MEET THE CREW: LONELY ROBOT MUSICIAN JOHN MITCHELL
When it comes to giving space exploration a soundtrack, it doesn’t get much better than John Mitchell’s cosmic musical vision. His band Lonely Robot will be headlining our evening gig at Space Rocks on April 22nd.
Tell us about Lonely Robot…
“It’s a vehicle for my fascination with not only science fiction but the human condition, and I explore that through the music. For instance, we as a species are obsessed with social media, and through that portal we are probably more isolated and alone than we have ever been…”
Isn’t it conceptually linked to space travel?
“Yes, there is a story about an astronaut that runs through Lonely Robot’s music, but the astronaut is a metaphor for us humans. Take the song Lonely Robot itself – it’s about an expedition, and a robot that’s left behind on Mars. It’s a bit like Wall-E, who also gets left behind, and it asks the question: ‘how human are we if we can’t reach out to each other?’”
When did you fall in love with space?
“I was very bored in school, but I just became fascinated by it, and to this day I can pretty much reel off anything there is to know about Mars – I won a public speaking competition on the subject! And I was particularly obsessed with Asimov. I remember reading Lucky Starr And The Rings Of Saturn, and then The Moons Of Jupiter. It was lightweight stuff but I was a kid, and that was his way of bringing people in. He was the Pied Piper of science fiction.”
Why does space capture people’s imagination?
“I think David Attenborough would tell you we should spend more time looking underwater than at cosmic dust! It’s inherent in human beings. Your cat may just go a couple gardens over and come back, but we always go further. If you look at the timeline of history from the Rennaisance onward that curve of technology has increased exponentially – it has literally skyrocketed.”
How would you describe Lonely Robot to a new listener?
“Somebody called me neo-prog and I almost spat out my tea – what does that even mean? I like to take a pop song, or what I describe as a pop song, give it an interesting title and themes, and then take an axe to it, and build an extension. If you want to call that prog – somebody said is it prog pop, but who cares? It’s catchy.”
Where does Lonely Robot’s cinematic sound come from?
“I grew up listening to heavy metal, but eventually my guitar teacher said, ‘you do realise Iron Maiden is aimed at 14 year olds, right?’ I’ve spent the last 20 years sitting in an old Victorian coach house producing heavy metal albums for bands like Architects and Lower Than Atlantis – you spend so much time being faced with that kind of music you want something else at the end of the day and it just so happens my fascination with sci fi films doesn’t end with the films, a lot of their soundtracks are immense as well…”
What are the best ones?
“I love Moon, which is almost an anti-soundtrack – the intensity and the way it builds despite being played on what sounds like two fingers – there’s this immense crescendo. Cliff Mansell just takes it to this place and then it’s like a freight train going over the rails. Or take Toto doing the soundtrack for Dune. I reference it all in my music. There’s an homage to Contact in there, with that insistent signal – a crunchy sound and it’s quite uncomfortable and very sinister. There’s even a cheeky nod to Armageddon, but let’s not talk about that film!”
Lonely Robot will be headlining our live gig at Space Rocks on April 22nd at Indigo at the O2 in London. Get your tickets here!