Interview – Adam Ficek of RKC
There is a saying that goes “The road to success is always under construction”. You would imagine then, that once that success is achieved then anything that comes after should be a moot point. It is perhaps reasonable for the casual observer to think that any person who has achieved the heights of success in their chosen field will then live a life of ease and happiness no matter what they choose to do. As any real observer of success knows, this just isn’t the case. Take for example David Bowie. In an attempt to try something different from what he normally did he ended up crucified for it. Granted, Tin Machine was never a good idea on paper anyway, but it shows the artistic temperament at work and the fickleness of the area that he works in.
Adam Ficek was in a successful band. The band split up and he has taken the chance to follow his muse with his new band RKC. A resplendent album full of lo-fi meanderings and sharp bursts of electronica it couldn’t be further away from the ragged, arena rock of Babyshambles. It is a much more personal venture and in some respects more rewarding than his previous band. I caught up with Adam on a flight back to the UK and although he added that he hadn’t slept for the last 50 hours he was willing to answer questions regarding RKC, ‘British Plastic’ (the album) and the state of record business in general.
‘British Plastic’ has been well received by the press, has this vindicated the way you work and given you the impetus to carry on?
“The reviews were ok but I do try and ignore the media to a certain extent. It’s funny old game but I’ve become quite thick skinned from my years in the industry.”
“It’s nice that people like it but it has no bearing on my approach to writing or releases.”
And how about the production values?
“The production is a lot harsher and perhaps a little messier but it was done by my own fair hands, I don’t know that much about production but I’m slowly getting there.”
“My goal is to be far more competent on the production front, stick with me.”
This lo-fi approach to work underpins the RKC work ethic. Where-as Babyshambles was bombast, albeit with an undercurrent of DIY punk it is British Plastic that harks back to that original idea of doing things your own way. It is a philosophy which stems back to The Clash and is now prevalent in the world of music.
Does this affect the way that you write your songs? Has it changed since the Babyshambles days?
“My songwriting generally comes from not trying, it’s always been that way. Whenever I have tried to write about a subject it comes out contrived so I tend to just play some chords and let the words flow subconsciously. I then fine tune the sketch and juggle a few words etc.”
Talk now turns to the record business in general. In a climate where it could be argued there is over saturation of music and we now have to search through a minefield of rough to find the diamonds it is the artist who suffers. I wonder how this has affected Adam.
Has it been difficult to get your work out there in the current climate.? Without the backing of a big promotional campaign you would obviously have to approach things differently. How do you do this?
“It’s an odd time for unsigned artists, big labels are collapsing and refusing to sign, yet social media is providing a great platform for exposure.”
“I do get frustrated about not having the power of the big labels. It all boils down to money like most things in life.”
“I use my limited contacts and social media to get exposure. Twitter is great for me. Facebook seems to be getting saturated.”
“I did use a PR company on this release and they done a good job. There are suddenly thousands of PR companies popping up so you have to be careful. I used Prescription PR on Gary Powell’s recommendation and they delivered. ..PR plug.”
“I won’t be able to afford PR on the next release so it will be interesting to see what I can pull in.”
Is it a big change from how Babyshambles used to work…I’m thinking of guerilla gigging and the like? In some respects they were just as independently minded as RKC.
“Yes, Babyshambles was signed to a major label but obviously Peter was a PR machine. Normal bands would die for the exposure we gained. Perhaps this isn’t a positive thing though.”
“Regarding gigging, the whole guerilla thing died when the media got hold of it. I’ll perhaps do some small acoustic stuff here and there as it’s nice to meet the fans etc.”
“I recently played Trafalgar square due to a prick of a London promoter trying to stitch me up. I thought rather than get £300 and get screwed I would reschedule a free thing in Trafalgar Sq on my own terms. It was cold but successful.”
(It is refreshing to see an artist such as Adam stay true to his integrity and refuse to play the game. This is a point that we return to later but in the meantime Adam continues to talk business.)
“To be honest I’m not sure how much interest the others had in the record industry. I was probably far more ahead in terms of being tuned in than the management.”
“Obviously I was launching my own stuff so had to be ‘on the pulse’ of whatever was happening in the field. I half regret starting my own label though as I became increasingly aware of how much of a racket the business is. I think if you’re passionate about music don’t start a label. I didn’t have a choice so had to do it to release.”
“I’m learning to separate business with emotion!”
One of Adam’s main ways of plugging RKC has been through the internet and in particular through the use of social media. I’ wanted to hear more on his thoughts on this way of working.
The internet has changed music…for good or for better? Whilst it does provide a platform for musicians it can also become a bit of a minefield. Should there be some sort of regulation. Should record labels be doing more?
“That’s a big question, not sure, I sit on both sides. Illegal downloading is killing the commercial side of industry yet it gives exposure. In my personal experience the theory that people download without paying and then come to your shows or buy merch is bullshit. I don’t see that trend in RKC.”
“Unless you’re a big band (400 cap) there isn’t income to be made in touring.”
“We do it for the buzz of doing it. If something happens then that’s great but I’ll never be desperate to be the next big thing. I see it in young bands now and that’s great but I question the integrity of some.”
Any advice for struggling musicians out there?
“a) Get a good job and dig in deep with the music, it’s going to be a long haul.
b) Start applying for next year’s X-Factor
c) Do as you’re told.”
Do you think the record labels need to re-assess what they are doing…there are some good independent ones out there but they are struggling as well? Should the Government provide aid?
“It’s a shame that the industry is crumbling, like a lot of British export, we’re losing it.”
“In Europe the government fund arts projects, so yes perhaps someone should set up a fund of sorts. Perhaps the big earner should have a subtle tax to give something back.”
“If an artist earns in excess of a million they could stick £1000 into a pot for the kids.”
Some wise words there from Adam. It is clear that something needs to be done about the record industry. With the Government harping on about the British Film Industry surely it is only a short step for them to consider the art form that truly made Britain great. Consider this…would The Beatles and The Rolling Stones been as successful if they were starting out now? The collapse of the industry is affecting the future of music and sooner rather than later we are going to be lamenting it.
To bring the talk back to RKC and ‘British Plastic’, I ask Adam about his plans for 2012.
What plans are set for the new year? A tour? festivals seem to be a shoo-in…can see Here Comes The Summer being a big hit. European dates?
“I’m playing a few dates in Europe in Feb, Italy throughout the whole of March, some UK dates in April, some Australian dates in the pipeline for May. It could be a busy start to the year.”
“I’m hoping for some festivals, fingers crossed.”
And this is what it all comes down to. Buy the music, go and watch the band…keep music alive.
You can find out more about RKC and here some of their music here
Tags: Adam Ficek, Babyshambles, Interviews, Martyn Coppack, RKC