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Take a lyricist with his head in the clouds and a bizarrely eclectic range of influences. Add a techie with an overactive soldering iron and a copy of Practical Electronics. Stir in a junk-store guitar, a bass made from floorboards, a DIY drum machine kit and a cheap synthesiser. Filter through an echo machine and a range of sub-standard recording equipment. Leave to simmer in a North Lincolnshire farmhouse for 2½ years. Throw in a well-seasoned rock'n'roller with a Mick Ronson fixation and a nice line in crunchy guitar licks, and add a dash of saxophone. Bring to the boil and serve up on assorted vinyl platters.

That was the recipe we followed. The result? The Instant Automatons.

The Automatons are no more - we finally called it a day back in 1982 after 5 years of lo-fi tomfoolery - but even today there remains an undercurrent of interest in what we did, or tried to do. Hence this website. Don't expect a lot of eye-popping graphics or state-of-the-art web technologies; this is not a site dedicated to promoting "the band" and showing how cool we are, because we're not. It's too late for that. This is just a repository for all the kinds of stuff we still get queries about. We hope it proves useful.

Mark's autobiography THE LUXURY OF DREAMS is now available on Amazon

In Memoriam: Martin Stephen Neish (a.k.a. Protag) 21/07/1959-18/02/2014

I'm deeply saddened to report that Protag passed away on Tuesday 18th February 2014, after a short but very valiantly-fought battle against cancer.
I was was honoured to be asked to share a few memories at his funeral:

I’ve always been useless at football.
During PE lessons at school, if you had little or no footballing skill you got put in defence. So it happened that one afternoon in the autumn of 1973, on the playing fields of Brigg Grammar School, I came to be sharing defence with another athletically-challenged teenager called Martin Neish.

I’d seen Martin around school, but I don’t really recall interacting with him until that day. Most of the footballing action was taking place in midfield, so we had time to chat and it soon became clear that we had very similar interests – especially in the field of music, which was destined to become such a large part of our lives.

Music was the motivation behind one of our earliest adventures together, when, in July 1976, we hitchhiked over 200 miles to see Hawkwind play at Cardiff Castle. The summer of ’76 was the hottest on record at the time and, being impoverished school students, we had no money for such luxuries as food or shelter. We baked during the day, froze at night, and nearly starved – but it was all worth it.

Since music was important to us, and the burgeoning punk movement inspired us, I suppose it was almost inevitable that we would form a band, and so The Instant Automatons was born. The last time I saw Martin, we were discussing his work in music and he maintained – with his characteristic self-effacement – that throughout his musical career he had played the Andrew Ridgeley role to a series of George Michaels, the first of whom had been me. Of course, this is far from the truth. In fact, with his technical expertise, his boundless enthusiasm and his commitment to the music-making process, I often felt that he was the powerhouse behind the band, and it was me who was just tagging along for the ride. Certainly Martin – or Protag, as he came to be known professionally – benefited from his time in the Automatons, learning a lot about the way the music scene worked and gaining experience that would stand him in good stead in his subsequent musical endeavours.

When I wrote to a mutual school friend to inform him of Martin’s passing, he commented that “The group of friends you first make at school have such an important place in your life - really helping to shape it”, and that is certainly true in this case. My own life would have been very different and, I’m convinced, poorer altogether had it not been for that chance encounter 40 years ago. Over the past few days I’ve read many heart-felt tributes to Martin, so I’m not the first and I know I won’t be the last to say that it was a pleasure to have known and worked with him, and an honour to have called him my friend.

- Mark

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