A bunch of guys that seem to have fallen straight out of the “Young Ones” or “Withnail and I”. Their music, a trip of noisy guitar riffs, walls of sound that spread around you like a liquid mandala, through filthy back alleys, haunted by the voices of cats in heat, a scruffy folk guitar and a choir of skinny boozers. Siren songs about the sleazy and notorious, and, on top of it, a vicious live performance, that reminds one of the glorious heydays of Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper – alas, no chicken has died yet. Meet the Fat White Family, currently touring their new album “Songs for Our Mothers”. We talked with Drummer Severin Black and Bass player Taishi Nagasaka about their music, the beauty of fuckin’ up and, well, mothers.
Which words come into your mind when you think about your band?
Taishi: More than music. To me our music has some sort of energy, it’s more human.
Severin: It’s punishing at times, but very fun, and also sort of an taboo.
How does being part of this band affects your everyday life? Are people scared of you because of your image?
Severin: People outside think this band is like a runaway train, that it can’t be stopped, like it’s the ultimate party band, that we’re stayin’ up until 8 in the morning everyday, doing hard drugs. Well, it can be like that sometimes, but it’s not always like that. People assume that we’re pushing our bodies to the very limit, but we look after ourselves. We’re all still alive, no ones died yet. So, it can’t be that bad.
Taishi: People treat me well. I never thought I’d hang out with this kind of people and it made me alter my mind as well. It makes me able to see the good side of people – everyone has a good side, haven’t they? It just feels nice to be in the band. I’m happy.
Have you ever encountered any dangerous situations on or off stage?
Severin: Lias was getting arrested for getting naked in Sicily. But that was dangerous for him, not for us.
Let’s talk about your new album: With titles like “Lebensraum” or “Song for Goebbels” you seem to upset a lot of people. Is this the main goal of the band?
Severin: We’re not going out of the way to upset people, but we’re not shy away from it.
Yeah, but actually, what is so upsetting about it?
Severin: You tell me. Even if I wasn’t in a band like this and I’d read a track list with a song called “Lebensraum” on it, I would think it’s cool. It’s stuff that you know from history books and we all get taught about it, about the bad guys from history. And suddenly if you put them in a song all are gettin’ funny about it, and the papers say “oh, it’s so edgy”. I don’t think it’s edgy at all, it’s just writing good stuff about bad people.
And I still don’t get why it’s so edgy to write about it in 2015.
Severin: Exactly. They are long dead.
Is there any song on the album dealing with some current political stuff?
Taishi: I don’t know the lyrics. I can’t understand the lyrics in any english song. (laughs)
Severin: And we’re still waiting for our copy of the album, so we can read the lyrics.
Taishi: I can use a translator then.
Severin: I mean, sure, I do know what we’re singing about. But it would be a bit too cliched to write about modern politics, it would be too easy. It’s more interesting to write songs about things that have already been and gone.
Maybe because the story is already finished.
Severin: And you can have your own take on it.
Your new album is called “Song for Our Mothers” – Do your mothers like what you’re doing?
Taishi: My mother is very conservative. And she asks a lot of questions about what I’m doing, since she watched some of it online…
Severin: Like “Why is your singer dancing naked?”, “Why is your guitarist sucking his cock on stage?”
Taishi: “Doesn’t he have teeth?” (laughing)
Severin: That’s why he’s sucking his cock, because he has no teeth. It’s a big homeless charade.
What about your mother Severin?
Severin: Oh, she loves it. She would take any reason to blab to all her friends that she’s got a son who’s in the papers. She’s happy as a bird with a chip.
Taishi: That’s because your mother lives in England. My mother has never seen anything like that before she’s discovered us online.
You kept it all hidden?
Taishi: Oh no, I don’t need to hide. But I don’t need to tell my mother either.
Severin: My mum’s quite facebook savvy, so she’d take a picture of a magazine feature about us, take a close up picture of my face, post it on facebook, tag me and write “I’m so proud of my son”. It’s so embarrassing. I told her not to do it, I don’t need the band to know that she’s such a looser when it comes to that stuff, but she still does it. “
Apart from your mothers – How do people respond to your new album? Have there been any reactions so far?
Taishi: Lots of people say “great” on facebook.
Severin: Ten out of ten. Ten out of ten mothers. Live people like it. We’re getting a good reception live, way before any of the recordings.
Talking about your live performance: you sound far more vicious and rougher on stage than on record – is this a conscious decision?
Severin: It’s boring to give people just more of the same – you know, you could play the album loud if you only want to hear a loud version of the record. It’s more interesting to do something different. We’re not the only band who’s doing this – and I always enjoy bands that sound different live compared to on recording. To me it’s like you’re getting more for you’re money when you go and see such a band live.
Taishi: And also it frees you up on stage as a musician. You don’t have to stick to the tracks.
Severin: There are a lot of different aspects, and complex recordings and drum machines and stuff on the album. If you’d try and force yourself to play live like on record you couldn’t let loose.
I think that’s the great thing about live gigs. If you free up you can pretty much get away with anything.
Severin: Yeah, and when you fuck up so many times in your life you become an expert in fucking up. And you can get so good at fucking up that you can convince the people in the crowd that you didn’t even fuck up. I think that’s something every musician should be taught. If you take music classes as a kid that should be your first lesson.
I think that sounds like a bandmotto: Fuck up as good as possible.
Taishi: You should tell that to a lot of Berlin bands. In Berlin bands have so much time and often they practice too much and play very well, but it’s all very boring.
Severin: London bands have no time and don’t ever practice. But when they play, it’s badly rehearsed, but it works.
You’re on tour right now – What happens afterwards?
Severin: Trying to dj in shit pubs to get 40 quids so we can eat. And then touring again. Inbetween touring we just sort of trying to do little jobs to keep ourselves going.
So you’re not able to survive solely on your music?
Severin: Just about. No, not really. Not comfortably.
Tashi: You can’t in London. I live in Berlin, I can manage.
Last question: Are there any bands you can recommend?
Severin: There’s one that we all love and played a lot of gigs with: Meatraffle. Awesome band.
Taishi: Awesome music and very nice people. So sweet.
Severin: Me personally: Sealings. They are my favourite band ever.
Taishi: 80s Japanese Idols.
Is that a band?
Severin: No. Sweet crooning japanese singers, that sing about love and loosing love. They do it in front of a polite audience of very smartly dressed people. It’s very specific. But it’s great.
Featured image: screenshot taken from Fat White Family’s “Whitest Boy On The Beach” video
By Susanne Firzinger