Cult Q & A: Maggie from Fuzzbox

❉ There must be more to life than this! Maggie Dunne is in the hot seat this week. Bostin’!

“I’d watch Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kayne West and Hugh Jackman in a gay sci fi porno. We could all judge for ourselves if the rumours are true. Really, someone should make this.”

Maggie Dunne is a founder member of We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It, one of the bands included on NME’s C86 sampler, and the most successful instrument-playing female band in British pop history.

Fuzzbox was Maggie Dunne, her sister Jo on bass, vocalist Vickie Perks, and drummer Tina O’Neill, who got together in their hometown of Birmingham, England, in 1985; all were 16 except for 20-year-old Maggie, and none had ever played instruments before.

Fuzzbox’s name was inspired by the device used to create the buzzsaw guitar sound they wanted. “We’ve got a fuzzbox and we’re gonna use it,” a satisfied Maggie stated, and the name stuck.

The group’s early-1986 debut single, XX Sex, recorded for Vindaloo, was a hit on the indie charts, as were a couple of follow-up EPs. The band’s debut album Bostin’ Steve Austin was released on Vindaloo.

In 1989, Warners released their second album, Big Bang!, produced by Bangles producer Liam Sternberg. Big Bang! entered the charts at number five, and begat Top 30 hits International Rescue, Pink Sunshine, and Self!,  each supported by memorable videos.

The compilations Fuzz and Nonsense and Rules and Regulations to Pink Sunshine appeared in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Tragically, much loved guitarist Jo Dunne (renowned for her trademark shades and huge smile!) passed away in October 2012 after a short illness – but the Fuzzbox story isn’t over…

What were you like at school?

I didn’t like going so often didn’t. I had a difficult home life and was bullied for the first few years something had to go so it was school. I was brilliant at truanting. I went to museums, art galleries, places of historical interest, libraries, etc. with a clipboard and a piece of paper numbered 1 to 10. If I was asked what I was doing out of school I would say it was a project to name 10 things about the place I was visiting. I could wear my uniform without it appearing suspicious.

My truanting buddies got caught one time when I was off school due to being genuinely ill. When they confessed the locations of their truanting the deputy head master said they were getting a better education out of the school than in it.

I was and still am very politically aware but I was very vocal about it at school. I loved debating.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I wanted to be a nurse in the Navy. I’d read Testament of Youth and decided I was Vera Brittan. I wasn’t thinking clearly. I imagined being all medically heroic in war zones. I was mad.

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

I wouldn’t bother as my teenage self wouldn’t listen.

What are your best and worst qualities?

My worst quality is my temper. I shout when really angry. And my language is shocking. Not ideal for the Navy really!

My best qualities are my sense of fun and adventure. I also try to be kind.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

A temping job where the people I was working with were unbearable. I can still hear the vacuous squawking of Jade in my head. I really wanted her to die which is unkind and drastic but it upset me that she existed and might breed.

Who were your heroes growing up?

David Attenborough.

What do you consider to be the single greatest piece of television ever?

It was the aerial footage of the African Wild Dogs from Planet Earth. It is breath taking. However the marine iguana footage from Planet Earth 2 is just edge of your seat stuff. That iguana is a bloody hero. I was shouting at the TV willing him/her to make it.

I wish they’d show these programmes on big screens. The photography is just amazing.

Monty Python: Is it funny?

Yes. Terry Jones told me I was pretty when I met him. He’s a very nice man.

What was the last film that you watched?

The Grand Budapest Hotel. A proper yarn.

What film could you watch every day?

What kind of peculiar hell would that be?

If I had to choose because someone was going to kill 200 puppies or something I’d have to choose Metropolis or The Cabinet of Dr Caligari because they’re silent. I would see it as a moving piece of wall art. Both are just stunningly beautiful.

What’s your favourite film soundtrack?

The sound track of Passion Fish. It’s glorious

Which four actors would you like to see in a film together and which genre?

Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kayne West and Hugh Jackman in a gay sci fi porno kind of like Thundercrack but in space. We could all judge for ourselves if the rumours are true and let’s face it who wouldn’t watch that? Really, someone should make this.

Which film, book or record last disappointed you the most?

One Day. I had read Starter for Ten and it was funny and well observed. One Day was drivel. The film was better only in as much as it didn’t take up so much of my life. Why did I watch the film version of a book I disliked? Because I wanted to know what happened but couldn’t be arsed to read the rest of the book.

Which record would you recommend and lend to a friend?

Inky Bloaters by Danielle Dax.

Which record wouldn’t you let out of your sight?

The CD that the love of my life gave me.

Which book would you save if your house was on fire?

My copy of Hyperion by Keats. Growing up we were quite poor and working class. We didn’t have books. My next door neighbour had lots of books and when she died this made its way into our house for reasons that are puzzling. I began a life long live of poetry because of this book.

Poetry, for me, is the only medium that conveys the complexity of passion and romantic love. I love Rumi and Neruda. If you get a poem by one of these poets from me you know I’m a smitten kitten.

What’s your definition of what makes something cult?

Something that doesn’t have obvious appeal but is loved because of that.

What are you reading at present?

13 Things That Don’t Make Sense by Michael Brooks. Spoiler alert but one of them has been solved.

Fuzzbox came out of the punk and indie scene of the ‘80s. What were your influences or inspirations?

SPK, Psychic TV and Danielle Dax. We were heavily influenced by ’60s girl groups and Rock and Roll. I loved goth music as well.

How did a gang of girls from Brum find themselves doing Peel sessions, appearing on Whistle Test, and signed to an indie label?

Maybe the baby Jesus knows because I don’t. We started as a bit of fun something to do on a boring Sunday evening and it took off. We didn’t try to be famous it just happened. We couldn’t have tried less to be honest. We only rehearsed for 3 hours before our first gig on instruments we’d never played before. We really upset the sound guys at that first gig wondering around with ‘wires’ as we called them trying to remember what went where. Extraordinary.

In 1989, Fuzzbox was reinvented as a glossy pop act, on a major label, with top ten hits and campy promo videos. Can you tell us a little about what it was like being pop stars?

I never thought of myself as a pop star. I lived in perpetual fear that I’d be found out. I was rubbish at it.

The videos were high camp as were we.

We had a lot of fun though. We loved doing children’s TV. We once spiked Sonia’s drink with vodka at one of these shows. She was very drunk. We were bad.

What’s the best bit of advice anyone has given you?

Live in the moment!

Who has had the biggest influence on your career, and how has that person changed your life?

I’m the biggest influence on my life, that’s why I’m not that successful.

Do you think it’s true that you should never meet your heroes?

Heroes are people. We all have good days and bad days. I would love to meet David Attenborough and marry him as well.

What would you like to be your epitaph?

I don’t want one but if I had to because someone would kill 20 puppies or something I would have ‘Stop Staring’

We are at a bar, what are you drinking?

Herbal tea now; it used to be white wine. Lots and lots of white wine.

What are your three favourite cities?

Edinburgh, Berlin, Swakopmund.

What do you do to chill out?

Read, watch TV, walk.

Is there anything unique about yourself that you would like your readers to know?

The only thing unique about me is my DNA.

What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

When I get a song to work. I have lots of bits of songs; they often don’t make it to being born.

What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career so far – and why?

Agreeing to go on tour in 2010. I didn’t know it then but it would be the last time I toured with my sister.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

A single release in the summer!

How can our readers discover more about you and your work?

Wikipedia’s good!

❉ Keep an eye out for the new single!

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