How the Fixx Connected ‘Universal Truths’ With New Album
The Fixx's Shuttered Room was a slow burn to success. The 1982 album included songs like “Stand or Fall” and “Red Skies,” which are now fan favorites and staples of the band’s live set. But MCA Records, the group’s label at the time, didn’t quite know what to make of their latest signing.
The band refused to get lost in the shuffle. Now more than four decades removed from those initial steps, they’re still turning out some of the most intriguing sonic sounds put to record.
Every Five Seconds, the Fixx's 11th album, continues that path. It also deepens their connection with Stephen W. Tayler (Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins), who was elevated to producer after working with the band as an engineer on a series of LPs beginning with Shuttered Room.
The title of the new album, pulled from the lyrics of “Lonely as a Lighthouse,” is a direct acknowledgment that surviving within the 24-7 news cycle can be a challenge. “There's a kind of panic to being alive today,” Fixx singer Cy Curnin tells UCR. “Stepping [from] mindfulness to mindlessness is like flickering – the flame keeps dying if you shut the oxygen off, and it keeps reigniting when you put it back on.” But he's also one to find a positive path forward. "We should be creating love from the pain we feel," Curnin adds.
Curnin discussed the Fixx's latest record and other topics in advance of their current tour, which mixes new songs with an array of classics.
Listen to 'Cold' by the Fixx
How much was this new album in process prior to the pandemic?
We were kind of well underway before the pandemic, but the final selection of songs – we had quite a lot more songs than we thought would end up on the record. So the pandemic gave us kind of a still period to play with running orders and which songs would work better than others. And, it's like there's a weird thing that no matter what group of songs you come out with, or running order, it always seems to tell you the tale of now. There's a kind of a weird prophetic, "Ah, the cards are speaking to me," you know? There's a, "Oh, this means that." I think the relevance of that is connecting to the universal truths. They're omnipresent; they're constant. So no matter what you lay out there, you can always get to home through the tea leaves. [We’re] a group of guys that when we have conversations together, we're pretty spirited when we talk. As the lyricist who tries to capture what we're about as a band, I end up coming up with these enigmatic themes, because we have quite diverse thinking in the band – which is good, but you have to hold everyone's views in one view, and not make your own be too adamant and caustic to win an argument. You have to sort of listen a lot, being in a band, and that's maybe why we’ve survived so long – because we're good listeners.
I love the way “Cold” and “Spell” segue together on this album. How connected were those songs from the beginning?
They were written, literally, in the same week and so there was a yearning. There was a kind of vulnerability of the breakdown aspect and the cold nature of honesty when you get to a point in a relationship where it's like, there's no way out but with pure, sharp, painful honesty. Then right after that, the magic of the rebuild and the reforming starts to – the identity is looking for a new way, a new way of being. There's a relief after the breakdown, which is when you've been cold and then suddenly you're out there casting spells again, literally, and trying to remember to forget the past because it can really screw up your moment if you're constantly carrying around the pain of the past. Then you just need to fulfill yourself with just the now. So between those two songs, it covers an emotional battle to some kind of redemption, I think.
Watch the Video for 'One Thing Leads to Another'
I read a 1983 interview from Melody Maker and a quote from Adam Woods where he noted that MCA hadn’t really figured out how to market the band. How much of a period was there where you thought that perhaps the chance of success was doomed?
The first thing I remember was that we had Shuttered Room out and there was – alternative radio was starting to blossom in the East Coast, early college radio. So suddenly, "Stand or Fall," "Lost Planes," and "Red Skies" from that album were doing well there. Then MTV blossomed, and then we had some – I can remember, we were fighting with the record company to try and get a 5,000-pound budget to make a video. You know, the budget for our first video ended up being the lunch bill for the last video. [Laughs.] During that 10-year period, you could see the record company waking up to [the idea that] if they throw enough money at this stuff, things will happen. But what really happened was MCA England were – you know, it was a different record company to MCA America. Luckily, the guy who signed us in England was smart enough to see that we had something different, but he wasn't savvy enough to see how to market it alongside this sort of New Romantic [sound]. He didn't quite see the shelf or the connect between alternative music and classic rock, or the instrumentation that would appeal to a wider market. Then when we came to the U.S., they had a completely different feel.
We had alternative radio, then you had rock radio that started playing the crap out of "Red Skies," and "Stand or Fall." They didn't touch "One Thing Leads to Another" or "Saved by Zero," but they kept playing the heavier stuff. Then "Deeper and Deeper" came along and then "Driven Out," and that kept us very much alive in rock radio. Meanwhile, we were having crossover hits in the pop world so we had many strings to our output. It was many outlets for it, and then MTV backing it up – everything was done to become more visual. So we had to play catch up with ourselves as to how to become a live act because it started to accelerate. The market in the U.S. became bigger and bigger and bigger for us, and in England, it kind of shriveled away because that initial way of marketing has never quite connected. So we ended up having to go back with like, "Hey, look at us, we've made a ton of sales. We had a huge success in America." The English press hated the fact that we'd gone on to America without their blessing. So that kind of stuck with us for a while, but we weren't complaining.
Watch Tina Turner's 'Better Be Good to Me' Video
The music videos that the band made were memorable. What was the most challenging one?
Well, actually it wasn't a video for us. It was the video that we did for Tina Turner. Jamie [West-Oram] and I had appeared on [Private Dancer], Jamie had played guitar and I was singing. We were asked to do "Better Be Good to Me" in L.A., and we were just due to fly off to Australia, like three days later. So it was a rush flight from London to L.A. to do this video, and then I stupidly decided to do my dancing around barefoot. After about 16 hours of "again, again, again," my feet had blistered up so much that they – I couldn't take another step. I went backstage, I saw a couple of the stagehands playing around with some of that '80s powder, shall we say? And they were like, "Hey, do you want some?" and I said, "Sure do," and I took some and just rubbed it on the soles of my feet. [Laughs.] So they were, like, aghast that I'm using their expensive Peruvian flake to rub on the blisters on my feet, but hey, it worked. It got me through another hour.
Working with Tina Turner must have been quite an experience.
Yeah, she's powerful – powerful and serene at the same time. You know, when someone has a huge life force in them, they don't really need to let it out all the time. They move around very gracefully and quietly, you know, soft-spoken and then all sudden in front of the mic, "Raaah!" The sound of the universe is roaring at you. She's taught me so much about mic technique and just posture – you know, how to stand. When we were singing backing vocals together, literally, she was at the back of the room and we were on the mic, and she was still louder than we were. She was a force and yeah, and she introduced me – I was just starting to become interested in Buddhist philosophy back then. She introduced me to a guy called Dr. Singer, who was an ayurvedic doctor who literally would scratch and sniff. That was his technique. That's how he healed you: He would scratch and sniff around your body and tell you what was wrong with your lymphatic system. and heal you through shock food diets and meditation techniques. I learned quite a few things from him through her. So I got some good memories of that.