The post-punk poets of FITH tell us the difference between Manchester and Berlin.
What started as an album project in 2015 has since evolved into a five-piece band that combines poetry, moody electronics and improvisation. Wordsmith Dice Miller and clarinetist/ vocalist Rachel Margetts talked to us about improvisation and their two home bases before their gig at Privatclub on Oct 24.
You started as a duo and turned into a five-piece.
Dice Miller: It just came very organically. When I met Enir Da in Berlin, I wasn’t doing much music at the time. My background is in experimental film; I used to do more performance and spoken word. He sent me a track and asked if I’d like to try something out. It just happened from there. We didn’t even think it would be an album, but we got this guy, Alex [Paulick], who’s in Kreidler, he mixed our record.
Your live show sounds more jazzy and improvised than your album.
Rachel Margetts: [Our drummer] Charles comes from a jazz background, and I come from an improv background. We like the state where chance is being let in.
DM: I’m very ambivalent about performance. I felt like the album was a whole world, and then to perform it would compromise it. But from meeting Rachel and people in the free improv scene in Manchester, I started to get interested in how I could also improvise more in my vocals. I like this cut-up idea like William Burroughs, reciting snippets from a page, just not in order, and then improvising over that, adding another layer. I want it to feel fresh. We want to keep that kind of tension. It’s never going to be the same because of that.
Can you compare Manchester and Berlin’s music scenes?
DM: Berlin is really freeing. It’s more a place for us to develop as a band, to collect all your inspirations and turn it into something. But I get inspired more by the scene in Manchester because it’s so intense. People are really focused and committed. It’s good for alliances, exchanging ideas, getting feedback, finding people who are like-minded to collaborate with. They’re more desperate because of this neoliberal shit going on. Well, you still get people who just like Oasis. [Laughs] I just had to de-romanticise Manchester.
RM: People reacted to the legacy of this guitar music in Manchester so much. No one wants to really go there again. I mean, I love The Smiths, but you just don’t talk about them. Everyone’s like, “Shut up!” But Manchester has a more condensed underground community. It’s got this rich history of punk, post-punk and electronic music, and you still get Mark E. Smith performing in a corner pub. It’s pretty local still. Here the underground is overground, it’s bigger, and it’s more dispersed. But Manchester is under an extreme threat of gentrification at the moment. It’s happening quicker than in Berlin.
Do current politics find their way into your music?
RM: A lot of Dice’s characters are historical figures. You’re addressing politics by looking at different histories: the history of women; the history of Europe.
DM: Isabelle Eberhardt, for instance, born in Geneva at the end of the 19th century, who converted to Islam and became a Sufi. Only men were allowed in these circles. So I’ll talk about that, but we don’t use the everyday rhetoric of political speech, because we find that problematic.
What does FITH stand for?
DM: At first was an acronym of a track called “Fire In The Hole”. We just started to send e-mails to each other with FITH, and we thought it was a cool name and we kept it. After a while it changed, because Rachel decided it was something else.
RM: Fucked in the head.
DM: More sophisticated than that. The name keeps evolving.