When I give Chet Faker an awkward video call on Skype (him, in Switzerland right before the soundcheck for his show that night, sounding slightly tired on the third week of his four-month long tour; me, sitting in a hospital green nightgown with my bed-hair thrown into an unflattering samurai bun), he refuses to turn on his camera in the most gentlemanly way possible. He then informs me, amongst agile sounds of typing, that he is responding to a guy on Twitter and will be with me in a second. He types with the velocity of someone who knows what they are saying, on the spot.
Faker’s (née Nicholas James Murphy) work as a musician, at times, gets outgrown by his public persona: At the tender age of 25, the Melbourne-native has already made a hit cover (his breakthrough, ‘No Diggity‘, came straight from his college bedroom), brought out a well-received EP (Thinking in Textures), collaborated with fellow electronica artist Flume, and BULLETT-favorite Kilo Kish, and just came out with an impressive studio album, Built on Glass. His music, if you have to attach it to a genre, wanders the realms of the soft-spoken R&B and atmospheric electronica with a keen eye on soul. Here, we chat about his beginnings, Built on Glass, and how he is so utterly sick of being asked about his beard.
What went on in between when you first started making music at the age of 15 and when ‘No Diggity’ came out in 2011?
A lot, I think. Age 15 to 22, there is a lot of shit that happens there. Musically, I was just trying different things, so I played in a shitty indie rock band and did some electronic stuff. I used to play just acoustic guitar. I was just messing around, trying to find what I liked and what I didn’t like.
It’s been two years since Thinking in Textures came out, and I read that you scraped everything and started over twice when working on this album, Built on Glass. What was the process like?
It took me a lot longer than I thought it would take. First one, I think I was trying hard to please everyone, which ironically, I wasn’t happy with. I kind of scrapped that and started again. Second album, I was thinking about it too much. I had to go through those phases to figure out what I didn’t like, and eventually, not think about it, and just write.
Built on Glass is consciously separated as A-Side and B-Side, which is kind of rare at this age of releasing 15-songs long, blocky albums.
It kind of came about of its own accord and it works on a few different levels: It’s kind of chronological, the first half of the record is semi pre-breakup, and then the second half is sort of post. Musically, the first half felt like the missing link between the EP and the album. The second half for me, was just really free reigning, moving wherever I wanted. And then, I kind of got obsessed with this idea of two halves, connecting somewhere, the idea of opposites becoming one whole form.
The album cover is the hand of a sculpture with one almost broken ring finger. What did you have in mind while coming up with it?
I gave a brief to Tim and Ed, the two Australia-based designers who did the graphic design for the album. I described what the record was about, where it was coming from and what the main themes were. It was the juxtaposition of human, and very personal with something that could be considered a product or was facile – something consumer. I feel like we absolutely nailed that with the cover – obviously the hand is very human, that’s the human involvement. But then, it’s made out of concrete, which is this synthetic product that’s only used in really commercial construction. So, that kind of summed up the album for me perfectly, because the album is my personal life for sale.
On facilitating sex
There are a good number of jokes about people making out a lot at your shows. Do you get frustrated when music writers use terms like ‘sex facilitator’ while talking about your music?
Not really, I don’t mind that term, I think that’s funny. It’s more annoying when they say ‘beated hipster’ or something. I know people who have sex to my music so at least that’s an accurate depiction.
You are a pretty active user on Twitter and Instagram – it seems like there is a solid dialogue between you and your fans there.
I’m on Twitter right now. Dealing with the haters.
I’m following you in real time. The subject is beard.
Yeah, that’s what’s going on.
every time a “music journalist” asks me about my beard a child dies
— Chet Faker (@Chet_Faker) May 9, 2014
On his beard, tweeted approximately an hour before BULLETT’s interview with Chet
Are you tired of being asked about your beard?
Yes. It’s just like, this album I’ve written is the best thing I’ve ever done. I worked so hard on it and it’s such a personal connection. And then people just ask me the dumbest questions when we have the opportunity to talk about it.
My personal opinion is sadly, it is also what sells. Not to justify these questions directed at you, but when everyone is creating the same content, people look for something else to make it different.
I mean, sex sells, but that doesn’t mean the objectification of women is OK. It’s kind of sad that we are in a society where if something sells that means it’s OK. It’s like a deep lack of ambition. I work my ass off for being ambitious in my music, and my music still sells. I don’t simplify myself to sell it. It kind of breaks my heart how much people just give up and do whatever works, rather than try and do both.
Do you think the ‘Faker’ part to your moniker has anything to do with this postmodern anxiety we all suffer from – the way it’s much harder for our generation to create something ‘new’ compared to Chet Baker’s?
It has more to do with our generation being more apathetic and not emotionally relating to things. We’re so quick to cut people down. And with the name Faker, I was almost casting the first stone saying ‘yes, it’s not my name’, and opening the door to say ‘that doesn’t mean it’s not genuine music’. I guess it was an unconscious generational defense.
Chet Faker has upcoming shows in Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, and Denver.
Follow Busra on Twitter: @busra_erkara