FaceOmeter [Q and A]


Just to get everybody up to speed, who are you, and why do you go by the name FaceOmeter?

m a tall, ginger folk musician from Birmingham, and I've been playing in various settings for around ten years. 'FaceOmeter' is a name which has been lost in the mists of time, though since it dates from when I was still at school that's probably for the best.

What came first, the comedy or the music?

This question is awkward for me because I don't see what I do as comedy. I do have jokes, and sometimes people laugh at them. But there are jokes in King Lear! I believe that you can be serious without being heavy-handed, and that humour is a part of the artist's toolkit that needn't define everything they do. I'm not dissing Flight of the Concords or Tenacious D here, but I do see myself (even if others don't) as doing something distinct. MC Lars talks about the difficulties of "being funny without being a joke" and I'm right with him.

You are in the process of making your debut album. Why did now feel like the right time?

Strictly it's not a debut, because I made a record called To Infinitives Split in 2009. But this will be my first studio album (TIS was made in my bedroom). The time is right because I've finally written a chunk of material that goes together - I want to do a record that isn't just a collected bunch of cool tracks, but which also has a distinct journey, a distinct narrative. I've let that take shape slowly over the last four years, and its finally started making sense! The other reason is that I have the ideal engineer in Dean McCarthy, who worked with me and a couple of other wicked songwriters on The Spooky EP, and the ideal cover artist in Freya Hartas, whose illustrations match my music with an aptness which occasionally frightens me.

The record will be called ‘Why Wait For Failure’, what process let to this name?

It's from an off-the-cuff speech I made at a show in a village hall a few years ago: I said something like "People think that when you've failed as an artist you're reduced to touring around village halls, desperately seeking to regain past glory, to which I say: why wait for failure?" I realised after I said it how important it was. Village hall shows are amazing, and people who are snotty about them are missing the chance to connect with a really amazing audience.

A lot of people have taken the view that the album title reflects my inner self-doubt and negativity, but I always thought of it as a rallying cry. I think if we all focused more on being true to ourselves in the present moment and less on the idea of final success or failure then the world would be a slightly nicer place (there's a song on the album where I go on and on about this).

Will there be some more tender moments on the album?

I'm quite proud of the variety of moods on the album. When you play live, you don't get much of a chance to show range to an audience - but a lot of my stuff sounds better after a few listens, and that's why I'm so keen to make records for people. There are a few gentler songs which may surprise people who only remember my live shows - one I'm especially proud of is 'Child of Monkey Horse!', a B-movie lullaby which is going to have Ditte Elly on it. She's fabulous, the track's gorgeous, and I can't wait to hear the finished thing.

You have decided to fund the record by using a ‘Pledge’ type campaign. Can you explain what this is, and why you chose to do it this way?

I'm not with a label, so for me this is just an efficient way of raising capital. For self-funded artists, the model is that you put your own money into a record and then make it back with sales. For me, this shortcuts that process. For my audience, it involves them in the actual making of the record in a really close and important way.

As part of this fund raising, you are offering people the opportunity to buy things other than your record. Can you name a few, please?

Everyone who contributes gets invited to Oxford to sing on the record itself, which will be an exciting session! There are also limited edition art prints that we're making, a bonus CD with a tonne of videos and demo tracks on it, gig tickets, and much besides. Quite a lot of the really extravagant stuff has already sold out (gratifying!) but there's still an option which includes me writing a customised song for you. I'm slightly offended that more people aren't taking those...

What does your house look like on the inside? (just to fill you in, FaceOmeter lives in a fort)

Loaded with intangible curios from the nineteenth century and smelling slightly of camphor oil, this is a dwelling the sight of which causes every fiber of your being to scream "here is a profoundly interesting man whose artistic output will no doubt be considered of enormous importance in epochs to come". That's what the pizza guy said last night, anyway.

You often speak fondly of Birmingham. Can you tell us a Birmingham related story, or fact?

It's hard to make outsiders understand about Birmingham.

What would your dream evening be, and who would it be with?

I'd love to hang out with Tom Waits, possibly in a diner where nothing is quite what it seems, but I'm not sure I'd be able to relax around somebody I admire so much. I'm also really into [ESOTERIC HOBBY REMOVED TO PROTECT ALBUM SALES], and to be honest an evening doing that and I'm pretty much happy. Assuming I can find enough dice.

I’ve seen evidence of a few things that you have invented/ pioneered. Would you consider yourself a scientist as well as a musician? Have you invented anything interesting recently?

Possibly you refer to my innovative device for cooling tea down quickly. I don't know what to tell you, I'm constantly at the cutting edge. You might also want a look at my fried crumpet. You can expect me to continue producing these important contributions to society. My video catalogue also includes things like me installing windows 8 and visiting Shrewsbury.

If you make enough wonga from the current campaign, you have spoken about making a proper music video. Do you have a narrative or theme in mind?

Not exactly, because if a video gets made it will be because of fan generosity, so I'm going to let the contributors vote on which of the 14 tracks should be videoed. I do have a few ideas and preferences of my own, which may also influence things, but I'm keeping it pretty open at this stage. In part that's because it feels hubristic to start planning for such success: I want to go at least £500 over budget before thinking about it properly. The campaign has been going startlingly well so far, though, so maybe it will happen...