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Quirky, intelligent new wave pop was Fischer-Z’s trademark in 1979, along with frontman John Watts’s almost castrato vocals, but they were denied the hits they deserved in the UK. Watts has continued Fischer-Z over the decades, and now returns with his, or their strongest record of late, and album clearly inspired at times by current events. The years are hardly present (save for an effective new vocal huskiness) as the songs range from the blasting Damascus Disco to the moving finale Row Boys Row. Melody, always a Watts speciality, is present throughout, but guitars chime and thunder like an angry mid-60s Stones, and Building Bridges is a mixture of the loudly personal and the intimately current.
With “Building Bridges”, Fischer-Z will launch the 20th album of their band career on March 31st. The 19 predecessors were either published under the famous name Fischer-Z (but also once under The Cry) or solo by John Watts (also under Watts or JM Watts). Already the title “Building Bridges” is a clear statement in times of the building of the Wall. It is necessary to help people live their lives, not to crush them or to move them into the hereafter. On the new record, love and peace are the focus – not hate and war. Already in the album opener “Damascus Disco”, at the same time the first single-Auskopplung, the singer speaks clear words: “Unlucky people loose their heads / Little children bombed out of beds”. And he says, “If we build bridges with love / Hey hey … It might be enough”. The new songs have become highly political. For example, “Easy Money” is a bitter and at the same time comical billing with banks and brokers. The rowdy “Row Boys Row”, on the other hand, depicts the daily flight of many people across the sea, with lines like “They are left no options but fight or flight”. Watts is going to do that at the latest in “Let’s Put The Pressure On” to a more just world and changes that should be addressed without the policy. Fischer-Z will celebrate the 40th year of its existence in 2017. Although a first single was released in 1978 and is variously called 1976 as a founding year, the band officially started in 1977. In addition to some release parties, the group will also present their new work live in Europe in April and May. Later, there will be festivals and a larger tour in autumn. The current album was recorded in the spring and summer of 2016 in the “Leeder’s Vale” studios in Wales, co-directed by Nick Brine.
“If we build bridges with love / It might be enough”: Fischer-Z um John Watts prefer to build bridges as walls on their new album Building Bridges. Fischer-Z are not least known for their political texts. In times of wall builders Trump and Brexit, there is of course plenty to do for the British alternative rocker. Building Bridges is about “building bridges, not tearing them down,” says the press release of the upcoming Fischer-Z panel. And, “We should love and peace in the foreground and not hate and war.” “Watts in the new song> Damascus Disco.” “If we build bridges with love / Hey hey … It might be enough.” BUILDING BRIDGES, which will be released on March 31, is the successor to This Is My Universe of 2015 and comes out 40 years after the official founding of Fischer-Z. Watts has largely incorporated all the instruments, except drums, in the “Leeders Vale’ studios in Wales.
John Watts’ 40-year career as Fischer-Z includes 20 albums and over 3000 concerts worldwide with success spanning continental Europe and album sales in excess of two million. Peter Gabriel, Steve Cropper and Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Brass Section have all contributed to recordings. Fischer-Z have performed to crowds of 167,000 alongside James Brown in East Berlin, toured with both The Police and Dire Straits, appeared with Bob Marley on his final European festival tour and have toured in both the USA and Canada. In recent years Watts has developed a reputation as a multimedia artist, poet and playwright, amassing an impressive and eclectic range of creative work characterised by verve, warmth and humanity.
Fischer-Z developed in punk clubs while Watts was still studying clinical psychology and working in mental institutions. The first Fischer-Z album Word Salad was released in 1979 on United Artist Records, alongside The Buzzcocks and The Stranglers. Word Salad was a cult record in the UK (John Peel supported the single Remember Russia ) There were several appearances on The Old Grey Whistle Test and a first Top of the Pops appearance with the successful European single The Worker – the story of Watts’ father’s daily commute to London. The second album, Going Deaf For a Living, firmly established his Watts’ ability to convey worldly political issues in narrative songs against a background of quirky pop music (comparisons were made with both Talking Heads and Ian Dury). The So Long single (1980) was featured heavily on the fledgeling MTV channel.
Fischer-Z’s European success was cemented with Red Skies Over Paradise (1981), The album included songs that resonated with audiences right across 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 disbanded the original Fischer-Z line-up in the summer of 1981, feeling 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) spawned the singles One Voice and unique 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 1980s, Watts was deeply influenced by the political events unfolding as Thatcher tried to beat down the trade unions in Britain. His 1985 song Dark Crowds of Englishmen 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 successes including singles 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).The Destination Paradise album (1991) was made at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios.The song Further From Love and the title track, highlighted civilian suffering in times 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. He returned to his solo career with Thirteen Stories High (1997), one of his most admired indie guitar-style albums. Many songs 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 multimedia projects began with Ether Music & Film (2002) recorded internationally, with musicians in the streets and in their own homes using only his laptop. The entire project was filmed and released as an album and a DVD.
Real Life Is Good Enough (2005) was a noisy two-piece, electric guitar and drums album made with Sam Walker .It was compared with The Black Keys early albums. The sister album, It Has To Be (2006), consisted of tunes drawn from his interaction with strangers encountered in ten different European countries who shared some of their life experiences. He wrote a song for each of them. The album package included poems and short stories written by Watts. The Morethanmusic album (2010) added a kaleidoscope of orchestral and filmic colour to Watts’ work and included the single Head On, inspired by his observation of a seven-year-old child watching the live execution of Saddam Hussein on a mobile phone. Watts made a film to accompany each track on the Morethanmusic album.
The This is My Universe album, released in 2016 included the track Martha Thargill where Watts revisits the miners’ strike 30 years on. The title track This is My Universe brings together his music, poetry and philosophy of life to great dynamic effect. He casts a dark and rueful eye over love and marriage in the pop single Just-a-Man and creates a manifesto for the proactive and genuine romantic in Just Like Justice. His recurring political themes appear once again in the songs Tale of Bales and Winston.
Next year is a milestone in the Fischer-Z journey; the 40th anniversary of the band’s first show, the release of a 20th studio album and the pulling together of Fischer-Z in a continuous timeline from 1977-2017. ‘Building Bridges’ is the provisional title of the new work containing songs about the major challenges of our time; to build bridges over religious divides, between political left and right, between rich and poor and the conflicting attitudes toward global migration.