Fears and favourites with Liam Finn

Elise Pitt | 16 June 2011 | 1 Comment


The talented New Zealand muso chats about lyme disease, scary drunks and his new album FOMO – an acronym for Fear of Missing Out.

What are you afraid of missing out on?
A lot of my close friends and family were away from NZ last year and it was the first year I’ve come back to live there. So I was speaking to them from different ends of the world and I was kind of feeling like I was missing out on all their fun. It was quite common for us to say ‘Stop being such a FOMO’ or we spoke to each other, or ‘Oh, I’m feeling a bit FOMO’ [sad face]. But in some ways I got fascinated with the idea, that in the modern day and age, with Facebook and everyone putting their photos up, it’s basically showing everyone else how much fun they’re having. It’s creating a world where everyone feels like they’re missing out on something.

What’s your favourite part of your creative process?
It’s the very beginning and the very end. Starting a record is great because you have endless possibilities; you could take it anywhere. In the end, when you put those finishing touches on a record, that’s when you really get to hear what you’ve created in it’s whole.  I think you don’t really realise what you’ve done until you get that final thing back and try and take that step outside of yourself and listen to it like someone else might.

Do you have any phobias?
I’m definitely pretty scared of spiders. And I hate the idea of parasites. Things that crawl up your leg or things that you don’t necessarily know you’ve got for a while. I went out to a friend’s country house, in Surry, just south of London [where Finn is currently based], where a friend of mine was rehearsing with his band. It was a really gorgeous day and we were outside getting some Vitamin D and feeling really good about the world, then all of a sudden the host of the house comes out (we had already all been out there for a couple of hours barefoot) and he goes, ‘Oh, I probably should have warned you about the ticks. There’s ticks out here and they’ve got lyme disease from the deer’, which is really bad. And we all got that itchy feeling where you think something’s on you. It kind of killed the vibe.

What’s your favourite song on the new album?
Jump Your Bones. Recording it was really fun. I got to play with this drummer guy called Glenn Kotche, who is in Wilco; one of my favourite bands of all time. He’s got such an experimental vibe to him that’s got a beautiful feel. That song was all about this jam that we had and making these weird sounds from that.

What were you afraid of as a kid?
I think I was a pretty comfortable and confident kid. But I was kind of scared of drunk people. I grew up with my family touring around and being on the road and obviously being at concerts, there’s a lot of drunk people. And especially drunk middle-aged ladies, who go ‘Oh look at this little cutie’, and would try to touch you and what felt like clawing at you. I just remember the smell of alcohol breath.

Favourite childhood memory?
I think the beach that I moved back to last year when I was making this record; Piha. It was somewhere I always went as a kid and I think some of my fondest childhood memories were at that beach. We took long summers there…this beach has real dark, wild rocky landscape and black sand. It’s just gorgeous on a crappy weather day; it’s really dark and moody. And on a beautiful weather day, it’s paradise. I just remember feeling really connected to that place and feeling really safe. There was something about the energy of that place. I think I’m protected by it or something.

When was the last time you were really scared?
Driving on ice roads in the northern parts of America. There’s some really icy road up there and we’ve already had a car accident a few years ago up there on black ice. You can’t see it and it’s basically if you break, you’re going to crash because your wheels lock up. We were touring up there recently and my body couldn’t help but tense up when we were driving there. I felt almost sick because I was so scared.

Where is your favourite place to relax and unwind?
I like sitting on the roof at my parent’s place, which is also the studio where I recorded the album. I like to have a good high vantage point.

What do you fear being a musician?
That’s another thing that the album was about; moving back to New Zealand after eight years, I was really scared of being isolated and being out of the loop; not being part of the international music scheme of things. I toured for three years before I moved back to New Zealand and I didn’t know if I was making a mistake retreating or whether it was a good thing. But that’s not really that scary. I’d hate to lose a limb! But to be honest, music is… I just can’t imagine having to get a normal job. Maybe it’s more appropriate to say that my fear is having to get a normal job.

Who are your current favourite bands?
I can’t stop listening to Connan Mockasin. He’s a New Zealand guy, he lives over here in England though. He’s a friend of mine, so I’m probably a bit biased, but he made this record called Forever Dolphin Love, it really gets under your skin (like a parasite). It’s like a weird lost psychedelic record from the ‘60s. It’s truly unique.

What about the future scares you?
I’m kind of excited about the future. Obviously there’s been some pretty scary things happening that are out of my control, like natural disasters (New Zealand has been hit hard recently), but we are at the mercy of these kinds of things. The stuff that really scares me is the stuff we don’t know about. And there’s a lot we don’t know about. Without getting into the conspiracy theories, if you start to try and learn what potentially is going on in the world amongst the private bankers and governments and stuff like that; that’s scary to me. But at the same time, it’s so far out of our control, there’s probably no point being scared. All you can either do is be aware of it and try and live your life a certain way or try and be ignorant, because ignorance is bliss.

What is your favourite movie/TVshow/board game?
I quite like Pictionary. I like how it creates a bit of tension. Playing with the wrong person can create these really bad, edgy moments. Favourite TV Show- I’ve been watching Boardwalk Empire recently, since I’ve been in the UK. It’s by the same people that did The Sopranos. I think my favourite movie is Once Upon A Time In The West. It’s an old western by Sergio Leone. It’s awesome; so beautiful. And the soundtrack is beautiful music. It’s half of what I like about the film really.

Favourite winter activity?
I think staying in and cooking a big feast and having a big fire would be my favourite wintery thing. I love cooking big meals with lots of friends. I think maybe because when you’re doing lots of touring, it’s a rarity that you get to be in a kitchen. So every time I’m in a kitchen it feels like a little escape. And winter is quite suited to that; having a glass of red wine and listening to a new record and making up stupid jokes with your friends.

What’s your favourite home cooked meal?
I make a pretty legendary chilli bacon pasta. Whenever I get to cook, between my friends and my girlfriend, I always get forced to make the chilli bacon pasta. I haven’t really been able to expand my repertoire because I always end up making that. It goes hand in hand with this rocket, avocado and pumpkin seed salad. You can’t have one without the other.

Liam Finn’s FOMO is out Friday June 17. Catch him at Splendour in the Grass, on July 29- August 1 at Woodfordia, QLD. You can check out the dates for his Aus/NZ solo tour here.

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