Below you can find answers to a bunch of questions about MESS. Click on the relevant section below to jump to it's FAQs.
What is MESS?
MESS is the Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the preservation, support and promotion of all forms of electronic music making. The center of MESS is the collection of over 300 electronic sound and music machines which are made available to our members.
The key aims of MESS are:
- To document, support and encourage electronic sound and music creation in all its forms.
- To gather and sustain the history of electronic sound creation centred around the collection and maintenance of electronic sound instruments and devices.
- To make all electronic sound devices held in the MESS collection accessible for use to the widest range of people possible as creative and educational tools. To maintain these instrument for use by subsequent generations.
- To educate people regarding the history, technique and process of the creation of electronic sound and music. To promote and stimulate interest in electronic sound and music by engaging and educating young people via schools and community organisations.
- To ensure and encourage cultural diversity in the people who interact with the organisation and to reflect the unique impact of Australian culture on electronic sound creation.
- To support, promote and advocate for electronic music artists who interact with the organisation.
Where is MESS?
MESS is currently located in an old glass-blowers workshop at the Metropolitan Meat Markets complex in North Melbourne, Australia. See our location details.
Who is MESS?
MESS is directed by Robin Fox and Byron Scullin. The organisation is administered by Kellie-Jayne Chambers. We have a highly glamorous and talented staff of studio monitors who help our members use the machines in the collection and oversee the day-to-day running of the studio. We also have a nebulous cloud of genius synth technicians who we call on to maintain the machines in the collection.
How can I get involved with MESS?
The best way to become involved with MESS is to become a member. You can also support us via a donation. Currently we don’t have any formal arrangement for volunteer assistance but we’re hoping to add a volunteer program in the future. To stay in touch, follow us on your preferred social media sitch (bottom of the page), or join the mailing list.
I live outside of Melbourne (and Australia), but I’d like to be involved. What’s the deal for someone like me?
This is something we’re thinking about and we don’t have a great solution just yet. You can always donate to support us, but please don’t take out a membership as you might be taking the place of a local person who could make more use of it. If you are coming to Melbourne and want to visit and possibly work at the studio, just drop us a line and we’ll see if we can figure something out.
I don’t know anything about making electronic sound and music. Can I still be involved with MESS?
Yes! MESS is for the curious and the keen to learn and experiment. You’re more than welcome to dive right in once you're a member. We’ll have people working in the studio to offer some basic guidance and support. We are aiming to have some introductory members-only workshops up and running by mid-2016 before we start to offer more formal courses in 2017. We can also point members in the direction of some literature and online media to get them going.
What are the MESS opening hours?
The studio is open most weeks of the year from Wednesday to Sunday. We are open from 1pm till 10pm each day. Each day is divided into two 4 hour sessions. The afternoon session is from 1pm to 5pm and the evening session is from 6pm till 10pm.
How do I get to MESS?
Here's the details. We are within easy access to tram and bus services. MESS is located in North Melbourne at the end of Dowling Place (off Wreckyn Street).
Can I visit MESS?
Currently, only members and their guests can attend MESS via a session booking. Please don’t show up to the studio unannounced and expect to get in - we have limited capacity, even for our members. We hope in the future to have visiting hours for guests and you can always contact us to potentially arrange a time to pay a visit to the studio.
Can I donate machines and equipment to MESS?
Yes, MESS is open to donations of machines, equipment and parts. However, due to space limitations and our already substantial collection, we will be selective in what we are able to take. If we can’t take your donation, we may well be able to put you in touch with a place that will.
I have an old synth that needs fixing. Can MESS help me fix my machines?
MESS is not a synth repair service and our priority is to maintain our own machines for our members. In future we plan to expand MESS by offering a public workshop facility as well as education and training on how to maintain, repair and build their own machines. We are calling this program MESS Schematic, but it’s a few years away from getting off the ground.
MESS looks amazing. I want to work for you guys! Can I?
We’re open to hearing from people who might like to work for us. You can submit your details and a resume here. Just so you know however, we are more likely to offer work to our members first.
I am studying to attain a qualification and I want to intern or do work experience at MESS. Can I?
Right now the answer to this is no, unfortunately. Administering interns and work experience people actually takes a bit of time and effort to make it a worthwhile experience for everyone, so we’re currently not able to take on people in this capacity. We’re pretty busy working at growing MESS and making it better. We hope to offer intern placements in the near future.
What is in the MESS collection?
Over 300 (and growing) unique electronic instruments spanning the entire history of electronic sound and music production. Check it out.
Where did you get all the machines in the collection?
The MESS collection is made up from several privately held collections that are being made available to MESS members and as a part of MESS projects. As an organisation one of the big things that MESS oversees is the process and requirements involved in giving people access to the machines. If you are a collector and would like to get involved in supporting MESS - get in touch.
Are ALL the machines in the collection available to the members?
MESS does not currently have the means to house and grant access to the entire collection. We wish we did! Instead the machines available at MESS will rotate every 6 months - in Autumn and Spring. We hope in the future to have a way for MESS Members to have an influence on what machines will be made available. In the long term our plan is to make as many machines as possible available to our members.
It’s important to note that membership to MESS does not grant members the right to access any machine in the collection as they wish - access is limited to what is in the studio. It is possible for members to request specific machines for special projects, but this can only be done via application, and is at the discretion of the MESS directors and/or the collectors.
What are the current machines in the collection?
See the current lineup of machines that are available in the studio. Members will be able to have a say in influencing what goes into each collection.
Can I hire/loan equipment from MESS?
Unfortunately, no. MESS has a complex set of arrangements regarding the housing, storage and care of the collection which preclude us from allowing the machines to leave the studio. There are rare and exceptional cases where we might support specific projects with unique access to certain pieces in the collection. If you think this might apply to your project you can contact us to discuss it, but only if you are a member.
How do I become a member of MESS?
Head here to purchase a membership. Currently we are limited to 500 members. Be sure to read the terms and conditions before you join.
Who can become a MESS member?
Anyone 18 years or over can become MESS member.
What does a membership cost?
A 1 year membership to mess costs $220 AUD. Fun fact: Did you know at one stage the Australian Dollar might have been called the Dinkum? So in that case a membership is 220 Dinkums.
What do I get as a MESS member?
MESS membership is the only way to access to the MESS collection of instruments housed in the member studio. It will also get you discounted access to MESS courses, events and content. It’s our aim to continually add as much value as we can to MESS memberships as we grow and expand.
What do you do with the money you raise from my membership fee?
MESS is a not for profit organisation. All money raised goes towards MESS running costs and programming. We aim to keep our membership updated with our financial status.
Can we join MESS as a group, organisation, band, etc?
At this stage memberships are limited to individuals but members can bring a single guest to their sessions. We hope to introduce group memberships at some point in the future.
Now that I’m a member…..what next? Let me at the machines!
To get access to the studio you will need to book a session via our web-site. The booking system will go live from Wednesday 23rd March. The studio will open for sessions on Wednesday 6th April.
Can I support MESS without being a member?
Of course! At the moment your financial support would be most helpful. You can donate here. From time to time we may also need volunteer assistance. In this case we would call out via social media and our mailing list for your help.
If I’m not based in Melbourne or Australia, is there any point in being member?
The primary aim of membership is to provide physical access to the instruments in the collection. So maybe it’s not the best allocation of your resources. Feel free to support the organisation by donating to MESS.
If there are no memberships left what can I do?
We want to know if you would have become a member! Depending on how things go in the first few months, we may release more memberships. Please join the mailing list, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter to stay up to date.
What is the MESS studio?
The membership studio is a long semi-underground shared workshop space. At one end we house the machines (on shelving and at workstations for the larger machines) and a communal bench/work area. At the other end are 12 “hot desks” where people can set up and work with the machines and their recording set-ups. Sixteen membership bookings is the maximum capacity per session.
How does the studio work?
Okay - this answer is on the long side, so strap in.
It’s important to know that the member studio is an open plan shared space and has a maximum capacity for 16 bookings per session. When members make a session booking they nominate a date, time and machine they would like to work with. This machine is then reserved for their session.
MESS has been designed around the way the majority of people make electronic music today - that is using a laptop and audio interface. So when members come to a session we expect that most will bring their own headphones and laptop set-up. Members can also bring a handheld recording device (like a Zoom, or phone with a recording input) or some other form of portable recording set-up. We will have a limited number of small audio consoles to assist people who will need some kind of mixer to use with their device.
Upon arrival members check in with the studio supervisor to confirm their booking and be signed in. Members then remove any large hand/wrist jewelry as well as wash their hands. Why? A lot of the machines in the collection while old, are in superb condition and we want to keep them that way. So a scratch from the edge of a chunky ring, or the dirt and corrosion that can accumulate from hands is something we want to avoid. This little ritual is also designed to remind members that using these machines is something special, and we all play a part in keeping them in great working condition.
The studio supervisor carries the machine (members help with heavier machines) from the shelves to a desk in the space, or in the case of the larger machines, helps to get set-up at a workstation. Many machines will also come with a little kit of specific cables and accessories needed to use them. There are also plenty of generic cables (both signal and data) for members to use. We also have physical or virtual copies of manuals for all the devices in the studio. The virtual manuals are stored on the MESS server which members are able to access, along with a wealth of other resources relating to electronic sound and music.
Members are then free to work away for their 4 hour session. We recommend recording everything for the entire time people work, so they never miss a sound. When the session is finished, the machine, it’s kit and cables are packed away with the supervisor confirming everything is returned correctly to it’s place. The supervisor can also fill out a report sheet if for some reason the machine appeared to not be functioning correctly.
What happens if I think a machine breaks when I’m using it? Will I be responsible for the cost of fixing it?
We understand that the 2nd law of thermodynamic is totally a thing. If you use stuff, stuff will wear out and get broken. If you’re treating the machine well and with respect and something strange happens, just call over the studio supervisor and they will help you out. We have a whole deal about reporting and fixing problems - it’s something we’ve planned for. In this case you won’t be responsible for any problems that occur from regular use.
However, some people can be real idiots. You know the kind? They treat other people's stuff in a disrespectful way and then don’t acknowledge it when you point it out to them. And they say stuff like, “I can’t help that the 2nd law of thermodynamic is totally a thing!” even though they were slamming a slider, or working that knob a little too vigorously. If you’re like us, you totally want to give people like this a wide berth.
If you are one of these people and the studio supervisor sees that you’re not treating a machine with respect then you can probably expect some punitive measures. Better read those terms and conditions - because people like that will get the door, for good.
Who can book and use the studio?
Only MESS members can book and use the studio space
What is involved in booking the studio?
The booking system is online and will be available from March 23rd.
Does it cost money to book the studio?
$44 AUD per session. Each session is fixed at 4 hours.
How much time can I book?
Each session is fixed at 4 hours and is charged at a flat rate. See below ("Can I book multiple sessions in a row? Can I block book weekly sessions.") for information on multiple session bookings.
How far ahead can I book a session?
We allocate sessions 2 weeks in advance. If you need to lock in a session ahead of this window, please get in touch and we’ll do our best to help you out.
Can I book multiple sessions in a row? Can I block book weekly sessions.
Generally no, unless you have a compelling reason and have talked to us first about it. For example, some members might live out of town and want to hit MESS for the day. No problem, just give us a heads up and we’ll make sure your booking will stay.
Can I book a particular machine?
Members are able to select one machine from a list when they book their session.
Can I use more than one machine?
Yes, you just can't book more than one machine. Part of the fun is using odd combinations of machines. By booking one you can secure your central tool for the session but all other unbooked machines will be available to you.
Can I record what I make at MESS?
Yes, check out “How does the studio work?” for more details.
Can I do whatever I want with what I record at MESS?
Tough question, thanks for asking. Generally, yes. We’re not going to go through some process of making all our members sign some boring contracts obliging them to give us a cut of their eventual success. Chill, lawyers. Maybe it’s a #1 hit, maybe it’s a killer sample library, maybe it’s a soundtrack to a huge game or film. If you make it big and MESS played a part, all we ask is that you don’t forget us. We figure that if you love what we’re doing and we play a part in you doing something great, that you’ll be happy to put something back into MESS to keep it awesome and make it better. We built MESS on the fact that we all got to where we are because of good people cutting us a break and giving us a hand. In summary, all we ask is that you think about it and do the right thing.
What should I bring to a session?
Check out, “How does the studio work?”.
Can I bring friends/partners/enemies in?
MESS members can bring one guest with them per session subject to our maximum capacity. If all sixteen members booking in a session want to bring a guest we may have a problem. This guest will have to be working with the member that bought them. Guests cannot set-up and work on their own - that is a privilege for members only. Members are responsible for their guests as per the membership terms and agreements. This means that the actions of guests at MESS will effect your membership status if something untoward happens. Bring your granny, she’ll love it.