With his voice and style, John Fairhurst is often compared to Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits, artists he cites as a massive influence. His dad played nothing else but Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica on loop for the first few months of his son’s life. The modest dressing room at Manchester’s Band on the Wall is […]

With his voice and style, John Fairhurst is often compared to Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits, artists he cites as a massive influence. His dad played nothing else but Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica on loop for the first few months of his son’s life. The modest dressing room at Manchester’s Band on the Wall is soon filled with John’s bass tones as he launches full throttle into our interview.

Your debut album, The Joys of Spring, hit the scene in 2007, and is said to have been recorded by you “in a little wooden house in the Lancashire countryside”. Could you elaborate on that?

Well, I came home after years of travelling and cobbled together some really cheap, easily available equipment and was like, “Right, I’m making a record”. I didn’t have any money, so I couldn’t go in a studio. A couple of my parents’ mates had a shed that they weren’t using, so I worked with my two friends, Rick Dickinson and Neil Warburton, in there for a solid month [they designed the artwork for the album]. It all ended up coming together really organically and was a pretty lovely experience.

Your second album, Band, marks an ensemble of international musicians put together for the recording. How did you go about choosing the musicians, and writing these songs?

I came back after living in Australia for a while, hiding out in the bush, and decided to team up with the guys from Honeyfeet. Dave Badlace was on drums, Alabaster de Plume on saxophone, Rik Warren on harmonica and Ellis Davies on bass. Basically, Dave’s friends had a studio in Germany, so we all got in the van and went off to make another record. It was an intense week spent making the record all day and all night. What’s nice as well is that we all keep in touch and still play together occasionally.

The songs on Band often evoke hard times. Were these written from personal experience or is it just part of the blues aesthetic you create?

It’s got to be personal. I mean, to write the blues I think you have to have had the blues. Otherwise it’s just a pile of nonsense really. It sort of gripes me singing about catfish and whiskey and the Mississippi when I grew up in Wigan. Everybody is from some small unheard of town here, so you have got to sing about what relates to you to keep things meaningful.

With such a big scale second album under your belt, how did you go about planning for the third?

After Band, I moved down to London to live with a guy called Simon, who I had met in Australia. We did a full festival season in 2011 together and then we met the lady who runs the prolific Dean Street Studio in London. She invited us there to do some recording, but the band had unfortunately split about a week before we went. Simon had left and we had been rehearsing as a three-piece electric ensemble – like we are now – and so, again, James and I had a matter of days to rewrite the album and come up with five or six songs for recording. In doing that though, we met Alex Beitzke, who is a genius producer I’ve worked with for the last couple of years.

It was great for The Hungry Blues to have a big studio and great equipment, and also I find having the time pressure is quite good, as it forces you to get to the crux of the work without messing around for months.

How would you describe your song writing process generally?

I am really prolific at just making stuff up on the spot. We always have hundreds of recordings saved on our phones and then four or five bits of tracks might evolve into one. I like to pick and choose bits of ideas from different places, and create a continuum of ideas that can progress through time. That is definitely what we have done with our latest album too.

Let’s talk a bit more about your latest album, Saltwater. How has that come about?

Well, Toby and I have been working together for a couple of years, and he had just come back from his job on a cruise ship, so we decided to record this album. We went down to our mate Nathan’s studio in Bristol and started putting things together in October last year. Then, after another stint playing drums on the ship, Toby returned and we went straight into touring from May, once the album was polished off. I basically had to spend months with our producer, Alex, getting all the songs down from 12-minute epics to a reasonable length.

Are your currently involved in anything else outside of your music?

Saltwater was released in October of this year and since then we have been involved in a couple of interesting film projects, including a British independent film called The Beat Beneath My Feet, which is set to use six of my tracks including some of the music off Saltwater. That’s been nominated for an award at Raindance Festival, so definitely look out for it in the future.

I have also recently acted in the latest [Martin] Scorsese flick, called Tomorrow, playing in one of the scenes. That was a great experience. We just have to see now if we make it through the cutting room. So it’s been a very busy year all in all, but we’re just always looking forward to getting involved with more stuff.

John’s latest album, Saltwater, is out now. Six of his songs are featured on The Beat Beneath My Feet film, initially released in September 2014, and another song, ‘Light My Way’, is performed during a pub scene on Tomorrow, which is due to be released early in 2016.

johnfairhurst.com

Elspeth Vischer