If you rage against the patriarchy and champion women’s independence, then Aspro A.S.B.O. is an album you’d enjoy. It is the latest release from musician Fuschia Phlox and possesses a darker mood compared to her other works. The tracks explore themes of female suppression, objectification and empowerment, beckoning listeners to heed their message in a magical way.
The sound of Fuschia Phlox is a blend of pop, rock, and alternative sounds, but what sets Aspro A.S.B.O. apart from her previous repertoire is the touch of gothic influence and explicitness permeating the songs. The album centers on a fictional Greek witch named Kaliope, and the subject matter delves into the murky depths of history when women were vilified for seeking autonomy and self-growth, exposing the shadow side of humanity. There’s a balance between aggressive and lulling energies. The artist’s voice is light and soft, but don’t underestimate the power of her vocals.
For tracks such as “Stone the Bitch” (my favorite), her message is fiery and fierce. “Love or Else” is another song that brings biting edginess and a dash of rock ‘n’ roll. On the other side of the coin, there are more sensual and hypnotic tones in “Twent” and a pensive melancholy in “Interior Fireworks.” The attitude of the album is defiant and rebellious, while also soothing and mesmerizing.
Emma Russell is the woman behind Fuschia Phlox, the name of her artistic persona and recording company. In addition to being a musician, she’s also a published author and host of the podcast Back to the Fuschia. I wanted to get deeper insight into her approach creating Aspro A.S.B.O. In the following interview, Russell shares what inspired her to cross over to the dark side with this project and its significance to her.
Q: What inspired you to take a darker, more gothic approach with your new album?
A: Lots of things contributed to this darker album. I was working on a book called ‘The Hidden Kingdom Of Uktunnu’ where the main character visits a dark island ruled by an evil King practising black magic. I was also living on the Scottish island of Orkney during Covid and the winters were super gothic and with a fierce energy, so that fired up my imagination. I was dealing with unpleasant darker elements in my own life that defied boundaries, that were no respecters of rules or rights. These were darker elements that first crept in with my mother and father. It was very frustrating since that is the opposite of my character and not something that I invited in.
Q: Did any specific mythologies or historical figures/events influence the songs?
A: In a historical context, yes. The so-called history of witches in Europe and America is interesting to me. The hysteria that surrounds anything different. Kaliope, the witch who the album is written about, is expressing her life experience. I believe women were persecuted because they were educated or dared to be a little different or outspoken.
Imagine helping a sick person with herbs and spices learnt from family knowledge—then being accused of witchcraft and either drowned or burnt. This injustice bugs me, the persecution of women in history bugs me. They were not witches or demons but females with an education who wanted to be more. It is very important that women don’t have their voice taken away from them or be labelled and smeared as something else.
Without a voice, women cannot defend themselves.
Malala Yousafzai just wanted to be educated, but still in 2012, still in 2022, women seeking education or personal expression are being silenced and killed. Education is key. Why do men feel so threatened by an educated female? Why do the holders of power in our societies want to keep women down? Doesn’t equality help everybody in the end?
Q: Do you have a favorite track or one that you particularly enjoyed working on? If so, which is it and why?
A: I love ‘Shark’s Eye’ and ‘Love Or Else.’ Both of these songs had a power in my voice that I had not heard before, and I was taken aback. It just came straight out—Bam! Using a vehicle like ‘Kaliope’ is useful. Women were taught from childhood to like pink, be passive and pleasing, to not make a fuss.
For women to actually communicate boldly what they feel is not the norm. It was the first time I had heard the rawness of how I feel, a lifetime of being talked down to, touched up in the workplace, spoken to with vulgarity on the street and held back. People assume you are ignorant until proven otherwise. It should be the other way around for everybody. Why is it necessary for females to set such strong boundaries in our personal and professional life? Why isn’t respect thought of as commonplace and just as an expected behaviour?
Q: What is the message you wanted to communicate with Aspro A.S.B.O, and what do you hope listeners take away after listening to it?
A: That there is always hope. That you are not alone, that other people are also going through hard times and make it out the other side.
Don’t lose your voice. Ever. It is very important that you express how you feel, that you stand up for yourself, that you communicate what you are going through. Bullies and ignorant people will put you down until they are educated otherwise. That is a slow process that we can see going on around us globally. But for change to happen, defiance and rebellion come first, a demand for change occurs. If you are female, whether child or woman, no matter what country you are in, find a safe place, find a communication channel, use your voice, do not be silenced. This is your life, live it how you want. Nobody has the right to take away your enjoyment of life, use violence or intimidation, or to a certain degree, tell you what to do.
I believe life is precious; it is divinely given and there is a design to all things, so choose what makes you feel good, surround yourself with people and things that instinctively make you feel good. Be yourself, be strong.
Q: Do you think you may want to produce more albums embracing a darker tone, feel and subject matter?
A: Aspro ASBO means white anti-social behaviour disorder. It is a play on words, ‘Aspro’ meaning white in Greek. In art and life, there is duality, an annoying divider which I think prevents growth. Many artists have to go to the ‘dark’ side, exploring their limits, their character, pushing the boundaries of their art to discover who they really are. I use my life experience to push my creativity. I use my music, books and art to express what I am feeling. In this album, I have expelled any bad feelings or negative attachments. I feel in a very positive place, but you have to go through the darkness to feel that. This album is the only one I will make of its kind unless the subject matter needs to be addressed again.
Q: Would you like to drop any teasers regarding future projects?
A: I have a future album in mind, full of light and harmonies, and also a new fiction book. Both projects are projections of who I am now, and I hope the positivity in them will help others. Life can be weird, and we have to be strong. Art and music help.
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