Fin Greenall is, for some, a legendary DJ from the golden era of dance music, whilst to others he’s a production guru. To others, such as John Legend and Professor Green, he’s valued contributing songwriter. On top of all this, Fin also fronts his own band, Fink.
We caught with him to discuss his new album, 'Perfect Darkness'.
Gigwise: So, having been a producer, DJ and guest song writer, you’re a man with many hats…
Fink: Not only is that metaphorically true it’s literally true. I have a huge collection of hats…
Gigwise: So, why do you value your song writing over all the other things you’ve done, you’re career as a DJ for example?
I got loads out of DJing. DJing in the 90’s was like being in a skinny-jeaned indie band is now. I still do a radio show, which is like the leisurely pastoral version of being a DJ…
What I loved about DJing was the constant consumption of the now. You spend your life in record stores trying find the something new that’s going to blow thousands of people’s minds. You’re a constant conduit for nowness.
What appeals about song writing is the opposite, the longevity. I threw out a lot of my record collection the other day. I found a lot of the stuff I was keeping was actually the more traditional song based stuff…
Gigwise: You also produce. Does it affect the way you think about and write songs, being a producer?
Fink: It gives you some insights but it doesn’t change what you write. I remember when I was making instrumental ambient techno and all the producers around were using singers and suddenly stuff was getting on the radio, because it had a hook and a voice that people could relate to.
I found that as well. The first ‘song’ I released penetrated a lot deeper and was better received than anything I’d put out after years of making instrumental electronic music.
Gigwise: Is it strange, as a producer, to have someone else produce your songs?
Fink: For me the artist and producer are fundamentally two different people. Producers have to worry about all the technical aspects of recording, which can be boring. It’s nice to be free of that, worrying about Avalon compression units and which micophone to use, etc. When you’re the artist you just have to lay it down as best you can…
Fink - 'This Is The Thing'
Gigwise: But some of your earlier records were self produced?
Fink: We used to produce our own albums, mainly as it helped us stay out of debt. A lot of other bands we’re getting in a hole, spending their whole advance on producers. We wanted to be able to make a living…Also, I was a bit of a control freak.
It’s good to have a producer, they can reign you in and apply their knowledge.
Gigwise: You write songs for other people as well, including John Legend and Professor Green. Is it a completely different head set when you’re writing for yourself?
Fink: When it’s for somebody else you have to be aware of the other people involved, who all have different end games. Big artists have the power to do what they want, with a smaller artist, you want to attain that power. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you write ‘The times they are a’changing’ everything’s goings to be all right.
That’s one of the ideas Fink lives and dies by, faith in the material. If you’ve written ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ it doesn’t matter if there are delays or problems, nothing’s going to stop it being massive.
Gigwise: So, what are your own song writing influences?
Fink: There’s no shame in saying there’s an element of folk in it, but folk is in everything. If you trace most popular music back far enough it’ll extend to Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell or Woody Guthrie…but many other sounds as well.
Gigwise: You recorded the album in 20 days, which sounds like a very organic process, with no time the over think things too much, was to this to suit these new, less electronic songs?
Fink: Yeah that’s really why we did it. Billy Bush [who produced the album] spent 18 months doing the last album he worked on, but we wanted a sense of right nowness. With Radiohead you get a sense of immediacy. It feels like the minute they finished recording the songs they’re on the shelves, we wanted that feeling.
We also wanted to prove to ourselves we could make a live, ‘organic’ sounding recording.
Gigwise: The title of the new album suggests a darkness running through the album but it seems to have a strong vein of optimism in it…
Fink: Yeah, it’s not a collection of songs about being dumped or ships leaving meadows or whatever it is people think folk’s supposed to be nowadays, is not that at all.
Two of the tracks were written on the spot in the studio actually. ‘Warm Shadow’ was made on a day off and ‘Wheels’ was like an improvised blues jam, about the fact I’ve had to begrudgingly give up skateboarding. You can’t really risk breaking your arm if you’re a guitarist, it would kind of ruin things.
Gigwise: The Stone Roses were supposed to headline Reading 96 as part of their comeback but John Squire hurt himself mountain biking, Pulp got the gig…
Fink: Well exactly, the rest is history…But it really is terrible not being able to skate any more. A lot of blues songs are about travelling. Our blues song is about travelling but it has a twist, in that I’m talking about skating as opposed to claiming to be a penniless migrant…
Gigwise: What are your festival plans this summer?
Fink: Well, deliberately, we’ve brought the album out too late to be involved with the festivals, apart from a few. We just didn’t want to spend the summer playing without a sound check. We’re going to chill, have some family time and get it together, because in September we’re off on a European tour.
Usually we tour before, during and after the albums come out. It turns out the tour after it comes out is always best. Word of mouth seems to work for us. We want to give the people who want the record get a chance to live with it before they come and see us. Our albums tend to be growers, so it makes sense to give it more time. It’s a new tactic.
'Perfect Darkness' is out on June 13.