The artist formerly known as Nick Murphy speaks out…After a five-year stint performing under his birth name, Chet Faker returns with his fourth album ‘Hotel Surrender’.
The Australian electronic musician promotes finding one’s inner happiness on the record. With singles ‘Low’ and ‘Get High’ already out, ‘Hotel Surrender’ promises to be the summer record to reach for.
The self-professed ‘anti-popstar’ wrote and produced the record at home in New York. The album taking a serious tonal shift from the last five years of music seen from Nick Murphy – opting for a brighter, ‘lighter’ sound.
We caught up about the new album and discussed Kanye, Finstagram’s and locating inner joy whilst navigating uncertain terrain.
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Was the move back to your previous moniker Chet Faker in line with a sonic shift?
Not such a move back, they’re kind of separate projects. They were always meant to be and somewhere along the way I guess the wires got crossed probably from my booking agents tagging ‘fka Chet Faker’ on the end of it. I didn’t wanna do any of that jazz to be honest. I was just trying to play ball.
This whole record kind of just showed up last year. ‘Hotel Surrender’, It really wrote itself. I wasn’t even trying to make an album or even a body of work. I was just making songs in the studio. At the start of 2020 I came in here and all these songs just started falling out. It was about May I was like ‘oh shit this is an album’. I always have an infinite pile of songs.
I keep (my songs) in playlists and I remember looking at this one playlist which was called ‘Hotel Surrender’ – I often name the album before. I remember just being like, none of this is filler. These are all solid songs with an identity. This album is the most enjoyable record I’ve ever made. Why would I hold back something that is positive for me and could be for others? It’s the one time as a musician it might be kind of important to share music.
‘Hotel Surrender’ feels both accepting and forgiving. Particularly ‘Oh Me, Oh My’ and ‘Low’. How have you managed maintain such as a positive energy in the last year of global anguish and uncertainty?
The record started before all of the shit. Pre anguish. January 2020 I started writing these songs and then the pandemic hit. I was already coming here every day working on these songs and had sort of rediscovered this new process of writing music. It really was a kind of therapy which is probably why it sort of wrote itself.
When the pandemic hit it just removed everything else. It was just me in my tiny shitty apartment in Chinatown. It was the only thing I had to do, and It was almost like an escape… that has connotations of denial, but it was a tool for me to tap into this joy. This surrender. Which is exactly what the name is about.
This idea of checking into your immediate reality around you and discovering that in the present moment you’re fundamentally fine. And that there is a joy in that. And happiness. There is a joy that we can reach even in the darkest times. You don’t have to ask permission to feel good just because things aren’t good. You can be good within the greater not good.
You’ve said previously that working under your birth name was a “rediscovery”? Do you feel like that journey is in some ways complete, hence the move back to ‘Chet Faker’?
No not at all. I mean I don’t think any journey is ever ‘done’. I almost feel like the Nick Murphy stuff is a place where I can really research and explore and really go anywhere without even being conscious of what I’m doing. Which is something I felt like I couldn’t do with the Chet Faker project. It was so succinct and specific.
A lot of people think that great music is like that and usually great music is like that but I really like other types of music that aren’t clear and ask a listener to engage and to give. There’s a lot of music like that. That was what I wanted to explore and discover. I wanted to go off the map. Not just off the path altogether.
That’s kind of what the putting stuff out under my birth name was about. There’s no way I would’ve done ‘Music For Silence’ as Chet Faker. Improvised piano. People would be like: what the fuck.
There’s no way ‘Hotel Surrender’ would’ve existed if I hadn’t been able to go through it you know. It’s hard to see but they’re all really interrelated. It’s like one journey. This kind of shadow and light.
Are Chet Faker and Nick Murphy the same person?
Well I hope they are otherwise I’m fucking crazy! Everyone has within them multiple versions of themselves. You can even see it digitally on social media people have finstagram’s and all sorts of shit. It’s not a new concept at all. It’s just shadow and light. I really don’t want to think of them as different people, it’s just me, they’re just projects.
I’ve always been trying to be aggressively myself. The Nick Murphy stuff is the work and the Chet stuff is the clarity. I’m answering that question with the music you know. The music is the answer, that’s why I do it.
For me the music is the leader. I’m just a follower.
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You’re quite outspoken on Instagram. What is the core message you aim to deliver and does social media aid you in that deliverance?
Yes and no. I think social media is the fucking devil. I hate it with a passion. But it’s also part of the structure of our communication in these times. – One thing that’s important to me is that, within reason, any chance I get I try to subvert this idea of celebrity. I like to do things, of course, I like to look good occasionally, but I always like to do stuff that is very immediate and deliberately disappointing. It’s kind of anti-superstar. Anti-popstar.
I definitely think about that after having done this long enough now that haters don’t upset me as much as they used to. I almost see it as like a bit of a job is to deliberately piss off the haters. In a way, haters are fans. They’re such followers of the set structure of what is socially acceptable that they attack anything that expands or pushes that barrier. But that’s the point of the artist. In a sense, haters are kind of the soldiers of anti-art.
You can look at A$AP Rocky or Kanye who did these things at the time where it was like ‘yo you can’t do that’ and now anyone can do it.
Your cousin Joey can fucking wear a silk scarf, you know? That’s kind of the role, I think. Break down the structures.
You’ve worked with legendary producer Rick Rubin. Was working with such an industry giant something you pictured when you started out?
Never! Even just doing this as a job is always so ridiculous. Sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy and this is all in my head. It was amazing. Because I produced my own stuff I never had ‘producers’ in my head. Every Chet Faker song is produced by me. Most of the Nick Murphy stuff was produced by Dave Harrington. That was one of the big differences between the projects. The Chet Faker thing is just me in a room on my own. Maybe a few session players but that’s by email. It’s not social at all. It’s actually anti-social.
Working with Rick was crazy. That was the first producer I’d ever worked with. Neil Young was in the back yard and shit. It actually stressed me the fuck out. That experience might have been what sent me off to do the Nick Murphy shit. It was SO big. I was like twenty-four maybe twenty-five. That was too intense. I was too young for that. I always used to make music on my own and then all of a sudden there was all these people around me asking me to make decisions. I pick up on people’s energies a lot and when there’s a lot of people around I often get lost in what they want. I don’t notice what I want.
Do you prefer working alone?
It depends! It depends where I’m at in my life. One of the reasons I started doing the Nick Murphy stuff is because I wanted to work with different people. That was around the time it occurred to me, around my late twenties, I might actually be doing this for the rest of my life. If this is something I’m gonna do forever, I don’t just want to sit in a dark room on my own until I die. That’s when I started working with other people and that’s what the Nick Murphy shit was about. Giving myself some space to let other people’s influence’s come into the music.
How come you’re in New York? How do the inspirations compare to Melbourne?
I’ve been here eight years, since ‘Built On Glass’. This is definitely my home. It’s less chill, New York. There’s probably a chill album of mine somewhere. ‘Hotel Surrender’ is chill but it’s not all chill. It’s not like Melbourne chill.
There’s a density in New York which l like. The inspiration? For sure. The more and more music I make the more it starts to sound New York. Especially with the Nick Murphy shit. Like I have a whole new project that’s coming out later this year, Nick Murphy the Program, which is mostly with New York players which is cool.
What does the future hold for Nick Murphy / Chet Faker?
Get back on the touring wagon! I’m playing in Texas in October. Need to remember how to do that. Touring this record, I’m really looking forward to that. I haven’t left the city in almost a year which is the longest I haven’t left one place since I was a child. I can’t wait. I hate sitting still.
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‘Hotel Surrender’ will be released on July 30th.
Words: Amelia Lloyd
Photo Credit: Willy Lukaitis
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