Incoming: A Quick Chat With A.S. Fanning

A-S-Fanning-Carmelita

Berlin-based, Dublin-raised, singer/songwriter A.S. Fanning will be bringing his Irish tour to BRÚ House, Newbridge on Saturday, October 14 – and the tour coincides with the release of Fanning’s debut solo album Second Life.

This is the first in a series of collaborative shows between Broken Home & I, bringing some of our favourite musicians and artist to Newbridge – of which Fanning fits the bill for us both.

Previously the frontman and chief songwriter of Dublin bands The Last Tycoons and Porn Trauma, Fanning’s songs are often lyrically driven, taking inspiration from Irish literary tradition and folk music as well as from ‘60s psychedelia and gothic rock n roll. Fanning’s finest attribute is his profoundly brilliant songwriting and storytelling abilities, and observational eye, which enable him to depict vivid tales such as his meaty debut single ‘Carmelita’.

As a multi-instrumentalist he has played with acts such as Dublin troubadour The Mighty Stef, Berlin Industrial Electro outfit Suzies Ashes, and Irish songstress Candice Gordon, most recently producing and playing on Gordon’s debut LP, Garden of Beasts.

Support on the night comes from the equally wonderful Appo & the Disappointments & Rory Hughes – Doors @ 8.30pm | Tickets €5/€7.

Ahead of the weekend’s show I caught up with A.S. Fanning, to chat about the project, touring and all things music.

Tell us a little bit about A.S. Fanning. How did it come about? And what is the essence/inspiration behind the new project?

When I moved to Berlin I was working on my my own a lot. The Last Tycoons were still going at that point but we weren’t playing very often except for the occasional tour in Germany so I just started working on stuff on a laptop. That combined with being surrounded by electronic music in Berlin led to the songs taking on a kind of electro incarnation for a while.

I eventually stripped that back quite a bit, but I never really wanted to be a solo guy with an acoustic guitar. I always heard the songs having quite a full sound and having a kind of intensity in them, so I started building the songs around an acoustic guitar and vocal and adding in bits of synthesizers and organ and other atmospheric stuff to fill out the sound.

You’ve just returned from some shows in Ireland – how does it feel to go back after relocating to Berlin and starting a life there?

It feels kind of strange to be honest. Just because I haven’t played here very much in the last 5 years or so, and it’s a strange feeling to come on tour to somewhere I’m so familiar with, but which has obviously changed a lot in the last 5 years as well. But I feel like this album is largely about moving away from here so it’s nice to be able to come back to launch it, it feels like a sort of closing of the circle.

And on that, what are the biggest differences in being a musician in Berlin compared to Dublin? (i.e. audiences, opportunities etc.)

It’s easier to get by being a musician in Berlin. Not that you necessarily get paid very much but it has a long history of being a kind of haven for artists and weirdos. Even going back to the ’60s and ’70s when West Berlin was a place where German hippies could go to get out of doing military service. That’s changing a lot now to the point where you’re more likely to meet web developers than artists. But there’s still pockets of really unusual stuff happening. Berlin audiences expect a bit of weirdness. If you’re too middle-of-the-road they lose interest really quickly.

In the run up to the release of your debut album Second Life can you tell us about some of the inspirations behind it?

Moving away from Ireland is definitely a big part of it. My father passed away just a few months after I moved which changed things a lot for me. In my attitude towards what I was doing and my view of myself and of home. I think the album is largely about that period of trying to find some solid ground when it feels like the rug has been pulled from under you.

Let’s talk about your current touring – how has it gone so far? What can we expect?

It’s gone really well so far. Audiences seem to have really responded to it. The band members change almost gig-to-gig so there’s always a sense that we have to just play together and react to what other people are doing on stage, which I enjoy, rather than feeling that everyone can play the songs in their sleep. I’m lucky to play with some great musicians though, a few of the guys from The Last Tycoons are joining me for the Irish gigs so we know each other really well and always have a good vibe on stage.

Newbridge has always been a place to embrace your music, are you excited to bring the A.S. Fanning show to the town?

Yeah I can’t wait. It was always one of our favourite places to go with the Tycoons but it must be at least 5 years since I’ve been back so I’m really looking forward to it.

On the issue of touring, you done plenty of touring, including the length and breadth of Ireland so it would be interesting to hear your perspective on touring Ireland. What changes (if any) have you noticed during your career/biggest challenges/positives?

I don’t feel like I’m very qualified to talk about touring in Ireland right now. I’ve only played a handful of gigs but it seems like there’s some really good stuff going on. And some pockets of good music scenes which didn’t necessarily exist the last time I lived here, or at least not in the same places.  I think touring in Ireland is a bit like that, you have to find those pockets where there’s a good venue and a really enthusiastic crowd who go to gigs all the time, but those things don’t necessarily last so it can be hard to get your head around.

What are you listening to at the moment?

I’m always listening to a strange mix of stuff. I don’t necessarily keep track of new music all that well cos I don’t really download stuff or even stream it really. I did make a point of getting the new Kendrick Lamar album cos I was really into the last one, so I’ve been listening to that a bit. Other than that, someone gave me a John Cooper Clarke album called ‘Disguise In Love’ that I’ve been listening to a lot as well as ‘Cluster II’ by Cluster.

What are your plans for the rest of 2017?

I’m trying to put plans in place to record a second album as soon as possible. It’s basically written so I’m just trying to figure out the best way to record it. Second Life took a very long time and there was a lot of trial and error involved so I’m looking forward to just getting a band together and recording an album in as short a time as possible.

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