I never was a big Def FX fan, despite having a friend who was obsessed with them, mainly because I had repeated run-ins with one of their members on the 138 bus home from school most afternoons. That wasn’t the stunning Fiona Horne, of course, but a different bandmember. If Fiona wanted to terrorise me as part of her pre-fame daily high school routine, I would have let her!
Having an obsessive friend into Def FX and having been firmly entrenched in student media at a time when Def FX were recording and releasing popular music meant that I have had a bit to do with them interview-wise; I published a couple of interviews that I didn’t conduct in 1994, and one that I did conduct in 1995. This latest opportunity to interview Fiona comes couresy of FilmInk, hence the run of film- and television-related questions at the end. I hope to have another chat with Fiona when she’s out here, for radio, when I can bung in a few Def FX recordings as well.
Demetrius Romeo: When you were a musician, had you discovered ‘wicca’ as yet?
FIONA HORNE: I’d had an interest in it since I was seventeen years old. I never talked about it openly while I was in the band, but the song lyrics I wrote definitely reflected my esoteric interests.
Demetrius Romeo: Can you give me an example of a song?
FIONA HORNE: ‘Spiral Dance’ was one of the songs on the very first EP, the Water EP. ‘Spiral Dance’ – “The wise witch wove her dream, spinning cold ropes of silver that wound round the trees” – that song was about a dream that I had after doing a very long mediation to do with my witchcraft. The lyrics, if you read them – and I actually published them in my first book in Australia, Witch — A Personal Journey – went “in the room at the back of the house, the walls are soft and pulsing, wet and cool, magic wells up inside of me until it overflows, cascading down my cheeks. Starry-eyed, I’m spinning slowly a spiral dance.”
At the time when I wrote that song, I didn’t know that the term ‘spiral dance’ was a very magical term that’s used by initiated witches to describe the dance of spirits through the heavens and the energy that conjured during spell-casting when we create a cone of power to fuel our spells. It’s like an energy vortex, I guess, which we’d create using our mind’s eye, our will and our intent to fuel our goals into fruition magically. It’s called the ‘spiral dance’, and I didn’t realise that. So I was tapping into some kind of universal collective consciousness – or unconscious – to be able to write that song.
If you look through the lyrics of Def FX you’ll see that often there are esoteric references to tehm and there’s also a profound love and appreciation for nature expressed through the lyrics that I wrote, like ‘Under the Blue’, many others. But really, the most overt that I ever was about it in my songwriting was when Def FX did the Majick album which was our last one, where I was very open with songs like ‘Spell On You’, ‘I’ll Be Your Majick’ and so on.
Demetrius Romeo: From what you’re saying, it sounds as if the power was reaching out to you before you reached out for it.
FIONA HORNE: I was open to it, but I was tapping into some kind of resonance, I guess.
Demetrius Romeo: To the uninitiated — like me, for example, because I had a very religious up-bringing — my response would be, ‘don’t mess with what you don’t understand’. There might be something out there, but it’s got to be evil. Apart from that sort response, there’d be people who didn’t want to know about it, or could only relate to fictional accounts as presented by popular culture. So what’s it like for you, working with witchcraft?
FIONA HORNE: Well, I was brought up Catholic, and I think that one of the greatest fictional works ever written is The Bible, so I’m very used to being brought up to find great meaning and profound truths in fiction, or in other people’s interpretations of events, which is what The Bible is; it’s been re-edited and re-constructed so many times over the thousand or so years it’s existed.
I always think that what appealed to me in witchcraft are some of the most profoundly spiritual experiences I had as a young child being brought up Catholic, were when I was alone growing up in the Australian bush. I live in Illawong, which was a suburb of Sydney. Now it’s full of houses and shopping centres and things, but in my day there were two houses on the whole peninsula of land and it was a very remote suburb and very beautiful, and I used to go out and play in the bush. We didn’t have Nintendo then, and we weren’t allowed to watch television, and it was really in the bush that I found a great sense of ‘magic’ in the world, so to speak. And so when I looked into witchcraft in my teens and realised that at its core it was pagan – ‘pagan’ meaning ‘to honour nature is sacred’ – and also that it places great reverence and respect for the goddess, the feminine principle of divinity, that was something that appealed to me a lot, because I’d been interested in Eastern religions like the Hindu religion which has a lot of goddess figures in it. And so for me, embarking upon this path of learning of my spirituality was very much a spiritual pursuit as much as it was researching spiritualities and expressions of spirituality from other cultures, as much as the practical experience of being outside and realizing that heaven is right here on this beautiful earth. It’s not up in the sky, out of our reach, and it’s not ruled by a man on a throne, or whatever, which is what my image of God was as a child.
I think one of the most profound privileges that people so often overlook in life is life itself, and that really is what my witchcraft is for me – it’s a way of exploring, through ritual and mythology and practical experience, the profound privilege it is to be alive.
Demetrius Romeo: Now when you put it that way, it just sounds like a commonsense philosophy.
FIONA HORNE: It is! It is very ‘common sense’; it makes a lot more sense than my Catholic upbringing! A lot!
Demetrius Romeo: What I mean is there are those overtones of… you know, casting spells, having control over people, being able to change things…
- FIONA HORNE: Well there are three laws of witchcraft, which are:
- Do what you want, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else;
- Do what you want, as long as you don’t interfere with another’s free will;
– so, as you can see, you don’t control people – and
- As you send out, so returns threefold.
So you have to be aware, as Jesus said, that as you sow, so shall you reap.
The modern witchcraft, when we talk about casting spells, we talk about creating change in our will – deciding that there’s something special that we want to do, and taking steps – both magical and practical - to achieve that goal. Tying it back in with the Catholic upbringing, I guess I used to have a bit of a giggle, and wrote about it in my book, about how I’d love to ask Jesus what the spell was for walking on water, and that one for turning two loaves and two fishes into enough to feed thousands… So often when we read these stories about these great, powerful figures in modern religion and spirituality, they were all doing something like spell-casting which was creating changes with their wills to benefit others. As a witch, you’re allowed to experience that divinity and that power. You’re encouraged to experience it by your own hand, to go, “well, this is my own life and it’s okay for me to have my dreams and to achieve them”.
Demetrius Romeo: How does it make itself apparent in your everyday life?
FIONA HORNE: Different witches practice differently. Having now practiced consciously with a degree of discipline for at least the last thirteen or fourteen years – or, at least being out of the broom closet for the last seven or eight years since I published my book – in my own personal time, the ritual and work that I do could be as simple as lighting a candle and meditating in the morning; taking the time as I did last night to watch the full moon rise; saying a prayer of gratitude and thanks to the goddess, to life itself, to this amazing wonderful world; to reading Tarot cards for a girlfriend who’s maybe having trouble making decisions regarding a guy she’s dating, whether she should date him or not — I’ll do a reading for her. After a while the craft permeates every facet of your life. It becomes who you are, not what you do. That’s what’s so lovely about it as well, because it really affects the individual. The individual expression of the craft is essential. There’s no one book written; there are basic laws as I described earlier and there is some structure, but you’re really encouraged to express your craft yourself, so it becomes really meaningful to the individual or to the coven or group that works together. I think it’s quite lovely, because I know, when I was growing up, that I felt quite powerless, in a sense, or very cut off and shut off from spirituality a lot in that you were told when to sit, when to stand, when to kneel, what to say. Somebody else made it all up. Whereas, in witchcraft, you’re encouraged to put your own stamp on it.
Demetrius Romeo: Where in the US are you at the moment?
FIONA HORNE: I live in Los Angeles.
Demetrius Romeo: Is it hard to stay in touch with nature when you’re in LA?
FIONA HORNE: No, nature’s everywhere. In my garden I have five birds; they’re all friends of mine. I have my two doves, my two mocking birds, my two blue jays. That’s six! Gosh, that’s right. And there was one squirrel, but now there’s five running around the house like crazy. There’s nature everywhere here. I mean, honestly, my other apartment, I was up above the Hollywood Bowl area; there was a deer in my street! The funny thing about LA is that everyone who hasn’t lived here thinks that it’s this sprawling mass of cement, but there is a lot of beauty and nature here. Sometimes it’s even more lovely and beautiful for the fact that it’s in the middle of this big city.
Demetrius Romeo: That’s amazing, because I always read that you can’t get around LA without a car, so in my head it was just a series of concrete overpasses… but then, when I think about it, the big ‘Hollywood’ sign is on the side of a mountain with woods.
FIONA HORNE: You know, you can drive for five minutes at the top of Beechwood Canyon and just disappear into the wilderness and you can’t even hear the city below, and there are signs saying ‘watch out for rattlesnakes and mountain lions’. I think that LA, because it’s the home of Hollywood, it has this great kind of myth around it. And it is a tough city – gosh, it makes you pay your dues when you first come here; it tests you over and over and over again! But if you just stay focused… You know, you do have to take that time. I think the great thing about Los Angeleans is that they go hiking; they go to the beach; they search out nature and they search out ways to commune with it. We’re very spoilt in Australia because we’re kind of just surrounded by it. Here, you do have to hunt it out a bit. But there’s some of the loveliest land and energy that I’ve experienced anywhere in the world here.
Demetrius Romeo: What took you to LA in the first place?
FIONA HORNE: Well, my first two books that were released in Australia, Witch – A Personal Journey and Witch – A Magical Year were edited together and published by Harper Collins in 2001 and that book did very well for me here. I was able to do quite an elaborate tour with book signings and guest appearances on television and radio. My band Def FX had toured here in the mid-90s and I’d always wanted to come back to America, so I decided to move over here and try my luck and test my skills as a television presenter and actor in this town and things are going well. Really well. And my books are still doing very well. I just did a huge new book deal with Simon & Schuster out of New York, which I’m really excited about because the publishing industry’s really tough at the moment. But I’ve just done a brand new deal – probably the best deal I’ve ever done, eight years into my publishing career, which is very exciting. We’re just signing the contracts now. It’ll be published next year.
I’m coming to Australia just to be there. I get so many e-mails and so many hits on my website from Australia and I still consider Australia as a very important part of my life, even though I’m a full-time resident of America now. It was just a wonderful opportunity to come back for a lecture tour.
Demetrius Romeo: Do you still do any music at all?
FIONA HORNE: Not really. Just for fun, not for work.
Demetrius Romeo: And you have a couple of films in post-production.
FIONA HORNE: I completed a film this year, and a film last year. Last year’s film is called Unbeatable Harold, and I had a featured cameo, I guess, playing Henry Winkler’s girlfriend. It’s quite extraordinary. It’s kind of fantasy love story. The main character is a guy, Harold played by the actor Gordon Michaels and it’s adapted from a stage play that he did in New York. Henry has a kind of featured cameo in it as his boss, and I’m one of his floozies. It’s all a kind of fantastical, exaggerated love story/romantic comedy. My first day on set, I was doing a dance routine with the Fonze! That totally spun me out.
Demetrius Romeo: Did you have a crush on the Fonze when you were a kid?
FIONA HORNE: Well, I think every girl did, yeah! Obviously, he’s older now, but Henry’s so charming and loving. His wife made cake and he brought it on the set. He put out cake, he brought lollies, for everyone. He’s very lovely and really accommodating for inexperienced actors like myself. He’s really encouraging and lovely. It was a wonderful experience.
We wrapped that in September/October of last year and it’s coming out later this year, quite possibly early next year.
And then I did, at the start of this year, I was asked to play pretty much a lead role in the film Cult. I play Professor Dianne Estabrook. It’s a horror film, and horror films are huge at the moment. It’s a massive genre. They’re rushing that for release this year. It also stars Taryn Manning and Rachel Miner.
Demetrius Romeo: What was it like, having a major role in a big film?
FIONA HORNE: It’s a bit unnerving, actually, because on the second day of filming, I get attacked. I had to be stabbed in the back and then in the eye. I had the special effects and stunt guy showing me how to collapse after an attack. It was really quite confronting because the blood looked really real and you’re in character, and you’re supposed to be on the verge of dying. You really internalise that.
There were other funny moments, like when I was lying wounded on the floor, and it’s three in the morning and I’d been lying there for a while, and there are other dead bodies around me and this and that, and I’m incredibly tired because there’s been some really long nights of shooting, and I hear off in the distance, “FIONA! FIONA!” And I open my eyes and… I’d actually fallen asleep! They all thought I was acting really well, lying there as if I was dead, and I was fast asleep. That was really funny: three o’clock in the morning on the floor of a Chinese restaurant, asleep.
One thing I enjoy about acting is that you get to live vicariously through your characters – there are things that Diane would do that I would never do, and I got to do them as her. I really like that about acting. You have this excuse to do whatever your character would do, whatever the script tells you to do, and I really enjoy that a lot. I enjoy acting very much.
And I also did a SCUBA movie. I work a lot for PADI, the Professional Academy of Diving Instructors. I’ve been a SCUBA diver for fourteen years now and I make a lot of appearances in their instructional videos for teaching SCUBA around the world, as well as voice-overs for those videos and radio ads for them, and I’ve just done an ‘introduction to SCUBA diving’ film which is just being edited. So I’ve been acting topside and below the water.
Demetrius Romeo: And so you’re experiencing your witchcraft – your appreciation of nature – on land and in the sea.
FIONA HORNE: It’s a big part of my spirituality, my SCUBA diving. Some of my most spiritual and magical moments are definitely underwater.
Demetrius Romeo: When you sit down to enjoy television or film, what do you sit down to?
FIONA HORNE: I recently got Vera Drake; that was amazing. I like things that are either nature documentaries or things that are intellectually stimulating. I’d sooner get those than fantasy or sci-fi, funnily enough. I don’t draw the line too much… for me, if I’m having a night at home and I want to get a couple of movies just for myself to watch, I’ll get ones that no one else will sit with me and watch, like Vera Drake, or maybe something about the great whites off the coast of Africa – a National Geographic documentary or something.
Demetrius Romeo: Do you go out to the movies much?
FIONA HORNE: I do sometimes. It’s fun to go out to the movies here, everyone makes such a big deal about it. And I tend to see… well I went and saw Saw the horror film my friend Leigh [Whannell] – whom I knew years ago when he did movie reports on ‘Recovery’ – and his friend James [Wan] made last year, that created a huge splash here. I was one of the first people to go and see it, that was very exciting. I was on a book tour in New York and I went to a cinema on Forty-Third Street because I had spoken to Leigh during the day and he’d said, “it’s premiering today and I’m really nervous,” and I said, “I’ll go and see it”. Forty-Third Street was around the corner from the hotel I was at. But even though I’d bought a ticket at four o’clock in the afternoon for the nine o’clock session, I still had to sit on the stairs to watch the bloody movie — they were turning people away. It just exploded here. It was so cool that James and Leigh, two blokes from Melbourne, had this massive hit on their hands
I really like taking myself off to the movies. I take myself out on dates. I’ll take myself to dinner and a movie and then shopping at Borders Books afterwards.
Demetrius Romeo: I find it hard to believe there wouldn’t be any number of people willing to do that for you.
FIONA HORNE: Oh, no, LA’s really bad for stuff like that. My girlfriends and I are all resolutely single and guys are really sleazy and awful over here, pretty much. I’m so busy and my work involves dealing with so many people whether it’s here or in Australia or wherever, that I like to spend some time on my own. There’s a great area here called The Grove and it has a great cinema complex and it has great boutique shops, a great Borders Books and really nice restaurants. It’s hard in LA to find somewhere where you can just walk around, and at this place you can just walk around so it’s a great afternoon where you can just relax.
Demetrius Romeo: It sounds like a little King Street, Newtown in LA.
FIONA HORNE: It’s more like an Italian Piazza – there’s even a singing fountain in there.
Demetrius Romeo: Do you buy many DVDs?
FIONA HORNE: The last DVDs that I bought were Reservoir Dogs, The Usual Suspects and Sideways. Sideways is one of my all-time favourite movies.
Demetrius Romeo: When you watch them are you just into the film or do you get into all the bonus features?
FIONA HORNE: I watch the ‘process’ as well as the film. I watch all the extra stuff and the interviews. I got the Reservoir Dogs special edition with interviews with Quentin Tarantino and everything because, as I’ve been acting more, I like learning about the process. I also did a two-day guerilla filmmaking course just to get an insight into the process of filmmaking so that as an actor, I can understand everyone’s roles better. I think that it’s really worthwhile doing that because you realise how worthwhile the grips are, how the director of cinematography is probably more important, in some regards, than the director himself. You just understand the roles and how everyone pitches in. There are so many unsung heroes in the process of filmmaking; there are people whose roles are so essential but the audience doesn’t even know.
Demetrius Romeo: Television doesn’t seem to play a big role in your life at the moment.
FIONA HORNE: I’ve had more work on television than anything else. I hosted a show here last year and I was on billboards all over the country. Work-wise, I do a lot of TV. But I’m not the kind of person who comes home and switches on the telly unless there’s a particular show or movie I want to watch.
Demetrius Romeo: Is there no series that you’re addicted to?
FIONA HORNE: Well, Lost is one that I like. But often, my schedule is so hectic so I don’t watch those things because I don’t want to be tied to the TV screen. But if there’s a good special on National Geographic or Discovery, I’ll watch it. I’ve enjoyed watching Medium over here, that’s been pretty big. I enjoy watching Charmed sometimes.
Demetrius Romeo: How do you feel about shows like Charmed and Buffy?
FIONA HORNE: I’ve never watched either of them that much, but particularly with Charmed, people say, “what do you think of it? Do you find it offensive?” or something silly, and I say, “well, it’s not a documentary on witchcraft, it’s entertainment!” So it’s great. The girls look hot, the story lines are hilarious and it’s a great piece of TV. It’s a Spelling television show, you know. It’s great mindless entertainment.