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INTERVIEW — Lias Saoudi (Fat White Family) talks about their fourth album

Before the release of their fourth album, Forgiveness is Yours, we talked in Paris with Lias Saoudi, from Fat White Family.

SOB : You said this new album, Forgiveness is Yours, is the most complicated, the most creative one. Can you explain why? 

Lias : Physically and mentally, I was just really in a personal hell. Obviously, it’s a group of misfits and delinquents and neuro divergents, so it was never going to be smooth sailing. And it was very sad, I think… but as you get a bit older, the cracks start to show. So that was kind of hellish, people behave with each other really badly. It’s like a horrible four way, five way, six way marriage. Who really wants that ? Yeah, drugs and mental illness made it difficult, almost impossible. 

SOB : Did you write it on your own this time? 

No, I wrote most of it with my brother Nathan, with Adam Harbor, the guitar player… With Alex White… Also I think with a guy called Nick HeartSaul was involved in the early stages, but he left.

SOB : For Bullet of Dignity’s videoclip, you used artificial intelligence, can you explain why? 

It was just that we might as well fuck around with that because we can. So let’s mix real backgrounds and artificial backgrounds, it’s just another toy that you could play with, to make art with I guess. Nothing philosophical to speak of.

SOB : Idles used IA recently to recreate Chris Martin from Coldplay singing their song

It’s a real bad idea… Hopefully it makes it a lot easier. You can just speak your idea into a machine and then it appears, hopefully you could just speak the idea of the album into the machine as well, and then it just appears.

SOB : But is it exactly what you wanted?

Not exactly. It’s never exactly what you wanted, with any creative thing. Whatever fantasy you have about where it should end up, it’s always a failure, every time. It’s like that with everything in life, isn’t it? It’s like you find a new relationship and it’s all great…. And then you discover all this shit, there’s a period of idealism with every project, be it personal or professional… There’s a honeymoon period and then reality sets in.

SOB : And for this album are you in the honeymoon period ?

There was no honeymoon period for this album ! Or maybe there was but nobody told me about it.

SOB : If artificial intelligence is like a tool you can play with to make videos, do you think maybe you’ll try in the future to use it to write songs?

We were talking about doing a whole album with AI lyric or something, but it never went further than that. I guess in ten years that’s going to be what everybody’s doing, right? So maybe that would save me a lot of trouble.

SOB :  But do you think it might convey exactly the feelings and the words you use?

I think we were already kind of cyborgs in a way. I think it’s already started 15 years ago, this kind of homogenization of the human spirit mind, you know, the same way. Like if you go to any high street in America, they’re all the same, that’s the way the insides of people’s heads are going to become as well. They already have kind of become instrumentalized, mechanized. So that’s machine like, you know. You’re already getting this kind of mediocre machine, kind of regurgitation of things that have already happened The beat of the sixties, a bit of that, put it in the soup and there’s here, there’s your thing, there’s your EP. You might as well have a machine do that.

SOB : Is that why you named a song John Lennon?

That’s not why the name of the song is, John Lennon is just a fact, just a tiny diaristic account of something that actually happened to me. But I like that as a theme, you’re just playing around in the sand castle now. Everything that’s going to happen has already happened, and you’re just sort of like rearranging the pieces to amuse yourself.

SOB : And who do you think is going to be the John Lennon of our time?

There won’t be, we don’t deserve one ! We, it’s a different era. The era that produced the likes of John Lennon was dependent on so many socio political and technological situations specific to that time, it’s like you have the postwar economic boom, all these new freedoms and taboos being busts. You have like this kind of cultural explosion occurring. And if you look throughout history, you’ll have similar periods of cultural refinement, sort of medium painting or sculpture or, you know, and it happens in a specific time. It flares up and then it diminishes. It disappeared and then people looked back on it. The further you get away from it, the more radiant it becomes. And I think when you look at the postwar period with music, pop music, rock’n’roll, that’s basically what’s just happened. It’s no longer possible. We don’t have a culture that can produce those people anymore. The same way we don’t have a culture that can produce Beethoven or Shakespeare. It’s just not feasible. And that’s fine because we had, we did at least live in a time when we shared the same bit of the clock, not with John Lennon but with Mark E. Smith. So I think that’s just the way it is.

SOB : You have some songs that are spoken and almost sung like a prayer or a manifesto and a song about religion. What was your opinion on this sort of thing, do you believe in any external forces? Do you believe that we can change anything? 

The illusion of the thing is the same as the thing itself. It feels like we have some choice. It feels like we have some measure of peace. It feels like agency, maybe it’s not, but it feels like agency. And our bodies will stick to the illusion of agency. It’s more comfortable.

SOB: Endings seem important on this album and you said you were in a bad mental state. Do you think it’s your last album?

I think at the moment it stands like 50/50. I took the fatalism of the things that seem to make sense, because I think four is a good number, you’re kind of part of the furniture, you’ve done a whole decade basically. Which is really reasonable. I always think it’s the last one, it’s always been really problematic. But then you go on tour and you start performing things live. But it’s hard because certain members are no longer there. But I kind of thought enough of a suspicion that it might be that it should feel a bit like a kind of curtain call.

SOB: You’re also playing in another band, Decius, why did you feel this need? 

My friends, the guys that produce Fat White‘s, had this tiny little independent label, they were like acid house dudes. They stopped doing that for a decade or two. This small indie label that we were on, about ten years ago, started making these acid tracks again and moving back towards dance music. They asked me to do some vocals on all of these tracks and it was loads of fun. And every now and then I would be like, I call it kind of getting my gimp on. You know, it’s kind of homoerotic, kind of like just tap into that kind of gap, you know, it’s all kind of highly affecting in high pitch kind of vocals. No, it’s just sex music. Sex club, weird, do weird shit with your body kind of music. But I really enjoyed making it. I always found it was kind of like an outlet. So it was like a bit of a holiday doing that band. Every few months, in the end, they would say, “I’ve got some new tracks come down and sing on this” , and you just make things up as you go along with that. We did this for enough years that an album just appeared out of nothing without any effort whatsoever, you know? So then it’s like, Oh, let’s do it.

SOB: It’s kind of a holiday without drama? 

It’s completely drama free. 100% drama free. There’s drama but never interpersonal, it’s the opposite of that. If I didn’t know the project, I would run and I would never do that again.

SOB: About historical feuds, you’ve played with Pete Doherty… What do you think about The Libertines’ comeback?

I was a young bloke in London around the time that they were popular. I think they’d just put their second album out. But they were so famous, I kind of resented it like you do at this age. Anything too famous is just not cool. But then I kind of liked it, I kind of got into that weird mythos and stuff. And then I think Fat Whites was, you know, I think the Post Libertines period, there was all this schlocky romantic kind of English kind of stuff. There was a lot of bad stuff followed in its wake. I think Fat Whites were a bit of a reaction against that. It was kind of more like our own kind of cartoon industrial kind of singing or that kind of thing, as opposed to the kind of more twee version, I think. But now that another ten years have gone by, I kind of look at it with fondness, actually, I’ve got a bit of warmth for it and recently I have had a period of warmth. I mean there were some weird things about Pete Doherty, it’s a strange story. I just got kind of a bit of sweetness about the bloke,I liked him, straight off the bat! I think it’s pretty fucking nuts. The stuff you must’ve been through, you know? 

SOB: I don’t know if you’ve been following the news recently, but what’s your guess on what happened to Kate Middleton?

This is news to me. Maybe she’s in Peru or something or maybe she’s fucking sick of it. Maybe she’s shagging Harry. Maybe her and Prince Andrew, maybe they bought Epstein Island. They’ve set up shop and there’s a revival there.. I mean, if she’s like the new Maxwell, they’ve got a whole thing going out there !

SOB: I was wondering about the melody of the last song, it sounds like out of Cinderella

Is it from Cinderella? I think it’s definitely got something to do with Cinderella. Yeah, because I didn’t write the melody, Alex White did. Officially it’s not. But I mean, I guess it’s similar to it. You know, I’m sure he was deliberately ripping that off. You know what could be more final than that? If it is the last album, then it’s good to go out with Cinderella. She meets her prince and he still loves her with her rags on… That’s a good way to end, you know. That’s a good reference to bring.

©Louise Mason

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