Horns. I want horns on it. And harp. Punk harp…
With their new album, Fauxchisels at the B.C.R.C., being released on 30 July (more details here), Paul and Heather – two of the three noisemakers that make up the band (Dicky the drummer being the other) – took time out to tell MR’s Jason Guest about the recording of the album, its writing and creation, the band, and why bass is not a support instrument…
Hi. This is Jason from The Midlands Rocks. Thank you very much for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on At The B.C.R.C.
Paul: Thanks Jason.
The album was recorded live and mixed by Jimm Zorn at the Black Country Recording Company in Wolverhampton. Why choose to record it live rather than in the studio?
Paul: It was kind of a lucky accident. Jimm is starting to open B.C.R.C. up as a low-key events space, as well as its daily role as a recording studio – and as such he arranged a lock-up gig there back in March with us and two other bands (WMN and Ghosts of Dead Airplanes). It was right at the tail end of the bad snow, so there were probably only a couple of dozen people there. Seeing as how we were performing in the studio, Jimm had the bright idea of recording the band’s sets – as soon as I heard what he’d captured on playback, I thought: “Shit, that’s the first album. We have to release this!”
Heather: It was a crisp and clear sound, just like a studio recording, yet the songs had all the urgency and vigour that you expect from a live gig. The perfect combination!
When writing the material for what would become At The B.C.R.C., did you have an idea of how you wanted it to sound, or did each of the tracks and the whole thing take shape as it was being developed?
Paul: It’s basically a recording of the live set we’ve been developing and playing for the last few years. Releasing this album feels like the perfect way to capture those songs, and draw a line under this first phase of Fauxchisels.
How long have you been working on the material? And what changes has it gone through during that time?
Paul: Some of these songs have been in the live set since we started, a few of them were also on the first EP – albeit in a totally different form! So a bunch of them have been with us for four or five years. We’ve experimented with a few different line-ups – some of which had a looser and more chaotic feel, but in a good way, more layers of guitars, that kind of thing. But as soon as we tried the stripped-down three-piece set-up, with Dicky on drums, the material just all felt right.
Heather: We’re a power trio now and we have that great telepathy that develops between bands. There’s a bit of improvisation involved here and there – and we all seem to instinctively know where we’re going and stay in sync with each other.
Can you tell us about the themes on B.C.R.C. and where you took inspiration from?
Paul: Each song is pretty independent to the next, there’s no overarching theme – except maybe indignation… I guess a bunch of them are thinly veiled attacks on the current government, and the general lack of empathy I see around me these days… The old punk rock staples. Yeah, generally I’m just a bit fed up with the world!
Heather: Paul sounds very, very angry on most of these songs. And yet he’s probably the mildest-mannered and gentlest person you could meet. That’s probably one of our unique selling points, we are all quite sweet-natured, yet make a furious racket. I think railing against injustice is a big part of it, really. I still feel sick when I think of bankers paying themselves enormous bonuses after the taxpayer bailed them out. They earn more in bonuses than most people earn in a year. They should have given the money back to the people who helped them out.
Can you give us some background on the band, how you formed, and what it was that drew you together to make music under the name Fauxchisels?
Paul: Haha. Well, originally it was a solo project that I did by myself in the back room on a laptop. Then I roped Heather in to play live bass – when we first met back in the mists we were playing in rival Goth bands in Birmingham, and we’d always kind of wanted to do a project together, so in she came. So then it was just the two of us and a drum machine – which was fine, people enjoyed it, I just found it a bit annoying and soulless playing to exactly the same tempo every night and not having the room to improvise – you know?
Heather: Plus, nothing sounds better than real drums played well. Drum machines are great for a certain kind of music but I don’t think it suits punk/noise stuff. Still, having that rigid, clinical beat in the early days was great practice in terms of tightening up our set.
Paul: As I mentioned before we’ve had a few different members over time, and each line-up has had a different feel and sound. We had Meesha and Chris from Victor playing drums and second guitar for a while – which was great, that was the chaotic but good period! But then Meesh had to step back to concentrate on her work with Dorcha, and Chris went on holiday to Sri Lanka.
Then another break happened when Heather had some time off a couple of years ago while she was expecting our son, and as a temporary stand-in I had the three guys from The Double Happy (Martin Warlow, Stephen King and Dicky) play with me.
Heather: Suddenly, Fauxchisels was a boy band! A very noisy and aggressive one at that.
Paul: Well, a man band. That was a brilliant experience – and I loved that four-piece line-up, but we always called it ‘The Faux Happy’ between ourselves, as it was a bit of a hybrid beast. Once Heather was ready for active service again just Dicky stayed on from the three – and only then was when I was able to sit back and think, yeah, this is right.
Heather: It’s perfect with Dicky, as he’s a super-tight drummer but his playing is quite intricate at times, which fills out our sound.
Paul: As for the Fauxchisels name, I should have a good story for that, but I haven’t worked one out yet. My mate Miles – who was also in that Goth band – had a Twitter account (@obscurebands) where he would make up fake band and song titles, amusing puns and things. One of them was Faux Chisels – and I just thought, yes it’s a good pun, but it also looks really good written down! It passed the Google test – one of my pet hates is bands using names that other bands are already using, it makes keeping your Discogs collection up-to-date a nightmare! – so I thought I’d turn it from a fake band into a real one.
Is there a musical vision or concept for the band? And if so, how do you seek to capture that in music?
Paul: The concept originally was to try and create short, impactful songs – with the minimum of basic ingredients, but always trying to keep things slightly off kilter and on the verge of falling apart. Although the concept has been stretched somewhat with more recent songs, I still try to remember it. As an example, ‘Do You Got It?’ was one of the first songs I wrote for Fauxchisels – and that’s just basically a repetition of a four note riff in a six beat bar. So the challenge was, can you write a three-minute song with just this rhythm and this same handful of notes and have the listener be as into it at the end, as they are at the start? It’s still probably one of the most intoxicating songs in the set.
Heather: It’s hypnotic and powerful, well, it’s like being bludgeoned repeatedly with a piece of beef. I prefer songs with subtle use of light and shade, such as Mad Max Too, as I feel they go on more of a journey and then build up to a climax, whereas Do You Got It? is pure brute force from the outset.
Musical or otherwise, who or what influence or have influenced the band? And how have they impacted on the band’s sound?
Paul: It’s been a combination of people I’ve been listening to since a teenager, like Steve Albini and pretty much anything on Touch and Go and AmRep, in the UK everything from The Fall to Kong, plus some of the local bands who inspired me to give it a go in the first place. Especially Them Wolves and Victor – both of whom are sadly no more – Youth Man, God Damn, Wax Futures, Ghosts of Dead Airplanes, A Pig Called Eggs, WMN, False Grails. Loads of them. I chanced upon the local scene after a random encounter with God Damn’s manager Pete on a train about six years ago – strangely enough on the way home from a Midlands Rocks meeting! I started making videos for some of the bands, mentioned that I would love to be doing what they were doing and they just said – well, do it then. So I did.
The other big impact has been starting to allow the others into the writing process – I now generally present just the basic guitar riff and let Heather and Dicky work out their own parts. They always take things in directions I would never have thought of, so that’s really cool.
Heather: Paul’s still the main songwriter and the driving force but he’s not a dictator, he’s open to ideas. He wrote the early basslines but now I have free rein. I’m very much influenced by post punk bands from the 80s as they tend to have quite prominent and interesting bass lines as opposed to just playing root notes and being buried in the mix. When I get cocky about my bass needing to be louder, Paul tries to tell me that it is primarily a support instrument, but I beg to differ!
What does the act of making music mean to Fauxchisels?
Paul: It’s always been about the act of just trying to make yourself heard. Not necessarily about political issues, but just looking around at the 21st century and reflecting on what a shambles it is – trying to navigate our way back to a better path. But not in a preachy way. In a way that hopefully makes people smile.
Heather: We always said from the start that if Fauxchisels stopped being fun, we wouldn’t do it anymore. Getting up on stage and making a racket for half an hour is a wonderfully cathartic experience. It’s angry music but it’s good-humoured at heart, we definitely want people to enjoy it and not come away feeling depressed about the state of the world.
Your first release was the Shape of FAUXCHISELS to Come EP in December 2013, then came the Sticker EP in late 2015 followed by Meat Slick in April 2016. How has the band developed over the years?
Paul: At the time I recorded the first EP it was very much a solo project, just writing and recording everything myself on a laptop at home – I then set about putting a band together to try and play things live. Initially that just meant recruiting Heather – who I was already conveniently married to – to play bass, and using the laptop to play the programmed drum parts live. That was fine at the start, but I always wanted a live drummer – just to break that rigidity and introduce more emotion. Even then, while we’ve had other band members – all of the recordings to now (including Meat Slick) have just been me on the laptop, programming the drum parts and with Heather adding bass. This three-piece setup – with Dicky on drums – has been the first one I’ve really felt confident enough about to want to capture in the studio.
Early days I know as B.C.R.C. is yet to be released, but what does the future hold for Fauxchisels? Is there more music in the works?
Paul: We’ve already started working on the next album with Jimm – and I’m really excited about where it’s heading. Much more variety of sound, more mood changes and longer songs – a much grander concept. It’s a bit of a departure, but I don’t think it will disappoint the punks either. We’re aiming to get it out next year.
Heather: I’d like to see some gentle moments of calm amidst the noise, as I believe that will make the heavier sections even more impactive. Maybe we could do something quite experimental and introduce some acoustic instruments on our recordings; a touch of piano, for example.
Paul: Horns. I want horns on it. It’ll be like Chisels From The Crypt. And harp. Punk harp.
Any upcoming gigs?
Paul: We’ve got a free album launch gig at the Hare & Hounds on August 30th with our friends Wax Futures and some other special guests. And I’m putting together some dates for a short UK tour later in the year.
What would be the ideal setting for a Fauxchisels performance?
Paul: An old Victorian factory building in Blakenhall – which is what the Black Country Recording Company is! The space there is just so inspiring, big vaulted ceiling and iron windows – I love rehearsing and recording there, and it suits the mood of what we’re trying to do perfectly. It’s a place where things were built with brute force and finished with a little delicacy of touch.
Heather: There’s a lot of atmosphere in that room – a real sense of Wolverhampton’s industrial heritage.
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Any closing words for our readers?
Paul: Just another little plug for the B.C.R.C. itself – there’s a reason we wanted to include the studio name in the album, and it’s because we really love and respect what Jimm is trying to do with the place. So if anyone is looking for a studio, or wants a bespoke guitar pedal made, or a knackered guitar repaired, drop him a message. Support a local artisan and a lovely bloke.
Heather: He’s also a very talented musician and songwriter – check out his beautiful acoustic songs at http://www.facebook.com/lezorn