Nick Pynn: People call it avante folk
By Chris Cooke | Published on Friday 5 August 2011
Festival veteran Nick Pynn is one of those extra special Fringe acts. Which will be why we gave him a ThreeWeeks Award, even if that was at another Fringe closer to his year round home in Brighton.
Putting the multi well and truly into the word multi-instrumentalist, Pynn’s unique brand of experimental folky music makes him a must-see act. Like, MUST see. In fact, we won’t be distributing any ‘I did the Fringe’ badges this year to anyone who doesn’t see his show.
A Fringe regular of old, Nick has built some strong friendships in the comedy world, especially with the likes of Stewart Lee and Rich Hall. Indeed you may have seen him on the most recent series of Lee’s BBC2 show, or at Hall’s ‘Hoedown’. This August he’s back doing his own thing, and ThreeWeeks caught up with him to find out more.
CC: So let’s start with the easy question you probably find hard to answer! You’re sound is quite unique, how would you describe the music you play?
NP: You’re right about this easy question actually being quite tricky. I’ve always found it hard to describe my own music, but others have called it ‘avante folk’. They’re songs without words, mostly.
CC: What amazes many of our reviewers is how many instruments you play, which are your favourites?
NP: In a solo concert I think of them all as being components of one big instrument, woring together to do whatever is needed to serve the ‘song’, so I consider the violin and bass pedals, plus my voice, or invisible guests perhaps, to be one big instrument combined. When playing for my own amusement though, my overall favourite changes regularly. Right now, it’s the banjo.
CC: What brings you back to Edinburgh each year?
NP: Being part of a huge creative soup of risk-taking performers, sharing in each other’s successes and failures. And Arthur’s Seat.
CC: Music is a big part of the Fringe in terms of numbers of shows, but isn’t as high profile, why do you think that is?
NP: Yes, music probably is quite well represented if you take into account the operas and musical shows, but as for the Fringe being a place for new music to grow – like it is for new theatre and comedy – well, I guess most musicians reckon the existing summer festival circuit fulfils that role pretty well already. And perhaps the Fringe was really designed for art forms where a ‘run’ is desirable, where performing the same show in the same space for three weeks has real artistic benefits. Music is a bit different in that regard. That said, I think the Fringe is slowly developing its suitability for musicians and the profile will follow that.
CC: What advice would you give for any musicians considering a residency at the Edinburgh Fringe?
NP: Firstly, find a venue that won’t rip you off. Play for the audience, and enjoy the performances as if each could be your last (you could get run over by a tram tomorrow, well, if they ever finish the tram lines in Edinburgh!) In terms of finding a venue, I’ve always admired the ethos of Peter Buckley Hill’s Free Fringe. What he provides is at least as good as other (hired) venues where you would make a significant loss putting on a show.
CC: You worked with Jane Bom-Bane to launch a great little year-round café-come-venue in Brighton which has a real Edinburgh Fringe vibe to it. Have you ever thought about bringing that to Edinburgh in August?
NP: Well, I’m not long actively involved in running Bom-Bane’s day to day, so that would be up to Jane! I’ve always felt that the cafe’s atmosphere and quite delicate contents (we designed and built mechanical tables and such like) makes it very much a site-specific venue, perfect for the building it is in. I’m not sure you could recreate it on the move, as it were. But, it is a very Edinburgh-esque establishment, and Festival-goers have often made the trip down and loved it there.
CC: You guested on the last series of Stewart Lee’s TV show, how did that come about?
NP: I’d already been guesting on his live shows in Edinburgh, and on tour, for the past couple of years, on and off. It was lovely to be asked to do the TV show, and also his ‘Austerity Binge’, the weekend he curated at the South Bank. Both were unforgettable experiences.
CC: What other acts are you looking forward to seeing this year?
NP: My schedule is insanely busy as not only am I doing my own show, but I’ll be playing with Kate Daisy Grant at Fingers Piano Bar every day, as well as Rich Hall’s Hoedown at The Pleasance. On my one day off, I’m hoping to see comedians Stewart Lee, Simon Munnery, Bridget Christie and Joanna Neary. In music, I’ll be checking out Antonio Forcione’s show and popping into the St Bride’s Acoustic Music Centre. Oh, and a brilliant storytelling show called ‘Eric’s Tales of the Sea’ which I was blown away by last year.
Nick Pynn performed at Inlingua during Fringe 2011.