Feeling a bit Fur-ry again

Music: After all these years, and much to their surprise, the Psychedelic Furs find themselves reunited and on tour.

July 15, 2000|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Six months ago, Richard Butler wouldn't have imagined heading out on the road as part of a Psychedelic Furs reunion.

After all, the group hadn't been in existence since 1991, and Butler considered the breakup permanent. "I hadn't thought of it as taking a holiday from the band," he explains, over the phone from his New York home. "I thought of it quite honestly as just not doing it anymore."

Being in the Furs - which he and his brother, Tim, co-founded in 1978 - just wasn't any fun anymore. "When you've been in a band 10 years or more, your set list becomes the audience's favorite songs," he says. "And the longer that list gets, the less you're actually playing stuff that you'd like to be playing."

By that point, the Furs had produced quite a few new wave favorites. Although the band had only one actual Top-40 hit, 1987's "Heartbreak Beat," they'd become modern rock staples thanks to such oft-played album tracks as "Love My Way," "The Ghost in You" and "Pretty In Pink" (that last having provided the title of one of Molly Ringwald's biggest films). Unfortunately, most later fans knew nothing of the band's early material, and that grew frustrating.

"The few times we did try to stick old Furs songs in, like `Mr. Jones,' people would look at us like, `What the hell are they playing? Is that a new song?'" Butler says, laughing.

So the band called it quits. Butler went on to form Love Spit Love, which released two albums before breaking up, and was working on songs for a solo album when his brother Tim stopped by one day to see how things were going.

"He said, `How many songs have you got?' And I said, `I think I've got about 25.'

"He said, `That's a lot of songs. Why don't you do both your solo record and a Psychedelic Furs album? You've got enough songs.' And I thought, `Why don't I? It'd be nice to do two things, instead of one.'"

Oddly enough, the Butler Brothers weren't the only ones thinking about a Psychedelic Furs reunion. "About a week later, Johnny Fidel, my agent, called and said, `Have you thought about putting the Furs back together? Because there's a lot of interest.'" Butler laughs. "And I hadn't really thought about it until Tim mentioned it."

Before long, a tour was proposed, in which the Furs would play a short set to see how it felt to be back on the road again. But after two weeks of rehearsal, the reformed Furs - which, in addition to the Butlers includes guitarist John Ashton, the only other original member to have stuck it out to the bitter end - had no doubts about the future.

"The question of whether we want to do it has become redundant," says Butler. "We do."

For now, the Furs will play a 35-minute set, opening for the also reunited Go-Go's and the never-did-break-up B-52's. "It will be a very odd situation," says Butler, adding that the band will be playing a couple new tunes in addition to the familiar favorites.

Once the Furs have finished this tour, the next step will be figuring out how to tailor the new material. "As yet, it's just a bunch of basic songs," says Butler. "Some were written on acoustic guitar, some were written with keyboards, some were written with just a drum machine and a bass. With previous albums, we would sit down and say, `Well, we have a bunch of songs. What do we want the record to sound like?' But we haven't got to that stage yet."

Then there's the matter of finding a record company, but Butler isn't worried about that. "I mean, there's not really any pressure," he says. "Maybe we should make the record first, and say, `Would you like to put this out?'"

However they release a new album, at least Butler and his band mates will have some say in the matter - which is not the case with the band's back catalog. "Because Sony owns the master tapes, they can do what they want," he says. "Actually, small record companies can go to Sony and say, `Look, we want to put out a Psychedelic Furs compilation,' and Sony goes, `Yeah, sure. Help yourself. Put out anything you want.' They pay Sony a fee, and put out these sometimes dire compilations."

But doesn't that at least mean extra money for Butler and the band?

"Oh, no, no," he says. "Because the way it works is, if you still owe the record company money - which we still do, a small amount - then you don't get paid. It goes toward paying off that debt."

Concert

When: 7 tonight

Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion

Tickets: $44 pavilion seats, $17.23 lawn

Call: 410-481-7328

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