Fresh Break: Gary Moore on Echo Machine's electrifying debut

Leaving The Mirror Trap firmly in the past and looking forward with a pensive eye on humanity's growing lack of human connection, Echo Machine frontman Gary Moore talks creating the chaotic synth-pop soundtrack for a detached generation

Feature by Dylan Tuck | 14 Feb 2020
  • Echo Machine

Having past experience always offers a useful tool to aid in carving a fresh path. ‘You live you learn’, as Alanis Morrisette once sang. Gary Moore – once frontman of The Mirror Trap and now leader of that band's quasi-reincarnation, Echo Machine – wanted to do something, as he puts it, “fun” in their new venture, and so started demoing ideas in his bandmate's bedroom back in 2018. “[Echo Machine] kind of happened by accident, really. It almost felt [in previous bands] we were doing something we weren’t really into anymore. As soon as we got that fresh break, we thought it was time to do what excites us more.”

Despite The Mirror Trap's dissolvement, the ex-members' creativity was not to be bottled up and stored on a shelf of old records and tour memorabilia. Instead, they sought to start anew, beyond the banality of generic rock acts been and gone. That meant dabbling with a shed-load of synths, playing some wild live shows, and leaving band tropes behind. “I think something people do when they start a band is to have a checklist about what bands need to do, like wear a leather jacket and sunglasses, buy a distortion pedal, be very serious and do outrageous things – it’s all a bit clichéd and pointless. When you’ve done it for a few years, you realise you’re a bit silly.”

Shedding their skin, being an authentic human and accepting chaos is part and parcel of what Instant Transmissions – the band’s emphatically electric debut – is all about. “I remember watching a documentary about some guy in a maximum security prison who had a night out all suited and booted, blacked out, and then woke up with dead bodies around him," Moore recalls. "I think that’s a strange way of understanding what our live shows are like. We have the best intentions to be a slick operation, but then three songs in, everyone's bleeding, there are things on the floor and everyone is half-naked. I think we just embraced that chaos on the album.”

As crazy an analogy as that may seem, it’s actually quite a refined take on what is a flamboyant and daring debut. The record oozes in and out of driving alt-rock and sickly-sweet synth-pop, channeling inspiration from Duran Duran and OMD that's laced with an after-shot of Queens of the Stone Age and Death from Above; like a multi-flavoured, sweet and savoury smoothie. “I had a fear when I first heard the album back that nobody is going to play this on the radio because it just sounds ridiculous," says Moore. "But equally, I’m hopeful that’s maybe what cuts through.” Inventive, quirky and sonically chameleonic, it’s certain to turn heads, if not have them bobbing along.

Instant Transmissions is a tale of human experience in a world where “everything feels mechanised”, individuality is sold as a commodity, and people adopt a variety of different characters, exploring the repercussions of such an existence. “[The record] was written at a time when I was looking for jobs," Moore notes. "I was going from one global chain to another and everything felt like there was no human element to it anymore. I think the whole story of the album – if there is one – comes from that feeling, kicking against it, feeling a bit useless and therefore getting a bit self-destructive.”

Recorded at La Chunky in Glasgow under the guidance of producer SAW (who Moore describes as "a complete maniac"), Instant Transmissions was born, but not without a few hiccups – namely, running out of money and having to spend a week sleeping under the mixing desk of said studio. Despite suffering for their art, the pain provided results and pushed them further to be more “extreme” and “play harder and louder”.

Moore continues: “I feel a bit underwhelmed by so much music – even the good stuff can feel a bit safe. Our producer had the same ideas as us and we were egging each other on in the studio to be a bit sillier.”

What Moore calls silly, most would call innovative – stitching together a cacophony of noise into bouldering, dance-inducing moments of mayhem. Echo Machine are a far cry from the buzzing rock of The Mirror Trap, but it’s not impossible to find traces of their old band filtering through – from the crashing carnage on Chameleon to the digitized distortion found on The Road. There’s growth on Instant Transmissions, as an experienced team of musicians step forward into the unknown. Gone are the days of tinnies and blaring noise in a studio, now they demo repeatedly like perfectionists of their trade. And the result? A fresh-sounding, cathartic pop record by a band with a new sense of freedom.

Instant Transmissions is released via Riverman Records and Assai Records on 28 Feb
Echo Machine play in-stores at Assai Records, Dundee, 28 Feb; Assai Records, Edinburgh, 29 Feb