John Watts (Fischer-Z): “I have more influence than a politician”

Photo (c) Perry Hermans

Next month “Til The Oceans Overflow” will be released, the new album by Fischer Z. The record was recorded at the famous Hansa Studios in Berlin and will be released 40 years after the iconic and acclaimed album “Red Skies over Paradise”, in 1980. recorded in the same studio. On both albums, frontman John Watts considers the state of the world. In a conversation with Maxazine, John Watts looks back, looks ahead and shares his concerns. Just like on “Til The Oceans Overflow”. ‘I am an optimistic person, but I think we are too late.’

The album “Til The Oceans Overflow” will be released in October and is the successor to “Swimming in Thunderstorms”. The single “Same Boat” was recently released and our conversation takes place via video link with John, in his living room in the British seaside town of Brighton, a stone’s throw from the coast. Sea and water are therefore important themes and places in John’s life. ‘I’ve lived in Brighton almost all my life. I have to live by the water and the sea. And let me tell you, our next single is called “Waterside”. Water, nature and the climate are, in my opinion, one of the most important topics of the moment,’ said John, who apologized for having his dinner at the same time, there on the other side of the North Sea.

Threat of climate change

A nice bridge to forty years ago. Then with Fischer Z. sang on “Red Skies over Paradise” with “Cruise Missiles” about the threat of cruise missiles and the arms race. Now an album with another ominous title. This time about the threat of climate change. John: “I’m more concerned now. The threat of climate change is much greater. The arms race was a kind of theatre at the time. You knew deep down that the missiles would never be deployed. It was nothing more than a threat. Now the threat is inevitable. The concern about cruise missiles was still somewhat politically related. Climate change is a universal and cross-political threat. We have to think completely differently. My children are in their twenties and thirties and I am concerned about their future. I am usually an optimistic person, but now I really wonder if we can turn the tide. We are late.”

John Watts describes “Til The Oceans Overflow” as a social, political and personal look back at the forty years that have passed since the release of “Red Skies over Paradise”, recorded at the famous Hansa Studios in Berlin. This is one of the reasons why he chose this studio again for the recordings. ‘It was magical again. The changes were immediately visible. In 1980 I looked out on an empty field with a wall in the distance. Now it is surrounded by offices. Just after my arrival, the corona crisis broke out. And it was forced to become a kind of solo project in which the other band members later sent recordings step by step to complete the songs.’

Paradise in Paradise

In October, Fischer-Z will start a European tour through Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, including a performance in Amsterdam’s Paradiso on 11 January. ‘The setlist contains a mix of new songs and classic songs from, among others, “Red Skies over Paradise”. The question is, of course, whether it will all go ahead and whether we can play in front of a full house because the corona crisis still makes many things uncertain.’

Corona is and remains an unavoidable topic. Also in the conversation with John. Although he was spared the disease and he has now been vaccinated, the pandemic has affected him mentally. ‘René, I miss interacting with people. Not only on stage and with the audience but also on the street. I live alone and sometimes saw no one for days and if you saw or spoke to someone, it was with a mouth cap. Besides, I had no income. Due to the corona restrictions, I started to look at life differently. Previously, music and writing songs were my first priority. Now I have learned that being happy with your loved ones and those you love is the most important thing. It took me 66 years to figure that out,’ said a laughing John, taking a sip of wine.

Still, John hopes to pick up his ‘old’ life soon. With a tour and travel from city to city, hotel to hotel and plane in and out. I am therefore curious how to reconcile this with his contribution to a more sustainable society and his concerns about climate change. ‘My contribution is that I sing, write and talk about it. My father was a local politician. He taught me that as a ‘famous’ musician I have more influence than a politician,’ said John.


The recording of “Til The Oceans Overflow” took place in Germany, John’s girlfriend lives in Germany and the upcoming tour includes performances on the European mainland only. ‘I feel like a real European. Around 1980 many English bands sang about Thatcher and the closing mines. At that time, Fischer-Z’s songs were already much more about European themes. I believe in Europe,’ said John, who almost chokes when I mention the word Brexit. ‘The biggest stupidity in British history. Brexit is ruining my career.’

Photo (c) Perry Hermans

Back to a lighter topic. Like writing songs, listening to music and painting. Every disadvantage has its advantage. Also for the sympathetic Brit. ‘Due to the corona lockdown, I listen to music a lot more. On Spotify I listen to almost everything that comes out new. And to old heroes like David Bowie and The Velvet Underground. I like theatrical music. I also paint and read a lot. Like the writer Ernest Hemingway. And of course I am constantly writing songs.’

Best album is yet to come

The latter is something to keep an eye on. Because according to John, he still has to write his best song. ‘Did you know that strangely enough, “The Perfect Day” from the album “Reveal” is the most successful Fischer-Z song. On the last single “Same Boat” I try to create that same vibe’

The end of our conversation pretty much coincides with the last bite of his meal and the last sip of his glass of red wine. A good time to start talking about dreams and ambitions. ‘I’m 66 now, but looking back and looking forward, eventually, I long for more appreciation for my work in my own England. Maybe that will come because my best record ever is yet to come.’

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