An Interview with Billy Childs of Britny Fox

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Formed in Philadelphia in 1985 Britny Fox made a name is for itself worldwide influencing many fans and other artists. They charted on Billboards Top 10 for the songs Girl School and Long Way To Love. After a long hiatus the band is currently in the studio writing and recording a follow up album to Bite Down Hard. The new album is slated to have a much harder edge than their last, 2003’s Springhead Motorshark. The current lineup consists of Tommy Paris(vocals), Chris Sanders(lead guitar), Billy Childs(Bass), and Johnny Dee(drums).

What were you like as a child? Do you happen to remember what your very first favorite song was?

Pretty normal, on the surface at least. Played little league, read a lot, spent a lot of time by myself. Basically introverted before they called it a behavioral disorder. I had a friend whose older brother had all the albums I’d never heard of, Black Sabbath included, so War Pigs was the first thing I remember. Loved the whole album, but that song in particular.

Who were some of your earliest influences?

Same as most rock guys from my era, Sabbath, Zep, Deep Purple, mostly the heavy bands from the 70’s. As I got better at playing, I started to like some progressive rock too, as that was harder to play and I learned a lot from it. Like Kansas, Genesis, good stuff to learn. I was always pushing myself in that regard.

When did you first take an interest in music?

Long before I knew what rock music really was. Anything I heard, really, just didn’t know how to classify it. I remember being a huge Motown fan, still am, also was very into early Beatles, which I still am as well. Can’t remember a time when I wasn’t affected by music in a big way. Anything, really.

Do you remember what it felt like when you got your first bass?

Yes I do! Had no idea what to do with it, my parents thought I was “going through a stage” and didn’t think it would last long. I had heard some ZZ Top tunes, and hearing the bass lines thought “Man, I could do that”, just needed to figure out where to put my fingers and how it all worked, never did take lessons. I was living in Florida where I was born, and there were 3 bands and 2 bass players. I wanted in, so I got a bass for my 13th birthday and told the band, “look, if you guys show me what to do, I’ll learn it and get better”. They said ok, but if you suck we have to get somebody else. I said I understood, but I think I’ll get this. After a month or so I was able to learn things on my own, and soon they didn’t have to show me anything. Just learning the tunings, etc, and playing to albums by ear was how I learned, and I still think that’s the best way as it trains your ear and forces you to think and experiment. Not really a believer in lessons, it’s far too personal an endeavor for that. At least for me. Though I’m sure it helps some, just not for me.

How do you think the music industry has changed most over the years?

I think it would be easier to ask how hasn’t it changed? Everything has changed, styles, formats, and recording, just everything. The only thing that hasn’t changed seems to be that at the end of the day, 90% of us get pretty fucked over by the labels, managers, and all the other assholes that turn this great thing called music into a cesspool. And somehow, I don’t see that ever changing, just the nature of the business and the people it draws to it. You have to really love it to put up with all the bullshit, that’s for sure.

What advice would you offer others wishing to pursue a career in the industry?

Only do it if you just can’t stay away. Don’t go into it thinking you’re going to succeed, go into it because you’re the moth, it’s the flame, and you just have an instinctual drive to do it. Seen way too many good people dash their hopes on these rocks we call the music business. If you take it lightly, do yourself a favor and do something else, this isn’t for you. Not a business for the faint of heart, it’ll destroy you. Sometimes I’m not so sure it didn’t destroy part of me. There’s a great Hunter S. Thompson quote about that, pretty much says it all. “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” Personally, I think he nailed it.

What do you love most about being a musician?

I get to play music is the short answer. I guess really, it’s like that old saying (which is non applicable most of the time), about whatever you would do for free, then that’s what you’re supposed to do for a living. Problem is, way too many of us do it for free, in the long run. I think many of us have a kind of love/hate relationship with it, shouldn’t be that way, but it is. The lifestyle is particularly suited to some, though, it’s got its rewards too. For me, the travel is always a plus as well, and I just seem more suited than most to the whole experience.

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How does it feel to back doing what you love after such a long hiatus?

Well, I’ve never really had a hiatus. I consider myself a working musician, with a couple of those things being big enough that people are aware of them. I’ve been working since 1985 when Britny first took off, then played all over the east coast for 10 years, working 6-7 days a week most of the time. Around 2001 or 02 I took a 3-4 year break, I was beat up by then, and just gave lessons, hiked out West a lot, just took it easy. Then I finally got bored and started touring again, and in 2010 started with Get the Led Out and that’s taken me to this point. So that 3-4 years away was my only real break, and it is great to be back with Tommy and John doing this again. Love writing with Tommy, this band really is the fun part of it for me.

What can your fans expect from the new album?

The plan is something similar to Bite Down Hard, only adapting to the times, not an imitation of what we already did, but we do want the same spirit that one had. Just good crunchy riff rock, good melodies, nothing really preconceived, Tommy and I both think things have to be organic to really keep the soul. We do aim for short tunes, though. Want to try and keep them around 3 minutes. If something is longer, oh well, it will be if it warrants it. We just want a very solid, heavy rock album. Not enough of those around anymore it seems.

Do you have a dream project you’d most like to accomplish before your time is done?

Look, just spending my whole life doing this is good enough for me, I’m no musical heavyweight and suffer no delusions that I am. One album at a time, if it’s as good as we hope, and then get to do it again. That’s as close to a dream as I’ll ever come. And that’s good enough for me.

What do you think is key to a life well lived?

Gotta live in the moment. If you’re depressed you’re probably living in the past, anxious, you’re probably worried about a future that may or may not happen. Just stay in the moment, try to find joy in the simple things and be as true to yourself as much as you possibly can. I’ve cut off my nose to spite myself a few times, a definite mistake, but fuck worrying about that. What’s done is done, things happen for a reason. You just keep going, do the best you can and you’ll land on your feet, hopefully. We can all regret a thousand things, but why bother? No point, really.

Are you looking forward to going back on tour?

With these guys, very much. But we’re not really looking to grind at this point, just play the best shows that are offered to us and see what happens. I’ve always liked to travel, would like to get to some places I’ve never been before.

What does your touring gear consist of?

At least 2 Ampeg 8X10 cabs and a good, clean amp. Heavy strings are as important to my tone as anything, and plenty of speakers. Most high end amps do what I want, so whatever I’m playing at the time. I don’t use effects generally, and a good wireless system is a must. I’m kind of a minimalist when it comes to bass, playing and tone. Less is generally more if you know what I’m saying.

What projects are you looking forward to bringing into being next?

Just focused on this album for now, no plans or goals matter if this isn’t done first.

Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

Just don’t judge Britny Fox on the things that you may be more familiar with. We’re like two different bands, the first two albums, then everything else on. Bite Down Hard is much more what we became than what we started as, but many more are familiar with our early stuff, due to the genre change that happened in 90-91. We’re just as heavy, maybe more so, just judge for yourself. If you like BDH, you’re going to like this a lot, I think.

www.britnyfox.com

 https://www.facebook.com/britnyfoxband

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