Interview with Black Horse Fairy

Image copyright Steampunk Journal
Black Horse Fairy

Black Horse Fairy are a five piece band who I met with during the Haworth Steampunk Festival. I managed to chat to lead singer Fanny Ferris about Badgers, travelling the World and temporal displacement cafés in Keighley.

Journal: Explain to the readers about Black Horse Fairy
BHF: I came up with this concept about two years ago about having a British band, traditional in a way and it developed into us having personas, we’re shape shifters – and we can travel anywhere in time and space and write about what we see. It’s almost like we’re witnesses.

It started off slowly and I’ve now got the sound that I was looking for. We added a different instrument stage after stage. This is the third or fourth time that as a full quintet we’ve performed together.

Journal: Are you just gigging around the Haworth area at the moment?
BHF: Bradford and Leeds as well. More West Yorkshire.

Journal: Are you getting a lot of work?
BHF: Yeah, now that we’ve got started properly, we have a piece in the paper today and all of a sudden we’re getting offers and people are getting in touch saying they’re having a Fairy Ball. I have to check who they’re catering for because it’s very dark music. Some of our songs are about murder and rape and we’re compelled to tell people’s stories. The music is uplifting, we have a mystical British feel.

Journal: Would you be able to categorise your music?
BHF: Not really, no. We’ve tried. People try and they just say it’s too dark. No two songs are alike apart from playing the same instruments. It’s song based, rather than a sound base. You couldn’t say we’re Ska or Punk, but there’s elements of punk in what we do.

We’ve been described as being like very early Tyrannosaurus Rex also Jefferson Airplane. We’re starting to get a few comparisons, but it’s hard to pin us down.

We’re not jumping on a band-wagon. The universe that we created is really real to us. It kind of overlaps a lot with the steampunk aesthetics with the time travel and the fact that we like that kind of style. But I think that we’re not entirely steampunk, we are ourselv

Journal: So you’re time travellers. Do you come from this time or from the future or the past?
We come from different times in the past. If you go to our Facebook page (see below) and look at the About section, it gives you a bio about each of us. For example, I’m from Edwardian England and I was a suffragette but as I was fighting for the rights of women. As a young girl I disguised myself as a cabin boy and sailed around the world, so I’ve seen lots of things, whereas the Earl of Doncaster (Bass) was a playwright in King James I Court so he comes from the 1500, 1600s. Archie Blackwell – he’s quite mysterious – he was around Whitechapel in 1888.

There’s been sightings of us all through time, we go backwards and forwards. We have a fan who wherever he goes, he’ll write to us and tell us if he sees something that may be from us in the past. He went to Old Mother Shipton‘s Cave and found a top hat and a bonnet and there’s rumours that years ago Fanny and Archie were seen travelling through. So it does inspire writings from fans as well.

Journal: Do you sing about the times that you had in the future and the past?
Yeah we do and we also get songs from dreams and séance. One of them we wrote in the graveyard here two years ago. For example, in one of them I’m channelling the voice of a man who burned his wife for being a witch. And another one I’ve got the voice of Ned Kelly and I sing about his last stand. So we do shift about and channel other voices.

Journal: I find the concept of time travel very interesting.
Well the thing about it is I met this bunch while time travelling. There’s an old cafe for displaced people where if you’re out of your proper time, you end up in this little cafe and that’s where I met them. I thought ‘I need a band’ So I went there to see who was available. *laughs*

Journal: Is that a real tangible place where someone like me could walk into?
It was, yes. It was in Keighley but it’s not there anymore. There was a pub in Keighley called The Black Horse which is where we got our name from. People think the Fairy part of the name is about Fairies, but a Black Horse Fairy was a woman who drank in the pub and they were ladies of the night. It became a bit of a derogatory term around Keighley – to call someone a Black Horse Fairy – so it was a bad name about women and I thought it would be interesting to reclaim the spirit of that. They were rowdy and raucous, probably prostitutes. There were mythical almost in Keighley.

But the Black Horse burned down and we have some songs that mention that. It was over 20 years ago that it burned down but we wanted to keep the name Black Horse Fairy as a memory. It’s a pound shop now. That’s a sign of the times.

But we’re also shape-shifters as well so we can disappear and you might see us or you might not. Unfortunately, myself and Archie are endangered now because I’m a Fox and he’s a Badger.

Journal: That must be tricky with the Badger cull.

Journal: How do you time travel? Can you just move at will or do you have a machine?
We do have a machine. The Earl of Doncaster has been driving around in his at the moment, it looks like a vintage car and when he drives around it is, but he can zip off to different places. We have an idea of where we’re going to go but other times it’s just pot luck. That’s why some of our songs are about dystopian futures, because we’ve had glimpses of what’s going to happen.

Journal: That’s interesting because there are theories that as the future hasn’t happened, it doesn’t exist. So you think that the future has been written?
BHF: Well there’s lots of possibles. Lots of realities.

Journal: Do you ever leave clues for people to find to indicate your presence?
Interesting you should say that because we’ve been talking about that. We do sometimes for example when we were working, building all the reservoirs around here and they got the Navvies in from Ireland. They were all living in camps and we passed through on a barge. There’s still a barge that does it and it’s a memory of us and it’s called the Badger’s Sett. In fact that’s one of the things that our fan wrote about, he found that.

The story of Kundalini, who’s our drummer, can be found at Mother Shipton’s Cave and that’s where Fanny and Archie left their top hat and bonnet.

Journal: Do you think there are other people like you?

Journal: Have you released any albums?
We haven’t yet, but now the band is complete, we’re going to start recording more.

Journal: You all dress in a way that fits steampunk.
We’ve been laughing that this is what we’re like all the time – this isn’t put on. But it’s nice to meet other people with that similar thing.

Journal: Do you find yourself feeling more comfortable with people dressed the same around you?
BHF: Yeah, I suppose so, but we’re all old punks anyway, so we’re used to standing out a little bit.

Journal: Do you get inspiration from other bands or would you say you’re completely unique?
BHF: I think we’re influenced by everything whether it’s good or bad. I’ve soaked up such a lot, but I have my own thing and have my own voice. I can’t really help that this is what I’m like. I’m glad I took the time to get the band just right though, or I would have ended up regretting it.

You can keep up to date with Black Horse Fairy via their Facebook page: Black Horse Fairy Facebook page

You can also watch videos of performances on the Earl of Doncaster’s YouTube channel: Earl of Doncaster YouTube channel

Meet the band:
Fanny Ferris

Image copyright Steampunk Journal
Fanny Ferris is a shadowy character thought to be a fierce fighter from the Suffragette Movement, who got into arms running for the fledgling Irish rebels, and then fled to Russia for the start of the revolution. She is compelled to expose the cruel injustices that women have endured, and is rumoured to have sailed the seven seas disguised as a cabin boy. It is also said she murdered seven ex-lovers…..Her lucky number is eight.

Archie Blackwell

Image copyright Steampunk Journal
Archie Blackwell is a dark and mysterious character, once rumoured to have drowned as a child. It is also said that he roamed the streets of Whitechapel in 1888. Oh what could he tell us of those dark times? He found some fame in the Music Halls of the early 1900s where he could often be seen with Sarah Bernhardt and Lily Langtry and it was rumoured he was their lover. Sharing digs with a young writer named H G Wells, Mr Blackwell was on nodding terms with many of the artists and writers of his time. Is he a Gentleman, or is he a Charlatan? Who can tell.

Franklin Gothic

Image copyright Steampunk Journal
Franklin Gothic is an enigma. His first recorded appearance was in Paris in 1789 where he was praised in the letters of Marat for his ‘enthusiastic rigour’. It is believed that Joseph Conrad based the character of ‘The Professor’ in his novel ‘The Secret Agent’ on Gothic. This may have some validity, as Gothic and Kundalini are known to have plotted to blow up Greenwich Observatory, in the belief that such an act would ‘stop time.’

The Earl of Doncaster

Image copyright Steampunk Journal
The Earl of Doncaster, believed to have been born in 1570, was a playwright, swordsman and Royal Puppet Master in the court of King James I. It was the King’s reaction to the play ‘The Rape of Bartholomew’ that forced the Earl into a life of vagabondage. He is technically still on the run.

Count Kundalini

Image copyright Steampunk Journal
Count Kundalini, whose nativity is uncertain, was found as a child wandering across Northern Germany. His only possessions were hand-made maracas filled with wolves’ teeth and a faded photograph of Tsar Nicholas II. His talents as a Shaman did not manifest themselves until several years later.
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