Fiona Horne will go down in history with Janet English, Ella Hooper, Sarah McLeod and Chrissy Amphlett as one of Australia’s most iconic rock frontwomen as she calls time on her music career this month. The 52-year-old, who has been living in the US Virgin Islands, recently announced that 90s electro-rock band Def FX are making their Australian tour in June their last. She also hinted that the authoring, TV, radio and modelling – essentially her career in entertainment – would be no more. “I announced this would be the last tour… because I can’t juggle this and be a professional pilot fulltime as well and that’s my job now,” Horne says. So, before she fully embraces a less public life as a commercial pilot and witch in the Caribbean, the band that formed in Sydney in 1990 have a few cities to say goodbye to.
As well as being their last run, the anticipation is heightened by the fact Def FX hasn’t toured in six years. Not that they haven’t tried – ending their 15-year hiatus with reunion tours in 2012 and 2013 before two subsequent attempts were dashed by promoters who ghosted them. “… (2017) was a big tour that was announced with My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult and then he (the promoter) pulled out at the last minute in a kind of shocking move. And as it turned out, the Caribbean was struck by two catastrophic hurricanes, so I couldn’t have got out even if I wanted to. I was kind of stuck there. It was a very harrowing thing to go through. I stayed on the island and helped in the recovery… the rebuild efforts.”
Then in 2018, they talked about putting the band together again and doing the tour they were meant to do. “Another promoter came onboard at the end of last year and said, ‘Yeah, I’ll put you guys on the road’, and then he disappeared as well, so then Ant (keyboard/vocals) and I decided we would do it anyway. We promised the fans a tour and thought, ‘Well f*ck it – we’re gonna do it anyway’. We’ve underwritten it all ourselves, it’s been a mammoth job. We’re our own tour managers. We’ve had a lot of setbacks, but we’ve just kept plugging on and pushing through. People have said, ‘Why aren’t you playing in Western Australia? Why aren’t you playing in Tasmania?’ We just can’t afford to. We’ve all got day jobs now,” she laughs.
Everyone leading separate lives means Horne will be the only original member on stage, but that’s not unusual, she says. “Def FX always kind of featured a revolving door of musicians – some of the same and some different. There’s different bass and guitar this time – Marty and Wiley weren’t available, so we went with a couple of other guys that are really amazing. We’ll leave it a surprise – people can find out when they come to the shows. Ant is an amazing electronic music artist. He’s remade all the backing tracks and we play a lot more stuff live then we used to actually. We had a lot of pre-recorded stuff back in the day.”
The five-show tour will be big on nostalgia – both for fans hearing all their favourite songs and for Horne as she catches up with old friends from the other bands. “What I love about the opportunity to play these songs again is it lights a spark in people. They connect with the song, they connect with the memory, then they connect it with right now. You can just feel the energy.” She says the other great thing about this tour is the special guests – Nunchukka Superfly, Matt Doll, Bitchcraft and Snvff. “These are all bands that we’ve known for decades. We’re all old mates, so it’s like a celebration of friendship onstage and offstage because we’ve got the Def FX family… our fans are awesome… so it’s a beautiful way for us all to say ‘seeya’.”
There will be some differences this time around though – no hangovers. Horne says back in the day in Def FX she was never out of it on stage, adamant that she needed to be 100 per cent clearheaded. But after the show she would drink a lot and party on sometimes, depending on how gruelling the schedule was. When they did the reunion tour in 2012 she was still drinking. It didn’t take long to realise something had to change. “Drinking had become something very destructive in my life. It was not a sustainable thing in my life anymore, so when I stopped drinking and came back and toured with Def FX in 2013 and I was sober, I loved it. I was just so much more present and in the zone. What I’ve learnt in passionate sober life is that you get to really experience everything, feel everything, you’re not hungover, you’ve got tonnes more energy. I just really love sober life. It’s not just being sober from alcohol; it’s emotional sobriety, it’s being conscious of drawing boundaries as far as toxic influences in your life.”
That means no TV, no magazines and no mainstream media – though the arts are still acceptable in her eyes. “I’m known to walk into a bank and if there’s a bloody TV on with CNN or something on it I’ll cover my eyes. I won’t look at it. I just refuse to buy into the way media is portraying life as we know it now. I choose to focus on what’s working rather than what isn’t, and my life is that energy and I have a happy life. Lots of heavy shit happens and sometimes really terrible things happen… I mean surviving two catastrophic hurricanes and people I know died and the island I lived on was destroyed. You learn to pick yourself up and brush yourself off quicker and the depression doesn’t last as long, and you can learn the lessons from the hard times faster and move on.”
It certainly hasn’t been a painless path for her or the band, with her autobiography revealing many personal hardships and the band breaking up nastily in 1997. But Horne will have fond memories of the fun band with heavy guitars, dance beats and sampling. The band that released four albums, multiple EPs and singles, earnt ARIA-nominations and number one chart positions, played the main stage every Big Day Out from 1991-1996, played headline tours crisscrossing Australia, USA and Japan non-stop, and shared the stage with bands like The Smashing Pumpkins.
Now it’s time to turn on a tour, turn 53 on June 24, then wave off the entertainment industry as it sinks into the horizon. “I think it’s really fricking hilarious that I’ve been on the planet more than half a century. I feel happier and healthier than I ever have. I really believe we don’t have to grow older. We can grow better at living and I’m not going to buy into that myth that we have to grow old, get sick and die. I’m not going to live like that.”
Tickets are available for NSW/Vic via www.oztix.com.au, Qld via www.moshtix.com.au and SA via www.eventbrite.com.au