Peter J. Faber-Jonker – “The Faber Book of Ballads” (2017)
Peter J. Faber-Jonker is a Rotterdam based guitarist-songwriter well known for his contemporary classic pop-sound. The Faber Book Of Ballads is an ambitious double album! Read more about its making.
How do your songs come to be?
It almost always starts with an idea on the guitar. I just sit playing in my studio, something comes out, and I elaborate on that. If I get stuck on the guitar, I most often switch to the piano, which I find broadens my musical horizon. Sometimes the lyrics come straight away, and sometimes I only have the melody first [whistles] and then I just sing nonsense lyrics before writing something appropriate later. I needed to make this double album because I had new songs but also because there were so many old songs lying about, and I needed to record them to empty my head. All the songs, also the older ones, evolved during the recording process. I started out in the studio, laying down the basic tracks with drummer Ron Verbeek. I took these tracks home to finish the songs and record the vocals in my home studio. Then I took the music back to the studio, for the final mix-down.
Can you tell me a bit about the album concept?
It’s called The Faber Book of Ballads partly because I write a lot of ballads, partly because I’m pulling people’s legs; it’s actually an eclectic album with a great variety in musical styles. Still, all the songs tie together simply because I wrote them, and they all point at estrangement, disillusion, transience – being lost in the world or in life – as well as hope, light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve used the three singers [Mark Ritsema, Koop Hofman, and Vera Jessen Juhrend] as vocal instruments: they all have different ranges, different timbers which blend together perfectly. It took a while for me to figure out which singer suited which song best – in a couple of cases it was a matter of trial and error. In the end I succeeded in getting the best out of all three of them. Here too, I like to play with expectations. I like contrast; I like understatement: I don’t want a sad song to be sung very sadly, then it becomes a farce.
What are your musical influences?
Starting with the obvious: there are of course The Beatles, that I started listening to when I was 10 and still listen to regularly today, especially psychedelic-era Beatles. Then of course there is the new wave era in which I grew up – bands like Talking Heads, Teardrop Explodes, Psychedelic Furs. I would also like to mention Blur and The Libertines, Sonic Youth, Dead Moon, Dinosaur Jr., and classics like Tom Waits and Neil Young. What all these bands and musicians have in common is that they write pop songs, in whatever style they have. They are all excellent songwriters.
And what else inspires you?
Lyrics-wise, I get my ideas on the street, from music I hear, from movies I see. I find inspiration in little things as I walk in the city, street names or advertisements for example, traces of conversation. Or sometimes when I visit a museum, I see titles of paintings that inspire me to write songs. The other day I was in a restaurant and I overheard two people arguing; you will hear that back on one of my next albums. Everything that happens to me is food for songs.
What are your future plans?
Well, I still have enough songs to fill another three albums, which I hope to do in the near future. I want my next album to be recorded live with a band in the studio, as opposed to this album, which was recorded bit by bit using overdub. That way, it will get a different vibe, a different atmosphere. I don’t want all my albums to sound the same and it will suit the many heavy songs I have lying about. The next album will be a bit grittier than this one.
Photo: Leonor Faber-Jonker
But still with a psychedelic twist?
– Klemen Breznikar
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