An Interview With: Chet Faker

On the 23rd of April, I travelled through to Glasgow to catch up with one of Australia’s most exciting artists; Chet Faker, at Broadcast, the venue for the second show of his ongoing UK/European tour. I sat down with man himself to talk about the phenomenal success of his debut LP ‘Built on Glass’, touring and that ‘No Diggity’ cover. Bearded and deathly cool, the ever elusive Chet Faker (or as his mum knows him, Nicholas Murphy), was incredibly humble and down to earth about all of his global successes and as he sipped on a diet coke, we began…

On the 23rd of April, I travelled through to Glasgow to catch up with one of Australia’s most exciting artists; Chet Faker, at Broadcast, the venue for the second show of his ongoing UK/European tour. I sat down with man himself to talk about the phenomenal success of his debut LP ‘Built on Glass’, touring and that ‘No Diggity’ cover. Bearded and deathly cool, the ever elusive Chet Faker (or as his mum knows him, Nicholas Murphy), was incredibly humble and down to earth about all of his global successes and as he sipped on a diet coke, we began…

LB: You must be incredibly proud of ‘Built on Glass’, the response on a global level seems to have been massively positive and, as I’m sure you know, it’s sitting at the top of the Australian album charts, which is amazing. It must be a really exciting time for you right now?
CF: It’s good, yeah. I try not to pay too much attention to rankings, charts and stuff like that and I haven’t really been in Australia because I’ve been in Brooklyn, travelling around and shit. I’ve actually only been there for one week in the last couple of months. I deliberately avoid reading reviews or anything about my own stuff but I sense it’s going well from Twitter, but yeah, it’s awesome. I am proud of that [Australian Album Charts] and it’s an independent release, I mean not many independent releases top the charts…

LB: Was ‘Built on Glass’ a difficult album to record with the massively high expectations that were fuelled by ‘Thinking in Textures’ winning ‘Best Independent Release’ at the Rolling Stone Australia Awards, and the massive hype around your cover of ‘No Diggity’?
CF: Was it daunting? No not really, it actually gave me more confidence because [No Diggity] was like the first thing I ever did, so in my head I was like “Shit, if they think that’s good wait until I really do something”. Well that’s how I felt anyway because ‘No Diggity’, man, I wrote that in like three hours!

LB: Why did you choose Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’ as a cover for Chet Faker?
CF: I didn’t even choose it, I was just doing it. I was making a beat on the keys and then at the end I had to do vocals and I had no ‘No Diggity’ in my head so I was like [sings]: ‘Shorty get down…’ and just recorded it, so I guess it was pretty serendipitous.

LB: I read on Pitchfork that the album had been scrapped twice before you were happy with the finished product. Is there was any truth in that at all?
CF: Yeah, pretty much. This album is sort of the result of three different albums. It’s one entity for me now, but they’re all brand new, different songs apart from ‘Talk is Cheap’ which is two years old now

LB: I was speaking to (fellow Australian) Tom Bettinson from Vancouver Sleep Clinicrecently and he seemed to be really excited about everything that is happening in Oz right now. What do you make of the Australian music ‘scene’ at the moment?
CF: I’m going to write that guy’s name down! Everyone is so young now man [on learning that Tom Bettinson is only 17]. I feel old at 25, all these interviewers are saying “You know Flume, he’s only 22” and I’m like “I’m only fucking 25”, It’s like I’m over the hill. Juts putting out my first album at 25!
But yeah, I feel good about it. I think everyone is pretty confused about what the Australian sound is, I don’t think it exists personally, maybe it does, I can’t tell, I’m Australian! There’s lots of different artists. You know Flume and I, we get put in the same bracket but I don’t think our music’s similar at all in any way. But there’s a similar mentality.

LB: ‘Built on Glass’ has earned quite a lot of comparisons to the chilled out electro of James Blake, and the R’n’B nuances of Frank Ocean, along with a host of older crooners. What you made of these comparisons?
CF: I love those guys, yeah. Fuck yeah. Frank Ocean and James Blake, I would love to be coupled in that area. Frank Ocean is like the modern day musician, all round; producer and singer that does everything

LB: You’ve collaborated on songs and EPs before with the likes of Flume and more recently Kilo Kish, are there any artists that you would especially like to work with?
CF: Fuck. [Thinks] Arthur Russel (American cellist, composer, singer, and musician). He’s good, he’s dead now. You always have to answer with dead people on those questions, because someone else might read it and be like “Nah, he’s not cool”.

LB: A lot of your songs are incredibly textured, with really interesting instrumentation and production to build up these really chill, soul-influenced backdrops under distinctive vocals. When it comes to song writing how do you go about putting a song together? Do you find it comes together quite organically when you’re recording or are you quite careful in the construction of distinct ideas for what you want to achieve?
CF: It’s definitely organic, very rarely do I know what I’m doing, ever. It’s weird, the more I write music, even over the last couple of years, I sort of know what I can do sometimes so I’ll go in and know exactly what Im about to do but that’s not to say that I’m directing it, I just recognise what the inspiration is if that makes sense? Sometimes I don’t even have the basis of a song. Sometimes I just sit down, pull up a synth and just go through different sounds, and then find something, put an effect on it and come up with some chords but other times I might have a vocal idea and do the drums first so I have the rhythm and then put the vocals on. It’s actually, no shit, different every time, which can sometimes be really annoying when it’s not working but at the same time It’s good because it means I won’t get stuck doing the same thing.

LB: You’re touring pretty extensively now right through until August all over the UK, Europe, the States and Australia; is this your biggest tour yet? How are you feeling about being on the road and playing ‘Built on Glass’ to audiences around the world? 
CF: Cool, the first show was good [Having only played one show of the tour to date]. I wouldn’t say it was scary although I’ve never done such a big tour so It’s all pretty new for me, I’ve only been doing it for a couple of years.
I don’t really get to see how people react to it because I’m doing it. Most of the time I’ll come off stage and not even know if it was good or not. Usually depending on what someone says on Twitter, the first thing you read, it could be a good gig or a bad gig even though you don’t really know. It’s exciting for me because I was getting sick of playing the same stuff, the same seven songs for like two and a half years!

LB: What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened on a Chet Faker tour?
CF: There’s been heaps, people are weird. Someone in Toronto or Vancouver, maybe Montreal..? Anyway, somewhere in Canada, some dude jumped up on stage and gave me a block of chocolate and a deck of cigarettes but he got on his knees to do it, and some other dude gave me a Wayne’s World hat. That was in Canada as well, they’re all having a good time!
I played a gig in Brighton a few years ago and there were some really drunk chicks in the front row, and of course they were Australian…some people just shouldn’t drink!

LB: Where would you say most of your creative inspiration come from and who have been your main musical influences?
CF: From the people in my life and stuff that happens, there’s always something in your life, some big lesson you’re learning whether you realise it or not. You know, whether you’re learning something like you can’t always rely on your best friends or something like that, or that it’s important to put in time with your family even if you don’t feel like it, any of that shit, personal lessons; that’s always the stuff around about.

LB: What does music mean to you? Obviously the album is quite sensual in its ‘Slow Jam’ sound but its lyrical content is also highly suggestive of heartbreak, love, sex and the like. How much is really art reflective of life and do you use your own personal experiences as major wells of creative inspiration? 
CF: Oh yeah, every song on the album has a story behind it, I usually don’t tell the story but yeah, people can figure it out and some people make their own story around it which is cool. I know what the songs mean. Sometimes people ask me what they mean to me and Im like ‘Well I know, but I’m not telling you’, because that might actually ruin the music for someone else. It’s not important to me that people know exactly what the song’s about, what’s important to me is that I create the music, I capture it accurately for myself and that people are given access to that…

LB: You’re quite an elusive, mysterious character, was that a conscious decision when you started out as Chet Faker? 
CF: Initially it wasn’t intentional it was accidental, because everyone was like “Who is this guy?”. But that was just because I’d only put one thing out and it blew up so of course there was no information there, who the fuck fills out their own bio on a Wikipedia page before they’ve released anything you know? But now, I’m usually pretty honest and pretty open but I draw a line at some points, especially because my music is really personal, there’s some stuff that I think is important and Im happy to answer but there’s other stuff that’s not okay, like people prying about girlfriends or ex-girlfriends.

LB: You recently played at SXSW out in Texas, which looks like such an incredible place to be, how was that experience for you?
CF: I’ve played it twice now, I was there a month ago. It was good, I enjoyed it a lot more two years ago cause people died in that accident this year [A man drove his car into a crowd, killing four people] and that was fucked up and I was also exhausted because I’d done a week of press in Europe the week before and I was in Australia the week before that and New Zealand before that, I was jetlagged for a month straight!

LB: If you could have written one song what would it be and why?
CF: Meatloaf ‘I Would Do Anything for Love’. Why? I want to know what he wouldn’t do!

Words: Leo Bargery

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