The Fixx reemerge with new release, flattering their Eighties past
If you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed that pop culture has evolved
in a barrier-free unification of instrumental & sound production that seems quite
comfortable for listeners no longer segregated by societal expectations to be one or
the other. In the Eighties, high school students, by default, split into two categories:
hard rockers and synth-poppers. Both carried connotations and clichés – mostly
harmless, but definitely made an impact on attitudes and academics. It was a bitter
battle fought with slang words, with membership often silently represented by
concert t-shirts. This adolescent culture war eventually faded when alternative
became main-stream in the 1990s.
As one who personally experienced these oppositions, it seems ridiculous in
hindsight to think that status was helplessly categorized based solely on your music
collection. Thankfully, this monolithic injunction rightfully didn’t apply if you were a
fan of the Fixx.
The Fixx were only one of a few bands from the new wave era that actually stumbled
on a grey area of utopia that brought the rhythmic guitar in perfect harmony with
the electronic synthesizer. And no one perfected this matrimony better than the Fixx.
Thirty years in the making, the Fixx are revived, performing songs about the financial
collapse, global concerns and real ‘hope & change’ for the human race. Next week
sees the release of their tenth studio album ‘Beautiful Friction’ – the first in nearly
ten years, cultivating the Fixx back to their finest, delivering a package of solid
techno-rock that aims with precision and strikes with intensity without purposely
sounding nostalgic. Moreover, steadfast fans will cling to this record undoubtedly
because it welcomes the return of bassist Dan Brown and carries the future back to
where it started in 1982.
Lead singer Cy Curnin, who formed the earliest embodiment of the Fixx in 1979,
shares his insights, his vision for the future, and his reflections of an ‘80s past.
JK: Let’s clear the air on something first. Perhaps an embellished folklore, your
biggest US hit single ‘One Thing Leads to Another’ has either been interpreted as an
anti-illegal substance anthem or a rebellious champion for LSD. Can you dispel either
rumor and define for us what the song is really about?
Curnin: Ha! The only illegal substance this song is about is political rhetoric. It’s loosely
based on fact…a British member of Parliament forgot his lie and his career
subsequently tanked…as should a few others.
JK: The Fixx, like the Outfield, is exceptional in comparison to many of your
contemporaries in the fact that it was America, not the UK, who caught on to your
sound and welcomed you with great chart success. How important was it to the band
that you score big in America?
Curnin: At the time of release America was the largest music market. British bands all tried to conquer it. Most failed! I felt that being a multi-cultural mutt myself helped us to
pierce the great American pop psyche. We had more than 15 minutes of fame now
too! I am thrilled that we have sustained interest this long…I believe the birth of the next
spiritual revolution is taking place here…A young country coming good eventually.
Once the chattel distraction has ended, we’ll belong together.
JK: Historically, the Fixx have written songs of disparity and that are lyrically
pessimistic. Tracks like ‘Red Skies’ and ‘Less Cities, More Moving People’ were
products of their time. However, the new album “Beautiful Friction’ offers listeners a
glimpse of a better tomorrow in spite of some forecasts predicting an economic
disaster. Do you think the new tracks are more antidotal than those you recorded in
Curnin: We were angry young men back then…now we’re just angry!! Seriously
though, the layers of opiated dust were beginning to fall on us in those
days…easy credit, backdoor mergers and acquisitions, military might as a
political stance, all that stuff made a ‘thinking boy’ feel rather alienated, if not
impotent. We rattled our cages out of line and were not heard, always, for
what we spoke about…but that’s ok. We were able to enter the sleeping city’s
walls and awaken our dormant world in this age with a new adherent called
“Beautiful Friction”. Now, we have children as do many of our fans. We can’t
just pull down walls without some good feeling for their future, because, it is exactly that, a feeling about what’s coming. We must be positive now if we want to see a bright future. The media needs stop selling or whoring itself, on disaster soundbytes. We have all caught social rabies from this and the result is that panic is rampant down our sorry streets.
JK: How important is it for bands like the Fixx, with millions of fans around the
world, to stay apolitical and unbiased when governments inadvertently offer citizens
only extreme left or extreme right positions? From a business perspective, is it wise
to stay politically balanced?
Curnin: The extremes are like the wings of a great bird, they flap in order to keep the
body in the air. Once the rock throwing has stopped the lake becomes still
again. We then can reflect on the consequences of our actions. The ripples
were joined into a great mandala pattern…our Dharma. Politics can only be of
use when balanced. Either we all breathe together or we all die together.
JK: How exciting is it to be working as a collaborative 5-piece band again with
bassist Dan Brown? Did ole’ studio magic ignite early in the first recording sessions of
Curnin: In a word YES!! Danny has an Aeolian talent to allow bass parts to levitate.
Rhythm with wings, melodious counterparts. excellent colours for Fixx music.
He is an inventive spontaneous musician that thrills me beyond words.
Welcome home Danny.
JK: As a veteran of songwriting, do you ever find yourself challenged with words to
express your highs and lows? What songwriting difficulties, if any, can you reveal
about the new record?
Curnin: The highs and lows are sometimes expressions of doubt and loss of purpose.
Everyone has these from time to time. The good thing about songwriting is it is
exactly those feelings that make a good song. We as a band have learnt how
to argue creatively rather than destructively. Therefore the lows are the mine
which spawns the gold.
JK: ‘Beautiful Friction’ was recorded in London which I’ve found to be
complimentary to the English-rock sound that shines on the record. Unlike several
tracks on the intimate 1998 release ‘Elemental’, the first single ‘Anyone Else’ is a
polished record that speaks to city dwellers at high volumes. Does the energy
permeating from this single reflect the Fixx’s energies today or is it hypothetical
Curnin: No such thing as a coincidence. We are in a strong place energy-wise. Jamie
West-Oram revitalised by his work teaching younger students techniques of
the dark arts of music theory. We are all integrated rather than separated from
our environment as we write. London is where we formed and it is still our
centre of creativity . The political debates continue to enrage me…everything is
just as it should be.
JK: Many of the Fixx’s singles are played across an array of radio station formats
including classic rock, adult contemporary and satellite retro channels. This puts the
Fixx at a huge advantage over others (Culture Club, for example) that made their
small fortunes pioneering MTV. Fans might conclude that legendary Eighties’
producer Rupert Hine (Howard Jones, Rush) fine tuned the Fixx for multifaceted
radio. How much credit do you cite Hine for your success? Curnin: Rupert Hine and Stephen W Tayler are both responsible for capturing the
minimal immensity of our sound. Rupert Hine has incredible clarity when it
comes to arrangements, which really made the difference. You can listen over
and over to these recordings and hear something new each time you spin it.
The mixes avoid the damage of compression that radio tends to over
accentuate. Stephen is a wizard!!!! Magical and mercurial.
JK: There have been numerous Fixx collections and label-distributed best-of
releases over the years. Do any of these satisfy your approval as complete reflections
of your best material or will the Fixx eventually release a retrospective to call their
Curnin: Most have some merit to a greater or lesser extent. That doesn’t mean that
there couldn’t be more definitive ones out there. We are in fact addressing this
now. But as record companies merge into one great homogenous morass of
mismanagement it’s tricky to sort through the legalities. Fortunately, we have
a wonderful small boutique label now in the U.S…Kirtland Records. They
gracefully handle music in today’s quagmire. We hope to continue to provide
creative offerings to fans.
JK: Casual fans are often awakened when they discover your softer ballads.
Whereas ‘Driven Out‘ and ‘How much is Enough?’ represent the yin, the yang of the
Fixx exist in soothing numbers like ‘No One has to Cry’ and ‘Precious Stone’. Is it a
tough sell to other band members to include ballads on an album armed with talent
born to rock?
Curnin: The art of seduction is best whispered. Then the bang seems relatively bigger
for the buck!!! When you rock out, it’s all about tension and release… You
can cry wolf only so long.
JK: Can a band as durable as the Fixx afford to remain under the radar, surviving
on its former glories, or is it crucial that new material surface as the years pass by?
Curnin: It is crucial and critical for us to produce new music… on this we will survive.
That catharsis is our pay.
JK: The Fixx’s recordings have been formatted on vinyl, 8-track, audio cassette,
CD, mini-disc, and .mp3 digital files since your first hit record back in 1982. What is
Cy Curnin’s favorite format and how difficult is it for a classically experienced band to
transition to the latest studio technique as the future unfolds?
Curnin: Just another day in the studio no matter what era we live in… my favourite
format is memory. If people can whistle the tune, it will last forever.
JK: Recently, the Fixx performed at Summerfest in Atlanta. Do you hold any fond
memories of Atlanta? How are southerners, if at all, different from the rest of the
World from a lead singer’s perspective?
Curnin: Gentility, alive and kicking, civility and genuine hospitality all remind me of
Atlanta. A few too many streets named Peach Tree for me, but there must be
some local logic that evades me here. Southerners seem to have a different pace than their more phrenetic northern cousins. The heat plays a huge role there I guess. Jimmy Carter was my favourite American president and continues to inspires me with his
humanitarian work. Wonderful physical beauty too! Whatever your into it’s
blossoming in the south…
JK: Finally, if you would be so kind, would you do us the honor of describing
your records in terms that reflect your impression of each? Using one or two
sentences or statements, briefly describe each of your ten full-length US-released
albums. As a father would describe his children, we’d love to know what you think of
Shuttered Room (1982) – Our first born. Magical watershed. A collection of emotions that come together in the fourth dimension. Winter, deep snow, warm fires and 4×4’s racing across the empty fields of Buckinghamshire. Youthful but incisive.
Reach the Beach (1983) – The Honeymoon of a lifetime.. REWARDS BEYOND OUR DREAMS . the love affair with America becomes serious. Underwear on stage but very aware of the social power of music.
Phantoms (1984) – Careful what you wish for.. everything we know dissolves . Return home feeling like ghosts in a former life. The classic example of the lows leading a
band to the highs of creation. Darker beauty. another string to our bow.
Live work takes over in importance.
Walkabout (1986) – Children on the horizon.. Big journey down under… Many personal growths and developments within the band. The forth dimension states it’s case. Lovely
melodies to herald in our babies.
Calm Animals (1988) – I start writing many more songs on guitar. New Label, new producer, new sound. Montserrat , Air Studios. Voodoo and scuba. Shooting stars and
fluorescent crabs.. Deeply connected to my bandmates as we all channeled
Robinson Crusoe in our own way.
Ink (1991) – Struggle. great highs and songs huge lows and imposter tunes. Not our
personal favourite but it does contain some of our best work. A paradox really.
best not look to closely in the mirror on this one. One jungle is my personal
Elemental (1998) – Back the saddle with panache here. Strong tunes.. inspired. mea culpa, and the true meaning of forgiveness. All animosity falls to the past. Time to grab the
bull by the horns and move on. We did.
1011 Woodland (1999) – The test of a good song is to strip away the production and see what’s left. Many gems on this CD. My wife’s favourite album of ours. She likes to listen on the couch. with me massaging her feet. I do this willingly.
Want That Life (2003) – Searching, intuitive, record. Confused in direction but that maybe because we needed to reflect while starting too long at the sun. I love playing songs from
this record solo acoustically. Are you satisfied? Never in this business.
Beautiful Friction (2012) – The story unfolds. We are so proud that we can still father children at this age that we may spoil it if we dote too long. Probably the most cohesive work we’ve ever achieved. Simple yet complex. Grown up but youthful. viscous yet compassionate, Groovy groovy groovy!
Cy Curnin – August 2012