It was April 1997 when one the career of one of Australia’s most exciting high-energy rock bands came to an end. After seven years, a string of US tours, a series of vibrant releases and several hundred effervescent live performances, Def FX was no more.
The band’s demise was only the beginning for its vivacious vocalist Fiona Horne, who has since gone on to several roles as a model, TV personality, actress, adventurer, humanitarian and best-selling author with a catalogue of titles about the practise of witchcraft. It was this last for which she became best known, to the point where she laughs when asked if it annoys her that, after all the things she has done after Def FX, she is still remembered as a rock chick.
“Am I though?” she asks through a peal of laughter. “I thought I was remembered as Fiona Horne, the witch!”
Certainly much of her public profile since the late 90s has centered on her Wiccan beliefs, with more than eight books to her name that cover the subject from a range of angles and for different markets, including a young adult fiction novel, Witch: A Summerland Mystery. That tally will go up soon when her autobiography The Naked Witch is released, although the main subject this time will be Horne herself.
“It’s got all these stories of life up until now and I hope people find it an entertaining and maybe useful read,” she explains. “If they can learn anything from the shit I’ve been through and manage to keep on going, I hope the book is useful in that regard.”
The book’s cover, that true to its title features Horne in her birthday suit, has already caused some bemusement. Her boss, for whom she currently works as – of all things – a commercial pilot in the Caribbean, recently had cause to ask her about it when he saw it on social media. Horne getting her kit off for the camera may not be that surprising for her fans, but she isn’t famous everywhere.
“Picture this,” she begins, “I’m in my plane flying a man and his dog, two cats and his son from St Thomas to Puerto Rico and my boss is sitting next to me, the director of the airline, and he’s on Facebook and he says to me, ‘So, what’s this book, The Naked Witch? You’re naked on the cover!’ and I’m like, ‘Well, it’s to do with my life back in Australia.’ I was sitting there in my pilot’s uniform next to my boss who says, ‘I don’t know what to say without getting into trouble’ and I said, ‘Say whatever you want, mate, it’s all been said before!’”
She laughs the laugh of a person who faces and tackles life’s challenges with few regrets. Now 50, Horne marches to the beat of her own drum even more than she did when she was bending over backwards on stage with Def FX, singing duets with Paul McDermott or sparring with Doug Mulray on TV.
“I’m at the point in my life where I don’t measure my life by how much green stuff I have,” she says. “I have very little cash, but I have enormous wealth – in experience, friendships, opportunities. I measure the success of my life in other things rather than how much money I’ve made. I don’t care what anyone says or thinks anymore, and that’s why I think I’m just better at living. I wouldn’t go back to my 20s for anything!”
Nevertheless, she will be making a slight return to the 90s in July when Def FX reform for a 20th anniversary tour – the anniversary of their break-up, not formation. The band last got back together for some shows in 2012, but this time they’ll be joined by original guitarist Blake Gardner, who departed Def FX on bad terms during a North American tour in 1993.
“When I last saw Blake all those years ago, we were in the middle of a tour in America and some heavy shit was going down,” Horne recalls. “That was a difficult, bad time, and we never thought we’d get together to rock out again. Blake and Marty (Basha) and me were the line-up that wrote the first songs that forged that sound the became what Def FX was known as. He wrote all of that early stuff like ‘Surfers [of the Mind]’ and ‘Under the Blue’. Even the guitarist that came into the band after Blake [Dave Stein], who ended up staying for the length of it, he just tried to sound like Blake. Blake established the sound and the style of Def FX, and it’s amazing to have him back.”
The Denmark-based Gardner’s departure happened prior to Def FX hitting the height of their popularity, so this will be the first time many fans may have seen him on stage with the band. Garner and Horne reconnected online last year and floated the idea of playing together again. Bass player Basha was sweet on the deal also.
“He’s in Denmark and I was doing bush pilot training for this humanitarian aid flight that I do in inhospitable regions with no runways, nothing, full of political problems and ecological disasters… he’s in Denmark making music and writing songs with a wife and two amazing daughters, and somehow we connect on Facebook, and he’s like ‘OK, let’s do it again’. And Marty was up for it, and Ant [Banister] was part of our last reunion tour four years ago.”
“When you’re in a band it’s the same feeling as when you’re skydiving a world record,” she continues, “you’re all there and you look around and you’re in formation and you become something that’s more than the sum of your parts. That’s what I’m looking forward to more than anything with this tour. It’s not just about doing it with the original line-up, it’s being able to connect energetically with our fans and being more than the sum of our parts together and have an amazing time.”
The band is so upbeat about the tour this time that they have even written a new song. Horne admits that they won’t be in any way trying to reinvent the wheel: it’s going to sound like Def FX. After all, she says, they have “nothing to prove! We are who we are.”
“We’re all really excited and happy and we’re actually writing a song – maybe two, but definitely one, for a commemorative CD for this tour. We’ve written a song that’s classic Def FX! It’s like 1992 is back!”
That feeling will only be enhanced with Chicago industro-disco machine My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult taking up the undercard on the tour – their first visit to Australia. Def FX made the connection when they toured together through Texas 23 years ago.
“It was wild. This is the first time they’re coming out to Australia so this tour is kind of like a concept night in a way. On the poster we say it’s a electro-disco rock show, and it really is. It’s that era. Thrill Kill Kult is amazing onstage, so I’m sure people are going to enjoy them too – not just us.”
It’s a lot to look forward to, but for now Fiona Horne is flying people between islands over the Caribbean Sea, working in a career that may not be a glitzy as rocking out and TV but has its own pleasures and rewards. She’s still Fiona Horne, rock chick, and she’s definitely still Fiona Horne, the witch.
“I’ve come out here to the Caribbean as a pilot, and I’ve decided that planes are much more comfortable than broomsticks,” she says pleasantly. “But I still call myself a witch!”
**THIS TOUR HAS SINCE BEEN CANCELLED**