Ein früher Freitagabend in Berlin. Treffpunkt für das Interview: das weltbekannte Hotel Adlon direkt am Brandenburger Tor. In der pompösen Lobby komme ich mir ein bisschen Fehl am Platz vor, ein Mann in Uniform tippt auf seinen Hut, verbeugt sich halb und sagt „N’Abend die Dame“. Wenig später sitze ich in einem absurd großen Spiegelsaal.
Als Fred zur Tür reinkommt, schaut er genauso verdutzt wie ich und fängt an zu lachen. Wir einigen uns auf eine Mischung aus Wes Anderson und Bridgerton, vielleicht auch ein bisschen The Shining. Er setzt sich extra gerade auf das prunkvolle Sofa. Rückenschmerzen vom ekstatischen Keyboardspielen im Stehen, sagt er. Aber nur für’s Ende, denn „I don’t want to be the stand up keyboard guy, because that’s a different vibe“, lacht er. Wir überlegen, ob ein höhenverstellbares Keyboard auch bescheuert wäre. Vermutlich.
Es ist der Abend vor seinem ersten Deutschlandkonzert. Das vergangene Jahr war für Fred Again.. ein aufregendes, mit Actual Life und Actual Life 2 veröffentlichte er zwei gefeierte Alben. Längst ist er nicht mehr „nur“ der mit einem Brit Award ausgezeichnete Produzent von Ed Sheeran, Stormzy und Co…er hat sich eine beachtliche Fanbase geschaffen, spielt diesen Sommer auf allen wichtigen Festivals, läuft im Radio hoch und runter. Und er ist gerade erst am Anfang…
So other than the back pain, how is tour going?
Tour is going great! It’s been beautiful. Yeah, we fucking love it. It’s a real privilege playing in these different countries, these songs every night. And I’ve got my best friend with me supporting. It’s like a real cheat code. We’re doing the same thing in America. And it makes it just 10 times funnier for everyone.
It’s been exactly a year since we last talked, the week before you releases Actual Life 1…
Is that a year ago? Feels longer, in a way, doesn’t it? And it kind of feels really short, it’s a bit of both.
I’ve lost all feeling for time. How did you experience the last year?
I’ve loved it. It was very immediately life changing for me, which sounds dramatic. But I think it’s the right words, because any piece of music I’d ever put out before, I was done with it by the time it was out. Usually even before that, because we finished it two, three or four months before. And in the case of that record, I’d though: okay, that’s done. We move on. Great. Then it came out and for the first time, I was happy to go back and sit with it. Because of mainly just reading people’s messages on Instagram. And usually, I didn’t do that. And this time I did and it was great. Yeah, and it definitely changed how I make music. Totally.
It’s so crazy to compare you to a year ago, now how much you’ve grown and how many people fell in love with your music – it makes me really happy to see that you get all the recognition. Feels like Marea kind of predicted your future: What comes next will be marvelous.
She is a shaman! I never thought about it like that.
It’s not like you weren’t successful before, but I feel like 2021 put you as a person and as an artist in the spotlight.
Definitely, I hadn’t really done it before. But weirdly, that wasn’t what was affecting for me. It was more just the fact of going back to living with music in a different way. Because before, I didn’t live with music after it was done, but now through playing shows and through messages and all the other things that happen, it’s now much more of an ecosystem that I live in. And that’s the biggest change for me, and I love it. I think it makes me hopefully write better music because it all feels more alive. You feel like you’re part of a dialogue conversation, which I think leads to better writing.
Was there a really special moment from the last year you will always remember?
I think it’s a blur, maybe in like five years I’ll be like that. I mean playing All Points East for the first time was pretty bizarre, because it was my first live show basically. And it was insane. It was also hilariously ropey, the whole thing, because now our live show is much more professional, just in terms of how things are plugged in and stuff like that. But then it was just me, I just did it. And I’m not good at that.
I remember peeping out the curtain, like 10,000 people, and I was like: I know that my shitty little laptop has a dodgy port and it comes unplugged all the time. And in rehearsals, sometimes you just be „okay, carry on“. So then I’m looking out and I’m like: Fred you dickhead, what are you doing? This is insane. This is unacceptable that you’re about to go on stage with your dodgy USB port that always comes unplugged with all this sound is going to be coming through. But we managed to get away with it. And it was great.
Also my dad had been away for work and he landed in London like literally 45 minutes before we played, so he got a cab straight there.
That’s beautiful. And stressful. How is Actual Life 3 coming along?
I’m not done with it yet. Things are still happening. It’s definitely the purest I’ve managed to do it.
You could do this format endlessly.
I plan to.
I wondered if the label said something like „you can do five but we have to move on after that“.
Oh no, I’m very lucky to be in a position where I just say; this is what I’m doing, on every level. Atlantic, my label I’m with, is so great, they’ve never asked me to do anything other than what I tell them I want to do. My plan is I want to keep doing them, because to me it feels like a diary. I think it’s important, at least for the beginning, that it doesn’t stop for a while, so it feels like it’s living and breathing. Maybe after a few years, I’ll pause for a second. But then I like the idea that I could be 60 and be like: Alright, I’m gonna do Actual Life 21 or whatever.
I love the concept! And the sources are endlessly, right? Even more now that videos getting pushed so much on social media and people do more videos because of that, so you can pull more from it.
Definitely, the ecosystem of it all is only getting more flourishing.
I wonder how you experience life right now? The last few years were strange… and it feels like it’s getting even stranger year by year.
I feel like everything is kind of always as weird and lovely and strange and new, as it always was. Obviously there are rogue anomalies, like a pandemic, that are quite unusual. But in terms of the bigger stuff, like of how you feel about the world…It always feels like: oh, this is weirder than ever, but it always feels like that. So then maybe it’s just always kind of weird and then sometimes be like: That was the best year! Maybe they all were kind of the best. I don’t really see an arc of either we’re right and it’s constantly getting weirder and weirder – or we’re just vulnerable to human perception. And it’s actually just constantly kind of weird, and that’s all right. It’s how I see it that way at least. So yeah, I feel like 2022 has been great.
You’re right, and it’s just April. I think that’s okay. I don’t know how to feel about this either. At the beginning, I was like: this is going to be my year, and then came February…
No, but that’s how everyone feels every year. Everyone wakes up in January and then it feels like this, but winter is still happening, something rubbish happens…And then you’re in February like: Okay, maybe next year…
You’re giving the people so much and I have a feeling from how you present yourself online, I mean, it’s always a small little peek into a life, but if feels like they all give you a lot back.
Every song I make is informed by every interaction I’ve had with all these people before it, that’s why I say it was life changing because before I just kind of made music for myself, but I don’t anymore. And I love that.
I saw your Instagram story on Monday where you talked about the most beautiful person you’ve ever seen on the tube.
Haha! Yeah, she was an immaculate human, she didn’t look real. She didn’t look like real life. She looked like a Pixar character. She had her kid with her. I just looked up from my book and was like, Jesus Christ.
When you posted it, I was like „Oh God, I know this situation“. Now with the pandemic and everyone wearing masks not so much, but before that I was always falling in love with people for like five stations. And then never seeing them again or even thinking about them.
It’s a good thing, the tube! I’ve had some hilarious ones of those. Definitely. Yeah.
I mean, you’re on the tube and the train a lot…
I’m more prone to it. Yeah, it’s tough life. A lot of unrequited tube love out there.
So, you’re playing Coachella next week…
I got a set time today, it’s a good slot. It will be really fun. I’m currently on a lot of different threads about how to shorten our set from like an hour and ten to 45 minutes. That’s a bit of a struggle, but it’s a good thing to do, because I want to be able to do this for a bunch of festivals anyway, so it’s good to work it out. A lot of trying to find different tunes in similar keys that you can mix together and stuff to try and blend it.
You’re quite high up there in the line up, I was positively surprised. Just one row separating you from Kanye…before he pulled out.
It’s so sad he pulled out! But I love the Swedish House Mafia guys, they are good friends. So that’s great.
I always listened to their music when I was like sixteen and clubbing for the first time!
They’re all legends in the game.
I’m really excited for your concert at SchwuZ tomorrow!
Yeah, me too. Really excited. Because it’s the last one of this tour leg. It’s a Saturday night. And Berlin is fucking great!