Who The F**k is 6a6y 6?

6a6y 6, pronounced (baby six) are an astonishing, ever revolving group of talented individuals spread across Manchester, London and Kiev that show us the the power of industrial commerciality and community collaboration. The collective harness the power of the ‘anti virtuoso’ with each member changing instruments and roles within the group. From avant garde jazz, to contemporary woodwind, experimental noise, thrash punk, ambient and heavy use of echo tapes and loop stations, this group have touched on all the areas considered ‘experimental’ and I love it.

The story starts back in around 2016 with founding members Robin, John, Miles and Jim. Some of the group lived in a house together “with a mushroom growing from the ceiling” said John and “where we all shared one heater. In the winter we spent all our time together making music to stay warm” added Robin. The group have always kept anonymity and autonomy at the forefront of what they do creatively and their back catalogue can prove that they have never stayed still musically. With in house bands such as Sonny Bliss, Klavier Gruppe, Daddy and the Kids, White Lice Reacts To Change, Heinz Münchhausen, Swinging in The Drain, Last Trout In The Stream, 6 Sirloins In 6 Minutes, Distance Group, Pedro Don Key, IM6, It’s Fun, 3 Species To See Before They Die, Beau Mec, Plastic Gift, Gunge and a whole host of external bands being represented in the collective and label.

Over the 5 years of 6a6y 6 the group have changed cities and members and the collective/label have changed and grown what they are and what they represent. Subsequently, original member Jim has moved to Kiev via Warsaw and John now lives in London but continued members Robin and Miles live in Manchester with Núria who joined in around 2017.

I met up with Robin, Núria and John to learn about what the fuck is going on.

So let’s attempt to strip back this group. What is 6a6y 6? Why does it exist? Who is 6a6y 6?

Nuria: “To me it’s a music dump, an enigma. Something not of this world.”

Robin: “We know how it started. We were doing a lot of recordings in our old house. I feel sorry for the people that had to share that house with us.”

Nuria: “I met these guys after it started existing, it was much more of an entity at that time.”

Robin: “We just did a load of recordings with our friend Jim, who lives in Kiev at the minute, he was really good at coding and we wanted to create a website, like a Fossil website, something untouched for the last 20 years. We wanted a website to sort of store all our music.”

Here is the website for your enjoyment - http://6a6y6.com/

Nuria: “It was all in Russian to begin with wasn’t it?”

John: “I think it is nice using that format as our online thing. We’ve got the Instagram as well but when you use other social media platforms all your stuff goes through a filter that makes it look like an Instagram page and the website is more malleable. You can make your vision.”

A dump is never a bad thing though is it? When you look at this website now it looks like a headache, but that is the vision. A musical dump, “That’s not a bad thing, it’s really a place we can put all our stuff” said Núria. Go check out their website to see the variety of 3D visual/audio experiences that Jim has put together to represent the vision of the collective, especially the virtual reality world of Sonny Bliss.

So who is 6a6y 6? Who have they worked with over the years and behind the core 5 members who else is involved?

Robin: “Throughout everything we have released there are quite a few different people involved. We try and avoid having too much ego, there is probably a conscious effort to do that.”

Núria: “I guess there is an intention to not personalise too much.”

John: “It’s just not that interesting, do you know what I mean? It puts more emphasis on the music.”

Their anonymity is admirable but really annoying to anyone that wants to learn more about the who, where, why and when! But there is a long list of people that they have worked with, Danny from Denim and Leather, Bunny Hoova, Prangers, Bambi, Handle, Cult Party, Eugene The Oceanographer and itsnahtevendahk to name a few.

Robin: “You’ve got the Denim and Leather guys. Particularly Cal and Danny. I’ve done a lot of stuff just me and them over the years. We’ve always been sharing a practise space.”

John: “And Prangers as well, from Rochdale.”

Robin: “Yeah, yeah. Bambi too.”

John: “Bambi brings the space echo.”

Robin: “Him (Bambi) and Cal both played with Sonny Bliss for one show. We wanted it to carry on but logistically it ended up being difficult. They still share the room with us even though they are in Sheffield.”

So you can see the connections these guys have made within the city, but who else is involved or has been involved? “The majority are in Manchester” says Robin but “It’s just where all of us live”, added John. As we have said, the collective spreads out to London with John and Plastic Gift down in London, playing together with John on clarinet occasionally. Over In Kiev you have Jim who tends to the needs of the website amongst other things. “Whenever Jim is in Manchester we get ourselves together and stuff happens. Whenever Núria is away he plays sax too” says Robin and “His guitar playing brings a lot of stuff together” said John.

Evan: “What’s Kiev all about?”

John: “Kiev is an amazing place, we play there back in 2018. It’s like maybe how Berlin was in the 80’s, obviously I don’t know what that was actually like but it’s pretty raw. There was a big revolution there in 2014, the Pro-Russian government was corrupted and stuff. A lot of people, especially young people, had been protesting for months in the winter. There was a lot of violence, around 75 people died and in the end the protestors managed to essesntially overthrow the government. So there is a this real energy, the people there are building the place they want to be and there’s so much cool shit going on. We went to some mad clubs when we were there. It’s just an exciting place.”

The Russo-Ukrainian War is an ongoing and protracted conflict between Russia and Ukraine that began in February 2014. The war has centered around the status of the Ukrainian regions of Crimea and Donbas.

The group centre around the ideas of chance and experimentation with the nature of life and their open mindedness offering the opportunity of chance.

Robin: “I think chance is definitely a big part of it. For me, chance is a big element but I don’t like to word experiment because…”

Núria: “It sounds like you are doing whatever…”

John: “Almost like watching a screenplay when the dialogue isn’t written but the ideas are there. Things just come together much more naturally.”

Núria came into the fold after not playing saxophone in a gig setting for a while but still being offered the opportunity to play in this open, chancy way.

Núria: “I still don’t know what I’m doing. But at that point I wouldn’t have played with anyone else but that element of chance really made me say yes. I think John, Robin and Jim had already recorded some things which were quite chancy. There was something made for me to just play over the top of in a chancy way and more accessible. For me as someone with a saxophone but not really with any ownership at that point, I can’t control what I play because it had been so long.”

Robin: “I think there has always been this all inclusive thing. The way we play and record is in a way that the only people who wouldn’t feel comfortable were like purist musicians who were a bit too caught up with the stuff.”

Núria: “A bit too technical.”

John: “I think its a lot about chance. We like to use a lot of new instruments that we don’t know how to play. The approach to making music and the creative process, it doesn’t matter what you are playing, you are fitting into this space, you don’t have to be a virtuoso on the instrument you are using or not. So I think that keeps the chance element and the fun element in it a bit.”

Núria: “Definitely. Even people around the 6a6y 6 thing keep changing and the instruments keep changing. There might be a couple of projects where people play the same thing but generally we are all rotating. Basically its like an anti master thing, we don’t want any masters of instruments, we always change it up.”

Punk really brought out this idea of the non virtuoso however, the No Wave movement of late 70’s New York is what brought together the masters of minimalist composition like Philip Glass and Steve Reich to the art rock groups like James Chance, MARS and Lydia Lunch to create a web of cross genre creation with Arthur Russell at the centre. Russell said “Experiment with everything, every instrument and and every way of playing that instrument, even upside down”. 6a6y 6 are the only people in Manchester doing this. Bringing together this mystique of minimalist anonymity with the awareness and availability to unlearn the norms of music and “express” said Robin.

Is this the power of Manchester? I’ve lived in Manchester all my life and it feels as though it doesn’t have the same sort of pressures that other cities have. You can spread your limbs out, cycle and see friends in a matter of minutes. Robin puts it the best way, “You can really make stuff happen”. So as a group of people not from this city, what kept them here for so long and what have they harnessed from the power of the city?

Robin: “Manchester has definitely made it happen. Really bouncing off other venues or people that we have played with. I lived in London before and I couldn’t afford to make anything happen. I was working full time to pay the rent and didn’t get anything done down there. So I moved to Manchester and was really excited to make things happen.”

Núria: “Wow. I came here because of London too. I was going to start uni and London was so expensive. So I asked around, where is cool and cheaper? A place I could go. Someone recommended Manchester and I kept on hearing it, so I came. I’m Spanish and the London weather was bad enough so when I came to Manchester it was even worse and I said ‘I can’t stay here’. But then somehow I have stayed, there’s something special about Manchester. I can’t put my finger on it but I think people in general are very open minded. It’s also not a huge place so you don’t feel disconnected to people as you do in London. You can balance between being open minded, the big city mindset, but you can have all these people in a close space. Having people closer together makes things happen so much quicker.”

John: I did live here for 9 years. I love Manchester. The real reason I moved here because it’s the closest city. Stoke is a city but it is very insular. It was either here, Liverpool or Birmingham. I think I agree with what Nuria said, it is a city but it has a real sense of community about it. When the weather is shit the cogs keep turning.

Manchester has always been a melting pot for alternative culture and just a quick scan of Factory Records, Madchester, rave culture and the sheer musical output can show that.

Throbbing Gristle began their days in the late 60’s as an art act that took to the streets of Hull with dance, music and creation of all formats. In the mid 70’s they based themselves in Manchester and began the creation of a musical movement called ‘Industrial’, something we all know now that spread across the world from east to west. They used a selection of instruments they found in a factory that they didn’t even know how to play, they used tape echo machines and a variety of loop stations. The use of loop stations was revolutionary at that time and something kept by the virtuosos of The Radiophonic Workshop, Delia Derbyshire, Shiho and Silver Apples. However Cosey, Chris and Peter of Throbbing Gristle used this in a DIY way and created a new sound for the northern working class to sink their miserable, overcast teeth into. After playing LA in 81 the band disbanded and from the ashes came Psychic TV.

Psychic TV centred around Genesis P Orridge -the founder of Throbbing Gristle- and went on a forever changing set of band members, influences and names, such as: PTV, PTV3, Psychic TV & Genesis P-Orridge, Psychick Television, Psychick TV, Deep Fry, ESsence, Griselda, Homeboy Posse, Jack the Tab, King Cut Groovers, TheLove in Life, M.E.S.H., Nobody Uninc, Over Thee Brink, Pearl Necklace, SafeToo See Bee, White Dove, Wolves of the Sun and Ecstasy Boys. Sound familiar? The band Psychic TV broke through with their stellar single ‘Godstar’ in 1985 and the symbiosis of industrial and commercial began their road to a career spanning 40 years until the sad passing of Genesis in 2020.

6a6y 6 also have this symbiosis of industrial and commercial within their work. It even says it as their business sector on their Instagram page.

Evan: "Commercial and industrial."

Robin: "It says that on our Instagram doesn’t it?"

Evan: "It does. What does that mean?"

Robin: "It was something you could put as an option for your business Instagram. It was just on a drop down menu."

Nuria: "Controlled chance."

Robin: "But I thought that did maybe sum up some of the main genres and sounds of us."

Evan: "There is an irony that it’s a drop down menu but it does work."

Robin: "We are very much influenced by the industrial music of the late 70’s and early 80’s."

Evan: "Predominantly British? Like Throbbing Gristle or are you going further afield like Faust or Einstrüzende Neubauten?"

Robin: "Fuck there is this band that I absolutely love! Demolition Group, too from Slovenia?"

Robin: "I mean Throbbing Gristle really got me into industrial music."

Evan: "What about Psychic TV, because to me that is the perfect mixture of Industrial and Commercial."

Robin: "Like Godstar! I tell you what, Foetus. Australian guy goes under loads of different names, sometimes You Smell Like Foetus or Scraping Foetus Off The Wall. Weirdly, Trent Reznor can be heard like directly ripping him off."

John: "I do love Nine Inch Nails."

Evan: "Me too but weren’t Swans doing it 10 years before?"

John: "Nine Inch Nails have got that more commercial stuff."

Evan: "Swans only found that commerciality 30 years later."

Robin: "Swans are definitely an influence on Miles. Miles has been involved in a lot of the projects that we have done. He showed me Swans when we lived together."

The fact that we had this conversation about the impact of industrial music that came from Manchester all those years ago shows the power of the musical movement and that in many ways it is still here. Other people within the city and directly connected to the collective are doing similar things and it’s amazing to see this natural growth come to some sort of fruition with Manchester’s avant garde getting spotlight in national compilations with the likes of Group Therapy, Slowdance, Music To Stay Home To and Maternal Voice. Many different iterations of 6a6y 6 have featured on these releases and we wonder if the curators of those releases knew that? That right there is the power of anonymity.

Some of the other people to mention within the city that binds the community around 6a6y 6 are Bunny Hoova, “Donna.. is just a lovely person.” said Núria, with Robin having played bass within the band before. To POSA and Do Your Best,

Robin: “I just love what they both do, Theo (POSA) did our Klavier Gruppe artwork for Do Your Best."

John: “Is Kalum in Chermansog?”

Evan: “Do Your Best put out Chermansog, that’s Adrian Steele’s project but not sure if he’s in the band?”

Robin: “He’s in The Starlight Magic Hour isn’t he? Shoutout to Chermansog.”

Then of course they have worked with Prangers, a noise duo from Rochdale who have done lots of projects with Gnod’s side hustle Tesla Tapes, a left field label based in Salford.

John: “Marryanne who is in Prangers is putting on an exhibition up there (Littleborough) and then there is some live music too. There is some live music we have done under the name Lest, which is more traditional. It is on Kalum’s lockdown compilation.”

Núria: “I love Godspeed You Peter André!”

John: “One of the members of them is in a project called Vanishing which is on Tesla Tapes too.”

To then working on a selection of projects with Cal from Denim and Leather and Danny, the drummer from the same band and also the drummer from Crywank, Leo from Cult Party, John Powell Jones a mixed media artist and then working with Desire Press to create some artworks and visuals that have stood the test of time.

This community of alternative creatives is growing bigger and bigger in Manchester and that sense of collaboration is at the centre of it all, “I think lockdown has made me think more about community” said Robin. This ethos isn’t more obvious than in our next section where we are going to unearth all of their releases and find out who did what.

We are going to start with what looks like bands and then go onto the compilations and releases under the label hopefully in some sort of chronology.

Evan: "Daddy and The Kids?"

Núria: "Wow, fucking hell that’s like a while ago."

Evan: "It’s about 5 years ago."

Robin: "How do you even know that??"

Evan: "That’s my job! It’s like that part when Nardwuar fucks with rappers minds by asking super personal questions!"

Robin: "So Daddy and the Kids was an example of something we recorded in our old house just in the moment. I think it was John, Jim, Miles and me."

John: "Maybe it was just me and Jim?"

Robin: "It’s that thing of ego again. We will listen back to things and listen quite objectively and there is less ego in that."

Evan: "You come at it not expecting anything. Okay, next, Sonny Bliss?"

Núria: "Sonny Bliss is us 3."

Evan: "How far back does it go?"

John: "It was just you two to begin with."

Núria: "Yeah, we did this thing that wasn’t even meant to be Sonny Bliss. We went to the room we had at Wellington Mill around early 2018 and we had a day with beats going into a space echo and a saxophone. I would describe it as a journey. We were in the studio all day and I remember I had a tantrum about something, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, what is going on??”. I think I cried at the time. I feel like whenever we thought about Sonny Bliss months after we saw it as a real emotional thing. It wasn’t even a jam, it was an experience. Going from ecstasy to tears. I think that is the whole thing with 6a6y 6, there isn’t really a brief of anything. You go into uni and have a brief, you are free but you have to be reflective on this, this, this and this. Sonny Bliss was completely off brief, we just went to see what would happen and we will make a brief out of what happens. The brief became what we felt at the moment."

Robin: "Which was desolation!"

Núria: "You were making beats and I was on saxophone."

Robin: "It was all going through the space echo tapes too."

Núria: "That all added new elements to chance again! It would keep things from the previous recording that would carry over to the next idea. So we spent a day in the space and we didn’t look at it for months. We then listened back and were really inspired by them."

Robin: "We then decided to try and recreate what we had made."

Evan: "That’s a mission in itself because you can’t always do it the same again."

John: "I think that goes back to that commercial and industrial thing. The way we make music is very industrial in the way we just go in and do it."

Robin: "With repetitive kind of factory line loops and that."

John: "We have this characteristics within the music as we churn it out but then the commercial side is listening back to those things and deciding what works and moving that forward, like a collection of bits."

Núria: :Yeah! The first gig we played just the two of us at the old Nat West Bank in Withington. I proper tried to run away after that gig, it was so intense. It was one of the first gigs I’d ever really played together. Just that feeling of complete terror. I hadn’t played many gigs before so it felt really overwhelming. ’."

Robin: "It’s really devastating when you have a bad time on stage isn’t it."

Evan: "That was always my fear, which is why I was always in an experimental noise band. I can’t fuck it up. I’ll face away from the audience, play for 9 minutes and then leave."

Robin: "What was the name of that?"

Evan: "ALAN."

John: "Fuck, no way!"

Robin: "I’ve heard of you before!"

John: "We fucking played a gig with you! We were Smelvis and the Farts."

Evan: "Fuck off, YEAHH! What a gig that was."

Núria: "Where was this gig?"

Robin: "Star and Garter!"

Núria: "What the fuck, you were there?"

Evan: "I just thought that was Cal’s weird side project!"

Núria: "That was us 3 and Cal."

Evan: "That was a gig I will always remember."

Núria: "I loved it."

Robin: "It was packed out."

Evan: "It was packed and everyone was up for it."

Núria: "The mood! There is a few people I have on Instagram that I met on that night. The mood was amazing, everyone was up for chatting with strangers. That really doesn’t happen that much."

Evan: "I think we’ve forgot what that was like."

John: "ALAN are sick, I swear I’ve seen you play somewhere else."

Evan: "We played a lot. I was happy that nobody really understood what we were. We just went into a practise space, hit record and released what happened. There wasn’t a single song we practised. We never practised, our gigs were the only time we played together and we just played a 7 second trash song and some made up stuff."

Robin: "That’s sick."

Evan: "We look back and wonder who booked us? Next up is White Lice Reacts To Change."

Robin: "That is stuff I did on my own, nothing I’d think of recreating live. I was experimenting with mixing these certain types of layers. I wanted to put it somewhere and gave it to Jim to put on the website."

Evan: "Heinz Münchhausen?"

John: "That’s me and Jim. It’s just laptop and guitar."

Evan: "Swinging In The Drain?"

John: "That’s me and Jim as well. I don’t want to say too much. It’s very different to Münchhausen. We do have another release to come out soon. Basically for that we wanted to lay down solid foundations with mad stuff going on over the top."

Evan: Last Trout In The Stream?

Robin: "That was me, John and Leo (Cult Party). Do you know Cult Party?"

Evan: "What a beautiful voice."

Evan: "Distance Group?"

Robin: "I kinda made most of it and then I forced Danny from Denim and Leather to be part of it also."

Evan: "Whilst he wasn’t away with Crywank!"

Robin: "I was working nights at Royal Mail and I would go there after work to stay there and all this stuff was always set up and I just got some ideas down."

Evan: "It was a time and a place. How about 6 Sirloins in 6 Minutes?"

Núria: "Oh my god that’s a proper old one!"

Robin: "They were some of the tracks that we showed you (Nuria) when we wanted to play Gullivers and we wanted you to play with us."

Núria: "Wow I didn’t even know that."

John: "There’s a commercial butchers in Stoke called Wayne Walkers quality meats and he’s like “Awhreet, I’ve got 15 palettes of chicken, I’ll sell that in 15 minutes!” That’s where the name comes from, “Eh, 6 sirloins in 6 minutes! Now fuck off!”

Evan: "What about It’s Fun?"

Núria: "I fucking love It’s Fun."

John: "I think that was one of the first things we ever did with 6a6y 6."

Robin: "I think we made it in 2016 and it may have come back around later on."

Núria: "Yeah it was defiantly around before I came around."

Evan: "What about Pedro Don Key?:

John: "That’s me and Jim as well. We used to play as a live band."

Robin: "A grindcore band."

John: "It was more like a trash two piece and then we messed around with recording really short loops and playing a sequencer over the top of it."

Robin: "I think the essence of Jim’s guitar really brings it together."

Evan: "What about IM6?"

Núria: "You say it like I’m 6, like I’m 6 years old."

John: "I think we used the kid voice from It’s Fun to bring this vulnerability and innocence to this brutal noisy sound."

Robin: "But it was Miles on vocals for this one, not Jim."

John: "That was something that we have gigged with quite a lot."

Núria: "It was you three to begin with really wasn’t it and then I tried to put some keyboard bass onto it and then it was the four of us. To add to the kid situation, Miles would play with a baby mask that was taped to his face, me and Bambi would play the mum and dad so it became a stage based performance. So these guys were playing the music, Miles was screaming like a baby doing vocals and we were the neglecting parents, flicking through the newspaper being very blasé."

Robin: "I think we had been listening to a lot of Limp Bizkit and Nine Inch Nails and wanted to do something with this baby, child thing. When you hear like Trent Reznor or Fred Durst talking earnestly about what drives the lyrics, ‘My parents made all this money and I won’t do that in this economy”, it’s a bit of a weak place, you know what I mean? I love the aggression but…"

Núria: "Pathetic."

Evan: "3 Species To See Before They Die?"

Núria: "Oh shit!"

Robin: "Me, Núria and Jim I think."

John: "I think the story is that you recorded the vocals with headphones on playing a different song."

Núria: Really? I didn’t remember that?

John: That’s what Jim said.

Núria: "That was when I really started to get involved. I think I listen back to those things now and I think it was a very specific point of complete drunkenness and I don’t think I was aware that it was going to recorded. I’ll being doing the saxophone for these parts and then suddenly I was doing vocals?"

Robin: "Then Jim sent it to me. I was staying with my aunt and uncle in Edinburgh and instead of sleeping I mixed that all night. I think the first live 6a6y 6 thing we ever did was some renditions of those tracks actually."

Evan: "Baeu Mec?"