Northern Transmissions chatted with the affable frontman Lias Saoudi from the UK band Fat White Family while the band was spending some quality time in New York City.
Northern Transmissions: I wanted to ask about your recent rant about the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, where you called him a “penis”. Was there a bit of exaggeration involved? Was it inspired by [Gang of Four frontman] Andy Gill’s piece “Why I Hate Coldplay”?
Lias Saoudi: The quote came from a pretty honest place, I think it’s a testament [to] how the state of music is in the UK presently. I don’t really understand all the hype and so called popularity of the Arctic Monkeys, I really don’t see much substance to their music. I guess I kind of do feel the same way that Andy Gill feels about Coldplay, regarding the Arctic Monkeys.
NT: When playing live, you tend to avoid doing some of your more accessable songs from your repertoire, are you trying to challenge your audience?
LS: Yeah, I totally think so. If you don’t challenge the crowd, it’s like so what! I think we want to make it difficult to like us. It’s kind of a Marmite situation, you either love us or you hate us. I really like it like that. I think it’s good for people to be forced to make up their minds about things, especially art.
NT: I’ve read a bit about how unhappy and awkward Fat White Family is. I think you guys have a wonderful sense of humour, and judging by our conversation, you seem pretty friendly and easy-going.
LS: Um, I guess it really depends on the line of questions being fired at us. Some of the stuff we have been asked in the past by journalists has been pretty irritating. I don’t know why most people were expecting us to be ghouls or reprobates, I think were quiet and social, and actually always happy to talk to people.
NT: Some of you have been spurned by your family for your music or stage antics, does this upset you?
LS: My brother and I emigrated from Algeria. They get Facebook over there, I guess they have seen photos of some of the stuff we’ve done. They get a little upset at times, some of it goes against their beliefs, they think what we do is considered Haram [a sinful act]. It’s all kind of weird and hard to explain.
NT: The band has been recently recording in New York, giving you the opportunity to spend a bit of time there. How has the experience been for you?
LS: I have never been to New York City before, it has been a really great experience. There is so much going on musically. The history of the city is incredible as well, everywhere you walk around, you see different and new things. We have also played with some great bands here. I have to say that Sean Lennon has been wonderful to us, he has put us up, fed us, and helped us record in New York state. He truly is a good guy.
NT: You have played shows in squats, and lived in one for a time. Are they still a big part of life in London?
LS: It’s kind of a dying concept, the government is really trying their best to get rid of them. I did squat for a bit, but the band never really did. It can be good and bad. There was a guy that used to race his dogs back and forth down the hall, so it could get a bit nuts at times. It really is good for bands though, they can put good size shows on for minimal expense, and make a bit of cash. It’s just gotten far too expensive in London to put on shows in that type of setting.
NT: Have you caught any flack for your song “Cream of the Young?”
LS: No, not really. When we put it out, we were on a super small indie label. It really flew under the radar for quite a while. Most of the people that really got into the song were journalists, they all seemed to be completely down with the track.
NT: Which five albums are inspiring you guys these days?
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
Country Teasers – Satan is Real Again
Michael Hurley – Armchair Boogie
The Fall – Live at the Witch Trials
Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town