Fat White Family make ace music but they’re constantly falling apart at the seams. They tell Ben Homewood about their near self-destruction…
Fat White Family guitarist Saul Adamczewski is poolside at his manager’s house in California, recalling how he was kicked out of his band on November 14 last year, in Paris. “They abandoned me in the wake of my destruction,” he says. “I was quite severely hooked on heroin.”
The South London band were at the tail end of a run of dates in support of their 2013 debut album ‘Champagne Holocaust’ and Saul was missing gigs because of his habit. “You just end up in a crack house,” he says. “You pretend you’re Lou Reed so you don’t feel as much of a loser.”
His disappearance sparked rumours the band was over. But since December he’s been getting clean. First he purged his body of drugs in Mexico, using ancient African plant substance ibogaine, then he spent 11 days in rehab in Las Vegas.
Two months on, he’s now sitting with his best friend – and FWF’s frontman Lias Saoudi – and says he’s “clean and sober for the first time since I was 12”.
“Watching Saul get eaten alive by junk was horrible,” says Lias. “It was hairy, even by our standards.”
Generally speaking, those “standards” are despicable. Since forming in 2011, Saul and Lias – plus organist Nathan Saoudi, guitarist Adam J Harmer, bassist Taishi Nagasaka and drummer Severin Black – have gained a depraved reputation. They are six freaks who dig onstage nudity, Nazi history, animal carcasses, drink, drugs and fighting. Their music mirrors that image: a rough blend of punk, country, krautrock and provocative lyrics (see ‘Bomb Disneyland’, which goes: “All your kids are dead kids/All your kids are naked/In my mind.”)
This month their second album ‘Songs For Our Mothers’ arrives marinated in yet more filth – a fantasy about the last days of Nazism (‘Goodbye Goebbels’) and druggy doom (‘Tinfoil Deathstar’). It’s a thrilling, dangerous record. And it’s a miracle they finished it.
Sessions for ‘Songs For Our Mothers’ began in New York in November 2014. Sean Lennon, son of John, was there to produce, hosting the band at the county mansion-cum-studio owned by his mum Yoko Ono.
Everything soon unravelled.
“Things got… messy,” Lennon later told NME. The band broke up and recording was put on hold. They regrouped in London in January 2015, without Lennon, at which point heroin “spread like cancer” through their social circle. The bleakness helped them conceive scabrous tunes like ‘Hits Hits Hits’, a menacing groove about abusive relationships inspired by Ike and Tina Turner, and the putrid ‘When Shipman Decides’, about murderous doctor Harold Shipman.
With Saul on production and long-term ally Liam D May keeping order in the studio, it was finished 10 months later, in October. Only ‘Satisfied’ survived from the Lennon sessions. Shortly afterwards, FWF went to Dover to film the video for lead single ‘Whitest Boy On The Beach’, a disco banger written after a busking trip to Barcelona. In it, Saul looks gaunt, pale, horrendous. “It’s like an anti-drugs advert,” Lias says, laughing.
In November they left for Europe armed with new songs, but Saul was kicked out after three gigs, replaced by Dale Barclay of defunct Glasgow punkabilly maniacs Amazing Snakeheads. Minus Saul, the band saw out the remaining 11 dates and then decamped to Norway. Then: a break.
By the Californian pool, Saul says there’s still “stuff to repair” with his bandmates, but he’s back in FWF and will be on their February tour. He’s also relocating to Sussex to stay out of trouble. Lias, too, is changing his ways. He now only has “a couple of shots and half a bottle of wine” before gigs. And the pair have developed some healthy California habits –eating well, bathing, hiking. “We’re climbing mountains,” says Saul. “Instead of doing mountains of coke.”
Fat White Family are back from the brink. For now.
See Fat Whites live, if you dare…
Saturday 20 – 02 Institute, Birmingham
Sunday 21 – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
Monday 22 – Plug, Sheffield
Tuesday 23 – Whelan’s, Dublin
Thursday 25 -Limelight, Belfast
Friday 26 – The Garage, Glasgow
Saturday 27 – Academy 2, Manchester
Sunday 28 -02 Academy 2, Oxford
Monday 29 -Bierkeller, Bristol
Wednesday 8 – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
Wednesday 9 – Coronet Theatre, London