By Cory Sklar
By Alee Karim
By Christina Li
By Dave Pehling
By Ian S. Port
By SF Weekly
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
Arranging the sights, sounds, memories, details, connections, and synchronicities that revolve around Foxgluv into a story is like interpreting a riddle. Asking more questions and following possible leads gets you as close to the truth as peeling the layers of an onion gets you to the absolute center. Foxgluv isn't a group -- it's a fairy tale, a Choose Your Own Adventure novel that spans 10 years, two continents, and the entire course of the West Coast rave scene. Its members' best description of themselves is "elf commandos," somehow a fitting introduction to their project and overall worldview.
The three members -- D, Urth Gurl, and Sage -- do make music together. Their sound is mobile house music -- "mobile" in the sense that they move through many styles fluidly; "house" because that's the musical foundation to which they always return. And also, "mobile house" because that's where it literally originates: a Telestar RV, currently orbiting Santa Cruz. Urth Gurl contributes "words, words, words, and sometimes they have their own tune, they come out in song form."
Sage plays guitar, and "fills the irresponsible role. I fill it very well, and that makes sure everybody else is very responsible."
D "deals with Sage, and I work all the wires and knobs and buttons -- sampler, drum machine, analog gear, the live music and the studio, the arrangements, play some bass, play some keys."
Before leaving his native south London, D sampled his entire record collection -- widely eclectic as a result of his years DJing in the fabled acid house scene there -- and used it as the basis for the instrumentals he shapes around Sage's guitar soloing and Urth Gurl's lyrics. "Each song has its own feeling; it takes you to a different place," Urth Gurl says, sitting outside on a clear day in downtown Santa Cruz. "Everything with words and music is like a map, which helps you travel and journey and can deliver you to a different place. That's why there are so many different types of music and so many different places to go. Sometimes [our music] is jazzy, sometimes it's hip hop, sometimes it's just house, sometimes it's really raunchy and raw and punk and all about just feelings, without words to describe it."
Urth Gurl easily lists numerous levels of meaning behind the group's name, and their implications for its creative vision. Foxglove, a flower in the snapdragon family, is cultivated as a source of digitalis, which she explains is used for "heart stimulation. It's very akin to the Ecstasy vibe. Please don't go out and actually take digitalis, though," she says. "But on a vibrational level, it helps open the heart, something we are very much trying to do with the music. But also the digital part, the digital age, and digits being your fingers -- fingers being your magic wands and fingers are creating all this magical music as well -- pressing buttons, playing guitar, DJing.
"Another meaning," she continues, "is the whole fox thing -- we're all wearing these human body suits, we're all in physical form, but we don't know where we really came from. Through the Ecstasy, through the acid and these other cultural movements, we realized, hey, we're more than our body. So in our glove suits, in the underground music scene, we've been like foxes. Foxes can survive in any situation -- there's a type of fox for every type of ecosystem on the planet -- snow foxes, desert foxes, mountain foxes, they even live in London. They're scavengers, they're dealing, they're making it work for them. In the beginning of the house movement, it was so underground that you would recognize people who knew, like a secret society. It's about going underground in your fox glove camouflage to survive."
Urth Gurl is from Los Angeles, and went to college in New Orleans. Watching George Bush's presidential acceptance speech in 1988, she worried that the number of references he made to God signaled the takeover of the religious right. So, deciding she needed to take a break from America for a while, she followed a friend to London. She got a job at a New Age bookstore, where her duties required that she "dust off the magazine rack, which was all cobwebby, you can imagine, because it was all super witchy and bloodstone and dragon's blood, right out of English Gothic lore. I started to see all these magazines with the most outrageous psychedelic covers and delicious art that was incredibly attractive, and when I opened the pages, it was 'Sixties Hippie Meets '90s Techno Person' and I was like, 'They're talking about me!' Because I always had this internal conflict of wanting to go live in a treehouse or becoming a CEO in my Formica super leather desk commanding worlds."
The magazines she discovered were documenting the emerging "zippy" culture in Britain, a high-tech tribal ethos that embraced mushrooms as readily as drum machines. She met one of the publishers when he was dropping off his magazines at the store, and he invited her to a picnic. "Little did I know that everyone I'd know for the next decade was at that this picnic," she recalls. She quickly took over distribution duties for the publisher, changing her name to Magnolia Thunderpussy for the position.