Who Are Fat White Family?

Ian Gittins

By Ian Gittins

on 03.12.14 in Features

Champagne Holocaust

Fat White Family

File under: Scuzzy, heroically scabrous art-punk with an attitude problem, a big mouth, and sizeable chips on both shoulders
For fans of: Sex Pistols, the Gun Club, the Fall, the Libertines
From: Brixton, South London
Personae: Lias Saoudi (vocals), Saul Adamczewski (vocals, guitar), Adam Harmer (guitar), Joseph Pancucci (bass), Nathan Saoudi (organ), Dan Lyons (drums)

Pablo Picasso’s aphorism that good taste is the enemy of great art could have been coined with Fat White Family in mind. The south London collective’s natural habitat is the pub and the squat, and it shows. Their debut album late last year, Champagne Holocaust, was one brilliant, visceral, attitudinal sneer, rendered via the medium of bilious garage rock ‘n’ roll that teetered on the verge of collapse.

The Family’s disregard for propriety shone through grubby, ramshackle romps like “Cream of the Young,” written from the perspective of a predatory pedophile, and “Is it Raining in Your Mouth?,” a celebration of the joys of vigorous fellatio in the front passenger seat of a car (its chorus, “Five sweaty fingers on the dashboard,” becomes a joyous crowd sing-along at FWF’s anarchic live shows). Their current single, “Touch the Leather,” is about dirty sex: Its video sees singer Lias Saoudi drawl lewd words as his brother, organist Nathan, gyrates his bare posterior inches from his face.

Taking a break from the band’s soundcheck before the last gig of a UK tour, at London’s Elektrowerkz, Saoudi talked to Ian Gittins about squatting, Situationism and why most bands are disgusting.

On the best rock ‘n’ roll bands being gangs:

We all hung out together socially before we even started playing music. I think it’s an essential thing for a band to have that gang spirit. There’s a lot of drama in our inter-relationships. Sometimes there’s too much fucking drama!

On the reasons for being in a band:

I find a lot of the music and the bands around nowadays disgusting and repulsive. Young people in London finish university and then form a band rather than getting actual jobs that are useful to humanity. There is a glut of toothless, poseur careerists, and we set out to do our thing directly against all that.

On the anger at Fat White Family’s core:

When I finished art school, I ended up on the dole for years and I got very dejected and resentful and desperate. I was walking around town handing out CVs and couldn’t even get a bar job. I’d been in the mix with people from a different ilk and class, going to the same parties and doing all the same drugs, but my life was falling apart and they were getting well-paid fucking stupid jobs like Arts Logistic Technicians, whatever that is. So of course I got angry!

On writing songs on taboo topics:

Are we agent provocateurs? We just try to offer an honest reaction to the world we live in. People might think writing “Cream of the Young” from the point of view of a pedophile is going too far, but it’s hardly a dead topic, is it? Given that half of the BBC is up on charges, it’s a good time to write a song from the perspective of a nonce, as it seems half of the people who have been at the controls of popular culture for the last 40 years have been banging kids!

On general perceptions of Fat White Family:

The word Marmite gets thrown around about us and I can see why. We’re not a band you can just…ease into. People say that we’re shocking and abrasive, but what we do doesn’t feel that way to me. It just feels natural, and normal.

On being called class warriors by the Evening Standard newspaper:

Given the current political climate, the Evening Standard needs to be removed from existence. I don’t entertain anything they say about me, or about anything. If I need inspiration I just pick it up and read it. It’s fuel for the fire.

On Fat White Family as Situationist subversives:

We’re far more Situationists than we are class warriors. I love the connection between Situationism and punk. Greil Marcus’s book Lipstick Traces was a big thing for me — the way it questions if there is even such a thing as an artist. This band doesn’t offer any solutions. We sing “Bomb Disneyland” but we’re not recommending people actually go and do it!

On the current single, “Touch the Leather”:

It’s filth. The video was just the best we could come up with after we had been up all night. The rest of the band didn’t show up so we just improvised and Nathan got his arse out.

On the importance of lyrics:

Language is my gig. I’m not in this band because I’ve got a great singing voice. At times I’m practically tone deaf. I get pushed around and bullied by my band on account of my lack of competence. Let’s just say that I read far more than I listen to music.

On similarities with the Libertines:

I guess there’s a shared narcotic, hedonistic approach. We have an absence of professionalism in favor of just going, what’s going to happen tonight? It makes everything more interesting.

On living over a pub:

When this band started taking off, I no longer had the time to sign on, claim housing benefit and work a job on the fly. So I lost my flat and have spent the last year sleeping over a pub [the Queen's Head in Brixton], moving from room to room. Am I squatting? Well, the landlord would probably say I am. In fact, he has said it, numerous times.

On being penniless artists:

We still haven’t had a penny for doing this. It’s been like a full-time job for no money. We play sold-out gigs then the next day we haven’t got the money to get the bus. Hopefully we’ll get some money in soon and I’ll be able to get myself a flat and just go to the Queen’s Head when I want to, rather than waking up there. When you get out of bed and walk into a bar, it’s dangerous.

On how Fat White Family will end:

Badly. Very badly.