Fuzzbox - We've Got A Fuxxbox and We're Gonna Use It

Fuzzbox - We've Got A Fuxxbox and We're Gonna Use It

Louder Than War’s Nigel Carr sat down with legendary writer, playwright and record producer Mike Bennett who was in Manchester putting the final touches to the new Fuzzbox box set: We’ve Got A Box Set and We’re Gonna Use It!

LTW: Mike how did the Fuzzbox collaboration come about?

MB: “I met Vix in 1996. She was with Glenn Tilbrook and I was with Wishbone Ash. Wishbone Ash were on a Trojan spin-off label and I was working with them and at that time. The Fall who were also with Trojan. I got chatting with Vix and said it would be great to work with Fuzzbox and jokingly said it would be marvellous if they join one of the Trojan imprints as that’s who I was working for at the time in the main. I also told her I had a poster of her on my wall at home. When I got home the poster I thought I was talking about was Wendy O’Williams from the Plasmatic’s! I was redeemed though as I had a picture of Fuzzbox on my fridge!”.

“Anyway, nothing came of that for many years later. Fuzzbox headlined a tribute concert for the late great Poly Styrene and they were absolutely magnificent. I met them there and we decided to record a couple of X-Ray Spex homages, and from there it went on to reimagining a plethora of the bands material. I’m really pleased with the results and it’s culminated in a multimedia box set”

Fuzzbox
Fuzzbox 2020

LTW: What tracks are on there and how did you make them sound different from the originals?

MB: “They did a fabulous version of Spirit In The Sky which was quite big in the indie chart. They did a really fuzzy upbeat version, but I have re-imagined it as a Dub workout. I’ve also put a kind of Cocteau Twins twist on the vocals. Both Vix and Maggie shared vocal duties on this one. I’ve put space echo all over Maggie and morphed Vix through all kinds of devices including a really beautiful chorus plug-in. It came out a little bit like King Tubby meet Scientist on a female level. It has an air of originality about it but certainly still sounds very Fuzzbox”.

LTW: Did you tackle any of the groups owned self-penned classics?

MB: “Oh, absolutely we did and there is a version of Love Is The Slug which is really high octane and when you listen back to it you can virtually tell that this group with a precursor to the Riot Grrrl movement or certainly one of them. They were very good at changing styles and had a chameleon nature about them. But there were several tracks in this idiom. Another is Rules and Regulations which we have ‘cranked up really high’ as Slaughter the Dogs would say. Billboard Smash Self gets the shoegazing trippy treatment.

“Mark Refoy of Spacemen 3 did some wonderful atmospheric guitars. Vix was amazing and did her vocal in one take at Dead Basic Studios in Manchester. Then, of course, we took it into the big room at Far Heath studios and put it through the lovely SSL desk. A fine mixture of lo-fi and high-end”.

“I love working in different studios. We used about eight on this particular project”.

Mike Bennett
Mike Bennett

LTW: Why do you like studio hop so much?

MB: “I have certain engineers for certain tracks and I like to be mischievous and mix it all up, so something from one session can end up on another. That’s how I get my hybrid style. Also, logistically musicians are scattered all over the place. Jay Stapley who has worked with Suede, Roger Waters band and Toyah to name but a few lives miles away so we worked virtually with him. He came out with some great telecaster parts and banjos for a bluegrass version of the epic Pink Sunshine”.

“Then, obviously we receive the parts and I take a view on the next stage run it by the band. Steve Bowden got involved with tracking it all up and incidentally, he has been responsible for quite a lot of the visual stuff because there is a DVD and book embedded in the box set. Duncan Jones also helped greatly with tracked like this and She, which receives a very tribal treatment”.

“It’s really fun to hear these classic tracks and completely different musical idioms. I love taking things down dark corridors just to see what happens. I am pleased with the way everything has come out because Fuzzbox write such good songs, and let’s face it it’s all about melody and excellent lyrics! The songs seem to come out well in a plethora of different styles”.

LTW: So there is a book as well as a DVD in the box set?

MB: “Yes, it’s great it’s got all press clippings and testimonials from luminary artists. Far too many to mention but there is also a remix CD. There is a really crazy version of Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s really tripped out and was mixed by Adam Booth of Shipmans Prescription. That particular element of the box set, I’m referring to the remix album. It’s very experimental and has snippets of interviews the band have done over the years”.

“They started very young, so you can hear them in some very cheeky interviews, and they were always entertaining and effervescent on those kids shows on Saturday mornings as well as programs such as the Whistle Test. It’s great that we have included the bits of the interviews because it gives the whole box-set an added dimension”.

LTW: We know that you have worked with Manchester outfits such as Ian Brown in the Fall, but you have also worked with a lot of female acts like Toyah, Hazel O’ Connor, Bananarama and Jenny Bellestar. How do they compare in working styles?

MB: “I think it’s actually because I started off my career with Toyah. Hazel was a natural progression because both of those artists were from the same musical and theatrical space in some way. I’m not saying that they were similar, but they had a kind of post-punk vibe that suited me to the ground.

“The other two mentioned acts were fabulous but more on a remix tip. Fuzzbox are a completely different entity and it’s been very stretching for me because they are quite varied in their ideas. In some ways, quite political, but not in a ‘push it down your throat’ style. They have a lot of humour and I wanted to bring that out on this project and I believe it’s there in abundance. Because there is a book and cinematic side to the project, I really enjoyed it because of my other job as a scriptwriter. I like the fact that it’s multimedia”.

LTW: What was the process of making the DVD?

MB: “Steve Bowden has done a lot of really trippy work the DVD. Very psychedelic, very thought-provoking in a way and extremely imaginative. Andy Chester contributed some videos but uses a different style – almost Film Noir, sometimes sinister. He uses a kind of story orientated style as opposed to Steve’s abstract approach. I like the combination of styles. They all form great backdrops for a myriad of musical delights!”.

Mike it’s been a pleasure talking to you. We look forward to catching up with you when the project is released!

~

We’ve Got a Box Set and We’re Gonna Use It! comes out in April on Gonzo MultiMedia .

Fuzzbox are on Facebook & Twitter

Mike Bennett is on Facebook, Twitter & this is his Wikipedia.

Article by Nigel Carr. More writing by Nigel on Louder Than War can be found in his Author’s archive. You can find Nigel on Twitter and Facebook and his own Website.

35 COMMENTS

  1. Fantastic interview. I really think Fuzzbox were underrated in the 80’s, so this new box- set is the perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with the band, re-live those memories and create some more. What I have always loved about Fuzzbox is their spirit, energy and zest which really comes across in their music. I am loving the graphics, and overall artistic stance on this box-set. It all looks very exciting, so can’t wait to purchase a copy of the boxset myself!

  2. A great article, and really excited for this Fuzzbox release! Loved them from forever and saw them at the Polyfest gig, where they were just amazing! And the whole concept of extra remixes, a dvd, and a book, accompanying the release sounds too good to miss. I’ve followed other projects Mike has been involved with (having met him at Polyfest too) so I know that this will be well crafted and produced. Roll on April!! x

  3. Amazing and even after all these years, just mention “FUZZBOX”, and they repeat “WE’VE GOT A FUZZBOX AND WE’RE GONNA USE IT” hahahahaha. Brilliant.

  4. This was great fun to do: as ever, Mike came up with a curveball suggestion… who would ever have imagined that Country-style twangy Telecaster and Banjo would end up on a Fuzzbox track? A pleasure to be involved with this:-)

  5. Hi Jay, did you do the guitars on ‘Self’? I did five videos for the Fuzzbox box set and ‘Self’ was one of them. I met Mike a year ago and he drip fed me the tracks. I love the aching guitar work on ‘Self’ and have written about it for the box set book. Me and Mike have been partying for a year and did a couple of the videos together. I hope you enjoy them when they drop.

  6. Hey great work Mike as always. Cool band and I’ve loved playing a little part in the project. Thanks for the preview, it’s fucking unique and addictive, and can’t wait til the project drops in April. Hope it works for you and the band, deserves it.

    Dr G – ex Factory

  7. Hi Gary, lovely to see you on here!…

    Coincidentally, I have been working on a movie that Fuzzbox have featured in – Pink Sunshine from the album is also heavily featured in the film (Laundry Matt) of which I am the line producer, alongside Mike Bennett and the Fuzzies…

    It would be fabulous to use this version of Spirit In The Sky too – absolutely awesome!…

    Loving the videos on here – clearly the work of Steve Bowden… I would recognise his work anywhere. x

    Georgina Robinson – ex Factory

  8. Simply WOW! I have always loved Fuzzbox since dot, so was I doing cartwheels when I heard of some new material on the horizon. ‘Beauty’ is a masterpiece, it really hooks onto you and drags you in, combined with Steve Bowdens elastic trickery, well it’s a sure winner! congrats on that one! My personal fave? Spirit in the Sky, that certainly blows away the cobwebs and leaves you reeling for more. Roll on the box set, can’t wait, wont wait! Vix and Maggie rool ! ! ! Wolfy Foxlow. Compere for Polyfest.

  9. I used to publish Zig Zag magazine back in the day and we always supported Fuzzbox. t’s great to see that they are back with a ‘big bang’. I have checked out these tracks and they are full of vibrant energy and passion. There was an amazing snippet of ‘Pop Musik’ on YouTube. But it has now disappeared. I wonder why. I trust it’s on the new album.

  10. Fantastic!! I love Fuzzbox, I had the pleasure of acting in a movie with them (Laundry Matt) and have been a fan since I was a sprog. Two of the nicest funniest people you could meet and they kick ass live.

  11. Its Vince Vega, and have done the remix of Self that will be on the album.
    I hadnt listened to the original before i had the stems to work on so never pre conceived view on the Fuzzbox sound.
    So from what stems i had, its ended up a stripped down groove that has a feel of its own.
    Was really happy to be asked to work on a remix and looking forward to working with the band again

  12. Ah this is quite literally music to my ears! Saw the girls in Oxford back in the day and bumped into them a couple of times over the years. Their sound and presence has always stuck in my mind and dancing shoes so this box set couldn’t have come any sooner!! Great to hear them putting a new twist on things and particularly loving a new dub vibe. Welcome back girls! You’ve been sorely missed!

  13. It’s great to see Fuzzbox back – no doubt they’ll be breaking all the rules and regulations!
    Sick interview! :)

  14. Great that the Fuzzbox & Mike Bennett vision is materialised in form .I loved sharing some creative time with such vibrant & colourful energies .May the boxset thrive on !

  15. What a brilliant version of spirit in the sky I prefer it to be honest to other people of cover that just because it’s got a different edge. I heard a snippet of it on six music and it’s very clever. Maggie and Vix oh great mine Bazzi instrumentalists and I love the fact that they have come back with a modern vibe . I’m trying to find out more information about the album there’s not much about it on the World Wide Web but I’ll keep looking all right

  16. A collaboration that’s going to shine. Only recently had the pleasure of meeting mike mid project and spoke to the girls on the phone. There is a big buzz and I’m looking forward to a fuzz box rennaissaince and hopefully getting involved in some soon to come video work! What do you have……and what can you use?!

  17. I’ve been working on the Fuzzbox graphics alongside the brilliant Steve Boweden. Great to see Fuzzbox back on the road. Love this version of spirit in the sky it’s really Dub. Reminds me of Lee scratch Perry and a little bit like Janet K when she got remixed

  18. I hear the dustjunkys are somehow involved via Vince Vega its bound to be funky as f***. Also with Melanie William’s guesting….it all seems a bit madchester. Heard a bit on BBC manchester….mental!

  19. Melanie Williams working with Fuzzbox. Only Mike Bennett could come up with that cross over. Brilliant. I worked with him on a stripped down, unplugged version of Kitchen at Parties. Completely live and it was a pleasure. This Fuzzbox box set sounds absolutely great and cannot wait to hear it

  20. LOVED this interview… huge Fuzzbox fan from America over the years…. really love the new spirit in the sky!!! What a great way to reinvent that song not only from there original but the original from Norman’s version as well… good to hear a bit of glam rock with them… love how this band is evolving… and cannot wait for more stuff from them

  21. ahh thats a cool cut ,heard it at Far Heath someone said Fuzzbox are on it …. can someone firm this up. no website Jack shit… wot a great combo of artists . Mike Bennett is a very fucking imaginative producer . Well IT SEEMS they have made a step in the right direction here … did not like the commercial stuff though . ..just my taste . loved Vix .She used to be cool back in the day . WHY NOT PROMOTE THIS NEW STUFF .ITS GOOD…It begs the question…why do they not bother anymore ? they have a cool record ? THEY NEED TO BE PRO ACTIVE .

  22. Hey if you read properly the album is coming out at the same time As beautiful people featuring Jimi Hendrix and The Rubettes

    We are all on the same label and there has been a thing called the pandemic

    Please be patient I’m sorry we have been slow but there has been a universal crisis which has prevented us from getting our stuff to the pressing plant

  23. Come on, when is the album out – the suspense is killing us! I’m loving the band & what Mike has done with them through their social media & the new single with Fat White Family. I heard a snippet of the stuff he’s doing with venom on Soho Radio & he think he needs to leave it alone – metal is not is forte!

    Mike – stick to your Indie!

  24. I just heard a track from this on six music. It’s about time Cog Sinister put this out.

    It’s a typical Mike Bennet production, weird and wonderful.

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