Fono

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Ladies & Gentlemen. What you are about to read is my first ever phone interview, and it happened to be with Fono’s leader, Del Currie, a couple months ago. Please go through it all, i know it’s long, for we talked almost an hour. But it’s hard not to keep asking questions to a guy who answers them in such an intelligent, wise and humorous way !

So come and discover what Fono and their latest release, Too Broken To Brake, is all about.

How is the weather in San Diego?

Well it’s kind of dull here with the fires that we’ve had again, so the sky’s kind of gray from that, and we’ve got ash in the air. It’s not sunny as San Diego usually is. Warm, though.

I hope I’m not disturbing you. What were you doing when I called?

I was actually on my computer going through emails. The morning emails! Dealing with business stuff.

Okay. Right now I’m a bit surprised, I was expecting a weird accent from what you told me, but it’s not that hard to understand. I thought I’d hear some redneck accent like “Rawr howdy y’all“!

(laughs)
I’m trying to keep it under control for you. I grew up in Ireland and then I lived in London for a long time. I’m talking slowly for you.

Thanks. Could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Del Currie. I am the singer and guitar player with Fono.

How old are you?

I’m 37.

And you’ve been playing music for how long?

Oh, my first band was when I was 16 years old, band that I joined in Ireland called Split Level and we ended up having a record deal. That’s why we moved from Ireland to London, and when we got signed the whole band packed up and moved.

And then Fono. When did it all started?

We got together in the late 90s, in 97 I believe, and we were originally called Seven, like the number seven. And then we started and recorded a whole album before we even played a single show or done anything. And then we submitted our album to this competition to open for Bon Jovi, and we won the contest. So our first ever show was opening for Bon Jovi in front of 50 thousand people.

Amazing!

Yeah it was killer. So we did this show and then after that we had all these things come along, BBC followed us for a month and recorded everything and that was aired on BBC. From that we got a record deal, but once we signed that record deal we found out that there were a lot of bands out there called Seven, so that’s why we had to change our name. And that’s why we came up with Fono.

And Fono doesn’t mean anything, if I’m correct.

No it doesn’t mean anything, it’s a play on word. When I was working in London and we had to change our name, we came up with all those different names and one day one of the guy I worked with just walked in the office and said “hey what about fono? For a band named like, instead of P.H.O.N.O do it with a F.O.N.O“, and I was like “hey, pretty cool“! And we wanted a name that didn’t meant too much, we were not trying to make some big statement with our name, and everybody liked Fono, so we kept it.

Something original but meaningless.

Right!

So you’ve been around for a long time, and it seems that just after releasing goesaroundcomesaround, you suddenly disappeared from the radars. What happened?

Yeah… after putting out that album, we were inked to that label called Big Day Records that had many other bands. So we were with that label in New York, we were cruising, traveling the country with Goo Goo Dolls, radio air play was going good, everything was great for the band.
And then the label was shut down. They had a lawsuit, so their record company got shut down, and we ended up losing our daily weapon, as a result of it. And the onslaught of that was the lawsuit with an individual of the record; I can’t really tell about it, it’s not worth giving too many details about it. But we ended up in a two years lawsuit, and basically during these two years we were not allowed to play or record anything, so we had to shutdown pretty much for two years.

But in that period, we had already moved to the US, because we were ready to start touring again, so we’d found ourselves, as soon as we moved to the US, ready to tour and so on, we found ourselves in the lawsuit, which closed us down. So it was pretty frustrating because there’s nothing worse than as a musician not be allowed to play and do your music.
It’s frustrating that the business side of it takes things over to that degree, and you get shut down, when you try your best for your music to be heard.

So yeah it was pretty frustrating, but soon after that, when the lawsuit was over, we set ourselves up a studio, started recording a new album ourselves, we had that studio in San Diego, so we started rolling again.
So this was in 2003, the lawsuit was over, we were back in action again, and then we had about finished recording the whole new album when the first San Diego fires came through, and they burned out our studio. We lost everything: guitars, amps, drums, all our recording equipment, all our old memorabilia from the tours, like backstage passes, all that kind of stuff we gathered up. And what got burned also were the masters for the new album. You know we’d been working on it for almost a year, a good nine months, and the only thing we got left were rough mixes of tracks that we’ve been working on. And we were actually at the point of mixing the album. We had finished recording, we were ready to mix.

So that was another hurdle for us, and it took us time to get everything together, new equipment, finding a new studio, start it all over again. We had some rough mixes left from the tracks that were usable, and we recorded an extra few songs and we put an EP out just to let people know we’re still in existence. Just to keep it going … so we stuck that EP out and we worked on a full album again and that’s the album that just went out.

It took a long time; it’s been constant, hitting brick walls, getting knocked down and getting up again, and keeping working out of it. It’s been frustrating but we believed in our music so we were determined to keep it going.

That’s one thing you can say about ourselves is that we’re resilient. We don’t quit very easily.

I saw the pictures of the remaining of the studio. Crazy.

Yeah, literally, it was just dust. You could barely see where everything was. There was the frame of our mixing console left there. In those pictures you couldn’t see it, but we had two drum kits in that room, multiple amps, guitars, and there’s just nothing left, just metal rings that even got melted.

What was your fist reaction when you actually saw it?

Well, when we went up to the studio after the fires, it was a strange feeling because since I’ve been 16 years old I’d got all those guitars and amplifiers, effects pedals, and I’ve never been without my equipment!
And it was strange, like “here I am, without all the things I had and all the things I’ve done, I don’t even have an amp to plug a guitar into. Someone give me one!”
So it was very strange, we were just left with nothing. The equipment, we realized we could buy it again, but the sad thing was our memorabilia … after every show we add backstage passes, so we had all those backstage passes from all the shows we’ve done, the Bon Jovi show right through to the Goo Goo Dolls … I used to just chug those under my effects pedal to lift them up, and so they were all stored together. So it was sad losing that kind of stuff but we were happy that everyone was okay, and safe. But it was the weirdest thing being left with nothing… like my guitars.

I understand. I own three guitars and wouldn’t want to see them burned…

Yeah, guitar players get very attached to their guitars.

But then … what made you keep going?

Hum, I think it’s just we’ve always had that faith in our music, we love making music as well, I don’t think just because fire takes everything, well you still have passion to play … it’s something that’s inside of you, it’s not an external possession, the desire to play music. So I still wanted to play, everyone in the band wanted to play, so just because you’ve lost your guitars there’s no point in quitting!

And as we’ve all experienced that together, there was no point of splitting up with everybody doing their own thing. It was something we all shared together so … we still have that passion to play, that’s why we kept going.

Some people are fatalists, and with what happened to you, they may have said “well it’s God telling you: Move on to something else!”

(Heavy laughs)
Well … that’s a hard one to put into words.
You see, you learn and you grow from trials in life. All these things that you go through, no matter what they are, regardless of whether it’s a fire or whatever happens to you in life, those are the things you grow from. And I think if God was telling me to stop playing music then I’d be feeling in a much stronger way. I’d lose my desire to play, I don’t think I’d just be a physical act that would be stopping me.

Conviction?

Yeah! I don’t really buy into that “if God wanted me to stop playing he’d send me a lawsuit and burn my studio“. And you know that’s part of the Too Broken To Brake thing? That’s kind of an essence of the album, you see people around me looking at the external form of me, if I’m walking down the street people will see me and they think that I’m … well if they’d seen me two days after the fire walking down the street they’d see I’m a normal person.
They wouldn’t know anything about it, but behind that, I was dealing with the sadness of losing the studio, dealing with my own personal problems, and that’s what this album is all about, that everybody can put happy face on their life, but underneath it, everybody has problems. It doesn’t matter what it is, it can be relationship problems, people going through unhappy marriage, work or financial problems … everybody has problems. And in the end of the day, it’s almost that you’re so down that you’d think you’re the only one that has some issues in your life going on and that you need to keep sorted out. Sometimes it’s good to realize that you’re not alone.

For us it was like everybody has got crap going under their life and … we all have to deal with it.
So the fire was just a piece of crap that we had to deal with. If that makes sense (laughs).

Makes you stronger … But then this album, you’re giving it away for free! Why in the world would a band decide to do that?

Well we lost so much time, that as we loved that album, and our hero, Chris Sheldon mixed it for us. You know Chris Sheldon has worked with the Foo Fighters on The Color and the Shape, if you know that record? So Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Pixies, a lot of great British bands like Seeder or Oceansize… We’ve been huge fans of his for a long long time and finally we contacted him and he agreed to mix the album for us so we were very excited.

So we’re very proud of the finish product, we think it’s a very solid album, there is no weak song on it, the whole record’s good… And then we didn’t want to have to lose all that time doing promotions and stuff … we just wanted people to hear it. We’re over trying to squeeze 10 bucks out of someone to make him ear our music. We made it so that people can hear it. And what’s the difference between getting played on the radio and someone just downloading it? So that’s really the idea behind it.

You know when you look at band record deals, bands make only a small percentage off their CDs, really it’s only worth a dollar or two dollars each CDs that we sell, so it’s not like we’re losing $10 off every CD. The end result is building our fan base up faster again and we can go on the road again and when we do, we’re playing bigger shows because everybody has the album. So even though that we’re giving it away, the fact that it builds up our fan base is the key part, that’s what we’re after, let as many people as possible hear our album.

So it’s all about being known.

Really, yeah, but it’s not even being known, it’s about being heard, because we loved the album and I didn’t want it to be an album that sits on shelves of retail stores and that only sells a few thousand copies. I wanted it to be as widespread as possible, that as many people as possible hear the album.
So it’s not about being known, I think if I never played another show or anything, I’d be happy with the fact that this album was finished, I’m very proud of it and with as many people as possible are hearing it. So it’s about being heard.

In France now, we’re talking a lot about ecology, Al Gore was here, and I heard that you were also happy to do that because CDs, when they are built …

Right, that’s another part of it. As you know, a Cd is a petroleum-based product. Toxic product in itself. The manufacturing process of making a cd is not an environment-friendly one; there are lots of toxic fumes coming from the plants that make them, wastes from the CDs and so on.
Then, there’s the trucks that delivers the CDs to all the stores as well, the carbon monoxide are putting out during the delivery, and then there’s the people going to the stores in their cars to go and buy a CD as well, so it’s like this, cumulated, when you take all of this into consideration, and everybody (almost everybody buys and listens to music), it’s having a reasonable effect on our environment.
So we’ve got that great alternative in digital music with more and more people going that way, and this is another move to push people to that side.

You know, all we pressed for this album is being copies to go to magazines for reviews and radio stations. So we only pressed enough to cover that, the rest being digital. And even for our press and media people we have a special website to get digital downloads and photographs and everything…

And that’s another driving force, and over here, we had those Earth Day Concerts, big concerts, and even there they were advertising people to stop buying CDs, believe it or not, telling people to stop buying CDs and start using digital as a new alternative. So over here it’s huge, and a lot of stores have closed, there have been over 2500 stores that closed in America in the last 12 months … that part of it is sad because I don’t like to see people losing their livelihood, but on the other hand the digital world connects people in another way…

The CD as a support is about to die soon? Only digital music will last?

That’s what I think. I think the CD’s life span is pretty limited now, look at, even over the last two years, how far digital music has come and the digital music user base has come. If you think about it two years ago, when people used to put an mp3 on a web site and you’d click on it, you didn’t know what program was going to load up, QuickTime, or iTunes, or Musicmatch, you had no clue what the computer was doing. Nowadays, everybody has their favorite program they use for listening to music, the whole downloading thing has become more popular with iTunes and Rhapsody and Napster, all the different music suppliers, and I think that’s just going to keep getting better, with products being more compatible with each others, Digital Rights Managements (DRM) starts being removed, like iTunes working on it to get them removed from their tracks; you can share them with anyone. I think as all that starts to come in, a lot of things has changed in the last two years, and I think a lot more will change in the next two years as well.

People will become much more digitized. People will start getting into digital music more and more and CDs will start to fade out, and within maybe 2 or 3 years people won’t buy cds at all.

Have you heard about Deezer? It’s a web site where you can listen to a lot of music freely, but you can’t download. If you want to have it on your own, you have to pay for it. Maybe that’s the future of the music industry.

No I haven’t, but over here they have like Rhapsody and Yahoo and AOL and Zune, and there you pay $10 a month and you can listen to anything you want. But it’s the same thing if you want to burn it to cd then you have to pay for it. But basically you just rent your music collection.

How did you survive financially, with only an EP on the market along with goesaroundcomesaround in almost ten years?

Well we had to get ourselves side jobs in order to eat and live. We all have normal working skills, so we’re quite happy that when we need money to survive, we just have to find a job.

And what did you do?

I’m actually a computer geek so I went into some computer work.

What are your musical influences?

I listen a lot to bands like Muse, Radiohead, Keane, Mutemath is a very cool band, I’m obviously a big fan of U2 and the Foo Fighters. Good guitar and melody guys are what I like a lot. But the whole band will listen to quite a range of stuff, from hip-hop right thought to heavier stuff as well. I’m personally more narrow-minded than the rest of the band and I like my good melodic guitar bands.

What about metal or hardcore?

You know I was more a metal guy when I was younger. I used to have my leather jacket with all my patches on it and all that stuff. Motorhead was the first band I ever went to see at a show. My taste changed and now I wouldn’t listen to as much heavy.

Do you think it’s something related to age? And you’ll be listening to only classical music when you’ll be 80?

(heavy laughs)
Well the thing is I’ve actually been into that kind of music for a long long time. I listened to it when I was a kid and then when I was 16 or 17 I started to discover the U2 kind of stuff and that’s been my flavor ever since: the alternative music. I was finished with metal when I was 16. But you never know and I can end up being a classical listener.

Well I’m a hardcore fan but I just love listening to classical music as well.

I think that’s a good thing. As a kid I kind of belonged to something. It was the whole era of you’re either into ska, or you’re a punk or a metaler … it was almost what social group you were a part of. Right now that’s history but when I was a kid if I said I was into classical music then all my friends would have nailed me. But nowadays there’s no stigma at all, it’s cool to listen to classical music, you’re a cool guy because you’ve got a broader spectrum in terms of music.

Back then it was all about stereotypes, the group you’d belong to, and you’d get dressed that way, your friends all dress that way, it was something you’d identify with … And that was cool, I kind of miss that. The closest we came to was when the grunge thing came, with Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Everybody was wearing clad, tar and shirts with ripped-up jeans, Doc Martens shoes … that’s the closest we came back to identifiable music.

How much is your faith intertwined with your music?

The two things just go hand in hand. Some people separate their faith out too much so it becomes this thing that they’re trying to be entrained all the time. With me faith and belief are all tied into my everyday life, it’ the way you go through life.

And that’s in the songs as well; a lot of the songs are almost sympathetic of other people situations and so on. I’m past trying to maintain or achieve a kind of faith or spiritual life. That’s probably an age thing as well but now I’m much more about living my life and all those things are natural part of it. And that just naturally flows into the songs as well and in the way the songs are written. That’s just a part of everything.

So what would best describe you: christians in a band or members of a christian band?

We wouldn’t call ourselves a christian band. I’ve never ever been a fan of that term. To be honest when we started we were just a band doing our thing and playing music. It was when we hit America that the christian world snatched onto it, because of our faith. Our drummer was a pastor’s son … People jumped on that thing and we got pushed more into the christian world, but that was never our intention at all. We were just a band that wanted to be a part of the music thing.

But the christian world in America is such a strong place … it’s not like in the UK where you can go and do your thing and play in clubs and carry on, play like a band, there’s nothing different … whereas over here there’s so much stuff but it’s all driven by the dollar, there’s not a whole lot of it that’s spiritual or for God, most of it is driven by how much cash can be brought in. It was very strange for us when we came in and got involved in that world but we didn’t stay in it very long, to be honest, because we didn’t really liked what was going on.

If there was one thing you could change in your past, what would it be?

Oh, dear … (laughs)
It’s difficult because I don’t know what the ramifications would be from changing one thing and that kind of scares me because I’ve got great friends, all the things we’ve been through have made me stronger, and the drummer and myself have been in this thing the whole time and we’re great friends.

If you go right back and change something and don’t go thought one trial or another, we may not be who we are today; we may not have the friends and family around us that we have. Honestly, I don’t know if I would change anything because the success of the band or the success of the music comes secondary to having good friends and great people around you. And I wouldn’t want to change anything in the past in case it affected what I have now.

What is so cool about being in a band, instead of having a normal job?

For everybody it’s something different. Like some guys like being in a band because they can get a lot of chicks (laughs)!
With us the cool thing is about the creativity. For people walking in a room, plug-up the guitars and play great music, no matter what happened to them that day.

Male question here. What does it feel to have a girl playing bass?

It’s awesome. I would recommend that every band gets one girl member in it. Because she takes care of us. She looks after us. Wherever we go we have coffee, we have snacks, our everything’s nice and tidy, everything’s well organized, and it’s great having that girl in the band. And she rocks hard! She’s a great player, a great person, and when we’re hanging out she’s a whole lot of fun. But she also brings this kind of organized structure to us as well which is pretty cool.

So every band should have at least one girl in it. That’s my recommendation.

There are always those stories about a girl being in a band and one of the guys fells in love with her and gets distracted from the band then they break up and all of a sudden the band disbands…

(laughs)
I guess that can happen but she’s married and the rest of us are either married or have partners so there’s no romances going on. And we’re very very good friend with her husband as well so there’s no risk of anything like that happening with this band.

Any chance of seeing you in France soon?

We’re hopefully doing a trip in the UK in august of next year. If everything goes according to plan, then we’ll definitely be coming to France as well for sure. I’ve played in France quite a few times over the years and I love France, great place, and Paris is such a great buzzing city, that place is alive all night and it’s fantastic.

You know, we’re dying to come back to Europe and play there again. That’s why we’re coming back next year, we’ll do some festivals and then we’ll go on a normal touring basis. We’re very excited to come back over there for sure.

I guess after 5 years in the US you deeply miss Europe and the UK.

Absolutely, I miss Indian food. I need to get back for a curry!

That’s a nice play on word on your last name, isn’t it.

It is yes. Funny that that would be my favorite food. So I’m exited to get back there for a curry.

This brings me to a question I wanted to ask. It’s about your first name this time: Del. I’ve never heard that. The first time I read about you I thought you were Italian, you know, Del Curry, like Del Piero or something like that!

Well it’s actually a nickname. It’s what I’ve been called for a long long time. My real name is actually Derek. But in the UK, everyone who’s called Derek gets called Del. Andrew becomes Andy, James becomes Jim, everyone who’s called Terry gets called Tel… it’s just an abbreviation.

So I’ve been called Dell for so many years, only my mom calls me Derek.

Well, we’re almost done. Is there a final word that you would like to say to your French fans?

Tell them to go download the album, and tell as many other friends about it as possible. We love that album and just want people to get their hands on it and listen to it. Even though it’s free, don’t treat it wrongly, but treat it like an album.
It’s like the latest Radiohead record, In rainbow. I don’t know if people are listening to it much just because it’s free. We just encourage people to actually give it a proper listen, treat it like an album, download the artwork, go thought the booklet, we made a whole package. If they want to burn their own cd, they can, they have everything, it’s their choice.

That’s it, go get it!

Well, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us!

Thank you very much Jeremie I appreciate you calling and taking the time to give us the interview. we’ll look forward to check it all out!

This interview was originally written in French on behalf of beehave.fr