Just like most prog fans, we at Progulator start to salivate anytime we hear a recording that includes Mellotron, an instrument which has played a key role in progressive music for more than 40 years. Progulator’s own Matt Di Giordano had the chance to catch up with Markus Resch, who has been running Mellotron since 2001, and whose many years with the company include more than 13 years of building MkVI Mellotrons and 22 years of servicing and making parts for Mellotrons. It was a great opportunity to find out more about his involvement in Mellotron, including a bit about the newest instrument he has been working on: the Mellotron M4000D.
*Note: MD = Matt Di Giordano, MR = Marksu Resch
PART 1: THE EARLY DAYS
MD: I just wanted to start off by saying thanks for the excellent product that you built me. I’ve been absolutely enjoying playing it.
MR: That’s great, I’m happy to hear it.
MD: So, are you keeping pretty busy running the Mellotron stuff around?
MR: Yeah, I was at one of my suppliers just now to make a part for the M4000, and picking up a part for the M400.
MD: We’ve been thinking a lot, me and the guys at Progulator, about the great albums that came out in 2011, a lot of which included Mellotron, either analog or digital, and we were wondering if there were any particular 2011 albums that made good use of the Mellotron.
MR: For my part, I’m not listening too much to what they call, so to say, the newer prog albums, but one album that I enjoy that has a lot of a good Mellotron on it is Wilco, The Whole Love. It’s a creative use of Mellotron in all kinds of ways because they acquired quite a few Mellotron sounds from me, custom sounds that they had made. You couldn’t guess right away that it’s Mellotron. It’s a very experimental way of using it. They have a Mark VII Mellotron and also a digital Mellotron. Also, there’s a track on the new Foo Fighters album that’s called “I Should Have Known.” Rami Jaffee plays keys on that. It’s a great track; I hope they put it out on single because it’s like one of those anthem kind of songs.
MD: How did you get into Mellotrons and/or progressive music in the first place?
MR: It was a friend of mine at school. We’d listen to The Six Wives of Henry the Eigth by Rick Wakeman and The Voyage of the Acolyte by Steve Hackett. We were kids, so to say. And we found out that those guys had bands, and whoa, what a surprise. So, we started listening to Yes and Genesis, basically. It just went from there. I got in touch with some record stores in Stockholm that had music like that, like Van der Graaf Generator, King Crimson, and Gentle Giant; that’s how I started listening to prog music.
Just about that same time, all of these bands started up in Sweden like Anglagard and Anekdoten. So I got in touch with one guy who was in a band called Lanberk. He put me in touch with all these other bands, and they all had Mellotrons and they were asking me if I could fix them because I had been fixing Hammonds and stuff like that before. So then they showed me this thing [a Mellotron] and that was when the light bulb went on in my head, because I had been thinking that all these great sounds were synthesizers or something, all these strings and vocal sounds. So, at about 16 or something, that’s when I found out how all that worked.
I started repairing Mellotrons for Anglagard and Landberk. Back then they shared they shared the same rehearsal space. They put me in touch with Anekdoten also, because they were not in Stockholm at that time; they were in the middle of Sweden, and Nicklas had a dual manual MkV (Mark 5) Mellotron. When I started working with that, that’s when I got really into the depth of this. Around the same time (1990) I got in touch with Dave Kean in the United States, who had just acquired all the Mellotron tapes. We started as one of the first people outside of the US to start ordering tapes, for Anekdoten and Anglagard mainly, for their first album. And I fixed that MkV Mellotron for Anekdoten when they were recording their first album. They picked up the MkV from me after I had had it for about half a year, then they directly drove it to the studio where they recorded their first album. That’s the time when I was already in touch with Dave Kean. And then the ball just started rolling because he needed parts, motorboards, and tape frames; it just went on from there.
MD: What’s your favorite strings tape from any Mellotron or Chamberlin Model?
MR: It’s got to be the 3 violins. It’s such a fantastic sound, and it’s so significant and so unique; it’s special. It’s originally a Chamberlin recording that was put into a Mellotron, and it got its popularity there, which makes it a favorite in that way; it gives credit to both companies: The Chamberlin company, Richard Chamberlin who recorded it, and the Mellotron company who popularized it, so to say.
MD: The 3 Violins appears on a number of models, obviously on the MkII and the M400, and originally on the Chamberlin, but is there a particular one that you like more than the others?
MR: It’s got to be the MkII version of it. That’s my favorite. It has a very gritty quality to it because of the speaker cabinets inside of the MkII. That’s what [gives] it even more character. People often ask me, “I bought this 400 and I’m recording it and it doesn’t sound like the classic recording.” No offense, but they just lined it into the console. It’s like someone buying an old telecaster, lining it into the mixing console and asking why it doesn’t sound like Buddy Holly. On most of the classic recordings the Mellotron was not lined. The MkII cannot be lined in the first place, so it was always mic’d. That’s one big part of it. The track “Starless,” that’s a 400 of course, but it shows how you can really make a good recording of a 400.
MD: If you could put a band together of players from the 70’s from any prog group, combining them, mixing and matching them together, and have them play a concert in your backyard, what players would you put together?
MR: Could I put them like they were in the 70’s?
MD: Of course, your choice.
MR: I would put Rick Wakeman from 72’ in there, definitely, as the Mellotron player. It’s a bit of a tough choice, they would have to harmonize together… I would say, it’s a little bit out of the box: Black Sabbath from 1970 with Rick Wakeman from 72’, that would be pretty awesome!
**Check out part 2 of the Mellotron interview with Markus Resch next week in which we’ll specifically and thoroughly be discussing the digital Mellotron M4000D!