Mechner: Surfacing at the Kino

Mechner, a.k.a Jack Ahern, is emerging as a conceptual musician and visual director with debut single Surfacing. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with him ahead of his upcoming Kino gig.

Jack Ahern, formerly of Cork pop-punk kids Mishap, is slowly coming around as a solo artist. Launching his solo debut single and video on the 29th at the Kino, Ahern has assumed the name Mechner for his activities. Your writer’s retro-gaming instincts immediately kick in, and it is indeed confirmed he’s christened himself after legendary videogame designer Jordan Mechner.“One of my earliest memories is being sat at a computer at around three years old and experiencing the opening throes of ‘Prince of Persia’. The game captured my imagination, the vibrant colours, the sound and the adventure had me sold. My father and I spent many happy evenings trying to get past dreaded re-animated skeletons and the mysterious “shadow prince”, some of my favourite memories are from those times. It has directly influenced my life and who I have become, an avid lover of all things video game, art and of course music. Years later on my first full completion of Prince of Persia, I looked into who was behind the creation of my favourite video game, and came across Jordan Mechner. In my research and after reading his personal journal he kept of the time he made the game, I found out that he had not only directed the game and its story, but also wrote the code, drew the animation, provided the music (with some help from his dad) and was a serious procrastinator at the same time. This struck a chord with me because I have always written, produced, recorded and procrastinated through nearly all of my own music myself, with this new project of mine being no exception. I felt it right to give a nod to a man who has influenced my life in a positive way and whom I myself feel akin to.”

New single ‘Surfacing’ came together after an extended hiatus from original live performance, and seemingly came to Ahern from the ether. “’Surfacing’ was one of those special tracks that happens every once in awhile, where you sit down to write and it’s all there, already finished. I hadn’t played original music live for nearly 4 years after the end of Mishap, and on a whim I booked a small gig in the Brú Bar to play my original music, that I had been writing throughout that time. This was May 2015, a week before the gig was due to happen, a switch flicked on in my head and I said to myself, “You have to write something new for this gig and have it there for people to take away.”. It took two days in full to write, record and package, my main focus was to make it sound creepy and unsettling. It was a wonderful release when the track was completed, I hadn’t to that point written music like it and it really gave me a much needed confidence boost at a time when I was unsure if I should pursue original music at all. I did a very limited number of handmade copies, 20 in all. The gig went well and the CDs pretty much disappeared. It was late last year I decided that it would be the leading single of my solo project.”

Cryptic teasers have emerged in recent weeks for the single’s accompanying video, collages of found-footage on social media and posters bearing screenshots. Ahern keeps his cards close to his chest in advance. “The video is something that I can’t talk about in detail ’til after the launch, four people in all have seen the video, and they have been sworn to secrecy on a grassy knoll under the moonlight. I can say however that it is a very cinematic music video, and that the music ties quite closely together with the visual. I wrote the script and it was directed by the incredibly talented Gar O’Rourke of HERE NOW films. The lead actor, Eoghan Collins is one to watch, the guy is a star. All I can say is if you want to see the music video in style, come to the launch night.”

As mentioned, the newly-resurgent Kino will play host to the single’s launch. Back under the stewardship of Mick Hannigan, the former cinema now plays host to a multi-disciplinary arts space. Ahern goes into the trials and tribulations of making the event happen. “When I initially planned this release for January this year, I looked around at Cork’s venues. I wanted a place where I could present a show, not just another gig. Visuals are important to me and I think they make the difference between a good gig and a great gig. I was drawn to the Pavilion, as the venue supported a great lighting rig, a projector and a tiered seating/standing area, which would have been perfect for putting on such a show. But of course, as luck would have it, things weren’t going so well for the Pavilion and it was up in the air about whether they were re-opening or closed for good. As things would have it at the same time there were murmurs of the Kino re-opening and one or two gigs were hosted there to great success. At the same time myself and Gar were in early talks about the music video, once it was completed and I saw how wonderfully it had come together it was a no brainer really, make a big splash and present the music video for the first time in a building which has history as a arthouse cinema. I think its a perfect fit for my project, as I have near complete control on how the venue will look on the night and how the vibe will be set.”

While looking at the panorama of Leeside music venues, the question of the shape of the city’s scene inevitably pops up. Ahern is pragmatic about it. “Cork is a very interesting place for music and always has been, as long as I remember. It is a melting pot at the moment for musicians coming from all corners of the country to live and perform, this in part to the abundance of high quality music courses now available in the city. What I have always appreciated about Cork and its scene is the variety and eclectic mixes of genre and sound. People don’t follow any trend and try to pave their own paths, that’s what makes the music coming from this city so interesting to me. I feel that we are missing one or two real good music venues in cork, that push solely original music. I only wish the city was bigger, with some more real music industry opportunities. Unfortunately most musicians I know have had to leave to make a sustainable career out of original music.”

What next for Ahern after this? “The next move after the single is to record a concept EP completely live, all about “repetition” and release each track as a single with accompanying music videos. I am hoping for late February for the first single.”

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