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Big Pink - Interview

  by Cila Warncke

published: 26 / 11 / 2022

Big Pink - Interview

Self-professed ‘pop slut’ and punk aficionado Robbie Furze is at home in West London. The lead singer and songwriter of The Big Pink settles onto a sofa backlit by the late-afternoon sun, perhaps deliberately. He pops in AirPods, the finishing touch on a timeless streetwear combo of double denim and a black hoodie. The elaborate silver diving watch weighting his slender wrist belies the fresh from the skatepark vibe, but you’d be correct to assume that Furze is happy out of the limelight. “I can handle it as the lead singer of The Big Pink, but when I start feeling like Robbie, I panic.’” What unites these disparate parts of his character is a simple, fierce desire to make music that will speak to fans as insistently and directly as his favourites do to him. The Big Pink’s new record, ‘The Love That’s Our’ (out now on Project Melody), is the result of a long (longer thanks to Covid) process of finding the essence of his art. “This album is the sound that I do naturally, which took a minute to figure out,” he explains. “It’s a process of elimination, of assessing one’s ability: this is the level of guitar-playing I’m at. This is the songwriting skill I have. This is how I sing naturally.” Given how lush and anthemic the new songs are – check out ‘Love Spins on its Axis’ or ‘Safe and Sound’ – you might be surprised at Furze’s musical reference points: Ministry, NWA, Butthole Surfers, Dead Kennedys and Wu-Tang Clan among others. “It all comes down to punk,’ he says. ‘Gangsta rap is punk, Oasis is punk. Anything that had a fuck-you statement, a sense of individuality, was punk.” But The Big Pink doesn’t sound like that, one might venture. The music is nice. Furze’s voice (richer, warmer than a decade ago) is lullaby-soothing. He exhales smoke: “All the soul guys were fucking dark, punk, crazy fuckers. Otis Redding was so punk rock. Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson, the melodies are so….” He searches for the words. “There’s a sense of leadership, of domination, in the vocal. Nick Cave ‘Into my Arms’ – that song is so dominating. ‘I’m Not Away to Stay Away’ [from the new album] is one of my most punk songs. It’s about the Romeo and Juliet idea of killing each other so you’ll exist together in an afterlife.” Another puff and he croons a Sam Cooke line: “I’m lost and I’m looking for my baby.’” Embodying punk means taking music to the masses, an opportunity Furze appreciates even more keenly after lockdown. He and bandmates Akiko Matsuura (drums) and Charlie Barker (bass) recently performed on ‘The Late Late Show with James Corden’ and will be playing alongside Glasvegas in coming months, as well as stand-alone shows. “We’re going through a great moment of live music,” Furze enthuses. “There’s never been so much love for going out. That’s exciting. There was a moment when people were listening on their phones. Now they want to feel the visceral nature of music.” If he suffers a touch of stage nerves it’s only because it matters, that face-to-face encounter where whirling strands of sound enmesh performer and audience in an irreplicable shared experience. This is where Furze wants to be seen, how he wants to be known. “I’d like it to be less about me and more about the music,” he says. “Social media? Sharing personal moments with everyone so maybe I’ll go viral and be a success? That’s sad. It was more dangerous when you didn’t know too much about singers. It’s not great that you can see what Nick Cave is having for breakfast.” What is great? When people and music connect. “If The Big Pink can do anything, it’s say here’s music that is completely honest. You can sing along to it and enjoy it forever. You don’t have to dress a certain way, talk a certain way, you don’t need to have money – or not have money – none of that bullshit. Just enjoy it. Let’s get back to having fun. Let’s fall in love with each other again.” It is a tall order, but Furze is optimistic: “Life is fucking hard. It can get you down. You can get in a situation where you think you can’t carry on, but the arts – if only for a brief moment – elevate you from hardship, elevate you out of that situation. You can take a breath and feel excited. What’s wonderful, in my art, is writing songs that take people out. They sing along. They become a different character; they can go back to their lives with a little more strength, more ability to deal.” Strength. Joy. Transcendence. A lot to ask? Sure. But The Big Pink is poised to prove (again) it has the art and soul to deliver. Best track for… One of the striking qualities of The Big Pink is the way Furze absorbs, reflects and reimagines his diverse inspirations. To get a feel for the rich musical loam from which his work grows, Pennyblack asked him to choose tracks that exemplify a particular element of song-craft. Here are his picks. 1) Lead guitar: ‘Graveyard’ by Butthole Surfers. Paul Leary is one of my favourite guitarists. I’ve always been excited about players that have feeling and originality, not just technical brilliance. 2) Use of synths: ‘Time to Pretend’ by MGMT. They could dine out on that synth line for the rest of their lives. 3) Irresistible bassline: ‘Hip Hop’ by Dead Prez comes to mind. Every time I put a new [sound]system in a car I stick this on to check the bass. 4) Live drumming: Bobby Gillespie on ‘Just Like Honey’ by The Jesus and Mary Chain. The best stand-up live drummer of all time. 5) Drum-machine: ‘Perfect Drug’ by Nine Inch Nails. In the middle eight is one of the best-ever drum programming parts. 6) ‘Wall of sound’ effect: ‘Soon’ by My Bloody Valentine. It’s insane, so beautiful, so clever. I’ve tried to mimic it but I can’t get close. 7) Epic chorus: ‘Ashes to Ashes’ by Faith No More. It’s real hands-in-the-air shit. 8) Vocal virtuosity: ‘The Ship Song’ by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. He can do the punk stuff, the soul stuff, the out-of-tune stuff and make it sound good. He commands. He’s like a gospel singer. It’s Biblical, his delivery. 9) Avant-garde soundscape: ‘Halber Mensch’ by Einstürzen Neubauten. I’m such a big fan, I have their logo on my arm [pulls up his sleeve to flash a tattoo]. They used angle grinders, drills, springs and bits of metal tuned to create soundscapes. They changed my life. 10) Lyrical genius: Why don’t we go with Bob Dylan? As much as I want to be more original, he’s timeless. You’ve got to take your hat off to true lyrical genius. 11) Killer hook – ‘Work’ by Rihanna. Like everything from that album (‘Anti’) it is huge. 12) Perfect ‘mistake’: ‘Pretty Vacant’ by the Sex Pistols. It was considered a mistake but was perfect in its execution. 13) Studio wizardry: ‘All of the Lights’ by Kanye West. Anything from ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, really. It’s got the best best drum programming, best synth lines; everything sounds incredible. Perfect record, perfect production. Photos by Emma Ledwith

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Big Pink - Interview

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Big Pink - Interview

Big Pink - Interview

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The Big Pink lead singer and songwriter Robbie Furze talks to Cila Warncke about art, honesty and perfectly crafted tunes.

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