INTERVIEW WITH FIROUZEH OF THE FUZZBOX PROJECT
INTERVIEW BY: TANIA KNELL
How did you get involved with the Fuzzbox project?
I’d supported them before in another group and had worked with the producer Mike Bennett on the lost Smiths tapes. He called me up and we tried some stuff out both virtually on zoom, and in the studio with Melanie Williams and Maggie Dunne. It just worked and we got to write quite a lot of stuff. I like a lot of Gothic stuff and Metal, and Mike Bennett came up with a gothic backing track, along with Gary Watts, and I came up with this concept called ‘The Abyss’. It’s a very dark piece of work and has a horror feel which definitely appeals to Gary and Maggie, because they both like the goth stuff. I know Mike is more into his indie stuff and his punky vibe, but the combination worked out really well, and I found them very open to my ideas and that culminated in a whole myriad of combinations. We got together in a tiny little studio in Media city, and Gary turned his kit on, and Mike came up with this hook about a restraining order, and then Maggie joined in, and it became a punchy little Fuzzbox style track.
Sometimes you can work with a bunch of people, and it doesn’t equate to a project, but this one just flowed, and there were more tracks to follow. Melanie Williams came on board as well and added her gospel magic and did a brilliant track in her own right along with Ding from the Pixies called ‘Problematic’. She was on the last Fuzzbox album, and you learn when to step back and let somebody else flow. Then of course Jenny with her amazing flutes, which was Mag’s idea, to give it a kind of progressive feel throughout the album. I like the way that Mike Bennett and Gary Watts just let it happen and do not impose their own influences, but of course, after all Mike tends to have a kind of punk approach and Gary is more methodical with electronic vibes, but the combination on the production team was great, although we did do a lot of tracks that got scrapped, but I guess that’s just part of the process.
You’ve re-created the classic ‘Pink Sunshine’. It’s a cracking tune and you’ve done it justice, but what was it like being asked to do lead vocal on such a fan favourite?
Mike Bennett just said, put your own stamp on it and wouldn’t let me listen to the original. Maggie didn’t like the Frankie goes to Hollywood style section so Mike suggested that Jenny did the flutes. That definitely gave it the edge and then Maggie had an idea for a funky bassline. The brief was really to just put my own stamp on it, and with Maggie encouraging that ethos, we just made it our own and in the style of the album, as opposed to a sound alike, which would just be generic and archetypical, but it does have a nod towards the original. I feel that that’s quite an important aspect.
Your audition piece, if you like, was ‘Ten Yards Stare’. it’s a great track and a lot more poppy than the other tracks. Having said that it’s got quite an acrid lyric what’s it all about?
A It’s very much a kiss off to the male attitude in the music industry, but it’s not too serious. It’s quite tongue in cheek, but I do like a dark lyric against quite a happy go lucky backing track. Gary has made it a bit tougher and it sort of suits the pop sensibilities of a certain Fuzzbox period, and it’s good to embrace the different styles of the group because, let’s face it the band have always been musical chameleons, or should I say changelings, because each album seems to have a different style. It’s good to have some catchy pop on the album, because there are some quite heavy tracks in terms of subject matter.
I would agree, but give me an example if you can?
A Well, ‘Analiza’ is about a girl, contemplating topping herself, and it’s got a kind of film noir theme, but against electro, almost post rave counterpoints. That’s the good thing about Mike Bennett versus Gary Watts, you get a combination of dark subversive lyrics, and you could say the same about Maggie Dunne, but married against Gary’s love of upbeat synthesisers. He uses lots of blips and electronic pulses and when that’s married with the guitar, I think it really works well.
What was the chemistry like between you and Maggie during the recording process?
Spontaneous, magical, and a lot of thought went into the tracks, and we spent quite a lot of time scribbling things down. Then Mike would say jump behind a mic, and we literally bounced off each other, and some of the vocals we both did, ended up on different tracks but that’s the way that Mike Bennett rolls. He even recorded us chatting about various things and included them as psychobabble on various tracks, and you can hear that quite clearly when you listen to the album a few times, and in fact, there is a complete conversation on the middle of the track ‘Restraining Order’ which I absolutely love, although it’s not really a single as such.
What did you think about the contributions of prodigy Legend Gizz Butt?
Well, the guys a fucking legend, let’s face it, he’s played with the Foo Fighters and all sorts, and he really has added to the cart. ‘Supernova’ is an absolute epic of a track, and his guitar playing is certainly the cornerstone of the piece, as it provides a juxtaposition against the upbeat electronic elements, and of course, Jenny ‘s incredible flute playing. I particularly love the spoken word at the beginning provided by Maggie, as it creates tension and I know she had a lot to do with the direction of the guitar element. You can hear The Cult, you can hear Killing Joke , it’s a real glorious mash up of sounds , and I think it was a sure-fire choice for a single and the extended mix is incredible with all its swirling atmospheres, and although the production is quite clean, it certainly is a cacophony of sound and I would love to hear a photo of the floor banging remix, and I do believe that will happen at some point , we are just waiting for the right person to throw the proverbial hat in the ring.
Are you looking forward to going live with the show?
Unfortunately, I missed the one in Media city, but yes there are definitely some live shows in the pipeline. I can’t say too much, but they look to be high profile. Nigel Carr from Louder Than War is behind us, and Mike Bennett knows quite a few people as well. There are other irons in the fire as well, but I don’t want to tempt fate if you don’t mind. Mike Bennett doing the diary, and Gary will look after the Tech. Can’t wait to announce something but I’m very superstitious. I always have been. I’m not having a fuzzy moment or being elusive with my answer. I genuinely don’t like to announce things until confirmation comes into fruition.
I’ve seen parts of the album sleeve, it’s full of paintings and has a scrapbook feel. Do you feel it represents the record?
Yes, well Mike Bennett does a lot of oil painting, and Gary Watts, is really good at videos, so we used stills from that. Of course, Fried Banana who have worked with Ginger Baker, the Stranglers, Blondie, the Ramones, and people like that, are looking after the art direction, but again, it’s great that it represents the record. They always say never judge a book by its cover, but that’s ridiculous because a cover should always represent the manuscript, or the novel, or the play, and in this case the album. I think that it’s all about the whole package, which is why I’m so glad that we’re not just going digital, but have a fully-fledged album. I’m not denigrating the digital medium, but it’s great when you have a body of work in the sequence that you feel flows as a complete work. I’ve always liked the physical medium for that, I love cover art, and when you have an album in your hand, you’ve got something to have and to hold. It’s special and I’m glad that the producers have chosen to go down this route.
If push comes to shove, what’s your favourite track on the record?
A That’s a very difficult question because I love Maggie’s ‘Human Fizz Bomb’, which is a cover of Daniel Dax. It’s absolutely fantastic and Melanie William’s ‘Problematic’, but from the singing point of view, I really love doing ‘Supernova’ and ‘Analiza’ was great because I just remember we were all in the room, vibing and got this song with a storyline, and as is a sort of follow-up to that, so I don’t have one particular favourite, but these are my most memorable moments whilst making the Fuzzbox album.
Firouzeh , it’s been a pleasure interviewing you and good luck with the record.