Image by Matt Flynn
One thing that got my grandparents through the poverty ridden post-war years was self-sufficiency. They grew their own vegetables, baked their own bread, made their own clothes and as a result they survived and, carrying that mentality into later years, flourished.
In this day and age of austerity and financial focus on the mainstream, the North East music scene has had to adapt a similar approach. No band have done it better and with greater aplomb than Massa Confusa. However the Newcastle duo, consisting of Ally Morton and Matt O’Brien, didn’t go DIY purely for monetary reasons as Ally explains, “We decided to create our own scene as we didn’t feel like we fit anywhere. For example, we share the same ethos as our friends making punk or pop punk music, but our music is not straight up punk; and we share the love of riffing like our doom metal friends but we make songs with choruses not crescendos.”
The duo prepare to release their second album, Two Man-Machine, recorded and produced in their practice room at First Avenue and mixed/mastered by Ally’s brother this month. I ask Ally if their ethos is what inspired the name. “I chose Two Man-Machine because it feels like what we’ve become. We’re a band, but we also put on monthly gigs, put out compilations of bands we put on and release music under our DIY label. We’re a never ending machine! I’m also hoping people stumble across our album when searching the internet for Kraftwerk’s album Man-Machine too.”
We decided to create our own scene as we didn’t feel like we fit anywhere
The futuristic feel of Kraftwerk is present within Massa Confusa’s output, but the sound is much rockier; urgent beats, piercing guitars and engaging vocals are reminiscent of bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Siouxsie And The Banshees and Placebo. Songs like Darkworld, with its sinister riff, stalker lyrics and punchy chorus alongside the malfunctioning intensity of 27, with its panicked guitar and alarming staccato, fuse organic and synthetic instrumentation and leave them grappling one another to create dark futuristic soundscapes. “It’s been described by some people as quite dystopian, however I didn’t go out of my way to make it like this. In fact, it’s about trying to make sense of dystopia; trying to be optimistic and making sense of conflict, aging, society and relationships.”
Speaking of optimistic relationships, nestling in the album are two standout tracks featuring Jackie Purver (formerly of Retriever) in the form of digi-funk delight Descension and demented disco ditty Numb. I asked Ally how this collaboration came about. “I have a collaborative recording side project called Five Pence Game. Jackie was recording some tracks with me for this and I wasn’t happy with my vocals on the verses to Descension, so I asked her to have a go for me. I decided to follow a ‘duet’ theme for the song, and for the last chorus she wrote her own lyrics. Similarly the choruses to Numb needed a lift so she featured on them too.”