girlfriend. Lou Reed does a good turn on that.
What do you like in Liverpool these days?
Rocky: Sefton Park, getting the ferry each morning to work, News from Nowhere, Nerve Magazine, Roger Phillips, Clinic, Bido Lito, The Bullring, Lovecraft, Niall Griffiths, The Egg Cafe, The Lantern Parade, The North End docks, Swine Magazine, the view from the top of the NCP carpark on Lord Nelson Street.
Where can we see you next?
Rocky: We are playing The Everyman on Friday November 26th and it’s free entry. You can also pick up a free copy of Removal Music at Bold Street Coffee, News from Nowhere, The Egg and Probe. Do a good deed and buy something from these shops, they are special to Liverpool.
Liverpool Social Centre,
News From Nowhere Basement, Bold Street
Mashemon, November 26
Everyman, Hope Street.
News From Nowhere Book Launch:
Samir Amin, 30 November,
Liverpool Social Centre
Renowned radical economist, Samir Amin, director of the Third World Forum and chair of the World Forum for Alternatives and one of the best-known thinkers of his generation, visits Liverpool Social Centre to launch three books: Ending the Crisis of Capitalism or Ending Capitalism?, Global History: A View From The South, and Eurocentrism. (All published by Pambazuka Press). Free entry.