> Fat White Family on exits, culture, aggression, and 2Pac's hologram. - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Fat White Family on exits, culture, aggression, and 2Pac’s hologram.

Extended interview (web exclusive)

There’s rarely been a period of stability and calm with Fat White Family, but the release of new album Forgiveness Is Yours feels particularly chaotic. The exit of guitarist Saul Adamczewski and keyboard player Nathan Saoudi left frontman Lias Saoudi solely at the helm of one of the most important bands of the past decade.

SNACK caught up with Lias to discuss exits, culture, aggression, holograms, the future and more.

How did it feel when you read the media running with stories that the band had split up?

It was quite funny. I was in Mark Riley’s studio at Radio 6 and this guy Victor, who’s playing bass in the group at the moment, he’s new in the band, and he was reading a paper and there was a photo of some other band, he opened it up and discovered that. He put it quite funny; ‘This is clickbait for who exactly, other than me?’ Who else is clicking on this link, it can’t be more than a few people. It’s not exactly what you need in the week of release but I’ve had worse bad publicity days.

You’re almost flattered at this point that they would bother.

It shows the high desire to churn out digital articles and stories.

It’s insatiable, endless nothings. It’s miserable. I remember in my early 20s, living in Camden, around the time of Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty drama, it was incessant. Free newspapers every day, endless coverage of these people doing anything, ‘Amy Winehouse steps over a drain’, ‘Pete Doherty eats a Mars Bar’, every single day. It’s hard to imagine being that tawdry but I guess there’s a few pockets of resistance in the gutter press.

I wonder if anyone wrote that article or was it generated by a machine? It had an algorithmic neutrality about it, like a machine coordinated a few possibilities of articles out there and made a composite with no perspective.


Fat White Family – Work (Official Video)

With a band like Fat White Family, can you ever rule anything in or out when it comes to band members, and who’ll be part of the group?

No, we’ve never been able to impose order like that, you always have members losing their mind, not showing up, losing their shit, over and over again, and you have to deal with it. I didn’t think The Fall was a good model for a band, I don’t see myself in a Mark E Smith mould, I don’t have that persona, but by default, I’ve had to get along with things in vaguely the same way, thinking, who’s actually here?

You had people not wanting to do the big show on the Friday. They wanted to do the show on Thursday and Saturday, but on the Friday, they wanted to smoke crack somewhere. You can’t make someone get in a van but I’m the one with a microphone in my hand at the front, and that’s the end of it, I guess. I have to go and do it or otherwise it doesn’t happen. With me, it was non-negotiable, I had to show up.

Of course, you say you don’t see yourself in the Mark E Smith mould, but I’m led to believe you have the paperwork to prove it?

I do have the paperwork, yeah. [Laughs]. That kind of character, there’s a real malevolence there and I don’t think I’m mean enough, I don’t think I do nearly enough speed and acid.

I don’t do any speed and acid at the moment, I get the impression he was rolling around his flat [in a similar way], searching for the next lyric. That’s quite heroic, a Blakean visionary, not for the faint of heart, most people would crack, right? You get to that point when you just can’t. It’s Herculean, what that man endured.

You play various shows in Europe before the UK tour, what shape are the band in right now?

The band’s in really good shape, fine shape. We got a newish line-up to do Rough Trade about a month back, and it was great, sounding really good, I’m excited to get out and play. That’s the bit I like the best, performing. Once there’s less druggy bullshit in the mix, you can get on with the job. I’m not as young as I was but I was a bit out of shape before.


Photo Credit: Louise Mason

There is more focus on health and wellness for everyone these days.

There’s been a shift, I’ve abused my body so much, it’s only been since the pandemic I’ve calmed down. You notice your body and brain are really connected. There are times when you think you’re depressed but most of the time you just need to stop putting shit in your body and do a bit of exercise. It won’t fix everything but it’s not some radical suggestion, is it?

Nutrition, exercise and sunshine, which we don’t get enough of.

You don’t get that up there!

On that note, you know Scotland well. Do you feel a difference for shows here compared to most down south?

It’s always been one of my favourite places to play, definitely. There’s a vibe up there, a looseness I find, the further north you go, there’s more barbarism. There’s a noirish inevitability to Scottish drinking and hedonism because it’s shrouded in a Scandinavian climate, it’s different. They’re sort of like Brits, but not really.

It’s a fundamental difference culturally, but where hedonism is concerned, Scotland is far more die-hard than many English towns.

You say to pull off a good gig you have to get into a head space where you’re going to war with an audience. That’s maybe okay for shows like Knebworth (supporting Liam Gallagher in 2022), but can you achieve that for your own shows?

That’s where I’ve been at in my head for a lot of the time as a performer, but not recently. That was the root note, a place you’ve gotten into so many times that you now no longer have to locate yourself in that emotional abyss. Not that you’re going through the motions but I didn’t feel like that a month ago when I was performing or when I performed with Decius (Lias’ dance act) a few weeks ago at a techno party in Lyon. There’s always a strong element of that though, you versus everyone in the room, and by extension, the world.


Fat White Family – Touch The Leather (Official Video)

It must be a situation of balance where some tension can be great but too much tension destroys what you do?

We reached a tension saturation point on many occasions.

‘Tension Saturation Point’ should be the name of an album.

Yeah!

I know you wrote about the Knebworth experience for The Quietus, but now, some time on from then, how do you feel about shows like that?

I loved that show, I live for that kind of thing where you’ve got something to prove. That was a particularly aggressive audience, you’re going to upset them – I relish that as an artist, I always have. I don’t know why but that thumb in the eye tendency, it’s always been there, it’s important to retain a bit of that and I do the same when I’m writing, I try to have a wind-up going on. It’s your job to ruffle the feathers a wee bit.

There’s something to be said for provocation for provocation’s sake, like Coachella but headlined by a hologram of GG Allin (American punk rock musician). It would be great; I’d finally want to go.

It’s been over 10 years since Tupac Shakur’s hologram played Coachella, we’re due another one. Or maybe another show from that lazy hologram.

Where’s that at? It must be in a bar somewhere or in someone’s gaff, where is that hologram? Maybe we should put a word out, see if it’s out there, see if we can borrow it for the Glasgow show. No one’s seen it for over ten years, can we borrow it for a few hours? We don’t mind if it’s glitchy, we just think the people of Scotland would love to see ‘Pac again.

Or even just have him on during the gig, it doesn’t matter if it’s out of sync, we’ll get him dancing.

The technology is available, we can’t just have ABBA making money out of it at this time.

There are so many people you could hologram-ise, the sky’s the fucking limit with that one.

Rolf Harris, Jimmy Saville. You could have a Rolf Harris terracotta army, all of them playing didgeridoos – sinister.


Fat White Family – Bullet Of Dignity (Official Video)

You say that every time you make an album, you swear it’s your last. How do you feel about the future of the band at this point?

Failing the hologram option, the bit of time between release and tour, you think, ‘I’m done, stick a fork in me. I’m done’, but the minute you get a reaction from fans and performing it live, that’s when you make your mind up as to what to do next. It’s half of the thing, the live thing is at least half of the process, it’s the bit I live for, we love doing it.

Did you miss playing live during lockdown?

No, I got really into writing and publishing, it was a similar thing. I got het up writing an essay and sending it over to someone to publish and I get excited by that. It plugged a similar gap, as much of a buzz, trying to get a response out of people with a bit of writing. You can have a different type of intimacy, do different things to people’s brains. I found it fascinating.

Would that be like swapping one addiction for another?

You could use the addiction analogy; I’d say it’s like you’re a snooker player but you also enjoy the darts.

You co-wrote a great book, you did a solo tour, you write for websites and perform with other bands. Is it about keeping busy or is this what it takes to earn money?

You got to earn money and pay your rent, that’s always part of it but as far back as I can remember, I was always making something, drawing pictures as a kid and making stuff. It’s how I deal with life. I’m an anxious person, a bit melancholic, a bit of a worrier. All this week, I’ve been writing an essay about Berlin and techno, on commission. Writing the essay, I’m stressed, worrying about it, in my bed thinking about the last paragraph and I want to be free of this essay I said I’d write.

However, if I wasn’t writing this essay, I’d fixate on something else and worry the same amount. I do the essay, at the end of it, I can exchange it for currency and you have an object or form that may or may not be worth something to others. It’s a no-brainer what you choose, if I wasn’t constantly making one thing after another, I’d be worrying about something. I don’t know another way to be.


Forgiveness Is Yours album artwork

It’s easy for people to look at the changes and say Forgiveness Is Yours is an end, but can it also feel like a new start?

I think so, it boils down to what happens in the next six months, there’s new ways of doing things. I don’t know, it’s a different climate for bands these days, everybody plays in three or four fucking groups to get by –it’s like musical chairs, you have to feed the different fires.

It could go either way, we’ll see how it goes. Just take time until you want to do it again.

It’s easy for the media to jump on songs like ‘John Lennon’ and ‘Today You Become Man’. For you, is there a song that’s central to the new record?

I like ‘Polygamy Is Only For The Chief’, that’s a nice one, because of the title.

I think ‘Work’ has a rhythm that’ll go down well live.

It’s good, my little brother wrote that – we’ll do that live. All of it, you get to a point where it starts to gel when you’re on the road. Three or four gigs in, you suss it out.

All in all though, ready for what’s next?

Yeah, yeah, I’m ready for what’s next, I’m excited to get out there. I’ll see you guys soon, good luck.


Forgiveness Is Yours is out now on Domino Records.

Fat White Family play Glasgow Garage on 16th June.

Main Photo Credit: Louise Mason

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