Foto-© Louise Manson

Es gibt sie noch, die Fat White Family. Ihr viertes Album Forgiveness Is Yours ist soeben erschienen, fünf Jahre nach dem gefeierten Vorgänger Serfs Up!. Der Weg dahin war steinig. So sehr, dass sich Sänger und Texter Lias Saoudi fragte, ob das alles noch Sinn mache. Die Pandemie zwischendurch war nicht das Problem. Es waren innere Befindlichkeiten, die alles erschwerten.

Wie wir wissen, gehören die Mitglieder der Band nicht zu den Anhängern der gesunden Lebensführung. Das ist für die Musikszene nicht untypisch, aber bei der Fat White Family muss man damit rechnen, dass in punkto Hedonismus alles Vorstellbare übertroffen wird. Es gibt Drogen bis zum Gehtnichtmehr, Suff sowieso, anderes Zeug auch immer. Lias entblößt sich, Partner wechseln. Gerne kommt es zu Meinungsverschiedenheiten, die man nicht friedlich beilegt. Wenn sich jemand in der Band über die Musik aufregt, die ein anderer gerade laut laufen lässt, wird ein Schlagzeug-Becken schnell zum Frisbee. Oder der Kopf des Kollegen knallt so gegen ein Fenster, dass danach Scherben auf dem Bürgersteig liegen. Genauer kann man alles in der Band-Biografie Ten Thousand Apologies von Adelle Stripe und Lias Saoudi nachlesen, die 2022 erschienen ist.

An den Aufnahmen zu Forgiveness Is Yours war der besonders unstete Gitarrist Saul Adamczewski noch beteiligt, jetzt ist er draußen. Es ging nicht mehr mit ihm. Warum es so war, erzählt Lias im nachfolgenden Interview. Auch im Verhältnis zu Bruder und Keyboarder Nathan verstärken sich Risse – droht da eine neue Familienschlacht im Stile der Gallaghers? Im Gespräch geht es um Besetzungswechsel, neue Perspektiven und Lebensveränderung. Und die Musik? Sie hat unter dem Chaos überhaupt nicht gelitten, klingt mal entspannt, poppig, tanzbar und natürlich auch temperamentvoll. Ihr highteres Durcheinander wird die Band Ende Mai zuerst auf dem europäischen Kontinent in Paris, Amsterdam, Nijmegen und Berlin live vorstellen.

I’ve listened to an interview on the radio you gave recently in which you’ve indicated that there was a lot of squabbling. It was hellish at times to make the new Fat White Family record. Compared to previous experiences, why was it difficult this time?
I think you get to a point where people are no longer singing from the same hymn sheet. This one’s been bad because Saul finally went. He left. He departed or he was sacked or a bit of both or whatever. There were certain kinds of behaviour patterns that I was no longer willing to put up with. Like this thing where you fly into an absolute fucking manic rage, because you’re having a discussion about a shopping bill or something. I was hyper vigilant, because at any moment he could fucking pop off. I was no longer willing to accept that.

This development will come as no surprise to any reader of your book Ten Thousand Apologies. Did writing the book help you to come to a decision?
With this kind of book you’re building art with a language made out of memories. In that process you are expelling so much, but you’re also able to render yourself in your situation in such a godforsaken clarity that you can no longer deny the inevitable. When you recognize the cartoon that you’ve become, then you have to change tack. Yeah, I think a decision was necessary. During the third or fourth big session on this album we were just getting fucking nowhere. Any time I was on the microphone he wouldn’t come in the room, he wasn’t interested in singing anything that I’d written. He offered a solo with an oboe instead. Saul was insisting on making Metal Machine Music, Part 2. He wanted to make an album with no lyrics, he wanted to destroy my role in the group. It just felt embarrassing whereas before I felt kind of intimidated and threatened. I caught wind that he was going around town in London claiming that he was going to destroy the band. I don’t know what makes him so bitter and unhappy.

He always was in life judging by what is written in the book. He had problems right from the start in his life and it didn’t stop.
Yeah, there’s a history. I often wondered why he was trying to destroy everything, himself, his family and the band. This time I didn’t accept his flight into a fucking rage, I wasn’t intimidated. It was bitter and painful and there hasn’t been a cessation. In a way I’m used to torrents of abuse coming from Saul. It doesn’t matter if I block him on all media, I’ll get a load of fucking shit.

He sends you hate mail.
Yeah, that kind of thing. It’s a mad form of anger. It’s been hard for a long time, now I want to move on. When you get a bit older you have to forgive yourself a little and you have to accept some responsibility for the stuff that’s going on around you. If you want to live longer, you have to make other decisions. When you’re in your 20s, you can just go, go, go, go. When you get to your 30s in life you just no longer have the vitality to expand on that shit, you just don’t have it anymore. Suddenly you’re tired, your body’s fucking crying out for a break. You start to get paranoid, psychotic, depressed and you just can’t cope. The hangovers get longer and longer and longer and the high gets shorter and shorter and shorter.

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You look much more sober and cheerful today.
At one point in life you have to to say: This has to stop, otherwise the game is up. If you want to live, you have to behave accordingly. I look back on the madness and it’s not like I have real regrets. I think it was a bunch of dysfunctional fucked up young guys who came together to create a mad explosion. Now it’s different, in my personal life as well. In that period in the pandemic I ended up in my first adult relationship. That was just real peace, I’m in a stable place now.

Why is it working with this woman as opposed to the ones you had before?
I had to get to a point where I had to admit that I’ve chased the wrong things, where it’s all about status and a different kind of validation, where it’s about you barking up the wrong tree. I had to bark up all the wrong trees before accepting myself. During the pandemic I was completely isolated and she was with another guy at the time. I was like, right, this is the way life is now, who do you actually want to be with? I think it’s always been there, but I denied it and denied it and denied it. She’s been my best friend for 12 years. Eventually I wrote her this letter while I was living in Berlin in 2020. Heartfelt things like I’ve always been in love with you in some way, but I’ve been covering it with emotional rubble. You might think I’m a womanizer, a fuck-up. But I think I can learn. I sent this letter during the patch and I went there and put this letter out in a box for her birthday and sent it over to Spain. She was living in the middle of nowhere in Spain. And I put it through and then I was thinking how long it might take to get there? And they said: Oh, it’ll be between eight and twelve days. It’s been a big thing for me.

During the recording process was not only difficult because of
the inner turmoil in the band, but also because you couldn’t find the right producer. It didn’t work with Raf Rundell and in Norway. In the end you went for Liam May, who you’ve worked with at various stages of your career. Clive Langer was also involved, who produced a lot of records in the 80s with Alan Winstanley. What did they bring to the table?
Initially it was Raf and Saul. We had Today You Become Man already. It didn’t get turned into anything, it was going to go in the bin, I guess. It was a 15-minute jam with all these different musicians, everybody playing random stuff. We made a few starts, the backing choir on Religion For One came from those sessions. And I think once we reached that point in Norway where we’ll just go and self produce for a bit it was just a fucking disaster. In the end I knew it’s going to be Liam and Luke May.
They did the first album, they did the second album. When we couldn’t make the third one work, we called Liam and Luke. I work with those guys regularly in a project called Decius, I’m very close with them, with Liam especially. I feel most comfortable with that guy, he’s this Zen-ish kind of figure. He’s perfect for us, he can deal with the chaos that is Fat White Family. Clive came in at the last minute to guide things a bit. You have to talk quite loudly when he’s in the studio – his age, you know, he’s going to be 70 soon (laughs). He was in a good place actually, Clive. I think he gave up the drink and stuff and was happy to help.

Decius are interesting because the music’s different. It reminds me of the techno-electro-punk style Green Velvet was known for around the year 2000. How do you change your work method when you’re entering the dance music environment?
They’ve got just endless beats, Liam and Luke. They’ve been focusing on dance music, so at any time I was feeling fucked off or bored I called them. I’d just go down to the studio and it would just be me and Liam and he’d just stick a track on. There’d be no drugs or anything like that. The loop would just go go go go go and I say whatever for however long. On maybe two or three beats I make a lot of noise and then I go. Three months later you’d get this entirely developed finished thing. The idea of having an argument or something in that group is just unthinkable. Those kind of experiences I’ve had with music in the last few years have been important to me.

You come to Berlin regularly as well in order to revive yourself.
I go to Berlin every summer for a month or two for a techno club. When you’re in there, when you’ve got a bit of ketamine and that loop going, you can fix your your mind when you’re dancing. You can excrete any kind of negative thought you have in your head through the body. You can go dancing at the clubs in Berlin for 20 hours and come out feeling energized. It’s a completely different thing and I love it.

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Since we’re talking about Berlin, you’ve always been interested in in Germany. Religion of One on the new record is partly inspired by Marlene Dietrich. In what way?
The fundamental question for many bands is: What’s next? I think you should always do the opposite of what you’re doing, in our case not the same kind of guitar-based post-punk again. I was living in Paris in 2019. I had like a little garret in Belleville and I was drinking a lot of red wine. It was the final spring before the lockdowns. I was happily wandering around Paris, kind of drunk, listening to Marlene Dietrich, what she had to say about making Iove. I think that’s really missing with a lot of new bands. There’s a seriousness and sexlessness that has to do with an absence of plasticity. There’s a difference between Leonard Cohen’s early folk period and his later stuff. When you’re young, it’s like: Oh my god, this is so exciting! But then, as you get older, it’s a bit fucking tiring. It’s the later language and poses I like about him now, how he’s eating a banana on the front of I’m Your Man. Later on in his artistic life he had a taste for cliché, he’s realized that plastic cheap dirty smut is an important part of rock and roll. I felt like there was something similar going on in Marlene Dietrich’s world.

Let’s speak about another important band member. The last time we met, Nathan was with you. This time you’re on your tod. How’s the relationship with your brother going at the moment?
Not great, we’re not speaking, we haven’t been speaking for months. We haven’t been on good terms with each other at all, it was another thing that went down with this album. Nathan started to hand out these diktats although he wasn’t really the personality for that. I don’t know, he started thinking other people in the band were plotting against him. This is difficult because it is a relationship I really want to be peaceful with. It’s been hellish for my family, really painful. We’ve had this thing with Saul and then there’s just been this other thing with Nathan. Mum doesn’t like it all, she’s very nervous about the situation. Maybe he needs to go and do some other work for a bit that isn’t being in a band with the mad pressure and all that. I don’t know how that pans out, it’s bittersweet at this moment.

You’ve made another great album, despite all the trouble. One track I really like is Polygamy Is Only For The Chief. It sounds like T. Rex meeting Parliament in a dungeon of dystopia.
This one is written by our member Adam Harmer on the guitar. One thing about Saul not being there is that Adam Harmer has been able to play a bigger part in writing things for the group. The licks and everything are his. The lyrics I wrote are inspired by Bataille’s book Eroticism where he’s talking about ancient primordial tribes and their social order. Where everybody could have one partner, but the chief could fuck everyone. And things haven’t really moved on. We had Bill Clinton on the Lolita Express, you know. The old ones are the best ones (laughs).

The album finishes with You Can’t Force It. Hurrah, a piano ballad in the world of Fat White Family!
It’s a tune written by Alex White on the piano, it came about in a natural kind of way. It’s good to see how new kinds of partnership are developing in the band. Lots of different situations are cooking up – maybe a good sign for the future.

Fat White Family live:
31.05.24 Berlin, Lido

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