In the summer of 2009 FUSE became the first electric violin artist to sign a major global record deal through credible traditional channels in over a decade.
FUSE are virtuoso musicians Linzi Stoppard and Ben Lee who, on their eponymous debut album, harness their bespoke signature Bridge electric violins and take Rock tracks that people love and radically but lovingly reinterpret them. As Linzi says, "It's completely fresh, no one thought that what we do was even possible. Someone recently said, 'The album is great but I can't hear as much of the violins as I'd like'. Everything you hear is violins! The style that we use when we play is more akin to that of a guitar player, with more soul and electricity - literally! We chose work from artists that are huge stadium acts, and that's where we want to be. It is that big and that powerful - get some ear plugs! We specialise in blowing away people's preconceptions."
What FUSE do is unique but they feel that the tracks that they reinvent are not untouchable. "We're unafraid to cover classic rock tracks," says Ben. "Don't forget that all 'classical' music today is cover versions of music by pop stars from the last 300 years! What we do can have a truly global appeal; there are no language barriers. Whilst we're a string band, people can sing along to the choruses that we all know."
The sound that FUSE generate takes serious know-how and technical skill. Linzi explains, "We play five string and four string instruments; this gives us more range than a normal violin. We play Bridge violins with Kevlar carbon fibre composite bodies. They could take a bullet for us!" Ben continues, "The violins are sprayed with a finish containing gold particles. We have particular tonal requirements - of course we keep our secrets to ourselves! - but I will say that we use guitar amps, combinations of valve heads and transistor heads and speaker cabinets. Other people playing electric violins just plug into a mixing desk whereas we use a series of effects pedals." FUSE have had to invent new ways to render melodies that were vocal on the original tracks. FUSE aim to prove that the electric violin can be as versatile as the electric guitar. There's no cutting down or simplification involved. Live, it is nothing short of explosive - the violins are generally accompanied by the sound of jaws dropping!
There is unquestionably a FUSE 'sound'. The band performed at a Status Quo event and, as Linzi says, "Everyone just got it. Francis Rossi said, 'I love what you've done, how did you get that sound?' He ended up performing on our recording of 'Down Down'. Nick Mason from Pink Floyd was at a gig and offered to drum for us!" Ben continues, "One of our producers played on new material for Michael Jackson and sent our version of 'Beat it' to the project team. They thought it was unbelievable and asked who the guitarist was! They were going to play it for Jackson himself but of course we don't know if that happened."
Linzi and Ben took differing routes into FUSE, though their backgrounds have much in common. Both learned violin using the Suzuki method which Ben describes as, "A rock n roll way of learning because it trains the ear rather than focusing on theory or reading music." Both performed many of their first public shows busking.
Linzi had an enviable reputation as a solo electric violinist performing at prestigious events globally but was looking for a musical director to help take her ambitions to the next level. She and Ben first met when she borrowed his purple Yamaha violin for a photoshoot - "They gave me a fifty quid deposit for a violin worth a grand and drove off! I was a little naive but it all worked out." For a couple of years Ben worked in the studio with Linzi until the idea of forming a duo clicked. "Whilst I'd been using electric violins for ten years and knew all about effects, Linzi brought her own tastes and unique vision to bear - FUSE is my palette and her brush!"
Choosing the tracks for the 'FUSE' album was not easy, but the duo picked personal favourites and tracks that they knew that most people love. Linzi says, "With the track 'Glorious' we needed to turn the vocal into a string line and it just worked, it's a great song, one that you just hear people whistling." More inventively Ben relates, "We combined the mediaeval 'O Fortuna' from Carmina Burana with 'Kashmir' by Led Zeppelin, 'Carmina' felt a bit empty just on strings and amazingly we realised that the tracks had the same musical form. It works so well!"
The duo want to do things their own way. Linzi comments, "We have been told in the past that it would be 'very much in our interest' to apply for certain reality talent shows but we wanted to go through the credible traditional record company route that our heroes took." FUSE have enjoyed some great live shows including several Royal Albert Hall gigs and memorably Glastonbury, Ben says, "We were late, didn't have the right passes and were about to miss the slot. We ended up flagging down an ice cream van - we got in with all the equipment and got there just in time." At another show all the equipment got lost en route - all the wiring and sound processors FUSE need - and was couriered to the show, arriving in the nick of time. Without this gear the violins are silent, the one disadvantage of electric instruments!
With the release of 'FUSE', the band look set to achieve many of their goals. Linzi says, "We want the album to be a success and then to tour. Live is where we're exceptional - we'd love to take FUSE to America. They would love our music I think. Maybe one day we'll do an album featuring some of our heroes. That would be amazing." FUSE are truly global, their edgy sound, cool look and exciting live entertainment gives them a special appeal to breaks boarders, these electric violinists perform from NYC to London & Worldwide. Join our mailing list to be keep up to date with the latest news!
Linzi Stoppard is one of the most exciting and edgy electric violin artists around today, who pushes the boundaries of musical convention.
Linzi has been playing the classical violin from the age of four when she attended the prestigious Suzuki Violin School which eschews traditional learning techniques for violin. From eight she adopted a more traditional route and learnt to read music as well as mastered the clarinet and piano.
Linzi was diverted from that path just before taking the Royal College of Music entrance exam as she was spotted by a producer whilst playing a session in a London studio. Her musical success began in her late teens she was then spotted by two music producers who convinced her to front and record Tattoo of Pain (vocals/electric violin) which was a spin off from cult American group “Lords o Acid”.
Chart success followed, “I played in America and Japan and found myself hanging out with people like The Cult and Killing Joke. That’s when I thought, ‘This is what I want to do’. International record deals with Never Records (USA), EMI and Avex brought great early success but I felt unfulfilled and it was then that I started out on the route of more rocky, edgy violin.
Linzi built up an enviable reputation as a solo electric violinist performing at prestigious events globally but was looking for a musical director to help take her ambitions to the next level. In 2006 Linzi met Ben “Pitch” Lee who was also doing sessions and performing with various string acts. Ben became Linzi's executive producer adding his technical know-how to acclaiemd performances; the beginning of the perfect partnership was taking shape.
The next natural step was inevitable - Linzi and Ben hatched a plan to formally joined forces to re-write the stereo-type that the violin was a classical instrument with an album more commercial than had ever been tried before. FUSE was born.
Linzi is the daughter-in-law of playwright Sir Tom Stoppard & UK’s favourite health expert Dr. Miriam Stoppard OBE
Linzi is also signed to the international agency Models1 – Special Division and in late 2009 she and Ben were both asked to become Prince’s Trust Ambassadors.
Ben Lee is one of the most innovative and exciting electric violinists around today, a violin hero, exploring the wild frontiers of electric violin technique and sound.
Life with music started at an early age for Ben, who was given a very small violin for his 5th birthday. His guitarist dad who had worked with the likes of Pink Floyd and Humble Pie encouraged Ben to play along with the records when he wasn’t practicing his classical stuff.
When Ben was 11 he won a competition on “The Children’s Channel” on Sky TV, and recorded his first single at Capital Radio, London.
Whilst gaining scholarships to music schools during his teenage years, at 16 he was awarded “Daily Telegraph Young Jazz Composer of the Year.”
In 1999, he formed All Jigged Out, an electric folk/rock band to play his arrangements and compositions. This band was picked up by BBC Radio 2 and invited to perform at their Young Folk Awards in the same year. This lead to Ben being awarded a place to study violin at the Royal College of Music. He studied film music composition, began playing with indie bands as an electric violinist and picked up work in recording sessions and performing on film & TV.
Ben formed a couple of string acts, electric string quartet Eclipse which supported McFly on tour Bensquared who were invited to support Amici Forever on their 2006 tour.
During the next few years, Ben found himself very busy with recording, touring – he had soon earnt himself the reputation as the number 1 cool choice violinist for bands and artists such as Arctic Monkeys, Razorlight, Gorillaz, Amy Winehouse, White Lies, Goldfrapp, Mark Ronson and Tynchey Stryder. He has also recorded music for feature films such as Nowhere Boy, fashion shows for Alexander McQueen and for TV programmes on BBC, Discovery and National Geographic Channels.
Next was a collaboration that would change Ben’s musical career for ever… Ben was approached by the manager of Linzi Stoppard to write and produce music for her solo violin live shows. As their working relationship grew, they realised that they shared a common ambition to push the boundaries of what is most commonly regarded as a classical instrument, dispelling the stereo-type once and for all. Not satisfied with being another crossover cliché, FUSE was born.
Following the release of their eponymous album, get ready for a playlist of air guitar dreams, epic rock/pop hits lovingly reinterpreted and blazingly performed FUSE style.