An Interview With…Nick Murphy (Chet Faker)

Not only is he an incredible visionary, with a talent for synth-based, electro-jazz tunes, but he is also a humanitarian- helping us combat sexual harassment at live music events. We had a chance to sit down with the international star, Nick Murphy (previously working under the name of Chet Faker), following his first night at the Metropolis in Montreal, Canada. Here’s his views on sexual assault, the music industry, feminism, and the conformity to masculinity as part of an artist’s identity:

Q: Have you witnessed sexual assault at live music events- that being your own or anyone else’s?

A: No, I never have seen that… violence at gigs sometimes… It’s not always easy to tell the difference between the two, because it happens so quickly. Things break out at the most inappropriate times as well- not that it’s ever appropriate-, but it’s like… what the fuck are you doing? But it’s definitely not something that I haven’t seen.

Q: Do you have a message to the perpetrators?

A: (laughs) where do I start? It’s complicated, and it’s hard to understand where that’s coming from. It’s obviously a place of confusion, and not really understanding someone’s emotions. First and foremost, it’s completely not appropriate and not right. So, that’s the first message. But, I would say that if that’s something that someone is leaning towards doing, talk about it with people and figure out where that’s coming from and why you think that’s appropriate, because it’s obviously an emotionally driven act.

Q: As a figure in the music industry, what do you think you can do to help combat the issue?

A: Well, talk to you (laughs), for starters. I mean the reason why I agreed to meet with you is to see what you would suggest. Sometimes these issues are so pervasive and big, it can be hard to understand how to do that. There’s so much wrong going on in the world- it can be kind of confusing and complicated to figure out what responsibility, or how a responsibility should be applied to that. And that’s something I’m interested in. Sorry, that’s not really a direct answer… but I’m interested in answers.

Q: That’s really great to hear. For starters, I would suggest spreading awareness and of course discussing the issue. That is, speaking to the security teams at venues, as well as your own management team. Of course, I wish that issues of sexual assault or harassment won’t happen at any one of your shows, but if they do, it’s important to speak up about it. I’ve seen some bands and artists stop mid-show to address the perpetrators and ensure a healthy, safe environment during the gig.

A: Yeah, speak out about it, absolutely.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to change about the music industry?

A: Oh, so much, I couldn’t even begin. This is a great start! It’s supposed to be about togetherness, that’s why people come to live shows, it’s about getting along. It’s the reason music exists; so that people can communicate with each other, beyond their differences. People need to remember that, it’s not like an accessory, like buying a ticket for something just so you can say you were there, or buy a jacket or some shit. You go there because it means something. If it doesn’t mean something- don’t go, don’t buy a ticket! I’m not interested in playing for people that think it’s just a thing, you know?

Q: How much do you think feminism, and the treatment of women is discussed within the music industry?

A: At the moment more than it has been before, which I think is amazing. It’s definitely a male dominated industry, and I think that needs to change. How? I don’t know. It’s something I have been trying to figure out for the last couple of years, even if it’s something like getting amazing artists like Charlotte Cardin, to support us. I think it is such a complicated issue, and equality is not really a scoreboard, but a state of mind. It’s just talking about it, and keeping it in your mind at all times, when it comes to decisions. Really, there are no laws about it, it’s just applying it to decisions you make, and at least that’s where I feel like I’m making a difference. Just being aware of it, and open about it.

Q: That’s it, exactly. How much do you think masculinity, and the conformity to that stereotype affects the way that artists present themselves?

A: It’s a huge issue! And I think the issue concerns the industry and labels, and things like that. With music… there’s less money involved now than there used to be, so larger labels are less likely to risk this stuff. My ex-girlfriend was a musician, and she was always looking for a manager. You know, this was years ago, but they were always trying to sexualize her. And that’s not what her music was about! It baffled the shit out of me, because she is talented, and she’s doing really well now, but it’s just this extra hurdle. You know, no one came up to me and said, “you have to be sexy on stage”. It’s not something I had to deal with. Fuck, I wouldn’t even know where to start. There’s people not being open to new ideas, or just resting on talent.

Q: How much, and how often do you think other social issues- like racism or classism- are discussed within the music industry?

A: In the industry, it’s hard to tell. I don’t deal a lot with the actual industry heads, because it’s not something I’m interested in- because it is so close minded, it’s like this fucked up little community. But I think socially, it’s being discussed more. For example, we’re talking about it now. I’ve been touring for five years and it’s the first time someone has asked me these questions. It’s definitely on the radar of the youth’s social awareness, which is great. I think it’s moving in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go with that.

Q: Since it’s your first night playing in Canada, how is it like being back?

A: It’s nice being back! I’m a little sick, so I’m drugged up on everything I can take. But it was really enjoyable… an amazing crowd. I had fun.

Q: How is the crowd different from festivals versus your own shows? I remember seeing you at Osheaga a couple years back, and the crowd was very different from your show tonight.

A: Well, hopefully no one comes to the show if they don’t want to see your music. Whereas at a festival, you might get dragged on by a friend or whatever. And that’s cool, because people can get excited. That’s the difference- at your own shows people have a connection to the music and want to be there and hear it.

Q: Do you have any highlights of your summer? Any specific shows or funny stories?

A: I took a road trip this summer, as a holiday, and drove across the United States, which was amazing, I really enjoyed that. I got to see the country.

Q: That seems incredible. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us!

A: Thanks, it was really nice to meet you, and we love what you’re doing!

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Interview by Ania Buksowicz