|BY BENJAMIN SCHICKER | Jonk Music||
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
The Faint's new album, Doom Abuse, has a lot of what they're known for: dark lyrics, heavy guitar riffs, and synthesizers. It's their first album since 2008's Fasciinatiion. Since that time the band has spent some time off focusing on side projects and collaborations (Vverevvolf Grehv, Depressed Buttons, Digital Leather) and reuniting to play their 2001 album, Danse Macabre, in its entirety. Todd Fink (vocals, keyboards) spoke to Jonk Music before their tour started.
Friday, April 25, 2014
Congratulations on the new record. We've been playing it over at WSUM and getting good response so far.
"Thanks. Yeah, it's been a long time coming. It feels good having a new record out. I was just in Madison not that long ago. I played at the bike shop (as a member of Digital Leather). I liked that place."
So you played with Bobby Hussy? He's confessed that he's a pretty big fan of Digital Leather. I think Southpaw Records is putting out a split record of Digital Leather/The Hussy.
"Oh yes, we're doing several shows together. I didn't have much to do with that particular Digital Leather/Hussy record. It's more of Scott's home drum machine recordings. They did use some of my artwork."
Let's talk about Doom Abuse. It sounds like this was a different process for you guys.
"Yeah, it was. We came back together excited to make new music and get some new music out as soon as we could. We remembered how much more fun and easier it was when we first started. We didn't worry about as much while we were making things. We wanted it to mostly be about having a good time, being a band, and trying to make cool music instead of trying to make the most perfect thing and ending up with a bunch of compromises. Not that we had to compromise much before. It was hard to find a place where nobody felt compromised while we were arranging. We wanted everyone to feel 100 percent behind what we play when we play live. So we just tried to strip it back to the initial way of just trying to make some cool songs as a band, in a room, with our equipment on."
Was there more improvisation, or were there rules for taking turns, etc.?
"We don't really have just one way to make a song. We just get together, start talking, and sometimes that leads to a line. Maybe there's some beats that we have laying around that we've always wanted to use, and we'll put something on it. We'll jam a little bit, but usually only a couple of instruments at a time. It doesn't really come together the same way ever. A lot of times, it just starts from a melody or a lyric or a riff that we have, or a drum beat that we feel like we should be using — that it's always there, but we're waiting for the right song."
As a producer, what role did Mike Mogis play?
"In this situation, he was there as a fifth member of the band while we were making it. We needed him to expedite the process. We gave ourself so little time to make the music. Each day we were trying to finish a song so that it could get mixed the next day. And Mike would be one song ahead of us all the time. Instead of sitting around in the control room, commenting on equalizer ideas or panning or something, we were just furiously writing this album in order to get all the parts down to have it mixed the next day. We just trust him to do what we would do if we were there. I think we've built that relationship over the years, making a bunch of records with him. He kind of knows what we want, but we check in, solidify things, make comments. Then on to the next song, the next day."
On your last tour, you played Danse Macabre in its entirety. When you revisit older songs, or an entire album, do you have to find new ways into the songs?
"We had to go back and learn the Danse Macbre songs. There were some songs that we had never played live before, because they didn't make the cut for whatever reason. For some of them the technology at the time was stopping us from being able to do it, or just skills or whatever. In looking back at the record and figuring it out how to do it, we had to take a fresh look at it. It was kind of like a third party perspective, because we hadn't listened to it in years. We have played half of the songs live, so we know those ones well. But even those, we hadn't played for years as a band since we took a three-year break. I hadn't even been listening to songs in those three years. I had been deep into electronic instrumental music."
In coming back to the album, it struck me as very dense with sections. How many fun things can we put in?
"Every line is a different set of words. I could tell that my tastes had changed just a little. I could appreciate what was good about it. I could also see what things weren't really working about it for the first time. So, I think that experience did play into how the new record came together."
You mentioned taking time off. During that time you did some work other people. Is it refreshing to work with other people and on other projects? Does that bring something different?
"I haven't worked with that many people. I've been doing more of it lately. When I have done it, it feels good to soak up different knowledge that they have, to hear things with other people's ears instead of just your own. You know how you would solve a problem that you're up against, but everyone has their own way of doing it. It's interesting to see that other people's ways work also. I've always been a little bit of a control freak."
Are you looking forward to the tour, or is that part less fun?
"We love touring. Well, we love playing the shows. Touring is the work part of it. Playing shows is just play."
Do you have any rituals that you do on tour?
"Not really. We do have different things that we do. Dapose usually walks for a few miles every morning to go get some exotic tea, or maybe he'll walk through a forest. Clark (Baechle) and I are usually working on music. We don't have any sports cheers or anything that exciting, though we have played with some bands that do. My friend from Athens has this fold-up bike that looks pretty cool. I'd like to get one of those. I don't know if I can justify it or not."
I think David Byrne takes a fold-up bike on tour. He wrote a book (Bicycle Diaries) about biking around different cities around the world while on tour. He said you see things differently than from a tour bus.
"That's the problem with tour buses. It's great that you just show up in the next place, but you don't get that same sense of going anywhere or seeing the city. So, if bands come to Omaha, park at Sokol Hall, they'll think 'This is Omaha. OK, well, there's not much around.' I mean, Sokol Hall is great but a lot of things down there would be closed that time of night. It's good to be mobile and to be able to live life, even though you're on tour."
Is there anyone that you'd like to share a stage with?
"We've thought about that a little, since we are going on tour. I'm looking forward to playing with this band, Suuns. I suggested them and we're going to do some shows. There's legendary bands that it would be cool to do shows with, like Devo. I've never seen Gary Numan live, but I like his early stuff, especially. We don't really do many shows with bigger bands, but I like festivals so that I can see something."
I recently came into your the 7-inch split that you did with Ex-Action Figures, which came out in 1999.
"Right, that was after Media, after Blank-Wave Arcade, and right before Danse Macabre."
The lyrics focused on the Y2K bug, which cause a bit of a scare that year. What's to be scared of now in 2014? And on the flip side, what's good?
"Well, I find myself not being scared of things anymore. I'm more accepting responsibility for what I let into my consciousness. I think of it like real estate. Whatever you think about takes up space in your head and it becomes your reality, whether it's subtle or tragic. I guess I'm pretty new age-y in that way. As far as good things go, I'm just about at the brink of completely believing that you get to decide what world you live in through your imagination and beliefs. I'd like that to be true. But I used to believe only in facts, science, and atheism. It's an interesting collision of world views, where I am right now."