Chet Faker

Chet Faker on Lone-Wolf Tendencies and Chilling Out

Victoria Segal

By Victoria Segal

on 04.07.14 in Features

Built on Glass

Chet Faker

File under: Late-night electro-soul
For fans of: James Blake, Jamie Woon, Ben Watt, beards
From: Melbourne, Australia
Personae: Nick Murphy

So far, exposure hasn’t been a problem for Chet Faker, the pseudonym of 24-year-old Melbourne musician Nick Murphy. He was propelled onto the global stage by the strength of his super-smooth cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity,” a song that went viral and ended up gaining an audience beyond most new artists’ wildest dreams when it wound up in a commercial for Beck’s beer broadcast during the 2013 Super Bowl. It’s a world away from the garage where he first started recording as a teenage fan of Van Morrison and Jeff Buckley. Having operated as a both an R&B DJ and a folky singer-songwriter — tendencies that still color his music — he changed his name to the modish Chet Faker to avoid confusion with another musician on the local circuit. Following 2012′s Thinking In Textures EP and last year’s collaboration with Aussie disco experimentalists Flume, Murphy is now releasing his debut album Built on Glass, a collection of seductively soulful, rhythmically inventive songs designed to subtly shift and shadow the atmosphere of any room.

Speaking from Brooklyn, where he’s visiting for both work and pleasure (“these days they’re the same thing”), Murphy told Victoria Segal about his lone-wolf tendencies, his fondness for chilling out and a formative love of Kenny Loggins.

On recording Built on Glass in a meat-cooling room:

It’s an old meat market, North Melbourne Meat Market. It’s listed in Australia, but obviously it’s not that old. The entrance to my studio is this huge cobblestone room where the butchers used to sell all the meat on meat hooks. I’d spend nights there on my own. Silence of the Lambs — it totally has that vibe. I was in a room within a room within a massive complex. It was totally disconnected from the entire world — not so much an industrial place as a safe place. It’s somewhere I could really spend time and not have anyone bother me. Space is really important. You have to be inspired by what’s around you — a brand-new studio really grosses me out. That’s not what music is — or it’s not what it is for me right now.

On balancing solitude and collaboration:

I get kind of weird if I am hanging around people. I really like collaborating, but only when I know at the end that I can go back to do my thing. I only worked with two people on this record. One was Kilo Kish, who did a verse on “Melt” — I listen to her music and she is dope, so I got in contact and sent her the track and she put down this verse and that was it. The only other person was my friend who is a guitar player and a songwriter and he was hanging out at my studio. I played him the last song, “Dead Body,” and he was like, “Let me play on that.” I said no, ’cause I didn’t want anyone else on the record — it’s such a personal record — and he said, “Go on, just give me one go,” and he did the guitar solo at the end of it. But it was a more-or-less solitary process.

On his music being described as “chilled”:

James Blake has said he hates his music being called “chilled,” but personally, I like it when people say I make chill-out music, because I like chilling out. I don’t like intense music — I like things that are easy on you.

On being the center of attention:

Music is amazing because it’s like a [kaleidoscope]. You can color in anything in your life. If you’ve just broken up with someone or you’re just bummed out, you can put a sad song on your headphones and music can be your best friend, because it helps you understand life. But we’re not all walking around depressed all day every day. Music can work in so many other situations. Personally, I love putting on a record and not turning it up too loud — just loud enough to fill a room — and just reading a book or something. It makes you feel cozy, validated.

On keeping it private:

The only thing I don’t like is interviews when people want more information — they want to know who the person in a song is. That makes me nervous, because my songs are always about people who I know.

On his early influences:

I loved Jeff Buckley. I was right into him. This will sound weird: I am obsessed with the experience of music, but I’ve never been madly obsessed with individuals. I was always more interested in making music or the balance of a song rather than in the persona of the musician, someone I’ve never met. I am not that interested in the rock ‘n’ roll mythology. I don’t think anyone’s that amazing. That’s just all marketing. I prefer honesty.

On his childhood musical “eureka” moment:

It was a saxophone piece — a Kenny Loggins piece. I played saxophone when I was really young. It was the first instrument I wanted to learn.