“I love the sad and the sick of the world,” sings Hether Fortune on the opening line of ‘Discipline & Desire’, the second album from her ice-cool post-punk outfit, Wax Idols. Fortune is setting out a defiant manifesto. “It's important to me to make music that makes people feel less isolated and hopeless, even for just a moment,” she tells Clash.
Reaching out to those who inhabit society’s margins is central to Fortune’s art. “It's important to me, not because of some super inflated ego in need of satiation, but because other artists have done that for me and it literally has saved my life a thousand times over, and has helped to shape me as a person and as an artist.
“I want to make sure that that kind of spirit never dies. If one person feels better about themselves because of something I've said or done, that alone would be enough to make me feel like my life has had some kind of purpose.”
The new album could well realise this dream. ‘Discipline & Desire’ is a belter; wider in sonic scope than the 2011 punk-pop debut ‘No Future’. Now replete with a full band, the new songs bristle with both controlled anger and buckets of compassion.
“A lot happened in my personal life between the making of the two albums, that brought much more clarity and focus to my work,” Hether explains. “There is more space, texture and mystery. When you start to really know yourself and blossom as a human being, I think that your art reflects that.”
The new record was co-produced by Mark Burgess, of seminal Manchester band The Chameleons, and Fortune admits the collaboration was fraught. “It was simultaneously one of the most incredible and most difficult experiences of my life,” she reveals. “Mark is a very brilliant, inspiring and complicated person.”
And so is Hether Fortune. A teenage fan of hardcore punk bands such as Black Flag – “The aggression and chaos that came with seeing bands like that live was really important to me… I was, um, very angry” – Hether became obsessed with Siouxsie Sioux.
“I love her, I want to be her friend,” she says of the Banshees icon, who would become a role model for the Wax Idols’ aesthetic. “I've always been more attracted to bands that have really strong, fearless front persons. I feel like I am a part of that lineage – arrogant as that may sound.”
Fortune is certainly fearless and very much the central character of Wax Idols. Outside of the band, she is also a dominatrix, and the intense, focussed art-rock of ‘Discipline & Desire’ further blurs the boundaries.
“Being a dominatrix is just a part of who I am,” Hether says to a (by now) flustered Clash. “There is overlap [with Wax Idols] because it is all part of the same whole. There are no gimmicks at play when it comes to my band. What you see and hear is what you get.”
And Clash is not going to argue with that.
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Where: Oakland, California
What: Indomitable post-punk for the disaffected
Get 3 Songs: ‘Dethrone’, ‘The Cartoonist’, ‘When It Happens’
Unique Fact: As a dominatrix, Hether “could split your back open with one flick of my wrist, if I'm holding something long and leather.” Gulp.
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Words: John Freeman
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