From The Desk Of Frightened Rabbit: Nils Frahm

Frightened Rabbit bandleader Scott Hutchison knew that he was sinking into an abyss—mentally, emotionally, even spiritually—after the 2013 release of Pedestrian Verse, the Scottish group’s breakthrough album. But he couldn’t gauge the true depth of his situation until he began seeing his followers in a dreary new light. But the singer finally got help, from some rather unusual sources. All of which led to the fifth Frightened Rabbit epistle—the aptly dubbed Painting Of A Panic Attack, produced by the National’s Aaron Dessner. Hutchison and his bandmates—Grant Hutchison, Billy Kennedy, Andy Monaghan and Simon Liddell—will be guest editing all week. Read our new feature.


Liddell: Nils Frahm last year decided to open his awesome Late Night Tales release with his interpretation of the seminal John Cage piece 4’33”. Much to the dismay/delight of listeners, Frahm opts out of Cage’s central instruction to refrain from playing the instrument, and within seconds launches into a beautiful improvised piano piece. Those who lost their shit felt that this was an insult to Cage, and the original concept of 4’33”. I get their point, but don’t see why such a fuss is necessary: Rock ‘n’ roll is about breaking the rules, so maybe this showed Nils to be up there amongst the real hell-raisers. For example, when Ozzy pissed on the Alamo, or Jim Morrison exposed himself in Florida, Frahm is guilty of the contemporary classical equivalent of getting his dick out in public.

Instead of wasting my time deciding what side of the fence to sit on, I’ve channelled my efforts into remixing Frahm’s cover, and in the interests of collaboration (unofficial and unapproved), bedded in my own performance of 4’33” into the mix (done guerilla-style in front of the piano in an Edinburgh vegetarian cafe. Had the audience been aware of what was happening, they would hopefully have been a little more respectful, looked up from their veggie haggis and begun paying attention to the character of the room and sounds around them).

Here it is:

I am a fan of Cage and original unadulterated 4’33”, and this shouldn’t be seen as a piss take. But I think a sense of humour is important to avoid full-on music snobbery.

Andy pointed out that to stay loyal to the original instruction, the remix should really have just involved me sitting in front of my laptop, not engaging with it in any way, unable to render an mp3 of the event, but going some way towards returning Frahms cover to Cages original version, and he is usually right about these things.