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."