Interview with Fyfe Dangerfield :
S: How and when did all begin
Well there was a piano in our house when I was growing up, and when I
was about 2 or 3 I was trying to clamber up on the stool and play it,
apparently. And Mum and Dad could see that I was really into the idea
of playing it, so they found me a teacher, who then wanted to turn me
into some sort of of mad child classical prodigy. So that didn't go
very well. But then we found a lovely lady called Mrs Rack who just
encouraged me along gently. I was just consumed by music really, since
I can remember, it's all I've ever wanted to do. And the lessons were
great, but the thing I enjoyed the most was just messing around making
my own stuff up or playing Beatles songs.
S: What are the positive and
negative sides of being a musician in UK?
I haven't thought too much about the specifics of doing music here
really. I think maybe there's a certain cynicism in the UK that you
don't get in other parts of the world, which on the whole I don't think
is very positive. But I'm sure there's lots of benefits too.
S: Do you feel anxious before a
Yes, often...it varies loads from day to day, and what kind of show it
is. Weirdly I'm often a lot more nervous before the smaller gigs. You
feel a bit more exposed somehow. A lot of my nerves can just
to do with technical things too, rather than actually being in front of
an audience. I think it's good to have nerves of some sort, they give
you an edge, but too much and you just clam up, and that's no good. So
it's a balance.
S: What musicians or artists had
an influence in your life and in your work?
So so many. Everything you hear, see, taste even! It all has an impact.
But if I had to name one act I'd say the Beatles, because I started
listening to them very early on life, my eldest brother used to play me
their records when I was just 3 or 4 and by the time I was 8 or 9 I'd
gathered together virtually every song they'd ever done. And that's
such an amazing world to delve into as a kid, and it's funny when
you've known stuff that long, it feels like part of your bloodstream. I
grew up in the 80s and frankly I think it's probably better I grew up
listening to "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Strawberry Fields Forever",
rather than, I don't know, "Especially For You".
S: Do you remember what was the
first CD you bought?
No, I can't really! I think it might have been a Kula Shaker single,
Tattva?! I was always going to the library and borrowing cds, then
copying them onto tape and taking them back - that's like the early 90s
version of illegal downloading. .. so I can't really remember the first
thing I actually bought, it wasn't a massive deal really.
S: Do you think the emotion is
different between a song in English and in another language?
Well it depends what your language is obviously. I can't really discuss
the finer points of different languages because I'm not fluent in
anything except English. But I do love listening to music where I don't
understand the words. Sometimes I think I should just sing in a made-up
language, like Sigur Ros or the Cocteau Twins do, because words can
really get in the way of things. But I haven't quite nailed that
S: How could you define the
music of Fyfe Dangerfield?
I have no idea.
S: Do you agree with Victor Hugo
who said :"Melancholy is the pleasure of being sad"?
I suppose so. I definitely have some sort of pull to melancholy, it
seems to run in my family somewhat. I don't know why - even as a kid,
I've always loved ballads, for example, I've always been drawn to sad
songs. And it's not to wallow in sadness, it's often when I'm really
happy that I'll listen to them. But I suppose it's just that thing of
being bathed in a feeling. A song I listened to a lot last year was
"Send in the Clowns" - the Frank Sinatra version. I don't think there
could be a better combination of song, singer and arrangement. It's
just beautiful. But so sad. . I do like happy, very up music
but it's not so much what I tend to listen to at home.
S: When you write a song do you
follow your heart, your brain or your hand ?
Good question! Well, my instinct is definitely to follow my heart. But
I think it's an interesting question, because I feel like I wish I
could be less emotional about music in a way. I feel like I'm into so
many different sounds, so many different dynamics and tones of music,
and I wish I could express myself in all of them more fully. But as
long as I'm singing, I'm kind of limited because I don't have the kind
of voice that, as yet at least, can really communicate certain
emotions. I think maybe that was why some people didn't get on with our
last record in Guillemots so much. Musically I'm really proud of that
record but me singing songs like "Get Over It" or "Big Dog" just isn't
particularly "me" - I'm singing about stuff I feel but somehow didn't
quite inhabit the songs. I just for some reason seem to naturally fall
really easily into singing either very soaring, uplifting kind of stuff
or sad, reflective songs. And it is a gorgeous feeling when you're
singing and really feel yourself letting go, opening up - I used to
find it hard but I think in my early 20s I learnt gradually to stop
being self-conscious and just open my mouth. And also to embrace all
the wobbles and cracks in my voice, that was important too. So as long
as I'm singing, the emotional connection with the music will always be
a massive thing to me.
But on the other hand, I'm completely obsessed with sounds,
arrangements and so on, and I guess that' more the brain side. But even
then, I think very much in terms of atmosphere rather than the cerebral
side of it. And that sort of goes through anything I do. I play a lot
of so-called "experimental" music, where you just improvise with no set
plan, you just get together and play and see what comes out - in
Guillemots we do that all the time when we get together, we'll just
play for hours and that's how we write a lot of stuff, but also in
other groups, there's one I'm in called Gannets which is a sort of
free-jazz-cacophony thing. But even then, it's very much about closing
my eyes and letting myself go, even when I'm just playing keyboards -
and just feeling yourself go on this sort of rollercoaster of places,
emotions, images. It's very much that rather that rather than logically
thinking "he's doing that, so I'll try playing this now". Or at least,
the best moments are nothing to do with that. When you're improvising,
by its very nature there are moments when you haven't immersed yourself
in it and you are approaching it more cerebrally. But the aim is always
just to get to the point where your hands are moving, or your mouth
opening, in a way that you're not pre-meditating at all.
S: What is your favourite song
of Fyfe Dangerfield and why?
Um. . .I don't know! It's really hard to answer, it totally depends
what mood you're in. I'm very fond of "We're Here" from the first
Guillemots album - scarily I wrote that song almost 10 years ago. "Sao
Paulo" too, in fact most of that first record I'm really proud of. But
different ones have different resonances all the time. On my new
record, I would say that maybe "So Brand New" and "Firebird" are my
favourites. But obviously I'm into most of them in one way or another
or I wouldn't have done them, even if later I change my mind about them!
S: As musician, what is your
feeling about Internet?
I think it's a really good thing, it's just not a replacement for, say,
buying a piece of vinyl and taking it home to listen to. Or buying a
poetry book, the scent of the paper, the feel of the pages. Those
things really matter. But used right, the internet's great. Personally
I think it's wonderful that you can, say record a track, and, the
instant you finish it, have it available for the whole world to listen
to. It's just a logical extension of the telephone really..
S: Was there a particular moment
that led you to decide to immerse yourself in a solo album?
Not really, it had been building up for a while, I'd been writing songs
in soundchecks, days off, here and there and somehow they all seemed
like things I should do myself, not in Guillemots. They were just a
certain type of song that I was writing, that I wanted to sound very
simple . .a lot of them were solo acoustic ones, and the ones that
weren't still just seemed different to what we do in Guillemots. I
think I just needed to do something where I knew exactly how I wanted
everything to sound. Recording our first Guillemots album was maybe
like that a bit for me, in terms of knowing what I wanted, because I'd
written most of the songs a good few years beforehand, but the band
added so much to the arrangements compared to what my original demos
sounded like, so that was a huge part of what that record sounds like.
This one was more like doing the actual demos, but just in a proper
studio. I had done some very very scrappy sketches of the songs at
home, but often they were just a verse and that was it, and they still
weren't all written when I got to the studio. So with some of them,
what you hear recorded was literally the first time I'd ever sung the
S: Did you go into this solo
project with a clear vision of what you wanted it to sound like or it
could take "any direction"?
Originally the idea was that it would be a very gentle, Nick Drake-y
sort of acoustic record, more just songs like "Don't Be Shy",
"Livewire", or "Firebird", but then things just happened I guess! There
are some bonus tracks that we put out over here with the limited
edition of the record and a lot of the ones on that are similar in
style, and I guess I could just about have bunched together an album of
stuff like that. But then songs like "When You Walk In The Room" came
along too, and it just seemed a waste not to do something like that in
a very energetic, noisy way. So once again I ended up with a record
that does kind of flit around sonically! Which I know confuses people
sometimes, but I grew up listening to Beatles records like "Revolver"
where you have 3 songwriters and singers, all varying hugely between
themselves and from song to song. So it's never really bothered me when
an album jumps around, in fact I'm really drawn to albums that do that.
The tracklisting on this record was really important to me - I really
wanted it to start with "Walk in the Room" / "So Brand New", I just loved
the contrast of those. I got hugely advised against that and did think
about changing it but I ended up sticking to me guns, which was the
right thing to do.
S: What are the core
ingredients, to you, that "Fly Yellow Moon", "Through the Windowpane"
and "Red" have in common?
I'm not sure really! They're all quite different records. Windowpane is
very dreamy, and I think somewhere between yearning and nostalgic in
its mood, and with that record I was obsessed with every tiny detail of
the sound, trying to really create a world that a listener would just
be able to dive into, where every time they came back to a song there'd
be something new for them to find. With "Red", we just wanted to make a
sort of modern pop jukebox, something that really surprised and excited
at each turn. And mood-wise I think it's generally a frustrated record,
there's a lot less hope in it. And then "Fly Yellow Moon" is kind of the
flipside of that, it has dark moments but generally it's a very
optimistic record. And musically, it was the first time I'd done an
album where I really wasn't trying to make something original, I just
wanted to focus on the songs. It was strangely liberating to actually
do something where it could just be guitar, bass, drums on a track and
I wouldn't feel like it needed Casio keyboards and brass and distant
whispering or something to be interesting. And I guess I also knew that
there'd be plenty of ideas like that on the next Guillemots records, so
"Fly Yellow Moon" was almost me just challenging myself to make something
S: You recorded in 2007 the very
nice duet "Lovers Dream" with the great Anna Ternheim, how was this
I just got asked to do it, I think Anna had heard Guillemots and liked
us and so we just met up - she said she loved the idea of one of the
tracks on her album at the time being a duet, and it was up to me which
one, and "Lovers Dream" just jumped out as the obvious one to try. I
wanted it to have a sort of Serge Gainsbourg / Jane Birkin feel but
sadly I'm not Serge Gainsbourg. Oh well. It was really fun though, we
recorded it and then I went over and shot a video in which I like some
kind of Gothic Willy Wonka. Anna's great, she's very sure of what she
wants and yeah, she has a beautiful voice.
S: Can you describe what is a
typical Fyfe Dangerfield's day?
God knows. It can vary. It can be full of activity or it can be spent
in bed. Or both perhaps. Anything goes.
S: What are your hobbies aside
Food and birdwatching. And just making sure I see enough of my friends.
I'm lucky to still be really close to a handful of people I knew as a
kid or a teenager, and I think those relationships are really important
to hold onto.
S: Are you venturesome person?
A nice word! I like to think I am, but I can be incredibly lethargic
too. So it's always a battle. But yes, I hope so.
S: Where would you like to play
in the future, is there a place in the world you would love to visit?
I'd love Guillemots to play Sao Paulo in Brazil, because that's where
our guitarist Magrao is from, and we even have a song named after the
place. So that's one location that really springs to mind. We've just
never been able to get it together financially, as yet.
S: Are there any things, which
you are afraid of? Do you have any fears?
God yes, many things. But probably just the same fears as everyone
else. I won't even start or this interview will never end!
S: What is the best moment and
best place to listen to your music?
For me personally it's usually at 2 in the morning in the studio when
we or I have just done something, usually with red wine and roll-up in
hand. For other people, well it's entirely up to them. It's very
touching when people write and say they've got engaged and they're
using one of our songs at the wedding though. That's lovely. It's mad
to know that something you've done will have a place in various
people's hearts in that way.
S: As our website is related
with Manic Street Preachers maybe can you say some words about them?
Well the Manics were just a massively important band to me as a
teenager. I first heard them when I was about 15, a friend played me
"The Holy Bible", and just totally blew me away. The thing is, with the
Manics everyone always goes on about the lyrics and the ideology and
their look, and I did get completely immersed in that - I started
making my own spray-painted t-shirt, and writing long diatribes in my
bedroom and so on, and I think they way they spoke to outsiders really
gave me a hell of a lot of confidence to do my own thing and be myself
at school when I have might have been too scared to do that otherwise.
But the thing that actually hit me first was the music - it was the
track "Yes" from the Holy Bible, the first track on the album, that I
think maybe a friend put on a compilation tape for me, and I just found
it so exciting to listen to. The sound of it wasn't like anything I'd
heard - at that point the only guitar stuff I'd really listened too was
much more produced stuff like Suede, Radiohead and that whole Britpop
scene, whereas this sounded really wiry and scuzzy, much rougher. But
it was the combination of that and then this very pure, quite boyish
sort of voice singing this melody that wouldn't stop moving around and
yet always seemed to tug at you. James's voice is just this beautiful
instrument, it really is, whatever he sings I just seem to find it
really moving. But not just moving in a sad, melancholy kind of way -
it is a very melancholy voice but it's also got a real call-to-arms
feel about it. I don't know, obviously I'm prattling on like this now
but at the time I just heard it and it made me feel very alive and
excited, so that's all there was to it I guess! But yes, that really
hit me and from then I went on to discover all their other stuff. I
think I'd just about caught up with their old albums by the time
"Everything Must Go" came out.
It's quite mad now because I've ended up meeting James and Nicky a few
times at festivals and so on, and they've both always been so friendly
and welcoming, and both said really nice things about Guillemots, and
so I'm in this weird position where I'm standing there having a chat
with someone that I've read books about! But, well, people are just
people aren't they! But yeah, they'll always have a big place in my
know it’s a difficult question, but if you would have to keep
just one album from your CD collection what album would it be?
Oh man! It really is so hard to answer. I think I would say "Please
Please Me" by the Beatles. Just because that early stuff of theirs
reminds me of being tiny, and maybe that would be an important thing to
keep holding onto if I had just one cd!
S: What was the last song you
listened to before the interview? And, if you know, which one will be
The last song was "Stylo" by Gorillaz, which I really love, I'm
surprised how much I do actually. I just love the sound and the groove
of it, it's so relaxed. The next will be a new Guillemots song of some
sort of as I'm going off to rehearsal straight after finishing typing
S: Can you tell us the name of
one French song, or singer, or band?
LE FLOW! A compilation of French hip hop that I got when I was about
18. Not strictly a song, singer, or band, but a very fine record. I
love hearing rappers in French, it somehow impacts me more because I
can't really understand what they're saying, so you just listen purely
to the rhythm and tone of the words.
S: And say something in French?
J'adore les croissants almandes, et le cafe noir. Et maintenant, je
part chez moi et je vais a un cafe pres d'ici et j'achete un croissant
almande et un cafe noir. Oui, c'est vrai.
That's terrible isn't it. Oh well. I can't remember any of the tenses
anymore. I need to live in France for a bit, then I'd be okay again!
S: What are your plans for the
Make an amazing 3rd Guillemots record, hopefully. Write some better
songs. And train myself not to worry as much about certain things. YEAH!
S: And finally, what’s
the most important thing in life for you?
MANY thanks to Fyfe for the interview!
More informations about Fyfe Dangerfield:
- on his site:
- on his Myspace:
- on Facebook
- on Twitter