Oxbow Began With a Suicide Note in ‘F—fest’
Sure ‘F—fest’ is the album that gave birth to the experimental noise of Oxbow 20 years ago, but there is more to the album than just that. ‘F—fest’ was the album that singer Eugene Robinson wanted to be remembered for after he killed himself.
“I was feeling very frustrated with music, and I started going down a rat hole where the commercial aspects of music; in other words the business had really started to overshadowed why I was doing what I was doing,” Robinson recalled to Noisecreep, when discussing the way the 1989 release took form emotionally.
“It was really uncomfortable. It was like being in the middle of a rape,” Robinson intimated. “Either on the receiving or the giving end, and really wanting to stop it but not being able to stop it. There was nothing pleasing to me about the process at that point. Playing shows, this would be with my punk rock band Whipping Boy, booking shows, going to shows … people talk about DIY like it’s some magical solution, but this wasn’t fun. It was destroying my appreciation for the art.”
It was that feeling that started him down the road to what would eventually become ‘F—fest.’ “I wanted to do a solo record, a weird solo record,” Robinson said. “It seemed like a way to really do stuff that under normal circumstances you wouldn’t probably do. On the other side, my personal life was in complete shambles and in a very juvenile way I decided I was going to murder myself. It seemed too prosaic of me to leave a suicide note so I decided I was going to leave behind a record that explains it all, and that would be ‘F—fest.’”
Robinson’s self-loathing couldn’t have been clearer on the most well-known song from the album, ‘Yoke’, where Robinson cries, writhes and grates “Drag assing this lump of s—t and slime/Through burned and broken and busted/Embrace me/Hug of silence and time.”
Thankfully, Robinson didn’t kill himself as the record got gained a cult following that distracted him from his original goal. “We put this record out; the guys from Rough Trade took about 20 of them, which was par for the course,” Robinson explained. “It was as misery-producing as anything else I had done. We had a thousand of these things and they took 20 and they send 10 over to the U.K., and this guy Daryl who worked at Rough Trade London thought the title was hilarious and liked the cover, and played the music and liked it, and gave it to Kevin Martin, who was just starting a record label at that point. And this was way before e-mail, so they sent me a letter and said, ‘We’d like for you to come over and play.’ So I figured I should maybe see London before I kill myself.
“So the plan to kill myself with each record that comes out forestalls it another year,” Robinson commented. “If we actually put a record out that no one in the world cared about then it might leave me free to get back to my original plan, but I think I’m beyond that now.”
If you plan to pick up the re-released ‘F—fest,’ be warned — in no way will the record sound any different than it did originally. Robinson explained, “We mastered this again, but we liked what we did 20 years ago with it to not change the manner at which we mastered it. So technically it is re-mastered, but if you’re listening and expecting it to sound different it won’t.”