Interview: Adam Ficek

14 Oct

The Babyshambles drummer talks about going solo, starting his own band and what it was like being in (and out) of Babyshambles.

Roses Kings Castles – how and why did you start the project?

It was a side project for Babyshambles really. Babyshambles were doing loads of touring and we weren’t really writing for the album. I wanted an outlet for my songs to be heard, really.

Obviously now it’s somewhat changed shape – it’s my main focus now the whole Babyshambles thing has crumbled.

Now it’s more of a primary project working at a much higher level which brings it’s own challenges like finding musicians and making sure the performance level is much higher. It’s challenging but you’ve just got to put your head down and get on with it.

What are your tips for any bands trying to get noticed or signed?

The first thing you’ve got to do is work. It’s no good assuming that music is an easy way out and a justification for being lazy. You’ve got to view it as if it’s a job.

All the high-level bands, there’s a small minority who have done it through the media but the majority of them have put in the hours. My three tips are: get up in the morning, know the right people and know your market, the people you want to sell your music to.

But it’s not that simple – labels, whatever their strengths – still want to spot you because you look ‘right’ though?

I know bands that have been signed before they’ve played a gig. They get signed by a music label who can mould them into what they think the future is going to be next year.

So they’ll pick some Pete Doherty style girl singing with a guitar and think, okay she’s young enough, let’s rebuild her and remodel her, give her an elecro tinge and throw a bit of glitter in her hair, stick her on some billboards and see what happens.

Have you had any bad experiences with RKC and getting signed?

Yeah, I’ve had some bad experiences. My stuff is very different to Babyshambles – I’m on acoustic guitar and I’ve been supported by heavy bands and it’s not been working. It’s the agents. I’d say 80% of the people in the music business couldn’t give a toss about the actual music, maybe 87%.

You’ve got to watch out because those people will instantly think ‘can we make money from this or not?’ and that’s what it’s about for them. I think that as a musician you have to protect your integrity and go in strong and say ‘no, I don’t want this support act’.

Being in Babyshambles – how was that?

It was an amazing experience and an experience that, from a very young age, I had geared up for. I was one of those naive kids that used to have indie band posters on my wall and read the NME. I just absorbed it all and I chased it – I dreamed of being in band.

When you get there, you realise that it’s not how you perceived it to be. It did tarnish my dream when you realise people can buy front covers of magazines and, unfortunately, the press. I’m a bit of a cynic and I read magazines and I can see through it.

So it must have been difficult to release your first RKC album then?

Yeah. When I released my first RKC record, I was really buzzing about it and thought it was a chance for someone without a major label to make a splash but you slowly realise if you’re on an independent label, it’s like you’re pissing in the wind.

If you haven’t got that financial weight to buy some good reviews or some adverts in places, then you can’t get out to the masses. The good thing is that you realise people can download albums for free and then decide if they want to buy the full thing or not so those magazines are of kind of irrelevant.

I know some of the good guys at the NME but it was only because of the Babyshambles connection… If I didn’t have that connection, I don’t know what I’d do. You have to find your own way in and I’m lucky enough to have that connection.

I used to think that if you wrote an amazing song that was produced well, you could get anywhere and it would open doors but that’s not the case unfortunately.

Where do you stand with Babyshambles at the moment – there’s been a lot of talk and they’ve put the drummer from Supergrass in your seat?

I’m not in Babyshambles at the moment. I’d like to elaborate on the reasons why but I can’t at the moment – it’s all getting a bit grown up so I can’t say too much about it. It’s a little bit messy on that front. It’s a real shame that I’m not in the band anymore. Maybe in a month, I can give you the full lowdown but it’s really hard for me – I’m in a bit of a tricky situation.

So what next?

My second album, which was finished last August, has taken a long time to come out but the label were waiting for the right time. I’m working on my fan base and playing gigs.

What’s the difference of being in your own band? Do you like being the leader?

The whole process of trying to keep a band together is a nightmare. It’s difficult being the leader, but I need that. In Babyshambles, we had a small say but now I know what I want – from the album artwork to the music – and it’s good to have control of what you want.

Now, I’m finding venues and chasing PA people and finding the right support – I don’t want some banging guitar band supporting me!

What do you think of the Libertines reforming for Reading and Leeds festivals?

All of them could do with the dough which is great. I know them all and they’re all genuinely nice guys. If they want the money, let them go and do it. But it’s about the money. I can’t say I would never do that because it’s a toss up between paying your mortgage or not and you look at it as work.

Has the internet told us that people in bands aren’t always loaded?

A normal musician now is earning as much as a professional labourer would – you’re not Sting with your four mansions. I think the internet has broken down those barriers. My income now is from DJing and doing remixes and stuff, RKC isn’t yet on the level where you make money. You just hope that from performing, you’re on the next bit of the ladder next year in terms of gigs.

What about iTunes and making money from downloads? Isn’t this the DIY revolution?

iTunes, I don’t even think about it because I know there’s nothing coming in. I never see any of it, Christ knows where that goes. It does annoy me a bit with sites like Spotify and mFlow – entrepreneurs are making good money but the musicians are getting shafted.

You can visit the official RKC site here, see Adam’s homepage here and he Tweets at @adamficek.

This interview originally appeared on studentbeans.com.

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