Es war Hamburgs schönstes Schietwetter am Interviewtag. Der Rheinländer würde das Wort ‚usselig‘ benutzen. Die Fabrik war aber schon nachmittags um vier ordentlich aufgewärmt, damit abends in der ausverkauften Hütte auch wirklich niemand friert. Ich habe ausnahmsweise nichts dagegen gehabt. Ich sitze mit Fin zusammen, der ebenfalls noch fröstelt, um über das aktuelle Album, das Älterwerden und die Zukunft seiner Band zu sprechen... und heißes Wasser mit Zitrone zu trinken.
You moved to Germany a couple of months ago…
Yes! I moved to Berlin in February. It’s great! It’s my kind of town, man!
And, given the fact that you’re from Britain, you’re used to cold weather…
Haha! Yeah! But one of the best kept secrets about Berlin is that the weather is fantastic! The summers are hot and long! But I spend my life travelling. So, it’s really just a place where I keep my vinyl and books. It’s not more than that, really.
You still have real books! We’re old!
Yes, I still carry around books wherever I go. These electronic gadgets? No way! You keep books and they become reminders of – uhm – you! A 'Kindle' isn’t a reminder of you! Books live and age.
Like we do. Unfortunately. I heard you say earlier that it would be a natural progression to move from electronic music to more bluesy rock music the older you get. Is that what you think and what comes after this? Jazz music is always a last resort, I guess?
Definitely! Yes! It’s very difficult there, in Clubland, where you see a 46 year old DJ in a club and the audience is 20…. It’s different when you play a lot of retro records and oldschool stuff. Some old DJs are fucking great! Sven Väth for example. He’s fucking great! And he’s what? 53, I think! After that, you have a useful exuberance, which is clubbing, and then – in my case – music. And gigging. And then afterwards, I guess it’s production and songwriting. Soundtracks and stuff like that. But never jazz! (Laughing) I love jazz! But to play it, it’s a little bit of an obsession and I am not obsessed. I love listening to it though. But being bothered to learn how to play it…? Nah.
With my terrible skills at the drums, it’s always gonna be free jazz for me. Such a great label for just doing whatever…
You play the drums! That’s great! At the show tonight, you’ll see two great drummers! Fabian, who’s playing drums for the supporting act, DOUGLAS DARE. Douglas is a really cool singer/songwriter from the UK. His drummer Fabian is really new and really interesting. Crazy new shapes, really great new stuff! And Timmy, our drummer, is a multi-instrumentalist. He plays the acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and drums. He’s really got a unique technique as a drummer.
I personally prefer the live versions of your music in comparison to the records. When I saw the youtube video of “Looking To Closely” from the KCRW session, I literally stopped breathing. I’ve never seen you perfom live so far. So, I’m really looking forward to it!
Wow. Cool! That was such a great session at KRCW! I like live stuff better, too. Especially with singer/songwriter stuff. The recording thing and the album is about other agendas in play. But live it’s more about what it’s like in its rawest and truest form. And live, there’s a lot of emotion in it, for sure.
When you’re writing lyrics, you’re probably writing them alone, right? Or does the band actually contribute to writing the lyrics, too?
Yeah. I write the lyrics alone and then the band comes out and help me a little bit with ideas and different takes on it. It’s like, I write a first verse and send it out to Timmy and Guy and they send me back another seven verses. And from that seven verses, I might get a line or a word. Any help to get to the finish line. Other songs just happen in the morning – when I have a very firm grip on what I want to say. Like in “Looking Too Closely”: I knew what I wanted to write about. Also with “Shakespeare”. I had these three scenarios and I really knew what to do with those songs. The lyrics is always the hardest bit. The music is the easy bit.
It’s easy to write for other people, though! I do a lot of writing for other people and that is really easy. For me. Because you’re not thinking about representing yourself. It’s just the question of ‘what it rhymes with’ – in a way.
Does it make a difference who you’re writing for? Do you have song and then say ‘this is for that person’ or do you rather meet with a person and then write a song for them?
Occasionally, I write a song that doesn’t make it for FINK and then I pass it to someone else. Usually I am in a room with someone else – usually one of these pop acts – and the lyrics have to be age appropriate, career appropriate, and.. you know.. not too mature. Sometimes not too intelligent; not too thoughtful. It depends on what the agenda is. I work with really credible artists, with really popular artists. The guy who was on American Idol one time – Philipps, a great guy – and he had to write really good music but had to have a kind of mass appeal to it, you know? So, every writing job is totally different. But when you write for your own projects, it represents YOU. So, you have to stand by every lyric, every line. Some songs of the new album, we’re not playing live. They just didn’t make the cut. When you write all the tracks you don’t know which ones are gonna make it to the stage. They’ll all have to be like ‘I’m gonna sing this one every night for a year. You have to fucking like it!
Are you constantly working on new material or are you only writing when you’re actually about to go into the studio?
When you’re touring you don’t have much time to think about writing. I’m doing a lot of production for other people and other projects while I’m here. Other people don’t stop just because you’re on tour. I have a mobile studio with me on tour. It’s different mind sets, to be honest. There’s a writing mind set. A recording mind set. And a touring mind set. They are all so different. I couldn’t write a song on the road. Not the lyrics, anyway. The music – yes, maybe. Because we’re getting together and jamming. When I’m writing lyrics I am in such a different space and become such a different person. And when you’re in recording mode, it’s all indulging. It’s all about finding out how you feel perfect for the track, which isn’t necessarily feeling great. I record the best tracks when I’m really hungry and really exhausted. It’s a totally different experience. Touring is much more level. It’s just about surviving physically. We’ve now been on tour since May and we’ll be on tour until at least next August.
Timmy (the drummer) joins us, bringing hot tea with lemon. Very British. Very charming, indeed.
Fin:We haven’t announced all the dates, yet. But we’re having Europe part II in spring and then America part II. We literally came off the American tour and right into this one now.
How is it in the U.S. for you guys?
Fin: It’s great, man! It’s not as advanced as it is in Europe but it’s advanced enough to be good! It’s a big place and you gotta work it. In between the glamour gigs between New York, LA, and Montreal, you gotta do the less glamorous gigs. Kinda like you do in Europe. I can’t remember all the venues we’ve done in Hamburg but we’ve definitely gone from Prinzenbar (which we played loads) to Bunker to here. Europe’s easier because we can just fly here. America is much more complicated with work visas and flights.
There are places in the U.S. where it is really difficult for European bands because the local bands are so good that they really boo you off the stage when you’re not giving 100%
Fin: Yeah! Boston, Seattle…
Tim: But we never got boo’ed off a stage!
Fin: Well American bands – because it is so much bigger – have done so many more gigs. When they come to England, they’ve done 500 gigs. An English band on their American band have done 50 and they’re still pretty shitty. Unless they’re super fashion.
Tim: They go to New York and they’ll be full of ‘Brilliant! We’ve made it in America!’ and then they’ll do a gig in – let’s say uhm – Philadelphia. And they’ll be like ‘Ah.. SHIT! That’s what it’s really like…’!
How do you guys practice or do you practice at all – given that you all live in different places…?
Tim: We practice for the thing that we’re doing. So when a tour’s coming up, we do a bunch of rehearsals. Unfortunately, we don’t tend to rehearse habitually. It’s a shame. Because we all live in different places. Not only now. Even in Britain, we all lived in different towns. We just never had that spot where we could regularly congregate.
Fin: On the latest record, we got together in Amsterdam and L.A. We got together in London. We’d book a studio for a week and hang out, jam up songs. That’s cool and gets us all out of our home environments. We did the same with “Perfect Darkness”, in a way. We did that all in my house.
Tim:The closest thing we ever had to a kind of headquarter was Fin’s house.
Fin: We’ve done 5 albums and 2 live records. We kind of know what we need to do to get into the space physically and emotionally. So when we do book creative time, we know. We’re not gonna waste it. When we get a week in the studio, we’re not fucking around. We know what we wanna get out of it. It’s sometimes just one chorus in a week. Like the day I finished the chorus for “Looking Too Closely”, I knew that that was a great week’s work. Just that one line in that song. In the past, I would’ve beaten myself up for not doing it faster. Today, if we can get one good track or one line or one good chorus in a week: that’s wicked! That’s brilliant! A chorus could change your life!
FINK definitely developed over the last couple of records but is there anything that you’re still planning on doing that is totally different from what you did so far?
Fin: Some people think that the current album is radically different from what we’ve done before. But “Distance And Time” sounds like “Perfect Darkness” in a way, considering the attitude. “Biscuits For Breakfast” and “Sort of Revolution” are more like ‘What can we do?’. “Sort Of Revolution” is the most violent, fragmented record. It had a dub track on it and a funk track on it and a psyche track on it and a RnB track on it. We were kind of shooting in all directions and trying all sorts of things. It’s my fault.
Tim: (to Fin): I think I remember you once said that those two records would’ve made great demos in a way.
Fin: Yeah. They would’ve been great EPs.
Tim: And B-sides. But then “Distance And Time” and “Perfect Darkness” were complete works. Also, because they were all done in the same place. And that’s quite important!
Fin:We’re thinking about self-producing the next one but using what we’ve learned from the first experiences. And it won’t take a year and half like the first ones and it won’t take six months like the third one. It will take four weeks or something. We learned not to overthink that process. The song will literally tell you what to do. Timmy is a great penknife for lots of things. Not only is he drumming and doing percussion but he is also a great rhythm guitarist. With a vast knowledge of riffs from the past, which is really great!
‘Riffs From The Past’ – Sounds like a great album title!
Fin: He’s a riff-library! He can reference riffs to different bands.
Tim: But not really that far back. The 80’s and 90’s stuff. But to get back to our development: What I’ve definitely learned is that we cannot go more rocky than on “Hard Believer” without completely departing. But you can get extremeness from other things. You don’t have to be bashing the shit out of the drums to get extremeness. Like some of the stuff we’ve done recently. Remixes! There is extremeness there. And I always thought it would be great to be a bit more electronic as well. To go slightly back to that but keep the kind of guitar thing.