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Newton Faulkner

 

Newton Faulkner

“I still want to be Batman”

With his fourth album now in stores, Newton Faulkner’s name is on everyone’s lips. By installing cameras in his house, the musician let fans observe the production of his new album, Studio Zoo. Mayhem! talked to the solo artist about his career to date – and what the future might bring.

You learned to play guitar at 13. Did you always know that music was what you wanted to do or were there other career paths you almost followed?
I pretty much switched straight from wanting to be Batman to wanting to do music. Still want to be Batman a little bit.

Who was your idol when you were younger?
Apart from the one I’ve already mentioned. I grew up on my parents’ record collection, so I was listening to everything from Joni Mitchel and Neil Young to Steppenwolf and ELO. It was a bit later on when I got into Eric Roche, Thomas Leeb and Nick Harper, the last two of which feature on the new album, which completely blows my tiny ginger mind.

You studied music in Guildford under the tuition of Eric Roche. How big of an influence was he on your career and getting you to where you are today?
Huge, he not only effected my playing but my whole approach to music itself, he was a good friend. I feel very lucky our time there overlapped.

Who has given you the most support throughout your career?
My parents have always been amazing and I write with my brother and my sister’s my manager, so my whole family have been awesome.

Why did you choose red dreadlocks as part of your image?
It was a very long time ago and, to be honest, I can’t really remember. I started dreading my hair and playing guitar at around the same time so the two seem intrinsically linked.

You have been a solo artist for a long time now, but you started in a couple of bands. At what point did you feel you’d be better off as a solo artist?
I loved being in bands growing up and learned a huge amount about playing live, but I think it’s that the guitar playing style is so all encompassing, it gets a bit confusing if you add other things and suddenly it becomes very hard to work out what sounds are coming from where. Whereas when it’s just me there, you can see exactly what’s going on.

How did it feel when Hand Built By Robots gained the success it did and had you ever believed it would happen when producing the album?
Not in the slightest, I don’t think anyone involved had any idea it would go on to do what it did. It was completely insane… still haven’t stopped for long enough to take in what happened there and now album four’s coming out!

Your second album is called Rebuilt By Humans. What’s the link between this title and your wrist injury?
Just before I was due to start recording, I slipped on some ice and fractured my radius on my right wrist, which is bad. I didn’t realise quite how bad until I was on the news with the surgeon who fixed me and when asked how bad it was, he described it as “a career-ending injury” to which I responded, “WHAT!? This is not what you said at the time!”

You collaborated with many people for your third album Write It On Your Skin, which is something you didn’t do for the first two albums. How did you experience going back to working on music with other people rather than being solo?
I’ve always written with other people, there’s a huge amount to be learnt from it. I’ve also always written with my brother increasingly over the years, and Studio Zoo is pretty much just the two of us, there’s only two co-written tracks outside of that. I love writing on my own but if I play something to him and he has really good ideas, it seems stupid to ignore him.

It’s been said that at gigs you ask the audience what they want you to play. How important is it to you to involve your fans in performances instead of just playing to them?
I enjoy involving the audience and fans in general in every part of the process. The other reason I play on my own and not with a band is that you can take a crowd, split it into three groups, add that to five parts I’m playing and you’ve an eight piece right there!

The new album, Studio Zoo, was made in a completely unique way as you were filmed live for the whole five weeks at your home. How did you feel about this feat?
Completely and utterly terrified… to begin with. After a few days it seemed like a completely natural way of working and it also had a hugely positive effect on the record itself.

Having finished Studio Zoo now, what are your plans for the future?
Gig it! Get back on road and see what people make of it live. I am in desperate need of a tour, I get a bit twitchy if I spend too long in one place.

After gaining so much success already, is it important to get another number one or would you rather concentrate on having fun and enjoying your music?
It would be nice, definitely, but it’s more important to me that it’s a really good album that can stand the test of time and this, in my humble opinion, is the best collection of songs I’ve put out. It has come considerably closer to capturing what it is I do live than anything I’ve ever done before. I produced and engineered it myself, so I’ve had more control over the final album than I’ve ever had in the past. This one’s kind of pure me, if that makes any sense.

Do you feel that, in becoming so well known, you lost some of the positives of being a small time singer and musician??
I think my level of success is all positives, I’m making a good living and I can go to shops and maybe a few people stop and say hi, but they’re not chasing me down the road screaming.

If you could perform anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’m just happy to be playing. I’ve been lucky enough to have played all over the place and it doesn’t matter whether it’s 10 people in a small bar in San Francisco or fifty five thousand people on the Isle of Wight – if I’m playing, I’m happy.

What has been your favourite moment in your career so far?
Making this album. It was such a massive learning curve and such a challenge, but so much freaking fun!

As you are seen as a folk/rock artist, how has folk music influenced your own work?
It’s had big impact, but I’m by no means a purist. I listen to all kinds of things. There are a lot of mind-blowing acoustic guitarists in folk, so obviously that appealed to me.

What aspects of traditional folk music appeal to you?
There are so many types of traditional folk it depends how far back you go and where you go back to. Eric Roche was very influenced by traditional Irish folk music and some of that’s rubbed off on me. I listen to guitarists from all over the place and I think it’s almost impossible to play acoustic instruments and not be influenced by folk music in some way.

What advice can you give to others trying to make a career in music?
Enjoy it, there’s no point putting yourself through it if you don’t. Get as good live as you possibly can. Word of mouth is still the most powerful tool you have and all the online networking sites can serve as a tool to massively enhance that. Whether you’re playing to 15 or fifteen thousand, if people love something they’re going to tell their friends, and their friends tell their friends. It’s an old school approach but it never stopped working.

Written By Jutta Lasner