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Deep Inside Mesh - A Vaughn George Interview

An in-depth, intimate interview series of UK Electronic Band Mesh with members Mark Hockings, Richard Silverthorn, Sean Suleman and Vaughn George.

Vaughn George: "I will never forget that day and I remember it so vividly, April 2nd, 2023, a Sunday morning in my London studio. I got an unexpected call from Rich Silverthorn, whom I hadn't heard from in ages. I picked up thinking it might be a pocket dial, but he asked if I fancied playing keyboards later that month. My initial reaction was “Richard, is this a late April Fool's joke?” but it turns out he was dead serious and the rest is history. It doesn't happen very often that, as an independent artist and a musician, you get asked to join a band that you like and look up to and have been a fan of for a while. So this was a very, very surreal moment for me. 

I first heard about Mesh around 2019 through my YouTube channel. Their music was recommended by Mark Wibro from the Electronic Cafe, and I was hooked instantly. "My Protector" was the first track I heard, and like many, I wondered why I hadn't discovered them sooner. I found out they had a dedicated UK following but were huge in Europe, especially Germany. Fast forward a few months, Rich reached out to me for an interview, and that's how we connected. Now, being part of the band, I wanted to give an inside look at Mesh, something deeper than an interview."

How did you meet Rich Silverthorn?

Mark Hockings: "I used to work at a factory in Bristol, in Kingswood, and stumbled upon a poster at breakfast featuring a singer and a keyboardist. It just looked like it might be something I might be interested in, so I went down there to see him, I think it was called Bristol Bridge Eventually, Rich came to see me perform in a band. He was interested because I sang a track I wasn't planning to, which was unusual. Despite living close by and knowing the same people, we'd never met. We were approximately the same age, there’s a year difference between us, but we never met each other. So it was pretty weird going into his studio, when we met up his studio and it was literally a couple of roads away from where I used to live. We would have been growing up around there, just never really met. So that's pretty much how it started. The singing thing is another story but… yeah!"

How did you meet Mark Hockings?

Richard Silverthorn: "I was in band, it was a due with a friend of mine. We were just doing local gigs trying to establish ourselves and to make a name for ourselves. A poster my friend put up caught Mark's eye at his workplace. He came to one of our shows, and after he performed a song solo, I was blown away by his vocals. I reached out, suggesting we collaborate, and that's how it all began."

How did you get involved with Mesh?

Sean Suleman: "I was asked to audition for Mesh, a Bristol band I didn't know much about. Went to the audition, played drums along to their tracks. Even though I hadn't heard their songs before, my love for Depeche Mode and '80s-'90s vibes helped. Ended up flying to Paris for a gig, and my energetic drumming style earned me the nickname "Drum Maniac"."

Hello “New Boy”. How did you get involved with Mesh?

Vaughn George: "That call from Rich on April 2nd, 2023, came at a hectic time after my daughter was born. I hesitated, but my parents encouraged me to go for it. With less than three weeks to learn the set, it felt overwhelming. But their support made me decide to jump in, and it's been one of my best decisions I’ve ever made."

Sean, Rich, Vaughn, Mark - Plage Noire 2023
Sean, Rich, Vaughn, Mark - Plage Noire 2023

You joined Mesh as a keyboardist. How did it happen that you became the lead vocalist?

Mark Hockings: "When we started, there wasn't really a plan. We shared a specific interest in electronic music, which isn't everyone's cup of tea. Certain instruments didn't fit our vision; we weren't keen on saxophones or trumpets. We liked the same things for the same reasons. Initially, we met to write without a clear plan. It was possible we might have found a singer; personally, I didn't want to do it. Confidence-wise, it wasn't something I felt ready for. We recorded some tracks with me on vocals, thinking it might not lead to live performances. Eventually, it snowballed. I've always pictured myself like Vince Clarke or Martin Gore, being behind the keys. It was a baptism by fire; it took me a while to adjust. Even now, performing live doesn't come naturally, but it's something I've learned to tolerate. I used to be quite shy and, fundamentally, I'm an introvert."

It’s strange how you and Mark are similar ages, grew up in virtually the same neighbourhood but somehow never actually met each other until later in life?

Richard Silverthorn: "It's still amusing to me that we never crossed paths earlier. We lived a few streets apart, knew mutual friends, and shared experiences growing up. It's odd that we didn't meet until later, not until we got involved in the band."

What is required when drumming in a band like Mesh?

Sean Suleman: "Drumming in Mesh requires playing the song as it is first, without overplaying. Then, as you get comfortable, you find moments to add your own style to enhance the track."

How has it been for you performing with Mesh?

Vaughn George: "Being a musician for a while, playing in piano bars and doing session work, I'd never gigged on this scale before. Performing at Plage Noire, with around 8,000 people, was daunting. I had confidence in myself, but there was a moment of nervousness before going on stage. The adrenaline rush, feeling the crowd's energy, it's unlike anything else. Even seeing Mark and Rich, who've been at this for a while, getting a bit jittery before going on—it's an experience unlike any other. Touring in Germany has been an amazing ride, almost like an addictive drug, along with the thrill of performing live."

At what point did you realise that this was all becoming serious and that you were also becoming pretty famous in the industry?

Mark Hockings: "It's never been like that really. I mean, we've had a couple of moments where we thought, you know, that was going to happen. I mean, it depends where you look at it from. I always tell people we're not amateurs, we're not starting out, we're not playing in pubs. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but that's not what we do. But we're also not famous; we're in that middle ground. So, we're successful, but we're not mega-famous. That's been a gradual thing, taking years and years, just chipping away, binging, binging, binging, another hundred people, another hundred people, another hundred people. You do festivals, and that could be 10, 20,000 people, and that elevates you. But I mean, it's a very scene-related thing. The opportunities you get are still scene opportunities; they're not mainstream opportunities. The only time I would say that was different was when we signed to sort of Universal Sony. We really thought that was a big learning curve because just because you get a big record company, it doesn't mean you're going to make it. They throw a lot of money at a lot of people, and every now and again, one sticks. We were in that. Sometimes you wake up and you realise actually this is really good, but when you're doing it, it doesn't seem that way."

Could you explain how you approach a new song? Is every approach different, or do you have a tried and tested format which you follow?

Richard Silverthorn: "I'd like to think I approach each song differently, but there's also this kind of limitation that, you know, I need to write in a structure. The way I present things for Mark is, you know, I will write a song in my head if you know what I mean. So, it will have the kind of usual intro, then into a kind of verse-chorus, verse-chorus, mid-late kind of thing. So, it's got this song structure. Initially, I do try to write a song as in a song structure."

Do Mesh have a so-called manifesto when it comes to writing and producing songs? Are there certain rules? Are certain things out of bounds, or does it flow organically?

Richard Silverthorn: "I think it just manifests as a Mesh song. I wouldn't put anything together too cheesy or poppy or anything like that. It's the ingredients of both of what we put into it that makes Mesh sound like Mesh. So, no real limitations, but there are certain kind of boundaries where you think, actually, no, that probably wouldn't work as a Mesh song."

How does playing drums in Mesh differ from playing drums in a conventional rock band?

Sean Suleman: "The main difference with playing with a band like Mesh or a band in the electronic scene is that you're playing with the electronics rather than leading the band with the beat. You're having to fuse your beats in with the mix to enhance the sound. With an electronic band, it's much more difficult. There's less room for error; you need to be really focused."

Define your role within Mesh and how do you feel you fit into the picture?

Vaughn George: "Mesh, in my mind, are at their core Mark and Rich. Sean and I are part of the live band, but Mesh, the duo, are always Mark and Rich. It's very important for me to make that distinction in my mind and to also articulate that to the Mesh fans. I personally think I can bring value to this band, not only with my YouTube channel and the social media side, but certainly also on the musical front. There's nothing worse than when bands get ego. The most successful bands are where every individual member knows their role and they work in unison to project the music in the best way possible. That's certainly the way I see it. I think we mesh well together."

Europe seems to have really embraced Mesh’s music. Why do you think it is that you are more popular in Europe than in your native country England?

Mark Hockings: "There's a certain stability about playing in Europe, particularly in Scandinavia and Germany. They've got scenes that seem to be supported, clubs where maybe two gigs a week could kind of be seen as specific gigs. When we started out, the UK press were fixated on the latest trends, and it felt very in and out, very fast-paced. When we primarily started touring in Scandinavia and eventually Germany, we found an active scene that embraced our music emotionally, more than being labelled as just gothic or dark. The scene there was wide, not narrowly defined by appearances. There's an emo sentiment that appeals to what we do. Once something starts to go well, you tend to focus on it. It's not that we never wanted to play the UK, but there was an audience there, and that's changed over the years, especially with the internet giving people the freedom to explore music. That's pretty much what it felt like in Germany when we first started out in the 2000s."

Europe seems to have really embraced Mesh’s music. Why do you think it is that you are more popular in Europe than in your native country England?

Richard Silverthorn: "From going to Europe enough times, I feel their music scene is more diverse, encompassing various genres. In the UK, it felt dictated by Radio One, but in Europe, we felt at home and gained a quick following. There were plenty of outlets and festivals where we could present our music. Electronic music, which is primarily what we do, found a good place there. People were open to it, news spread, and it became like a second home for us, especially in Germany, Sweden, and surrounding countries. It's been really good to us, which is why we do more shows there."

Despite the precision required, you still manage to add flair, feel, and a human element to the performance. How do you achieve this?

Sean Suleman: "A lot of this music is recorded with drum machine programs. When I come in, I try to bring some flair and improvise where I can to make it more human, not just like a drum machine. Sometimes I swing the music a bit, and I can see the crowd getting into it, nodding along. That's my indication that maybe they like the beats fired into the music.

Question: Mark used the term “boots on the ground” when talking about going out on the road and performing live. What do you think is the importance of performing live and has it been a big factor in the longevity of Mesh?"

Richard Silverthorn: "Doing shows is a way to spread the name, and hopefully, people walk away thinking it was really good, creating that word-of-mouth effect. We've done hundreds of gigs, starting in Sweden, then moving to Germany, gradually growing bigger. Our loyal fan base, the ones who buy everything we put out, have been crucial in getting us where we are. It's tough to describe our genre; we're a mix of electronic, alternative, and a bit of a rocky element. We're writing rock songs with electronic gadgetry, somewhere between dance electronic and alternative bands."

You have been at this for a long time and Mesh are still going strong and gaining new fans along the way! If you could go back in time, would you have done anything differently?

Mark Hockings: "It's a double-edged thing. We've had opportunities in the past that we really didn't want to pursue, kicking against things we felt were not right. In retrospect, we've mostly stuck to our guns. There were chances to work with different producers or take a different route, but that might have resulted in a record we didn't resonate with. One regret might be not exploring further when we met Robbie Williams; that could've been a turning point. But overall, it's hard to say. Different decisions might have altered where we are now, and I'm grateful for what we've achieved."

After being in Mesh for 16 years, there must be many stories you can tell. Is there one in particular memorable gig which comes to the front of your mind?

Richard Silverthorn: "Maybe taking things a bit more seriously at the start could have helped. We worked really hard back then, trudging around, trying to establish ourselves in a different world. It was tough; now it's easier with the internet, but we put in the effort despite those limitations. Maybe coming to Europe sooner and focusing on European labels rather than UK ones could've been a different approach. We spent years sending demos and talking to labels, which led us to start on our own."

Sean Suleman: "The most memorable gig for me was the first one with Mesh in Paris. I asked for some vodka, Red Bull, and a chocolate bar on the tour bus. Waking up after our first show in Paris, I thought we were in Germany for the next gig, the Amphi Festival in Cologne. Stepping out to sound check in front of 15,000 people was mind-blowing. It was a stark contrast to previous shows, and it made me realise the scale of the band. That moment sticks with me because it was so unexpected."

You’ve said that you think that Mesh are “underrated”? Can you explain what you mean?

Vaughn George: "Mesh's ability to craft emotional songs delivered with impactful electronics is something I value. I once likened them to a V8 engine firing only on four cylinders, which meant they had so much more potential beyond the limited reception in the music world. As an artist, promoting your own music has limitations, and Mark and Rich, though confident in their work, face this challenge. There's a misconception about Mesh being a Gothic band, which doesn't align with their style. It's been frustrating to see them pigeonholed."

Mesh have played hundreds of shows over the years. Is there a gig which stands out in your memory for any particular reason?

Mark Hockings: "One memorable but strange gig was in America, a secret show arranged by a promoter who was a bit out of it. Only one person turned up, and we ended up having dinner with our sole audience member, which turned risky when he almost caused an altercation. Also, the larger festivals with 20,000+ people are memorable due to the surreal nature of performing for such massive crowds."

Richard Silverthorn: "Every show holds different memories, from small, funny gigs to monumental performances in front of thousands. Each has significance in our journey, making it hard to pick one standout event, but they've all been very good in their own way."

Can you tell us a funny story from your time on the road touring with Mesh?

Sean Suleman: "One of the humorous stories from touring involves being left behind during a stop in America. The tour bus left without me at a service station, and I found myself running after it, thinking I was lost forever at a random truck stop. It's a joke among us now, and I'm more cautious about being left behind these days, always making sure everyone's accounted for on and off the bus. Luckily, I managed to get back on the bus that day."

Do you have one particularly funny story to tell from your time on the road with Mesh?

Vaughn George: "One standout memory is from the day of the Bristol show. I woke up in a panic realising I had to get to Bristol with just my keyboard. Normally, Mesh has logistics sorted out, but being the new guy, I wasn't fully prepared. I couldn't find my flight case, so in desperation, I wrapped the keyboard in a towel, caught a train amidst heavy rain, but then the train stopped due to an unfortunate incident. Stuck for hours, I called everyone, feeling desperate. Finally, a friend arranged a ride, but as I exited the train with the keyboard wrapped in a towel, I realised people had overheard my frantic phone calls. A huge car arrives, a big guy like the Polish James Bond tells me to hurry, and we raced to the venue. As I arrived during the sound check, the banter about my chaotic arrival was pretty intense. I set up the keyboard, and one of the stage crew teased me about the "nice flight case, mate."

What are your feelings on a long awaited new album, learning new songs etc?

Sean Suleman: "So for me, when a new album comes out, what it means is always the songs are great. For me, being unbiased walking into a band I didn't know, the songs are always fantastic to listen to. And then, you know, the challenge then is to put my own flavour with the songs for the live shows. That's a lot of fun for me, so that's what I'll be looking forward to next when the next album comes out. But equally, I always enjoy playing the Mesh songs. They have such a big back catalogue of songs. So, yeah, it means a lot when the new songs come out. It means a bit of experimenting between my electronic kit and my conventional acoustic kit to get some ideas together."

And now for “The Million Dollar Question”! It’s been almost 7 years since your last album. Will we be hearing any news of a new album?

Richard Silverthorn: "The million-dollar question... So, I've written maybe three or four pieces of music. I know Mark's written some bits and pieces, and it's just getting together and getting on with it, really. We've talked about it, and we do want to do another album. So, yeah, it's just a case of getting on with it really now. I don't think anybody's lost the passion for it, and I've certainly got a load of new ideas. So, I think this will happen because, like I said, we've started writing, and we've probably got, I would imagine, two-thirds of an album already. But obviously, it's a case of the production and the final points of putting all this together."

Mark Hockings: "Whether it's going to be soon, I've started working. I've already done some stuff, and I need to concentrate on that now to get it done. So yes, it's definitely happening. Whether it's soon, because these things take time. I still need to evaluate what we've got because some of it I did a couple of years ago. So yeah, it's just a question of getting it together. I never really know how long these things are going to take. There's no reason why it should take ages and ages, but it's in the pipeline. So yeah, we're working on it. We've got a good environment in here to work in now, so that will speed things up. I'm hoping that we'll get something, some news out at some point this year, hopefully. We won't finish anything this year; it's halfway through the year. But yeah, it's going to happen."

Vaughn George: "So my friends, I hope you've enjoyed this intimate look behind the scenes. We have an in-depth geek talk series coming out soon, where I visit each of the members' studios individually, and that's going to be a lot of fun. Also, Mesh is on tour; the 2024 Legacy tour kicks off in the UK next year. We're playing Glasgow, Manchester, London, and then we're off to Amsterdam, Germany for several dates. Links in the description below. If you're a Mesh fan, we'd like to thank you for your support, and you can help us fly the flag by introducing the music to your friends and spreading the word. Thanks again, lots of love, and adios."

Contact Vaughn:

This interview was transcribed with the help of AI (ChatGPT).


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