The Courier Music had a chat with Newton Faulkner, where we find out his pre-gig rituals, his perfect night in, the issues with the music industry and even tackle the tumultuous politics of today's world...
How was your summer/festivals, etc?
All good! It’s been a really busy three or four years of constant stuff, because we’ve just gone from one album to the next and one project to the next, even from the last album to this album, they kind of just went straight through.
You’ve got a set of pretty intense tours ahead of you, how do you prepare for that?
I’ve already been touring for quite a while, I’ve done Europe, Ireland, Highlands & Islands, so I’m just in ‘GO’ mode really. And then I’ll give myself a little break. Just a little one though, don’t want to get carried away!
Do you have a pre-show ritual to get yourself hyped?
No, no, I’m the opposite, I’m too hyped, I need to de-hype. My bus driver, I’ve just discovered, is really into Ju-Jitsu, and apparently he’s got like, massive pads under the bus, and he asked if I wanted to try and I was like, ‘YEEESS!’
Do you prefer touring work or studio work?
A few years ago I would have said touring immediately, but now studio is catching up. I think it’s because I’ve got my head around the production side of things. I produced most of the last album, so that’s been quite a major development. I’ve got a studio in my house now too.
I've got my head around the production side of things
Your latest release is album no.6, Hit The Ground Running, how have people been receiving it/how do you feel about it?
It’s been amazing, and probably the best received album I’ve done, both critically and with the hard-core fan base, everyone seems really happy. And I must admit I’m incredibly happy with it. Sonically and song-writing wise, it’s hit what I’ve been trying to find pretty much since before the first album, sound-wise. If I go back, the first album is actually a bit too clean for my taste. Obviously it worked at the time, but since then I’ve been leaning in lots of different directions until I reached this album. Certain studios have leant too far one way and too far the other way, and I think it’s been a weird balancing act to get to this moment. And now I think I’ve found the core of my recorded sound. And obviously I can expand it and tweak it from here.
Especially when listening to the first album and comparing the two, it is a very different sound, especially vocally, you can sign really high!
I cover a lot of notes in this record!
I think I've found the core of my recorded sound
Has that been a result of special training?
Yeah, it’s just been years of work since the first one. I like learning things and I like training. I get really nerdy about things. I got really nerdy about guitar. But what I set out to do from before the first album was to try and keep everything on the same level. So keep the guitar playing, singing and song-writing on the same technical level. I feel like guitar-playing took over a bit, and obviously production has been thrown into the mix as well now.
So do you think you’ve found the balance now?
No, because every time I write or record something it all changes again. It’s a constant balancing act, which is nice though, it keeps you on your toes.
You’ve got quite a distinct rhythmic way of playing the guitar- was that self-taught or were you inspired by someone?
I thought I invented it for a very short time- about a week- but there’s loads of players, it’s old school playing. There’s loads of new ones and loads of old ones.
Looking to the future, what would your dream collaboration be?
I’ve been asked that a lot recently and I don’t think I have one. I think because what I do is like a competition with myself. I love working with Tessa, I’ll always come back to working with her, she’s like my musical wife. But otherwise I want to get better at what I do, so I don’t really think in those terms.
As we’re a Uni paper, what would your advice be for a Uni band or a Uni artist?
The whole industry changes every month. Its completely different, the rules change and the charts change. I would say get good live, because once you’re good live you can do anything. If people see you and they like you they’re gonna come back and then you’re off. Take control over the things you have control over, which is live, social media, but ultimately it’s not down to you how well you do. Don’t wait to be told to something, just get on with it.
Do you think the industry has changed a lot since you started?
Do you think it’s easier to get started?
It’s hard to say. There are a few new things that don’t work yet. The way the charts work, how they’re dub tailing the streaming and the charts, that’s not working as well as it could. It’s kind of doing the opposite of what I hoped the internet would do which is take the stranglehold away from major labels and give it back to someone that’s done something really good. And then someone will say ‘you should listen to this it’s really good’. And I thought that would happen and you’d get massive number ones from people you’ve never heard of. The way the charts work isn’t doing that, because it’s just pop playlists and Spotify and its encouraging the passive listening of a playlist, where you’re not choosing to listen to those artists and I think including those in the charts is a bit nonsensical. It’s a million miles away from going out and choosing a physical record.
I hoped the internet would take the stranglehold away from major labels, but it's doing the opposite
In terms of touring, where’s been your favourite place?
I just love playing, I’ll play anywhere.
Has there been one show?
Dublin and Glasgow were really good.
Are there any places you really want to go?
Loads of places. I was looking at a map with my son and showing him all the places I’ve been, and he asked my ‘Why haven’t you been there’ and I just said ‘I have no idea. Let’s go and do a gig in Siberia, bring it on.’
You are in the Toon, notorious for its night-life, are you more of a night-in or a night out kind of person?
I think night in, because a night out is kind of my job. Once I’ve done that I’m ready to read a book or watch a movie.
Perfect night in?
I live with my brother, and we’re very rarely both there but when we are we like to do what we used to do, which is play computer games and drink whiskey. It’s now become a really special moment.
Have you had a chance to look around Newcastle at all?
Yeah, I’ve been here loads of times. There’s very few places in the UK that I haven’t been more than once. But gigs are a full day’s worth of stuff. What I do is immensely physical, and it’s a full day’s work. So I went to the gym this morning, to open up my lungs, I’ll probably do some skipping or breathe in some steam. It goes on for hours, I have to loosen up my arms, I have to stretch my shins because otherwise they’ll go into cramp while I’m playing the foot drum. There’s a lot to do on a gig day, so I don’t do a lot of looking around. I have a lovely breakfast and an awesome coffee though.
There's a lot of things combining together to try to convince you that you have no power as an individual, but you really do
We’re living in quite of tumultuous and crazy times at the moment. What would your advice be for a Uni student entering into the adult world?
It’s a very complicated world. But people can make a difference. And they’re trying to drill it into us that we can’t. And the major political things that have happened have been based on ‘Well it’s ok that isn’t going to happen’, like Brexit, loads of people didn’t vote because they thought ‘Well it’s not going to happen it’s stupid’. There’s a lot of things combining together to try to convince you that you have no power as an individual, but you really do. The reason they’re trying to drill it out of you is because they’re scared. And in terms of what’s going to happen in the next ten years it’s going to become even more important because it’s crunch time. The rise of the far-right we’ve been seeing, it’s not born out of evil, its born out of this desperate want for change which very few people are actually addressing. Lots of people are wanting to keep things the same, but the people who are having a hard time are going to vote for any sort of change. So we need to look after people. And that will quell the far-right. It’s a desperate act and it’s dangerous.