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Fat White Family

  • By MisterCharlie Author Avatar
  • 2 March 2012

It’s Friday night in Camden’s Purple Turtle and all hell is breaking loose. The promoter, a shirty nu metal meathead, has decided Fat White Family’s brand of crass, misanthropic garage rock isn’t to his taste, and has killed the mics mid way through their second song. The band have responded to childish tactics with childish behaviour, smashing equipment, hurling themselves into the audience, stripping naked, and memorably, simulating a wank at the stunned crowd. Bouncers cluster the stage trying to grab at skinny limbs, everyone’s screaming, fists are flying, skulls are cracked. It’s the most entertaining moment Camden has seen for years.

“That was a shit gig” lead singer Lias tells me a week later above a freezing Brixton boozer. “They wouldn’t let us soundcheck, and put us in this little backstage room for hours. When we got on stage everyone was fucked after 6 and a half hours of drinking"

Guitarist and fellow founder Saul interjects – “nothing sounded right. We weren’t taking it seriously and they thought it was offensive sounding so they cut the mic and sent a bouncer onstage.. so obviously we started trying to antagonise the bouncer by dancing with him, then they cut everything."

"It’s never gotten violent before. We don’t want to get a reputation of ‘let’s fuck everything up...’ we’re not fucking Towers of London or something. It’s just that was a particular enraging experience, corporate punk rock in the Purple Turtle.... "

"The promoter had been a real arsehole all day, being a dick about paying us for a cab, even though he’s some major promoter – he actually said ‘do you know who I am?’ – the other bands were terrible, the whole day was terrible”

Lias:  “I got my arse out.. it was that kind of a gig it descended into infantile sexuality, lets behave like complete spastics cos that’s how they’re treating us, like moronic children- and they were like- go and sit in the room ,were not gonna pay you anything, you can’t have a soundcheck. It’s a lot of effort and work to put on a show and when they treat you like that it drives you insane”

Saul: “Then some guys who had been watching the show came outside and attacked us—they followed us out started a bit of a slanging match then this guy jumped over and it all kicked off in a massive brawl. “

It’s been an age since London has seen a band capable of enraging and entertaining in equal measure. When Lias says it’s a lot of effort to put on a show he isn’t being facetious. Fat White Family have developed a hardcore fanbase eager to catch their maniac, visceral live shows, the band howling, tearing at their instruments, crashing around the stage, all the time locked onto an irresistible garage groove. Part Bash Street Kids, part missing-on-the-side-of-a-milk-carton kids, they conjure a euphoric symbiosis of chaos and rhythm that hasn’t been heard since the Happy Mondays launched their joyous catastrophe onto an unsuspected world, or Pete n' Carl set sail to Albion....

Formed on the spur of the moment from the fag ends of a gaggle of South London garage bands, Fat Whites first incarnation came as a big band- Saul explains-

“We were running a night at the Macbeth, and 5 days before we had no bands booked, and we were like, fuck it we’ll get all of our mates together and write a load of songs in two days. We had 15 people on stage, 2 drummers and 3 keyboard players, and we wrote Auto Neutron then and thought fuck it, lets stop doing all the other bands and do this-“

Now down to a 6 piece, made up of Saul, brothers Lias and Nathan (keyboards), drummer Dan, Jack Payne on bass, and Adam from One Man Destruction Show on screaming lead guitar, they reckon they’ve passed through their ‘mad experimental stages’, and have got a sound they’re settled on- a propulsive brew of swaggering psychedelia, bare bones garage, and snarling fables of numbness, boredom and sex delivered by the hyper-kinetic Lias.

“Look at the song titles, “ he laughs “like Without Consent, and Cream of the Young its kind of taking the piss a little bit, its crass openly – a lot of music these days, you can’t get your rock off to it... all the best music’s y’know.. a little bit dirty, and it’s important to have that somewhere along the line .. well all the way along the line”

Saul chimes in- “We definitely feel like there’s not a lot of music in London we can really relate to.. All these people wanting to be a brand. There’s lots of millionaire kids with the expensive tattered cool. It’s easy to start a band if you and invest your time making music if you have no fear of failure.

Lias: “Those are the guys who’ve already got loads of shit online before they’ve got even played any music, they’ve got t shirts made, a couple of blogs- they’ve hit the big time... And these people who are making music, and have the space and time and money to make it—well unless you feel disenfranchised in some small way why would you make music about how disenfranchised you feel? So instead you get this kind of playful, colourful, Animal Collective thing, this kind of aesthetically pleasing shimmery sound, as opposed to: This is shit. Im bored.”

The band are planning to release an album in the summer through small independent Trash Mouth, as well as an EP or two, but in general they’re not too fussed about trying to rodeo on some sort of bucking rock n roll gravy train. Saul, in particular had his fill of the high life with his short, disastrous tenure being signed to Sony as one of much hyped urchin rockers The Metros.

“I’d never have any affiliation to a major label ever again” He exclaims, “I’d rather be fucking broke, be a 60 year old man busking on the street for pennies than have anything to do with those fucking people. They are all snakes.”

“That band don’t have anything to do with what I do now. In The Metros I was a kid. That’s the past. It’s dark. I didn’t know who I was when I was doing that. I was doing a lot of drugs, I had a lot of money and I was just a kid. I went a bit wild and turned into a bit of a prick. Soon as I hit rock bottom I joined Lias and Nathan and started again.”

 “Theres no money in it now anyway. Thank fuck! Its over. Unless you get your song fucking synced on an ipod advert- we don’t wanna promote anything that we don’t wanna promote.”

Lias: “Once you’ve put your music to an advert and taken the money you can no longer bang on about political how your anti corporate this and anti that”

Are you anti corporate? I want to know-

Lias: Yeah! Well.  Who isn’t man?

Saul: Loads of people aren’t!

Lias: Well a bunch of cunts aren’t. Obviously the devil isn’t it. If you put your music to that, then that’s it. You can’t rub it out at any point in the future. It’s there forever. A few grand is a few grand, but what you’ve lost is something a lot more serious. If everybody takes the money the world will never change. And it will change.”

Whilst the combination of cynicism and desire for a better world may seem a bit hackneyed on paper,  there’s no escaping the fact that in a UK music scene stifled with careerism and grubby commercialism, where bands fall over themselves to kiss arse, and would happily license their music to an advert for baby buggering if they thought it’d give them the exposure necessary to shag Peaches Geldof, it’s a relief and a pleasure to meet a group of young musicians making a perfect racket, who joyfully, gleefully, and passionately just don’t give a fuck. More power to them.


*edit* here's a clip from the Camden show... I didn't want to put it as the first video as it seemed unfair to present Fat Whites that way before showing them playing a happier gig... still... it's pretty funny ....


Photos courtesy of Lou Smith Media.



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