Fixx-ing the World

From the July 1986 Issue of Rock Express, by Kerry Doole

Advance warning had Cy Curnin, larynx and lyricist of the Fixx, pegged as 'a real talker,' and that phrase is about as ominous as 'slight nuclear accident' in Russian. Usually means the poor interviewer will get ear-bashed with a self-serving spiel about how wonderful the new record is, how well the band communicated with the producer, how they're itching to get back on the road to knock y'all dead -- you know the lines.

Well, Curnin is definitely a motor-mouth, but, refreshingly, the last thing he wants to do is plug Walkabout, the new Fixx album. your scribe actually has to interrupt Cy's stream of consciousness-raising commentary to extract a few specifics on the record, so let's get them out of the way and return to the deeper (and deeper) dialogue.

"It is again produced by Rupert Hine (the man behind the previous Fixxings) as we felt there was a lot of mileage that could still be gained by working with him yet again.

'We found ourselves taking longer to find something that's worthwhile saying -- you become your own worst critics after a while (Cy obviously hasn't read some of the bitter attacks from British writers!). We're all very happy with the result and the material is working well for us live."

You'll be able to check out the veracity of the last statement when The Fixx check in for a North American tour this summer.

It is three years since the platinum Reach The Beach album and singles Saved By Zero and One Thing Leads To Another saw The Fixx successfully inject their sharp, hook-filled progressive pop into North American ears. Curnin admits that the successor, Phantoms, didn't fare as well.

'We didn't write any singles for it. We wrote the two shorter songs as musical breathers from the other tracks, but the record company came along and said they'd be the singles. We went 'oh my God!' This time around, we worked on the uppy, singles stuff first, so at least we'll be proud to put our name on it."

No imagination

A quick test-drive around the block with Walkabout found a mix of obvious sing-along singles stuff (Secret Separation is the first one Out) and some less obvious, moody material. Not exactly one I'd include in my Desert Island Discs, but there are definitely signs of intelligent life in there, especially in Cy's lyrics.

Just asking for an explanation of the title sparks off Cy's 'state of the universe' address so let's put on the analytical Adidas and jog those brain-cells a while.

'We entitled it Walkabout from the Australian Aborigine term, as it seemed to be a good analogy of what is left of people's imaginations in the year 1986. The Aborigines' spiritual release is a tremendous thing, but now they have no real way of exploring it. They haven't been able to fit into the Western way, and now they're reflected as drunks. They have a reputation as being unemployable, because the term 'walkabout' means that whatever comes into your mind, you drop everything and follow it.

"Yes, I have seen the film (Nicholas Roeg's classic Walkabout) -- if's fantastic. The book he took it from, written by a lady in Australia, has a very earthy tone. It is almost like she wants the rocks to speak to you through the pages. It is very unpolluted."

Cy prefers to get philosophical rather than specifically political.

Not a dictator

"I think the job of an artist is simply to entice people to think. If you're so involved in your art, the only direction you have is to show people how you do things. The moment you start asking them to go in a certain direction, you are starting to dictate to them."

Clues to his intellectual bent are provided by his ancestry -- father an Irish Catholic, mother Algerian Jewish, a French teacher/poet growth it could have had. So now we have Reagan and Thatcher pumping out Victorian values again as if they've taken up from where we were before World War I."

Rather than despairing at the void in Western philosophy, Curnin stresses the need for optimism and believes The Fixx is playing a role here.

"There are some very positive views on Walkabout, which I think is good. In the end, you can keep banging out doom and gloom and the world gets worse. I believe the things that stand out more are the brighter. more positive looks at how to get around it all. You can either fight to have an optimistic outlook, or you just accept things as they are."

If you want a label. Cy comes across as a utopian anarchist, possessing a healthy mistrust of government and corporate capitalism combined with a belief that it is the people themselves that represent the best hope for the future.

"I think there are great feelings in the minds of young people everywhere -- Europe, North America, the Third World. There is something that connects us all, and we are more desperate to find it now than ever. We're painfully aware of how isolated we all are, but everybody is trying to hold out a hand in some way.

"We just don't have the right leaders to steer us through. Maybe they shouldn't be there at all, as they tend to dissipate or cause arguments. We're getting there slowly, the more we find out about corruption and how big business is the reason for the nuclear arms race.

It should be pointed out that we talked just days after Reagan decided to show Khadafy who could be the biggest terrorist of them all, an event which clearly shook Curnin.

"You go to North Africa and see the Arab babies and they're just the cutest. There are people in the deserts of Morocco, the Blue People, who don't know anything about America or even where it is, yet somebody in America or England will hate them. Prejudices are very strong."

Heady stuff, eh? Still, the cynical observer cannot help but query just how much of Curnin's world view permeates the minds of the MTV/FM generation that has made him and his band a Fixxture in their viewing/listening habits.

To his credit, Cy expresses similar doubt. "I'm never too sure, but if only one person comes up to you and says they've spotted something, you feel quite pleased that someone has noticed your train of thought. I'd hope that after a few listens they'd find something useful in my lyrics to go alongside their own views on what is wrong with the world.

"I get a form of solace from reading. I'll come across something that sums up all the pain I've been feeling in the last year in two sentences. I'll breathe deeper and go 'OK, this has been thought out before, I'm not feeling anything new, I must be a part of some general trend." "

For someone who is part of an industry that can be viewed as a microcosm of multi-national capitalism, Cy Curnin possesses some downright subversive views on the music industry.

'Pain in the arse'

'"Here you're grossly over-rewarded for something you'd be doing anyway -- it is what stops you from dying. I'd like to take away some of the glamor and pizzazz of music and replace it with some more conscience-evoking atmospheres. If you go out with the glamor, people think you're partying and having a good time every night, and that is all meaningless.

"'If it could be made to work cheaper, the profits could be greater, and there'd be more money to direct into things like Geldof and all the benefits/aids. It seems a pain in the arse that before an LP can be listened to. it has to be recorded through 10 million dollars worth of equipment.

"We're lucky enough to find ourselves in that position, but how many great ideas are not being listened to? I always worry that there are people out there desperately saying something of value that never gets heard."

Fellow artists Cy finds of value include David Byrne ("he communicates the abstractness and quirkiness of life"), Brian Eno, U2, and TinaTurner, whom he and Fixx guitarist Jamie West-Oram assisted on Private Dancer.

"I didn't have to be asked twice, it was a real blast! She had a spirit about her that seemed so fresh. If there is any truth to the theory that people are just vehicles for a medium that the rest of the world feeds on, then she is it. Rupert and (lyricist) Jeanette Obstöj are writing new songs for her, songs with a good social content that is perfect for that large an audience."

Curnin is hopeful that the social content of his songs will reach a larger audience, especially in his native Britain.

""Yes, they have been hostile there, but I think we've outlasted most of the bands that were around at the time we started. By showing people we're not a flash in the pan, they'll eventually come around. It is a very fickle market in England; you're there and gone in six months.

'"In North America there is more longevity. I think our music is more suited to several listenings, as opposed to instant music which is like instant coffee -- the taste varies tremendously."