A long, long time ago, I met Oxo Foxo and her legal team at G2 Studios. It was a strange, long interview (42 minutes) that was abruptly interrupted when a sensitive question was asked. It wasn’t even about her real name (it might not be Oxo Foxo, this is still unconfirmed), but more about the current state of politics in the United Kingdom.
So, an editorial decision had to be made. After several meetings with Sloucher‘s investors (all belonging to a cult that worships cows) and long powerlunches between this site’s legal team and the legal team representing Oxo Foxo, a compromise was achieved. The interview could be posted online as long as it was transcribed verbatim.
It would’ve been a wonderful resolution to one of the tensest moments in the history of the website, as losing a legal fight with the draconian lawyers of “Sheffield’s best kept secret” (TM) could’ve meant the closing of this shithole of a website.
Then Tramlines happened and the camera used in this interview…
Look. This interview was recorded in a 7 year old Sony Cybershot P200 that was bought in a dodgy Russian electronics shop in New York. The camera had fallen in an oil-contaminated sea in Manzanillo, opened Mexican caguamas, fell twice into the pavement and once repelled an angry Clap your hands, say yeah! fan. It even had lost its lens twice.
The lens is not detachable.
I used the camera during Tramlines to record live video, like Oxo Foxo‘s cover of Pete Frampton/Big Mountain‘s ‘Baby I love your way’. I recorded a lot of audio that weekend. And suddenly, the camera gave up the ghost. No biggie, right? The Memory Stick survived, right?
Turns out that when I pulled out the stick, one of the metal thingies in the slots got caught. I sent the Memory Stick to a card data recovery company in Hackney. The repair took 5 long weeks and several experts. 25 quid later, the memory stick was sent in a parcel containing the stick, a matchbox crudely fashioned as a coffin (with rather ornate décor and a DVD with some of the data recovered.
After running the recovered audio of this interview through several Audacity filters, what follows is an approximation of what happened that fateful day in July in G2 Studios, where Oxo Foxo and her 2 loyal lawyers received me with open arms, sandwiches (mmm, sandwiches) and several bottles of interesting alcohol…
So, where does the name Oxo Foxo come from?
Oxo Foxo: I should probably make a story up, as I never have an answer. I was walking through a park and there was this cloud of starlings, swishing across the sky and they cleared and spelled the name.
Lawyer #1: That’s ridiculous. You told me you were doing Fox Tours in Sheffield.
OF: That’s right! Fox Tours in Sheffield.
Lawyer #2: “Oxo Foxo, premier Fox guide in Sheffield”.
OF: Yes, sadly it closed down due to the credit crunch, so I had to go into music, all due to the demise of the Fox Tours. It’s a pretty happy change.
When did you begin writing music?
OF: I was always encouraged to do music since I was small, but proper writing, only the last few years. I was in bands, but I wanted to do something on my own as I had a few strange ideas, using a loop pedal and playing with it. I used to go to band camp, where we had residential courses and it was fun to create music, even if it was stupid songs on guitar about what was going on every day. I had a book where I wrote down all my songs and I like to look what my 16 year old self wrote about like: how much I hated my boss and a friend’s break up.
Her song went like this: “You got to break up / with sty-y-le / you gotta break up with finesse! / If you break up with elegance / you won’t be depressed when you say ‘you are a shit bastard!’”. I had all these songs and that was quite precious to me.
Most of these questions are from Caitlin although I’m making some as I go. Here’s one from her: “I’m a big fan of ‘Starfish’ and I’ve listened to most of your stuff, like Urgent Talk. What drove the diversity in sound in both projects?”
OF: Wow, Gosh! When I was in Urgent Talk, I really enjoyed my time there, it opened my mind to a lot of possibilities in music because those guys are complete geniuses. One uses old game consoles and reprograms them. The other one is really good with beats and now he does his own stuff, with an Ableton controller, creating some interesting, glitchy stuff. They were both amazing. I added the more organic sounds of the music, the oohs and aahs. Some bits in viola too. The diversity in Urgent Talk was from our different influences. They taught me a lot about pedals too. I’ve taken some of their stylings, like electronic sounds and I take some from my own bubble, use the power of the voice and create big choral atmospheres.
I spent a lot of time in church when I was growing up and a lot of that music, that polyphonic choral, was full of keys. That music shaped the heart of what I like: harmonies and choral approaches. I hope to get a few more toys and diversify my sound even more.
Do you have any particular musical influence?
OF: Choral music, as I grew up with it. I wasn’t much into pop music in my early life, I listened to old records my parents had. They had The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Carpenters… I used to sing my heart out to The Carpenters. I never rule out a genre, I try to find something in every genre. All sorts of random things inspire me.
Lawyer #2: Like Whigfield!
OF: Exactly! I’ve done a cover of ‘Saturday Night’, which is one of my favourite dance songs. Anything with a real focus on harmonies inspires me quite a lot. World music gave me a lot of inspiration for rhythms.
Recently, a lot of female vocalists favour harmonising techniques, whether by multitracking and sampling and loops. What prompted you to loop vocals?
OF: It was a happy coincidence! I had a previous loop pedal but could only record small phrases. I was trying to find out a way to sort this out and one of my friends was selling her BOSS loop pedal and I bought it off from her. I instantly took to it, it enabled me to create big vocal landscapes, it was a happy accident! It’s a bit tricky to do some things and I’m not a massive techie, sometimes I just want to throw it out of the window but most of the time I can get it to do what I want. When I want to write a song, now I think in loops; it changed the way I think about music. Now all songs are “sections” and it changed my way of hearing and creating music. I now see music as boxes and I stack them on top of each other, then I puzzle around, seeing where can I take something out and put it back again.
If you could compare playing the viola to another activity that is completely unrelated to music what would it be?
OF: That’s a really good question!
Straight from New York! It’s one of Caitlin’s!
OF: I would compare it to swimming in a lake of molten chocolate. Because a viola is more resistant than a violin. The violin flutes and is malleable, with the viola you need to be very bossy. You can swim through something gloopy, it will be hard but it will be sweet. Also, I’d compare it to wearing velvet chocolate shoes!
Have you lived in Sheffied all your life?
OF: For about 6 years. I went away for a while but came back, this city sucks you in. I’m originally from Dorset, in the South of England. I’m quite a homebird, so I like living in Sheffield, although one day I’d like to see the rest of the world, because the differences between countries and continents is so insane. You can’t imagine what it is until you go there. But for now, I’m a Sheffield Fox. An Urban Fox. That’s my current territory.
On that note about foxes, which one is your favourite fox?
OF: My favourite fox? Well, Fantastic Mr. Fox is pretty awesome. The new film I thoroughly enjoyed. I do have with me a little fox which is Fantastic Mr. Fox and he travels everywhere with me. He’s pretty cool. It’s hard to choose one single fox because they are all awesome. I saw this brilliant fox down Ecclesall road. He was amazing, so glossy and sleek. He looked complete badass, because he crossed the road and he didn’t care. He wasn’t running, just trotting, looking all “yeah, this is my patch!”, he amble across the road with a face that said “yeah, what are you gonna do about it?” Pretty awesome.
Your profile on Facebook is a photoshopped picture of you as a fox…
Lawyer #2: That’s not Photoshop! You lie! It’s real!
OF: That’ my real tail! I folded it up right now, it’s retractable.
Lawyer #1: You might as well say there’s no Easter Bunny!
OF: Exactly! And no Father Christmas!
Does that mean you usually go running around picking gold rings with a hedgehog?
OF: Yes, pretty much! You just described my life.
Do you need a minion?
OF: I always need minions!
I’ll send my application (Editor’s note: he was rejected. Reason? Slacker).
OF: Excellent, I’ll appreciate it.
What are your thoughts on fur trade and fur coats?
Lawyer #2: For or against?
OF: That’s a really tough one. The thing is: I’m obviously against fur trade as it stands. There is a lot of vintage fur out there which is currently being thrown into landfills and incinerated. I read a while ago that environmentally, this hurts more than hunting. So there’s this argument about preserving vintage fur coats in collections. It was very interesting. Is it ethical? Is it allowing people to use vintage fur? If it’s vintage and you can’t change the past, is it wrong? My gut feeling is that no one should be wearing fur, vintage or not. Leave the fur in the animal. Let him frolic and do what they wants to do. I saw this documentary on beavers the other day. They are humongous!
Lawyers #1 and #2: pffft!
OF: This guy, was a beaver hunter, he was gigornoumous and the beaver was one third of his size. It was a bit sad that they are skinned for fur. It does look better on them than on us humans. Maybe that was a confused and rambly answer.
I don’t mind.
Lawyer #2: Oxo Foxo is pro antique fur?
Lawyer #1: You don’t know the impact of dealing antique fur. Is it promoting the use of any fur or what? In a way you are preserving what the fox was and now at least you don’t hurt them.
OF: Two of my good friends went travelling around the world. They were in Australia, hiking in this lovely road. And then comes this guy in a big truck, and he’s got a licence to collect road kill and take the fur and teeth. They brought me a kangaroo teeth necklace!
Lawyer #2: Well, if it died, then it’s okay.
Animals that were humanely killed by a lorry?
OF: Well, no, you’d hoped that animals wouldn’t be killed by lorry. But if it’s an animal that died in the forest and it thought “well, I had a good life…”
Lawyer #1: If you accidentally kill an animal with a car, you’re legally obliged to wear it.
Lawyer #2: What about whales?
OF: People now stuff their pets and all…
Lawyer #1: That’s fucking weird.
OF: I think it’s very nice! If I had cat and died, I’d taxidermy it!
Lawyer #2: It’s a bit weird! Having your bereaft-of-life cat constantly staring at you!
OF: You’d go to a special taxidermist, make a good job.
Lawyer #1: Wherever you move, he looks at you.
You could pay a guy who makes animatronics! Make it go *whirr whirr* and track you.
OF: There’s a Youtube of a guy who made a model aeroplane out of his cat!
OF: That one! The cat’s stretched, holding engines!
Lawyer #2: That’s surely too far!
OF: I don’t know… and if my beloved dog died…
Lawyer #1: You’re supposed to love animals!
OF: When my hamster died…he was my best friend. I was so sad, I had him in his coffin, this little cardboard box and I filled it sawdust and put some food, you know, for The Other Side and it was so hard.
That’s very Egyptian.
OF: We dug a hole and I just couldn’t put him, it was the real end, my tears were streaming. I was so sad. That was a hamster. Imagine if it was a dog? I can’t bury a dog! I’m gonna get him stuffed!
I buried several pets back in Mexico.
OF: It’s hard to let go.
OF: Don’t put it in a hole! Stuff it! Reuse and Recycle! There you go!
There should be a limit. You could end up with your hamsters stuffed up like Xbox controllers.
OF: Or a cat! The cat box! If you had a fox, a FoxBox!
A dog would be a BluTerrier?
OF: High Definition!
Lawyer #2: One of the things you need to take into consideration is how would it look in your mantelpiece.
OF: A dog might not look good.
Lawyer #1: Bad Feng Shui.
OF: It’d look brilliant.
OF: That’s what you want!
Lawyer #2: If you had ducks, you’d hat to flatten them, put them in rope and hang them in a studio.
How good are ducks for acoustics?
OF: Apparently, there’s a myth about how a duck’s quack doesn’t echo…
Lawyer #1: They don’t echo? How?
Dogs can’t look up.
OF: That’s another myth! They look up to you!
Lawyer #2: Cows can’t be led downward, they can only be led up.
OF: They can’t walk downstairs. Saw it on an episode of Bob’s Burgers.
Cows are like Daleks!
OF: Basically, Cows and Daleks are the same?
OF: Is all of this going to go in the interview?
Lawyer #1: Dogs can’t see their tail.
Lawyer #2: Nor below themselves.
OF: Really? So if a giant dog is attacking you, go under him? There you go!
What if it’s a poodle?
Lawyer #2: Get it above you.
OF: Lift it above your head. He’ll go “oh my God, where has he gone?”
Lawyer #1: Check the fainting goats…Sorry, this is a tangent.
I’m happy with this!
OF: I genuinely think animals are better than humans.
Completely agree. Specially cats.
OF: I might be getting one…depends if I get a permanent job or not. I want to provide for it. I’d have the best cat!
What type of cat? Tabby cat, Burmese, Siamese?
OF: I’d love a ginger cat, like a Bengal cat or spotty, like a leopard. One with real personality, very quirky.
I had Siamese cats and they went cross eyed all the time.
OF: Oh, bless!
One of them managed to live to 14 years. She behaved like a person, used a duvet and put its head on a pillow.
OF: I want that cat! I want all cats!
I had another cat that used to blackmail you. It would knead you and then would ask for food.
OF: I know the sort.
Lawyers 1 & 2: Yes.
A new EP/LP soon?
OF: An EP. We’ve got a few songs recorded and we reflect upon them. It’s nice that way instead of going “we have 6 days to record – aaaah!”, you go a little mad and you might get some good stuff, but my songs are still evolving.
Lawyer #1: We all are very busy so we need to put some things on the boil.
So, we were talking about geeky stuff, comic books and the such, so my question is: if the music of Oxo Foxo was a book, who would have written it?
OF: Funny you mention that because one of the new songs I’ve worked with is very visual, has a lot of imagery in it, like a film. It has an army of big cats: tigers and jaguars, cougars and pumas, all being summoned into an army. I kept saying that it reminded me of a meeting between Cats: The Musical and a Manga comic. Some of my songs are in a comic book style. This song would have the tigers falling through the air yelling “SUPER KAWAII!”, with big eyes and all.
Other songs, like ‘The Hunting Song’, well, if I could depict as a comic, it would be a dark one. Drawings are a bit scratchy, more sketchy. Some shapes you couldn’t make out what they are. Black and white, shades of blue. ‘The Hunting Song’ is very visual and it talks about how you need to put your light on when dusk falls. If there’s no light, you can see outside the windows, when it’s on, it’s only a reflection. If you’re outside, when they don’t have lights on, you can’t see, but when they do, you can see inside. So there’s this hunter creeping about outside, waiting for the light inside to go on. It would be a very stark comic, very bold, a bit Tim Burton-ey.
Lawyer #1: We need an album like a children’s book.
OF: That was one project I wanted: an album with a picture book! I might get back to it.
Lawyer #2: The music is quite visual.
OF: Between the Gruffalo and Where the Wild Things are! But, yeah, there’s quite a few books that have inspired me to write. You know Kate Bush has ‘Wuthering Heights’. I read this book about a cat…wait, this is out of control.
OF: This book was about a cat, it had to learn this cat ninja stuff. It sounds funny, but it wasn’t, he had to fight other cats and it’s brilliant. I have so many ideas!
Anything else you want to add?
OF: I don’t know! What do you think, legal team? No? Anything else you want to ask me?
Lawyer #1: What’s your favourite colour?
OF: I want to say purple but I’ll go for orange.
Best Doctor Who?
OF: I haven’t seen enough to comment but I’ve seen enough of the new one and there was a very good one where Amy Pond is in this place with robots that want to quarantine her. It really got me.
Lawyer #2: Favourite Bond?
OF: Haven’t seen enough! Need to get more popular culture in me!
Would you like to comment about the current political strife between The Clangers and The Soup Dragon?
OF: Oh my God! Well, actually…
Lawyer #1: No, no, no. You don’t have to answer that.
OF: I’m sorry, it’s too political. I’ll get too excited. I’ve got strong opinions. That fucking Soup Dragon!
Lawyer #2: We need those questions in advance.
Just for the record, I want to remind the readers that The Soup Dragon and Enoch Powell are related. Sorry about this question. And on that note, we’ll finish.
Oxo Foxo and her lawyers do bid me goodbye. On my way out I do ask her if she could reveal her real name. She says something but a few moments after she says it, I forget it. Let’s think it’s Oooo, the opposite of Daniel Craig‘s character in L4Y3r C4K3.
Original, proper questions: Caitlin White
Manipulated words, half-truths, photos: Sam J. Valdés López
Thanks to Oxo Foxo, Paul Harris and John Sephton.
Oxo Foxo Facebook. Tumblr. Soundcloud. Twitter.