Tickets available £5 here:
Stephen Doyle and his Sonic Diary present Fischer Z, Flies On You and Four Candles live at Freds Ale House Levenshulme Saturday 22nd April 2017 8pm till late!
John Watts’ 39-year career has included 19 albums and around 3000 concerts and festivals worldwide. He has been successful both in Fischer-Z and as a solo artist throughout Europe, with album sales in excess of two million. Peter Gabriel, Steve Cropper and Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Brass section have all contributed to his recordings. Watts has performed to crowds of 167,000 alongside James Brown in East Berlin, toured with both The Police and Dire Straits, was on the bill of the final Bob Marley European festival tour dates and has toured the USA and Canada. In more recent years Watts has developed a reputation as a multi-media artist, poet and playwright, and has often been described by fellow artists as ‘a force of nature’. He has amassed an impressive and eclectic range of creative work and his performances are characterized by Watts’ verve, warmth and humanity.
Watts developed his musical career in punk clubs while studying clinical psychology and working in mental institutions. The first Fischer-Z album, Word Salad was released in 1979 on United Artist Records, alongside releases by their contemporaries, The Buzzcocks and The Stranglers. Word Salad was a cult record in the UK (John Peel supported the single Remember Russia) but Fischer-Z achieved an even bigger critical and commercial success across continental Europe. There were several appearances on The Old Grey Whistle Test and a first Top of the Pops appearance with the Europe-wide successful single The Worker – the story of Watts’ father’s daily commute to London. The second album, Going Deaf For a Living, firmly established his ability to convey worldly political issues in narrative songs against a background of quirky pop and reggae-influenced music (comparisons were made with both Talking Heads and Ian Dury). The So Long single (1980) was featured heavily on the fledgling MTV channel.
Fischer-Z’s European success was cemented with Red Skies Over Paradise (1981), described by Der Spiegel as “a candid and passionate appraisal of Cold War Europe”. This album included songs that resonated with audiences right across continental Europe. Berlin, Marliese, Battalions of Strangers, Cruise Missiles and the title track have all been described as classics of that era and sales topped a million. Watts’ reputation was firmly established as a leading exponent of overtly political pop songs. Watts disbanded the original Fischer-Z line up in the summer of 1981 because he felt the band had drifted too far from their original art punk ideals.
Watts’ first two solo albums One More Twist (1982) and The Iceberg Model (1983) included the anthemic single One Voice and experimental The Iceberg Model track. He briefly formed a band called The Cry and released a pop/dance album Quick Quick Slow (1984) produced by the highly respected American Jimmy Douglass. In the 1980’s, Watts was very deeply affected by the political events unfolding as Thatcher tried to beat down the trade unions in Britain. His Dark Crowds of Englishmen song is about the miners’ strike and the disappearance of a way of life.
Watts reformed Fischer-Z with a new line up in 1987 and had single successes The Perfect Day (1988) based on lonely-hearts ads and Say No (1989), a call to arms for the poor and the powerless – taken from the albums Reveal (1988) and Fish’s Head (1989) respectively. He made the Destination Paradise album (1991) at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios including Further From Love and the title track, which highlighted civilian suffering in time of war. The next two Fischer-Z albums Kamikaze Shirt (1993) and Stream (1995) continued to combine a political point of view with songs grounded in Watts’ real-life observations and experiences.
Watts returned to his solo career with the album, Thirteen Stories High (1997), one of his most admired indie guitar-style albums. Many songs from this album such as I’m a Reptile and Angel of Gardenia are firm favourites with the fans. For his next album Bigbeatpoetry (1999), he branched out combining poetry, prose and song lyrics with a DJ and beats. An era of multi-media projects began with Ether Music & Film (2002), where he traveled internationally, recording musicians in the streets and in their own homes using only his laptop.
Real Life Is Good Enough (2005) was a noisy two-piece, electric guitar and drums album which Watts made with Sam Walker. It was compared with The Black Keys early albums. The sister album, It Has To Be (2006), consisted of songs drawn from Watts’ interaction with strangers he met in ten different European countries who shared some of their life experiences and he named a song after them. For the first time the album packaging included poems and short stories written by Watts.
The Morethanmusic album (2010) added improvised orchestral cut-ups and a filmic dimension to Watts’ work and included a first single Head On, inspired by him observing a seven-year old child watching the live execution of Saddam Hussein on her mother’s mobile phone, and a second single URSo, the most popular live song from the album. Watts made video clips to accompany all the songs on the Morethanmusic album.
In 2012 Watts embarked on the ambitious World-Go-Round project, incorporating his play, The Last Picasso, performing poetry from his book The Grand National Lobotomy and developing songs which now form part of the forthcoming Fischer-Z album. The Last Picasso Is written in black comedy/absurdist style, and it was said that with this work, Watts had “created nothing less than a completely new genre. A miscellaneous mixture of a musical play, rock concert and a multimedia performance”. (Morgenpost Hamburg, 23 February 2012).
In The Grand National Lobotomy, Watts paints himself and his art in typical pithy and self-deprecating style in a piece entitled ‘Eggers’, “… a story writer, poet and starving living legend of English descent, who will cover anything you like from Live 8 to prostate, Gordon Brown to Eva von Braun, Karl Marx to stripey underpants, Stockhausen to Waterman, Botticelli to vaseline, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, Beck to Becks…”
The new Fischer-Z album, This is My Universe is due for release in Spring 2015 and includes the track Martha Thargill, in which Watts revisits the miners’ strike and the disappearance of a way of life, 30 years on. On the title track This is My Universe he combines poetry, beats and guitar noise to dynamic effect. He casts a dark and rueful eye over love and marriage in the pop single Just-a-Man, and a manifesto for the proactive and genuine Romantic, just Like Justice. Another new Fischer-Z song, Tale of Bales, once again combines a political theme with contemporary art-rock music.
Watts is currently performing both with a Fischer-Z band and also on his own as Fischer-Z solo.
FLIES ON YOU
DIY post-punk duo
The debut album from Flies On You is
“Nothing To Write Home About”, released on September 3rd 2012.
“I think “punk” is an overused word”, said Adam Ant, in the midst of “B-Side Baby”, chastising his girlfriend’s preference for the wilfully obscure. He may have been right. Flies On You overuse it a lot.
Doug Aikman and Andy Watkins, who together comprise Flies On You, decided to form a band in mid-2011. They planned a punk rock combo: crude, demented songs, nothing over two minutes long. Pug Ugly. (This name was discarded. “Too close for comfort”, mused Doug, brushing a tear from his eye. You can understand their reluctance to appear in band photos.)
It soon became apparent that their common ground goes far beyond The Distillers, No Means No and an agreement that Jean Jacques Burnel’s bass sound is just “the best”… Yugoslav indie, Belgian synth-punk, 60s chanteuses, Big Youth; here they found improbable plunder for their musical endeavours, but also discovered those shared peccadilloes that help to make a marriage work. Doug’s joy at finding Sweden’s answer to Thrilled Skinny is matched by Andy’s enthusiasm for discovering a Japanese Man Or Astroman? Flies On You are the “b-side babies” of whom Adam wisely spoke. They merely tolerate the anaemic epithet “DIY post-punk” as a descriptor of their oeuvre. Needs must, etc.
The debut album from Flies On You is “Nothing To Write Home About”, released in September 3rd 2012. There are surprises amongst its 18 tracks; hummable melodies, the occasional uplifting chorus, danceability, a certain pathos, eccentric digressions from the expected, a sensitivity and deftness of touch here and there which defy the Flies’ default setting of subtlety-free arse-kick. (Make the most of these now; there are no plans to include any such flowers-in-the-window-box on its fictitious follow-up, the “20 Minutes of Unrelenting Misery” EP.)
Videos and website will be arriving August/September 2012
Andy Watkins: 07722 165829
Four Candles are a band consisting of
Mark Taylor , Electric Guitar
Phil Peak , Electric Drums
Jon Rowlinson , Electric Bass
Ian Moss , Voice