I’ve been asked by more than a few non-Foxxy friends to explain the NEW KIND OF MAP (TRANS FOXXY EXPRESS) graphic.
That isn’t easy…
I’ve used the ‘tube map’ as a concept because most of John’s music and creative media output is either set in or in other ways connected with ‘a city’. Predominantly London, but over the course of 40 years it has referenced New York, Paris, Tokyo.
All of which have metro networks anyway…
Most of his writing, ideas and observations come from wandering around the streets of London, just exploring and ‘ending up’.
For most visitors to the city, the Tube represents the most accessible and ‘best’ way of doing that.
The irony in that of course is that in fact the Tube is overcrowded and busier than the streets traversed on foot, and in fact most ‘stations’ are closer together than the map would suggest and it’s often quicker and more interesting to walk…
The interplay between one of the world’s most iconic map images and one of London’s least glorified sound-track writers was irresistible. John Foxx is everywhere, and yet no-one even knows who he is.
When you walk the streets of London, or browse the shelves of Amazon, you wouldn’t even know he was there, rumbling under your feet, nudging along the artist whose album your about to buy, and quietly nicking ideas from others.
For the graphic, I have replaced the familiar stations with album titles (and occasional non-album singles) and used different coloured ‘lines’ to represent the various genres and ‘types’ of media that John has released.
There can’t be many artists who have produced (and continue to produce) artwork, music, writing and film in quite so many different styles – linked more by theme than by sound, and referencing literature, movies and art more than other music.
You can start to explore his canon of work almost anywhere, and which ever direction you choose to take soon enough themes and signatures will become apparent. They each in turn suggest other routes and echo other places rather than leading you in any particular direction. Oftimes, another artist or musician appears vaguely across a crowded platform or down a tunnel. Up escalators and down corridors – take time to explore the influences and connections that also span 40 years of time and space.
On the map I have produced, some of these connections are identified by the circular ‘F’ flash symbol – representing the British Rail symbol we know from the Tube map wherefrom travellers connect with mainline overground services.
For those coming from outside the world of Foxx, these are Points Of Entry to the network – for others more familiar with John’s work, these will instead be exit markers, taking flight into the careers and catalogues of other musicians and artists.
Some of these are dictated by circumstance or time, others by mood or fancy.
Take for instance the ‘line’ entitled ‘ULTRAVOX’ (third one down, drawn in lilac).
In 1974, Foxx formed Ultravox and released three albums with them, establishing one of the first post-punk bands in Britain to use synthesizers as an integral part of their sound. Well-known in Foxx history is his departure from the band in 1979, to be replaced by Midge Ure. Thereafter, Foxx went solo, leaving Midge and the others to re-design the band and take them off to global stardom in the electronic 80s, starting with the phenomenal success of the single ‘Vienna’…
At the same time (hence the pink line ’80s electropop’ that runs parallel) other artists like GARY NUMAN were enjoying Number One hits with synthesizer based music across the world. Extending this line in either direction would call in ‘stations’ like The Human league, Visage, Depeche Mode etc…
Foxx himself enjoyed a taste of 80s pop stardom with a string of minor hit singles (most notably UNDERPASS and EUROPE AFTER THE RAIN) hence the pink line extending up to his third album THE GOLDEN SECTION.
But at the same time as recording these, he was experimenting with ‘choral harmonics’, reverb and ambient music (exemplifed by the green QUIET line) and operating from a studio in Brussels.
Are you following this…?
Central to the map graphic are two lines marked in GREY and BROWN and entitled METATRONIC and METADELIC respectively. These titles are those of two career-spanning 3xCD collections – each of which represents a theme or thread common throughout John’s career. As well as the electronic/experimental Kraftwerk-ian metal beat ‘click click drone’ of his high-profile signature pieces, Foxx is equally prolific in and influenced by UK psychedelia, especially the Revolver-period Beatles and Barrett-era Pink Floyd.
Hence the two lines that run in parallel across the centre of the image.
Half way up, more or less central to the image, is an orange coloured circle line which represents John’s work with a musician called LOUIS GORDON for a period of about ten years between 1997 and 2006. John had been in self-imposed exile for ten years prior to meeting Louis, and his comeback album SHIFTING CITY is considered on of the most significant milestones in his career. However, John simultaneously released his first album of choral harmonic music in 1997, the first part of the wonderful CATHEDRAL OCEANS trilogy.
John and Louis recorded and released five mainstream albums over ten years, and a number of less well-known ‘soft release’ EPs and live recordings. Louis own solo career took off with the release of his debut album CLOSED, GONE FISHING – which I have taken full advantage of as a visual pun on a little used branch line…
A coupel of other solo and compilations albums followed for Foxx, culminating in the D.N.A. multimedia project – a double album of music and video with numerous collaborators.
Which brings in another thread of his work – the red line – representing the material he has released over 20 years in collaboration with other musicians. This line terminates eastbound (towards Europe) with the simultaneous releases in 2013 with Jori Hulkkonen and The Belbury Circle – connecting John with other genres and hidden worlds waiting for the traveller to explore. Similarly go west, over to America, and discover his work with ambient pianist Harold Budd…
Top right is the most recent phase of his career, the bright blue ANALOGUE CIRCUIT line (using the colour of a modular patch cable) This began in 2009 when John met synth collector and sound-explorer Ben ‘Benge’ Edwards’ and started recording with him as John Foxx and the Maths in an underground studio in Shoreditch, within a mile of John’s own studio in 1983 where he recorded most of his earlier solo material. You’d never find it by looking, it’s just a door in a wall.
As well as releasing three albums to date, John and Benge have worked with various other artists as The Maths, and recorded a number of remixes of material by other artists. Foremost among these are OMD and SIMPLE MINDS, both of whom connect back beautifully with the 80s electropop period.
Part of the synchronicity behind all this is John’s cover version of PINK FLOYD’s classic HAVE A CIGAR in 2012 – neatly tying him back into the earliest period of British psychedelia.
Make sense now?
I haven’t mentioned the HIDDEN line – interview discs, creative writing. Other ‘stuff’.
Or the lighter pink INVISIBLE line:
John Foxx isn’t a musician at all. He’s a photographer, painter film-maker and graphic designer. He’s produced more than 50 book cover designs (including ARDEN SHAKESPEARE editions) under an assumed name. You can buy prints of his photographic artwork from exhibitions like THE QUIET MAN and CINEMASCOPE.
Cathedral Oceans is not just music, its’ a visual masterpiece – a gently moving ever-changing stained glass window of sound. Set in a vast, submerged, hidden cathedral. In London. Where the streets are overgrown, unfamiliar and lost.
It’s a work of considerable, indefinite genius.
Where will you join the network?