The Banjo Mechanics began in 1995 when Ian Pattison and Lewis Melville laid their banjos down on the highway and successfully subdued a herd of stampeding tractor-trailers. A recorded version of the event was included in the DROG “Truck Songs” compilation. The playing didn’t stop there…
In 2001, Ian and Lewis performed open-heart surgery on the 5-string with an assortment of power tools (many early morning jam sessions) and released an audio recording of the operation known as ‘Workitis’.
Since then, the Banjo Mechanics have continued to be Canadian Banjo prospectors and as of 2014 released their first full-length album, ‘JLP’.
Ian Pattison is a luthier, banjo player and drummer from Guelph Ontario and he loves music – the playing, writing, learning and equally important the sculpting of instruments…essential for the journey that he has travelled.
Ian’s studio of stringed instruments has been 40 plus years in the making and includes not just the status quo….but pieces that are unique and ‘one of a kind’. A touch point that Ian seems to so easily work into each piece that leaves his shop.
“Seeing and hearing an instrument that I have crafted find its voice through its new owner is for me a feeling beyond description. My curiosity and broad taste in music have allowed me the freedom to build a variety of instruments and I enjoy the challenges each one presents.”
This too is reflected in his taste in music which encompasses a broad spectrum and is reflected not only in the diversity of instruments he builds but as well the music that he plays.
Banjos have especially been close to Ian’s heart since he was a young boy, listening to his Uncle strumming folk songs on a four-string banjo. He’s been playing banjo since 1974 and while he has more than several at his fingertips at home it’s the first one that he built in 1980 that is still the primary instrument he plays to this day.
Over the last few decades Ian has had the pleasure of jamming with many fine musicians such as Steven Page, Jah Youssouf, Tony Trishka, Jamie Stone, Chris Quinn, the Meteors, Tannis Slimmon and host of others.
Ian keeps and has kept a busy schedule over the years playing the banjo and his drums. Bands that he has played in include Rocket Radio, Los Albianos, Bepop Amoeba, the Hoofbeats, the Exceptions, the Sam Turton Band and of course the Banjo Mechanics.
Considered by many to be one of Canada’s top banjo makers, he has handcrafted conventional and unusual instruments for artists as diverse as the Great Lake Swimmers and Mali’s Jah Youssouf for almost four decades. He himself is a player with a strong foundation in bluegrass technique; he is nonetheless dedicated to extending the range of banjo performance beyond the conventional.
Lewis Melville is a Guelph, Ontario, musician, composer, producer, visual artist, and multi-instrumentalist. As a teenager in small town Ontario he was introduced to “live” banjo music at barn dances and by visiting Barton’s Inn in New Dundee, a club which showcased the top Canadian and American bluegrass groups of the day.
He ordered his first banjo (a custom-made archtop 5-string) from local instrument maker Jake Neufeld in 1978 and has been playing, recording, and composing on banjo ever since. His role as a producer and musician has taken him around the world to countries like India, Cambodia, Bhutan, always with banjo in hand.
His work with Malian (West Africa) musicians Jah Youssouf and Mansa Sissoko is featured in a documentary film “The Road to Balaya” by award winning Canadian film producer Bay Weyman.
A long time advocate and performer of alternative pop, country roots, and experimental music, his banjo and pedal steel playing can be heard in unexpected places, including on recordings by many well-known Canadian bands (Skydiggers, barenaked ladies, Cowboy Junkies, Grievous Angels, Kim Stockwood, the Waltons, 13 engines, the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, Tannis Slimmon, Rheostatics, the Woodshed Orchestra, Jah Youssouf, and others).
He has four albums under his own name and currently performs with the Banjo Mechanics, contemporary folk artist Tannis Slimmon, the Hoofbeats, free music pioneers the Vertical Squirrels, Toronto’s freak-out improv orchestra the Woodchoppers Association, and as a solo artist. Lewis currently plays Pattison banjos (including a bass 5-string banjo adapted from a 16 inch Slingerland floor tom).