I never knew his real name, but then he wasn’t a guy you would ask. He lived punk, all torn shirts, black leather and spikes, with a Keith Richards sway, and he tried to convince you he was a badassed mean sonofabitch.
“How are you, Fritz?” one might ask. “Too damn sober,” would come the reply. But it only took the briefest conversation to penetrate the image, and find a friendly, considerate – and very organised – character underneath.
From the late 1990s till 2005, he ran the Full Moon Club and fanzine along with Rosie Bell and Malcolm McLean. In Bannerman’s bar in Edinburgh and various other venues he would invite bands he liked and bands he wanted to give a chance to.
It’s a fair bet that more than half the sets I played for a good few years were at his invitation. Because if Fritz liked what you did – and it didn’t have to be anything like punk – he would do everything he could to get you an audience.
Fritz, Rosie and Malcolm were a dream team: organising venue, equipment, instruments, photography and a fanzine write-up, all for the love of it. They just called you, you turned up, plugged in and played. They gave you a great intro and a warm reception. And when you weren’t playing, there were people to meet and great bands to see.
A night in the Full Moon could offer you anything from the power of Shock and Awe, Mutterfly and the Z-28s to solo acts such as Electra Smith and William Mysterious. Vanhelsing wasn’t one for introverted singer-songwriters, but if you did what you did with conviction and even a smidgin of devilry, he was your fan.
At the Full Moon, I played solo and with various bands, any which way but get up there and play.
For a while, Fritz was even the drummer in my band The Innocents, and not in a polite and reserved way. He loved a song we did called The Ballad of Bob Dylan and took manic glee in propelling it to new speeds where I could barely spit out the syllables to keep up. That was fun.
He really came to the fore as a drummer in his own bands, FRAK and Nicotine Fingers. Probably the finest moment in the history of the Full Moon is FRAK’s The Last Band to Play Top of the Pops, which you can still find on YouTube.
When Fritz stopped promoting gigs and long-term illness began to get the better of him, life wasn’t easy and many said he was his own worst enemy. But during his last years, he did get out to enjoy gigs without the pressure of having to organise them. Whatever we heard, it was clear that he loved music, loved his bands, and loved his wife Mary and daughter Jet. If you’re anywhere, Fritz, wherever you are, rave on – and thanks.
Fritz died peacefully in the Royal Infirmary, surrounded by people he loved. Of the last few years, his wife Mary said on Facebook: “He was not just stoical – he was having a good time. He was some machine.”
Fritz loved Norman Lamont's song The Ballad of Bob Dylan. Norman can never get to play a set without including it.