Interview Linzi Stoppard of FUSE
HHM: You have been playing the violin since a very young age, what spawned your desire to switch from classical to electric?
Linzi: There were many reasons I wanted to switch to the electric violin, firstly I didn’t want to be another classical cross-over cliche, there are too many of those as it is, it has become a watered down genre, I wanted to stand out from the crowd. The electric violin looks very futuristic, especially FUSE’s violins, adding a wow-factor to a stage performance, also for the ease of amplification and the ability to add effects with floor pedals and cab amps, analogue guitar backline etc. The electric violin gave me more freedom as a performer to experiment with so many more musical styles and sounds too, in the same way an electric guitar player can use effects…
HHM: Was there any sort of learning curve or having to adjust the way you played?
Linzi:. In terms of technique they are essentially the same, the electric violin is slightly heavier and of course the electric is able to be amplified. I think the main difference is in your mind. You are able to express yourself in a way that isn’t as becoming when tried on an acoustic as it is when you’re playing an instrument that can sound like the pan-pipes one minute and then Jimmy Hendrix at the flick of a switch. This broadens your horizons and encourages you to take risks, experiment and push the boundaries.
HHM: How long had you been playing solo when yourself and Ben Lee had gotten together?
Linzi: I’d been playing solo for a few years, also playing the electric violin in a couple of different bands…I was always looking to push the envelope with new sounds, production and genres. For my solo shows I started playing dance and club tracks but rock was always on my radar. That is when we started to look for an executive producer.
HHM: I found it interesting that originally you weren’t looking to add a second violin when you met Ben Lee, how did that all come about?
Linzi: I was looking for an executive producer for my live performances when I was a solo violinist. Through my management we eventually found Ben Lee, a violinist from the Royal College. Ben shared an interest in pushing the boundaries and exploring how the violin sound can be manipulated. So we started working together on my solo shows, this relationship continued for a few months. At the time most violin acts were all-girl quartets so there was a gap in the market for a girl-boy duo. It was a unique combination, add to that Ben’s and my vision to push the boundaries sonically and you have the ingredients for a new act – In early 2008 Ben and I officially joined forces and FUSE was born.
HHM: How much of a dynamic change was if for you with having 2 violins on stage now?
Linzi: There was a dynamic change in a positive way, as I’ve always believed that two is stronger than one, Ben and I also channel a different vibe on stage which actually compliments each other bringing together a stronger performance than myself as a solo artist.
But it wasn’t just about being 2 violins instead of one. If I had looked for another female violinist I don’t think it would have worked out the same – I really wanted to team up with a guy to form the first girl/boy duo. That is much more powerful, there something for everyone (as one fan said!) and it is even more dynamic.
HHM: Does that same shared passion and drive spill over into the writing/composing process as well?
Linzi: Absolutely. It was an important decision when FUSE first started. We always have ideas for new tracks, most rehearsals spring up something when we are just jamming but it was our management that decided the album should be our interpretations of rock anthems. You see when most people see a violin they have a preconception about what it is, how it looks, what it will sound like and most importantly the genre you will play. Needless to say most think CLASSICAL! This is the stereotype we wanted to smash. So if the first time an audience hear the band you are playing original material you are risk loosing them while they work out if they like the melody, the sounds, the style etc. On the other hand if you give them something they love, sing along to in the car when it comes on the radio then you have already jumped the first hurdle and are in with a chance. Familiarity is so critical when trying to get an audience to empathize with you. If it is already in the subconsciousness half the battle is won.
Having said that we write, arrange and produce original material for Paris and London fashion weeks, we have been commissioned to write the score for a new movie and fingers crossed a new TV series as well. We are fortune to have the best of both worlds.
HHM: Was it tough for you to give up some of that spotlight or more you allowing yourselves to feed off of each other’s playing?
Linzi: I loved performing solo, yes I had the stage to myself and the freedom. But there is a flip side, it can get lonely, even up on stage, but I learned to focus that nervous energy and turn it into something positive. But as a duo I found I had to be a bit more disciplined at first. You always have to be aware of your band mate, what each others roles are and stick to them. Once you have that down you can start to be a bit more expansive and take a few more risks. And of course there is the competitiveness that I didn’t have when solo. Both Ben and I are competitive but in a positive way. We spur each on and it helps keep us honest.
HHM: I have watched the “Glorious” video several times. It is quite moving. You seem to get lost in your playing. Do you sometimes forget that there’s more than just You and Ben Lee up there on stage?
Linzi: Music is emotional. If it wasn’t it would be such a big part of all our lives. Whether it provokes a sad memory of a break up, or an electric rush when we first met someone. And music can inspire us when we hear something that moves the soul. The key is the same piece of music means something different to each of us. And I find that is no different when performing our music. It is such an anthemic track, that one track was probably more responsible for FUSE’s signature, sound and style than any other.
HHM: Have you ever received any criticism from “traditional” violinists for your progressive approach to the instrument?
Linzi: Yes, some purists don’t like the mixing classics with pop/rock especially on the violin! What they don’t realize is that we are bridging the gap between classical and the mainstream. We are introducing a new audience to what is generally interpreted as a classical instrument. The violin deserves to be heard by as many people as possible but if we leave it to just the great composers of yesteryear we run the risk of this incredible instrument being left behind in a fast moving and new world. Don’t get me wrong, the classical is very important and always will be, FUSE just believe there is more to it than that.
As with most things in life that get a reaction it is usually ‘cos one is not conforming with the norm. That makes some people feel nervous. Conversely we feel that is a good thing. Negativity is born from a misunderstanding, feeling threatened, an insecurity. Sure FUSE’s music may create cracks in the violin fraternity, but that lets the sun shine through.
HHM: Do you find that it makes it a little tougher to get your message across without vocals?
Linzi: We do actually have some vocals on the album, it was a big decision to have vocals. It wasn’t so much because there were space which the violins couldn’t fill, more because we were recording rock anthem and anyone who was anyone would sing along when they heard it. Particularly the big famous choruses. So we thought why not accompany them, or give them something to sing along with, they clearly like it. The end result worked out well, it adds something. As you can hear they are not lead vocals, more backing to add something to the ‘soup’.
HHM: You seem to have a very music industry mindset, you are much more than novice when it comes to the ins and outs of the music business. Where do you find the strength to be so passionate about both sides of the music?
Linzi: This is a necessity for a modern day artist. The industry has changed so much. Once upon a time an artist would be signed from a good demo. Not now. The labels want to see the complete package before they commit. When you are starting out and you can’t afford agents & PRs. A new artist has to understand how to connect to the new online audience and with that comes a necessity to understand how everything works otherwise you’ll get burnt. At least that’s how I came to knowing both sides.
HHM: If you had to pick just a couple, what do you feel are some of your proudest moments as musicians up to this point in your careers?
Linzi: Performing at Glastonbury Festival is definitely up there, also performing at the Royal Albert Hall. When we started out it was normally an orchestra and classical music that was heard from a violin in the great hall. The thought that electric violins playing rock would have the stage at this iconic venue didn’t seem possible when we started out. But it did. There is a definite air of expectation backstage – partly due to all the photos of legendary artists filling the corridors who have performed on this stage.
HHM: What does 2013 have in store for FUSE? What are some plans you guys have for this year?
Linzi: More FUSE Tours are being planned, also shows in Asia, America & The UK, also a film soundtrack is planned for the near future!
Interview by DaveHHM
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