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Stereoboard Speak To Fink About New Album 'Perfect Darkness', Collaborations & Cocktails (Interview)

Friday, 20 May 2011 Written by Jon Stickler
Stereoboard Speak To Fink About New Album 'Perfect Darkness', Collaborations & Cocktails (Interview)

Stereoboard caught up with Fin Greenall, AKA Fink, in Paris in the middle of his grocery shopping for a meal heís putting on that evening. However, despite his busy schedule, heís eager to talk to Stereoboard on the phone about his fourth proper studio album 'Perfect Darkness', his collaborations, what happened the day he played the Royal Albert Hall and his personal cocktail that doesnít exist yetÖ

Hi Fin, how are you?

Fin:†Pretty well actually. Iím out and about in Paris. Itís a lovely day. Iím out buying my dinner actually. This is going to be a whole new interview concept of ďFin buys his dinner!Ē Howís the UK?

The UK is predictably grey.

Fin:†Ohhh! No! Iíve got to drive back there tomorrow. Itís really pretty in Paris. Sunís shining. Blue skies. Itís lovely. Iím out in a T-shirt! Itís great!

So. Your latest album 'Perfect Darkness' is out next month, but as well as releasing studio albums under the Fink name, youíve also helped run a label, producing, and collaborating with Amy Winehouse, Professor Green and John Legend amongst others. Youíve done pretty much everything, so how do you manage your time?

Fin:†Well, I havenít really done very much yet. Thereís still so much that I want to do. In fact, I havenít even begun to think what Iím going to do next week yet! Itís hectic. In fact, I learned an American expression when I was out here late last year: ďIf you love what you do, you never do a days work in your lifeĒ. It feels a bit like that. Everything I do with my time is actually all stuff that I really love doing. So itís pretty easy to have a happy face and be optimistic because I love the music business. Itís been great to me and it rewards your ridiculous levels of enormously hard work, not with much cash, but with loads of good vibes . Iíve been involved in music since I was in college so when, as an artist, you start to run out of things to do thatís when you start to get bored and start to do the stupid things. My father used to say ďIf you want something done, ask a busy manĒ which means that the busier you are the more things you can handle. So when youíre moving at top speed itís actually easier to get stuff done than it is when you just chill out. Being an artist is wicked because youíve got writing, recording and playing live so your life is constantly moving between these three pieces of the puzzle. Writingís really nice because you get to be at home, doing what you want, getting ideas along the way. Recordingís really awesome because you can be in your studio, living the dream. Live is great because you get a round of applause every five-and-a-half minutes. Then if Iím not writing for me, Iím writing for someone else. Iíve just finished this record now, so for now Iím a bit songed out, so I need to get out there, play it live and kick some ass.

ImageSo, of all the artists that youíve collaborated with in the last few years, who has been your favourite to work with?

Fin:†Well, I mean, I do all the records with the same boys (his own band members Guy Whittaker on bass and Tim Thornton on drums), so those guys are just wicked to collaborate with. I know thatís a bit of a copout to talk about your own band when youíve got famous people to talk about, but those boys are just so cool. Itís great to just meet people that you like making music with, and after four years and hundreds of gigs we feel like weíve got a bit of a psychic connection. We could just communicate with little gestures now and we know what each other are all thinking, so my favourite collaborators, hands down, are Guy and Timmy. Donít get me wrong though, theyíre all brilliant, even the top ones. Iíve worked with urban producers who take vocalists and make them do eight takes over and over, vocalise it and then squeeze it into a song. I collaborate all the time, and it also means you share the burden. If you collaborate with someone you only have to do half the work! Iíve recently done a lot of collaboration with a musician friend of mine and thatís cool because you get to do something different, but at the end of the day when youíre doing your own stuff then itís cool to stay true to who you are. Itís quite easy to lose yourself in a collaboration with someone big. Thatís what I really liked about Professor Greens collaboration. Rappers arenít used to writing ďsongsĒ. So when I work with Pro, I got to write a rap song, which is cool because he brought so many ideas to the table.

As it happens I listened to that track ('Closing the Door') today. Itís really chilled and stripped back. I liked it.

Fin:†Really? Thatís wicked! That was the band as well actually, Guy and Timmy, with me producing it. I donít do a lot of producing anymore though, what with being in the band. Producing takes a lot of time, and I donít have that much anymore. Maybe in time Iíll do some producing for some bands though. Maybe.

So, down to the nitty gritty. The new album: Youíve worked in the past as a minimal techno DJ, youíve worked with a whole host of different people, youíve conducted a 120-piece orchestraÖ

Fin:†I didnít actually conduct that. I played in it. We did a cover of Roy Ayers ďEverybody Loves the SunshineĒ acoustically at the Royal Albert Hall, and we had a Bollywood Orchestra and a Western Orchestra behind me giving it large. That was probably the biggest gig Iíve ever done. It wasnít that much fun though because I was crapping myself. Plus Iím covering a Roy Ayers classic, plus it was a few years ago when I wasnít quite so confident on stage. When thereís a whole orchestra involved you canít just jam it and get creative if things go wrong. Plus with classical musicians, theyíre playing whatís on their piece of paper in front of them. There are no screw ups. You canít improvise at all. It was intense, but good though.

So what influences from your vast and varied career have you taken forward onto the new record?

Fin:†Well, we all wanted to live the dream on this record and let someone else produce it. Thus we wanted it to be as light as possible and as real as possible, to represent a live show. We had a great time with it. We had a chance to connect and re-energise and went to L.A. It was the first time weíve ever done a record thatís not in my house or in a mates living room! We had a really a really great producer, Billy Bush (who has worked with Nirvana and Garbage, among others during his long career in music production), who cut us a really sweet deal so that our little indie band could afford a full Hollywood press. He pulled loads of favours with his mates. We turned up with a couple of guitars, drums kit and a few basses and he turned up with racks and racks of guitars, amps and allsorts. It was wicked, he really pulled it out. It was an amazing experience where we just banged the whole record out in sixteen days, just to capture the urgency and the newness of the whole thing. Funnily enough, I was listening to the record today as we were doing some radio sessions here in France and Germany. I love it! I love it more than any other Fink record. Itís cool to like your own music, you know? You can be your biggest fan and your worst critic at the same time.

Thatís the thing with the brand new record. Itís something completely fresh and new that youíve created that you can be proud of.

Fin:†Yeah. I mean, people are going to criticise it. Thatís part of the game. You have to get a bit thick-skinned about it. Iíve put out records before that I think are going to change the face of modern music and not that many people bought it. You put a record out there and the radio are going to tell you if itís any good. The press will tell you if itís any good, and more importantly, our gigs will tell you if itís any good.† I know every musician says things like ďThis is our best albumĒ and ďThis is a big step forward for usĒ and all that, but this one right here ('Perfect Darkness') is definitely it. Itís the best. No Question. We wrote some songs and were actually a little bit scared when we got there. Itís a big expensive gamble and we werenít sure if we were going to pull it off. We were a little bit nervous actually. But it all worked out. We got a really good record and fingers crossed, everybody buys it, likes it and then we can do it again!

Iíve heard the record already myself actually. I have to say Iím impressed by what Iíve heard from it.

Fin:†Right! Nice one man! Cool!

Other than being the name of the first track, why have you called the album 'Perfect Darkness'?

Fin:†Well, a lot of bands spend too long thinking about it, and as you can probably tell, we donít have much time to think about stuff. You could quite literally spend weeks arguing about what youíre going to call the album and what youíre going to call the tracks. Itíll go on forever. So what we tend to do is just pick the track name that sounds the coolest. On the last album it was ďSort of RevolutionsĒ and thus on this one ďPerfect DarknessĒ. I guess we all know it would be the first track. It sounds really ďfirst-trackyĒ to us. Itís sort of connected to ďSort of RevolutionĒ too as the soundscape at the beginning is quite similar, so itís a nice little nod backwards and a preparation for whatís about to happen. When we came to name all the tracks, we asked ourselves, well, ďHow are we going to sum up this 45 minutes of music into easily pronounceable words?Ē So we just ended up with Perfect Darkness. Once weíd written it down we thought that we couldnít really call it anything else now. It just nicely rolls off the tongue. Itís pretty moody, pretty dark, and fits in well with our music. Weíre not miserable or depressed or anything like that, we just chose it because it sounded good.

So, Iíve seen that youíve got some European and Festival dates lined up, but are you planning on taking 'Perfect Darkness' on the road here in the UK?

Fin:†Yeah. Weíre very lucky to have so many places we have to play in the UK. Obviously all of us live here and are from here so we definitely want to play here. Weíre playing Bushstock (Shephards Bush, St Stephens Church, June 4th†2011) for the Communion boys, and weíre playing Union Chapel (Islington) later this year as well, which is going to be awesome. We always wanted to play the Union Chapel, but we wanted to have the right kind of set.† Everyoneís been to see some wicked gigs at the Union Chapel, and Iíve been to some amazing gigs too so you should be aware that if youíve seen some amazing gigs at the Union Chapel, then you should be amazing too.† So yeah, weíll be doing a few dates in the UK for sure. I really want to play Bristol on this album because we never end up playing Bristol. Weíve done all these gigs, and have never played the West Country, and Iím originally from Bristol so I really, really want to play it.

You want to capture a feeling of ďFink comes homeĒ

Fin:†Yeah definitely. Weíre also putting in a date either in Plymouth or somewhere in Cornwall. Proper West! Itís really exciting. To be able to tour the record is great. Itís nerve-racking and exciting at the same time. We just canít wait to get on the road, play it live and get people shouting about it. Itís going to be awesome. If you donít like playing live and youíre in a band, then your lifeís going to suck! Even if you donít like it, you learn to like it. Itís one of the only ways you can sell a record these days, gigging. You canít just do stickers or posters or any of that shit anymore, itís all about the gigs.

Yeah. So, youíve got the record coming out, the tourís taking shape. Whatís next on your radar?

Fin:†Well this weekend (May 21-22) weíre getting the band together and rehearsing for the live stuff, then next week weíre doing a tech rehearsal with the stage lights and set with 59 Productions, who are really fucking amazing set and stage designers. After that, itís Bushstock, then Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, and then we come back to do a session on Radio 4, which will be sweet. Then I donít know after that. Itís probably best not to know, or else Iíll have a nervous breakdown every time I look at my diary! I only like to go a month in advance, or else itís just too terrifying!

Youíll just roll with the punches then?

Fin:†Yeah. Totally. Donít look too far ahead.

So, being a former DJ and a current producer and collaborator, you must have a massive record collection. Who should the readers of the Stereoboard website check out, other than yourself?

Fin:†Oh Iíve got an obscene amount of records in my house!

I bet you do!

Fin:†Iím a bit like any other ex-DJ, really. I canít throw them away. Well, my favourite record probably isnít going to sound much like Fink, to be honest. Apart from ďKing of LimbsĒ by Radiohead, which I think is a really beautiful record, although I think thatís more of a really long, cool, EP than an actual album so I canít really say that thatís my favourite album right now. My favourite album right now then is by a band called Colourmusic and the album is called ďMy ______ is PinkĒ, and of course part of the game is guessing what that blank is. Itís a massive concept Arcade Fire super progged-out indie. Itís a bit mental, so I really like it. I recommend everyone in the UK should check that out.

Ok, well thanks for that. Iíve just got one more actual question, and itís for a bit of fun more than anything else, just one to get you thinking. If there was a cocktail called the ďFinkĒ, what would you put in it?

Fin:†Ah, well, I used to be a cocktail barman when I was a teenager, back in the day when I had a ponytail! So it would have to be a bit of cachaÁa because thatís a great, hardcore type of rum. Then I might put a little chilli tequila in there. Grab a bottle of tequila, stick some chillies in there and leave it on the shelf for a month or so before putting it into this drink so itís really got some kick to it. I would definitely put some crŤme du menthe in there to mint out the chilli vibes, and then probably mash up some bananas in there and serve it daiquiri style. How about that?

Nice. Well, do you have any last words just for the readers of Stereoboard?

Fin:†Well, I bought some really tasty food during the course of this interview. If you guys could sit at my table tonight, you could have a Parisian feast! Sorry.

Ha! Well. Good luck with the record. Itís been great speaking to you.

Fin:†And to you mate. Good luck. Bye!

'Perfect Darkness' is available to buy on June 13th†in the UK. Fink headline the Bushstock One Day Festival in Shephards Bush, London on June 4th.

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