Along with musical partner Benjamin John Power, Fuck Buttons have carved out a cult following for their “adrenaline pumping, ear purging slab of towering, pristine noise”. They came together whilst both attended art school in Bristol, working on creating music for a film that Hung made, and a couple of years later were being feted as the tip of the intelligent ‘pop’ iceberg. Since the release of their third album in 2013 and their last gig back in 2014, they’ve gone on hiatus, Power releasing a string of solo albums, while Hung has moved in production, collaborations and also, finally, a solo album, Realisationship. A huge departure from the Fuck Buttons sound, it features more traditional pop fare, as well as the singing voice of Hung. He took some time out to talk to Brightonsfinest just before the start of a UK tour.
Where are you at the moment?
I’m in London at the moment. I live between here and Norfolk, where my studio is, so I tend to spend a lot of time there.
You were based in Bristol for a while, where you started Fuck Buttons with Benjamin John Power…
I went to uni there. I was there from about 18 til 23, 24.
So, is Fuck Buttons no more?
It’s an on-going collaboration. We were based in Bristol when it first started. The ease in which we wrote was there. But now, we’re in opposite ends of the country. And, we’re also pursuing other things, musically. It’s just a matter of when it marries up, I guess.
Benjamin John Power has already made three solo albums, this is your first, although you have been involved in loads of other projects recently…
I’ve worked with quite a few people since I did Beth’s (Orton) album. I’ve worked on a soundtrack, and with a band called Zun Zun Egui, also from Bristol. I just felt it was time to start writing my own stuff as well.
How did you hook up with Beth?
Zoe, who manages me, her friend was managing Beth Orton at the time. She said she was going to see Beth at the Barbican. I said, ‘If you meet Beth, tell her I love her music’. A week later I got an email from Beth asking if we could meet up, to see if there was anything I could do to help her with her record. We ended up writing and producing the whole thing.
What gave you the impetus to actually make your own record?
I’ve always been making music. But it came off the back of doing The Greasy Strangler soundtrack. I did that soundtrack in a month, and I felt super confident after that. ‘Right, I can bang out an album in a month, I reckon’. I tried to do that, but obviously it didn’t happen quite like that. It took more development, which I wasn’t anticipating at the time. The myriad of collaborations had pushed me in that direction. It felt like a natural progression to try and write my own record.
You had been making music under the Dawn Hunger moniker, which I can see is an anagram of your name!
Yeah, I’ve made about 400 tracks.
I’ve got two Dawn Hunger albums in the can. I work a lot, I guess. My background is also in film editing, and I edit a lot of what I put out. There’s a lot of stuff on my computer, but none of it has seen the light of day.
Why did you decide now was the time to do a solo album?
Timing was a huge part of it. Time has gone on, and I feel like I have better things to offer. It’s all in there, it’s just that it’s on the nine songs on the album this time.
It’s all your creation, 100%?
Yes, it is.
You sang for the first time on this album. Tell me about that!?
I think standing behind a table for ten years, made me think I was someone who stood behind a table. That was my expectation. It changed to having to be right at the forefront. Which made sense. That was the difficult thing, not the actual singing itself. It was coming out from behind the table.
When you’re undergoing a different skill, there is a sense of trepidation because you don’t know how to do it. That goes with anything.
Also the songwriting, which is a lot more traditional than the electronic-based stuff of Fuck Buttons?
The way I work is I build layers, and then editing that. I’m finding the songwriting especially exciting at the moment. That is something I didn’t anticipate. Songwriting is just storytelling but a lot more edited, which suits my process.
The songwriting feels like this whole new world for me! I’m trying to pay attention to people who write great songs. I was super lucky to work with Beth. She’s a genius when it comes to writing songs. And I worked with Emmy the Great a little bit. So, I’m just listening to songwriters at the moment.
To write a song it seems easier for me to have some groove-based underpinning to it. With Realisationship I had 50 tracks for that. So, I’ve got these beds which is the music, and I’m someone who services that music. It’s not really about me at that point any more.
What will the stage set up be for the tour?
I’ve got a keyboardist playing the bassline, organ, and singing. Then I’ve got a guitarist with vocals, and a drummer.
Have you done any gigs so far?
We’ve done five gigs so far.
Tell me about the first ever one, with you fronting the band.
It was so nerve wracking! I couldn’t sing in front of the band at first. I’d just been singing in my little studio for two years, and suddenly I had to sing in front of other people. It’s just totally different. That’s a learning curve as well.
Who were you into in your teens?
The first bands that really blew me away were Radiohead and Portishead. I actually went to Bristol because of bands like Portishead and Massive Attack. I was expecting to see loads of trip hop there, but instead I just got loads of drum’n’bass. Fucking awful. I was a bit disappointed when I first got there but, dig under the surface and there are a lot of underground scenes in Bristol. At university I was really into Warp Records. I was doing film making at the time, making videos, using Boards of Canada, and Squarepusher tracks. My tutor was like, ‘Why are you making videos to other people’s music’? That was the impetus to start making my own. I started making electronic music using Adobe Premier, which is this video editing programme.
So, how is the future looking?
There’s a load of things I want to learn and get better at. The album has laid a really good foundation for me to build on. It’s got very exciting now. I’ve got past that stage of not knowing how shit I was! I’m in a writing flurry at the moment. I hadn’t written anything for about six months now, since mixing the album. I only just started writing again. After the tour finishes I’ll be in the studio a lot.