English singer/songwriter Newton Faulkner takes a few minutes from his busy schedule to chat to Jack Walsh about wrists, Dookie and the digital age of the industry
Raised in Reigate, Surrey in the late 1980s, Sam “Newton” Faulkner believes that within the environment he was raised, only “two things were held in high esteem by [his] parents; music and comedy.” These were both two mediums that Faulkner really identifies with due to the passion his parents had for music evident by their large record collection and making music a very big aspect of everyday life.
Learning to play and understand the use of the guitar when he entered his teens, Faulkner found himself in the social rut that every bassist the world-over can relate to. “When I was about thirteen, all my friends were in a band. They had a drummer and two guitarists, so if I wanted friends, I had to play the bass. It was kind of prerequisite. I got a bass and started having lessons and moved to the guitar later on.”
Within these awkward years, Faulkner and friends utilised all available resources, enabling them to learn from, and find inspiration. His first band “wasn’t officially a Green Day cover band, but then we did the whole of Dookie from start to finish, literally with the book on the floor in the middle… That kind of crossed the line for me; that’s when I decided it was probably a tribute band.”
Such choices may have been economical, yet Faulkner fondly remembers these wild sessions as being the fulcrum point of his artistic temperament. “As I got into playing as a thing unto itself, that’s when things started shifting. I think that still influences my writing.
Faulkner explains “[That style was] engrained into my head from a very early age. It was when I first heard Thomas Leeb and I had started messing around with moving bass techniques onto guitar, so I had started doing slap-acoustic stuff, just for fun.
“It was people’s reactions to it that I found really interesting. I remember thinking I can put in endless hours trying to get better than everyone else at playing normally, or you can just play really weird and everyone’s really impressed.”
Faulkner is renowned as a guitarist with a unique style, often utilising his guitar as a percussive instrument. His second album, Rebuilt by Humans, was affectionately named following an accident that required a surgically repaired wrist.
With such an injury, Faulkner saw in himself an ability to push through, and ensure his style remained. “I was back on tour within three months. I kept playing in little pockets, just feeling how it was working. There were quite a few nights on tour when I didn’t want anyone to panic and I didn’t want anyone to pull any gigs, so I’d be like ‘Guys, I’m really tired. I’m going to get an early night; I’m going to go bed now.’ and sneak off to my bunk and just hold my wrist, just curled up in a ball.”
Initial critical and commercial success can come as a shock to a developing artist. Expectation can burn creativity. Still, Faulkner displayed an astute level of insularity following the release of Hand Built by Robots, for the sake of productivity. “I had no idea what was going on. I still don’t really know what happened… I’ve just moved from album to album for ages. I’ve either been touring or I’ve been making a record. I haven’t spent a lot of time just sitting a thinking of what had actually happened.”
Faulkner’s decision to video the process of his latest studio work Studio Zoo “started out as a really small idea. It was just going to be one camera with no audio… It just shows how I do it, and I do just sit and try and play from start to finish and do as little editing as possible.”
He is aware of the uniqueness of his style, describing it as “a visual style of music.” He knows well that “hearing it is one thing… but it’s only if you actually see it being done that you go ‘oh, shit’.”
Questions surrounded Faulkner over the validity of allowing the public see his creativity in its barest bones, but the 28-year-old claims that it allowed him to function on a different level.
“I worked about ten million times harder than usual… It was a whole album in five weeks, which is pretty hard work… I’m glad it was that intense because that made it much easier for me to interact with people and be more relaxed.”
Whether it is working to strict deadlines while recording his album or persevering through pain, Newton Faulkner is one of those artists whose passion for music will always means his fans will never miss out.
Newton Faulkner’s new album Studio Zoo is out now