Stuck in a Sixties Timewarp
Who is that walking down Billingshurst High Street?
That is Paul Messis, a Billingshurst boy “stuck in a 1960s time warp”. Paul plays a form of psychedelic garage guitar rock with an authentic, jangly guitar sound.
Like the Beatles then?
A little, but in terms of mainstream bands probably more akin to The Byrds. Paul said his old favourites include The Dovers from LA, and the 13th Floor Elevators from Austin, Texas. Funnily enough, that’s where his record label is based.
He has a label in America? I’m intrigued...
Yes, Paul is signed to a British label called State Records, and they use vintage recording studio equipment - perfect for Paul’s sound. They asked Paul to record a seven inch single, Stuck in Society, which achieved minor success in the niche market of 60s garage rock. This success led to an American deal with 13 O’Clock Records from Austin.
So how ‘niche’ are we talking?
Very niche. It would appear that, while many might complain that “they don’t write them like they used to” when someone actually does, not many people really care. But Paul has been recognised as one of the very best at creating an authentic sixties sound.
Recognised by whom? He can’t be that good if he lives in Billingshurst and I’ve never heard of him!
Popular New York radio station WFMU played one of his records, Time Will Tell once a week for six weeks. He has also been building up a fan base in Continental Europe. “Spain, Portugal and Italy are where I'm picking up the most interest,” said Paul. “There seems to be a big sixties revival scene there.
What about the UK?
Paul is operating under the radar. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t play live (more on that later) but perhaps his new record will help. The Problem with Me was released in Mid May, on vinyl and limited to 500 copies.
Just on vinyl?
He’s a bit Old School is Paul. It’s not just the sound of the sixties he is in to - it’s the look and the whole recording process too. He’s very particular in recreating an authentic experience. Paul said: “This is my look. I really am stuck in that era. I'm not trying to be anything - it's just what I'm into and what I'm all about.”
So how did Paul hit upon this sound?
Paul said: “When I was at school everyone was listening to house and garage and that sort of stuff, but I didn't want to be part of that. The sound came about really by not wanting to be like everyone else and tragically I
became some sort of social outcast.
But he must have had strong influences...
Paul said: “My Grandfather used to listen to old jazz records, my uncle was into the German electronic bands like Kraftwerk, and my dad was into Pink Floyd. So there were all those different influences. When I started school I thought I would find something that no one else was into. That took me to indie music, and that inevitably it took me to the sixties. Ever since then I've been trapped in the sixties and trapped in Billingshurst!”
He looks the part though...
Yes, he’s meticulous when it comes to recreating the look and sound, and admits that he might be difficult to work with because of these factors.
So that’s why Paul is on his own in these shots...
It would appear that finding other people in Billingshurst with a love for obscure sixties garage rock bands is quite difficult. Perhaps Paul belongs to a different place and a different era!
So does he play all the
instruments by himself when recording? No, the tracks he has recorded have been with fans of that era at Folkestone based State Records, but they are too far away to commit to regular gigs. Paul said: “I have been in bands and we have played locally but I haven't taken my stuff on the road as I can't find anyone to play with me. Finding someone who has the same influences is really difficult.”
So that’s why we haven’t seen him play live then?
Well, that’s one of the reasons. Paul doesn’t really like the whole live experience. He said: “I find the whole live thing is a bit contrived. I don't really like it as I've had some bad experiences before, playing shows in front of ten people. You're playing your heart out and what's the point? Plus, I think I might become a bit of a megalomaniac and start shouting at people if I don't think they're playing properly!”
But surely he has to play live to build up a following?
It certainly wouldn’t do any harm. Paul admits “You've got to play live to play the game. That's the hurdle.” But don’t hold your breath on those live gigs. Still though, the jangly guitar sound is working for Paul, and he’s
developing his sound in true Beatles style...
Not quite, but after this latest album his sound could be going more psychedelic. Paul said: “I'm recording some more stuff which is a little more far out. At the moment I've following a strict, three chord raw sound pattern but it's going to head more psychedelic. There will be sitars on the next one!”
So what does Mr Messis hope to achieve?
In true sixties style, commercial success doesn’t seem to be the goal, more of a bonus. He said: “My initial dream was to produce a seven inch single. State Records have given me a platform to do more than just a single. I've done an album and three singles which have achieved some notoriety in this scene. And that's what it has been about for me.” Paul also feels a responsibility to educate people about music.
Telling us what we should like eh?
Not as such, but pointing people to music they might not otherwise hear. He’s done it to AAH, with his excellent cover of The Plagues record ‘I’ve Been Through it Before’. He said: “I hope with this interview there is one kid somewhere, in Roffey or somewhere like that, reading it and thinking 'that sounds interesting - I'll check it out’. Who knows, we might have some more sixties freaks in the Horsham District!"
Would that be a good thing?
Debatable! But if you’re intrigued, listen to some tracks on his website, or even better check out Paul’s’ videos on Youtube (especially Time Will Tell, which one of Paul’s friends compared to watching an episode of Heartbeat)
A real slice of retro fun eh?
Yes, and on Youtube you can also see the rather lovely title track from the album, The Problem with Me, and afford yourself a giggle as even Paul gets ‘out time-warped’ by both his drummer and bassist!
That’s so 1997...
For more on Paul see the video below or visit http://www.paulmessis.moonfruit.com/