Newton Faulkner – Interview – Oran Mor – 24/05/12

I enter the room through an old wooden door directly opposite me as the lift doors open – this is strange in itself but on entering the room I find Newton Faulkner messing about with a grammar phone.  It was not what I expected but it was delightful.  He then spent a good ten minutes telling me enthusiastically about this digital grammar phone he had purchased in Dundee and playing mixes of his new track which was actually really impressive.  Both the grammar phone and the track.

Musicians often have reputation of being pretentious and a bit egotistic – which is obviously due to the behaviour of some musicians out there – but Faulkner did not come across like this at all.  If anything he came across as warm and genuine in everything he said.   When he spoke of his new E.P and upcoming album is was more with a tone of passion and excitement than of trying to plug it.

He was happy to talk of other artists,his life in general and even gave me some advice for other writers out there.

All in all Faulkner is a musician right at his core and the genuineness shines through both in his music and personality.

How has the tour been so far for you?

NF: It has probably been by far the hardest tour I have done at all like previously the tour has been enough like I’ve had gigs every night and all I have had to do is focus on that.  I have basically been finishing the album whilst touring so it has been insane.  So I have been coming off stage and listening to mixes. 
The worst night I think I sent my last e-mail at 3.30 and I had played two hours that night. I was knackered. It has been mental but it has been incredibly productive.  The album I think is probably going to be finished today.  I should get the final master through any minute.   I’ll need to listen to that through the grammar phone – eh, that’s amazing. 
How have the fans been reacting to your new material?

NF: The thing with the gigs it has been pleasantly surprising the amount of new stuff people have been allowing me to play cause I wrote my kind of dream set-list and it had most of the album on it and I kind of thought that I would use that as a starting point and I would chisel it down to find peoples new kind of song threshold. Um, and I haven’t changed it.
The new stuff is going down as well if not better in some places, it’s amazing.

I assume that is an amazing feeling?

NF: Most definitively – it’s wicked.

Tell me about your latest E.P Sketches.

NF: It has had no press, like nothing at all and it was taking on the other stuff around it. 

What was the inspiration behind releasing Sketches before the new album?

NF: I guess it was just scratchy demos and ideas that I just chucked together and put out just to get people used to a few new songs.  Another vehicle for getting other tracks out that are not on the album – which I am doing more and more.  
I wrote so much stuff for this album and we kind of chiselled away at it until it was at its most robust.  It is so solid in the form and there are no weak spots it doesn’t dip at any point.  It is really intense like a power album.  I’m really pleased.  There are no holes in it. 
I’ve done very long albums in the past as well.  The second one was two long for me.

VM:  I noticed that Rebuilt by Humans was a particularly long album.

NF:  It’s not far off being an hour long – that’s ridiculous. You shouldn’t really do that.   That was naughty of me.

VM:  At least they were all good songs though.

NF:  But yeah I am really proud of what is on this one.

The album title is Write It on Your Skin – what was your idea behind that.

NF: It came out of the lyrics.  I had the verse for ages.  I wrote the verse and I wrote the whole thing in kinda one…I sang the whole verse, I didn’t think about it.  I wasn’t trying to play anything or write anything.  I just sat down and went *sing’s chorus*.  I kind of rattled off the whole verse and went ‘that was quite good.  I should write that down’.  
I had the verse for so long but I could not find a chorus that would work with it. Em, but the whole thought process came from a conversation I had the night before about going back to being a child but with the knowledge now and how you deal with people – knowing the kind of power you have as a child.  How it would be if you knew how the system worked.
It was kind of based, or loosely based on, starting again with all the knowledge that you have got now and how you approach things differently.

Linking in nicely do you think your song-writing and music has changed since you became a father?

NF: Yeah, I’m sure it has.  It changes part of your brain…hugely. It just gets rid of it kind of seems to, I’m a relatively new father so this phase, but it kind of seems to get rid of selfishness.  It’s not about you anymore.
You’ve got something like that big (shows how big his son is) that relies on you for everything. Any thought of self goes out the window a bit because he is going to want to go to college but it’s weird it kind of I thought it might make me more kind of lenient in terms of stuff that I know would work but doesn’t feel quite right.  It’s done the complete opposite.  I have taken no shit on this album.  I’ve been so brutal with everything and everyone because this is kind of part of my thought process, and I know how irrational this is, but I think that if I let something go on this album that isn’t as good as it could be then someone is going to play it to him in the playground and say -‘this is your Dad – it’s shit.  I’m going to beat you up’ and that is kind of where my head goes.
I guess before if I did something that was close but not quite right the only person it really impacted on was me – like no one else had to live with it or deal with it but now suddenly everything I do and everything that I have done is passed on to this completely helpless tiny thing. So if I do bad things he’ll have to live with. So, I’ve been really brutal.  I’ve caused all sorts of trouble with this album.  It’s been fun.

Was there ever a point when you felt your music career was not going to work out?

NF: It kicked off quite surprisingly and I was just kind of gigging, getting on with it, but I didn’t think the first thing I did would go to number one.  That’s ridiculous. Yeah, I don’t think so. As soon as I got into it I knew I was going to be doing it in some form for a very long time.
Like whatever happens radio is such a tricky target but that you kind of aim at it and hope for the best and if you don’t get it you don’t and if you do then brilliant but the live thing has been so consistent and so good to me that I think I have reached the point now that I could probably tour in variant forms for the rest of my career even if I never released anything.  That’s a really useful nugget of knowledge *Sigh of relief*.  But you can keep pushing yourself and obviously I am pushing myself to write better songs and do other covers and strange pieces of dance music.

Any advice for young writers in regards to writing and writers block?

NF: I had quite a rough time since I first signed the publishing deal – I didn’t write anything for about six months.  Luckily I held back enough material to be able to snake my way through playing stuff that was really old but telling them I had just wrote it.  The hardest bit for me was switching from being completely fun to being a job – it’s such a massive mental leap. 
Sings – ‘This is what I do for fun when no one is about’ and then suddenly you are being paid and you have to do it right now. It just killed it for me. It took me a while to get my head round that one.  So I am being paid to do what I do for fun but now I can’t do it because I am being paid. It was very hard – very annoying.
Advice wise I think just as things get bigger the decisions get trickier and there are all sorts of weird things with people trying to make you do stuff that you don’t want to do.

VM: What Kind of things?
NF: Even down to songs and kind of stuff that you know isn’t the best you can do but has something that makes it really current and someone is like ‘that should be the first thing you release’.

VM:  Is there a lot of pressure like that?
NF: It’s huge, there is loads of stuff. I think it is probably different when you are in a band because the whole band can be like ‘were not doing that’ but it’s just me going ‘I don’t think I want to do that. That’s weird. No to that’. A lone entity (does sad face).

Do you ever wish you did have a band?

NF:  Sometimes I wish I had a band live because literally I would have to do a quarter of the work – playing a drum with one foot, bass with the other foot well doing percussion and playing as much as I possibly can on guitar but it would be seriously easy.
I did try I had a bass player and drummer, it was really fun, and it added a lot of sonic stuff but it took away a couple of things.  I think part of it was the communication thing. When I am completely on my own though I am so free I can stop in the middle of songs and mess around to just do whatever I want but if you have a band then you tend to stick to it a bit more.
But the way things are at the moment the set has been fluctuating from an hour an forty to two hours depending on how random things get. It’s really weird I tend to do the opposite of most people – most people when they get really tired will do a slightly shorter set so they can save themselves for the rest of the tour – when I was at my most tired I did over two hours and I think it was because all my filters had gone. 
Whatever I thought just happened – ‘Oh you shouldn’t really be doing that.  You’ve played nine extra songs’.

Somehow we managed to get on to talking about the band System of a Down.

NF: They’re so good and I feel they are kind of underrated for some reason. I thought they brought a lot to the table and in to a genre that kind of fluctuates from terms of crazy.  It does occasionally dry up a bit and you’re like ‘is that all metals got’. Occasionally something sneaks through and you’re like ‘woah ok that is a new level’ I kind of think that they did that but this was years ago. I always like it when stuff that is a bit weird and a bit left breaks through – it was getting radio play – they were like *sings* “Wake up. Wake up”.

Are there any songs you feel about that way at the moment?

NF: Well that Gotye track that has knocked through that’s quite left.  It’s quite Peter Gabriele and for that to do what it’s done and it kind of wows when something like that happens *sigh* people actually like different things.  They just aren’t being given the option most of the time. 

NF: Pauses to show off his grammar phone enthusiastically to the people working at Oran Mor.

Your music is quite regularly associated with summer would you say this is a fair association and do you enjoy playing your music in an outside environment?

NF: Yeah, I love it.  I probably underestimated how linked I had become with summer.  Actually one thing that really highlighted it for me was when I moved into a new house and I had been there for months but the sun hadn’t shined it had been raining the whole time. I had been walking past the same people in the corridor and as soon as the sun came out someone went ‘Are you Newton Faulkner?’ –  it was like it couldn’t be me if it was raining. 
I think that was part of the trouble we had with the second album because it got pushed back because of my wrist and ended up being released just after summer. I don’t think anyone knows who I am in the winter.
I think the new stuff is still really summery. It’s driving – driving in the summer. Especially this new one even more so that the first. The first one was kind of sitting the background and barbecuing.  This one is slightly more arm out the window.  Which is weird because the first one is kind of a surf album and this one is kind of a driving album.  I can’t do either of those. I should probably write about something I know about like a walking album  or a sitting down album. 

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