New music to listen to this week: Fink

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English singer-songwriter Fink [Fin Greenall] is putting out his new album Fink's Saturday Night Blues Club Vol. 1 on 10 March.

Co-produced by Flood, the entire piece was recorded with just one mic, one track a day. 

We caught up with Fink to see how he's feeling about the release and the current state of music in general...

What inspired you to write an original blues album? Who were the influences, and was it difficult getting the sound you were looking for down in the studio?

It’s been bubbling under for a while – on a few of the previous Fink records I pushed the blues button – on tracks like Wheels and Hard Believer – to see if it was a good fit – or rather like whether or not I could own a version of the blues that was mine…the inspiration of the old blues guys, fast sessions, pick up players, lo-fi emotional stuff -  really appealed to me – artistically and creatively, but also as the antidote to the pressures of the Fink process – which has been growing and growing over the years…

Don’t get me wrong – I love it – but the space and the chance to make a simple record just for the hell of it I found really appealing….the influences are the usual suspects – John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, The Stones, Howlin Wolf….i bought a lot of records on tour on my days off – filling in my huge gaps of knowledge of people like Big Bill Broonzy, T-Bone Walker, Lightnin’ Slim and Son House…getting the sound I wanted was actually not difficult at all – keep it simple, keep it mono, get an old amp, crank it up, and basically apply as much passion over skill as you got….

How do you plan to approach this album in a live setting?

I have no idea – we are set to rehearse in a couple of weeks for a few days and hit the road – I’m sure we will work it out whilst we’re onstage to be honest – we have a selection of tracks in our bag – so the four of us will just play them as hard as we can.

We’ve put together a killer band for the tours – Nicky Hustinx on drums, Paul Kleber on bass and Tim Sandiford on guitars  - so there’ll be some jazzy influences I’m sure, and we’ll try to extend the cuts with our great players – and see what sticks…to really reflect the record we won’t over think it – we’ll just get out there, get the wheels on the bus turning, and see what feels good….

What was the first gig you ever played and what’s been the best so far?

The first gig I ever played as a singer songwriter was upstairs in a pub somewhere in South London – I have vague memories of wooden floors – being very very nervous as my voice was very green back then and didn’t have any of the reliably broken nature that it has now – I played biscuits for breakfast and pills in my pockets and stuff like that – I might have done a John Martyn cover – I can’t remember now….seems like a century ago.

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The best gig so far is a tough one – as so many are the best for so many different reasons – like the gigs you survive (Belarus) to the gigs that surprise you (New York)…I loved our gig with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam a few years ago -  a great honour to play with a symphony orchestra and be helped through the process by the now legendary Jules Buckley….i also loved the last Tempodrome gig in Berlin – that was epic too in different ways….

Do you think we’re in the midst of a ‘blues revival’ at the moment?

Quite possibly – now I definitely am noticing it a lot more – big thanks to Jack White and the Black Keys for carrying the torch through the dark and relatively silent 90s…blues has never gone away of course – it just got so mild and lite and pointless, and frankly, not very blue, that everyone just kinda turned off.

Now maybe in an era of temporary and fleeting tv-talent nonsense out there people are yearning for a bit more fibre – like the live music revival in the noughties, maybe we are seeing a little revival in passion as the cure for all the “product” out there. I hope so….

Have you been writing with any other artists recently?

Man – this year is kinda crazy – release and tour the blues album, write and record release and tour the new Fink album in the autumn – so it’s pretty hard to fit in any extra curricular activities.

Last year I was a lecturer at BIMM college in Berlin working with the young songwriters there – which was a fantastic experience….in Berlin I’ve done some collab work with some of the dance guys which is fun, and Berlin is definitely the place for it – but I’ve kinda been tapering off the collabs because I need to keep the juice for myself y’know…. 

There seems to be a growing debate about songwriting as an art form since the Grammys…what are your thoughts on the issue that some critics/fans seem to think: 'if you don’t write your own songs you’re not an artist’?

The pop industry has always constructed art for consumption – from the earliest days of its inception – I guess in the past there was a real distinction between performer and writer,  producer, label and artist….maybe this distinction has been focused more intensely by the slew of TV talent dross that is out there in the past decade – just because these kids can sing their ass off doesn’t mean they can write – and vice versa – just because you can write doesn’t mean you can sing (Bob Dylan and Patti Smith for example would never win American Idol).

My read on it is that the Beatles and The Stones and that whole post Elvis band revolution kinda changed the way the Baby Boomers saw their artists – they wanted something more personal and individual, like a relationship with their idols, that meant that them writing their own material was essential – and the culture got used to that and nurtured that – and hence the birth of the Long Player in some respect….Glyn John’s autobiography, a genuine “I was there” piece, is fascinating as it talks about how the industry changed from construct vehicles and product to groups of hairy dudes making records.

In all honesty, by popular demand, the industry hasn’t changed a bit in 60 years – you have underground artists grinding it out, you have tin-pan alley writers and producers who are the “go to” guys for your Swedish pop hit – a revolving door of magnolia bullshit that has just changed it’s outfit – but it’s still the same schtick – 40 year old white guys writing records from the perspective of  18 year old boys for 14 year old girls to buy – performed by pliable innocent drones to bank hard cash for giant corporations….really….the great thing is, in my opinion, that the technological revolution and the cultural shifts brought about by our online lives have separated us all out.

Underground artists are no longer competing for the same radio playlist or slot on top-of-the-pops….in fact the new generation doesn’t really even watch tv to consume that kind of thing – the days of half the population watching the Ed Sullivan show are gone – our splintered cultural groups can gather and converse, share ideas and art, at the speed of their wi-fi connection, globally…..when I toured India and China I realised this – I was having conversations about Warpaint and Esben And The Witch and whoever else I thought was the best thing ever in that moment with people in Bangalore and Beijing who were instantly on the same tip – seen the same video, heard the same track on the same blog at the same time.

It almost feels like the people now have their own choice….sure…many choose to not bother and listen to corporate daytime radio like it’s music – fair enough -  lot’s of people listen to music like it’s wallpaper – and that’s cool….personally I have more respect for artists when they write their own material because I get more out of the experience and the relationship I can then have with them – and also – I’m a singer-songwriter….but I can also get a kick out of watching Arianna Grande belt the shit out of whatever her latest single is because the girl can sing…will I buy it? No. Will I respect her as an artist? Probably not, but as a singer, hell yeah….

Warhol gave people what they wanted – affordable posters – accessible, popular, bright and shiny…. Modigliani died of TB penniless and alone in Paris….i think I respect Modiglinai more not because he suffered more, but because his art wasn’t a product – it was an expression, a need to express, that I feel from his art more than Warhol, who simply needed to reflect and create product…

I think if the talent shows have shown us anything – it’s reminded us the difference between a singer and an artist, an entertainer and an artist, a fleeting moment in time and a canon of work….there is room for all of us in Music, from Bruno Mars to Cattle Decapitation….not everyone can write “Hey Jude” and not everyone can sing “Chandelier” – but no-one sounds like Arcade Fre but Arcade Fire.

"I think, at the end of the day, artists like Bjork and Radiohead will always sell way more records than whoever won Britain’s got Talent because they are artists who express themselves in ways that most of us only wish we could, and that connection with someone real, who has experienced and feels a need to express that experience either for some kind of cathartic release or simply because touring is awesome, is a connection that creates a lifelong relationship, a ten album relationship, with something and someone that is individual - instead of a one-single stand which enters the mass consciousness for a moment, and who’s record ends up on the shelves of Asda two rows down from the Bacon and Scotch Eggs, on sale for 5 quid before they are crushed by the thousand on a sale-or-return deal with Polymer Records….

However – to get back to the point maybe for a second – songwriting is an artform, performing is an art form, being in a touring rock band is an art form, making a billboard top 5 single is an artform, writing Hotline Bling is an art form….and to be fair….The Grammy’s aren’t Art awards…are they a sales conference?, an entertainment event? or an artistic platform? Probably all three… Adele gets 3 of them for perhaps one of the least musical albums I have ever skipped through on Spotify, in the same category for record of the year with Drake, Rihanna and Beyonce.

I mean – I would struggle to call any of these “Records” when the option to call them genetically modified focus group led product is available, in the same way a packet of M&M’s is technically a meal – I mean – you eat them, like, the same as you would eat salad, or Nandos…however – after a delicious meal in a fantastic restaurant in Rome last night with friends I had a packet of M&M’s in my hotel room whilst watching CNN – so – yeah – there’s the cultural dichotomy right there…. 

The greats are Artists – I have John Lee Hooker records that are 65 years old that I listen to all the time, I treasure my Radiohead records and Bowie records and Miles Davis records – and they all wrote their own stuff – expressed themselves through art – for no other reason than it was in them, and they had the ability and the focus and the energy to Get it out…..maybe that’s the ultimate question here….is culture now so used to processed food that the intensity of real food is off the table….i hope not….as Ice T once said “don’t hate the player, hate the game”

What are you listening to at the moment?

One of the problems of living in Berlin is the slew of fantastic record stores you can find there….recently I have been listening to a lot of Blues as my Blues record is coming out any second….erm….Zambian stuff from Amayenge, the first Scientist Record, Dennis Brown’s “Africa”, the latest Meshuggah record, Nick Cave’s latest, plus the first Birthday Party record I found on tour last year in a shop in Austria, Floating Point’s record, some Thelonious, loved Radiohead’s latest – not bad for a bunch of B-Sides ;)

Erykah Badu’s latest Cell-Phone related record and strangely I’ve been digging around in my old Trip-Hop stuff lately, maybe inspired by the whole Brainfeeder crew and the fact that Fly Lo has a radio station on GTA 5….

What are your plans for 2017?

Let the Blues record out there, do a little tour of it in some smaller clubs, track the latest Fink record that we’re writing now, tour Europe on that for 3 months or so… write, play, tour, rinse, repeat.

Fink's Sunday Night Blues Club is out on 10 March ON R'COUP'D via Ninja Tune

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