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John Foxx (born in Chorleymarker, Lancashiremarker, is the stage name of Englishmarker musician Dennis Leigh. He was the original lead singer of the band Ultravox!, before embarking on a solo career in 1979. Primarily associated with electronic synthesizer music, he has also pursued a parallel career in graphic design and education.

Biography

Early life

His father was a coal miner and pugilist, his mother a millworker. He attended St Mary’s Primary and St Augustine’s Secondary schools. During his youth in the 1960s he embraced the lifestyle of a mod and a hippy. He experimented with tape recorders and synthesizers while on a scholarship at the Royal College of Artmarker in Londonmarker.

His first band, formed whilst at art college in Preston, was called Woolly Fish.

Prior to 1973, he was singing and playing a 12 string guitar, and occasionally supported Stackwaddy in Manchestermarker, from where he later moved to London in order to escape what he saw as a lack of musical stimulus.

Tiger Lily

In 1973 he formed a band that would eventually be called Tiger Lily, comprising initially bassist Chris St. John and guitarist Stevie Shears, with Canadian drummer Warren Cann joining shortly afterwards, in early 1974. The band played their first official gig at the Marquee club in August 1974. Melody Maker reviewed this show and praised the "overall atmosphere" while pointing out their rather predictable "apocalyptic groove". After the gig, Billy Currie, then known as 'Billy Curry', was recruited as violinist.

Tiger Lily released a single on 14 March 1975, the A-side of which was a cover of the Fats Waller track "Ain't Misbehavin'". It was commissioned for (but not subsequently used in) in a soft porn movie of the same name. The B-side of "Ain't Misbehavin'" was the group's own song - "Monkey Jive".

Ultravox!

Tiger Lily played frequently in London pubs between 1974 and 1975, however their Bowie-esque glam rock sound was rendered superfluous by the advent of punk. In an interview with the BBC, Foxx acknowledged that he had an opportunity to join an early version of what became The Clash, as the vocalist, while they were still the pre-Joe Strummer band called London SS. London SS's ever-changing lineup also included future members of Public Image Ltd. and The Damned.

Eventually, after several name-changes, including Fire of London, The Zips and even The Damned, the band transformed into Ultravox!, with an exclamation mark. The group's style fused punk, glam, electronic, reggae and new wave music. Around this time, Leigh adopted his stage name of John Foxx (while Chris St. John called himself Chris Cross and Curry changed his stage last name to his original, Currie).

Among the elements that set the band apart from their contemporaries were Foxx's lyrics and vocal delivery, and Billy Currie's violin and synthesizer playing. Once the band signed to Island Records, they released three LPs during 1977-1978. The first Ultravox! single, Dangerous Rhythm, backed with "My Sex", was released 19 January 1977. Their first album (the self-titled Ultravox!) was released shortly afterwards, produced by Steve Lillywhite and the band, with assistance from Eno. The album attracted a lot of attention, but did not sell well. It was quickly followed by their second album Ha!-Ha!-Ha!, which featured a more jagged punk sound, and included the single ROckWrok, although both also had commercial failures.

Ultravox and Systems of Romance

For their third album, Systems of Romance, Ultravox adopted a smoother sound, and abandoned the exclamation mark in their name. Also missing was their first guitarist, the punk-oriented Stevie Shears, who was replaced by Robin Simon, from a band called Neo (not to be confused with krautrock band Neu!). The album was co-produced by Conny Plank, an early associate of German electronic band Kraftwerk. The punk sound of the previous records was abandoned in favour of a sleek, electronic production that was a precursor of the synthpop sound. Two singles were released from the album, "Slow Motion" and "Quiet Men". Sales were modest, but the album did gain the band exposure to a wider audience, including the United Statesmarker. Systems of Romance is often regarded as the first synthpop album and, as such, it strongly influenced bands that were to follow.

During the recording of Systems of Romance, a song of the same name was written, but the band had no time to record it. It was later included on Foxx's second solo album The Garden. [68571] At Systems of Romance gigs, Foxx began to perform with the band two future solo songs, "He's a Liquid" (later included on Metamatic, Foxx's first solo album) and "Walk Away" (included on The Garden album). The latter song was not performed again by Foxx until 1983.

First American tour and departure from Ultravox

Despite being dropped by their record label at the beginning of 1979 [68572], Ultravox undertook a self-financed tour of the United States in February, which was successful in terms of crowd enthusiasm and ticket sales. During the tour, the band performed two new songs, "Touch and Go", which Foxx later recorded for Metamatic, and "Radio Beach", which was never recorded in the studio, being "He's A Liquid" also performed.

The band came to a parting of the ways during the tour, Robin Simon deciding to stay on in New York and Foxx announcing his plan to go solo upon returning to England. [68573] Without a lead singer, the band went into hiatus, Billy Currie joining Gary Numan's touring band and contributing to his highly successful 1979 album, The Pleasure Principle. [68574] The burgeoning popularity of synthesizer music at this time, and Numan's oft-quoted praise for the Foxx-fronted lineup and song-output of Ultravox, helped revive interest in the band. Billy Currie rejoined the group, while John Foxx was replaced as lead vocalist by Midge Ure, of The Rich Kids, Slik and Thin Lizzy. [68575] Ultravox then built on some of the ideas explored on Systems of Romance, achieving huge worldwide success with the album Vienna in 1980, after which the band released a series of popular albums and singles. Midge Ure was active in organizing, and Ultravox performed at, Live Aid in 1985, and at subsequent Live Aid events. [68576] This Ultravox lineup lasted another nine years [68577], overshadowing Foxx's concurrent solo career.

Solo

After signing to Virgin Records, Foxx achieved minor chart success with his first solo single, "Underpass" (UK Chart Pos. #31) and "No-One Driving" (UK Chart Pos. #32). Its parent album Metamatic appeared in record shops on January 17, 1980. Foxx played most of the synthesizers and "rhythm machines", as they were listed on the sleeve. The name of one of the album's songs, "Metal Beat", takes its name from a CR-78 drum machine sound used on the record. Virgin released the album under the imprint name "Metal Beat Records", which was used for Foxx releases throughout his contract with them.[68578]

Foxx's next LP was The Garden, released 25 September 1981. This recording was a departure from the stark electronic sound of Metamatic, bearing a greater resemblance to Foxx’s swansong with Ultravox, Systems of Romance. The Garden's starting point was in fact a song called "Systems of Romance", written by Foxx for the earlier album but not released at the time.[68579]

In 1982, Foxx set up his own recording studio, designed by Andy Munro, also called The Garden, housed in an artists' collective in Shoreditch East London, in a former warehouse also occupied by sculptors, painters and film makers. He produced some demo recordings for Virginia Astley's first album From Gardens Where We Feel Secure [68580]. Artists such as Depeche Mode, British Electric Foundation, Brian Eno, Trevor Horn, The Cure, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Tina Turner, Siouxsie & the Banshees and Tuxedomoon also recorded in Foxx's studio.

In 1983, Foxx provided some music for the soundtrack to Michelangelo Antonioni's film Identification of a Woman (Identificazione di una Donna) [68581]. In September that year, his third solo LP The Golden Section was released. A development of the sound of The Garden, Foxx described this album as a "roots check" of his earliest influences such as The Beatles, psychedelia, and other pre-punk sources.

The album In Mysterious Ways was issued in October 1985. Musically it was not considered a significant advance on the sound of his two previous releases, nor was it a commercial success[68582]. Foxx later said that at the time he felt divorced from any contemporary musical influences. However, he did produce, co-write and play on Pressure Points, by Anne Clark, the same year [68583].

Withdrawal from the music scene

After In Mysterious Ways, Foxx gave up a public career in pop music [68584]. He sold his recording studio and returned to his earlier career as a graphic artist, working under his original name of Dennis Leigh. Examples of his work at this time include the book covers of Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh, Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry, Anthony Burgess' A Dead Man in Deptford, and several books in the Arden Shakespeare series. He also continued experimenting with reverberation, vocal treatments and echo in ambient music, working on a project he called Cathedral Oceans.

After about five years "living like a ghost in London", Foxx began to find inspiration in the underground House and Acid music scenes in Detroitmarker and London.With Nation 12 in the early 1990s, Foxx released two 12-inch singles, "Remember" and "Electrofear". The first was a collaboration with Tim Simenon, best known for his Bomb the Bass project. The group also wrote the music for the Bitmap Brothers computer games Speedball 2 (1990) and Gods (1991). He also worked with pioneers in this field such as LFO and made the music video for their eponymous debut single.

For some time after this, Foxx disappeared and there is no account of his life or whereabouts during this period.

Re-emergence

On March 24, 1997, John Foxx made a return to the music scene with the simultaneous release of two albums, Shifting City and Cathedral Oceans on Metamatic Records.

Shifting City was a collaboration with Manchestermarker's Louis Gordon, an updated stylistic return to Foxx's Metamatic synth pop sound which also displayed the influence of 1990s underground dance music and the 'triphop' style, along with the psychedelic Beatles-esque pop first apparent on Ultravox’s "When You Walk Through Me".

Cathedral Oceans was a solo John Foxx record, an ambient return to his Catholic youth and his love of the cathedrals of England and Europe. Its roots included traditional evensong, Gregorian Chant, Brian Eno, Harold Budd, and German band Cluster. From his own music Foxx drew on such pieces as "My Sex" from the first self-titled Ultravox! record, "Hiroshima Mon Amour" from Ha!-Ha!-Ha!, "Just For a Moment" from Systems Of Romance, and the title track from The Garden. Cathedral Oceans began as a project during the sessions for "The Garden" and has been a work in progress for 20 years before this release, described by Foxx himself as one of the proudest achievements of his career. The accompanying DVD was made commercially available for the first time during an installation in Hoxton Squaremarker, London, in January 2003.

Foxx and Gordon continued to work together, performing live on the Subterranean Omnnidelic Exotour in 1997 and 1998 and releasing a second album The Pleasures of Electricity, in September 2001. Two years later they toured again, to promote the album Crash and Burn, released in September 2003 on Foxx's own Metamatic Records. This continued the Ballardian themes of urban landscape and automobiles present in Metamatic, and was supplemented by the Drive EP. 2003 also saw the release of the second volume of Cathedral Oceans as well as another ambient record, the double CD Translucence and Drift Music with Harold Budd. In 2004, from September through October, a collection of Cathedral Oceans images was exhibited at BCB Art, Hudson, New York, and in the following year Cathedral Oceans III was released.

In April 2005 Foxx guested on Finnish DJ Jori Hulkkonen's album Dualizm, where he provided vocals for "Dislocated" which Hulkkonen had written especially for him. A month later, Foxx appeared on stage at the Brighton Pavilion with Harold Budd and Bill Nelson as part of a concert to celebrate the work of the retiring pianist, which led to the announcement in October that year that Foxx would be involved in collaborations with Jah Wobble, Robin Guthrie, Steve Jansen and Nelson. The following month an album's worth of salvaged Nation 12 material was finally issued under the title Electrofear. Despite its relatively low-key promotion and status as largely a 'work in progress', Electrofear encapsulated many of the original ideas that were more fully realised on Shifting City and, in its turn, From Trash.

In June 2006, Foxx released an instrumental solo album called Tiny Colour Movies consisting of fifteen instrumental tracks inspired by short art films he saw at a private screening. His official website described these as having the "filmic, atmospheric approach" of the Metamatic-era instrumental B-sides "Glimmer", "Film One" and "Mr No". On November 18, 2006, Foxx gave a performance of the work at the Duke of York's cinema in Brightonmarker, where Tiny Colour Movies was premiered as part of the city's Film Festival. Edited versions of the movies were shown on a big screen for the first time with Foxx playing a mix of live and recorded accompaniment from the album. This 'film' was shown again at Fulham Palace in July 2007 and then in a slightly revised format at the ICA and as part of the 21st International Film Festival in Leeds during November that year.

Three collaborative albums with Louis Gordon were released in late 2006: Live From a Room (As Big as a City), a 'live' studio album from the 2003 tour (released in association with an interview CD entitled "The Hidden Man") in October; the studio album From Trash in November; and a further album from the same sessions a few weeks later during the accompanying mini-tour. This two-CD package, entitled Sideways, included ten original tracks plus two extended versions of songs on From Trash. The second disc contained an extensive interview with Foxx describing the making of From Trash which was available only at concerts on the 2006 tour. The album saw a more commercial UK-wide release in April 2007.

The remixed surround sound DVD of Cathedral Oceans was released in March 2007. This contained his artwork made into a film intended as a "slowly moving, hallucinogenic, digital stained glass window, intended to be projected as big as possible onto architecture and in public places." The work was premiered in November 2006 at the Leeds International Film Festival.

In July 2007, Foxx exhibited some of his Cathedral Oceans artwork as large format digital prints at Fulham Palace as part of the RetroFuture exhibition hosted by ArtHertz.On the opening night, Foxx performed a piano piece accompanying a reading from his unpublished novel The Quiet Man in front of an audience for the first time. In September, a remastered edition of Metamatic was released as a two-CD pack containing the original album plus most of the associated B-sides and extra tracks from the period, including two 'new' songs re-assembled from original music recorded at the time.

On September 29, 2007, a showcase of Foxx's work was held at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London where he performed another version of Tiny Colour Movies and hosted a question-and-answer session. This was followed by the first-ever live performance of the entire Metamatic album, during which Foxx and Louis Gordon were accompanied on stage by Steve D'Agostino. Later in the evening, the DVD of Cathedral Oceans was shown in one of the ICA cinema studios. In October, Foxx and Gordon toured the UK with Metamatic, culminating in a show at Cargo in London. The year ended with two shows at the Luminaire in London. A live album titled A New Kind of Man, culled from the Metamatic performances in 2007, was released on Metamatic Records on April 28, 2008.

John Foxx presented three different pieces of his solo work in the space of one week in June 2008. This began with a showing of Tiny Colour Movies at the Caixaforum in Barcelonamarker on June 14, 2008, followed by a performance of Cathedral Oceans III inside the Great Hall at Durham Castle, England on the 18th. He then travelled to Italymarker and presented an extract from The Quiet Man at the 14th Festival Internazionale di Poesia in Genoamarker.

Work outside music

In 2000, a Porcupine Tree release called Lightbulb Sun was issued with cover art by Foxx.

Foxx has more recently taken a senior lecturer position at The London College of Music and Media TVU in London, working with art, media and music students across a range of courses. These include a masters degree in Computer Arts, as well as undergraduate courses such as Digital Arts and Audio Technology. In mid-2005, he took a sabbatical to record new music, write, work on the films which make up Tiny Colour Movies and tour in Europe and the UK.

In December 2007, Foxx exhibited some of his photographic works in an exhibition called Cinemascope at the Coningsby Gallery in West London. The images were part of three collections, "Grey Suit Music", "Tiny Colour Movies" and "Cathedral Oceans".

Discography

Albums and EPs

With Ultravox:
  • Ultravox! (as Ultravox!) (album released 25 February 1977)
  • Ha! Ha! Ha! (as Ultravox!) (album released 14 October 1977)
  • Retro (as Ultravox!) (live EP released 10 February 1978)
  • Systems of Romance (album released 8 September 1978)


Solo:
  • Metamatic (album released 17 January 1980)
  • The Garden (album released 25 September 1981)
  • The Golden Section (album released September 1983)
  • In Mysterious Ways (album released October 1985)
  • Cathedral Oceans (album released 24 March 1997)
  • The Golden Section Tour + The Omnidelic Exotour (double album released 2 December 2002. The Omnidelic Exotour disc is a composite of the two Exotour EPs listed below)
  • Cathedral Oceans II (album released 2 June 2003 as a double album including a re-issue of Cathedral Oceans)
  • Cathedral Oceans III (album released 8 August 2005)
  • Tiny Colour Movies (album released 5 June 2006)
  • Metal Beat (an in-depth interview between Steve Malins and John Foxx, over two CDs discussing the making of Metamatic)
  • My Lost City (album released 23 February 2009)
  • The Quiet Man (album released 27 July 2009)
  • In The Glow (live album of 1983 tour released 5 October 2009)


With Louis Gordon:
  • Shifting City (album released 24 March 1997)
  • Exotour 97 (1000-copy numbered edition EP from the 1997 UK tour, released 10 October 1997)
  • Subterranean Omnidelic Exotour (500-copy numbered edition album from the rehearsals of the 1998 UK tour, released 15 April 1998)
  • The Pleasures of Electricity (album released 15 September 2001)
  • Crash and Burn (album released September 2003)
  • Drive EP (EP released 9 September 2003)
  • Live From a Room (As Big as a City) (live album released 16 October 2006)
  • From Trash (album released 6 November 2006)
  • Sideways (A two-disc companion piece to From Trash, containing an album and interview CD, released 2006)
  • Impossible (remix album released 16 October 2008)
  • Neuro Video (live album released 16 October 2008)


With Harold Budd:

With Nation 12:
  • Electrofear (album released 14 November 2005)


With D'Agostino, Foxx & Jansen:

  • A Secret Life (released on 23 March 2009)


With Robin Guthrie:
  • Mirrorball (released on 4 May 2009)


Singles

With Tiger Lily:
  • "Ain't Misbehavin'" - 3.12 / "Monkey Jive" - 3.36 (7" single, released 14 March 1975)


With Ultravox!:
  • "The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned" - 5.50 (as part of compilation LP Rock, Reggae, Derek & Clive, released early October 1976)
  • "Dangerous Rhythm" - 4.14 / "My Sex" - 3.01 (7" single, released 4 February 1977)
  • "Modern Love" (live) - 2.31 / "Quirks" - 1.38 (single, included with the first copies of Ha!-Ha!-Ha!)
  • "Young Savage" - 2.58 / "Slipaway" - 4.09 (live at The Rainbow, a non-LP single, released 28 May 1977)
  • "ROckwrok" - 3.33 / "Hiroshima Mon Amour" - 4.54 (7" single, released 14 October 1977)
  • "The Peel Sessions" (12" single, recorded for the John Peel Show, BBC Radio 1, 21 November 1977 and released April 1988)
  • "Slow Motion" - 3.27 / "Dislocation" - 2.55 (12" and 7" singles, both released 4 August 1978)
  • "Quiet Men" - 3.15 / "Cross Fade" 2.56 (12" and 7" singles, both released 20 October 1978)


Solo:
  • "Underpass" - 3.18 / "Film One" - 4.00 (7" single, released 10 January 1980)
  • "Underpass" (full length) - 3.56 / "He's a Liquid" (alternate) - 3.06 (12" promo single, released 10 January 1980)
  • "No-One Driving" (remix) - 3.42 / "Glimmer" - 3.35 / "This City" - 3.05 / "Mr. No" 3.12 (double 7" single, released 20 March 1980)
  • "Burning Car" - 3.12 / "20th Century" - 3.04 (7" single, released 11 July 1980)
  • "Miles Away" - 3.17 / "A Long Time" - 3.49 (7" single, released 29 October 1980)
  • "Europe After the Rain" - 3.37 / "This Jungle" - 4.41 (7" single, released 20 August 1981)
  • "Europe After the Rain" - 3.59 / "This Jungle" - 4.41 / "You Were There" - 3.49 (12" single, released 20 August 1981)
  • "Dancing Like a Gun" - 3.38 / "Swimmer 2" - 3.30 (7" single, released 30 October 1981)
  • "Dancing Like a Gun" - 4.11 / "Swimmer 1" - 5.08 / "Swimmer 2" - 3.30 (12" single, released 30 October 1981)
  • "Endlessly" - 3.51 / "Young Man" - 2.53 (7" single, released 16 July 1982)
  • "Endlessly" (new version) - 4.18 / "A Kind of Wave" - 3.39 (7", released 17 June 1983)
  • "Endlessly" (new version) - 4.18 / "Dance with Me" - 3.31 (7", released 17 June 1983)
  • "Endlessly" (new version) - 4.18 / "Ghosts on Water" - 3.12 / "A Kind Of Wave" - 3.39 / "Dance with Me" - 3.31 (double 7", released 17 June 1983)
  • "Endlessly" (12" version) - 7.40 / "A Kind of Wave" (12" version) 4.58 (12", released 17 June 1983)
  • "Your Dress" - 3.59 / "Woman on a Stairway" - 4.28 (7", release 15 September 1983)
  • "Your Dress" - 3.59 / "Woman on a Stairway" - 4.28 / "The Lifting Sky" - 4.44 / "Annexe" - 3.04 (double 7", released 15 September 1983)
  • "Your Dress" - 4.26 / "The Garden" - 7.14 (12", released 15 September 1983)
  • "Like a Miracle" - 5.11 / "The Lifting Sky" - 4.44 (7" and 12", released 28 October 1983)
  • "Like a Miracle" (extended version) - 8.11 / "Wings & a Wind" - 5.17 (7" and 12", released 28 October 1983)
  • "Stars on Fire" - 4.52 / "What Kind of a Girl" - 4.40 (7", released mid-1985)
  • "Stars on Fire" - 4.52 / "What Kind of a Girl" - 4.56 / "City Of Light" - 3.38 / "Lumen de Lumine" - 2.36 (double 7", released mid-1985)
  • "Stars on Fire" - 7.15 / "City of Light" - 3.38 / "What Kind Of A Girl" - 4.56 (12", released mid-1985)
  • "Enter the Angel" - 3.58 / "Stairway" - 5.00 (7", released 20 September 1985)
  • "Enter the Angel" - 5.52 / "Stairway" - 5.54 (12", released 20 September 1985)
  • "Mr No" / "Mr No" (Joakim Remix) (12", released 2004)
  • "Burning Car" (20th Century) / "Burning Car" (Dubterror remix) (12", released 22 September 2008)


With Nation 12:
  • "Remember" /"Remember" (Sub Dub Mix) / "Listen to the Drummer" / "Remember" (12", released 1990)
  • "Electrofear" (Beastmix) - 4.20 / "Electrofear" (Shemsijo Mix) - 4.20 / "Electrofear" (Dogmix) - 3.56 (12", released 1991)


Boxset

  • Cinemascope (released 2008)
featuring six original albums -Crash and Burn (2003),Cathedral Oceans III (2005),Tiny Colour Movies (2006),From Trash (2006),Electrofear (2005) the Nation 12 albumplusCathedral Oceans DVD (featuring the music of Cathedral Oceans III).The albums and DVD are re-packaged in cardboard wallets, featuring alternative artwork to the original pressings. Six art prints of John Foxx's artwork are also included.

Compilations

With Ultravox:
  • Rock & Reggae & Derek & Clive (various Island Records' artists compilation) (released 1976)
  • Three Into One (released June 1980)
  • Slow Motion (released 1993)
  • The Island Years (released 1999)


Solo:
  • Assembly (album released June 1992)
  • Modern Art (album released 4 June 2001)
  • Glimmer: Best Of John Foxx (album released 7 Oct 2008)


Notes

References



External links




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