The Fuji Collective. They’re in a bad way. Having been conspicuously absent from Sydney stages recently, we thought they were all set to end their musical exile with a show at The Vanguard on April 30th. Mikey and I went to visit them at the AFRII (Australian Funk Related Insanity Institute) where they are being held for observation. Be warned, the following scenes may shock and disturb some readers.
We are ushered down beige hallways by a man wearing a full-length white smock. Through an open doorway we see afroed men having fits as nurses play violins. I catch Mikey’s eye. We keep our eyes on the floor after that. The nurse opens a door and, as we are shown into the padded room, we both gasp in horror. The Fuji Collective line the far wall, connected at the head by what looks like electric shower caps. They sit with their hands on their knees, their eyes staring straight ahead and wide open as if in a trance. A small wrinkled figure sits in front of them with a pen and paper.
“What… what have you done to them?” Mikey sounds like a child who just found Santa dead in the snow.
“We’re trying a new therapy. Group therapy. Their minds are linked together. As they’re all so close we thought we’d see if they could help themselves.” The nurse looks and sounds a little uncertain. I’m more than a little uncertain.
Pointing at the thing that looks like a cross between a foetus and an old man I ask “Forget the shower caps, what the hell is that thing?” The nurse looks at me for a moment then suddenly hurries out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Mikey takes the initiative. “Uh… Hi guys?”
“Hello Hey How are ya Hello Hello Hi Yo” is written onto the pad by the gnome. Mikey looks at me. “I don’t know man, let’s just ask them the questions and get the hell out of here.” Mikey nods. We ignore the fear creeping up our spines and get straight to it, with Mikey asking how the band has changed in the years since their debut.
“Mainly through evolution, there is no sign of intelligence or design whatsoever. We’re all different people than we were at the end of high school, for example I used to be a cat. In our time here we’ve all been able to develop our personalities on a more individual level and thus have new experiences to bring to the band.” Individual level. Right.
How could this have come to pass? They certainly make the music crazy, perhaps the music has made them crazy?
At this discordant groans arise from the band. As they’re motionless, it’s impossible to tell who is making which sound. It’s like a fucking zombie symphony. The little man-thing keeps scribbling away. “Fuuuunk. Music always affects our mental conditions, that’s the point and that’s why we’re all here. Nooo, funk is meant to heal. Bucca bucca bow bowwm.” Fucking weird.
“We fell to the power of funk when we began trying to play funk. We don’t play funk, it just flours our cakes and fertilises our garden. Feeeel good like I knew that I woooould.”
This is creepy. We have to lean over to read the text on the page as it is being written and the gnome thing smells vaguely of nutmeg. The guys are still totally motionless. Drool is slipping out the side of Ty’s mouth. We hear an inhuman scream from the corridor outside. Something scratches at the door. Shambling footsteps wander out of hearing. Mikey finally asks them directly, what caused them to be institutionalised like this?
“It was wholly down to the power of our music. We started playing on the street near a pub with outdoor seating. People grabbed pub barriers to BLOCK OFF THE STREET so they could dance uninterrupted by traffic. In the end when the cops rocked up to shut it down there were perhaps 100 funksters groovin out. We woke up here, in happy place of friends.”
Given that they currently look like extras out of an overproduced Romero remake, can they possibly be ready for the Vanguard gig on the 30th?
“So ready! This has been our longest break in our 5 years of playing together! There’s a lot of energy ready to go out into the universe. We’ve all had time to improve individually as musicians and, luckily, with our history of performing we know our stuff, so put those together and it is going to be better than ever!“
Mikey and I have definitely had enough. We turn to go, but Mikey turns back. As I try to drag him out the door he asks them if they think the funk is dangerous. Look at them, I think, of course it is!Suddenly their mouths open and out comes a dry laugh lacking all humour: synchronised, machine-like. “Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.” The little gnome emits a high-pitched keening noise and begins writing furiously.
“It’s dangerous to just take the funk into your bunk and think you can get something happening without knowing what’s going on with that energy. Its dangerous cos you can fast end up unfunky, and when you’ve got something unfunky being called funky you’ve got a case of de-evolution on your hands. It’s a music that comes out of an uprising against oppression and that is relevant to all of us, white or black, because we’ve a got a mass-culture blandness being rammed down the throat of our generation and all we’ve gotta do is turn our back and assert our own thing righteously. Funk is just one of many paths to this end.”
They have their third album in the works, though Lucifer knows when they have time to work on it. You can sometimes catch them on day release from the Institute, jamming the streets of Newtown into a funk frenzy, but if you’re unlucky enough to have missed them they’ll be infecting your cerebellum with funk-laden bacteria at The Vanguard on April 30th.