Interview: Ben Power of Fuck Buttons

With three albums under their belt, including 2013’s self-produced Slow Focus, the duo of Ben J. Power and Andrew Hung, aka Fuck Buttons, have perfected the art of balancing of noise and melody. In the midst of prepping for their upcoming US tour Power spoke to Chunkyglasses about the production of Slow Focus, being included in the musical score of the London Olympics, and touring in general; all while battling Bronchitis in his Bristol home.


CG: With the new album, Slow Focus, you and Andrew produced the album on your own. What was production like as opposed to having a producer like John Cummings or Andy Weatherall in the studio with you?

Benjamin Power: The word “production’ is a bit of a grey area. Our tracks have always been in a sort of complete form before we even take them into the studio. It was the same with John from Mogwai and again with Andy. With these people that we worked with, they really more added something when it comes to actual embellishment of sounds such as rhythm sections and the like. This time around, we were actually in a position to where we felt like we understood our tools better. We understood the software and hardware we were using better and we had our own studio space so it felt right to at least try producing the album ourselves. We feel it worked out quite nicely.

CG: What were some of the biggest challenges of producing the album yourselves? Did the experience of producing feel weird to you and Andrew?

BP: It is weird because, in the writing process, it’s always just the two of us. In the actual embellishment of recordings, which is what I guess we can call “production” here, this was just the first time where it was just the two of us. Obviously, Andy and I have similar ideas about musical concepts but it is nice to get a neutral opinion on parts. John and Andrew provided us with those opinions on the previous two albums (Street Horrsing and Tarot Sport respectively). Not having that opinion was a little bit of a challenge for us. It is sort of intense when it’s just the two of you in the studio. On any given day, one of us was in the “driver” seat so to speak while the other was behind the computer. It’s a funny balance, I think, and it creates a slight divide, physically. We overcame it but it really is a different feeling and a different dynamic.

CG: For Slow Focus, you two complied seven new songs to compose the album. What song took the most time to complete, start to finish?

BP: It’s hard to remember how some of these songs came to be since some were jammed out in a day. I think “Stalker” took us about two days to complete, start to finish, but “Brainfreeze” took a while due to the various transformations it went through. With that said, its hard to explain where the origin of “Brainfreeze” began. I think it started off as a very different track and morphed from there.

CG: Were your demos more abrasive that the final cuts?

BP: It’s hard to tell if the songs were more abrasive or less abrasive. Keep in mind that these were just demos with us just have a tape recorder in the room while we played. It was such a lo-fi recording of demos. It’s hard to say though if they developed to be more or less abrasive. I mean, when does a teenager become an adult? On his 18th birthday?  It’s hard to officially pinpoint these things down.

CG: When you two would write songs and flesh each track out, did most ideas come to you from your recording space or would you ever write on tour?

BP: Its very hard for us to write on tour due to the nature of our live setup. Its stuff that makes noise all laid out on a table while we walk around it and patch into each device. We do need a bit of space to work. We don’t use a laptop to record our songs so it’s very hard to write while we are set up on stage. It would be interesting though to find a way to set ourselves up so that we could record on tour.

CG: You two have stated before that you try to not look too far into the future as far as direction is concerned. With that said, do you see yourself producing your own albums from now on or would you ever consider using producer again?

BP: I don’t think its something we necessarily have to stick to. We don’t enter this project with a set of rules. We’ll probably give it a crack producing ourselves again but if a set of songs are potentially missing something or we think somebody else’s ear could potentially help, we definitely wouldn’t rule that out. We don’t know for certain what we’ll be needed next time around. It’s a strange position because we don’t necessarily have any new unrecorded songs just yet.

CG: Do you two ever see yourself producing for other bands?

BP: Yeah, for sure. That’s something that we both are interested in. We like the idea of adding as many strings to our bow as possible, so to speak. We’re hoping to do that sometime soon.

CG: Leading up to the recording and release of Slow Focus, the two of you, as a duo were pretty dormant except for the news surrounding your music being included in the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. How did the music get contracted into the ceremony? Did Karl Hyde (of Underworld) contact you directly for your music?

BP: A rep for Underworld contacted us, yeah. I spoke their representatives several times since they also used my solo work (as Blanck Mass). Andy and I didn’t really know exactly the context of how our music was going to be presented. We just knew that we would be involved somehow. It was quite a surprise to see the context during the ceremony to us as it was to everyone else. The whole ceremony was pretty fantastic as I saw.