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| 30 June 2017 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Cutting a swathe through the beer barns of pub rock-obsessed Australia in the ‘90s was a band like no other in our music history: DEF FX. Combining an obsession with surfing and metal riffs with electro beats, a penchant for mind altering chemicals and a white witch frontwoman, they remain unique, ahead of the pack, and cult favourites.

Singer Fiona Horne is a different woman to the young tearaway who formed the band with bass player Martin Basha and guitarist Blake Gardner, and Sean Lowry on synths, sequencers and samples. Proudly sober, she turned 50 last year and has published almost a dozen books on Wicca, just released a new autobiography, and lives in the Caribbean where she is a commercial pilot flying charters.

It’s hard to believe I’m calling halfway around the world, as Fiona sounds fresh and invigorated down the phone line, and we immediately launch into it, as there is much to discuss.

DEF FX – Australian tour dates with My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult
Friday, July 21: Rooty Hill RSL, Sydney
Saturday, July 22: The Factory, Marrickville
Sunday, July 23: Eatons, Brisbane
Thursday, July 27: Croxton, Melbourne
Friday, July 28: The Gov, Adelaide
Saturday, July 29: The Charles Hotel, Perth

Fiona Horne’s new book The Naked Witch is out now.

100% ROCK: Thanks so much for your time today, Fiona.

Fiona: It’s my pleasure. It’s been a good day. I was flying today: I flew a gentleman and his dog and two cats. They’re relocating, so I flew from St. Thomas to Puerto Rico today.

100% ROCK: That’s awesome. I’ve been following your Facebook page and your aerial exploits are fascinating.

Fiona: Yes – definitely a little bit different. I make the joke that I realised about five years ago that a plane is much more comfortable than a broomstick, so I focus on flying planes not broomsticks nowadays.

100% ROCK: [laughs] There you go. So, you guys are reforming for a tour, celebrating – a little unusually – the 20th anniversary of the band breaking up!

Fiona: I know, I know. It’s extraordinary, we’re really excited about it because we have our original guitarist, Blake Gardner, back in the band. He left the band during our American tour in, I guess, our second or third year together… it was a tough time, and I never thought that we would get to rock together with pretty much the original line-up. Blake was always my favourite guitarist in retrospect and we kind of went through a couple of guitarists [after he left]. He was always, to me, really captured our sonic surf rock sound, so to have him in and to have him partnered up with Marty, our bass player, it’s really great. We’re just all really excited. So I’m flying to Australia from the Caribbean.

Blake now lives in Denmark, he’s been based there as a music producer and a successful musician with a number of years. He’s got a beautiful family over there, he’s got a gorgeous wife, two gorgeous daughters. So he’s got his whole life in Denmark. Marty’s living up in northern New South Wales, and Ant Bannister, who’s our keyboard maestro and co-vocalist, is in Sydney – so we’re coming in from all over the place.

I’m just really happy we’re getting to tour. We’re working with this wonderful promoter with Abstract entertainment, they’ve done an amazing job of getting us to as much of the country as possible in between school schedules and all the various other things that being a grown up and having a family requires now.

100% ROCK: Last time you were on the road you had Ant on board as well. Is there still bad blood between you and Sean, or is he just happy doing his own thing now?

Fiona: Yeah we haven’t spoken since 1997. So, you know, it was never an issue to have Sean in the band. When we reformed Def FX and Ant was going to do it, I was excited because he created Clan Analogue back in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s – that was an electronic music collective that, as members of Def FX, we looked up to. He has done an incredible job re-programming all the backing tracks. He’s just a great vocalist and an awesome guy. We’re just really excited, I mean he feels like Def FX. He was born of that same era.

100% ROCK: It’s so important to get it right, of course, because the electronic element of Def FX was just so integral to your unique sound.

Fiona: You’re absolutely right, so that’s why when Ant was able to do it, and having had the privilege of working with him on the tour before that four years ago. It just, it feels so right. Then having Blake, like I said, it’s such a bonus.

Blake and I reconnected on good old Facebook last year. We hadn’t spoken for like twenty-three years, and I was in Africa doing a bush flying course ’cause I work as well as a commercial pilot flying passengers and cargo and dogs around, I also do humanitarian aid flying. So, I was in Africa, doing this training for a humanitarian aid flight and Blake and I connected on bloody Facebook and ended up speaking and he said, “yeah, I’ll tour with you guys – it’ll be awesome.” And we’re like, “oh my gosh!” So it’s just exciting that it’s come around and it’s happening.

100% ROCK: Good Old Facey! I searched high and low but unfortunately couldn’t find my copy of your first book from many years ago, Witch: A Personal Journey. But I do remember reading in that book – and please do set me straight about this – that you had been subjected to physical abuse by your boyfriend, who was the guitarist in the band, and that included pushing and kicking on stage, even. Was that Blake?

Fiona: [pauses] I can tell you this much – that is not going to ever happen again. [chuckles] When we first went out on the road, we were kids, you know. I mean we’re all still kids at heart, that’s why I think we enjoy jamming and getting on stage together, because there’s still that sense of, like just, ‘wow’ energy. But we were kids back then and when you’re younger… there’s that famous saying that ‘youth is wasted on the young.’ I don’t think we knew how good we had it, and so we created drama and all sorts of… just drama, like kids do. You know, that’s been dealt with and what’s really wonderful is all these years later [here we are.]

I really live by the saying, ‘you don’t have to get older, you can get better.’ Better at living. That’s what I’ve tried. It’s a skill I’ve really tried to foster more than anything.

What I love about hanging out with my brothers in rock Ant and Blake and Marty, is there’s that sense of us all really accepting each other and celebrating each other. There’s no drama, we just get to make music that we love, and more than anything we get to do it with the fans. You know, since we’ve announced this tour we’ve been getting the most amazing notes and messages on social media from all these fans just saying how much it means to them, and that they’ll come out again and rock again, and bring the kids. Then, suddenly enough there’s a new element of people, I guess, that want to come, because they’ve found out about me through my books and stuff. They’re curious, you know, so it just opens it up. They’re kind of younger, they’re a different generation, so it’s all feeling very blessed. I’m ready to have an awesome time.

100% ROCK: Well I can’t wait, it must be, who knows, twenty-five years or so since I’ve saw you live. So I’m really looking forward to it. The last time I got that close to you, I was stage diving and you literally booted me off the stage, launching your big Doc Marten boots firmly into my backside – which is fair enough, too. I was probably in the way.

Fiona: See, that’s the thing mate, Drama! I won’t kick you in the bum this time, all right.

100% ROCK: I won’t get up on your stage anymore: my knees and my back couldn’t handle it. [laughs]

Fiona: [laughs] That’s very funny, that’s what I laugh about. It’s like, back in the day in the mosh pit you’d be like ‘arrrrghh’ going nuts, and now it’s like ‘ow! No!’

[But] the energy of the show is incredible. You know, in our personal lives, we’re all blessed to really be in a place where we feel healthy and happy. So we can bring that energy on to the stage. Me personally, I look back and I see where I used to jump around, but I still do it. I mean I’m also fire dancing professionally now! My nights are spent performing at bloody resorts and private parties and villas fire dancing. I’m probably more healthy and fit than I was back then. It’s all your attitude, you know?

100% ROCK: There was a lot of drugs and booze floating around back in those days as well, that must have fuelled some elements of the negativity, I would imagine.

Fiona: I have to say, people would think that would be the case, but actually back then I did not do drugs or drink before shows. I mean, after, yeah, but not drugs as much. I mean it was so hectic, that era, that seven years in Def FX that I just couldn’t, because of the gruelling touring schedule. The boys – they did whatever they bloody wanted – but with me at the front of the stage, the singer, you know, it was hard.

100% ROCK: You have a new autobiography out…

Fiona: Yes, I’ve written another book. Yeah, it’s going to be out on the stands in Australia at the same time as the tour. It’s worked out so great, because I’ll be there. People have asked if I’m going to do any book signings – yeah, come to the Def FX concert for your book signing! It’s nice that it’s all out at the same time. So there’s a lot of great creative energy going on right now.

In fact Def FX – this is really important – we are writing just one song, [or] maybe two, and we are going to release a new commemorative single with the tour. Me, Blake, Marty and Ant are writing it right now. It is classic Def FX, so it’s going to be a single at the same time and it’s going to be a commemorative cd, it’s going to go with the tour, I guess you’ll be able to purchase it at the shows. It’ll have the new single on it, it’s a best of CD. So there’s some really cool stuff going on as we head out in July.

Shane: There’s a lot of synchronicity happening, it all sounds really exciting. The new book, is this a re-write of Witch, or a whole new thing?

Fiona: No, trust me – it’s brand new. There’s a bit of a story about how it came about. I haven’t written a book in over five years – as you know, I spent the last five years focusing on building a career as a professional pilot and working in aid. Somehow this book happened, I did not go looking for it.

An old publisher of mine reached out to me and said, “I’ve got your first book on my bookshelf, much loved, well read, and I wanted to know, have you got another one in you?” And at the time I thought, “wow, maybe I do.” I’d been kicking around the idea of writing something and thought maybe, this was creeping in the back of my mind.

Again, it was very serendipitous, a lot of synchronicity, and to cut a long story short that publisher couldn’t publish it. Issues with me not being famous anymore, I’m not on TV, I’m not well known enough… so the big money guys said, “no, she’s not a Kardashian, she’s not going to sell any books.”

Not every publishing house shared that opinion, so the ones that are with the book are awesome. I’ve just been overwhelmed with the warmth and the reception of, “oh my gosh another book, this is great.” It’s really touched me, I just didn’t expect such a warm response.

The Naked Witch, it’s called. It’s baring my soul. I really hope more than anything that the people who read the book will find it in some way useful, because it goes into [everything]. I make my life look all fabulous on social media, but some pretty heavy shit has gone down over the years, and I talk about that and how I learned to grow from it, and maybe even become a better version of myself through all the things that were taken away and all the loss and all the suffering. I just hope the book is useful to people when they read it, and entertaining of course.

100% ROCK: Well, you’re sober, you’re vegetarian, you’re healthy, you’re doing all this creative stuff, flying and fire dancing and singing and writing… life seems pretty content now. Was it necessary to go through all those ups and downs over the years in order to find this place that you’re in?

Fiona: Well, I think so, yeah. It’s a good point – you’re right. I think it’s not so much what things happen to you or around you, it’s more what you do with it, it’s more what carries a bigger resonance and impact in your life and those lives around you that you’re in contact with. I really think that… put it this way, in Def FX-Land, in all the shit that went down, we had a bad break-up and even the ways that Blake left, it was bad and sad, yet here we are all these years later. We actually may be more joyful to be together and to be doing this, to rock out in the face of that happening, it’s an even greater blessing.

I think my book has that message too. You know sometimes people say, “I want to be twenty again”? I don’t want to be twenty, twenty-five, thirty – I don’t want to be anything other than what I am right now, because the journey is [everything.] I’m really grateful for all the good times but I’m also grateful for all the really bad times. It is what it is, being sober: I love it. I love my sobriety. It gives me great joy. It makes me 100% available and useful in the world.

100% ROCK: One very quick one to finish up and I’ll let you go. Do you feel that Def FX gets the respect it deserves for being such a revolutionary and unique band?

Fiona: Back in the day, I would have said no, but right now I don’t give a flying fuck what the critics think anyways. Rock and Roll!

100% ROCK: There’s that uplifting and positive attitude we love. That’s great!

Fiona: You know, I’ll say this real quick: I look back on my life and see the things I was most criticised or vilified for, and if you just hang around long enough and don’t buy into the negative shit, eventually it becomes cool. I enjoy that Def FX is just accepted for what we were and what we are right now. I know what we were doing and what a bunch of other bands were doing around at that time was special and we were a part of that wave. It’s a wonderful feeling to know we were a part of that momentum and carried that creative and positive regiment and that we get to do it again now.

We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here: we accept our music and we accept the chemistry and we accept what we did then and what we’re doing now and we’re just inviting everyone to have a good time with us.

100% ROCK: Fantastic, can’t wait.

Fiona: Cool, lovely to chat, Shane.

100% ROCK: You too, thanks for your time.

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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