Out of all of the bands that I love, Fur is one of my all-time, all-time favourites. They are such an important band for me. As a teen growing up in Brisbane in the ‘90s, I found their punky grunge-y music, they were the first local band whose music spoke to me. They also played a lot of all ages shows that I could go to. Fur’s members were only a couple of years older than me and they were signed to a record label, touring the country; they inspired me and made me believe that I could start doing what I love – writing and doing interviews – right now, that I didn’t have to wait until I was older. Seeing Kim on stage with her Flying-V guitar was awe-inspiring, I used to geek out in my bedroom trying to play their songs on guitar too. Fur played with the likes of The Breeders, Pavement, Fugazi, Superchunk, Buffalo Tom, Luscious Jackson, The Meanies, Spiderbait, Magic Dirt, The Mark Of Cain, Kim Salmon & The Surrealists & more.
To this day I still listen to their debut EP Find What You Like And Let It Kill You (first released in 1994)… when I heard the news they were releasing it for the first time on vinyl on Conquest Of Noise Records I was beyond stoked—a dream come true! Not too long ago I found myself at a café in Burleigh Heads chatting, with vocalist-guitarist Kim and drummer Pete (who runs CON), about FWYLALIKY and why Fur seemed to disappear off the face of the planet in the late ‘90s after their debut LP The Betty Shakes.
Let’s go way back, tell us about the beginnings of Fur.
KIM MYER: I’d known Michelle the drummer for years and she always air drummed; she drummed wherever she could, at her grandma’s house, everywhere! We met Mindy who was a year above us, she was doing guitar lessons where I was doing it. We just all made friends. Mindy’s dad had a set up with drums and amps, and he bought us a van. We’d just jam at Mindy’s house and it just started happening. We were maybe about 16.
How did you first come to music?
KM: My oldest brother – he’s five year older – bought a guitar and started doing guitar lessons down at Coolangatta. He’d have his guitar under his bed, I’d just get it out and start fiddling with it and then my mum said she’d pay for me to do lessons; I was about two months behind him. The teacher was Wally Johnson, he wrote “Give Me A Home Among The Gumtrees”. He had a huge afro, glasses and was really stoned [laughs]. He taught me and Mindy to play guitar. My brother had an electric Tele[caster] guitar, when he was working I’d just plug it in and play.
I did the same with my brother’s guitar. I broke a string on it and put it back in the case and he came home from work and was like, have you been touching my guitar? Of course I said, no!
KM: [Laughs]. I used to listen to a lot of blues, Jimi Hendrix… I guess that was the reason why. I don’t really know what would of happened if that wasn’t available.
How about you Pete, how did you get into music? How did you get into playing yourself?
PETER “BOOGES” WERTH: From the moment I could walk I would march to my dad’s German marching records he would play on the weekends. From there it was listening to ABBA, The Monkees, The Partridge Family, The Beach Boys, The Skyhooks, Alice Cooper, Wizzard, The Sweet and of course KISS. It was the 70’s after all. My brother also wanted to learn the organ and piano, being the younger one I had to learn them as well. He gave up after a few weeks and I was forced to keep going. My teacher said I had plenty of potential and I did get 3rd in the Kawaii Organ contest. But all I wanted to learn were the drums but what parent in their right mind would let a six-year-old get drum lessons?
Around 1979 things started to change. I went to stay the weekend at my school mate’s house and his sister and friend came down from Brisbane to mind us while his parents went out. His parents were both school teachers & extremely strict. To this day I won’t forget that weekend. His sister and friend turned up in leather jackets, coloured spiked hair and some strange pants that looked like something the Bay City Rollers would wear but covered in zips & straps. Later on they explained they were punks and they’ll play us some punk music. I still remember the first track they played “Pretty Vacant” by The Sex Pistols. I was hooked. From there it was The Dead Kennedys, The Damned, Crass, Joy Division, The New York Dolls, The Cure & more.
After that weekend I was a regular at every record store on the Gold Coast and also making the 2+ hour bus trip to Brisbane to hit the stores. I soon had a very diverse taste in music and when old enough was at every show I could get to and get drunk. I didn’t start playing drums until I was in my early 20’s. I was working in the surfing industry and my mate from work played in a band that did well locally. From there I met his flat mate and manager Paul Howell. I was at their joint one night before my mate DB had a show in Southport and this guy was there called Billy Pommer Jnr. Next thing I know I drinking with the drummer from The Johnnys and even better he was originally from the Coast and moved back with his young family. We were chatting and then next thing I’d locked in a date the following week for lessons in his garage. 11 lessons in total and I was playing in my first band. We played plenty on the Coast and in Brisbane. I was running a record store in Palm Beach and had met Kim and Mindy via the shop. We got them to play a party with us for the owner under a house on the beachfront. I was hooked on their song writing and playing.
It would have been 6 months later and I was sitting at home and got a call from Kim. She asked if I’d like to play a show next weekend with Babes In Toyland and out of excitement I said yes but I’d better tell the other guys in my band that they better be available. Kim then said “No I mean you play with us”. Fuck I’m green as at this shit but I’ve always liked the deep end. I said yes then had about 4 or 5 days to learn the set. The rest is a drunken blur.
How did your signing to Fellaheen Records come about?
KM: We had a demo and we sent it to a guy, Tim [Steward, Scremfeeder] that did a compilation. We sent two songs and he told us we didn’t make the list but he gave it to his bass player Kellie [Lloyd] and she was keen to do something. So Kellie got involved and took that demo tape to Sydney with her to Waterfront Records.
You did the Fix It/Chocolate Sea 7” with Kellie, right?
KM: Yeah but it was a tape first. So Kellie took that tape that Tim didn’t like [laughs] to Sydney then Steve Stravakis said he’d pay for it to be record properly. We got it recorded properly in Springbrook and Kellie came up for the weekend.
Awww man, as a teenager I really admire both you and Kellie, you really inspired me. When I saw you play I was like, maybe I could do that too.
KM: In that climate there was Adalita [Magic Dirt] a year ahead of us but other than that there wasn’t many women in music. You think of the ‘80s and the touring of Australia, 1,000’s of kilometres up and down the coast five nights a week, all the alcohol—there wasn’t many women doing that. There was the odd one that was fronting a band like, Chrissie Amphlett. She had to really ‘ark’ it up to get everyone going too.
P: It was always usually just the one female in the band the rest were blokes.
I remember when I found your band that I thought it was so cool that females were playing music and that you were only a year or so older than me. It blew my mind and made me think doing what I love was an option like right now.
KM: They say its different now and that it has changed but in a way it hasn’t. I think it still needs work. If you just look at a festival bill… it’s changed in the last twenty years but not as much as it could.
P: It should change. The first record I released on Conquest Of Noise was an all-female band, The Courtneys.
They’re awesome!! Did you deal with sexism?
KM: I don’t know… just doing your thing… it’s like ignorance is bliss. Now I have a degree in Gender Studies I can answer that question; at the time I didn’t know what it was, I couldn’t identify it… at the time not really but now I have the words. At the [Henry] Rollins gig, we played to 800 people that were yelling at Mindy “show us you tits! Show us your tits!”
That’s terrible! Your first EP Find What You Like And Let It Kill You is finally getting a vinyl release soon; do you have any memories from when you were making it?
KM: We started writing the whole thing in my bedroom.
P: It wasn’t rushed.
KM: I was too naïve to think twice about it. There’s a lot of bum notes in there.
That’s one of the things I love about that EP so much, it’s not perfect.
Still to this day it’s one of my all-time favourite EPs and you’re one of my favourite guitarists, Kim.
KM: Thank you, Bianca.
I’ve heard a lot of music over my life and I’ve still never heard another guitarist like you, you have a unique sound and style.
P: Yeah it is pretty unique.
Yes! The sound you get from it, it’s like its crying or something.
KM: Yeah, I know. It’s got the wail-y moan-y sound. It’s fulfilling, if I play it in my bedroom for an hour or something I feel fulfilled. I don’t’ have to show it to the world. I find it difficult jamming with people nowadays because I don’t remember stuff, it’s kind of improvised. I love improvising, I get this feeling and this vibe, and it’s in the moment.
Booges was a great drummer for us because he was hard hitting and simple. You want someone that’s going to be flat out and not try to be fancy; some drummers can’t do that. It’s like, just play the beat for five minutes.
P: You just gotta drive the bus! [laughs]. I’ve always been into drummers that do that.
KM: I think it was a really strong moment for us.
It’s a magic EP, 20+ years later I still have it in my car and listen to it regularly.
Yes! There’s so many pretty sounding moments on it and I have always loved how you went from clean to distorted seamlessly.
KM: It’s not really distortion but its power!
I’m still bummed that you guys never put lyrics on anything? No lyric sheets!
P: That’s ‘cause she just made some of them up [laughs].
KM: Yeah it’s made up. Afterwards I read somewhere that Kurt Cobain used to make words up.
P: Yeah as long as it rhymed [laughs]. We’d play the song and I’d be like, what the fuck are you saying?
KM: [Laughs] If it has the same tone…
Did you have themes when writing? What about song, Pim Pom Pam?
KM: I feel like the meat hook stuff… we’d be touring in old rural places and you’d go to get petrol and find yourself in this weird little one-horse town… it was stuff like that. The meat hook thing is about one of the shops we stopped at, they had this meat hook and it just felt like they’d murder people in their [laughs]. It was a conglomeration of everything. It was really naïve too.
The last song Cloudface has a bit of pop in it too. I really like that.
P: It feels real innocent.
Yeah, I can still feel that when listening.
KM: After that release things went a bit more serious.
KM: Thought. Pete played drums simple and hard and then our next drummer Simon played really intricately, he was a great jazz player. Our songs changed…
P: It was more busy. Pete wasn’t there to keep that power so Mindy started keeping that power more. Chemistry-wise it changed a bit. We got a lot of flack for that. People were saying we’re not punk anymore. It is what it is.
When did you leave, Pete?
P: Because I was taking too many substances and drinking and was really fucked up basically.
KM: I think we could have dealt with everything more maturely but we weren’t mature yet. Like a lot of Fur stuff, it’s easier just to fold it but, now I work it out.
P: Yeah, everybody makes mistakes. It is what it is. Good things come out of bad shit as well.
KM: There was a lot of heroin hanging around at the end and it wasn’t cool…
I have to ask you, why did Fur just disappear? One day you were there and the next you’re not? Being the ultimate nerdy super fan I was devastated! You dropped your debut LP, appeared on TV, there was another album on the way… what happened?
KM: Basically there’s two sides, Fellaheen sold to Shock Records, which was shithouse; David Williams was a prick. We had 24 new demos for a new album and he said they were all shit and I was too stoned deal with it. He said the lyrics were shit… it wasn’t a nurturing environment. At the same time we were loose as… put those two things together! The album could have been great but David didn’t have the confidence to throw any money at it.
There was three people going too hard for too long and needed a break but we didn’t really understand that we needed a break, things escalated. There was pretty heavy drug use from some people, pretty heavy alcohol use from some people… and mental illness. Six months before it got to that point we talked about having a hiatus for a year. I felt like I was just pressured to keep playing and playing… the manager just kept booking stuff, it kept coming and coming. It’s like, there’s a Big Day Out tour for $25,000 you gotta go on that. We kept trying to take and break but we couldn’t so it just folded in on itself.
P: You got burnt out.
KM: Yeah, it was seven years straight, five nights a week, driving, touring. Yeah so it was kind of a burn out.
P: when I was in the band there’d be times where you’d just get back from Sydney or Melbourne and you’d be here a week and you’d have to go again, you couldn’t hold down a job back here. I was lucky to have casual work. When you’re young you don’t know any better, doing that many shows over and over you don’t realise the damage done. Every weekend was a fucking party, you can’t keep doing it.
KM: You’re involved in the alcohol industry basically, all your money goes to your car, petrol and then they’ll give you a carton of beer, a bottle of wine and a bottle of bourbon every night, and you get into a routine. The culture is fuelled by alcohol. It’s not sustainable. Every gig I think with Fur, there was no gig we did half-arsed. There’s no, oh, I’m tired. You can’t be tired, go do whatever you have to do to be ready. You’d enable each other… just rock up in 20 minutes feeling good, that’s all you want from each other. You burn out because you’re giving so much away… I don’t know what you’re meant to get back but, if you put that effort and energy into your health for six months you’d see results.
I don’t really consider myself part of the music industry, I don’t enjoy it. I love music and art and DIY. I’ve seen too many of my friends basically die creatively and personally… they get tied to contracts, can’t put the music out they want… so many sad stories, so many horror stories…
KM: Shock owned us. It’s only because Shock folded that we are free. They dropped us.
P: When they do that you can’t release anything…
KM: You still owe them money.
PRE-ORDER Fur’s FIND WHAT YOU LIKE AND LET IT KILL YOU on vinyl for the very first time here. Out in May. The run is super limited, you snooze you lose–you have been warned! Keep up to date with KIM’s new projects. Check out all the rad stuff on CONQUEST OF NOISE.
*Images: all pieces from my personal collection. Collage art by me.