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Interview: Liam Finn Talks About His 'Hyperverse' Livestreams + New Album

Interview: Liam Finn Talks About His 'Hyperverse' Livestreams + New Album

Chris Cudby / Photo credit: Buddy Finn / Wednesday 11th August, 2021 4:46PM

Repping a two decade-plus back catalogue that includes multiple Silver Scroll shortlisted solo records, collabs with Connan Mockasin and Lawrence Arabia as Barb, an album with his father Neil Finn and new one with Crowded House, Liam Finn recently embarked on what may well be his most artistically ambitious project to date — opening up a portal to his very own Hyperverse. Broadcasting the warts 'n' all process of creating his forthcoming solo album live to audiences via Twitch for the past two months, phase one of Finn's Hyperverse project concludes this week at Tāmaki Makaurau's Roundhead Studios. Finn will be tracking the new album live onto analogue tape before a limited capacity crowd from this evening to Friday. In keeping with the inclusive spirit of the project, those unable to snag tickets will be able to experience the action unfold from 8pm NZST each night for free over on Finn's Twitch channel right here (plus YouTube and Facebook).

Finn was kind enough to get on the blower with Chris Cudby a few weeks ago to chat about the Hyperverse. He explained how the project changed shape as he's adapted to the live streaming realm, the decisions involved with creating a record on the spot, how he balanced such a massive undertaking with his Crowded House duties plus more — including his behind the scenes guiding hand on the new Ade & Connan Mockasin album It's Just Wind...

UnderTheRadar proudly presents...

Liam Finn’s Hyperverse Live at Roundhead Studios
Wednesday 11th August to Friday 13th August - Auckland, New Zealand

Tune in via Liam Finn’s Twitch page each night from 8pm NZST HERE (plus YouTube and Facebook)

Chris Cudby: So how has it been, being the host of your own regular Twitch show?

Liam Finn: It's been great. It's definitely evolved from what I thought it was going to be. I've gotten more comfortable to go with it, to just trust in the process. I think at first, I felt like I had to entertain.


Yes.

It felt like somewhere between doing a live show and hosting a Wayne's World-like, community television station kind of thing. Where it's haphazard and anything goes. I guess I didn't know what was going to be interesting, so I went into it thinking "Oh, I'll have jams but I'll also do some old songs to hold people's attention." And then I realised pretty quickly, hang on, this was supposed to be a utility for me to get something out of myself not me trying to form a Twitch community for my own. I love the fact that there's new people getting turned on to it, but it was by no means to build up a Twitch channel.

I think I found that somewhere in the middle is exactly where it works and is kind of exciting. I've really appreciated the forming of a community and the fact that there's people coming back every week and then I know that there's new people, stumbling upon it every week. I'm not sure what that translates to in the real world, but it certainly feels kind of cool to have this new platform. It's a new way to connect.

I think as a solo artist that's released quite a few records and done quite a few different things — had Barb and made record with my Dad and now with Crowded House and then producing other people — that this feels really honest and authentic to just me, and gets to be my thing moving forward. Whether I continue it on after this process, probably not bi-weekly, but it's something that I will probably keep coming back to as something to do, to reconnect with my solo career each time. Which is kind of cool.


I'm very curious as to what you've discovered through this process. Have you found, in terms of the original intention for your project, that creating in front of a pretty substantial sized online audience has been providing the urgency or challenge that you were seeking, with the Hyperverse idea?

Yeah, definitely. It's hard to compare it, because the day that I basically first set up in the studio and got everything going, was the day that I first did a trial broadcast. I haven't actually recorded in the studio yet without broadcasting, so I'm not sure how different it would be if I was on my own. To be honest, I think the difference is that I have to do it.

My life's pretty busy with having a family now. In a way, finding the time to make music is a luxury, and anything, probably the first thing to go, if you're procrastinating or if you're feeling lazy, first thing that's sacrificed. Obviously you can't sacrifice your kids' meals [laughs] or looking after your kids. I go into every one of these streams... probably an hour before the human part of me goes, "I have to do this, okay." It's not like I'm dreading it, it's more like it's a responsibility. But as soon as I hit go, it's really fun and I realise here's two or three hours of music that I wouldn't have made otherwise. If anything I think that having this responsibility is a really good way to enforce music making. A huge part of achieving anything is actually just making yourself do it, it's having the drive to do it.


At this point in the game, can you see what kind of shape the new album might be taking?

It could go two ways at this point. I could be pragmatic, and I could almost stop forming the ideas and start working on what I have from the previous Hyperverses — refine the ideas and write songs around them, and figure out how they could be then re-performed at Roundhead. Or I could just keep going the way that I'm going now, with hopefully a bit more time in-between, to edit which are the best bits. What I found was that I've got maybe two really solid ideas per stream... already actually what I'm getting here, some of it's usable because it's got the spark.

I'm tossing between the two at the moment. One of them's more intimidating than the other. So I'm maybe choosing to go the less intimidating route, the joyful, exciting, just making music for the fun of it route. Which is just to keep on doing what I'm doing and know that the best stuff will rise to the surface, and I will eventually make a record.


I love the sections [of the Hyperverse livestreams] where it's you standing there just listening for a while. Which is such a huge part of making music, but you never see that in real time. I was enjoying how your project shows these parts of the creation of something, that are very familiar to the people who are makers, but maybe not so familiar to people outside of that.

That's what I think I've realised from this now, is that it doesn't really matter. I've been staying on at the end of the stream, with the idea that I'll go and listen back to stuff. I'll leave the stream going and the view changes to being in front of my computer. I don't know whether it's because the longer that you're on, the more people you build up watching... But I've had more people watching that process at the end of my streams, than have been watching the actual music-making part. I would have thought that they would start dropping off because it's boring. But what I've realised is the stuff that I would find mundane or inconsequential to a viewer, it's actually got some sort of energy about it that is intriguing.


The very first [Hyperverse stream] I saw, you just launched into this super hard out, like Lightning Bolt-esque solo drums and riff kind of thing. Which was definitely on the noisier end of the spectrum.

I'd say 50% Of what I've got is that at this point. On the pragmatic side, if I wanted to I could probably make a punk record at this point. I have a good handful of hard out, riff-based, noise, fast paced sort of things. That are pretty exciting to listen to and I'm really enjoying it. But it would feel like it was very one-sided.

Is it more misleading to try and make a record that has a bit of that, and a bit of meandering sonic, soundscapey, atmosphere-driven stuff and then some songs on it? Or is it better to actually just commit and go here's a record of just punk songs? And then maybe down the line, work on other stuff I've got, make a record of atmospheric stuff. I always find that I combine everything and then, well the majority of people are confused by it, and some people will really love it, because their music tastes are similar to mine. They like all the different stuff and they don't mind the jumping between genres.


I don't think either approaches are misleading personally. It's a funny thing, where the internet seems to reward people who have a very specific 'thing' that they do. I've seen that over and over again. There are also artists who thrive who make eclectic work — Flying Lotus and Oneohtrix Point Never are maybe good examples. The internet does have a tendency for 'liking' specific things, which I don't necessarily think is good or bad, but I think in some ways should be resisted against.

That's my natural inclination. Algorithms don't like to be confused... you are pushed down algorithmically. This is good subject matter for this album I think. I feel like algorithms — pushed down — freedom.

I feel the same way. Absolutely. It's an invisible iron cage that surrounds us. But I don't think either approaches are dishonest in any way. I think both are legitimate strategies for sure.


How does the Hyperverse project slot in with your not inconsiderable Crowded House responsibilities?

I kind of slotted this into July and August, because I thought that that would be a bit of downtime, of not having to do much Crowded House stuff. But how wrong I was [laughter]. There's always really cool and exciting things that we're doing with Crowded House, like mixing live stuff that's getting released.

I've become very into engineering and producing, myself, so I've been mixing a lot of the Crowded House stuff. That's been a really big responsibility, but it's also been really amazing learning. I just finished mixing the live stream that we did of the show in Auckland and that's going to become a live album, which was then another mix job. It's going to come out on vinyl which is really exciting.

We've done a bunch of performances when the guys were all in town for American television, since we can't travel and do American TV. So I got to mix all the TV things — The Ellen Show already aired. I feel like I'm building up my CV as a mixer, which is quite exciting because I think that's something I'd quite happily do down the track, is just mix people's music. Also we're doing music videos and stuff like that. It's quite a lot to try and do everything and I feel like I need to always follow what feels like the most fun thing to do. Luckily, a lot of the Crowded House stuff that we're doing, content-making, has actually being really fun.

I get like little bouts of, two hours, three hours that I can go and do something. And I have a life responsibility, my family, so you don't waste a second of it. That's the best thing about having kids — you have a lot less time to do things, but when you do have time you just fucking do it. So that's been good, I've been going very hard.


Very last question — what is your involvement with Connan Mockasin's project with his dad Ade [their new album It's Just Wind]?

I recorded and co-produced the record. We went to Marfa, Texas, a couple of years ago, which is part of his label, Mexican Summer's kind of yearly festival that they put on in Marfa. A four or five day festival. It has a lot of very obscure and... like a lot of old psychedelic artists that have disappeared and have a lot of fans but you never know where they are. They turn up at this festival all of a sudden, playing in the desert. It's really cool.

I've gone there quite a few times with Connan... for this one we set up in this kind of like nicely done up, shared art barn thing. Connan's band all basically improvised music while his dad would come in with some sort of pre-written poem... and sort of just improvise on top of it. We made a pretty magical record, it was one of the most fulfilling experiences for me at the time. Because I was just recording it, I got to just listen to it as it kind of all went down and marvel at the magic that was happening.

Links
twitch.tv/theliamfinn
facebook.com/liamfinn
youtube.com/channel/UCVKEghZR0CutTL3xadxB3ug
instagram.com/liamfinn/

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