It was as part of the boundary breaking electronic duo Fuck Buttons that Andrew Hung first came to prominence as a performer and recording artist. People might be less aware that Hung is also a sought after producer who worked on Beth Orton’s ‘Kidsticks’, widely considered one of the best albums of 2016. In addition he is an accomplished solo artist in his own right and we’ll be covering his latest record ‘Realisationship’ in depth right after we serve you up this delicious slice of Q&A to whet your appetites…
TSOFD: Hi Andrew. Enjoying the new album. Thanks so much for taking some time out to converse with us. Quickly – Fuck Buttons – we’ve heard there’s a new album in the pipeline – any idea when that might be released?
AH: No idea to be honest; Ben and I are living at opposite ends of the country now and so it’s just a matter of writing whenever our schedules permit. Slowly slowly catch a monkey…
TSOFD: We have just clicked ‘follow’ Fuck Buttons on Twitter. That will help us stay posted. Beth Orton’s ‘Kidsticks’ was one of our favourite albums of 2016. Any insights you can give us regarding the recording process – how did you end up producing something so unique sounding?
AH: I had a sense that Beth wanted to do a bit of exploratory work with her album (the main giveaway was her wanting to work with me). She was living in LA at the time so we had to be as efficient as possible. We wrote loads of vignettes for two weeks and then after that, she was able to write songs and I fleshed out the tracks and it was a back and forth process until we got to the mixing stage.
TSOFD: You may or may not know that our webzine is based in Hangzhou, China. Do know much about Hangzhou and have you ever visited China? If not, is it something you’re considering for the future?
AH: I’ve been to Guangzhou and I go to Hong Kong fairly regularly. I’d like to do a bit more exploration of China actually! I was trying to get my parents to take me to the tiny village they were born in.
TSOFD: You grew up in Worcester and began working on music with Benjamin John Power when you moved to Bristol. We’re presuming the Bristol music scene was something of a step up from Worcester which, compared to what we’re used to in our Chinese urban sprawl, is relatively rural?
AH: Yeah I wasn’t really involved in music when I lived in Worcester. I listened to music but was never part of any scenes. There was a scene though, albeit a small one, there have been some great bands that come from there, notably The Murder of Rosa Luxembourg. Bristol was where I cemented my passion for music and was heavily involved in the scenes there. It was a very nurturing environment; even though there were loads of scenes, everyone went to each other’s gigs and encouraged each other.
TSOFD: We’ll look up that band. The new album ‘Realisationship’ is a raw and immediate record, quite stripped down compared to your other work. We get the impression your approach to recording music is very open minded and you are happy to be surprised by where it takes you.
AH: I think it’s useful to visualise an outcome and then tread that path with an open mind. I tend to keep a somewhat open interpretation of what I want the end result to be because the surprises and mistakes are the good stuff. My initial impetus was to make a wonky pop album i.e. a fun groovy melodic album.
TSOFD: It’s great hearing your voice very up, close and personal on the new LP. Are there any vocalists that specifically inspire you? It appears you were clear in your wish to have your vocals clean and largely unprocessed when it would’ve been easy, with all your studio know-how, to have done all manner of things with them. Did you feel insecure about your voice and was it ever tempting to bury the vocals in the mix or add lots of effects? There must always be an impulse to over edit when you self-produce. I remember seeing a documentary where Roger Daltrey remarked that no singer likes their own voice apart from Rod Stewart haha.
AH: The album came off the back of doing the soundtrack to the Greasy Strangler (which is where the idea for a wonky pop album came from) so I initially saw the vocals being similar to that i.e. very processed. I quickly realised I didn’t want to make the same album again so then I thought about using guest vocalists. But this went out the window because the project was about me so that’s when I realised I had to sing on it. I guess that’s where the album title came from, that realisation that one doesn’t expect. That’s interesting with that Roger Daltrey quote; I don’t particularly like my voice but I’m getting used to it. I have a relationship with it now after singing for so long. Initially it was really stressful figuring out why I couldn’t get the result I wanted from my voice. I’m super confident with regards to learning things; I’m persistent and try loads of different angles… but yeah with singing, there were a lot of elements that didn’t allow me to see it for what it was. One of those is that I’m a big fan of female vocalists… if I was to distill my taste it would be female vocals and electronics and it’s been like that for a long time. So I had no frame of reference with male vocals; I simply didn’t enjoy them. I still don’t tbh… but I am viewing my voice with a good perspective now i.e. it’s a tool for telling stories.
TSOFD: How do you approach lyrics? With your background as a producer and someone who takes a wider look at the music as a whole I wonder whether you initially chose to sing because you knew there was something missing so it became a process of filling the gaps? With this kind of mindset it can probably lend itself to letting words slip naturally out of your subconscious unfiltered? Or was it more sitting home with a notebook consciously trying to communicate your thoughts then taking it to the studio later?
AH: Oh yeah that is possibly the most exciting part for me, the storytelling. Being from England, the language is very deep and nuanced and I love that! I’ve always loved the poetry that’s innate in English so it’s really exciting to get my teeth stuck into songwriting. I feel like I’ve taken to it very naturally. This was a learning process too but a lot more comfortable. I had to learn how to write stories in song form. At first yeah, when I was writing the melodies, words came out too but as I was just beginning to learn, I had to try other avenues such as sitting down and writing and other approaches. Now all these different approaches compliment each other; I listen to what comes out when I write melodies and I collect sentences and lyrics.
TSOFD: We really like the track ‘Sugar Pops’. It seems to stand out.
AH: Yeah this was the song that I saw as an anchor for the whole album; it embodied the wonky pop sound I was looking for!
TSOFD: I’ve read you’re now touring with a full band. How’s that going? Tell us about the people that are involved and what they play live – are they involved in any other projects we should be checking out?
AH: They’re a super-group to my mind. I’m pretty unsocial; I have a very small friend group of which most of my friends I’ve been friends with for a long time. So to get three of these guys into a band has been a bit of a dream.
On drums, I have Kevin Behan… he played additional drums on the album. I’ve known Kev since my first job out of uni… he’s a very sensitive and astute guy. And his drumming is so natural… I think that comes from his sensitivity.
On guitar, I have Stephen Kerrison… he played in a band called Zun Zun Egui whom I produced their last album and that was when I met Stephen. Stephen is so incredibly solid and stoic, it’s awe-inspiring. He’s my shield.
On backing vocals, bass and keys is Milly Blue. Milly I’ve known since I was 16 and though I’ve known her for that long, being in a band with someone you really find out what they’re like. It’s like when you live with someone except way more intense. She is incredibly talented; she continually surprises me with what she can do.
I do see the band as a sum greater than its parts. When we’re firing on all cylinders, I think we’re unstoppable.
TSOFD: We’d love to see/hear this material played live – we’ll keep our eyes peeled for live versions on YouTube. Finally, what music are you listening to at the moment? Who should our readers be checking out?
AH: Hmmm…. I’m going on a bit of a nostalgia trip at the moment… I’ve been listening to The Cranberries, Blur’s 13, The Unthanks, Rozi Plain, loads of PJ Harvey, Beth Orton, Radiohead… I haven’t listened to any instrumental music in ages actually…
TSOFD: That’s awesome you’re listening to artists we’re also particularly fond of though we will have to listen to The Unthanks and Rozi Plain now you’ve given us those recommends. Andrew, thanks again for giving us your time – we’re glad the gigging has been going well and look forward to maybe seeing you performing in China – we hope you make it to your parents’ village one day.
‘Realisationship’ is out now on Lex Records.