fat white family are the band britain deserves and the band britain needs
As the most thrilling band of the moment prepare to release the follow up to their acclaimed debut album, we go deep underground with South London's very own apocalyptic sex-death cult.
When journalists write about Fat White Family, they tend to focus on the bands grottiness, misanthropy and lo-fi aesthetic. It seems just as reasonable to see Brixton's finest as the one good apple in a world full of rotten shit. While the majority of their guitar-wielding indie contemporaries remain Topshop clad clones focus-grouped to appeal to whoever chooses the incidental music for Made In Chelsea, the Fat Whites have continued to look and sound like South London's very own apocalyptic sex-death cult. Having proven their worth with 2013 debut album Champagne Holocaust, a woozy garage thrash that was as spiteful as it was fun, the band are back with a second collection, Songs for our Mothers, that shows no sign of relenting. With song titles including When Shipman Decides and Goodbye Goebels it's fair to assume the Fat Whites aren't ready for daytime radio play just yet…
We caught up with songwriter and guitarist Saul Adamczewski to talk about bizarre award acceptances, missing planes, and working with Evan Dando.
Fat Whites appeared on the David Letterman show this year - it was a big moment, but you weren't there. What happened?
Genuinely that was because I lost my passport. I lose about seven passports a year. And then, seriously, a week later when the band were in America I was at my mum's house and I put this shirt on, and I looked in the mirror. I felt this thing in the pocket and it was the fucking passport. It had been there all along.
Don't the Home Office get a bit weird about you losing passports all the time?
Well, yeah they've called me in. They ask you these fucking weird questions, they were like, so Mr Adamczewski can you describe the layout of your dad's house?
Could you do it?
I was like y'know you come in and there's a hallway, a kitchen and that, a couple of bedrooms.
But how did they know what your dad's house looks like? Do they know the layout of any given house in the UK? That seems kinda creepy.
I guess they can just tell that people are lying. It's obvious when people are lying… To be fair I lost the passport on a plane. I was coming back from America and I couldn't find my passport. I'm a fucking idiot. But I've been working with Evan Dando recently working on his new stuff, and I thought I was a bad man but I'm like... I'm like... I dunno, I can't think of someone to reference, but I'm incredibly organised compared to that man.
Wow, that's quite something that you're working with Evan Dando...
Yeah, I'm helping him write a record. He hasn't put one out in 10 years. It's hilarious working with him. One night we were going back to the hotel and there was a pot of gold paint in the car. He was so out of it he put his foot into the pot of gold paint and then as he got out and was going into the hotel we were like, 'Evan, Evan wait a minute' and he literally walked gold paint into the lobby of the hotel, treading gold everywhere. I don't know why our managers thought we'd get along; he's this blissed out surfer hippy dude.
How have you got the time to do this and Fat Whites?
I'm doing loads of shit. I'm in this band Warmdushcher, we're doing another record with that guy Dan Carey; he produced MIA, a bunch of really cool stuff. He's like a soul producer so Warmduscher are going to make a soul record.
Is that gonna be with Clams?
Yeah Clams sings it, it's a bit soul and a bit like Captain Beefheart, like that song I'm Bad, that sort of shit.
So would you say you're in a creative purple patch?
Well yeah, but also I really like playing the [small Brixton venue] Windmill and little gigs every now and then, and not have to go on tour with the Palma Violets which makes me wanna kill myself. We've reached this point as a band that we're big enough that the bands we play with are really commercial, like Peace or Wolf Alice. Slaves as well. Do you like Slaves?
There's a Slaves song I like. I feel like it's a guilty pleasure though.
They're a bit Metros-y [Saul's old band] Slaves. They both came and sheepishly told me they were massive Metros fans..
What do you say to that?
I say, well I'm not. But thank you. I tell you what, what I would like you to write about is this project I've got on the go, it's called Rider Art. I've started making art out of the riders, all the pictures go up on Facebook and they're getting better and better
I don't understand what you mean...
Well you know you get a load of shit when you get a rider, a load of useless crap that you don't want to eat, I've started making art out of it. So that should be the big bit in bold at the top of the article: RIDER ART.
Other than getting bigger riders, how are the band doing financially? Are you making any money?
It's fucking difficult. The last year has been really tough, and we've had a string of really, really bad managers who just gave really bad advice. We were doing tours in big expensive buses with beds on them and stuff when we just couldn't afford it. We're not business men and when someone dangles that carrot you're like, 'yeah wicked of course, sweet!' And then the figures come back and you're like oh shit, everyone in the band has to take a pay cut. Everyone in the band is homeless. I live in a windowless basement in Stockwell.
At least you're getting out of it by touring a lot.
Yeah we're travelling a lot, but I'm also doing loads and loads of different music things. I'm working on making music for films and I'm producing a lot of stuff. It's all brand new and based in America - it's nothing cool, but it's just a way in. I don't really wanna be playing Special Ape when I'm 40 years old.
I'm glad you've got the second album out without too much of a wait though..,
Have you seen the single cover of our first single? We recreated 20 Jazz Funk Greats by Throbbing Gristle, out on Beachy Head.
The only press shot I've seen you'd all shaved your heads…
Yeah, there's this kind of fascistic element to it.
You kinda look more like concentration camp survivors to me…
That's the thing, you try to go for one thing and end up with something else.
So what were you trying to go for?
I was trying to go for a Laibach kind of 'glorious strength of the people thing' but actually just looked like we'd walked out of Auschwitz. It's a good video man.
Are you happy with the album?
I'm really fucking happy with it. I didn't want to make another garage rock record. Although, in a way I think - for me - Champagne Holocaust was a perfect record, and I might skip a few tracks on this one cos we really pushed it with the noise and the 10 minutes of dirge.
Are you writing new stuff already?
Yeah we've basically got a whole another record now, which sounds like the Beach Boys. I'm really happy with it, it's really mellow. We're all gonna buy white tuxes and change the look again.
I liked the Shipman song...
The Shipman song is the Joe Meek one. It's a homage to I Hear a New World. I mean when I say homage I just mean I ripped off the melody.
And I could listen to Tinfoil Deathstar for twenty minutes...
Yeah it's a jam innit? It's like a Micaheal Jackson song - bom bom bom bom what song is that?
Yeah! It's like Bille Jean…
Finally, can I say that Pat Lyons accepting your NME award was my favourite thing that ever happened.
Well me too. I gave him my ticket. I didn't go cos Pat had to go. Pat was at the show going up to Michael Eavis going 'hey man you need to get Fat White Family a gig at Glastonbury man'. And he was trying to chat up Blondie and shit. Lias was tripping out of his mind.
I wish everyone could understand how monumental that moment was for anyone who's ever seen Pat around the squats and gigs of South London.
It was massive. It was Pat's moment. He was made for that.
Text Ian McQuaid