Hi, I’m Kofi. If you found me through The Mechanisms, you might know me better as Marius (the goblin violin one with the dumb face who voices some of the shoutier characters).
We’ve parted ways as a band now – after a final weekend of shows I will never, ever forget – but I’m going to keep writing and recording, keep growing as a songwriter along the way and hopefully put out some things that’ll entertain people. This post is a kind of continuation to the Twitter thread about our ongoing and future projects The Mechanisms posted after our final shows.
I’ve got a few music projects I’m either planning or actively working on but I wanted to write a little about The Death of Byron von Raum first of all, because a) it’s the Mechanisms-related one and b) it’s the one that I’m the most excited about. If I had to pick one project that I really, really want to do, it’s this one.
I’m fairly new to blogging and I’ve never really written about my own music as opposed to the Mechs’ music before so bear with me!
Also, it’s probably fair to say that most of this post will look like gibberish if you’ve never encountered The Mechanisms – sorry! (But if concept sci-fi albums performed and narrated by immortal space pirates sounds like fun, we’ve got you covered!)
Anyway, here’s a spoiler-free rundown of The Death of Byron von Raum, and why I’m excited about it:
What is it?
It’s a narrative album about Marius. The plan is that it’s going to serve as both an origin story for Baron Marius von Raum and as a coda to his story. It’ll probably be the last time I play him.
Structurally, it’s going to resemble one of the earlier Mechanisms records, with a mix of songs and narration, although it might not run as long as some of those albums.
It’s also (mostly) going to go back to the earlier Mechanisms style of adapting and rewriting traditional folk songs to fit a new story. Part of that is because it’s something I’ve been slowly developing for several years – it started when I joined the band in 2012 and I had to come up with ideas for Marius’ backstory.
Back then, it was going to be a mini-set in the vein of Gunpowder Tim vs the Moon Kaiser. The story was a fairly comedic explanation for why Marius is… the way he is, but cool things kept happening and we never quite got round to working on it. Eventually I decided I still wanted to give it a go as a solo project, and that’s when it started to take its current form.
Over time, the story’s grown into a full album with more detailed setting and characters, and the tone’s got a bit darker and a lot more tragic. Marius worked pretty well as comic relief in a group context, but alone he’s… sadder and far more troubled, particularly as the album explores him as a traumatised (and often out-of-control) young man. I feel like he mellowed a lot over the millennia living on Aurora and the version of Baron von Raum we saw with the band was an older, happier Marius. Still not a good person, but much more comfortable with himself.
I’ve always felt that even in a universe full of cold-blooded tyrants, unimaginable cruelty and literal reality-warping Outer Gods, the Mechanisms themselves are still by far the most terrifying entities. Not because of their personalities, but because of what they are: unnatural parasites who feed off (and sometimes create) real tragedy so that they can shape that pain and heartbreak into a ripping yarn. They have little stake in any of this because they live forever and can’t be killed, and I think that makes them very frightening when you stop to think about it for too long! Appropriately then, the birth of a Mechanism is a messy and traumatic event. Marius’ birth is no exception. The album is likely to come with some fairly heavy trigger/content warnings, which I will make people aware of in advance as best I can. I don’t think it’s objectively darker than most Mechanisms stories, but I find it bleaker because it explores things that I specifically find distressing.
The Death of Byron von Raum? Who’s that? I thought it was Marius…
Byron is the person Marius was before he was mechanised. It’s his birth name, which has been corrupted to “Baron” over time. If I had to sum up the story, I would say it’s about the people who had to die in order for Marius to live. Byron is one of those people, hence the title. But my hope is that as the story’s told, the title will take on another layer of meaning.
What’s it about? No spoilers.
I won’t give anything away about the plot, but I can talk about the setting and themes! Thematically, it’s about the demonisation of ethnic and social groups; hubris, betrayal and the relentless pursuit of revenge; and flawed characters making some very bad decisions, including the lengths they will go to and the ideals they will compromise to pursue their goals and protect their own. And of course, Byron’s complete failure to address his own failings as a person, which leads to the creation of a monster in Marius.
Byron is from a world that has devolved through an endless war of attrition. Once highly advanced, technology has regressed to circa 18th century fare, so troops are commonly armed with musket, powder and shot. Think Richard Sharpe, but on an alien world. In the middle of this, two kids hiding from the soldiers discover an army of ancient mecha and use them to fight back, but only end up plunging the world into further chaos.
So, it’s a Celtic rock album that is equal parts The Mechanisms and a Mecha anime! And Byron is an extremely Mecha-anime-protagonist, with all the angst, compromised ideals and moral ambiguity you’d expect. There’s a ton of Mecha tropes peppered through the plot and a long list of Mecha media I’m riffing on, but the foremost among them are probably Evangelion, Metal Gear, Gurren Lagann, Aldnoah Zero and Mobile Suit Gundam (in roughly that order).
I don’t want to say too much about the framing device, but it’s different from anything we tried as The Mechanisms. I’m really proud of it, but it’s a real gut-punch.
I have a headcanon about Marius’ life before the Mechanisms, will this story ruin it?
I don’t think so! One of the first things I decided when creating Marius is that the effects of his (probably botched) mechanisation and his advancing years have left him with a somewhat tenuous grasp on reality, especially when he comes to his own past. He exists to tell stories (the whole crew do – I’ve always thought of it as something akin to a biological imperative) but there’s really no way of being certain that the stories he tells are true or not. So, it’s just a possible origin for Marius. I consider it canon, but it could just as easily not be. And it’s canon for Marius; its canonicity as regards the rest of the Mechanisms canon is probably somewhat dubious as it’s just me writing it, not the band as a group.
Are you working on this with any of the Mechanisms?
Yep – while the writing will be all me, the singing won’t, and a couple of us have agreed to voice original characters (not their Mechs character). There’s also the question of who “mechanised” Marius, but I can’t say more without spoiling it. It’s probably not who you’d expect, though.
I really want this – when is it out?
Thank you! Good question – I honestly don’t know at the moment, except that it won’t be very soon. My best guess would be some time in 2021. Writing-wise, the structure and the musical ideas are there, but the details need fleshing out. Mostly because of the Covid lockdown, I’m working on a different album that I want to get done before I can focus on this (which I’ll give you details on in another blog post!).
I have some capacity to record at home, but this project is really beyond my skills to record and mix myself. I need to find a producer and book studio time, much as The Mechanisms did for our main story albums, and that means finding the finances to pay them for their work. I’m confident that it will happen, but it may take a while (I don’t have that sort of money). In the not-too-distant future, I will probably run a Kickstarter or another similar crowdfunding campaign to help with that, a bit like the Mechs did. If that’s something you’d be interested in supporting, and you’re interested in helping to make this happen, thank you, it means a lot! Stay tuned.
TLDR: I’m making an album, it has giant robots and a backstory for Marius, it’s going to be awesome but it will take me a little while to make it.
If you got to the bottom of this, thanks for reading. I’m really excited and I can’t wait to share this story with you. See you soon!