DIY Survivor: Politics, Peckham, And Mellah

DIY Survivor: Politics, Peckham, And Mellah

Displaying bold defiance in spite of the odds...

Mellah, otherwise known as Liam Ramdsen, is an artist with themes of social commentary at the heart of his music and, with this social consciousness, comes the recording studio he built himself Little Legs - one of three that he has built. He is a DIY artist in the true sense of the word.

Based in Peckham, the recording studio (with two rehearsal rooms) is available to other artists for reasonable rates. Nilüfer Yanya has recorded there, as well as other recording artists such as Mica Levi.

We spoke to Mellah about his music and the sense of community felt among musicians.

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His previous single ‘Habit’ is about “Habits,” as Mellah puts it. “Namely probably negative ones. Getting into cycles and loops that you know probably aren’t good for you but you keep doing the same thing.”

“The idea (to build his own recording studio) came out of necessity really,” Mellah tells us honestly. “I didn’t have anywhere to play. Every time I wanted to rehearse, I had to got to rehearsal rooms, which were expensive. I was half decent at carpentry so I thought I’d just find a room and build it”. Prior to becoming a professional musician, Mellah worked as a carpenter on sets for TV shows such as Black Mirror.

“The first one I built, it ended up that I couldn’t really get in there because all my friends wanted to use it all the time. So I built two more to let friends have cheap spaces as well”. The Little Legs studio is where Mellah starts most of his own music. “I usually start everything there… I sometimes finish it at other studios”.

“I primarily built it…I never built it to make money. I guess two reasons: I wanted to give cheap space to friends’ bands and I’ve been poor and I know how hard it is to play when you want to play with a band and you can’t afford a rehearsal room. So partly that, but also partly, I wanted to keep it cheap because I wanted my friends to have a space to come to, because I didn’t want to be down there on my own. It’s quite nice to have a little community around me; musicians that I like playing around me. We collaborate. It’s a nice little community. I guess I kept costs low because I didn’t build them to make money. I built them because I like musicians (laughs)”.

When it comes to his songs, they can be quite personal but also feature political themes. “I don’t set out to write about anything specific. I write about whatever comes out really and usually it’s something I care about which, I guess, people interpret that as political. To me, it’s just just trying to make sense of what’s going on around me. I don’t choose to wrote a song… I don’t sit down and say, ‘I’m going to write a political song’ or ‘I’m going to write an emotional song’. I just write whatever comes out my mouth”.

Asked about his Scala show in February 2021, Mellah says (I’m) really excited. I miss playing live. (I’ve) got a whole new band together”.

Lucinda Duarte-Holman (Alaskalaska) is a close collaborator. Speaking to Clash about these DIY methods, she's effusive in her praise for the role Mellah plays.

“(Mellah) is a dear friend to me. I met [him] at an event called ‘Sunday Service’ that was held at a warehouse I was living in at the time, on Fish Island in Hackney Wick. We both performed and afterwards got chatting about doing some recording at his studio in Peckham. From that point onward Liam and his studio played a vital part in the evolution of Alaskalaska.”

“Since we recorded there, it has had quite the transformation. When we used the studio, it was solely based in a much smaller room. It was cosy trying to fit six or seven of us in there at a time but it made for a real intimate recording experience. Since then the studio has expanded to a larger room across the corridor which i’ve yet to record in but in the same way, I imagine recording in there would make for a similar intimate vibe but with more leg room (always welcomed). Comparatively to other studios that we’ve worked in - Liam’s studio has a really sweet personality with 70s undertones. I give it a chef's kiss.”

“We recorded our first EP there. We also recorded ‘Monster’ and ‘Meateater’ there with his studio co- partner and producer Oli Barton-Wood. We’ve used it as a rehearsal space too. It’s been a particularly fruitful space to us and we are very grateful to have been able to utilise it.”

With the very nature of creativity under existential threat from the pandemic, and our government's appalling response, it's inspirational to hear that such communities can survive in bold defiance of the odds placed against them.

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Mellah's new single ‘Hitchin’ is out now. He will play London's Scala venue on February 11th.

Words: Narzra Ahmed

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