Fluke: a history
Puppy: A 43-foot tall living sculpture of a terrier puppy, made out of flowers, which stands outside the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain. According to artist Jeff Koons, it was designed to "communicate love, warmth and happiness to everyone".
Puppy: A new born.
Puppy: The fifth album from Fluke
Fluke’s long and colourful history parallels that of dance music itself. They’ve been key players in the Balearic period, the progressive house era and the crossover live dance boom of the mid 1990s. Now they’ve regrouped, rethought and returned with the most varied and vibrant album of their career so far.
Puppy was first conceived in 1999. At the end of Fluke’s biggest ever worldwide tour, the band’s three founder members decided to take a break and ponder their next move. Mike Tournier opted to pursue other projects but Jon Fugler and Mike Bryant reunited and set to work.
"We could afford ourselves the luxury of going away and actually writing an album as opposed to writing singles and cobbling together album tracks around them," says Jon. "Everything else has been written on the hoof. We’ve got a much more positive attitude to the music and what we want to do because we’ve given ourselves the time."
Puppy was recorded over a two year period, with help from drum programmer Ron Aslan, guitarist Wild Oscar and studio wizard Andy Gray, Paul Oakenfold’s erstwhile production partner. The leisurely pace and attention to detail have yielded a sophisticated, multi-layered record, bursting with new ideas.
Hang Tough and Electric Blue take the stealthy drama of Fluke’s best work into thrilling new realms. Spine winds itself around a bassline funkier than the proverbial mosquito’s tweeter and climaxes in a flurry of squiggling electronics. YKK’s apocalyptic throb is probably the scariest thing Fluke have ever made, followed closely by the fidgety paranoia of Eye Spy. Meanwhile, the pummelling, urgent Pulse, as Jon modestly says, is "probably the greatest love song ever written". And the lyrics? "They’re about the same kind of things - love and dancing and drugs."
Jon thinks it’s a good time for creative, individual dance music. "I’m quite happy that there’s a crisis among superclubs. Our home has always been the party or gathering rather than the corporate level and the parties with a bit of individuality are as good as they’ve ever been. It moves it back into the underground where dance music has always thrived."
At which point, some of you might want to get acquainted with the twists and turns of Fluke’s maverick evolution. Those who already know, talk among yourselves.
1988 - Formed in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire and originally inspired by Cabaret Voltaire and Giorgio Moroder, Fluke discover acid house and release their debut white label, Island Life. Jon: "We realised our music suddenly had a home."
1989 - The trio release two more cult hits - Thumper and the Joni Mitchell-sampling Joni - and sign to Creation Records.
1990 - The Balearic hit Philly introduces Fluke’s acclaimed debut mini-album, Techno Rose Of Blighty. They do their first remix, Talk Talk’s Life’s What You Make It. In an era of big-lunged divas, Jon Fugler’s charismatic, stream-of-consciousness vocal style is a unique proposition. Jon: "There were enough people out there doing something original at that time. Primal Scream and Happy Mondays were rock bands embracing the dance side. We were a dance band embracing rock tendencies and history. There was never really any problem about it."
1991 - Fluke move to Virgin offshoot Circa, also home to Massive Attack and Neneh Cherry. They mark the move with Out (in essence), one of the first ever live dance albums, recorded at Destination Moon, a classic Acid House party held at the Rolling Stones’ old manor house haunt. Jon: "Nobody believed a dance band could play live. It was a time when you didn’t know if the computer would last the whole show."
1993 - Fluke complete their full-length second album Six Wheels On My Wagon ("it felt quite grown-up"), which spawns the pivotal progressive house singles Slid, Groovy Feeling and Electric Guitar. Sasha likes Slid so much he weaves together three mixes of it on his seminal mix album for Renaissance. Fluke also build an impressive reputation as remixers. Over the next few years they take on Björk (whom they also accompany live), New Order, Rolling Stones, Smashing Pumpkins, Yello and Simple Minds, among others. They also begin touring regularly. Jon: "We were recording our own stuff, doing remixes, going out live. It started a non-stop rollercoaster."
1995 - Third studio album Oto (Greek for "of ear") , co-produced by Barry Andrews (XTC, Shriekback). Darker and more downtempo, it gives them their first Top 40 hits, Bubble, Bullet and Tosh.
1997 - Fourth album Risotto, a mixture of remixes from Oto and new tracks, chiefly Absurd and Atom Bomb. Absurd ("everybody with a heart votes love") is released to coincide with the general election while Atom Bomb crops up on numerous computer games and Hollywood soundtracks. Fluke enter "our cartoon phase" with manga-inspired videos featuring anime character, and unofficial fourth member, Arial Tetsuo. In the summer, Fluke visit North America and the growing scene they were calling ‘Electronica’, embarking on a 20 date tour from east to west, they play mostly unusual venues attempting to endorse the spirit of blighty’s own Acid House parties.
1999 - After two years of heavy touring, including several main stage festival slots, Mike Tournier leaves while Jon and Mike start work on Puppy. When you’re living in one another’s pockets for so long and you’re constantly displaced, you need a break."
2001 - Absurd is memorably used in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Fluke bid farewell to Virgin with a Best Of, Progressive History X, release a single (Slap It) on Junior offshoot Appaloosa and sign to old friends One Little Indian.
2002. Sees the DJ pairing of Jon Fugler and Hugh Bryder - founder of Liverpool’s legendary techno club, Voodoo - Hugo has played with everyone from Alex Patterson to Seb Fontaine. An old hand of MTV special events parties across Europe, including the Cannes Film Festival, he met Fluke in 1993, and has been spinning for them and collaborating live ever since. Fluke DJs have joined forces with DJ agency Represents as the next stage in the development of a perfect fusion between the dj and the band, blurring boundaries in mixing vinyl with digital technology.
So Fluke have revelled in the good times, weathered the storms and emerged in 2002 as unique and indispensable as ever. "It’s not about being on the cover of a magazine," says Jon. "It’s about making music and it always has been."
Amen to that.