Tales Of Tenacity With Artist And Lead Singer Of The Horrors Faris Badwan
At the start of lock down I decided to do some mini interviews with musicians and artists who have really inspired and influenced me over the years. This project is called Tales of Tenacity. The questions I asked were designed to delve deeper into the person’s practice and discover techniques and mindsets which support such vibrant creative careers.
First up is artist and lead singer of the Horrors, Faris Badwan. In 2017 I was working in the studio preparing for the end of year show on a MFA at Bath Spa University. The Horrors had just released their fifth studio album V and I played it on repeat. It really influenced my work, sparked ideas and fueled my imagination.
As well as music Faris has a background in art, he studied illustration at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in 2004, deferring his studies to concentrate on his music. Since then he has created album covers for The Horrors and The Charlatans, he’s had solo exhibitions at The Strand Gallery and the Book Club in Hoxton.
In this interview I discover Faris’s innovative way to make creative work with limited resources, what techniques he uses to motivate himself, and how he deals with self doubt.
From the exhibition Creatures in Colour: Sketchbooks from Faris Badwan - The Strand Gallery, London - https://www.facebook.com/TheStrandGallery/
Angel - Musicians who spend time on the road, seem to be able to adapt to different circumstances and are able to create in many different environments, can you talk a bit about your process for making art and music?
Faris - I think for the majority of creative people it’s really important to be able to adapt - and those best at it seem to enjoy the most success. You need to be flexible and to be able to do good work under a variety of different conditions.
When I’m on tour I usually bring a basic recording setup with me - a guitar, an ebow (basically an electronic violin bow which allows you to make the guitar sound like a synth or strings), my laptop, a drum machine and a mic. If we have a day off in a hotel I often spend the time writing & recording.
I like working with restrictions
When I’m at home I usually sketch ideas out using a Korg MS-10 - which is best as a bass synth but can make a range of different sounds - and a Jupiter 6. But I’m equally happy working just with a guitar & a dictaphone. iPhone mics are pretty good for recording instruments in a room - piano or strings for example can sound really good just recorded on an iPhone.
In terms of coming up with ideas - I like working with restrictions. I like doing things like limiting myself to just three chords or only one syllable words, or forcing myself to make all the drum sounds from percussive guitar noises etc. I think parameters can allow you to be more creative.
With regard to art I often use whatever is close at hand - like colouring a drawing with wine or coffee or soy sauce, found objects.. I draw a lot and in some ways I’m more natural an illustrator than a musician. It’s been a big part of my entire life so it comes fairly instinctively.
Suspend judgement until later
Generally I think the best ideas are spontaneous and there’s a lot to be said for trusting your instincts. When you’re coming up with ideas I think it’s really important to suspend judgement until later in the creative process. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of shutting things down before they’ve had a chance to develop - and often once you’ve had the chance to let an idea sit for a while you’re better equipped to judge it objectively.
Sleep Rabbit - Artwork from Creatures in Colour Sketches By Faris Badwan
Angel - Can you tell me about at time when you faced a particularly tough challenge and had to develop a mind set to be able to continue to be creative despite of the circumstances? Do you listen to music or do anything else to induce the right head space to make work? Personally I like listening to music to get ideas initially but once I’m actually working on a record - once I’m deeper into it - I don’t really find listening to other people’s music helpful. When I think I know where something’s headed I get more inspired by developing the ideas. And often the songs themselves decide where they should go - with production for example the aim is to do what’s best for the song. For example you may have discovered a really exciting vocal effect or whatever but it may not help the part and in that situation it’s better to be objective and know when to put things aside for later.
Know when to put things aside for later
I can draw or paint at any time, under any conditions. But with writing music I do find it’s often guided by my mood. Sometimes I have to accept that my productivity is going to fluctuate and that pushing through it isn’t necessarily an option. Conversely when it comes to writing lyrics I find that it’s a lot more of a discipline - and forcing myself to write everyday regardless of how I feel is a better way to go. I think people are often really bad at recognising where their true talents lie - when a particular skill comes naturally to you it can be easy to dismiss it as having less value. One example is Mick Jagger insisting on playing guitar for the Stones when he already has Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood either side of him.
Recognising what makes you unique
When it comes to creative stuff, a huge skill is recognising what makes you unique, playing to your strengths, and knowing when to delegate. That’s one of the things that made David Bowie so successful. He was brilliant at finding the right collaborators to complement his talents.
Faris's other band Cats Eyes with Italian-Canadian Opera Singer Rachel Zeffira https://www.instagram.com/catseyesworld/?hl=en
And check out these two great videos below of The Horrors live and this brilliant song by Cats Eyes, "Girl In The Room" which was featured in Killing Eve.