Fuzigish roll with the punches
By Robert Laing
Fuzigish is a word that came up over some drinks, it could mean anything, the band's frontman Jay Bones told me in a radio interview.
The name sounded Japanese to me.
"Interestingly, Japan is the only country outside South Africa we've been released. Maybe it's because the word Fuzigish goes down well there," Jay said.
Later at a press launch for Fuzigish's new album Roll With The Punches, someone pointed out to me Fuzigish is only a letter change away from a naughty phrase (Fuzzy Gash?).
It dawned on me a band whose members have names like Jay Bones and Big Willy enjoy references to rude bits.
Fuzigish often share the bill with punk bands, but their genre is ska mixed with everything from country to Motown. The band is 10 years old, and Jay attributes its longevity to keeping ska interesting by merging it with other styles.
Jay describes Fuzigish as a party band, an image born out by their raucous performances. The brass section — former Leek and The Bouncing Uptones' Big Willy and Boo!'s Ampie Omo — double as the "Beer Funnel" or "Beer Bong" players.
"The beer bong is an invention. Some of the songs don't have the horns in them. We needed to give the brass section something to do, so we came up with these shakers, and they worked."
The Diesel Whores' Jaxon Rice reckons Fuzigish has the most powerful stage presence in Johannesburg — a huge compliment considering his band is a strong contender for this title.
Though Fuzigish is ska, it attracts the punk scene's stage diving crowd.
"We're mates with the hardcore bands and support each other. The Joburg music scene is too small for bands to be purists and only play with similar bands."
Offstage, Jay comes across as a serious professional. If he's as effective in his day job as Internet software developer as in his rock 'n roll sideline, he must be very good.
"We are a punk band in the sense we are very DIY motivated."
Fuzigish self-publish via their own lable Red Ambulance. The indie lable held Roll With The Punches's press launch at the Bohemian — not the lavish venue a big record company would have picked, but equally effective at a fraction of the cost. Red Ambulance has grown from Fuzigish's inhouse lable into a stable including the Diesel Whores and Misled.
Roll With The Punches, the band's fourth album, takes an "unfuzi" direction in many tracks. For instance, there's a country tune called Black Magoo. Videos are vital for South African bands since TV is far more supportive of local music than radio. The band picked this track to be their video, and an animator is working on it.
"The whole story is nobody knows what a Black Magoo. The animation will show a mad scientist and various others being asked, and nobody knows what it is. A Black Magoo is an amazing little fish — like a goldfish with big eyes stuck on the side."
Black Magoo was a song Jay did in his studio, not thinking the rest of the band would go for it, but they voted it onto the album.
Another 'unfuzi' number is Trouble. The band regularly brings out international acts, Lagwagon last year and Mad Caddies this May. When Jay played his work in progress to Lagwagon's Joey Cape, Trouble stood out for him.
"It's ballady, something we've never done before. When Joey heard it, he asked to sing on it."
It was an odd choice for a punk rocker considering Trouble is a bluesy number. The track has Electro-Muse as the strings section.
Easy Tiger was inspired by a foreign visitor's reaction to Joburg drivers. "Every time he saw road rage, he'd say 'Easy Tiger', which I thought was perfect for a laid back song."
Jokey stand-in lyrics Jay used about losing his dog ended up on the album as Lost Dog.
"When I came back with the proper lyrics, the guys said 'where are those about the dog, they were much cooler' so we went with them instead."
The guy finds his dog at the end of the song. It's an up-beat album.
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