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Newton Faulkner - The IndieLondon interview

Newton Faulkner

Interview by Rob Carnevale

NEWTON Faulkner talks exclusively to us about the recording of his sophomore album Rebuilt By Humans, his career-threatening wrist injury and why he was able to remain so positive when approaching the accident and “difficult second album syndrome”.

He also talks about some of his favourite live memories since breaking through with Hand Built By Robots, coping with the pressure of fame and why he’s looking forward to sharing his flat with one of his guitar idols…

Q. Rebuilt By Humans is a really great sophomore album. But did you experience any difficult second album syndrome?
Newton Faulkner: Not really, but I think it was partly because I messed myself up and broke my wrist, which put me under a whole load of different pressure fixing myself. But it kind of meant I lost track of the pressure of actually recording it. Ironically, it [the injury] did really help me as well because I was really happy I could play at all afterwards. I loved being in the studio and really enjoyed making the album because at one point it looked like I might not be able to do anything ever again.

That said, the injury also gave me a reasonable amount of time to reflect on stuff, which also kind of calmed the album down a bit. Prior to the injury, while I was beginning to prepare it in my head it was all manic and uppy. I hadn’t really stopped to think about what had happened to me over the last three years because I literally hadn’t stopped from the time that Hand Built By Robots came out. This meant I was literally forced to sit back and think about it which, in turn, helped with the writing of this album.

Q. What did you think when you first injured your hand? Did a sense of panic set in?
Newton Faulkner: Not at all [laughs]. I was ridiculously positive… some people said annoyingly positive! But I had to believe everything was going to be fine. If I’d slumped into a depression and believed I might not play again, then I might not have been able to. But I never stopped playing really. I was still playing when I was in a splint! But I think it made the album better for it. It gained a lot more depth through that. Songs such as I’m Not Giving Up Yet were written while I was healing. In fact, a lot of my favourite songs on the album were.

Q. What are your favourite songs?
Newton Faulkner: There are different songs for different moods. My favourite happy one is Let’s Get Together, which could be a future single. But I’d llike to push the production values slightly further on that one at some point.

Q. You seem to enjoy making videos now as well?
Newton Faulkner: Yes, I’ve become more involved in things visually. Making the Badman video was hilarious. It’s really nice to be able to do as well because with the first album, I had to focus on the music. I was still getting used to doing it because I hadn’t been writing songs for that long. I felt incredibly out of my depth. So, when the subject of videos came up, I think people could see from my face that I couldn’t cope. Now I’ve settled in a bit and I’m knocking down people’s doors. The Badman thing was especially nice because it was kind of my idea and they gave me a budget to make it. So, that was amazing too!

Q. And you have a new single, Over And Out, on the way…
Newton Faulkner: Well, that song has had a strange journey because it was kind of delivered in another form. Occasionally, people come to me and say we think you should check this out. If you make it yours and move it around a bit, we think it coud be really good. This was one of those but it’s the only one that’s really come to anything. With this, I had a listen and got involved. I met up with the guy that came up with it in its original form and then re-wrote most of the lyrics and went back to square one. It’s not something I really do normally. I write with my brother quite a bit, so we had a staritng point that wasn’t quite right that we kind of twisted into shape.

Q. You mentioned not being able to take stock of what happened to you post-Hand Built By Robots. Have you now? And how are you coping with the pressures that come with success and celebrity?
Newton Faulkner: Well, with the celebrity aspect I’ve always been on the outside of it because I’m not really much of a face. If you put a picture out most poeple would probably go “who’s that”? For me, it’s more about the music first. I’ve never done that much TV… I’m just starting to do more for this album. I did Never Mind The Buzzocks, which was so much fun. I think I’ve wanted to do that since I was born! So it’s given me opportunities like that.

Q. What about in terms of expectation from fans and critics?
Newton Faulkner: I’m always really intrigued with that and I think it’s the same for everyone. If you do start dipping into reviews, you generally don’t read the good ones! You skim over them and then read a bad one where the guy really hates it! It’s a strange thing [laughs]. But I tend not to read anything and I never watch anything I do, or listen back to radio things. I did for a little while and became quite guarded and careful about what I was sayng. But then I realised that I don’t need to be really. There’s nothing I’m uncomfortable talking about. But if it was a written interview I’d try to imagine how things I was saying would look written down. But if you’re thinking that much it’s not going to flow and it’s not going to sound natural.

Q. What have been some of your favourite live memories? I gather you once went from playing The Isle of Wight Festival to a bar in New York for just a few people…
Newton Faulkner: Yeah, literally within a day of one another! I remember thinking at the Isle of Wight, “this is huge”! And then I was inside this little bar with literally five or 10 people. But I probably gave them a more stadium show than the Isle of Wight appearance! Ben Lee is also brilliant for that. I saw him in Nottingham or somewhere and he was literally jumping up on bar at one point. It’s always good to go full stadium!

Q. How do those kind of experiences compare? Do you still get stage fright?
Newton Faulkner: I get stage fright in both directions. If I’m doing something really small I think “Christ, this is small – if I make a mistake people will notice!” Big gigs kind of carry their own momentum, I guess. The most nervous I’ve been, however, was the Truro [Hall] gig in Cornwall I did on the tour I’ve just done! The London gig had its pressure in one way, because I was trying to prove myself a little bit. I said I wanted as many people to come down as possinle because I really wanted people to see it. So, I knew there was a lot of press there. But with the gig in Truro… that’s where things really started for me. I really owe Cornwall because I feel they started it for me. So going back, I really felt I was living up to expectations, which was the other end of the spectrum for me. That sense of really owing them was interesting to me. I’ve played there before since my success and felt nervous but this time I was aware of why I was so nervous. But it was a wicked night and they’re a brilliant crowd. As was London!

Q. Do you have any more tour dates lined up for the capital?
Newton Faulkner: I’ve got the Mencap Little Noise Sessions at Union Chapel in November and then I think we’re next in the capital next year – in March or late February. We’re at the Hamersmith Apollo and I’ll be going all out.

Q. Finally, can I ask why the guitar is your instrument of choice?
Newton Faulkner: It’s just really versatile. You can hit it anywhere and it makes a noise because it’s hollow. You can tune it however you want. It’s got six strings or less… or more. You can have 12 strings, or you can take strings off. The Presidents of The United States of America regularly do. It’s a highly versatile instrument and there’s so much you can do with it. In fact, I have to say that one of my favourite guitarists in the world, Thomas Leeb, is going to be staying at my flat soon, which I’m really looking forward to!

Q. How did that come about?
Newton Faulkner: He needed somewhere to stay because he’s got some gigs coming up and a friend of mine has got to know him quite well. He’s just phenomenal. But I’ve never seen him play. Interestingly, the first piece of interesting guitar I ever learned to play was one of his pieces. Between him and Eric Rose, that just about covers my influences.

Q. So, will there be a lot of jamming sessions?
Newton Faulkner: You bet… lots of jamming sessions – but we’ll try and keep it down for the neighbours!

Read our review of Rebuilt By Humans