The Fixx are best known for their early '80s hit "One Thing Leads To Another". Singing that song was Fixx member Cy Curnin.
The Fixx released a new CD over the Summer, July 17th, 2012 to be exact, titled "Beautiful Friction". (Kirtland Records) Cy Curnin spoke with us about that CD and a wide range of other topics.
Q - Since today is a historic day, 9-11, where were you on September 11th, 2001?
A - I was actually grounded in Los Angeles on 9-11, trying to get back to New York City. My apartment was there and my children were there with their mother. I was divorced at the time, but they were Uptown. When the news was first breaking, I didn't know what was going on. It was just that sense of panic and horror, the same that everyone else felt. Your immediate reaction is just to get home and hold the people you love. I just remember the sense over the days that followed, reflecting on how little control I felt over my own environment. Everything that we believe it, the world is infinite, hangs on a thread. This was one more reminder of that. In a second, your whole life can be changed and this was a collected version of that. Everything changed on that day. For me, I've been questioning a lot about how much the system was questioning me and how little I was doing for it, in terms of my own system and family functioning. This was the thing that broke the camel's back for me. I had a girlfriend that just moved back to France before 9-11 and she was asking me to move and I couldn't because my children weren't a certain age. So I felt responsible. Then 9-11 happened and I said I've got to do something about gaining control of my life and I don't know why I associated 9-11 with that, but I just wanted to go start touching the soil and grow food and feeding myself and just an urge to get back to the ground.
Q - Ground zero in your own life.
A - That's it. That's exactly what it was.
Q - You're involved in something called sustainable farming practices. What does that entail? What does that mean?
A - Sustainable farming means you don't use any resources that are irreplaceable on the planet in order to produce food. When I say sustainable, I self feed vegetables. When tomatoes fall off the plant, there's seeds. I collect those seeds for next year. Then we eat some of them, but we always save for next year. It's the same with all the other vegetables, and the manure we use is all organic. So, the manure from the animals that are on the farm is not the manure from the phony fertilizer that goes on the ground. The rain that falls is the only water we use to water the plants with. And light is God-given, so we use that. My wife runs a guest house and the guests eat this food. From her point of view it's free food. She's making money from serving food that's not only organic, but free, rather than sweat equity. We raise lamb and we raise pork. I don't eat meat. I'm a vegan, but I'm happy to raise the meat for her and organize it. I just don't eat it.
Q - Isn't it rather difficult to live with someone who eats meat seeing a how you're a vegan?
A - I have my own personal viewpoints about what I put in my body, but I don't judge or tell anyone else what they should or shouldn't do until they get there. For me, it started off watching my father after heart surgery having tons of statins and drugs and not particularly ameliorating his quality of life. What I know is that I didn't want to put that in my body. I was going to avoid that. I was going to have to start something in my life by changing my diet radically. I'd been a vegetarian when I was younger and fell off the wagon if you like and I came back stronger than ever.
Q - So, what's it going to take to get your girlfriend into the vegan lifestyle?
A - If I could buy a ring to go with it. (laughs) My mother's French. She's a carnivore. I grew up in a real carnivore world. My wife is a carnivore, but she's my wife. We have a daughter that is more vegetarian. I can't preach to her. We just have our own code, what works for me. I have a really busy life. I'm travelling a lot. When I was on airplanes I used to swell up a lot, get tired. My energy levels were all over the place. Now my energy is constant. I can be on the go as long as I get six hours rest every day. I can keep going seven days a week. I can sing hours and hours a day without having problems with my throat. I don't have any mucous issues. My asthma left. My joints are good. My muscle tone is good. My fat to muscle ratio is good. When people have a car, they pay more attention to what they put in the car than their body, but it's their car.
Q - It almost seems like you have to have your own personal chef to practice the vegan lifestyle.
A - Yeah. I am my personal chef. I'm a good cook. I've learned how to travel with it too. I tried to do 60% raw intake, so I don't need a cooker. I'm planning on what I put in my body, a lot of super foods, super foods list and quantities and times of the day. And then I'll supplement it by, when you're on the road, especially in California you can see the movement growing. There's a great chain of restaurants called Cafe Gratitude which is all raw cooking and it's incredible what you can eat. It would make any carnivore salivate. Online there are some good resources for raw cooking. You do have to be self-reliant. You do have to be careful about what you buy. I try to eat more seasonal. When I'm not home, the things that I find are organic year 'round and more of the seasonal things. It's local. Anything that's coming from afar or out of season, there's no way it can be organic.
Q - That's great when you're at home, but when you're on the road you probably have to put the things you need in the contract rider for the promoter to get you.
A - That's it. Organic avocados. Organic Brazil nuts. A few of the basic requirements. A lot of the stuff I carry around actually. At the beginning of the tour I'll buy a big box and stock myself up with the things I need.
Q - Cy, The Fixx was recording for M.C.A. Records. Your tenth and latest CD, "Beautiful Friction" has been released on Kirtland Records. Is that a subsidiary of M.C.A.?
A - No. It's a subsidiary of SONY.
Q - How long have you been with Kirtland?
A - They signed us on to this project. They came onboard after we recorded this record on our own steam, for our own passion and for our own reason. We felt inspired. Maybe five years ago I went up Everest with Mike Peters from the Love Hope Strength charity. That inspires me on a lot of things. We'd been playing 'live' and then we just got sick of not having any new material to play. So we got together regularly every month for three or four days and we would play, jam and write songs. And then when we would meet up the next three weeks, the songs from the last period, the ones that would survive, we would work on more. The ones that weren't really working, we would just let go. We wouldn't keep hacking away and try to make a silk purse out of a pig's ear, which in the past is something we tended to not always do. If you invest a lot of time in something, naturally you're going to become quite precious for it. And time, as you become older, becomes a relative commodity. When you're young, you waste it. When you're old, you don't have enough of it. So, in between the two, our songwriting changed because of that I think. We wanted to really explore stuff that is spawned from having children and being in a world where negativity and fear sells the machine and propels it on and on and on. Yet in the natural law of the universe where there's fear, there has to be hope. It's cause and effect. You can't have one without the other. Unfortunately the media just focuses on one. So we have this one-wing bird flopping around like a shot pigeon and that's our culture. I'm just trying to put another wing on the other side of the bird so it can fly to a destination.
Q - How is SONY promoting your CD? Certainly radio is not what it used to be.
A - Yeah. It's a broad concept. It's a multi-pronged concept. They do have a promotions guy. Our manager is the ex-head of promotions for Epic Records. He's very conscious of the shift in radio. He has a very acute view of radio. First of all, our market is not sixteen year olds. So, we're not going to waste money initially trying to turn sixteen year olds. The sixteen year olds that are finding us are into '80s music or their parents told them we're cool. That's fine, but we're not going to spend dollars trying to convince them otherwise. We go off to what's called Hot AC and Triple A, which is an age specific format for people that were in college when we were big the first time 'round. We've got all the ads on that. We've got some rotation. The issues there are they don't tend to say who it is when they've played it. The gel time for singles is months, not weeks. It used to be weeks, but if you look at some songs it can take a year and a half of being on the internet before it gels on radio. That's how long it takes. So you have to be patient so the record company has that patience. Now we're looking at approaching Alternative Radio 'cause they broke us in the beginning. Then there was a time when Alternative wouldn't play anything other than youth driven material. But now they're realizing that there are some Godfathers of Alternative. They're talking about adding The Fixx. I wouldn't say all Alternatives across the board will go for it, but if a radio station wants to play our song, no matter what the format is, they're gonna want that. The internet radio stations are playing us. Good rotations is starting to drive people to Amazon and i-Tunes. I hate i-Tunes because of the quality of the sound. We've then had Jolyn (Matsumuro) who's been getting us some good press, Washington Post, some good high-end reviews here and there. We did Jimmy Kimmel. We now have a story to tell. We have this kind of little basket where we can put these links and show people what we've garnered over the last couple of months. Now, they're just kicking in with a social media company, which is kind of a publicity company that specialize in Twitter, Facebook and getting the word out there. The trick is, you have to have something to take people to. You have to have a history of links, which we now do. That's what the tour was about. People can say "Oh, look at what I missed." But I've got a few clips they can look at, so that's a broad thing and then we just have to find our fans who just dropped off the radar, that don't necessarily listen to music or think the last Fixx record was "Phantoms". When they stop thinking about us, the band stops existing. How do we find them? We're more likely to find them in Family Circus magazine or Reader's Digest than we are in Rolling Stone. So you have to go far and wide to find out where somebody you need to reach is today.
Q - In 2002 The Fixx released a CD called "When Pigs Fly" and that was made up of songs from the '60s through the '90s. Where'd you get the idea to release a CD like that?
A - It wasn't us that released it. We were just one of the acts on it. You'd see pigs fly before you'd see an artist singing that song. So this guy started with Peter Noone singing "White Wedding". He had Annie Di Franco and Jackie Chan singing "Unforgettable". Then he had Don Ho singing the Peter Gabriel song "Shock The Monkey". Then he came to us and said "Would The Fixx do "Boots Are Made For Walking"? Man, I hate that song! What we did is, we took a song that we didn't actually hate, it had a little bit of character, but we decided to make it a really slow, Gothic, dark track. It's become a Gothic favorite. I went past a tattoo parlor in Portland, Oregon and all the kids were in there with their noses being pierced and that one was coming out and I was laughing. It was just one of those weird little side projects that we managed to make look cool for us.
Q - Did that CD sell well?
A - Yeah, it did. We sold quite a few versions of our song. One of the pluses of that is we got the right to exploit our recording of that song.
Q - Are you the only original member in The Fixx today?
A - We're all original members.
Q - How often do you hear that?
A - Yeah, well, for us it's important because it's brotherhood for us. And Danny, the bass player did leave in '91 due to ill health. Then he laid low for awhile and joined us for this record, so now he's back in the fold. He joined us for the first writing sessions in 2007. We're all original now.
Q - When you signed with M.C.A., your name was The Fix, with just one x. M.C.A. thought that was a connection to the drug term, fix. They said you had to change that and use a double x. When you started the band, did you make that connection between fix and drugs?
A - No. No way. We were sitting in a manager's office, trying to come up with a name. And the manager was saying "What's a name? It's got to show your direction, what you fix your sites on, what your point of view is." So, we all put names we thought of in a hat and we picked it. One of the guys in the band had wrote Fix. That phrase, once you fix your sites on, and there it came, The Fix. We went, "oh, that works." We all went "yeah, that will do." And we set about becoming The Fix. and then it was only the record company that could sound like you got needles in the back of your car. "Do you mind putting another "x"? "It sounds like Fix with one x and it still sounds like Fixx with two x's, so go ahead."
Q - When you had that big hit, "One Thing Leads To Another", how did life change for The Fixx? Did you tour?
A - Yeah. We were on tour with The Police doing stadium tours for three months. We played for a million and a half people in three months. Our personal lives fell apart, but our business career took off. For me, my life changed because the things I used to write about, my environment had changed. The next album after, "Reach The Beach", went Platinum and it was titled because when I went back to look at my old haunts, I felt like a ghost in my old life. The album was written from that viewpoint. I'm not crying about it. We were all very happy. There was a lot of pluses to it. But in life, we quickly learned that when you go through the looking glass, with success comes a kind of responsibility and also decisions because you can either say no to the eighteen month tour and not support the career, or you could say yes. Well, is your wife going to be waiting for you eighteen months later? Is she gonna want to come on the road? The answer is no. (laughs)
Q - Did your wife understand what a musician's life was all about? Did she understand that you had to travel to promote whatever product you put out?
A - She was twenty-two. We didn't understand. How do you understand something you don't know?
Q - That's right. You could've been a failure too.
A - Exactly. She would've left me a couple years later for being a miserable guy around her feet.
Q - You weren't ripped off along the way by any managers, agents or record companies, were you?
A - No, not really. The I.R.S. leaned pretty heavily on us because we earned a lot of money in one year, rather than spreading it out. Had we been smarter, we would've spread it out. It's feast or famine. Your money comes to you in clumps. So the money you paid in tax last year doesn't help you the next year.
Q - Where are you performing to promote "Beautiful Friction"?
A - Anywhere and everywhere. Anywhere we can. We do a lot of big city festivals and summer series outdoors, large concert shows. We do theatres, we do clubs. We just closed the tour the other day in Los Angeles at a place called The Canyon Club. We had 2,500 people turn up there. Now we're off to Germany for a tour of three weeks. People still keep coming. That's one good thing, that the music is still alive and those people that want to come out can.
Q - You also tour with a guy name of Nick Harper?
A - Yeah. I go out with Nick occasionally. We have a duo called Cynic. I might go out alone with my acoustic guitar. For me it's a great place to start writing songs. I like to put pressure on myself, get a good idea. I sit around at home. It'll take me weeks to write a song. If I know I got a gig at the end of the week, I've got to finish it in a day or two. It pushes my button. It gets my nervousness up and gets me feeling excited. So, it's a leap of faith and the next word will come out of me. I just enjoy the idea of renting a car, throwing an acoustic (guitar) in the back and driving and turning up.
Q - Do they advertise you as the lead singer of The Fixx?
A - Yeah, they do. I don't mind that because it's gonna bring more people in. It's a smaller world, but I enjoy it. It's a good counter to The Fixx.
Q - Do you get hecklers and drunks?
A - No. I tend to play in good little clubs and nice little listening rooms. Quite often you get some home shows. You get dedicated fans who will get a group of people together in their homes, fifty, sixty, one hundred people. They'll all pay a small admission and they invite me into their home and I'll give them a show in their living room. I get to meet my fans in a closer realm. It works out great. I don't even have a P.A. It's like having a Gypsy singing in your front room.
Q - This happens in Europe or the United States?
A - It happens in the United States. I've done quite a few here.
Q - And you make your home in France?
A - Yeah, my home is still in France. I'm kind of all over the place, but my main bass is with my wife and child, living on the farm, and then we're looking to move to California next year (2013) as well. My wife has another business venture she's starting up.