Incendiary Interview Fuck Buttons

Incendiary Interview Fuck Buttons

 

It’s a dreary day and getting the ferry to north Amsterdam involves running the gauntlets of the first winter squalls of the year. North Amsterdam, previously the dowdy maid is being treated a make-over, so to speak, but it still has an air of staid, respectability that the weather can’t deface. It has to be said that there’s also a vaguely seedy feel you get with old industrial areas, maybe that’s what is making it the place du jour for the Bright Young Professionals… Still, once safely inside one of the vaguely trendy bars Incendiary relaxed enough in order to ask Fuck Buttons some questions about their splendid new LP.

 

Fuck Buttons are Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power; a duo whose quiet polite, coy demeanour is somewhat at odds with the raucous, sensual music they create. But they are cheeky. Rather than meekly waiting to be asked questions as any good pop star should, Andrew decides to start talking about my handwriting.

 

 

AH: Ooh you’ve got handwriting haven’t you? Are you musical?

 

IN: The hands of an artist… I was told how to write at school, it’s developed from there. But I am a painter, so primary school discipline and artistic sensibilities must have made some sort of alliance.

 

AH: It’s very beautiful. But I thought artists had shit handwriting? My handwriting’s just a scrawl. Maybe I suppose it depends on what kind of artist you are…

 

IN: Sometimes graphic designers seem to have the best writing, it’s very precise, and look at Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s signature, very beautiful… but in some ways I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised... erm… I was going to start this interview by congratulating you on your LP: it’s tremendous (indeed it is, gushing review coming soon). It’s very sensual. You make sensual music.

 

AH: I love that word, sensual! (Laughs)

 

IN: But you do seem in love with texture in your music, and the sensual potential of textural interplay. It seems to be the main driving force in the way you create music.

 

AH: I’d say that is very true. It’s not like we have any prescription, you’re right.

 

IN: And you seem to shoot from the hip with your ideas rather than work to prescribed idea.

 

AH: Oh yes, I love that (laughs). There is an element of me that is very much attracted to noise. But what we don’t want to do is intellectualise our music before we make it. We can do afterwards if you like, but we do look to explore using sounds and I suppose you could say that is our mission, our intent.

 

BP: I think to try to intellectualise what we do when we are creating something would just lead to dry interpretation of what we were thinking at the time. There’s no set goals musically, just an all-out exploration.

  

IN: Is that why Andrew Weatherall was brought in to produce the new LP? You could go wherever you wanted to go and you could leave him to worry about details?

 

AH: I think he has very similar ideas about exploring sounds. He was interesting like that. When we first started talking about what we were going to do, right at the beginning of our time with him, he said “if I start thinking about it it’s time to stop doing it”, meaning that the often difficult act of labouring over a piece of work would show through in the finished piece. And he has an amazing sense of space.

 

BP: That’s what was really noticeable with working with Andy Weatherall, the sense of space he brought to the recordings, as well as the level of detail over particular musical ideas or passages. I think the sense of space between musical pieces is often as important as the music itself.

 

IN: Reminds me of Rubens and his use of grey in paintings. It’s funny that people always think Rubens’ canvases are overcrowded, but that may be attributable to clever use of large areas of neutral colour in his works. They serve to highlight the main action in a much more emphatic manner.

 

BP: I think that is pretty much what Weatherall did for us.

 

IN: Back to music! The new LP reminds me of a number of the old Trans-Europe/Trans-American Express compilations. Have you heard them?

 

AH: I have heard of them, but I haven’t heard them.

 

IN: They had very expansive, romantic records on them. Early David Holmes, etc. Are Fuck Buttons looking to be an expansive, romantic act?

 

BP: I don’t think we had any intention of wanting to be anything when we first started to write the songs on the album. I mean we’re happy for you to think the music is widescreen and romantic, but it certainly wasn’t the intention when we started!

 

AH: I guess we do enjoy energy. Energy in the creative process is a big thing for us. I think at the writing stage the focus wasn’t on that idea of romantic expansion, but if that’s what you heard then that’s the intention! (The Buttons and Incendiary enjoy a giggle at this point)

 

IN: You never know what the listener is going to draw from your record!

 

BP: And I think that’s a really great thing.

 

IN: I suppose the expansive thing was me wondering why you had these very strident song titles, such as Olympians on this new one, it’s very Lennie Riefenstahl…

 

Andrew giggles…

 

IN: Whereas your first one was a very puckish record… very Klaus Schultze if you don’t mind me saying so…

 

BP: We definitely didn’t want to make the same record twice.

 

IN: I also have to say that the amount of stuff written about you is sometimes unreadable. Including your record company, whose press notes defy description; (and including my good self it seems, on listening back - RJF). And this is despite you making accessible records.

 

AH: I do think we’re not an easy band for journalists to get a mental grip on. I do know some people look for common threads by going through our tracks one by one and making notes. The only common thread is the emotional one; we don’t really belong to any genres.

 

IN: Are you in danger of being talked into a corner, musically? Trying to live up to other people’s ideas of Fuck Buttons?

 

BP: I wouldn’t have thought it’s something that would have an impact on the way we make music. Ever since we first started to play on old keyboards in a room above a pub Andy used to live in, making music for us is exactly the same process. I’d also like to think that our integrity is stronger

 

IN: I wouldn’t suggest it’s an integrity thing; I’m more interested in how you react to people’s perceptions of you as part of a creative process.

 

AH: Fair point, I see two things here. One is about us and one regards the relationship with us and a third party who likes our music… I mean you’re right in saying that our music is direct and will obviously lead to people wanting to take the relationship they have with the music further through us, and what we write, but really their relationship isn’t really with us, it’s between themselves and the music… and I’m interested in building a wall between those things! (Laughs)… We are obviously interested in people listening to our music, but we’re not actually relevant to that experience.

 

IN: Okay, to lighten the load of impertinent questions I have an easier question, (giggles all round), which is about your name… And that is, Fuck Buttons; is that a noun or an instruction?

 

AH: Depends what moods you’re in I guess… (Laughs)

 

BP: When we first started to make music together we were students and we didn’t have much money. So we’d erm… we’d take inspiration from junk we found at car boot sales, stuff we could pick up cheaply. And we would try to make music with whatever we picked up. And the sounds were very strange and confrontational. But we had a lot of charm! And I suppose Fuck Buttons comes from the marriage of these two opposites, in that there was this harsh, confrontational edge to us and then there was the cute side.

 

IN: Car boots sales I can see that given your predilection for a DIY aesthetic, creatively speaking. Shall we talk about car boot sales? Amsterdam’s great for them.

 

Andrew laughs, almost in anticipation…

 

IN: So what have you picked up?

 

AH: We got quite a lot of good gear (musical gear) last time and I got Ben a nice Garfield hat, to go with his Garfield slippers.

 

IN: Did it have a tail?

 

BP: No… 

 

AH: Have you worn it yet?

 

BP: I’ve worn it round the house, I’m not ready to wear it outside yet…

 

IN: You get the strangest people at car boot sales. I remember seeing someone in London once at a car boot, wearing the biggest, widest pair of fur trapper’s boots. They (the boots) looked wider than any part of that person’s body…

 

BP: Talking of fur, I saw someone offering a fur coat, what looked like a skinned bear.

 

AH: That was at Chiswick. Rich area, you always get good junk there.

 

BP: We went to the Battersea one recently. I thought it actually wasn’t that good. The Dalston one’s good though.

 

AH: The idea of currency alters at car boot sales. It’s really annoying I remember going to one and seeing a brand of keyboard that normally sells for a couple of hundred on eBay, and the bartering process would be initiated with something like “you want five ponds for that?” (Laughs) You end up haggling over 50p…

 

BP: Tell your trick, Andy.

 

IN: You happy about disclosing it?

 

AH: Okay, you can do, I suppose. I like looking for old keyboards. They’re normally quite small, so I’ll say “how much for that toy keyboard? It’s a toy right”… knowing full well…. (Laughs)

 

Interview: Richard Foster