JOHN WATTS / FISCHER-Z, Interview, 22.04.2024

Foto: Thorsten Samesch / ToddeVision

Fischer-Z aka John Watts und Stuttgart, das ist eine ganz eigene Geschichte. Am 30. April ist der Brite mit seiner Band mal wieder im Wizemann (wir haben schon mehrfach von seinen Gigs berichtet) und wird sein brandneues Album „Triptych“ vorstellen. Und wir hatten nicht nur die Gelegenheit, es uns vorab anzuhören, John Watts hat uns auch ein Interview gegeben. Wir haben über das Album, über Politik und Kunst und seine besondere Beziehung zu Stuttgart geredet.

Album Review „Fischer-Z – Tryptich“

Wie fast sein gesamtes Werk, kreist auch „Tryptich“ um Johns drei wichtigste Themen: Liebe, Politik und Psychologie. Und zwar in einer ganz strengen Form. Genau viermal gibt es je einen Song zu jedem Thema in der gleichen Reihenfolge. Ein musikalisches Tryptichon eben. Und gleich der Opener ist eine handfeste Überraschung: „Nefertete“ ist ein fröhlicher Afropop-Song mit Chor und Highlife-Gitarre. „Amoral Vacuum“ ist eine bittere Abrechnung mit dem Brexit und seinen sozialen Folgen. Natürlich sind hin und wieder Ähnlichkeiten oder musikalische Zitate aus seinem früheren Werk zu erkennen, aber von dröger Selbstreferenz kann keine Rede sein. Im Gegenteil. Das Album ist – schon allein wegen seiner aktuellen Bezüge – absolut zeitgemäß und musikalisch abwechslungsreich. „A Plea“ ist die ebenso ergreifende wie lakonische Geschichte eines russischen Wehrpflichtigen. Der für mich mächtigste Song ist „Berta“, ein eineinhalbminütiger Nachruf auf die honduranische Menschenrechts- und Umweltaktivistin Berta Cáceres, die 2016 mutmaßlich im Auftrag großer Unternehmen ermordet wurde. Ein in seiner reduzierten Form ergreifender Song, auf den Billy Bragg sicher auch stolz wäre. Thematisch schließt sich hier der Kreis zu „Multinationals Bite“ vom legendären Album „Red Skies Over Paradise“. Musikalisch schließt das Album ohnehin nahtlos an, denn egal, welche stilistischen Ausflüge Fischer-Z auch machen, John Watts‘ unverkennbare und irgendwie alterslose Stimme hält das inzwischen riesige Œuvre mühelos zusammen. (VÖ 26.04.2024)

Interview John Watts

Five years after your last album „Swimming in Thunderstorms“, your 33rd album „Tryptich“ will be released on 26 April (if I’ve counted correctly). You’re turning 70 this year, and your creative drive seems undiminished. What are your inspirations, and where do you get your energy and motivation from?

My inspirations are very simple. My songwriting and my poetry and everything else that I do, is just representing my idea of the world. And so, as I am changing all the time and the world is changing all the time, there is plenty to write about.

For 40 years, your songs have revolved around the three themes of „love, politics and psychology“. Does your professional training in the latter help you to deal with the darker sides of the other two topics?

Uh, „love, politics and psychology“… Does my professional training help me deal personally with the difficult things? Not at all. It helps me to help other people.

Speaking of politics. In an interview, you once said that the problem with the left is that it is unable to communicate its more complex solutions, while the right always seems to have simple answers. Unfortunately, the general slide to the right proves you right. Do you know of any positive counter-examples that could encourage us and serve as a blueprint?

Hmm. The idea of simplifying the message of the left is – I think – pretty hopeless. The only thing is, young people need to make the connection between the green (they think, „green“ is about saving the trees, animals and the environment), but what they got to realise is, that those things in itself are directly connected to the biggest threats of warfare. The threats of warfare are gonna be caused by the damage of the planet, far more migration, water wars and everything else. That’s gonna be the biggest cause of conflict in the future. I think, if maybe people in the left could match together the idea of their causes with the bigger picture of the political situation, that’ll be useful.

And politics again. In view of the war in Gaza, many artists are taking a stand during their gigs. One-sided statements and opinions that seem less critical in left-wing circles in England, such as comparisons with the Holocaust or calls for the eradication of the state of Israel, are seen as antisemitic in Germany and are sometimes even punishable by law. How do you deal with this extremely difficult topic?

Ah! My attitude to all wars and conflicts: I like Russians, I like Ukrainians, I like Palestinians, I like Israelis – I just don’t like the assholes that lead them. And I make this very clear, in my political statements that I have a very different view to many people on the Ukraine. I speak Russian, for instance. I believe that Netanyahu is one of the evil, right-wing leaders and militarist maniacs along with Trump and everybody else. But – you can’t condone any form of terrorism, either. So: it’s not about the people, it’s about the leaders. It takes two to have a marriage, it takes two to have a war. Obviously, with the recent stuff between Israel and Iran, this is potentially very dangerous. But my story is that my father was an expert of military history, and I am also very interested in military and political history and how those things tie up. People get far too alarmist, and with the new forms of media and social media things get wound up. Also I think, people should be able to make their comments without being cancelled or being threatened.

At your solo concert in Stuttgart in summer 2020, you ranted about Brexit and jokingly said that you would consider applying for German citizenship. Now, four years later, Brexit is a reality and the political situation has deteriorated in both England and Germany. What is your assessment today?

Yes, Brexit was a monstrous folly for all the reasons that people know on a superficial level and on a deep political level, with Cameron trying to save the conservative party. But basically, I am actually doing some moves to enable me to spend more time in the EU.

Let’s get back to „Tryptich“. The album has a few musical surprises in store. The opening song „Nefertete“ with African guitars and choir vocals shows an unknown side of Fischer-Z. What are your (current) musical influences?

Well, you’re influenced by your own work, by everything historic, I’m also listening to everything new, all the new and indie stuff that comes out, not with the idea of copying it … but I am sort of influenced by everything past and present.

The artwork of your current album (and the two EPs) shows sculptures that express themes such as vulnerability, threat and instability in an archaic way. What can you tell us about this artwork?

The artwork was done by my son-in-law Jamie, who is also the drummer on „Tryptich“. The imagery is created by him and by Leila, my daughter, and it’s photographed by a really high level fashion photographer, a colleague of theirs.

Now to something completely different. I vaguely remember seeing you at a garage gig at the opening ceremony of the Medienhaus in Stuttgart-Heslach in 1996 or 1997. What brought you to Stuttgart back then, and do you still have connections to our city?

Oh, what brought me to Stuttgart? Well, I did a tour with „Fury in the Slaughterhouse“ and then I met Bär Läsker, cause he was managing them and that made the Stuttgart connection for me. Then I made the „Bigbeatpoetry“ record with Ingo Worner, the Stuttgart DJ. And yes, I still do have connections, I still call Stuttgart affectionately „Stutti“. And I still try to wonder why they drill a station into solid rock though it’ll never do it. One of the craziest infrastructure projects I have ever heard of. Yeah, I feel connected.

Despite your often serious song topics, your live performances are very positive and humorous. On 30 April, you and your band will be performing again at the Wizemann in Stuttgart. What can the audience expect – apart from new songs?

Up at the Wizemann people can expect a band show. They’ll get a certain number of the classic things, they’ll get four songs of the new album and lots of bits and pieces. And me talking, I suppose. I actually do two sorts of shows, the band and the solo shows which tend to be in theatres. I am looking forward to get back to „Stutti“, except for the traffic jams.

Schreibe einen Kommentar

Deine E-Mail-Adresse wird nicht veröffentlicht. Erforderliche Felder sind mit * markiert

I accept that my given data and my IP address is sent to a server in the USA only for the purpose of spam prevention through the Akismet program.More information on Akismet and GDPR.

Diese Website verwendet Akismet, um Spam zu reduzieren. Erfahre mehr darüber, wie deine Kommentardaten verarbeitet werden.