Ahead of the release of his second album Stephen Fanning talks exclusively to Contact Music about his music, his inspirations and his aspirations. The Dubliner, formally of Porn Trauma and The Last Tycoons, follows up his very well recieved solo debut from 2017, Second Life, with more brooding, gothically tilted creations. Due out on November 13th Fanning's latest release has already given up it's lead title track, You Should Go Mad, and if that's anything to go by we're in for a treat.

A.S Fanning A.S Fanning

For those who may be new to your music, how best would you describe your sound?

I usually tell people it’s Dark Folk, which isn’t particularly accurate because there’s a lot of different influences and some of the songs and sounds are as far from folk as you can imagine, but it’s not the worst place to start. Other people have said things like Neo-Psych, which I don’t mind either, but ultimately, as with most music, you’re just going to have to listen to it and make up your own mind. 

What challenges have you faced in the music industry so far?

I’m an independent artist so a lot of the difficulties come from trying to do a lot of different things myself, in typical DIY fashion - from producing the music to planning releases and tours, usually driving the tour van myself and occasionally working other jobs on the side. This can make it hard to find time to write songs and do the actual creative work.

How difficult would you say this career path is in terms of making a name for yourself?

It’s difficult to say. I’ve never tried any other career path and how much of a name I’ve made for myself isn’t easy to quantify. I’ve just decided to concentrate on making good music, whatever I might judge that to be at any given moment, as often as possible. The nice thing about the age of social media and Spotify etc is that people who are interested in a certain type of music can find it, no matter where they are in the world. You just have to put your faith in the algorithm. The algorithm knows all and sees all.

How important is it for you to have creative control over the work you produce?

I suppose it’s quite important. It’s never really been an issue for me though. I’ve never had anyone try and give me truckloads of money to make radio hits or anything, I don’t know who in their right mind would do that. 

At the same time I quite enjoy working on stuff that I’m not as emotionally invested in, so sometimes a loss of control can be a good thing. It’s sometimes good to just be writing or producing music according to limitations that have been set by someone else. It sort of gets the creative muscles working to find your own sense of expression within someone else’s parameters. But I’m not sure I could work like that all the time.

Where do you draw influence and inspiration from for your work?

I try to stay receptive to things. But I suppose most of the time they come from whatever I’m reading at the moment. Not that books are necessarily a better source of these things than other mediums, but I think when I’m reading something I’m more inclined to daydream, or let myself go off on mental tangents that might have originated in whatever I’m reading, which is a good state of mind to be in.

If you could collaborate with anybody going forward, who would you choose and why?

I listen to quite a lot of electronic stuff. The path of least resistance for me is often to make more organic music but I’m incorporating bits and pieces of more electronic sounds more all the time. But I’d love to collaborate with someone like Jon Hopkins, for example, who makes incredible sounds. I also quite like the guy from Chromatics, Johnny Jewel. I like some of the soundtracks and stuff that he’s done. I think we could make a good Space Disco record together.

Tell us a random, funny fact about you that not many people know.

I am one of only three people in the history of humanity to have been to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. 

Do you have definitive aims or goals for your career?

Just to survive from it, which I have done for long spells, but it’s always pretty precarious. 

Where do you hope to be this time next year?

To be playing some actual live music in front of a real live audience would be nice. But that’s a big ask at the best of times.

What should we expect from you in the coming weeks and months?

Well the album will be out on November 13th, so that’s the most imminent thing. I was working on some new stuff during the lockdown and I think it’s taking shape into an EP or mini-album, so I’m planning to finish that off and get it out soon. All going well I’ll be playing some live shows next year, so hopefully there’ll be some announcements on that front in the coming weeks.