About Me

Interview with Lonely Robot

Lonely Robot, the project masterminded by producer, guitarist and singer/songwriter John Mitchell (Kino, Frost, Arena, It Bites), are set to release their fourth album ‘Feelings Are Good’ on the 17th July 2020.  ‘Feelings Are Good’ marks a fresh start following the conclusion of the ‘The Astronaut Trilogy’. The artwork is once again by Paul Tippett / Vitamin P (Black Star Riders, Frost*) and is meant to be a little disturbing. Metal Imperium took the opportunity to chat with John Mitchell to find all the juicy details about the upcoming album.

M.I. - First off, Lonely Robot is basically John Mitchell working on his own. Where does the name Lonely Robot come from? Is it because you do it all by yourself?

The name comes from the chorus lyric of a song by Sting's daughter, Coco Sumner, which was called 'Self Machine'. The lyric goes 'Lonely Robot in a wasteland rusting in a lonely harbour'. I love boats and harbours, and I love sc-fi, so the name of Lonely Robot really caught my imagination. The fact that it encapsulates my creative process quite nicely is a bonus!

M.I. - How would you describe Lonely Robot’s sound? Progressive music is the best definition?

I describe it as Lonely Robot. The fact that humans have a great need to put things in neat little boxes such as genres serves no function to a robot such as myself. 
I'm a baritone singer who wanted to fuse film music orchestration with metal riffs and ambient guitars, and I belong in a genre of one - (laughts). That's pretty lonely, isn't it? I'm just kidding by the way, I am actually human, not a machine.

M.I. - Supposedly “Under Stars” would be the last album to bear the Lonely Robot name… what made you change your mind? 

I've been thinking about releasing music under my own name for quite a while, but my record company feels that bands do better than solo artists, and they preferred that I continue making music under the brand of Lonely Robot, although in reality it is just me working with my favourite musicians (like Craig Blundell on drums) when needed.

M.I. - Your first 3 albums “Please Come Home”, “The Big Dream” and “Under Stars” are known as “The Astronaut Trilogy”. Now, is “Feelings Are Good” the start of a new trilogy or will you see where it takes you?

'Feelings Are Good' is a standalone album, inspired by seminal moments in my personal life whereupon I wanted the opportunity to lay some ghosts to rest. Having done this, hopefully my next album will be full of major chords and happiness! Stay tuned... The first three albums became a themed trilogy in line with my record contract, which I really enjoyed doing as a challenge, but after the third one, I felt that I'd reached a natural conclusion.

M.I. - All songs were written, recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by John Mitchell at Outhouse Studios. You’re the sole responsible for the success of your music. How much stress does making a new album from scratch bring you? Do you tend to overthink things? Do you obsess over it? Do you dream of it? 

I do exactly what comes naturally to me, each day at a time. Making music has never been anything but a pleasure and a joy whether it's my own material, or producing music for bands that come into my studio. For my own work, I do sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a melody in my head which I have to hum into my phone recorder as quickly as possible, before falling back to sleep! Other than that, my process is writing a song around a title that has come to my head. I can generate the lyrics and mood of a song a lot quicker if I have a title to work with. 

M.I. - How long was the writing and recording process of this album?

It was probably a month and a half in total. 

M.I. - Musically, you’ve kept your “signature sound and have refined it into lush modern prog and rock anthems that combine complex and accessible elements with astonishing dynamics and impeccable, timeless songwriting”… how complicated is it creating masterpieces all the time?

Well, thank you very much (laughts). I'm just going to say that it comes naturally. I'm not good at many things, but I put all my efforts into my music. This is why my fridge is full of mouldy cheese, and my drive is full of rusting cars!

M.I. - John Mitchell is a man with a rich musical heritage and history, who’s been involved in dozens of recordings…  where does your creativity come from?

I was forced to have piano lessons at the age of 6, violin from 7, and got my first guitar when I turned 12. Over the years, I've been inspired by Trevor Rabin, Peter Gabriel, The Police, and the lyrical prowess of Roger Waters, Justin Currie, and Neil Hannon. 

M.I. - “Feelings are good” marks a fresh start for the band. What can fans expect of it?

Lyrically, it's much more personal, and musically, it comes from a more stripped back and rawer place. I made a conscious decision at the start not to use any of the same instruments or sounds that I'd used on the Astronaut trilogy. I used more vintage sounds such as electric piano and 80s string synths from the Arturia analog lab collection.

M.I. - The albums of the trilogy were released within 2 years of each other but the new album is only released one year after… were you that inspired to write about your life? Was it easier to write about yourself and your feelings? Did the album work out as a kind of therapy for some less fortunate personal issues?

There was a bigger gap between the other albums because I had to record a KINO album in the middle! With regard to it being a form of therapy, I find making all music therapeutic, but it's not a magic cure unfortunately...

M.I. - The artwork is meant to be a bit disturbing and it totally serves that purpose… the face with the eyes taped and mouth shut… what does it mean? Feelings are good if we don’t talk about them?! Is this an ironic title?

Yes, it is ironic - you're the first person who's interpreted it correctly, well done! Of course, having Feelings is a good thing, but not expressing or communicating them to others is a dangerous rot that can set in all too easily.

M.I. - The lineup is different in this recording… it’s only John Mitchell and Craig Blundell. What happened to the other guys?

I call on them when I need them, but for the recording process, I can play both bass and piano myself and it's quicker to get the parts that I want to hear. So, they join me for live dates to help bring the music to life in the live environment.

M.I. - This album includes the orchestral versions of “The Silent Life” and “Crystalline” as bonus tracks… why have you opted to do it? Why these tracks in particular?

Contractual obligation! 

M.I. - The album is set to be released on the 17th July 2020… how is the media reacting to it so far?

I've just read a really thoughtful, considered and positive review of it (thank you Jonathon Rose!), so hopefully there will be more of the same.

M.I. - The band finally wants to present itself live but who’ll accompany you and Craig on this task?

My bass wingman Steve Vantsis, who also plays for Fish, and Liam Holmes on keyboards.

M.I. - The plans to tour in February were cancelled and now there are plans to play in the UK, Germany and The Netherlands in December 2020 if it is possible by then… what can people expect of Lonely Robot in a live performance?

Performing seals, fire eaters, a Wall of Death, and hopefully some songs about spaceships :)

M.I. - How much of a negative impact has the Coronavirus had in the band Lonely Robot and in the individual John Mitchell? 

I've read lots of books, mowed the lawn, and done a mix job for Doris Brendl's new album. Apart from that, not a lot. It's been incredibly frustrating and tough.

M.I. - The album “Under stars” is accompanied by beautiful visuals on Lonely Robot’s YouTube channel. Will the same happen for “Feelings are good”? How did the idea of doing a 50-minute video come up?

The album launch was planned in a cinema, so we decided to produce a film to accompany the whole album. Crystal Spotlight, who create videos and websites for bands, had already done three videos for songs off the album, and so the idea to produce a full album version came to life.

M.I. - This album will, once again, be released via Inside Out Music. How’s your relationship with them? 

I've worked with them a long time now, we know what to expect from each other...

M.I. - You’ve said that we as humans spend far too much time not noticing the beauty around us and far too much time tethered to technology. Please name the best 3 qualities of technology and the 3 worst things about it.

1. Netflix
2. Alexa
3. Zoom calls with my sci-fi buddies

1. Tik Tok
2. Selfie culture
3. Toyota Prius

M.I. - Now that we are living in a strange time with the pandemic… do you think people will eventually realize that “Feelings are good” and that they should be shared?

I think that generationally speaking, Millennials have gone too far in the wrong direction to communicate effectively.

M.I. - Do you have a final message to the Portuguese fans of Lonely Robot/John Mitchell?

I hope to visit your beautiful country some time very soon!

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Sónia Fonseca