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The Faint

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Todd Baechle, am: 06.01.2004 ]

Die Spannung auf das neue The Faint Album „Wet From Birth“ war nicht nur in den USA groß, sondern konnte auch hier förmlich gespürt werden. Nun ist er endlich da, der Nachfolger zum hervorragenden „Danse Macabre“, der sich auf der einen Seite noch ein Stück elektronischer und tanzbarer zeigt und auf der anderen Seite doch auch geschlossener und durchdachter wirkt. Dass The Faint überdies eine der besten Livebands dieses Planeten sind, dürfte auch schon länger kein Geheimnis mehr sein. Anlässlich ihrer vor kurzem abgeschlossenen Europatour sprachen wir mit Sänger und Frontmann Todd unter anderem über Fashion, 80er Ästhetik, The Orifice und No Doubt.

 

Musicscan: How do you experience touring? Do you enjoy it or is it more of a necessity for you?

The Faint: I could set up a piece of paper and write a lot of good things and a lot of bad things, but over all I like it just as much as any other thing I do. I really like to play shows and I really like to see the world. Those are the big plusses and the rest of it…

Musicscan: Doesn’t it feel like work sometimes?

The Faint: It doesn’t feel like work, it feels like…you know I like to be somewhere else some days back at home or with my girlfriend. But in general I am just as happy doing all the things that I do.

Musicscan: What is the major difference for you when you do a headlining tour or for example the No Doubt tour? Did you take something positive out of that experience as well?

The Faint: Well, it is not nearly as much fun. Playing in big rooms is the experience that we got from that tour, just playing bigger shows than we would ever play. But it was a lot more work, because you don’t have any history with the people. They don’t know the name of the band, they don’t know what they are supposed to think. We don’t have a video on TV. I just felt like they thought we were that local band that got lucky and got on the bill. I just think a tour like that is a lot of work whereas a show where the majority of the people came to see your band is just not work at all.

Musicscan: Why did you do that tour then? For exposure reasons? I mean I am sure you got plenty of shit from the “indie community?”

The Faint: That is kind of why we did it, at least partly. I think that kind of attitude is bullshit. I mean we have played with a lot of worse bands hundreds of times. I am not trying to insult the bands that we have played with before. People just like to show that they are not into a certain group, because they then feel elevated to the upper crust of musical alliance versus astute fans. The reason we did it was just for the experience, just to see what it is like to do that and to see if we ever wanted to play shows like that.

Musicscan: Do you?

The Faint: It wasn’t clear, because it seemed really crappy, but that was just because we were playing first and the crowd was obviously not so much into it. I think it is harder to entertain more people even if all the people are there just to see that one band. It is still really hard to entertain 10.000 people. They don’t all have a good seat and they don’t all feel the music. They feel all the reflections off of the walls and that big echoey arena. So in a lot of ways I think it is quite a bit worse than playing smaller shows. But you can’t do that all the time, it is not worth it. You’d be on tour all year round, you would never get any records written.

Musicscan: How important is the bodily aspect in a show? Do you think it is possible to convey some sort of meaning or narrative through the body and the motion on stage, not only through the music, but the performative aspect of you guys being that right in that moment?

The Faint: I think just by hearing sounds and by just hearing music on a CD or through headphones you can get a lot of ideas about why the songs are the way they are. But you don’t really know for sure until you see what the people who wrote and played the songs are like. I think you could probably learn more about the songs or learn to like them more or if you don’t like them more, I guess. I don’t really think about that too much. We make videos for our show and I think they portray certain other things about the songs, but it probably clarifies just as much as it does anything else. It probably convolutes some songs as well, but I think over all you get an idea of what the band is more from seeing them live along with the visuals.

Musicscan: I was going to ask you about those anyway. How do they fit into the picture? Do they just serve to enhance the music or are they another element to create another stimulus for the audience and sort of create a synaesthetic experience?

The Faint: Both really. Sounds are a really small thing. You can say one thing really clearly or you can try to say something complicated and have it not happen. There are only so many words and there is only so much attention span people have.

Musicscan: Do they directly relate to the music then?

The Faint: Sometimes. It can look really bad to do literal explanations of what the lyrics mean on stage, but I think the general vibe of what the songs are about is more what we are going for. Depose and Jacob do a lot of the videos and the actual editing. They know what the songs are about, because I always explain them, but I also write them so I don’t have to explain them too much. So sometimes it is their interpretation of what the song is about, which is just one step away from what I meant sometimes and which is also what I like. I like it to be like that and point in a couple of different directions and we all kind of work on the videos after the start is made on it and direct which way they go in.

Musicscan: So you are definitely trying to convey some meaning and some kind of narrative. It is not only an aesthetic device.

The Faint: No, I think the videos should raise questions about what we are doing and what the song is about, because it is really hard in a life setting to get lyrical meaning across, at least in a rock or loud kind of band.

Musicscan: Yes, one of the most interesting aspects of your music for me is that it works both in a club setting and in your living room, when you listen to the records on your stereo? Why do you think that is?

The Faint: I guess because we made them for both of those reasons.

Musicscan: But most bands that are as danceable as you are usually don’t really work too long in your living room. They get boring pretty quickly.

The Faint: Well, I guess we come form more of a type of living room listening. So we are probably building up from there. I mean we are interested in songs. We might not be the greatest group in writing them, but we would like to be just as anybody would (laughs). What I am trying to say is, we are not trying to make dance music and have a couple of lines in it just so that there are vocals or this kind of thing.

Musicscan: Is that a conscious effort or does that evolve naturally?

The Faint: We have always been interested in the song aspect of it. I think most everybody that makes music is, but what style it comes out in is always in question. We have no idea what we are trying to do most of the time. At least in the last few years when we made this record, there would be a song and we would work on it and whatever style seemed to fit best is what we went with. We have a couple of different versions of some of them. You could write a song and then turn it into a country & western, techno or heavy metal. I mean we always play around with them.

Musicscan: In your press release you mention that you went to this warehouse place that you named “The Orifice” where you wrote and I believe also recorded part of the record. How did that work out for you? It seemed like you were trying to get yourself in a 9 to 5 routine.

The Faint: Yes, that is our joke at ourselves, at our own expenses. That is also why we called it “The Orifice”, because it sounds like office. It is kind of like a job, but it is more like kids who have a club house in a tree where they meet everyday.

Musicscan: So it wasn’t really as structured as it was made out to be?

The Faint: Oh it was structured. We all knew what time we were going to show up. We usually worked from 10 or 11 in the morning until 9 o’clock at night, even though we didn’t really have a clock there (laughs).

Musicscan: It really reminded me of somebody like Nick Cave who always stresses the fact that he works a normal 9 to 5 kind of job and thereby demystifies the entire creative process. Was that also a way to discipline yourselves?

The Faint: I think that is a way to discipline yourself. I mean inspiration is not always there and you rely on craft to fill in those places, but if you do it every day like that I think you put yourself in a position where inspiration can hit and that is good, but at the same time you might end up with a lot of songs build on craft rather than inspiration. There is something to be said for either of those, but I always hunt for inspiration.

Musicscan: Was that easier to come by in that situation?

The Faint: I haven’t figured out how to get it, I don’t know. But playing music everyday and talking about what we want and what kind of music we want to do and what we want to sound like ant that kind of stuff, I mean mostly we sit on two couches across from each other with a table with a bunch of garbage on it and we just talk about what kind of music we want to do. And just from that we usually have guitars out and Clark is at the computer doing something that none of us understands and that is how the songs come out.

Musicscan: It sounds like there is a rather strong conceptual aspect to your songs. I mean you talk a lot before you actually write the songs. Other bands might just walk in and start to jam or something like that.

The Faint: Yes, God I know we should jam, but we don’t. It is still the same thing, though, you can jam all you want, but unless there is something magical, that inspiration spark, you are just going to be making a bunch of noise. Whenever you decide you are going to jam to get a new song, is because you are out of ideas or that is how we usually end up. It’s mostly like “let’s go and sit down, this is bullshit.” We usually don’t work on a song until there is something there. I wish I would bring more finished songs to band practice because they seem to be in the end more cohesive compared to when we finish them as a group. I mean we always finish them as a group, but as far as arranging goes. When I have an idea that is all worked through with all the words from front to back, it does work out better and I hope to do that more in the future, but most of the time the way it works is I’ll have a couple of parts to a song or sometimes there is a lyrical idea or a theme that I want to do but I haven’t written any of the words, I just know how the melody goes and that kind of stuff. Then we’ll work on it. Sometimes I get stuck and we’ll all play some different things, but most of the time when we are playing and passing the instruments around and trying to think of parts. Once we already know what the parts are and we know what the chords are, we just haven’t figured out how the music should sound, so we’ll all play bass and see who comes up with the best bass line or I’ll talk about drums and we are all beatboxing to Clark (laughs). Once the song is there, we are all open to make up any parts, whoever comes up with the best stuff. Then we record it and after we have recorded it, we learn how to play the music together and who plays what.

Musicscan: Are you interested in style or fashion? You appear to be a rather fashion conscious band over all. How much does the fairly coherent appearance of the band relate to the image of the band?

The Faint: We get that question sometimes and I think neither of us is shy answering it, because we haven’t really had the chance to wear the clothes that we would like to wear if we got to. I think we have opinions on style, but we usually don’t have any money to spend on clothes. So it is usually just thrift stores for us. I think that we like fashion, but we are not way into it. Some of us are actually not into it at all.

Musicscan: But thrift stores are fashion, too. So it doesn’t have anything to do with the way you want to portray yourself to your audience?

The Faint: That is the way it has always been for us. I guess I wasn’t like that when I was in junior high school. I mean fashion is cool, but I also think it is kind of for suckers who are willing to spend way too much money. If you care about fashion enough that you spend $ 800 on a shirt, maybe you should just learn how to make that shirt.

Musicscan: Well, that is just another approach at fashion, not really an anti-fashion if there is anything like that at all.

The Faint: I would say we are just as much anti-fashion as we are pro-fashion (laughs).

Musicscan: There is no way to really be anti-fashion, is there?

The Faint: Yes, there is, you just don’t think about it. So if you are taking a stance then maybe you are not. That is why people don’t say they are anti-fashion.

Musicscan: What do you find most interesting about 80’s aesthetics, not necessarily limited to music?

The Faint: If I put myself into the position of a young guy in the 80’s who is watching music videos an TV and listening to the radio and buying LPs and cassette tapes, I remember thinking that it was cool that all these people made music that in some way they considered modern or even futuristic. They had taken keyboards and tried to create something new with them and they were mixing styles that hadn’t been mixed before. Even ZZ Top or The Straycats or pretty much all the people that you would see on music television were doing something different for that era. I mean I didn’t know music history much at the time, but I remember feeling that they were doing something futuristic. Still I am not so much attracted to the nostalgia of the 80s and the fashion or making music like those bands, but more of the idea of trying to put things together to create something new.

Musicscan: Would you agree that current music has been much more self-reflexive and self-conscious in many ways than music from 40 years ago? Music seems to be quoting different music and use things that originate from a different time and put them into a different context and rearrange in a postmodern collage or pastiche kind of style.

The Faint: I think it is easy to think of things like that in that way, because people like you or me are more familiar with the last ten years than anything else, but it seems like in the 80s they had a 60s fixation as well and in the 90s there was the throwback to the 70s with guitar rock and solos and stuff. I think it is always like that. I think we just haven’t seen that pattern so pronounced because rock is only so old to be seeing that pattern now. We could have seen it a decade ago, but it is becoming more obvious now as fashion changes so quickly. For example bell bottoms were way out of fashion for so long and they are supposed to be coming back and the thing is and now we know that it takes a certain amount of time before something comes back and that time is predictable.

 
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