We have lost an important member of the Was Ist Das? family, Mick West (or Michael Linden West as he liked to be known on the credits). I first met Mick when I was setting up my first gig in Hebden Bridge, Damo Suzuki at the Trades club in the Summer of 2010. Mick would go on to be one of Damo’s sound carriers for every show Damo played at Hebden Bridge but his support ran far deeper than that.
L-R: me, Mick, Clive
Nearly every Was Ist Das? gig I put on around Hebden featured at least one of Mick’s amps. I can’t drive so I had some intense experiences lugging that monster around town but the results were always worth it. From Kawabata Makoto to Natural Snow Buildings, many greats from around the world had a go on that mighty, vintage, heavy amp.
It didn’t stop there, though, Mick also did the sound for lots of Was Ist Das? gigs including the final Hebden show with Skullflower. However,even when he was just showing up as a punter, Mick made a huge difference thanks to his recording gear. He made many excellent show recordings and given access to other people’s recordings of the same show, he would skillfully mix them together.
There was no need to ask him, within a couple of days of one of my shows happening, a CDR would land on my doormatt. It was hearing the mix he’d made of two audience recordings of the Cosmic Dead’s show at the Trades Club that inspired me to start the Was Ist Das? record label. The whole ‘Noise In The Wood’ compilation of shows owed so much to him it could have been called ‘Best of the West’.
Beyond the music, Mick was always good company. His humour dry and dour with a healthy dose of knowingly grumpiness. He was also one for suddenly dropping surprise anecdotes such as the fact he once worked at RER Records and as a crossword compiler for a major British broadsheet newspaper. He was also incredibly generous. One visit to his house lead to him handing me an original copy of Can’s “Soundtracks” and 14 LPs of library music, casually adding “one of them is really valuable, can’t remember which one”. He wasn’t kidding, either. That house too, the walls were covered in instruments, the floor was covered in debris with a path from the ill-fitting front door to the kitchen and the desktop computer.
He was a Hebden Bridge legend, one of those people you were always guaranteed to run into when you left the house. Although he was maybe best known for playing with The Ukranians, he played with so many different bands and collaborations that no one act could truly claim him as their own. He belonged only to himself and the music.
We had been swapping messages about a possible release for another of his beautifully mixed presentations of a Hebden gig. He’d been his usual supportive self and completely unprompted had gone off and made a new master of it for me and sent me the link via Dropbox. I thanked him and set the files off downloading then went off to life. When I checked my computer two days later, I found the files had not finished downloading. I tried his Dropbox link again but he’d already taken them off, no doubt to send even more files for even more projects to even more people. I dropped him a line asking him to re-upload them but never got a reply back. I found out later that the message went too late and would never be seen by him. Now I’m haunted by these two unfinished files in my download folder
Living out here in Arizona, its hard to believe that there is a still such a thing as Hebden Bridge without Mick. It feels to me like he’s still sat outside Marco’s café every morning before going off to jam with someone else at the mill. All the great things I did while in Hebden Bridge, Mick made so much of it possible, I could never thank him enough. I wish I could get those last files he sent me, I’d love to have heard his latest master. The original was already amazing, just like Mick. He’d probably laugh at all the sentimentality going on in his name. Oh well. I’d raise a beer to him but he wasn’t really much of a drinker. I’d raise a guitar to him but I’m not much of a musician. All I can do is salute the man, the memories and the legend. You will be missed, Mick.