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Rewind Revisit

May 23rd 2012 | Michael Smith

"We want everyone to party like it’s 1997; have a whole lot of old farts in the moshpit going, ‘Ow, don’t do that, my back hurts!’" Fiona Horne talks about Def FX's comeback.

"I love Skrillex,” Horne, who these days lives in Los Angeles – and is better known internationally as an authority on the Wicca religion, having published several books on witchcraft – admits, on the line from Saint Croix in the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean and “feeling like a rock star”. “You know, I'm totally into dubstep and everything – Skrillex and Bassnectar and things like that – and I'm hearing sounds in all the dubstep stuff and I'm like, 'That sounds like that Nord [synthesiser] keyboard line we used to play,'” she laughs. “It's like retro kind of chords, a lot of the most progressive sounds in electronic music right now. I've been really quite blown away; we're recreating the backing tracks and revisiting all those sounds. Everything comes around again – it's been fifteen years.”

The reason for all this recreating and revisiting is the forthcoming albeit brief reunion tour by Def FX which, it turns out, wasn't really on Horne's agenda, whose most recent CD release was 2010's decidedly un-rock spoken word Magickal Life-Guided Meditations And Spells For Positive Change.

“Well, it was kind of a weird sequence of events. Last year around March/April, a girlfriend of mine who's in publishing in Australia gave me a call and said her girlfriend Michelle was coming out to LA and would I take her out to lunch, we had mutual friends yet had never met, you know, that kind of thing. So I said 'sure', and we had a lovely lunch, really hit it off and she told me she used to work in music marketing and publishing back in Australia and worked for a company that put bands like Motorhead on the road. She did all the PR for them and said had I ever thought of getting my band Def FX back together, and I said, 'Oh God, does anyone really want to see it? It's been nearly fifteen years.' There'd been some talk about it, oh, probably about a decade ago and Sean [Lowry, keyboards] was quite adamant that he didn't want to do it back then.”

Nonetheless, her lunch date was persistent and said she talk to the promoter for whom she worked. Initially, Horne thought nothing more of it – after all, the girls had drunk four bottles of champagne by then. Two weeks later she got a call from that promoter. Still doubtful anyone would still be interested, she Googled the band and discovered they had a Facebook fan page with some 400 fans.

“That was nice, I thought, but then continued Googling and found that the Psychoactive Summer film clip had gotten something like a quarter of a million hits [actually just over 46,000 hits, but anyway], and I was like, 'What?' And people were leaving comments like as of only the week before. I was like, 'Man, we're not gone and forgotten, there are people out there that still remember the band.' In my own life I'd gone off and done so many other things, it just never occurred to me that maybe there is still some little Def FX energy out there. It turns out it was a lot bigger than I thought.”

Def FX was the brainchild of Horne and keyboard player Sean Lowry, who recruited guitarist Blake Gardner and bass player Martyn Basha in 1990, releasing a debut EP, Water, in 1990. It would be compiled with two further EPs, Surge and Blink, to become their stop-gap 1993 second album, Baptism. The band rapidly found themselves caught up in some pretty relentless touring as a consequence of the interest their debut album, Light Speed Collision, engendered in the US, which they toured several times before breaking up in 1997. By then, they'd released two more albums – 1995's Ritual Eternal and 1996's Majick – the latter going gold and including Psychoactive Summer, which had been the lead track on an EP the year before.

So Horne got in touch with the other members of the band to see what they thought about the idea of a reunion tour. The first person she contacted was Basha, who had left the band towards the end of 1993, after their second tour of the US.

“He'd left a comment on that YouTube clip that I saw, so I messaged him through YouTube and we spoke for the first time in like seventeen years a week later,” she chuckles. “He's a great guy. I always liked Marty a lot and to me anyway he was very much the soul of the band, but when he wanted to leave and start a family, we'd been on the road non-stop for five years. We couldn't tell him not to do that, you know?”

Basha was eventually replaced by Sean Fonti, who was on a wage rather than being a full member as he was still also working with his own band, Caligula. As it happens, it was through Caligula's singer Ashley Rothschild that Horne was put onto Ant Banister, a founding member of the Clan Analogue electronic music and art collective, as the best choice to fill Lowry's shoes on the keyboards side of things.

“Clan Analogue were very influential on Def FX's sound and I guess – what would you say? – philosophy, back in those early '90s. It was almost like they were our gurus, you know? 'We're not worthy, we're not worthy!' So to get Ant actually as part of Def FX felt very organic and very much a nod to our origins, as we approached our music from the electronic side of things, 'cause this tour, Marty and I agreed, we're not reinventing the wheel here – it's pure nostalgia. “You know, we want everyone to party like it's 1997,” Horne laughs. “Have a whole lot of old farts in the moshpit going, 'Ow, don't do that, my back hurts!' Maybe they'll bring their teenage children with them.”

Completing the line-up is Byron Bay-based surf metal guitarist Wiley Cochrane, whom Basha had recommended and with whom he's been playing in a band, Pseudo Sixteen, the past five years. When Horne heard him play she agreed that, “stylistically he really is like a fusion of Blake and Dave [Stein, his replacement in 1993] – he's got that kind of sonic metal, you know, slammin' sound down. So it all made sense. But there was no great master plan; it was a lot of just serendipity and just going with the flow… It just happened! We're doin' it!!”

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