Fink is a true master of his musical craft. From his roots in the electronic world to working with talents like Bonobo and John Legend, the talented musician has experienced every level of the music making process. He's now getting ready to conquer something new- blues, and his latest project, Fink's Sunday Night Blues Club, Vol. 1, explores a new world for the legendary artist.
We sat down with the UK-based Fink to learn more about his latest record, working with mainstream singer-songwriters, surviving the music business, and the many sides of music he's faced through the years.
Hi Fink, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us! Your latest album will be out March 10th, and we hear that a majority of the record was recorded in one take. What are the major challenges that you face when you decide to create a record in this manner?
My pleasure mate – I’m in the studio working hard on the new Fink record – so it’s nice to decompress and take a break…. yeah – one take politics! Almost all of my vocals pretty much on everything are done in three…to be honest – doing vocals like this just means a little more preparation – just making sure you can do it and ironing out all the creases before you begin to take. I think, that you can capture the song without thinking too much – it also tends to ensure, in a perfect tuned world, that you’re thinking about your take while you’re doing it, and some of that tension filters into the performance, and therefore onto the record…which is good – the more of you on the record the better…I guess the only major challenge is getting off the “perfection treadmill” – which is liberating and definitely enhances your performance…
Fink's Sunday Night Blues Club, Vol. 1 has been releasing a song every Sunday and creating the feel of a true blues club in the days leading up. In an increasingly digital world, how important was it to cultivate a feeling of inclusiveness and bringing a personal touch for all of your listeners even when everyone is physically separate from one another?
Yeah – I suppose we wanted to create a sense of community kinda harkening back to the old days of record clubs….we do live in an increasingly digital and socially isolated world, and maybe that’s why I made the antithesis of this in my latest record….music, and the making of music, and the creation, and the selling, has been so seismically changed – maybe more than any other creative art, by the digital revolution – something I’m proud to have been part of since the Atari 1040 days…but especially in electronic music, it’s gone from outboard to in-the-box to bollocks in my opinion….the personal touch is everything in art….I realised many many years ago whilst killing myself because I couldn’t make a Squarepusher record or a Shadow record that the only unique piece of equipment in your studio is you - so to be different – you should use that piece of kit more than any other…The Blues is perhaps one of the original DIY music revolutions – so you can’t overthink it, or make it perfect – you really have to just feel it and do it in the most traditional sense…. it’s weird that we are more connected than ever and yet feel more isolation than ever from each other – I guess culturally, as we learn to navigate all this new communicative power we will learn how and when to turn it off – and the studio is the WORST place to check your e-mails – I HATE working with artists who check their phone every 10 minutes…. I check mine on the way to, and on the way back from, my studio environment – when I’m in there it’s all analogue – I don’t even have any clocks…. even knowing the time can ruin a vibe….
A lot of people will know you from your electronic and DJ roots, but you've also worked extensively with everyone from Bonobo to John Legend. What are the major challenges in writing for yourself through your own label R'COUP'D versus writing for another artist?
I don’t think many people will know me from my electronic roots mate! That was toooooooo long ago – I recently taught songwriting and live performance at a university here in Berlin (I quit – too much pressure ;)) and most of my students were just born when I was partying and DJ-ing…I loved that trip hop, d&b, rave, dj’ing time of my life – it was , after all, “the thing” but I remember seeing a Macdonalds advert on a bus that featured a DJ and a skateboarder and just thinking – that’s that – it was fun, and now it’s corrupted…I regularly bump into Bonobo on the live circuit – saw him last week in Berlin do one of his big shows, it was great – it’s awesome to remember where we’ve come from, places like Plastic People and The Blue Note in Hoxton Square all those years ago – there are precious few survivors really in a way from those late nineties days – I guess it’s all down to either your tenacity or your ability to adapt, and lack of success makes people question their motives in different ways…some quit, some don’t - writing for others is something I really explored in the late noughties – I loved it – it was way less pressure, way more collaborative, and fun to jump in and out of other people’s processes….to be honest – I’ve never had a problem writing a song – now writing a good one – that’s a different matter! – but I love studios, and studio time, and the challenge of starting with nothing and leaving the studio 10 hours later with something new – it still drives me every day….writing for your own project is way harder as it has to represent you 100% - and it’s not easy to know yourself – it’s always easier to solve somebody else’s problems instead of your own…
You've been in the music business for years, working with major labels and smaller ones through your time, and undoubtedly you've had your fair share of dealing with roadblocks and stress. There have been major concerns with mental health in the music business lately. How do you keep your concentration on positivity and focus on the music when these moments of stress come into your life?
Because I’ve been on the other side – in the record companies – that’s what makes me a happy artist…. maybe it’s like a prison warden who can leave work every day and truly appreciate freedom – I dunno – but I saw so much failure in my time on the other side that I know how positive it is that I’m making my 6 studio album… I am signed with a record company that was started by musicians as the antithesis to all that major stuff - that’s why my first advance was £1500! – no pressure - and if it doesn’t work out – hey – maybe it will on the next one, or the next one…. on a major y’know – if the first one doesn’t work – you’ve just blown so much dough that either it’s double or quits – or depending on how jacked up your manager made your deal, maybe just quits you know…. positivity isn’t, like, essential y’know…. but belief in yourself and most importantly - the love of what you’re doing just simply for the sake of it is… if you make music because you want a nice car, or a big apartment, then chances are you’re making the wrong music – Pitbull and the Chainsmokers are already destroying you on that one – and do you want to make their kind of music?…. I guess the point I’m making is – they do…. they love it…. they love making massive pop shit, and fair enough too, I think you can feel that…David Guetta doesn’t huff and puff his way through his DJ sets inwardly moaning that he isn’t cool enough…. he loves that shit – and that’s awesome…. good for him… so does Diplo…. they’re having FUN – and that’s their point… FUN makes money…. art doesn’t necessarily get you anything… – I love my art – I also have read some of these articles coming through about mental health and burn out - but mainly these stories and concerns are coming from the dance press…. when I go on tour and I get home after 3 months living on a bus after 70 gigs I’m pretty burnt out too…. but maybe our routing is better, or we’re more disciplined or something…. maybe we aren’t professionally partying 4 nights a week – we don’t go onstage at 6am and play for 4 hours! – that’s for sure – it’s gruelling, and it’s a young man’s game – if you book 7 gigs in a row in seven different countries – man – that’s a lot of flights, a lot of disturbed sleep, and a lot of temptation to enjoy a little help to stay with the party – and ultimately, I think a lot of mental health issues in the dance community arise from that – burn out from greedy planning, thinking like a 16 year old in a 35 year old’s body, and looking at your possessions for self-actualisation instead of the quality of your life…
Finally, we usually like to ask our interviewees what they're up to for the rest of the year, but we'd love to do something different. A lot of our readers tend to be young, and could use some help listening to music of the past. Your career spans 20 years. If we were to dig into your discography, what your records/singles/etc. are your personal standouts?
Because I’m so old right? – I’m afraid most of my early dance records are on wax cylinder – I particularly like this guy Edison – kinda spoken word, really retro – I think he’s using some kind of vinyl plug-in – it’s really scratchy and analogue…. I gotta go now – I need a nap and my quill is getting blunt….
Big love guys - Fin