We were very excited to be invited down to chat to Newton Faulkner as he was in the process of making his new album, Studio Zoo. For the recording of the album, Newton decided to invite camera’s in to his home and studio to see how the making and recording of a new album works. In doing so, Newton was able to get live feedback from his fans, mostly via social media, such as Twitter, which has shaped the album completely.
Studio Zoo will be Newton’s fourth album and we cannot wait to hear it. It promises to be stripped down and according to Newton, it is the best album he has made to date. With not long to go before the release date, let’s take a few moments to hear his thoughts on the making of the album.
Hi Newton, how are you and how have you found it, being in the Zoo, with the camera’s on you all the time, watching your every move?
Hello, I’m very well, thanks. To begin with, it was terrifying, only for the first couple of days. Since then, it’s been really helpful and it’s been brilliant. I’ve been able to bounce ideas off people. What’s happened in the studio in the past, is that it’s very easy to get carried away and to multi-layer things. This time, as soon as I’ve been tempted to do that, people have kind of told me that it doesn’t need that and it’s helped me.
Has it put pressure on you, with the camera’s watching you?
Oh, definitely it’s put pressure on me, but it’s the kind of pressure that I really like. I think it’s because its bridged the gap between being in the studio and being in a gig. I’m much more happier being in a gig than I am in the studio, so turning every performance of every take is a performance. It’s a much more performance way of recording it.
How was the feedback helped with the making of the album, I know you’ve had a lot of live Twitter interaction?
We did a lot of Q & A’s in the evening to begin with and it became less necessary, as the more I got used to it, the more constant it became and now people are tweeting all sorts you know, “Hey, it’s my Birthday”, “Oh, I like that bit – keep that bit it”, this constant kind of flow and every time I hit a high note, I get a lot of tweets saying “whoa, that was really high”.
So you’d say that the fans have really helped to shape this album in a big way, as you have been making it?
Yeah, definitely. I mean I had a very definite plan before I came in and it was very much the album that I know the fans wanted me to make. They wanted it to be a lot more stripped back and a lot more honest and looser, less layered and less produced as that’s what they see live and the live shows are the bits that no one has said anything bad about – it’s just me and a guitar and it is what it is. This process has really translated on to the record.
Are you hoping to inspire future songwriters, as obviously they have been able to tune in, live to the zoo?
It’s done that, in such a nice way I feel like a lot of the stuff in the industry is made out to be that the people who make the actual music are made out to be a separate kind of specifies, a different type of humanity in a way! I’m really not into that and one of my favourite things is watching others make music, which inspires me to make music, as I Can see what’s happening and understand the process a lot more too.
Can you tell us how you put a song together – does it normally start with the lyrics?
Ah, sometimes it does, sometimes I’ll have certain guitar parts, but no other melodies at all. Sometimes I have whole songs, which can drive the people I’m working with up the wall – I can have a whole song, with no lyrics whatsoever, which is kind of hard! I like writing good songs at the end of the end, however you get there!
Did you have certain songs in mind before the process started?
Yeah sure, we had track listing and then we cut it down to fifteen, as then split those up further to work on. I’m seriously attached to this album. Treading Water is one of my favourite guitar parts, as its seriously hard and a serious step up. I think because the album was so stripped back, the guitar parts had to be complex to carry everything. The fans tweeted me and they all have different favourites songs so far, which is good. If you’ve got only one that’s good, that’s when you’d worry, as you’d be thinking – what about the others. A whole bunch of people like In My Head, which is kinda wierd, as when we started the process, we said that people weren’t going to ‘get’ the song, but that hasn’t been the case, thankfully – but it is pretty wierd. I’ve always been weird, but I haven’t been allowed to be weird, or as weird as I’d like to be on albums. On this album, I’ve had a bit more of a free reign. When I say weird, I mean slightly more psychedelic!
You had a deadline for the completion of the album when you went into the zoo, with a view of it being complex in time for a release date of August 26th 2013. Do you usually work to deadlines?
Yeah, it was pretty tight and we knew that when we went in. Deadlines have been there forever and as much as you’d like to fight them, they’re there for a reason. When I met a friend and was really bitching about the deal dine for the first album, saying this is stupid, this isn’t art, this is horrible. Then he went through a list of classical pieces and all of them had been to a certain time and a certain date and they were rushed and pushed for time, which works and they are undeniable masterpieces. That was when I realised – dude, stop winging, this is what is needed and has to be done. This album has been about a quarter of the time that it’s taken to record, in comparison to my other albums and anything that I’ve ever done and I think that has been good for it. I’ve had some incredible people come in to record on the album and also some of my favourite guitar players of all time, it’s been really great.
You got a lot of guitars upstairs in the studio, do yo have a favourite?
I think my favourite is one called the Benj, I’ve had to retire it from flying, as it has had such a battering. It’s the one I’ve played the most and the more you play it, the more you get to know it and the more it knows you. It’s weird, with guitars that are custom made for you, you kind of learn from each other, like you learn how to play it, as much as it learns to be played by you. It’s really weird. It goes out to England, but it doesn’t fly anywhere, as its got too many cracks in it. It’s seen as much of the world as I have and another two countries where it got sent to the wrong place, but it got returned in the end.
Calling your home and new album the zoo makes it sound like you’ve been trapped and haven’t been out during the recording process, is that the case?
I have, I’ve been trapped in here! Nah, I have been out and we have a family day every Wednesday, where we spent time with my son. The first day off that I had, I actually went to the zoo, ha-ha. I spent all day in the zoo, after spending all day here, it was nice. My favourite is London Zoo, as the focus is on conservation. I remember going there years and years ago and it was a little bit depressing and the animals looked a bit sad, but not it’s really great up there and the animals really get looked after, its lovely. A monkey tried to eat my hair when I was there, which was a bit awkward, they were carrying them around. It was a type of Lemur in fact. I had my two year old with me, this monkey grabs my hair and then my son is trying to stroke the monkey’s head saying how nice the monkey was and then the monkey makes the loudest noise I have ever heard in my life and I’ve heard some loud noises! My son completely freaked out and tried to climb around me and this American woman completely freaked out in front of me, all a bit strange.
Has becoming a father changed your songwriting? Do you think that its made you more sensitive and more emotional in your lyric writing, maybe more so than before?
It has, it changed everything and your whole outlook on your whole existence. Definitely, it opens you up in a whole different way. It changes you so much, in ways that you never thought you would ever be able to change. I’ve written loads of songs for him.
You were touring in Australia earlier in the year, how was that?
Oh, that was hilarious. Australia is great fun. My favourite city is Melbourne, I’ve got a soft spot for there, but it can get cold there, much like the UK, it’s got a really great vibe about the city.
How long after the album is released can your UK fans expect you to be touring here?
I’lll be on the road as soon as I can, but I’m not quite sure what the schedule is. I think that people are a bit surprised that everything went to schedule and on time with the new album, so they’re like, what are we going to do next. I can’t wait to get out there.
What do you think is the best gig you’ve done to date?
My first Glastonbury in the acoustic tent was kinda huge. It’s kinda the first group of big festivals that you play at that really blow your mind.
We came to a gig of yours, last year at the Scala, and on the way out, there was a woman who was about to give birth in the foyer. We were just wondering if you had heard from her and if she named the baby after you?
Ha-ha, I remember that. The baby was fine, I don’t know if she named the baby after me, I only know that everything was fine and worked out fine and everyone is healthy, which is great.
What do you think has been the best thing about your whole studio zoo experience?
I think it’s been nice to get to know the people who buy my record and what they want too. I mean, that’s just fascinating and for them to watch me doing guitar solos and learning and seeing how the process worked. I’ve had relentless interaction with them, which has been great.