Zak Mering, AKA Raw Thrills, draws on his background in hip-hop to create a unique take on new wave and art pop with “Blessed Be The Meek (Let Me Be).”
Premiering below, the track is a collaboration with his sister, Weyes Blood and fellow musicians and friends Ariel Pink and Sun Pack. “Blessed Be The Meek (Let Me Be)” is a hazy and melodic ode to Joe Meek, a music producer and musician from the ‘60s who’s known for his experimental pop and surf rock.
“[Joe Meek] was an amazing innovative producer who was the first to have a number one song in the US and UK at the same time (The Tornados “Telstar”) in 1962,” Mering tells BTRtoday. “The first half of the song was a tribute to Joe Meek. The production style is very reminiscent of the style of music he would produce in the heyday of his career, the second half of the song is titled “Let Me Be,” it’s more personal and about a long distance relationship that wasn’t meant to be.”
The tune has a catchy melody with fun oohs and ahs carried by hazy harmonies and futuristic effects.
Mering hasn’t only been busy cranking out unique jams as Raw Thrills since 2008 he also runs the label GunkTV Records, which features his own releases and artists like Kate Rush and Zechariah’s Funhouse. He is also working on several other projects under the name Mark Zering and promises a “funky” and a “dark” album will come soon.
Read the entire interview with Zak Mering, AKA Raw Thrills, and listen to his new tune “Blessed Be The Meek (Let Me Be)”, featuring Weyes Blood below.
BTR: What brought you to NYC? You’ve been here for a while now too, has the city influenced your music?
Zak Mering ZM: I came here initially to visit a high school friend and had such a great time and a positive response to my music I never had when recording in LA. After visiting a week or two I decided to stay since my friend had a vacancy in his apartment in Bed-Stuy. The city has influenced my music tremendously. I got very into Prince, Juan Atkins, Egyptian Lover and many others. Some of my earliest influences were Ween, Prefuse 73, Madlib, Broadcast and Daedelus as far as contemporary influences go.
It wasn’t until a few years of recording electronic hip-hop music that I then discovered Ariel Pink’s music and Sam Mehran’s many different projects from that time period. Sam moved into my apartment and we were roommates and collaborators for the next ten years on and off. That was in 2006 while still living in Echo Park in L.A.
BTR: How did you and Weyes Blood come to collaborate?
ZM: Weyes Blood is my younger sister Natalie Mering. We usually will collaborate at least once or so a year and so “Blessed Be The Meek (Let Me Be)” was a collaborative effort with Sam Mehran and my sister Natalie. We have been collaborating for years and shall continue to do so, as we were both a product of the musical household we were raised in. Our father, Sumner Mering had a record deal with Asylum-Elektra in 1980 and played tons of shows in California, mostly Los Angeles from 1977-1981. Our mother, Pamela Mering, also released an album 10 years ago and our father co-produced it. They’re both amazing singer-songwriters and we grew up with a wide variety of influences from “Stevie Wonder” and “Tower Of Power” to “XTC” and Joni Mitchell. We were also regularly singing in churches as well as at home.
BTR: Tell me about this new track “Blessed Be The Meek (Let Me Be)”—were there any specific inspirations that went into it?
ZM: It’s an ode to Joe Meek that originally Sam Mehran (Outer Limits Recordings) had recorded an instrumental for.
[Joe Meek] was an amazing innovative producer who was the first to have a number one song in the US and UK at the same time (The Tornados “Telstar”) in 1962. The first half of the song was a tribute to Joe Meek as the production style is very reminiscent of the style of music he would produce in the heyday of his career. The second half of the song is titled “Let Me Be”. It is more personal and about a long distance relationship that wasn’t meant to be.
BTR: “Blessed be the meek” is from the Old Testament. Does religion play a part in this song?
ZM: It doesn’t play a conscious part in the song whatsoever, although my sister and myself were both raised in an Evangelical Charismatic Christian household our whole lives. Our parents both speak in tongues and believe in laying their hands on the sick. I can speak for myself in saying that I don’t subscribe to the same religious philosophies my parents raised me in. I definitely took from that upbringing the moral factors and the generosity that shaped who I am today.
BTR: What’s your writing process like?
ZM: It’s all very improvisational. I usually don’t write lyrics. I just come up with them the way a rapper would freestyle. I consider myself a sound designer and music producer as much as I do a songwriter and performance artist. I usually just have a general idea and then I unleash my stream of consciousness through music production and songwriting. The results are always surprising to myself.
BTR: Tell me about GunkTV Records—what inspired you to start your own label?
ZM: It was started as a VHS, Gunk TV Volume 1, that I made 20 copies of. It included all my friends’ latest music videos as well as my own music videos and ones that were big influences on me. It ran 110 minutes and included a variety of inspirational material, whether it be a Jean-Michel Jarre or Scritti Politti music video to a commercial for Ecto Cooler and samples of other gems in pop culture.
Once I released the VHS tapes, I was recording more music than ever before and worked with Japanese label Sixteen Tambourines and they released my first two solo 12”s Shakedown and Sick Steez, as well as our second 7” Fun Girls, which was a “Greatest Hits” release with my dear friend and producer/drummer Tyler Thacker. After creating new songs daily and collaborating with as many different artists as I could, I decided that the most efficient way to get my friends music and other artists I respect as well as an outlet for my many different projects. All the GTVR releases can be found at GunkTVRecords.bandcamp.com.
BTR: What’s next for Raw Thrills?
ZM: I’m working on four or five different projects and also putting together a live band which is a collaborative effort with my close friend Zechariah Funkhouser, Funkhouser/Mering. It includes about half of Zechariah’s songs and about half by myself. A few of the songs on the working LP are re-recordings of Raw Thrills songs, as well as ones Sam Mehran and I wrote, but never released. There is even one my sister wrote with me that we recorded for the album. Also, my amazing friend/roommate and guitar player Shane McLellan, as well as Winston Taylor Record’s Calvin LeCompte, will all most likely be performing live in our Funkhouser/Mering band.
I also am working on a funky album, a dark industrial album, a rap and R&B mixtape, which would be my third mixtape under the Mak Zering alias, which is very much a guilty pleasure project. The other Raw Thrills albums will eventually see daylight. I’m just taking it one day at a time and trying to be motivated and inspired through music, traveling, relationships and life. Also, I plan on continuing to collaborate with Sun Pack AKA Niki Smith who wrote two songs on Mondo Combo and sings on a third, our cover of Propaganda’s “Duel.”
Our fans can expect a new LP from Katie Rush to be released this year as well as the Funkhouser/Mering project, and many of the other projects named above. I just want to thank all our supportive fans that have kept GTVR alive all these years and have given us the ability to keep releasing music. So thanks again, you’re not taken for granted.