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Def FX’s Fiona Horne: The Reunion Tour, A Near-Death Experience & Reinvention


Fiona Horne is a rock goddess, best-selling author, Wiccan priestess, actress, TV writer-producer and more! This year sees her back in the spotlight in a big way as her band Def FX gear up for a reunion tour, the first in 15 years. In her first interview since announcing the tour dates last week on the band’s Facebook page, Fiona chats candidly about her devastation at Def FX’s untimely end in 1997, the excitement of the upcoming tour, Def FX existing without co-founding member Sean Lowry, performing topless, her new book deal with the publishers of Harry Potter, what she’s been doing for the past decade and, of a recent near-death experience.

What’s life been like for you since you moved to Los Angeles?

FIONA HORNE: I moved a long time ago so L.A. is home now. I still get back to Australia as often as I can, that’s probably only once a year now to be honest. This has been my fulltime place of residence now for a decade.

What prompted the initial move?

FH: My first book that came out in Australia, Witch: A Personal Journey and then I had a second one, Witch: A Magical Year (they came out in 1998 and 1999 respectively) were edited together and I got a book deal with Harper Collins. The two volumes were released as one book and that came out here [in the US]. In 2001 I basically had a book tour in America and it went really well, it was received well, it sold well and I got the opportunity to do a lot of interviews on TV. I started to think that America was fun! It’s a big country.

Back in the day with Def FX we spent a lot of years touring here. The book tour in 2001 re-awoke the excitement in me that I would feel in America when Def FX toured. I thought maybe I’ll move across the pond to here and see if I could make a go of it in America, so I did. It all worked out. There were quite a few years there where it was really, really hard. Often it still is really hard because the entertainment industry here is very fickle, there’s a lot of other people wanting to do it too so it’s a lot of hard work. You have to be very tenacious and very resilient, very thick skinned [laughs]. Being an Aussie I think we have a strong work ethic and I’ve just knuckled down and diversified; I have a lot of rods in the fire at any given time because you need to over here. I’ve made it work and survived. I did get a TV show in 2004 called Mad Mad House and it did well enough to get me established in that environment, creating, writing and producing for television as well as being on screen talent. I’ve certainly used that as a stepping stone since then to continue to work in that capacity as well as doing books.

How is your health? I ask because I know that you had a bit of a health scare last year and you had surgery recently in December.

FH: I did actually. That’s the subject of my new book, Even Witches Get The Blues. I have two books coming out, I decided to write an autobiographical account of the last six months of my life. I will be self-publishing it I’ve decided because I want to get it out there rather than go through the normal channels of a publishing deal that can take months or even years until anything sees the light of day. I’m excited by the opportunities of online publishing. I was very sick the last six months. It was very interesting because I have always been focused on health, I do yoga all the time. This really blindsided me. What I ended up having wrong with me was not what I ended up being diagnosed with, it was really very serious. As challenging as it was I was very blessed to have support of people. There’s a whole story but I don’t want to give away too much, it will be in the book. I think in life I like to say, we don’t get older we get better. If you live a spiritual life or do your best to grow and evolve and learn ad take care of yourself and then stuff still happens… life is a never ending journey of self-discovery. It may sound really obvious but health is the number one thing. When you lose that whoa! When you lose it in a big way it’s definitely quite an experience—it was definitely a life and death experience literally on many levels: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, personally and professionally. I feel really blessed that when I put a mention of it on my Facebook page, I was so blown away and really touched by the outpouring of support. I know that the positive energy that people contributed, just taking a few moments to write a few words of encouragement and support, contributed to so much of my healing. I don’t really want to call people ‘fans’ to me they’re all friends. They helped me through a tough time and I am really grateful.

Is your fitness regimen still raw vegan diet, swimming, walking and yoga?

FH: No. I stopped being raw vegan a fair while ago. You’ll actually be shocked that I went and ate meat for a while. I was vegetarian for a long time, then vegan. I was brought up a meat eater. Now I’m back to being vegetarian again. I’m thinking I might go forward to raw vegan again. Your body at different times in your life lets you know what you want. Certainly when I started eating meat again it was a bit of a struggle because politically and ethically I didn’t feel right about it but my body was telling me to eat it. When I started eating it again, the taste, the texture, it’s what I wanted. I live in a privileged country where we can eat what we want, we can go to the shops and we have choices so, I ate that for a while. A lot of the choices I made about eating food over the years was stimulated by political decision making – like not eating fish because the oceans are depleted. I’ve woken to a place where I feel I need to be vegetarian again. I’ve been eating a very simple diet since the surgery. I’ve lost a lot of weight though! I was shocked when the doctor weighed me, I’m usually 125 pounds now I’m 108 pounds. I was like, whoa! That’s less than 50 kilos so it’s pretty bloody skinny! I’m focused on putting on a bit of weight and easing back into yoga, which I’m pretty excited about, I’ve missed it so much.

The big news that’s in your life right now is that Def FX is doing a reunion tour; how do you feel about this?

FH: I’m feeling great about it. The support and interest for it has exceeded all of our expectations. The way it came around was… gosh we broke up 15 years ago now! There was a couple of times over the last decade of, could we do it? Sean and I formed the band, we were the two original members. The way the band broke up in 1997 was not good. I certainly didn’t think it was the right decision. I think it was a poor decision on a personal and professional level but, it was done. Sean and I haven’t really spoken since back then. There were a couple of promoters about five years ago that wanted to put the feelers out but Sean was adamant it was a ‘no’ and didn’t even think to do it without him. I was working on a solo album and doing other things. Last year a girlfriend of a mutual friend, came to America and hung out and we got along great. She works in promoting music tours in Australia and she said, ‘You know what? Maybe you should tour with Def FX!’ Long story short, that’s how it happened. Metropolis Touring said they wanted to put us on the road. It just happened. I approached Marty our original bass player and we did approach Dave Stein and Sean Lowry but they said they didn’t want to do it so, it’s Marty and I.

We have two new members. Def FX throughout our career had a never ending revolving door of members; Sean and I were the only original members. Marty left in the fourth or fifth year we were together because he wanted to start a family, we’d been living on the road out of suitcases and he’d had it. I remember speaking to him for the first time in 17 years and it was like it was yesterday. It was so awesome because he has such an amazing energy and is such a positive person. We had a great convo and we thought, let’s do it! His good mate Wiley [Cochrane] is playing guitar, they’ve been playing together for years, they live north of Byron Bay and surf together too. Listening to Wiley play I thought his style was a fusion of Dave Stein and Blake Gardner who were guitarist over the years in Def FX – he’s sonic like Blake and metal like Dave. The other person that is replacing Sean is Ant Banister. Ant is a founding member of Clan Analogue, they were a great inspiration for Sean and a huge influence on Def FX right back in the ’90s as far as the sounds and technologies we used and song writing elements, their whole approach was very influential on Def FX. We thought if we got Ant in we are still maintaining that creative substance that evolved in our band in the ’90s when we formed. Ant is just lovely. It’s not surprising Def FX has a new couple of members because we used to go out on every tour with a couple of new members [laughs].

So it’s simply the next evolution of Def FX?

FH: Yes, it’s another evolutionary step in the band. What we’re doing on this tour, we’ve been very adamant that it is a nostalgia tour. At the end of the day there has been so many advances with drum technology and music so the drums sound thicker and more solid, the timing is better on everything. We are using all of the original Nord keyboards and sounds from those ’90s keyboards. We will be very true to the original sound of the band except it will be a bit bigger and a bit louder! We are having some fun too… I can give you a little scoop, we’re having some fun with extended versions of the songs, some of the really popular songs over the years. The band is really looking forward to doing it hopefully as much as the audience is looking forward to seeing it and hearing it.

I came across an older interview that you did when you moved to L.A. and you were asked about Def FX and is you missed it and you commented, “I do not miss Def FX – it was an exciting period but I would never go back there, I am much happier as an individual now, living in Los Angeles and working successfully as an author and TV/radio personality over here.” Why the change of heart?

FIONA HORNE: You know what, I was probably 35 when you read that and now I’m turning 46 this year so, people change, grow and evolve. You wouldn’t expect a 15 year old to say the same thing they did when they were 5 years old. When I was talking about that, that was probably exactly how I was feeling. There was such a wonderful synchronicity around this coming together; I didn’t go looking for it, it came to me, to us. I think sometimes when things come to you like that, there’s that old fashioned saying: never look a gift horse in the mouth. There was just a beautiful synchronicity. When I spoke to Marty on the phone I asked, mate what do you think? Would you want to do it? He said, ‘Fi! For those about to rock, we salute them!’ I went, oh god it is on! [laughs]. We’re both excited. The thing is we’ve both stayed active in music. Marty has been touring much more but I did that solo album. I was very proud of that Witch Web album, it came out in 2009, I did it with Paul McDermott. I’ve always loved music it’s just when the band broke up, it was so hard, it was such a difficult period, I was so devastated when the band broke up. I thought it was handled so badly. It was a tough time to transition away from that. I put my creative energy into writing books instead. I’ve always loved writing songs and performing, it’s very cathartic and fun. Who would have thought we’d have the opportunity to do this again. It is such a blessing! Having gone through this really gnarly experience where I nearly died, to have this now and for there to be so much positive energy around it it’s just awesome!

Around the time your solo release came out I read an interview with you where you said making the album was creatively satisfying for you and was special and mentioned that part of that was because there was no pressure to come up with hit songs that could be played on the radio and you weren’t bound by commercial boundaries. Did you feel that while in Def FX?

FH: Oh yeah! We were under so much pressure to write hits. Oh gosh yeah! Back then companies could buy chart positions and they’d put 20,000 albums in store and then get their reps to go buy 20,000 albums to make sure it went number one. For what it’s worth, even though I feel we ended in an untimely manner, it was just a bit too early, it’s a shame it happened how it did. The last album, the Majick album was the most commercially successful release we ever had. I feel that if we had continued and done another album we probably would have reached those heights on the commercial charts. The record company anticipated that we should. Our manager had worked hard to orchestrate our career and build it. We broke up, we didn’t even do a farewell tour, Sean was done with it and it was over. There was a lot of pressure back them.

One of my favourite periods of the band was right at the very start. There was no pressure then, it was so much fun. Conceptually it was a new idea to have dance beats with heavy guitars and sampling, there were no restrictions on sampling and you could rip off anything. We were charting so well in the alternative indie charts that there was no pressure, everyone was happy, our independent label was happy. Like in any band, as the expectations rose the pressure is on. When I did Witch Web there was no pressure and I was given free rein to do whatever I wanted to do. With Paul I found such a beautiful chemistry. We were really writing songs, there was no samples, we were coming up with melodies and building from there. For me personally, it’s my favourite thing that I have ever done. I also love the Ritual Eternal album that Def FX did. They’re the two musical releases that I am most proud of. What’s been really great revisiting the Def FX music and performing it again is that it has a while new lease on life. It’s fun because there’s no pressure. We’re not going to play any new songs on this tour. We don’t have to worry about an album charting. We’re just going out to rock out!

I noticed you mentioned online that you’ve saved some of your outfits from the Def FX days and that you’ll be wearing them this tour?

FH: [Laughs] yes I have! At 108 pounds they’re big on me now! Bloody hell! I did get rid of a lot of stuff though I wish I kept. There was an amazing designer back then, a girl that was going to Sydney Uni, Mindy McTaggart and I was very lucky she wanted to dress me. Some of my most outrageous and colourful outfits were ones that she designed and made. I’m not going to dread up my hair, I have long hair now but I might stick some fake dreadies in and stick a bindi on [laughs].

There’s been a bit of a buzz online in different music site communities about the reunion. There’s quite a few people that are hoping you’ll play topless again.

FH: [Laughs]. Picture this. Here I am in hospital, I’m really sick and I’m going to have this emergency surgery and someone emailed me saying that the January issue of Rolling Stone had a picture of me with my top off in it. I remember wondering what picture it could be. I was so out of it for a few days, I was meant to have surgery on the 22nd but they moved it forward because I went downhill so fast and I’m being told this. I remember one of the last thoughts I had as I went under general anaesthetic was, god why would they have put that in there for? When I came out, my girlfriend had sent me a copy from Australia and I realised what it was, it was for the Big Day Out 20th Anniversary. I remember that gig exactly, it was the year that we had been touring with the Smashing Pumpkins. Billy Corgan and I are still mates, I spent quite a lot of time with him a couple of years ago. I remember the tour so well because it is the year I meant Billy and I remember taking my top off for that show.

I’m pretty sure it was Sydney. The song was Mask. I wrote the lyrics about the masks that women wear in society to fit in and at the time it was an ode to feminism. I remember thinking when I was getting dressed for that gig, I wonder what would happen if I took my top off? It was a very simple idea that, if a bloke can do it a woman should be able to do it, it’s not rocket science. It was that simple and almost naïve in a way. I remember it was in the encore. I remember doing it. I had a bigger mesh top on and then a smaller, tighter one on underneath. When I took off the big one I remember there was just this roar form the crowd. The whole crowd 20,000-30,000 people became this sea of boobs! Chicks that were sitting on guys’ shoulders had ripped their tops off and guys ripped their tops off and there was just boobs everywhere! [laughs]. It was awesome. There was a massive wave of energy. I feel very proud that good old Rolling Stone popped that photo in there off me as one of the most memorable moments of the Big Day Out. If you look at the article there’s also Iggy Pop sitting on a speaker stack with his shirt off. I’m in very illustrious company, I feel very honoured. What would be the odds of it? I was being operated on at the same time that magazine was going out on the stands. I remember thinking I’ll be alright; this is an affirmation, a good omen for the tour. At the time we hadn’t announced it yet, it was all a rumour.

You’re a bit of an adrenalin junkie these days? You skydive, fly planes and scuba dive.


FIONA HORNE: I’ve been scuba diving since I was 19. I don’t see that as adrenalin, that’s more calming. I’ve dive with sharks and done things that you might call adrenalin slanted. I’ve worked in the scuba diving industry for a number of years. PADI. I’ve done a lot of work with them, helping create and appear in their educational and promotional content. With skydiving and flying plays, I know it might sound weird but, I’m not chasing adrenalin. I started jumping when I turned 40. My girlfriend took me on a tandem skydive. I loved it so much. It’s the most exhilarating and life affirming experience for me. I’ve always loved flying. I was always a passenger in many planes over the years Def FX toured. I liked looking out the plane window at the ground. I’ve never been scared of flying. Jumping out of one is a whole different thing. I did it and landed with my tandem master and I was like, oh my gosh! I have to learn how to do this! Sometimes when I put my mind to something like that, I just have to do something about it; I can’t just let it go. I can’t live with myself if I don’t follow through. It was really scary to learn to skydive, it took me a while. I did AFF (Accelerated Free Fall course) there’s 7 levels of it, it took me a month to actually get through it and have the courage to do my first level AFF jump. I progressed fairly quickly in that year and got a few hundred jumps under my belt. I just loved it. It’s a lot of fun, sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it’s challenging. Last year I got a world record in skydiving. I had the opportunity to do a parachute over forties record. We did a vertical formation in Oregon, I was in the formation. It was declared a world record. So, at the ripe old age of 45 I become a world record holding skydiver! Laughs]. At the end of the day, you can either get old or you can get better. I think age is just a number. My mother says actually, it’s not the years of your life, it’s the life in your years. Skydiving is something I have a great passion for, I like the community. There’s not a lot of us in the world. Generally if you meet a skydiver there is a great sense of camaraderie and understanding because we are a very misunderstood community. Our sport is misunderstood and often misrepresented. It’s really not about being an adrenalin junkie as it is about, living life to its fullest—I love it for that reason.

Flying planes, I’m privileged because my partner of five and a half years, is a pilot himself and a flight instructor. I was lucky enough to have him close to me and have the opportunity to learn to fly. That’s was really tough and scary too. I remember the first time I landed a plane by myself. I’m not a natural aviator; I had to work really hard, building the confidence and building the skills that I required. I’ve done it and I can do it, I passed my written exam last year; it’s really hard all the study you have to do. I left school at 15, so it was like, oh my gosh! I’m studying aerodynamics, navigation and weather.

Congratulations!

FH: Aww thank you! It was hard. I was beginning to have a bit of a rough trot then. That’s when things started to get really difficult, my health started to get a bit funky and there were other things going on in my personal life that was pretty confronting and scary. I just thought, I have to give myself a goal. Failure wasn’t an option, I just have to somehow. Even when I finished the test, I was so sure that I had failed. When the examiner came in and said, I passed, I burst into tears. I was sobbing so much. Hear I was balling my eyes out like a bloody idiot! [laughs]. She actually too me to the ‘ladies’ and help me calm down so I could then go out a shake hands with the people at the school. It’s a big deal when you pass! I was blubbering like an idiot, but oh well… Flying is a wonderful, liberating activity.

Since you’ve been in the US you’ve been to speak at Harvard University on witchcraft and Paganism?

FH: Yeah I was invited to do that. I was the only non-academic invited to speak at the conference which was Witchcraft & Paganism In Contemporary Media. One of the organisers Peg Aloi, she’s an amazing Pagan and Witch in the community here in America, she invited me. It was a great honour. It’s funny when you start going through a list like, these are all the things Fiona Horne has done, I guess I’m turning 46, you’d want to have a list of things you have done by now. I keep looking at it, like I’d love to have a much longer list by the time I’m 70 [laughs].

In September of last year, you were filming for a new TV show about witches?

FH: Yes. Every year in this industry, working and creating, developing shows, you’re always taking out a show each year. I work as a writer-producer for television as well. It’s outside of witchcraft, outside of everything. It’s some work that I have established myself in living in America. It’s low key, I behind the scenes. I don’t talk about it too much, I just do the work. That was a project that I created with the team from The Biggest Loser. It’s a docu-reality show about modern witches. We’re out shopping it. A big degree and good luck comes into play in this town. I love what we’ve done I’m proud of it, I hope it finds a home. I’ll keep you posted on that.

As far as TV appearances go, you were on Australia Survivor in 2007…

FIONA HORNE: That was so much fun. Oh my gosh! If it all goes to hell in a hand basket I know where that beach is in Vanuatu and I’m going to live there; I know how to find the food to survive [laughs]. It was paradise. One of the songs of Witch Web, Lost In The Woods, there’s a verse in that, that was inspired by my experience on the island. The thing that I wasn’t prepared for doing Celebrity Survivor was the politics and the strategy involved. I’d never watch a whole show, I didn’t really understand that it is, a game. I just got there and took it all seriously. I was devastated when I was kicked off. I played the game wrong. I guess what you’re meant to do isn’t really anything, you’re just meant to be weak and not be seen as a threat, those people stay on the longest. The people that stand up and go, let’s build a shelter and let’s make some food, they’re the first ones to get kicked off because they are seen as a threat. I had an amazing time being there. Great memories.

Have you ever encountered sexism in your career?

FH: What do you think? [laughs]. Have you?

I’ve been called things like a ‘groupie with a biro’!

FH: [Laughs] Oh god that’s a good one! That’s a great name for a book. Why don’t you write a book called Groupie With A Biro about all your life experiences of chatting with people and running your awesome website? Groupie With A Biro, I love it!

I have been working on a book project to do with punk and spirituality.

FH: Oh very cool! That’s where I started out a hundred million years ago [laughs]. I was in The Mothers, at the time we called ourselves all-girl punk. I remember going to see the Dead Kennedys. All of my early musical influences were punk, bands like Crass. Certainly my decision to be vegetarian and then go to veganism was inspired by my punk and political leanings. My spirituality reflected that punk ethic as well. At the time I used to think of it as not subscribing to anything the mainstream would dictate and I was forging my own path—that was the essence of punk to me. The choices I made with my food, the music I liked and made, the things I did in my own time and my spiritual choices to were all influenced by that essence.

You’re supportive of Mary Kay and her cosmetics company?

FH: Oh god yes! [laughs]. What happened with Mary Kay – this was fun – last year in June or July my girlfriend Devon and friend Ron Moss (the actor that’s involved in The Bold & The Beautiful), Devin invited me to her house and said it was going to be a girl’s beauty brunch. I got there and I was thinking, cool we might get manicures or massages! This lady comes in wheeling a trolley with Mary Kay on it and I’m like, oh no! Avon calling! What am I going to do? I’m bloody stuck here now and am going to have to buy Mary Kay [laughs]. I had a glass of wine, as you do, and then another one, as you do. I listened to the story of the company and how they develop the products. They were the first cosmetics company to strike a deal with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to stop animal testing on products. Mary Kay herself passed away a few years ago but she was a very inspiring woman. She started the company after she retired from a corporate working environment in her 50s and built it into an empire that provides financial independence for many women. I was impressed. At the time I thought, at the very worse I can get skin care at cost. I go through periods where I am financially challenged, I try to embrace abundance but, the economy is rough. Stuff happens and I’ve been broke a lot [laughs], really broke. I ended up really loving the product. I started becoming a Mary Kay representative. I did really well for a month or two, I was the top girl in our region but then life took a big turn. That was the beginning of six months of hell. I no longer actively sell Mary Kay but I do support and acknowledge the product. There’s a lot of good ethical values in it. Mark Kay parties were almost like Goddess Gatherings. I used to do Goddess Gatherings with girlfriends where we’d get together and cast spells and do positive visualisation work together. I said to my girlfriends, instead of lighting candles and incense we’re putting on makeup [laughs].

Are there any other projects you’re working on at the moment?

FH: The really big one, the super important one I’m mega excited about is my new teen fiction book which is coming out with Allen & Unwin in September. I was very excited to get a new book deal with publishers of Harry Potter.

It’s called Witch – A Summerland Mystery?

FH: Exactly. Summerland, for the more religious witches who like to think of there being a witches ‘heaven’ it’s called Summerland. There’s also a town on the coast of California where I live not too far away called Summerland. It was establish by Spiritualists – there was an Indian tribe living there obviously for many years before the Spiritualists arrived – it’s a very interesting town. It’s quite haunted and quite magical. I based the story there. It’s about a girl that grew up in Australia but when she turned 15 her parents moved to Summerland, there’s a big reason as to why that happens that reveals itself. It’s a three book series. It’s exciting to have this opportunity to redefine my life as a writer in the world of fiction. Allen & Unwin are a really great company and it’s nice to have such a nurturing and welcoming environment to work in. It was really hard though, I couldn’t write just anything and send it in, I had to rewrite it a ton of times before it was ultimately accepted. There’s a saying: if the road isn’t paved with obstacles it probably doesn’t lead anywhere. I don’t let obstacles stop me or let them guide me.

For more Fiona Horne. For more Def FX + Australian tour dates.

With love & light,

 

*Photo credit: courtesy of Fiona Horne & Def FX’s Facebook.

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