❉ An ‘illuminating’ chat with reformed synthpop outfit Fiat Lux about their past, present and future.
“We’ve never actually moulded our music to make it commercial… I think we are happier now that we don’t have to fight off that pressure. The music remains how it comes out when Steve and I work together – Fiat Lux still sounds like Fiat Lux, or at least we hope it does.”
Fiat Lux are one of the original British synth-pop bands, hailing from Wakefield in West Yorkshire. Original band members David P Crickmore, Steve Wright and the late Ian Nelson (brother of Bill, who later joined the band) formed in 1982 when Wright and Crickmore met whilst both studying drama. They initially formed a band called Juveniles. Wright later went on to meet musician Bill Nelson at the Yorkshire Actors theatre company and together they produced a demo ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ which was released on Cocteau Records in November 1982 under the name Fiat Lux, which is Latin for let there be light.
The record achieved radio airplay, which led them to signing a deal with Polydor. They went on to achieve moderate chart success with subsequent singles Blue Emotion and Secrets. With their moderate success they produced a mini album Hired History in August 1984, followed by the release of an arty VHS release entitled Commercial Breakdown which included live versions of previously unreleased tracks intended for their full length album with Polydor, which sadly never transpired.
In the mid 1980s Crickmore left the band and that was seemingly that for the band, until last year when Wright and Crickmore began working together as Fiat Lux, re-working their track Secrets releasing it as ‘Secrets 2017’.
More recently, they’ve just released the first new material in over thirty years with their single ‘It’s You’, released via Splid Records on 4th May .
We Are Cult caught up with the band to extract some ‘secrets’ about where they see the future of Fiat Lux.
What prompted you to get back together after all this time?
Steve: It was all a bit of a coincidence really! We’d never lost touch and we simultaneously felt a need to get some songs ideas recorded. It was a case of once we started it seemed to work so well that we didn’t want to stop!
David: In a way I think we have an act I was producing a record for to thank – Sabrina Piggott. She was asking me to make all these sounds on vintage synthesisers I still owned to wrap around her acoustic guitar and vocal parts. It occurred to me that I had all the means at my disposal to enable us to still sound like Fiat Lux. Suddenly there was feeling that we didn’t have to wait for our old master tapes to be released, Steve and I could try something new .. and so we did.
Why did you decide to re-release Secrets over any of your other previous tracks?
Steve: I think we released Secrets because that’s the most totemic, and the song which prompted the most reaction back in the ’80s – plus it was probably the easiest one to do now that Ian is no longer with us.
David: While it’s not the song from our back catalogue that placed highest in the charts when it was first released, it seems to be the one that has been most remembered down the years. Annie Nightingale was a great champion of it long after it was issued which I think helped to give it legs. So we thought we’d open up our new era of working together with a remake of something familiar by doing Secrets 2017.
What have you been doing in the intervening years?
Steve: I’ve been working in the world of television directing broadcast programmes and corporate projects …
David: I’ve been a music producer – producing records for other acts and producing for the BBC. I also co present a weekly BBC programme about the other music genre I love – acoustic, folk and roots music.
Have you missed putting music out into the public domain? As a big fan of Fiat Lux, I can say that I’ve missed you!
Steve: Not really, but it’s good to have the chance again now that we have something worth putting out, and our collaboration seems to mean more now than it did then.
David: I haven’t really stopped doing that. In the intervening years I have done so with acts I have either been in, or have collaborated with, or produced albums for. Having said that, it’s really great to be doing it again under the Fiat Lux banner – who’d have thought it!
There seems to be a significant nod to the memory of Ian Nelson on ‘It’s You’.
Steve: I do hope so … Ian is never far from our thoughts when we are writing, and I have had a message of approval re It’s You from Julian, Ian’s son – which is good news!
David: We definitely speculate on what Ian would have thought of an idea before we commit to it – the Nelson filter! Also, in Will Howard, we found a session sax player who could take on some of Ian’s vibe on It’s You.
How has it been working as a duo?
Steve: It’s absolutely fine – we’re still only working in a studio environment. The ideas still flow and of course we collaborate with other musicians.
David: It feels pretty natural. In 1982 we started as a duo before Ian joined us and a lot of the early repertoire was already in place, so we are used to that dynamic.
Are there any plans to re-release Hired History or any of the unreleased Polydor tracks?
Steve: It would be lovely to get these songs out there, and we also have songs unheard which merit an audience … so we hope to, yes
David: Certainly since we’ve been active again there has been talk between us and Universal (who now look after Polydor, our old label). I think there is now a good chance that we will be able to put out some of our Polydor back catalogue, either through the label we are on now (Splid Records) or via a third party. It’ll probably take a year or so to sort, but I think it’s coming. From our point of view, we’d dearly like the unreleased Hugh Jones produced album we made in 1984 to see the light of day.
Can we expect a live Fiat Lux show?
Steve: [laughs] I have NO idea! Maybe …
David: It’s not something we’ve put any time or thought into yet, but it could happen. We’d need someone to book us first (laughs).
What does the future hold for the band or are you taking things as they come?
Steve: Yes that! Very much taking things as they come …
David: It’s been encouraging that both Secrets 2017 and It’s You have enjoyed some radio play without us doing a big expensive promotional campaign. People are still coming across them on digital platforms and commenting positively which is nice. We just wanted to test the water really and it doesn’t seem to be poisonous.
Do you have enough material for a new album?
David: Hopefully that’s the next thing. With a bit of luck, before the end of 2018!
What excites you about the current music scene?
Steve: Not a lot really. There are some bands which spark my interest such as “The War On Drugs”, but mostly my attention is still grabbed by bands who echo the 80s.
David: The thing is, one of the reasons it was a good time for Fiat Lux to come back was that many contemporary acts DO echo the 80s at the moment. I’m taken by some of the stuff from Anna Meredith and also Bibio for example.
What are your thoughts on the 80s revival festivals?
Steve: If there’s an audience and people like it, then good …
David: I’ve never been to one, but I have been to other gigs and festivals hosted by legacy acts that interest me and, if the people involved as still on form, I can defiantly see the appeal. Of course when we were last active it was all about the new, but now it’s an age when genres and eras mix happily together.
Would you ever consider taking part?
Steve: Oh, erm …
David: So far we’ve not been asked (laughs).
Who are your favourite acts at the moment?
Steve: Still the Blue Nile , but I listen to a lot of classical mainly …
David: Sticking strictly to synth orientated acts (or we’d be here all day), Daft Punk are a great example of that now and then meld. Christine and The Queens impressed me when that broke a couple of years back.
In my BBC production work recently I did a Steve Lamacq session for a fairly new Leeds band – Laminate Pet Animal who I thought were great.
I have to mention those I am working in the studio with at the moment too – Sabrina Piggott and Plumhall – both deploying electronica mixed with original acoustic singer-songwriter material.
I keep my ear on BBC Radio 6 Music where there is often something of interest. Melody, innovation and taste are my watchwords
Do you think the music charts are actually relevant in today’s music scene?
Steve: : No not at all, in fact I was listening to Radio 1 the other day and it was excruciating!!!
David: Well, to be fair to Radio 1 Steve, I don’t think it’s all bad, but I could do with just a few tunes on there where you could tell what the singer was like behind the Autotune device. (Cheers to Cher for that one!)
The reason charts are not perhaps as important now is, in my opinion, because not everyone is listening to the same thing anymore. In the 80s more or less everyone under a certain age listened to BBC Radio One. If Radio One had started playing Bavarian Nose Flute music, you could be fairly certain that the nose flute would suddenly make an impact on the charts – it’s not like that anymore – multi platforms, internet, loads of stations, people sticking with what they know and not being exposed to anything else – all bad news for the nose flute industry.
How important is commercial success to you?
Steve: It would be nice. We had a taste of it in the ’80s, but realistically now – who knows? It’s up to the fans and a potential new audience … It would be rewarding more than anything , for people to hear what we’re doing, and love it.
David: We’ve never actually moulded our music to make it commercial. We were at loggerheads with one particular product manager at Polydor because of this. That’s what prompted Ian to coin the title for our mini album: Commercial Breakdown! I think we are happier now that we don’t have to fight off that pressure. The music remains how it comes out when Steve and I work together – Fiat Lux still sounds like Fiat Lux… or at least we hope it does.
Is there anyone you would like to work with in the future?
Steve: It would be great to work with Hugh Jones again, our old producer – I love his external ear on the material. He was like the 5th Beatle to us in the 80s!
Would be fantastic to work with Peter Gabriel, and Annie Lennox…
David: I agree with Steve – Hugh was definitely our George Martin. He taught me loads about production – even just sitting at the sound board watching him work was an education. In the same way that we are mindful about what Ian Nelson might have added to the new stuff, in producing it, I am very much thinking about Hugh’s ways of working.
Apart from that, Brian Eno – There’s so many interesting projects that he’s been involved in down the years. And Robert Wyatt – love the voice – he could reap emotion by singing the phone book – only we don’t have a phone book nowadays do we. (laughs)
Thank you both so much for chatting to We Are Cult. I’m personally very excited about what the future holds in terms of the next exciting instalment from Fiat Lux!
Both: Cheers Ange.
❉ ‘It’s You’ was released by Splid Records through Proper Music Distribution on 4 May 2018, available on the usual digital platforms:
❉ Ange Chan is a poet and novelist. Her fourth poetry collection “Fame; What’s Your Name?” and her second novel, “Baby, Can You Hear Me?” were both published in 2016. Her latest poetry collection “Songs of Sorrow and Heartbreak” was published in October 2017 and her third novel “Champagne Flutes and Pixie Boots” is currently a work in progress.