5 Questions with Adam Ficek

ficekThe other day I was listening to Courtney Barnett being interviewed on a podcast. Courtney Barnett put out one of my favourite albums in a long time, the irritatingly long-named Sometimes I Sit and Think Sometimes I Just Sit, and is someone I have a lot of respect for. The podcast must have been recorded around the time Prince died – and the interviewer was asking her if she was much of a Prince fan.

Barnett said that she was always vaguely familiar with the hits, but it wasn’t until she heard Foo Fighters covering a Prince song that she decided to dive further into his catalogue. It seemed strange to me – getting into Prince via Foo Fighters? The difference in calibre between those two acts is so huge that it seems crazy to me that someone could get into Prince after the Foo Fighters. Of course, in reality, it actually makes total sense, and if I track the way I got into a lot of artists I love it’s often through unconventional, uncredible routes. Sometimes it’s something I feel makes me a fraud – as if somehow I should’ve been born with an ingrained knowledge of the intricacies of Bob Dylan’s work and not first heard Rage Against The Machine doing Maggie’s Farm. As if hearing Elliott Smith in a movie is somehow the wrong way to first hear Elliott Smith.

Hearing someone as talented as Courtney Barnett explain her route into Prince made me realise that’s just the way things work for everyone. Things overlap and interlink in varied and often unexpected ways, and to pretend that you don’t stumble across great things in peculiar ways is to do that inter-connectivity a dis-service. But that’s not the only problem with explaining how you found something – it’s not that your route might be uncool, who really cares about that? It’s that it might not get across what the thing is actually about. If I had to tell someone that Tom Waits is a guy who played with Keith Richards sometimes, or who turned up in Seven Pscyhopaths, I’d feel like I was totally undermining everything he was about.

I guess what I’m saying is, at first I was worried about calling Adam Ficek the ‘former Babyshambles drummer’ – not because I didn’t love Babyshambles, but because it feels a little reductive. I have a different relationship with Adam’s music than I ever had with Babyshambles’ music. Although I think, given all that personal growth I’ve experienced in the last three paragraphs, I’ve now realised it’s perfectly natural to say I first heard of Adam Ficek/Roses Kings Castles through Babyshambles, because at one point, to Courtney Barnett, even Prince was just that guy who wrote that song Foo Fighters were playing. So this is an interview with former Babyshambles drummer Adam Ficek. His previous records have been as Roses Kings Castles – but he’s now taking the plunge under his own name.

I remember once staying up all night with the first RKC album on a loop writing my first attempt at a full novel. It was terrible. The novel I mean. But I really like remember that time in my life oddly fondly. Adam used to occasionally write these blog posts that I really enjoyed following. It was cool to feel personally connected to his musical journey. I remember how exciting it felt to receive a free signed copy of the first RKC single in the post. That’s why it was such a shame for me to read that Adam had considered quitting music. Hopefully, given the positive response to his new EP – on PledgeMusic here – he will continue to make music for a long time to come.


Having put out a few records as Roses Kings Castles, what prompted the move for the new record to be under your own name?

I feel more confident in being ‘me’ these days. It also helped with the exposure as there is a stronger link to a bigger band.

Do you feel like the tag of ‘former Babyshambles drummer’, while perhaps serving as a handy tagline, often undermines people’s expectations of your ability as a songwriter away from the drums?

Possibly but the ‘RKC’ project got to the point where I couldn’t get the exposure it deserved. People feel confident with what they know so the association from my bigger branded corporate days is welcome. I don’t feel undermined.

There was a real shift in sound from Suburban Timebombs to British Plastic. Did you consciously decide to try and create a different sort of RKC album, or was that the direction those songs organically ended up taking you in?

I just get bored with certain domains, I get very obsessed, I ingest then move on. I’m lucky I have a varied musical scope and range. I’m already looking at my next EP, it will be electric and more sonically potent. The problem is the infrastructure, I imagine it must be simple to get up and create art when you have a team around you to fulfil every need form funding, recording, marketing, press…..I have to expend vast amounts of energy to just raise the finances to do it.

You’ve always been pretty open about your process with your fans – often having demos and other tracks available for your fans to hear online. Did you feel that using PledgeMusic for this EP was a natural step for you?

I was on the verge of stopping music altogether due to the struggles on being a DIY artist, I thought I would try it as a potential avenue. We’ll see.

Finally, what was the last thing (song, album, book, place etc) that you totally fell in love with?

Myself. I’ve done lots of ‘growing’ since my commercial music days. I’m far happier with me.

More Adam Ficek

PledgeMusic
Official Site
Twitter

Waves Launch

The Waves launch will take place on Saturday September 17th at Eten, York Street, Sheffield, S1 2ER.

Doors will open at 7pm with readings starting between 7.30pm and 8.00pm.

The evening will feature appearances from Dean Lilleyman, James Giddings and Eddy Baker.

Copies of Waves will be available on the night in exchange for donations to Spoonie Survival Kits.

Waves Launch Poster

For pre-order information visit the Waves page here.

Waves Pre-Order

 

AVAILABLE SEPTEMBER 15TH 2016

      

Waves_Jpeg

“THERE’S NO SET ROUTE AFTER ALL. NO STRAIGHT ROAD. NO ONE PATH.”

Alex is stuck. Stuck in Essex. Stuck in his childhood home. Stuck in a job he hates. The relationship he’d been counting on all these years has finally fallen apart. He’s run out of things to hope for.

Anxious, uncertain and totally sober, Alex is dragged to the Outer Hebrides by his long-suffering friend, James. Somewhere between the mountains and the sea, Alex is desperate to find something to ignite a spark of life in him again. Through castles, ceilidhs, bothies, lochs, vast beaches and tiny boats, chance meetings and old friends, Alex has to learn that maybe taking responsibility doesn’t mean the end of feeling free.

Waves is the debut novel from Jared A. Carnie. Available as paperback and ebook September 15th 2016 courtesy of Urbane Publications.

 

URBANE

AMAZON 

WATERSTONES 

FOYLES 

WHSMITH

BLACKWELL’S

GUARDIAN BOOKSHOP

 

 

5 Questions with Trevor Kampmann

Holnd_Sodium_FawnI feel quite fortunate to be the age I am. I mean, ignoring the fact that I’ll never be able to afford a house and will have to work until I’m a hundred and fifty. The good thing about being my age is that I have a vague sense of life without the internet. I was only a kid when I had no internet at all, but I remember the changes: the internet becoming more normal, how exciting it was upgrading to broadband, how big a deal it seemed when everyone started having decent internet access on their phones. Seeing these things come into being means you at least have the ability to assess how they are impacting on your life. They’re not just a given. For example, about six years ago I got off Facebook after recognising it wasn’t having a positive effect on either my mood or my productivity. I could remember getting Facebook, so it was easy for me to make the decision not to have Facebook.

This often means I’m a pretty late adapter because I have to see the merit in things before I get them. I only got my first smartphone last year because throughout my drunk years I figured having an expensive phone was a bit pointless given that I’d inevitably break/lose it. Once I was a bit more together, I felt like I could trust myself with one, plus I wanted to give Spotify a go (and a friend of mine was willing to give me his old iPhone for cheap). For what it’s worth, I enjoy Spotify as a consumer a lot, but haven’t quite made my mind up on it in terms of the big picture. Although for someone who started consuming music as a kid through WinMX, Limewire etc I suppose at least the notion that about 1p is making it’s way to artists I like is a marginal improvement.

So far, this probably sounds a little bit negative. It’s not meant to. The internet has offered me so many incredible things and I don’t take for granted the easy access it has provided me to things I’ve ended up cherishing. A few years ago, I had a job working in payroll for Western Isles Council. I spent the whole day sitting in front of spreadsheets entering people’s work hours, expenses etc. At home, Faye had recently become incredibly ill and so my days were pretty much divided between Excel and caring duties. I had started reading some Henry Rollins travel books. I liked his attitude towards doing things. He went out and he got things done. His energy helped me when I was struggling with some of the newfound responsibility that I wasn’t really equipped for. One day I stumbled across Henry Rollins’ radio show. In fact, I stumbled across an archive of Henry Rollins’ radio show. It was ideal for a job where I had to sit in front of a computer all day. It was full of music I already loved, music I could love, or music so alien and strange that I never would have come across it were it not for that show. It helped give me something nourishing to leave my work days with. If I heard a song I liked, it meant when I got home I could seek out the album and blast it round the house while I got stuff done. Whatever happens over the course of a day, if it involves discovering a new album you enjoy, for me that’s a good day.

I don’t remember which song it was Rollins played first – but I remember being intrigued. It was a little scaled back compared to a lot of the stuff on the show. I remember reading the name of the artist on the playlist that Rollins put up on his site. Holland. I thought how stupid it was to basically have an ungoogleable name. A couple of weeks later it was a different track that stuck out to me. It wasn’t until I checked the playlist that I realised it was the same artist as before. I did some digging and found a bandcamp page (with the slightly more googleable name of holnd) and found a whole host of albums. I’d only recently started using bandcamp, and loved the novelty of being able to find new music and get it directly like that. I grabbed an album, I think it was i steal and do drugs because a) it had a good title and b) it had a track on called softcore war – which I remembered being a lyric in one of the tracks I’d liked. Confusingly, the track called softcore war wasn’t the one I’d heard that had the lyric ‘softcore war’ on it, but fortunately it ended up being a different track on the album so I wasn’t totally out of luck. Next I think got i blow up. It was all new to me. I was listening to music without knowing anything at all about who was making it. I’m pretty prone to falling in love with the idea of a band before I even really listen to them – so this was a new experience. I guess what I’m saying is, if it weren’t for the internet, I never would’ve found these things that kept me entertained at a difficult period in my life. I never would’ve found that great radio show. I never would’ve found a bunch of great artists through that radio show. I never would’ve been able to hunt down those artists and fall in love with their music. I never would’ve found hollAnd. There’s no chance we would’ve crossed paths at all.

Recently, I did some more hollAnd research and found Trevor Kampmann’s site. I sent a speculative email admitting that I was a fan but knew literally nothing about him. Fortunately, Trevor was kind enough to humour me with some answers. There. That’s what I was trying to get to. I probably could’ve just said that last sentence instead of all that other stuff.


According to your bandcamp, you’ve not put out any music as hollAnd for a few years. Have you stopped creating your own music recently or have you just been working on it in other forms?

I sort of picked up photography by osmosis from two of my very old friends, Pat Graham and Mark Borthwick. So I’ve been working on a book of photography the past two years. It will be out at the end of the year.

Also, a synthesizer I’d used on nearly every recording since the 90s died in 2010 and I cannot find a replacement. If you know anyone with a mint Crumar Trilogy, please LMK. But I haven’t stopped making music. When people contact me asking about a new hollAnd record, I just send them some songs. I hope to put out a proper record in the near future.

There’s a long list on your website of albums you’ve been involved with, be it through mastering, engineering or producing. To what extent does your own personal opinion of the music you’re working on affect the way your carry out these roles?

I mostly do mastering these days and in that capacity things are somewhat less subjective. In mastering I’m trying to bring recordings up to a standard. Part of that means honing the sound so that it will still be listenable 5-10 years from now. When I was engineering a lot of different records on a daily basis, everything about my studio, my ears, my tastes contributed to the recordings. I was recording bands entirely in the box starting in ’96 and that definitely contributed to the sound as well.

Your website focuses on a few different outputs – not just music. Is there anything you consider your current creative priority?

Currently, photography but I still make music as often as possible. I did a project with my friend Winston Yu where we made a video every week for a year. And I made a DVD in 2004. I think every so often the pendulum swings and I need to do something more visual.

The songs you’ve got available online go from 1994 right up through the 2000s. Would you say your approach to making music changed much over those years? Are there any releases you’re particularly proud of?

The approach has been pretty consistent. Since it’s just been me on every recording it’s been easy for things to sound a specific way. I sort of painted myself into a corner on “The Paris Hilton Mujahideen” and I’m glad I finished it, not proud but close. But generally, I’m amazed that (A) people have listened to what I’ve made and (B) that I’ve been able to work on music for this much of my life.

Finally, what was the last thing (album, place, book, film etc) that you totally fell in love with?

I absolutely love the BJ Rubin Show. It’s the only thing I would describe as new or different. Very well edited.

More Trevor Kampmann

Official Site

Holnd Bandcamp

5 Questions with Emma Wright

Pile-of-booksAbout a year ago my girlfriend started her own business. Oh, it’s called BearHugs, thanks for asking. Sure, you can place orders using that link, go ahead. Yeah, it’s these personalised gift boxes. Yeah, she sends the boxes straight to the person you want to receive them. You’re right, that is a good idea. My point is, if you’ll stop interrupting, that over the last year I’ve developed this real admiration for people who manage to get businesses of the ground while still retaining some sort of personal stamp on it.

I think the first thing you’re supposed to do when you talk about art is pretend that you’re only interested in the art itself. You know, act like you fell in love with Sylvia Plath’s writing as a kid and had absolutely no idea about her tragic demise. I’m not clever enough to make those separations. I’m a total sucker for a sort of artistic cult of personality. My bookshelf is half-filled with books that I enjoy, and half-filled with books about books (or writers or records or bands or people) I enjoy. I like to plug into things and feel like I’ve connected with them in some personal way. It’s childish and it’s naive and it helps me a lot. Sure, Faster is a brilliant song. But would I have fallen so in love with it if the guy who wrote those lyrics hadn’t looked like this and then disappeared without a trace? Probably not. The fourteen year old me loved all that stuff, and the twenty five year old me isn’t all that different. Recently I discovered Tarkovsky. In fact, they’ve been having a Tarkovsky season at a cinema here in Sheffield. And you best believe I’m not just leaving it at loving the films. I’m spending every spare minute of the day reading everything around them/him that I can. My point is, I think personal connections to things are important, and I like things that are presented in such a way where I feel like they want people to connect with them on a personal level.

I talked a little bit about when I first came across Emma Wright and The Emma Press here. The fact that it was called The Emma Press alone had me won over. Then Emma talked about how she’d got into publishing poetry, how The Emma Press came together, and showed off some of the very cool looking books The Emma Press had recently put out. Again, I know all that stuff shouldn’t count and it’s all about the art blah blah blah, but like I said, I’m a sucker for that sense of deliberate, personal choice.

Best of all though, Emma actually managed to talk about what she was doing in a way that a) I understood (not easy) and b) seemed accessible (again, not easy). I knew I’d be able to find something to love in The Emma Press catalogue and placed my first order when I got home. How did I find the books once I read them? The fact that I immediately chose to interview Deborah Alma after reading her Emma Press chapbook should tell you all you need to know.


I know you do a lot of the illustrations for the Emma Press publications yourself – and they always look fantastic. Do you create much artwork outside of the stuff you do for the books?

I don’t! I feel quite insecure about my illustrations, because I’m self-taught and I feel the lack of real training whenever I’ m trying to draw a foreshortened body or some kind of complex composition. When I started the Emma Press, right at the very beginning in 2012, I mostly wanted to be an illustrator, which is why the first book (The Flower and the Plough) was illustrated. Then people were kind about my pictures so I carried on doing them, and now the majority of the Emma Press books are illustrated by me. I think I’ve got better with time, and I think my illustrations make the books feel more welcoming, but I’m still not sure if I’m good enough at drawing to do it just for fun. Each time I pick up my pencil it’s got to be an ordeal!

You recently put out DISSOLVE to: L.A – a collection of poems about characters who died in action films. Do you like reading poetry pamphlets that have some sort of thematic link to them?

I think it’s always interesting to see a poet sustain a theme across a series of poems, approaching that theme from different directions. I’m fundamentally very nosy, so if someone is fascinated by something I want to understand why. I haven’t seen any classic action films, but I find DISSOLVE to: L.A. delightful and compelling because James Trevelyan, the author, clearly loves his subject. He treats all these minor characters and bombastic films so seriously that he manages to tread the line between poignancy and hilarity, and I love getting an insight into the mind of someone who sees beauty in action films.

You’ve mentioned your desire to put out more children’s books in the future. Was that an area you always wanted to move into?

Sort of. I’ve always wanted to be a children’s book writer, though of course I’ve never actually written anything, and also Rachel Piercey (my co-editor at the Emma Press) and I first bonded over a shared love of children’s authors like Diana Wynne Jones and Eva Ibbotson. I think we had an unspoken understanding that we would start publishing books for children once we felt ready, and suddenly we did in 2014, after we’d published a few anthologies and pamphlets for adults. We put out a call for submissions and in 2015 we published our first poetry anthology for children, which was Falling Out of the Sky: Poems about Myths and Monsters. Our next one, Watcher of the Skies, is themed around space and aliens and we’re launching it in September, hopefully alongside an announcement of our plans to do even more children’s books.

How far ahead have you planned in terms of what you’ll be putting out and what you’d like to achieve with the Emma Press?

You’ve actually caught me at a bit of a crossroads, as I’m taking stock of how everything is going and trying to plan sensibly. Usually I have the themed poetry anthologies planned about a year and a half in advance. Then, with the pamphlets slotting in around the anthologies, I know roughly how it’s all going to go in the near future. But, at the moment, we’ve got three books definitely publishing in the autumn, and then after that we have the anthologies themed around love and aunts to come out sometime in 2017, and then whichever pamphlets we choose from this round of submissions. So, beyond the autumn, I feel there’s a fair amount of flexibility and I want to take this opportunity to think about how to keep growing the business across the next ten years, for example, without burning out or growing bored. I’ve got so many things I want to do with the Emma Press, starting with the basic but elusive one for small publishers – to be sustainable and not go bust – to bigger goals like having an international audience and starting a poetry magazine for children.

Finally, what was the last thing, book, song, blog, video, place etc that you totally fell in love with?

I was hooked from the first few seconds of ‘Helpless’ from the soundtrack of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway hit Hamilton. I find it totally hypnotic, with the clicky beat and the ‘I doI do I do I dooooo’ refrain, and the lyrics and story progression are gorgeous too.