Liam Ramsden on maintaining beauty within melancholy
Melissa Darragh
22:21 27th April 2020

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A polished multi-instrumentalist and a wizard with a loop pedal, South East London’s Liam Ramsden a.k.a. Mellah is a powerful force. Having appeared in both the Black Mirror and Moomin Valley soundtracks, Mellah is an artist with the range to explore the light and dark of life.  With a shrewd perspective, zany melodies and sharp-witted lyrics, he maintains beauty with melancholy and passion with angst. Unafraid to tackle topics of vulnerability and divide, his songs can’t help but leave you with a hard-hitting earworm.

With his new single ‘Family Fun’ released on 14 April, we caught up with him to talk new music and dealing with isolation. 

Gigwise: Hi Liam! Congrats on the new single, are you able to tell us a bit about it?

Mellah: Yeah, it’s called ‘Family Fun’ - I wrote it about a year ago. It’s kind of about being fed up of how things are and people not being willing to change it, and also quite a lot about London and how much it has changed since I was a kid in terms of the amount of money there is here, and there not being any space for creatives, and the gentrification of everything. Most of my songs are about that if I’m honest – the shiny façade of everything, whereas underneath it’s pretty grotesque.

GW: Hope you get a chance to celebrate the release at some stage.

M: Yeah I hope so too, I think everyone does! 

GW: Do you think isolation has affected you creatively?

M: If I’m honest, it’s kind of what I did anyway – but I don’t feel guilty for not going out now! I basically just sit in my house or in my studio every day anyway so my life hasn’t actually changed that much. The only different thing is that I can’t play with the band, but I write and record on my own anyway. Creatively, the mood of the city has calmed – it’s a lot quieter and slower so I think I’ve been writing a lot calmer music, just because that’s the feeling – the city has a really calm feel about it. The air is clearer, there’s blistering sunshine and blue skies, but no one’s really out. So, I’ve been writing quite calm, content songs instead of fast, discontented songs.

GW: What theme or direction would you say you’ve taken with the new album?

M: It’s a conglomeration of everything that I’ve done up until this point. I’ve always had a battle of looking out on a political landscape and being quite angry at how society treats people, and then I’ve always written more personal songs. My first EP was very personal, and my second one was very political, so the process has been trying to merge those two things, in perspective and outward looking. It’s a mixture of very personal songs, and well, songs like ‘Family Fun’ really which are satire if anything.

GW: You say you’ve been working a lot in the studio, and we’ve heard your own production on some previous tracks, will we expect to hear more on the new album as well?

 M: Yeah, there’s quite a few songs which I have produced on my own, so yeah definitely! 

GW: What impact do you think production and tech has for new artists nowadays?

M: I definitely think it’s gotten a lot easier, if you wanted to start your own home studio it’s super easy. And, I mean compared to 10 or 15 years ago, it’s still not cheap but you can get a decent setup for not a huge amount of money, whereas years ago to get a decent sound it was a lot of money. I think technology has completely changed everything, even that you can take a little studio around with you now, it doesn’t have to be set in one place. I mean you can really just get by with a laptop – sometimes I just use an iPad, I just make songs on there. Technology has opened up the door to anyone doing it really, also obviously the internet, people just putting songs up without labels.

GW: If you could offer artists starting out one piece of advice what would it be?

M: I guess no matter how much success you get, or how far you get, just stick true to why you started writing music and the feeling that drove you to want to write music.  I think it’s pretty easy to get caught up in acclaim or money or praise or any of that stuff, but the further down that road you go the less enjoyable it becomes, so just try and stick to the reason you started writing and the motivation that made you start writing music. Stick to your gut!

GW: Who have you been listening to lately. Do you have any recommendations or ones to watch?

M: Yeah, I’ve been listening to my friend M.T. Hadley quite a lot, I’ve been working with him on a song as well, I think he’s really good. He’s my morning listen. Also, a lot of Aldous Harding and another friend of mine, who I listen to a lot, Barnaby Keen.

GW: With it being so easy to focus on the negative recently, I thought it would be nice to end on a highlight from this year, and what you’re most looking forward to when life begins to return to normal.

M: My highlight I guess right now is the start of spring. I’m really not a winter guy, so a highlight for me is just the sun coming back. What I’m looking forward to: well just putting new songs out really, I think they’re the closest I’ve got to being honest with myself and I’m quite proud of them, so I’m really looking forward to putting them out. I’ve got a show in October at Scala, so I’m really looking forward to playing again – playing to people. I really do miss that, so I’m looking forward to that!

Mellah plays Scala on 28 October. ‘Family Fun’ is out now.

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