While the sinister and joyful “Fear Fear” appears, the thinking head of the group Sydney Minsky-Sargeant looks back on the months of conception of this second album, marked in particular by the anxiety-provoking context of the pandemic and a singular approach to composition.
FearFear was started as the Covid-19 epidemic began to spread around the globe. Is this the reason why the disc seems much blacker than the previous one?
Sydney Minsky-Sargant – This album refers to everything that could well happen in general during this period, but it is also very steeped in what I could feel in my own life, from a personal point of view. Containment played an important role. It was confusing for everyone, especially socially. We all felt isolated. But for me, the most frightening will have been no longer knowing where freedom stopped, nor where it began, no longer having any bearings on it in a more existential way, because where I come from, in the countryside of northern England, I could still go out and walk around and pretend I was in the middle of nowhere with no one around. FearFear is therefore the unconscious testimony of my own strength, but in a sense closely linked to the general state of mind, which resulted from this period of confinement and which I myself could feel: loneliness, anger, depression, but also happiness and hope.
You were 18 when the first Working Men’s Club feature came out. Wouldn’t what you describe also reflect a natural questioning as you age?
The older you grow, the wiser you become and gain knowledge and experience with age. This disc documents what it is to grow up in our modern world with all its complexities. But this is just my point of view. And if someone finds something wrong with it, I don’t see a problem with it… I prefer that people disagree with what I say and that they confront their ideas, rather than a certain vision is imposed on them. That’s one of the reasons why I try to cover my tracks with the music that I produce and to make sure that what I’m talking about remains rather vague, at least never definitively stopped, because my ideas are always changing and constantly evolving. What’s important in all of this is the intention behind it and being true, staying true to what I feel when I’m composing and recording. There is always an imperative to remain sincere.
Sincere doesn’t necessarily mean serious and that’s what you let express through your music.
If you take the example of artists like Juan Atkins, his duo Cybotron, or Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire, you quickly realize that originally, they did not produce music for others. Their productions did not want to fit into boxes. They were doing this only for their own pleasure. It has all its importance. I then ask myself the question: “Why am I doing what I’m doing?” I do it for me, because it amuses me. I do it because I make fun of my surroundings, I like to mess around. And since I’m also a kind of little jerk, this dark comedy side that emerges from the album is therefore not necessarily existential, it makes me laugh. It’s satire. Listeners are free to take it seriously. And that’s what makes it all even funnier. I think that’s why I appreciate electronic music so much, for its naive side and which doesn’t take itself seriously, whereas it can very well be quite the opposite.
“This gloomy comedy side that emerges from the album is not necessarily existential, it makes me laugh. It’s satire”
Hence this impression of paradox between the music and the texts of the new pieces, as dark as they are dancing or uplifting, and this dichotomy in the lyrics such as “Misery is bliss to me”, “Being sad makes me happy”, etc. ?
There are hopeful songs, like Circumference which nevertheless came to me at the end of a kind of long depression, or others like Cuton which the lyrics are fucking black, but which sound more like a warning and not something like that “this is the end”. And then, next to it, there is Widow and his typical words “Misery is bliss to me”, as you say… When I write this, maybe misery really appears to me as happiness because, out of this misery, I can make music out of it, and sit behind my computer producing beats and making sound allows me to be at peace. My head is filled with juxtapositions, things and things that don’t really make sense to each other. That’s how I feel most of the time. When I compose a song, I express my feelings of the moment and the lyrics follow in stride, even if they don’t really make sense when I write them. Not everything has to make sense at the time. What matters to me is that my music ends up having meaning in the future, that people come to appreciate it for what it bears witness to. My music tries to lean towards the future, and the easiest way for me to achieve this is to combine acoustics with electronics. It’s not just music, it’s engineering.
On this subject, the new songs seem more dense and provided than before. Is this also a consequence of confinement, which would have allowed you to take more time to refine all this?
I got knocked down when I was 13 and as a result of that case I received financial compensation which I ended up using to buy studio gear, which I always tended to do at that that age. But at the time, I mostly wanted to buy a whole bunch of guitars and just have decent recording equipment, the minimum to record. I then built my own studio little by little and learned how to use it properly. This is what I did again during confinement. I continued to learn and become more and more comfortable with my equipment so that I could use it in the way I wanted. This album is therefore a bit of all of these things at the same time: just me, locked in my room, trying to find how to make it all sound as I heard it, and how to manage to use my paraphernalia as a compositional tool. rather than pure production. It is with this turn of mind that I started, with this idea of really composing and not simply ensuring the production of music, which generally does not tend to follow any songwriting format.
“In my music, I always try to combine this remix aspect, which you find in electronic music, and the more classic writing format that comes out of my songs”
The project Minsky Rock Megamixreleased in 2021 and developed with the help of producer Ross Orton, on which you entirely remixed your own compositions, did it allow you to approach the sequel differently?
The first Megamix I did with Ross allowed me to learn and understand more. In my music, I always try to combine both this remix aspect, which is very often found in electronic music, and the more classic writing format that comes out of my songs, and that’s what FearFear tends to highlight. What I aspire to with Working Men’s Club is to be able to present several things at once, interwoven facets, but which never lose the voice and the sound that the public knows. A second Megamix is also planned, supposed to go hand in hand with the second LP, where I completely rework the pieces, keeping only the lyrics and the samples, like what I had been able to do for the first. It might even reveal some clues about the upcoming sequel.
Last April, you announced on Twitter that you had completed a solo album. What difference do you make with Working Men’s Club, since you are ultimately the only master on board the group?
You just answered your question yourself. It may be about FearFear, unless it’s a lie, a joke, or I just can’t talk about it. I don’t know (laughs). One thing is certain, the second album is finished, the new Megamix is over and plenty of wicked remixes should follow. This is where I am. Besides, I remember going to see my label and the management team telling them that I wanted to release a double album following the first LP and they were all there: “Out of the question !” (laughs) I then said to myself: “Alright, so I’ll make another record. And then yet another. And so on…” I like to produce prolifically, in large quantities. This is how I work, I need this. So as long as there is still a whole section of music to come out of my head, there will still be something to listen to. Let’s hope so.
FearFear (Heavenly/PIAS). Released since July 15. Concerts on August 17 (Charleville-Mézières), on August 18 in Saint-Malo (Route du Rock), on August 20 in Guéret (Check in Party), on September 10 in Tourcoing (Grand Mix), on September 16 in Rouen (106) and 17 in Paris (Petit Bain).