MAXAZINE / FISCHER-Z NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN / NORMAN VAN DEN WILDENBERG
When a band, whose last hit in The Netherlands was in 1981, you might not hold out hope for selling out any venue. Enter, the exception to that thought – Fischer Z! The band’s frontman John Watts still draws a full house, with a handful of hits from 1979, 1980 and 1981. If further proof was needed, it turned out Friday night sold-out at the Effenaar (Eindhoven).
Fischer Z became known in 1979, with the international hit ‘The Worker’. Then releasing the album ‘Word Salad’ was a hit, even being re-released in 1997 under the title ‘The Worker’ and again in 2005 as ‘Fischer-Z’. Despite, the band called it quits in 1981. The opener ‘World-Go-Round’ , it immediately became clear that Watts would not simply rejoice the Effenaar hall with hits and some old work, but also his latest album’ This Is My Universe’. Rightly so, as the last album by John Watts, who for several years, performs as Fischer-Z, is once again full of tracks that do not look out of place with the hits from the 80’s. Songs like ‘Just-A-Man’, ‘Just Like Justice’, and ‘Is The Love’ were well received as warmly as the big hits ‘The Worker’, ‘So Long’ and set ending ‘Marliese’.
NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN
Fischer-Z is not to be forgotten, it should appear obvious the fact Watts – with his typical appearance – has passed the test of time. Consider 35 years later, Fischer-Z is still hot. Watts, a month after Pinkpop in 1981 (where they performed with UB40, Madness and U2) disbanded the band, made Fischer-Z perhaps even more legendary. It will hopefully not be long before the band comes back to the Netherlands with the hope of those larger sold out venues, much deserved! Those smaller venues should remain in their rear-view mirror!
Click here for the Maxazine Online Review (English + Dutch)
SPIEGLE / JOHN WATTS AND FISCHER-Z: BIG IN GERMANY / CHRISTOPH DALLACH
The Briton John Watts was famous at the beginning of the eighties with his band Fischer-Z, particularly in Germany. His solo career was not as successful. Now he walks with his new album again on tour. “Apparently in Germany quite famous” standing times under a concert announcement the band Fischer-Z in London’s city magazine “Time Out”. This should be noted that Fischer-Z in her native England are virtually unknown, but were for world famous in Germany for a short time. And if the band around singer and songwriter John Watts, 61, in the next few weeks returns on German stages, they stocked clubs and halls are accurate. Men in their fifties are then happy oldies like “Marliese”, “Pretty paracetamol”, “Berlin”, “The Worker”, “Room Service” or “Red Skies Over Paradise”, hold on to their beer and revel in the past.
This past lasted pretty much from 1979 to 1981, those three years in which Fischer-Z attended in Germany furore. New Wave called their genre at that time, art-pop would also fit. John Watts, who studied clinical psychology times, toothed sophisticated rock songs with reggae and pop. There were also ambitious lyrics about drugs and politics, presented by Watts in the distinctive falsetto. At that time seemed Fischer-Z at par with bands like The Cure or XTC, at least from the German perspective. Also in Portugal, Holland, Belgium and even Australia scored the band from Brighton. Why do they never played a role in England, to say nothing of the United States throughout, is hard to say. But that success in the pop is not predictable, the career of John Watts is already a prime example. then the then still-powerful British music press ( “NME”, “Melody Maker”, “Sounds”) barely noticed by Fischer-Z, on the radio their songs were spluttering. The single “The Worker” from the first album “Word Salad” came as no rank 53 out in the British charts.
In Germany, Fischer-Z enjoyed at the latest with the album “Red Skies Over Paradise” (1981) a large audience. The plate with hits like “Marliese” succeeded here even in the top ten. Large halls they filled then with a snap of the fingers. It would have been interesting to see where it would still have the band can bring, but at the height of their careers moved John Watts the plug. He dissolved Fischer-Z and launched a solo career. However, Fischer-Z audience went mostly lost the solo artist Watts.What was puzzling and again, for his solo albums, at least in 1982 published “One More Twist” and “The Iceberg Model” from 1983 were interesting and not far away from the sound of his old band. But perhaps the Karrieresinkflug was also a lesson on the weightiness of names.Lange is difficult Watts did concerts with playing the hits from his past, while it was not easy for his audience to be satisfied with the new songs.
In recent years, Watts had all kinds come to bring his music to the people. New albums he sold ever beyond all record companies exclusively at concerts, and individual bonus songs were, as desired, be ordered individually online at him. Meanwhile, he then arranged ultimately still with the past glory, to which it was again and again reduced, and now occurs for some time again under the name Fischer-Z on. The now published album “This Is My Universe” is fans already known, as it was offered at concerts for some time. It is a charming late work of an experienced, very ironic song-narrator. In addition to new songs Watts leads to the supplemented with live DVD album on a handful of old Fischer-Z evergreens in new sound design. Currently Watts is with his band on tour, also in Germany stand at concerts. The operator of a club once said: If John Watts comes as John Watts, the store is half full. If Watts but comes as Fischer-Z, a full house is safe. This is true at least in Germany.
Click here for the Spiegel Online German article
THIS IS MY UNIVERSE ALBUM REVIEWS
Dreamoutloudmagazin.de – 10.06.15
John Watts is calling this year the “The Resurgence of Fischer-Z” and combines this step with the release of his new studio album with the emblematic album entitled “This Is My Universe”. Then he proves once again not only as a brilliant, highly intelligent lyricist, but as always, as a political analyst and commentator. The song “Winston” documented his view of the London riots of 2011. “Martha Thargill” illuminates the individual fate during the English miners’ strike of the 1980s (keyword “Thatcherism”). And “Tale of Bales” which is inspired by the rampage of a US GI unit in Afghanistan 2012. Another major theme of his songs are the interpersonal relationships. In the single and guitar pop song “Just A Man” he creates a dark and rueful look at love and marriage. “Just Like Justice” is a manifesto for the pro-active, true romantics, and “Unshakeable Bluesky” turns out to be a true declaration of love. The playful sing-along anthem “Lorelei” is a tribute to the dance of life, while the delicate titled “Is the Love” was created in memory of the deceased father. Two other highlights are the melancholic ballad “World-Go-Round” with more or less existential questions (“Can music change the world?”) And the spoken in a monotone statement of bold theme song “This Is My Universe” that culminates in real guitar cascades.
Click here for the Dreamoutloudmagazin.de German Review
BetreutesProggen.de – 10.07.15
In the opening track ‘Winston’, Watts commentates on the London Riots in 2001. Martha Thargill talks about the fateful miners strikes of the 1980s (incidentally, beautifully accompanied by a horn section) Tales Of Bales whose melody sounds so harmless, is in fact, the story of Sgt. Robert Bales who went on a killing spree in Afghanistan. However, John Watts still takes time and space for love and relationships with the catchy chorus in, Lorelei and my personal favorite Unshakeable Bluesky. The highlight of the album is definitely the “something special” theme song, This Is My Universe. In three verses John Watts explains in poetic words his personal universe, accompanied rhythmically by a metronome. “Travelling at speed around the world is what i need. In this flow is where I go for inspiration” Synth and drums sneak up over time in the monotonous background, and then, after about two minutes, there is suddenly the wild tuning of all instruments back in – the old Fischer-Z with all its energy concentrated. The perfect finale then sets the pensive ballad, World Go Round ‘with the essential questions of life: “Can music change the world? What makes your heart beat fast? What gets under your skin? ” And seemingly quite incidentally, the most active creative Briton has also been established as an artist with drawings and poetry collections.
Review by Maria Ortner - Click here for the BetreutesProggen German Review
Metalglory.de – 15.05.15
After 37 years, John Watts, mastermind of the legendary Fischer Z, can now look back. With part highly intelligent lyrics and mix of rock, synthpop and New Wave Fischer Z were always something special within the music scene and were able to record albums like “Going Deaf For A Living” and “Red Skies Over Paradise” to international success. The new album presents a John Watts again in top form. Again, there are lyrics which address themes affect more or less all of us. Songs about the riots in London in 2011, sitting down with the miners’ strike in 1980 and the relationships made. This is no common Wischiwaschi, there are lyrics with depth and claim. In terms of the music there are many different elements and styles, however the main focus of the album is still rock. John Watts may not have reinvented, but is still something to talk about, forgetting the music as a vehicle not. Anyone who is lucky enough to attend one of his concerts, will understand what I am writing here. For Alternative fans the acquisition is already mandatory. For all other good friends who demand good music, the album should be tested. Conclusion: Impressive.
Review by Christoph – Click here for the Metalglory German Review
Musikansich.de – 10.04.15
This is my Universe is a mature, well produced album with rock, folk-rock and a little new wave. Most of the pieces are very modern produced folk rock songs with very good lyrics but with a few rough edges. There is an interesting mix of rap / electronic and rock in the title track “This Is My Universe” and the magnificent slow rockers song “Martha Thargill”. And if you listen very closely you can see many pieces actually bring back ingredients of the early phase of the band, in some guitar licks, drums, bass playing, and most of all to the Watts song writing.
Click here for the Musikansich German Review
– May 31 2014, in ‘Via Brighton’.
MYbrighton: John Watts
Singer, poet, café crawler
How long have you lived in Brighton? I moved here in 1979. I got a record deal [with Fischer-Z] and I could suddenly afford to buy a house, wherever in the country I wanted. It was between Bristol and Oxford and Brighton, and I chose Brighton because of the sea, which I jump into a lot, from May to November. When I’m here, that is. I tend to tour, six months of the year.
Have you stayed in the same house? If I had it’d be worth a lot more than where I’m living in now. I’ve lived in six different houses, all over the city.
What do you like about the place? So many things. I love the light. It’s a painters’ light, like it is in the South of France, which attracted all the impressionists. Especially at midday, on a sunny winter’s day. I like the mix of people here, it’s a nice crossover between showmen and crooks, artists and the perennially unemployed. Brighton attracts mavericks and eccentrics, and absorbs them. You notice fewer and fewer eccentrics elsewhere, nowadays, even in show business.
Anything else? It’s a bit of a cliché calling it London-on-Sea, but it is. I can get into the centre of London quicker than a lot of Londoners. Oh, and I’ve brought up five kids in Brighton and I can vouch for the fact that it’s a great place to do that.
Where do you hang out? All over the place. I have a small flat near Palmeira Square but I don’t want to work off my kitchen table so I swan around the cafés, instead. The Small Batch in Wilbury Road is a favourite. Also Taylor Street. I’ve always worked like this and I used to be the only one round here doing it. It’d be me and three waitresses. Now it’s getting hard to get a table for breakfast at 11am.
Can you recommend somewhere to eat out? It depends on the occasion. I eat about half my meals out – my family are always complaining that I spend my money fast and that’s why – and there’s a good choice. For an Indian, the Chilli Pickle. For family meals – with all my kids and associated guests this can get expensive – Donatello’s.
Landmark of choice? Adelaide Crescent. If I feel stressed I just need to take a walk there and I immediately feel calmer. There’s something beautiful about turning square bricks into a round curve.
What pisses you off about Brighton? Obsessional political correctness can be humourless. It’s a matter of context. As long as no one’s being offended, I believe it would be a better place if everyone was able to express themselves a little more freely.
What do you think of the improvements they’re making to London Road? It’s high time. I’ve lived round there and used to go to the market a lot and that great fish and chip shop but London Road itself has always seemed a very dark place to me. It feels like the edge of Croydon.
What’s it like performing in Brighton? I usually avoid doing so. Lots of friends want to come and be on a guest list, but you can’t let everyone in free. I’ve long been friends with the Stomp folks and this is in their beautiful theatre, so I’m making an exception and doing the full show here. I’ve been touring World Go Round using local musicians at every gig, but in Brighton I’m using my own band, so I’m really looking forward to it.
Interview by Alex Leith, portrait by Adan Bronkhorst
John was scheduled to perform his play The Last Picasso, as well as a set of Fischer-Z songs, at The Old Market this month.
It’s been postponed; see theoldmarket.com for updates
– full page spread in Dutch newspaper ‘Het Parool’, by Peter van Brummelen, 25 September 2013:
John Watts Singer of Fischer-Z is in Amsterdam with the multimedia performance ‘The Last Picasso’
‘I’ve got so much more to say’
In the late seventies he was the singer of the new-wave band Fischer -Z .
Tomorrow John Watts (58) performs at De Kleine Komedie. With music ánd a radio play.
A few weeks ago he had to perform at the Fringe festival in Edinburgh. One time during the day he sang some songs on the street, right next to a record store. As soon as he’d opened his mouth, he had the attention of a small group of Dutch tourists. “After a few songs one of them approached me: ‘Sir, your voice sound so familiar, is it possible that we have heard you somewhere before?’ And when I started to play The worker they said, ‘But you’re John Watts!’ ”
It often happens to Watts that people recognize him by his voice alone. A voice that has hardly changed since the late seventies, early eighties, when he was the lead singer of the band Fischer -Z. In his appearance you can see that he is now 58 years old, but when he sings he sounds almost like he did back in the days: sharp, high, energetic. How do you keep a voice like that in good shape? “Simple: by not smoking and leaving spirits alone. I only drink red wine.”
New Wave, a reggae rhythm here and there, political lyrics. That was what Fischer-Z stood for. Back home in England, the band never got past cult status, but in continental Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, the band was really big. Some hits of that time: The Worker, So Long, Marliese. “It went very quickly. In one year we were playing in large halls. On my 26th I had sold two million records. In England almost no one knew who we were. Because of that strange name Fischer -Z they thought we were Germans.”
In 1981 Watts quit the band Fischer -Z (whose name was incidentally derived from a term from statistics) and began a solo career. “I was quite erratic during that time. I didn’t occupy myself with something like a career. Ideals came before earning top money . The record company promised me a fortune if I’d continue in the band, but I said no. I did not want to make the kind of records that they expected from me. Now that I’m older and wiser, I think I should have taken that money. And then simply still do the kind of record that wanted to make. That record company was part of a multinational, so I wouldn’t have had to feel guilty about anything.”
Reminiscing: “I could have had my own house, and to never have financial worries.” Is he off so much worse, in that respect? “It’s not exactly a money tree, but the important thing is : I can do exactly what I want. And if it does go wrong: I have five grown children. I could always sleep with someone in the garage, of course.” He laughs out loud when he says it.
When he ended Fischer -Z it also had to do with what he calls the limitations of rock music. “Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely do not look down on rock, and I will never claim that I now make high art, but at the time, however, I felt limited in my possibilities. It was: “Oh, you’re John Watts of Fischer-Z, the guy who always sings about cruise missiles.” But I had so much more to say. And in so many different ways.”
John Watts has been making music since (and later even adapting the moniker Fischer-Z again), but he also draws and paints. He photographs, he published a collection of poems and he does theater. For his performance tomorrow in De Kleine Komedie, before the break there’s the multimedia performance The last Picasso. “It’s a play in the form of a radio play. I’m the only actor on the stage, the other characters you only see on video.”
And it’s about Picasso? “Yes, but also about myself and about death. From a very early age I was fascinated by Picasso. On my boys room I had two pictures on my wall: one of the football player George Best, and Picasso. A great artist, but not a very pleasant man. That part I’m trying to make up for in The last Picasso. He returns to earth and visits a writer, who has cancer, on his deathbed. I play that writer.”
He sighs deeply, swallows once. “The irony is that my father has cancer and is dying. During this tour I go back to England every two or three days, because it can be over just like that. How weird is that: I’m playing a man who is dying of cancer, while my own father, to whom I carry a big resemblance, is going through the same thing.”
The music he plays after the break is done with local musicians.. “This is the way I do it everywhere during this tour. I send them the music we play in advance: six new songs and six old songs, Fischer-Z classics, but they are allowed to give it a unique twist. Here in Amsterdam I have the time to rehearse with them, but usually it happens that I just meet the musicians a few hours in advance.”
And that always turns out well? “There are some nights that are truly magical. You don’t always get to this level, but it never goes wrong. The best part is the variety. In Wales, I was on stage with 17-year-old punks, but in Paris I played with Moroccan musicians with instruments that I do not even know the names of.”
“Amsterdam is going to be something special. Amongst the regular instruments we have a tuba and saxophone, but it also includes a mandoloncello and a musical saw.”
John Watts, De Kleine Komedie,
tomorrow, starting at 20.15.
– great sarcastic review of the renegade small solo gig that I did behind the bar of the Amsterdam bar called De Nieuwe Anita.
published in the online version of Dutch weekly ‘HP/De Tijd’, by Klaas Knooihuizen, 25 September 2013:
Decay, and how it can be: Gang of Four vs. Fischer-Z
If I could put together a top three of tremendously good concerts’, ‘kind-of-okay concerts’ and ‘ extremely bad’ concerts – which I can – then ‘extremely bad’ concerts are at least on #two and probably even at #one. Faded glory is thereby favourite. When talking about food or sex is not the case. I prefer a solid seven to a plate of spoiled black truffles or a night with a girl who I will not mention the name of because I’m basically a good person. When talking about concerts that’s apparently different. Then decay, if not beautiful, is at least interesting.
Last week Gang of Four played on the Incubate festival in Tilburg. Gang of Four is a nonchalant depressive British new-wave band from around 1980 whose influence should not be underestimated, amongst the affected are REM , Red Hot Chili Peppers , Nirvana and Franz Ferdinand. The period leading up to this gig was quite ‘a thing’.
It was a travesty. First they started five minutes late, which is not so convenient on a festival, because the rest of the program continues uninterrupted. Of the original line-up, only the guitarist was there. The only thing worth mentioning is that the frontman beat the shit out of a microwaveoven. (Which I applaud. There will come a day that one discovers that microwaves cause all kinds of terrible diseases. A microwave reheated food has the peculiar property to be unnaturally hot, a lot hotter than if you heat it in a pan. Then cools rapidly, so that you burn your mouth with the first bite and with the second the whole thing can extinguish. That may be no clear evidence for the fact that you get scary diseases, but that the best thing you can do with a microwave is to beat it to a pulp on stage, seems clear to me . )
What I wrote in the previous paragraph , except that piece within brackets, I took from other reviews, because I was not at the gig myself and I regretted it. Fortunately the next let-down was already announced. Because yesterday John Watts of Fischer – Z played for a paltry two euros in a bar in Amsterdam. Fischer- Z has certainly been a lot less influential than Gang of Four, but they were just as popular. They scored several European top 10 hits, of which two are still in the Top 2000. Not that that is an indicator for anything, but still.
Union Jack motif
John Watts is 58 , but you would not be suspicious when he would ask for a senior’s discount . He doesn’t quite have the look of someone you spontaneously helps to cross the street just yet, but that may not be long. His old men hat fits perfectly with his apparent age, like his thrift jacket. He wears shoes with Union Jack motif that either indicates a certain youthfulness, or might just as well be the first sign of Alzheimer’s.
His jet-black eyebrows hang like two slugs resting over his sparkling joyful eyes, when he says that it is a strange evening because his father is dying. Then he plays a dozen songs, pure and loving, as a tribute to the man he once was. His voice no longer comes across as powerful as thirty-three years ago, but this is largely offset by his enthusiasm . The rest we’ll just add ourselves in our imagination.
It was not the embarrassment I was hoping for and what I had come to see at first, but I can’t do anything else but admit that I enjoyed it.
Now that I think of it, I actually like tremendously good concerts still better than extremely bad ones.
– Audience review of the Edinburgh Fringe version of ‘The Last Picasso’
by Georgia Christou on BroadwayBaby.com, 08 August 2013:
loved this show. never seen anything like it – part play, part gig, part musical, part storytelling, part radio play… try it for something genuinely original.
– Morgenpost Hamburg, 23 February 2012
“With ‘The Last Picasso’, John Watts has created nothing less than a completely new genre. A miscellaneous mixture of a musical play, rock concert and a multimedia performance. As a storyteller as well as a musician, a film author and a picture composer, he managed to bring an incredible, ironic, intelligent story on stage which is not a biography of Picasso’s life, but rather deals with various shapes of perception. In a somnambulistic way, John Watts lets his figures walk on a thin line between poetic afflatus and the verge of mental insanity. This entertainment of the grandest kind is a show you definitely can’t afford to miss.”
– The Patronaat review Haarlem NL, 20 February 2012
“’The last Picasso’ is a musical black comedy staged as an interaction between actor & screen projection with live musical performance. Two men meet beyond the realms of reality, in a quest to put right their pasts in a spectacular way.”