There are few artists that are better at making electronic noise music than Fuck Buttons. Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power have been creating confrontational, head-frying sounds since 2008’s Street Horrrsing album but have been silent since the following year’s Tarot Sport.
While Fuck Buttons have been having some down time, these two gentlemen haven’t been resting on their laurels. Power has been off making drones under the Blanck Mass moniker, and towards the end of 2012 Hung unveiled his new project, dawn hunger.
While Hung is very much the man behind this new act, he’s taking something of a backseat and leaving all live appearances to the other two people who make up Dawn Hunger: vocalist Claire Inglis and musician Matthew de Pulford. The sound of Dawn Hunger (an anagram of Andrew Hung, fact fans) is not too dissimilar to that of Hung’s other band: there’s an unsettling noise edge to the music, the sound of a broken drum machine and synths falling down the stairs, but what sets it apart are the striking vocals of Inglis. Her powerful vocals rise above the music making this something entirely different to any of Hung’s previous work.
As we find out during a chat with Hung, composing for a vocalist is something he’s long been interested in, and following the release of the ‘Stumbling Room/Billowing Wind’ single we discover that the future of Dawn Hunger is completely undefined, open to leading Hung and his performers absolutely anywhere.
So, how did Dawn Hunger come about?
I knew Claire from quite a long time ago when I used to live in Bristol, and I met up with her again quite recently. She’s always been looking to sing again and I’ve been wanting to work with a vocalist as well so we just got working that way.
Was the choice of Claire as vocalist vital to the project?
I think so! I mean, she wanted to perform it and I knew I really couldn’t commit to that while doing Fuck Buttons, so I was quite happy to write music for her to play with. The process is still actually changing; I’ve only come to realise that recently as they’ve started gigging more and more, and I get to see them quite often, it’s informed the writing process – which is quite interesting actually.
How long have Claire and Matthew been performing this music?
They’ve been gigging for quite a while now, but I wanted the music to develop before they got any kind of attention at all – but the November 2012 gig was the first one Dawn Hunger played for the release.
What’s the writing and recording process like for Dawn Hunger?
The way it’s been kick-started is that I’ve written the music and they’ve taken those parts and reinvented them… but that’s changed quite a lot since we started. Because they’re playing live and adding their touches to it, I think that’s going to come back into the writing process sooner or later. Because I wanted to develop it, I’ve actually written about 350-400 vignettes which are in varying states of completion… so in terms of an album release there’s a lot of music there! But there’s nothing that I’m ready to release yet.
And do you write this music and hand it over, or does everyone get involved?
Well, we write it together… we had to go through quite a lot of different ways of doing it until one worked. I asked Claire to do as much as she wanted and experiment with it and edit it, but that took a lot of energy out of it. I’m not very experienced with singing so I think it took a lot of energy for her to do that… so then I started writing a vocal line on a keyboard, but that sound clinical, which was okay. But the best way we do it now – because I can’t sing at all – is that I’ll try to sing a vocal line for her and she’ll pick up what I’m trying to do, and then do it a lot better!
Was the vocal aspect important to you, have you always wanted to explore that musically?
Yeah, definitely! I’ve always been a fan of female vocals from a young age, but I’d never entertained the idea of making music as a living… but Fuck Buttons injected, I dunno, a belief or something, and I wanted to try and explore it a little bit more and the obvious thing to do was to do vocals with it.
Is there a temptation to add more female vocalists to Dawn Hunger, or is it built around Claire?
I don’t know what the future holds for this project to be honest with you, and I find that quite exciting. At the moment it’s just about developing it and there are a lot of ingredients waiting to be explored; I’m quite happy with the relationship I’ve had with Claire and the way it’s developed and is still developing.
What’s the thinking behind not being part of the live setup?
I guess the focus is on Claire, or the vocals and the music, and whether I’m on stage isn’t important for those things… but there’s always room for changes. I kind of wanted this project to be very versatile, so I guess it allows for varying degrees of configuration…but the focus is always on the vocals.
It sounds like there’s still not a defined future then for Dawn Hunger…
It does feel a bit like flailing around in the darkness at the moment trying to understand it. I mean, I had a really strong idea of what the whole thing would be like – how it would feel – before the release of the single but to be honest with you, things change and that’s quite important to this project.
Are there any female vocalists that have influenced the project?
I wouldn’t say there are any influences at all, but there’s definitely an aesthetic that I was drawn to when it comes to female vocals. I’ve had to assess what my tastes are and try and identify what they were before trying to get it out of Claire. The female vocals that I like are usually ones with large vocal ranges, and I like nuance and, well, personality! Technicality isn’t important to me; it’s about trying to get a feeling across.
Was having vocals also a way of making sure there was a real separation between this and Fuck Buttons, or was that not important or part of your thinking?
It was really important to me, actually. I mean, if I was going to do music in my spare time it could be anything and I wouldn’t really care about it, so I was dead set on making something interesting that wasn’t anything to do with Fuck Buttons. When I first started writing this music it did sound like Fuck Buttons but with a female vocalist on top of it, and that wasn’t something I was interested in. So it took me like a year and a half to develop something to make it what it is now… like I said earlier it took 300-400 tracks before something interesting happened.
That sounds like a lot of work…
That depends how you define work, I define that as something that you hate – this was fun!
So what’s next, more gigging and seeing what happens next?
I think so; recently they’ve played a bit more and the live show has given me a lot of ideas that I wasn’t expecting so I’m very eager to start writing again and see where that takes us. I’ve always been interested in how DJs go out with tracks that they’ve made that day and then see how it goes down on the dancefloor. It seems like when they’ve played live it’s given me ideas and now that they’re playing more shows it’s going to be nice to be able to road test some of those songs.