From Def FX to Tom Jones and…being a witch? Fiona Horne on her tell-all book
Frontwoman for Def FX. Writer of several bestselling books. Self-proclaimed witch. Humanitarian aid pilot. Fiona Horne’s life has been filled with amazing adventures, and she certainly does not hold back in her new autobiographical novel, The Naked Witch.
Horne sat down with Music Insight to talk about her incredible story and the out-of-the-blue opportunity to tell it.
“I was focused on my new career as a commercial pilot, delivering aid and going into places where aid was needed, so the opening of the book, I’m in Africa writing it,” explained Horne.
“I was there because I was doing a bush flying course, with an organisation called Bush Air, who to fly aircraft out to places that are really inhospitable to aircraft, you lad on a dirt patch and try to avoid the elephant. An old publisher I worked with got in touch with me and said, ‘I still have a copy of your first book on my shelf. I reckon you’ve got another one in you.’ So when I was in Africa, between breaks in the course, I started writing. Africa reminded me a lot of Australia; the colours, the red earth, the smells, the bush, the air, the light. It was a neutral space but it also evoked a lot of memories, and that’s how I got started.”
Over the course of five months, Horne wrote in some spectacular locations, including Africa, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Dubai.
“I cried when I wrote the book; I laughed, I wrote with excitement. It was quite an experience.”
I cried when I wrote the book; I laughed, I wrote with excitement. It was quite an experience.
Most Music Insight readers will remember Horne for her seven-year stint with the popular touring group Def FX, who were renowned for their live shows in the 1990s. But Horne looks back at these times with mixed feelings.
“I remember doing a tour of America in ‘93, we started in a shaddy van but we upgraded to a caravan. We did long, long drives between cities, and I was the only girl in the van. There were six guys, the band members, the lighting guy, the tour manager, the manager. You kind of stick out. Boys all kind of bond and you’re left on the outer. I was the only girl, and I was young and confronting a lot of things in my own sexuality, I felt very confronted with the bloke-ness of it all. When you’re younger you tend to take a lot of stuff personally, and I did feel isolated and not understood, and in the end very unhappy.”
With those heady heights firmly behind them, Horne says Def FX are now are stronger than ever. Attempts at a reunion tour next year were stifled by the pulling out of promoters, but there are still plans for a Def FX reunion at some point.
There’s a sense, speaking to Horne, that she has reached a stage of happiness and comfort.
Part of finding herself came from the experiences of moving to Los Angeles. While she has met many in the Hollywood circle, intense meetings with Tom Jones, as well as Gene Simmons and Marilyn Manson, inspired her to make the move.
“I left a pretty sweet deal in Australia, and I left it all to start from scratch in Los Angeles. Tom [Jones], I interviewed on a TV show, there’s a section in the book where, a couple of weeks after that interview I was invited to one of his concerts, which tipped the scales of getting to know each other for a couple weeks. We stayed friends and toured on-and-off over the years, but never in the way those two weeks together were – that was an extraordinarily heavy time.”
“[With Manson] it was like, I interviewed him on Triple M, hung out with him, went to a concert, went to the movies, and we got along really well just as friends, nothing else. Manson was so huge at that time. They were at the absolute peak of their amazing career of extraordinary ground-breaking music. Manson was glorious, macabre and powerful. But he was such a sweet, normal guy; and it occurs to me as I’m sitting there, in the movies, and then were playing video games at Crown Casino, I thought, ‘He is so normal, and yet he is this massive star.’ He told me about how he came from bumfuck nowhere and became a rockstar, and I thought, maybe I can too.”
I always used to get on planes and wish I was going left towards the cockpit, not right towards the passenger seats. Now I turn left.
For all these experiences, it was becoming a commercial pilot that Horne considers her crowning achievement. This had come after hitting rock bottom in 2012, after years of struggling with alcoholism.
“When I got my commercial pilot license, it was definitely, without a doubt, the hardest thing that I have ever done,” said Horne.
“It was so difficult, but I had needed something really big to fill in the hole in my life. I had lost everything, my health, my love, my home, everything was gone. Flying was something that was all-consuming enough that I could disappear into it, away from the sorrow and the mess that life had become, and rebuild.
“I always had loved aviation; I always loved planes and flights. I always used to get on planes and wish I was going left towards the cockpit, not right towards the passenger seats. Now I turn left. It’s an achievement I know I truly earned. There were no favours, no lucky break, no being in the right place at the right time, just sheer brain-breaking work and practice.”
It’s this sense of determination that permeates from the book. For Horne, writing it was not just a cathartic experience, but a revelation.
“I’m grateful for all the good times, but also all the bad times. It got me to where I am now,” she said.
“As I say in the book, I know I am the best version of myself that I could possibly be. If there’s a message in the book it is to encourage people to not give up. I failed, I got so many things wrong and I screwed up so much stuff. But there was one thing I got really, really good at in life and that was not giving up.”
The Naked Witch is out now. Check out our review.