Fink on the edge of town

Ninja Tune is not the kind of label on which one would expect to find an intimate singer-songwriter baring his soul—but Fink is not average.

Coming from a background in house, acid jazz and hip-hop, Fink brings something new to the acoustic song realm, producing dark brooding and intense narratives that are as reliant on atmospherics as they are on deft guitar work.

Fans of his new album, Distance and Time (Just Music), are in for a treat this weekend when Fink brings his live show to Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Here’s how he responded to the Mail & Guardian‘s questions:

How did your South African tour come about and what can local audiences expect?
Sometimes things just happen randomly. South Africa is far away, you know, but it’s great to be coming down there. Guy Whittaker and I will be doing an intimate set, interpreting the album acoustically. We’re really looking forward to it. We don’t really get a chance to do acoustic shows any more, so we’re excited.

As a singer-songwriter how did you end up on an electro label such as Ninja Tune?
Well, I was already signed to Ninja Tune. That’s exactly what you would expect from a DJ or producer making electronic music and DJing all over the world. I did that for ages. It was great. But when I changed direction, I think Ninja were really supportive and they wanted a singer/ songwriter on the books anyway. The label has also changed in its artistic outlook.

Your music is big on atmospherics and there seems to be a sense of tension in the music. Would you agree and is that important to your overall aesthetic?
Well I was thinking a few years ago: what exactly joins all the music that I like? How can I like System of a down, John Lee Hooker, Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell? They’re all so different. I think I worked out that intensity is the key to art. I try to make the Fink stuff as intense as possible. It can be intensely chilled or intensely personal or whatever, you know, just intensely something. Musical wallpaper is not what I’m into at all. Sometimes Distance and Time has been described as brooding, which I think is kinda spot on.

You grew up in Bristol. How important was the Bristol electronic scene to your musical development?
It was totally important and awesome to be in a city as a teenager while Smith & Mighty, Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky, Björk, Goldie and Roni Size were all there at the same time. There were lots of artists really melting together a lot of sounds such as those from the West Indies, electro, soul, reggae, jungle. I would definitely describe my sound as “Bristol sound” and it’s often stocked in that section in the indie stores, which makes me proud.

Tell me about your new album and how you ended up working with producer Andy Barlow of Lamb and what he brought to the party.
Distance and Time was definitely born out of our live experience touring the album Biscuits for Breakfast. We really learned on the job with that one, so we wanted to capture our live sound, the whole acoustic thing, and get it on record. Andy Barlow came to one of our gigs and really loved the vibe and thought he could bring something to it, which he did. We recorded it in three weeks in his house, which we pretty much took over and camped out there. It was a pleasure not to be a producer for once, just be the artist. The album has deep production on it, but also some really raw stuff.

You have produced some pretty high-profile artists yourself. How do you decide to get involved on a production level with an artist. What do you look for in them?
Well I must say, the big ones approach me, I definitely don’t go hey I want to work with X or Y and it just happens. I guess a few times I have been in the right place at the right time—that’s how I got to produce and write with John Legend on his new album and Amy Winehouse on her early demos. Currently I’m working with Jono McCleery, he supported me on my UK tour earlier this year and he has great folk stuff and also Andreya Triana who has an amazing voice and songs.

Fink will perform at the Alexander Theatre, Braamfontein, on October 10 and the Assembly, Cape Town on October 11. Tickets are R150 presale or go to www.webtickets.co.za

Lloyd Gedye

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