Fin Greenall, lead singer and songwriter for Fink, has explored many avenues of music, playing everything from DJ sets to solo shows with just a guitar.
Hailing from Bristol, England, Greenall’s unique musical sensibility has led to him to co-write songs with John Legend and the late Amy Winehouse, and has matured with a full band that has expanded his musical potency. We caught up with Greenall to talk about today’s use of technology in music and the transformation of his music.
Fink Plays the Independent on October 10th.
I just learned so much about where you’re staying, downtown Chicago at the Congress Plaza. That hotel sounds very important.
It’s nice to be back here in Chicago, and it’s a pleasure to have Wi-Fi for a night so I can get some work done. We’re in a decent hotel tonight. Loads of politicians and presidents have stayed here. Not so much anymore, I think it was different in the 30s, but at least the Wi-Fi is good. It’s funny how the small things can make you very happy these days.
What kind of work do you do on the road?
I’m setting up a small label in Berlin with a friend of mine and putting out our next single, “Shakespeare.” I also travel with a mobile studio and do a lot of recording in the van, so when I get Wi-Fi I just get into an upload frenzy.
Technology is obviously a huge part in our lives these days, especially for musicians.
You get used to technology now, but then you get off the grid to some interesting places in the world and realize Spotify and Facebook and all that is a very Western thing. The further east you go you realize this other world exists. All you have to do is get out of Europe and North America and you realize it’s very normal to live without it.
All my trendy LA friends talk about these new life changing Apps, but honestly most the world probably still doesn’t have regular electricity. But that’s the beauty of it; we spend a lot of time worrying about random shit because we have the time, instead of worrying about the basic shit. There are two worlds out there. It was designed to be a labor saving device but it just means you work harder and faster and longer, it’s a little bit of backfire.
Ten years ago you probably weren’t able to record and demo like you do now.
You kind of couldn’t ten years ago. Technology, in terms of sound cards, has changed. My laptop holds a terabyte, ten years ago that wasn’t available. Fifteen years ago, with electronic music, you needed a studio with gear in it, now I can fit my equipment in my suitcase.
I can record demos anywhere now. Even my iPhone has a decent recording program. Ten years ago I’d use a picture phone and record ideas and try to remember them. I only got into mobilizing my studio a couple years ago, which means I can be much more productive. It’s kind of cool that all you need is electricity. You don’t really need Wi-Fi, you just need power, and you can get that anywhere.
Unfortunately, technology in the music industry has probably eliminated a lot of jobs.
There were more jobs and less stress. Technology has added a whole other layer of stress and opened up music to everyone. Everyone can get Appleton and download some plugins and be as functional as I was with a full studio.
There’s a lot more bland music, but there’s still some things that can’t help you. If you want live drums and bass, you need a studio and an engineer. If you play gigs, the live production is the same as it always was. When we play, there are wires everywhere and there’s not a lot of technology on the stage. The drummer has a loop pedal and that’s about it. Even if you don’t rely on technology there’s other shit that can go wrong.
I’ve heard of people getting laptops stolen and losing entire albums and all their music. It’s more of a gamble.
I was at a massive festival in Europe and a lot of my DJ friends were on the bill. One of them, who shall remain nameless, had this big show and right before his sound check he was running around backstage looking for his bag. He eventually found it but in that bag were his laptop and his backup hard drive. It had the whole fucking show on it. If it had been nicked, he would have walked out there with only a microphone.
Do you think that rock ’n’ roll has been compromised by technology?
I wouldn’t agree that the spirit has been destroyed. Young bands have more opportunity to record; it’s just a shame when the ideas are so mild. You can be so avant-garde because of technology that it’s a weird to me when I hear something so safe.
It doesn’t seem like you implement a lot of technology in your music, but you’ve come a long way since you first album Biscuits for Breakfast.
Biscuits for Breakfast was the first record I produced in my bedroom studio. Sort of revolution I also produced in 2008 in the same studio. There was a bit more tech on Hard Believer, but we learned the best way for us to make a record is to write it, demo it and then take it to the studio and delegate it. We started with live demoing and then added layers to give it that extra juice at the end. We had to start knowing that it was going to be doable live.
We like to keep it simple. It pushes the musicians a lot harder when you have to fill the space. We were really inspired last year after a gig we played in 2013 and saw the Rolling Stones. They didn’t have any technology at all. It was entirely guitars and drums—they had like five backup singers, but there wasn’t any tech and I was really inspired. Their whole back catalog doesn’t include any of that.
Interview: Fink’s Fin Greenall Brings ‘True Believer’ to The Independent