Glasswerk New Music Awards 2007 winner Karim Fanous Interview

Ambitious thinkers who use their minds in alternative ways to seek out answers to questions that don’t necessarily require solutions or withhold world revelations have always held great appeal for me, one of their own inquisitive kind. It doesn’t always matter that the wires are connected incorrectly, but that the wires do connect and allow motion, be it classified as function or dysfunction, it is at least of literal psychedelic importance and expands the minds awareness of things relevant, or not, to the posed poser. So then, what is all this talk, this ’random gibbering’ of buildings and their musical souls?

Karim Fanous recently won the Glasswerk New Music Awards singer/songwriter of the year 2007 award and perhaps less recently was born to an architect father. I myself can find no excuse, no, no reason for my fascination with the structural significance of music. I appreciate a song's structure, intricate or otherwise but still I cannot pinpoint what it is about a building's shape, size or form that tantalises and ultimately allures my bewilderment, like KFs new project ‘Music & Buildings’. A few applicable but slightly askew examples that have clung to the red and the grey of my curious mind are so vivid that I feel it absolutely necessary to share them with you, the hopefully not too tedium-riddled reader and KF himself of course. Those examples:

1: Hong Kong Bank and its chi empowered design that commands reverence and respect and above all else revenue.

2: A scene from the Michael Gondry movie ‘The Science of Sleep’ where the correct note on a piano causes cotton wool to float like clouds.

3: The end of the movie ‘Fight Club’ where all the buildings explode to the sound of the Pixies who, after seeing that scene stir a slightly anarchic streak in me when I now listen to them.

AS: Karim, thanks for this and let me congratulate on winning the Glasswerk award. Tell us more about the ‘Music & Buildings’ project.

KF: Cheers dude! The Music & Buildings project is about looking into and learning about my creative heritage! My father is an amazing, award-winning architect and I have been surrounded by images of his work my whole life. I’ve also been to construction sites on his shoulders as a kid and naturally acclimatised to an architectural environment without thinking about it. My mother went to university on an English Literature scholarship and my Grandfather used to write Arabic poetry, so there is definitely a poetic and creative instinct there, but until very recently I have not acknowledged the relevance of my father’s architecture in relation to my creativity. I also realised that I didn’t know that much about architecture or indeed my father’s specific works so I have been immersing myself in it and trying to find parallels with my music.

The music and buildings thing sprang up from that. It’s simple and good fun, not irritatingly over-intellectual. People have used mathematical equations derived from buildings to generate abstract forms of music, but no one has said, ‘The Taj Mahal looks like ‘Kashmir’ by Led Zeppelin! The absolute cracker so far has to be associating ‘The Gherkin’ with ‘Lick my Love Pump’ (Spinal Tap)! It’s not all comedy though, there is a lot of serious and meaningful stuff in there too, but it is straightforward and direct.

I have also drawn some parallels with my own songs, and am happy to say I’ve actually just finished a new one (yesterday!) called ‘Architect’s Son’. It is inspired by my father’s architectural life and more specifically two of his buildings. I’ve posted the demo, lyrics and pictures of the buildings on the blog and hope to record the studio version soon! There are also other people’s comments/associations there. Have a look/listen at link

AS: Are you going to check out these examples of mine/do you know of them already?
KF: Never seen the Science of Sleep so will try and track it down for a lazy weekend (actually can you lend it to me please?!). I’m looking up the Hong Kong Bank right now, and as for the end of Fight Club and the Pixies tune ‘Where is My Mind’, that is a classic, perhaps the linear and physico-mechanical embodiment of pure rock and roll!

AS: Who would you most like to collaborate with?
KF: Toughie but, at the moment, no one. I look up to so many people but I have found myself to be a bit of a loner musically, creatively. I love the musicians and producer I work with live and on record, but feel no huge need to collaborate with others right now. It does get lonely, but it’s my way.

AS: What does 2008 hold for you?
KF: My dreams man: To make a living selling my records and playing live.

AS: How would you describe the relevance of your parents influence?
KF: Probably the most important influence in my life (apart from AC/DC, Oasis and the Joni Mitchell album ‘Blue’). And by influence I don’t mean as artists, I mean as parents. The concept of nuclear family in a traditional sense seems to be failing these days and it breaks my heart because I have had such a meaningful childhood and upbringing. Their support is inspirational! They have been to more gigs of mine than anyone else, girlfriends included, and the image of them in a punk rock venue alongside mohicanned moshers still makes me giggle with pride. They give me the space to make music and to try to achieve something, the opportunity to live healthily and jack in a job so that I can run a fledgling, self-promotional, independent record company full time. They clothe me, feed me and counsel me.

More importantly they give me a good kick up the arse when I need it, which is frequently. Another huge influence in my family life has been my sister, Liane, who has Downs Syndrome. Living with her all these years and experiencing her life and her peers (they are all gems) has been a formative experience and I feel gifted with a very special and humble insight into life and human nature as a result. She has helped to give me an emotional depth which I don’t believe many others are fortunate to experience. Of course this helps my creativity.

AS: Where do you go when it all gets too much?
KF: The beach. I like to lie down and do nothing for days, switch off and let it all out. I like to eat, sleep and be lazy when I’m away because it’s constantly a mad nuts tiring life between music and London living. I went on a trip to New Zealand half way through recording my album and my friends joke that I spent most of it asleep in the backseat of the rental car. If not the beach then, London’s Rose Garden in Holland Park. It’s a beautiful place, especially when in bloom and I find peace there. I also like to sit in café’s and watch people, life, colour, clothes, expressions, movement. If I can’t do any of the above, then curling up into a ball on the floor works.

AS: What time is bedtime, more half 9 with a half read book or half 4 with fully red eyes?
KF: Aw man, rock and roll is overrated. I’d love it to be half 9 and a good book. But yes, it is usually much later. If I can get to bed at 12 most days I’m happy. After playing a gig or leaving the studio I am completely wired and it takes ages to come down (even if it’s only a short set). It takes a few hours of nothingness before I can sleep. If I’m not playing or recording, then I’m still out late going to gigs and meeting people. It catches up with you, but it’s the life I love and choose to lead. Mind you, every now and then I love smashing it up and going out all night… it’s just that the next day is a bit crap.

AS: When you aim your peashooter/pellet gun/sniper rifle, you’re aiming at?
FF: Peashooter: Musicians and singer/songwriters who take themselves far too seriously and really are boring. There’s nothing worse than going to an open-mic night and watching someone display their completely self-centred, moaning, alienatingly introverted tendencies through what they think is a ‘great song’. That’s not what it’s about for me. Music for me is about connecting with people, inviting them into your world, or trying to get into theirs. Soothing them, moving them, grooving them or at least hearing them say ‘yeah I know what you’re talking about’. The best compliment I’ve recently been paid was at a gig in Norwich, where someone said ‘I felt like you were me’.

Sniper Rifle: Warmongers, terrorists and evil souls. I am a pacifist, idealist and a humanist (rugby player too, but at least that’s controlled aggression!) I feel physically sick and tearful when I see hatred, greed, pain or death manifest in such horrendous ways. When I was watching those kids go through that ordeal in a school in Russia on TV last year, I lost it.
Pellet Gun: Ken Livingstone (for congestion charging).

AS: Where’s the place to be?
KF: On-stage, performing (it’s my fix) or working on a record in the studio. Bradley’s Spanish Bar near Tottenham Court Road (they’ve got an old school juke box which plays vinyl records in mono and it sounds amazing) and the beach.

AS: What is it that makes the world go round?
KF: Money, it seems, unfortunately. Oh yes I forgot: music, love, cosmic soul and all that other hippy crap.

AS: What’s your weak point?
KF: Ice Cream. Chocolate. Oh whoops, sorry, I mean sex, women, drugs.

AS: What’s your favourite instrument?
KF: My treasured K Yairi YB1 Baritone acoustic guitar, or ‘Biloo’ as I call it. A match made in Heaven. I tune my strings lower than normal (c sharp instead of E) and this causes a lot of problems on normal guitars with tuning and intonation. I knew I needed a baritone (which is bigger and longer than usual) and that they are hard to come by. I searched all over the UK and found one in Leicester that had already been sold. I’d love to say it was a spiritual moment, but it wasn’t. I just tried it, it felt perfect and I said to myself ‘I’ll ‘have that!’ I ordered one, and we have been inseparable ever since. When something is right, it’s right…

KFs debut album 'Stir Crazy' is out and available to buy now. Find out more:

Official website: link
Karim's MySpace: link
Karim's Blog: link

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