John Foxx’ HSBC Money Laundering Evidence (interview)
“Follow the money. Seems certain to lead to a number of influential addresses, and not for the first time. I think this is just a snapshot of a continuity.”
With his latest studio partner Benge working under the name of ‘The Maths’ and their just released (via Metamatic) joint album called Evidence it seems fair to ask John Foxx some topical questions such as what he thinks about the recent corruption scandal involving HSBC bankers laundering billions for Mexican drug cartels.
“I guess the logic goes something like this,” he suggests. “Certain interests wish to maintain the illegality of drugs, in order to maintain their income stream from the sale of these items. To do this, they will bribe and corrupt at any effective political level. There’s a staggering amount of money involved.”
“Since income from the sale of illegal drugs now totals amounts equal to the gross national product of many medium-sized countries, this market has now become a significant political force,” he points out, “This kind of money is easily capable of bending any financial, legal or political system right out.”
Always an outsider, the Manchester native first made his name as the synth wizard in pioneering 70s electronic legends Ultravox, though quit just before the band became rock stars, to pursue a solo career and partial anonymity under the nom de guerre of the ‘quiet man’.
Four decades and 26 studio albums into his career, he remains as critically adored as he’s intentionally invisible, though the contradiction in being ‘John Foxx’ is something he’s more than conscious of.
In the press release accompanying Evidence, the publicist suggests ‘Foxx’s metallic, distorted voice sounds like an ego on the brink of madness’, going on to ask ‘is it the voice of money/a god/bankers/an evil corporation, or a fallen rock star still living in the past?’
So is he, as an electronic music legend who not so long ago commissioned remixes of his biggest solo hit Underpass (complete with videos of him from the 70s) a ‘fallen rock star still living in the past?
“Oh, I’m well used to crawling out of the wreckage,” he chuckles.
“Usually find yourself somewhere full of fried chicken shops and it’s cold – and it’s raining. No mac (raincoat) and one sock missing. Rumpled grey suit. You look around and think ” What a place to land a crippled ship.” Then “Wonder where I can get a drink?”
That he’s referencing his home-town of Manchester is more than apparent, comparing his last interview with Skrufff in 2012 when he summed up the city as ‘everyone stranded - and it rains’.
Going on to describe the notoriously rainy Northern city as ‘a manifestation of a wasted nation’ he singled out its ‘churches and School Halls and shops repurposed as fried chicken outlets or storage units for unguessable goods or boarded up with corrugated iron and barbed wire’ ’, in a poetically bleak assessment’.
“Alsations tied to abandoned fridges . .. Massive roaring traffic flow bisecting every neighbourhood,” he continued, “A Ballardian manifestation of all our true inner psyches, our collective nervous system laid out as shattered architecture.”
12 months on, he’s relatively muted though as chillingly bleak as ever.
“Manchester got profile primarily because of the vision and effort of (Factory Records’ founder) Tony Wilson – without him, it would still be just another Northern city,” John suggested.
“Hope arrived in a Range Rover, partying arrived, fashion arrived, money arrived (for some). Now it’s all gone into reverse and there’s no-one to put the brakes on.”
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Starting with the new album, the press release says “Evidence is John Foxx And The Maths’ most atmospheric and darkly percussive album so far . . : Matthew Dear’s track; a ‘chilly, nightmarish track’ : how much did you start with vision? Why so bleak?
John Foxx: “I guess songs are some sort of condensation of a particular atmosphere or time – and these times can seem a bit bleak. Interludes of beautiful glittery bits of pleasures and joy, of course – but I can’t help feeling that something is coming down the avenues.
Skrufff: We’re living in beyond Orwellian times (it seems to me); what’s your assessment of Britain today?
John Foxx: “Polarised :- North and South. Rich and poor. Educated and Not.
Apart from the morality, this is plainly dangerous. When you’ve got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”
Skrufff: ‘If There is Hope, it Lies in the Proles”: what do you think?
John Foxx: “Mmm. There’s also “bread and circuses”… Mind you, there’s also “let them eat cake”. That got quite a result.”
Skrufff: What motivates you to still make music as ‘John Foxx’ and go through the album promo/ tour ritual? How much do you recognise- and control- your own ego?
John Foxx: “I manage to keep Foxxy in the fridge most of the time. Only let him out on special occasions, Bit of a menace off the leash.
Skrufff: You quit Ultravox just before they broke big in the 70s, have you ever regretted not compromising, given that you could have had lots more riches (and perhaps opportunities?) as well as a wider platform to communicate from?
John Foxx: “Oh, you can always do with the money, but no regrets at all – having fun and able to operate. That’s all you really need – until the back legs go and they have to put me down.”
Skrufff: Have you ever entertained the idea you’ve been self sabotaging?
John Foxx: “That’s Foxxy again – always on the lookout. Down boy!
Skrufff: Any advice for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
John Foxx: “Don’t. The time has gone. Avoid things that involve digits. We have to make our own civilization again. Apple stole the previous one.”
John Foxx and the Maths new album Evidence is out now on Metamatics. He also tours the UK from April 28 (including a show at the Brixton Academy on June 8, alongside Derrick May, Gary Numan and UNKLE.
Jonty Skrufff: https://twitter.com/djjontyskrufff