- Thu, 2009-08-20 12:42
Following the release of his number one, million-selling debut album Hand Built By Robots, Newton Faulkner returns with his second installment, Rebuilt By Humans. After an accident in France left him with a broken wrist at the start of 2009, Newton has battled through to produce yet another fantastic collection of songs, showcasing for the second time around his expert songwriting, spine tingling voice and incredible guitar mastery.
I Like Music caught up with the lovely Newton to chat about the new album, how it came together, social experiments, his new cover plans and why he's happiest when he's confused.
"I Like Music because… I'm absolutley rubbish at everything else.” Newton Faulkner
ILM: How would you describe the vibe of Rebuilt By Humans?
Newton: A lot has changed. A lot has happened in the last two years. I think moving to London has actually effected the sound more than I thought. It does sound a bit more city-ish. When I did the first one I was still living with my parents out in the middle of nowhere in a quiet little country town. Then I moved near to London Bridge for the whole recording. It’s definitely had an effect on it, going from no people for miles to a thousand people on your doorstep.
ILM: Do you think that had an effect on your process of making music as well?
Newton: Obviously there was a bit of a bump when I broke my wrist! That slowed things down, it changed my writing style. I couldn’t play normally for a good few months.
ILM: That must have been quite frustrating for you?
Newton: It was as much frustrating as it was interesting. I’d been experimenting with limiting myself before that. With the track If This Is It, I’d had a really intense guitar-y day the day before, so the next day I decided not to play guitar and to just use these foot pedal things. They’re like the foot pedals from a big organ. That song was written just with those and nothing else. I did that in order to not get carried away with elements of the music and to just focus on the melody.
ILM: Do you approach a lot of songs in a pre-empted, creative way like that?
Newton: I enjoy the science and social experimentation thing. Mostly because it’s quite fun. You know, let’s try and write a song with just one note to see what happens. I really get into that now and again because it does open up your mind to different ways around things. Also, lyrically I’m much happier with this album.
ILM: How come?
Newton: Lyrically it’s really about something. The first album was quite ‘stream-of-consciousness’ in the sense that one song wasn’t about one thing, it was just about loads of stuff. This one is a bit more structured. I can talk for a long time about what the songs are about, with the first one I shied away from that.
ILM: Which songs had the biggest effect upon you?
Newton: The one that was hardest was a song called So Much, which I have been writing for years. It’s taken about four and a half years to finish. It is strange, because Ageing Superhero from the first album was written in literally the time it takes to sing it. I just wrote it in one chunk. There are a lot of things I have started and then had to back away from as I’ve been a bit too close to the subject matter. So Much is about a guy called Eric Roach who only taught me guitar for two years, but we became really good friends. He must have died quite a long time ago now, it must have been four and a half years. The song is just about him and the impact he had on the stuff that I do. He had a huge influence on my playing, bigger than anyone else, and he didn’t get to see any of this......
ILM: You’re a very accomplished guitarist indeed. Do you have a big collection of guitars? Do you have a favourite?
Newton: My favourite is definitely my oldest one. They’re all hand built, I get all my guitars handmade by one guy, I really like his work. He’s called Nick Benchman, he lives down in Lewis in an amazing building. He’s on the bottom floor and directly opposite him is an opera singer who makes pottery; she just makes pottery and sings opera all day. Which is brilliant! On the floor above him is a guy who makes medieval instruments, and above him is a guy who makes Spanish Classical Guitars! It’s like a massive craft building! It’s in an old brewery, it’s fantastic.
ILM: You’ve become known for your wonderful cover versions! Have you got anymore in the pipe line?
Newton: Playing covers is a good way to loosen people up. It’s quite a relaxing, comforting thing to hear something you know really well. Especially if you can do it in a really odd way. Recently I’ve been working on Blackstreet’s No Diggity...
ILM: Really! Incredible! You must listen to the Dublin Gospel Choir version of No Diggity! It’s on spotify...
Newton: Ok, Ok! I’ll listen, but you have to hear Bill Cosby’s version of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club. I’ll listen if you do...
ILM: Haha! Of course! Have you always been passionate about music?
Newton: I had drum lessons when I was really young. I did Grade 3! I did drums for a bit and piano for a bit. Badly too. I was a terrible drummer. I was and still am a terrible piano player.
ILM: That surprises me...
Newton: I find it really confusing! The reason I find it really confusing is that it makes too much sense! Which is weird. I find it really strange that you can see how everything should link up. It’s just a repeated block of notes whereas the guitar is a complete mess. I like that. Plus I use loads of odd tuning and I tune my guitar in lots of strange ways. That kind of means it makes even less sense.
ILM: Purposefully confusing yourself...
Newton: Yup. I’m happiest when I’m confused.
ILM: Out of all the live gigs you've seen, which have been the most memorable?
Newton: Someone had told me to go, I knew it was going to be good, but Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds completely blew my mind live! They were amazing! I saw them at Latitude. It was the best thing I’ve seen for an incredibly long time! If anyone gets the chance to see them, they should definitely go!
ILM: Seeing other artists live must be incredibly inspiring, particularly when it comes to developing your own live show?
Newton: Oh yeah, you take bits from all over the place. My live show has been fairly, squarely based on a mixture of two things. When it’s me on my own without too much gear then it’s a mixture between Bobby McFerrin and The Flaming Lips live. I’m not saying that’s what it was or what it was close to. Just, that was what I was aiming for, somewhere between those two. Flaming Lips are probably the best live act in the world. They are incredible. And Bobby McFerrin is amazing in a completely different way, an improvisational, one guy on his own messing around thing that I really enjoy.
ILM: What can we expect from your new live show?
Newton: My new live show is getting strange! We’re looking at using some more visual things...
ILM: Out of all the gigs you've played, which have been the most memorable for you?
Newton: The first time I played the Union Chapel. That was a massive one for me because I was on between Lily Allen and, yeah, just after Coldplay! I hadn’t done anything at that point. I’d been on the radio a bit and just done one tour! It was really serious. The fact that it went well too! Haha! The Isle of Wight Festival was fantastic. It’s still up there with some of my best shows. It’s the biggest gig I’ve ever done and it went really well! It just had such a nice vibe around it.
ILM: What would be your advice to any budding musicians?
Newton: It seems to be constantly changing at the moment, the climate has changed since I started doing the record deal stuff. I don’t know really... I still think gigs are the centre of everything. If you can connect with people live then just do that as much as possible. My whole thing has just been built off lots of gigs. I still meet a lot of people who don’t like me recorded at all, but will come to almost any gig if it is within 400 miles! It’s interesting, the differences between. But yeah, if you can put on a good gig then do that as much as possible.
ILM: What's your response to those people who like you live, but don't like you recorded?
Newton: I completely understand it. I’m always analysing myself. I’m trying to work out if I’d like me recorded. If I heard myself on the radio not being me, what I’d think of me.....It’s strange. I had to stop thinking about it actually...
ILM: Maybe there is a way to transfer your live sound more honeslty to record?
Newton: I feel like it has done a lot more on this record actually. I think we’ve got a lot closer sort of vocally and guitar wise. There are a lot more sounds in general on this album. Last time I didn’t get involved in any of the programming. I didn’t do anything. I wasn’t very hands on with any of the synths. This time I got rrreeeaaallly into it! Just spending all day playing with a space ship! It really appealed to the nerd!
ILM: What were some of the things you learnt through those experiments?
Newton: I was playing with a lot of old equipment. A lot of old synths. Like the Jupiter-8! I spent a whole day messing around with that. There’s lots of melodica on there too.
ILM: The melodica is fantastic!
Newton: Yeah! I really got into it! It’s a weird instrument. You can do a lot of interesting things with it.
ILM: Maybe you should swap your guitar for a melodica?
Newton: Well, you can’t sing and play the melodica at the same time. And you can sort of only do one note.
ILM: Well, maybe just play it and add in a little dance. Hopping from side to side perhaps?
Newton: I could definitely do that. Though I’m not sure it’s what people want to see....Haha!