Danny Moran: “People need monsters…” Fat White Family’s Lias Saoudi ahead of northern book launch this week

    On a recliner by a bubbling jacuzzi at Brockwell Lido, South London, Lias Saoudi takes a five-minute cell phone call. It’s a clear-but-brisk afternoon and he speaks with the voice of a reasonable man.
    For the last month the singer with drugs-munchers Fat White Family has been the object of media salivation on the back of his new bare-all memoir, Ten Thousand Apologies, co-authored with the writer Adelle Stripe. It charts the reverse-heist of the band’s snatching of defeat from the jaws of glorious victory amidst madness and much Class A depravity…and is being hailed as an instant rock biog classic.
    It seems a long time since we had one of those so Tuesday’s northern leg of the promotional tour (at the Trades Club, Hebden Bridge) is to be looked-forward-to.
    “It’s been a lot of fun,” Lias tells me from his berth by the pool. “Like being on Question Time. Maybe a bit too twisted in Bath.”
    “Yea, I didn’t imagine Bath as a hotspot. It’s quite the little town.”
    “What have you made of the reaction to the book?”
    “I was expecting more kickback, people coming out of the woodwork to be honest.” He sounds disappointed.
    I’m yet to open my review copy though I’ve seen the plaudits and read an interview Lias gave to Rolling Stone. He talked about the need to “rattle the fucking cage” and the tradition of turning yourself into living art which seemed to die out after the 60s and 70s. “Give me something that reflects the state of the current climate…I figured doing a lot of drugs and living in a toilet was the honourable thing to do.”
    It’s hard to see if there’s any living art still to be lived in the Boring Twenties, or if all such artworks are fading forgeries of an Old Master. Once upon a time it was revolutionary just to be a teenager in the world with all the rebellion and self-destruction that can entail. Then teenagers got older. Rebellion got on the school syllabus. Everyone’s a teenager now. Teenagers today like Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts remind us how beautiful it once was to plank about with Dionysian abandon in the cause of guitar, bass, drums, vox and chaos.
    Whether that’s still meaningful today is something I expect to learn when I read Lias’s book. I mean, I hope to God it is – isn’t rock and roll dead now, though?
    “I think culture at large is dead. Everything has the whiff of Steve Lamacq about it. But I think there will always be some gang of miscreants who have so little to lose that they fester for just the right amount of time ‘til it goes fungal. People need monsters, villains, bad guys…”
    “And you’ve been good bad guys?”
    “I think we’ve been great bad guys.”
    “What level is the hedonism at now, Lias?”
    “About four point two.”
    “Out of what? Five? Ten? A hundred?”
    There’s a pause the length of a cigarette pull.
    “That I can’t disclose.”
    Along the corridors of power at Albert Square…a little mystery. It was Lib Dem leader John Leech who first crowed, in full cockerel attire, that Planning Committee ‘pre-meetings’ are at large and against the law. “Planning,” he said, “Is a quasi-judicial process,” as though that explained something. So when departing Labour councillor Marcia Hutchinson claimed on this page a few weeks back that the committee’s decisions are dress-rehearsed in Labour group Leech was quick to perk up. Only thing was, when we offered him the open goal of a ‘Labour Broke The Law’ piece the Lib Dem man miskicked so badly his shorts came off: he couldn’t produce any law at all that Labour were supposed to have broken.
    Is it a foul for the committee simply to pre-convene? I emailed the City Solicitor, Fiona Ledden. “There is nothing criminal in having pre meetings… [but] there is a requirement for Members to come to a planning meeting with a mind that is open to be persuaded,” she explained. What’s a bit strange, though, is an interview I did with former Planning Committee member John Flanagan last year with regard to the controversial Central Retail Park development in Ancoats. “Are there pre-meetings for planning?” I asked him. “No.” “John Leech claims to have walked in on one in David Ellison’s era.” “No he didn’t, no he didn’t…So John Leech walked in on a pre-meeting of a planning committee? The question I would throw back is…can he prove when he reported it? Cos I’ll tell you what if I walked in and saw something illegal I’d report it to the City Solicitor. It’d be on record. And the City Solicitor would have got us before Standards. It’s a criminal offence.”
    Except it isn’t. So why would one of the most experienced heads in the chamber claim something the committee appears to be doing to be illegal when in fact it’s not? Is there a thread worth pulling here? I fired off four questions for the Levenshulme builder via the back-channel pigeon: “John…etc. 1. Do you not understand the rules around Planning or did you wilfully misrepresent them? 2. Do you now accept on the eyewitness evidence of Cllrs Hutchinson and Leech that Planning Committee pre-meetings take place? 3. Have you ever attended a pre-meeting of the Planning Committee? And 4…is it true you were added to the Planning Committee nine days before the vote on the Central Retail Park in 2019? You said you’d get back to me with the date but never did.”
    Campaigners wondered if Flanagan was added to the committee to swing the vote on that application. Update next week.
    Every One’s A Van Cough
    In an armpit of the Strangeways trading estate The White Hotel stands apart as the crack house of choice for the decadent arts maven. It’s usually a moment, then, when creative director Austin Collings wires in a press release. Non-initiates may recall Collings’s ambitious plan to annoy the nation a couple of years back by re-staging Princess Diana’s funeral as a ‘happening’, garnering the venue some hard-won bad publicity. If you enjoyed that caper then you may be tempted by his new, less venturesome venture, focussing on an oft-overlooked tabloid newspaper’s coverage of the covid pandemic.
    DAILY STAR OFFICIALLY A WORK OF ART AS ‘INCREDIBLE’ FRONT PAGES GET OWN EXHIBITION” barks the newspaper’s own headline in the link. “One of Britain’s trendiest venues is staging a special exhibition devoted to your favourite newspaper…they reckon our front pages are modern masterpieces fully deserving of the gallery treatment…” And thereafter the White Hotel official line: “What passes for satire nowadays is mostly name-calling or easy reference humour. But in that endless March when reality overtook satire The Daily Star – aka Private Eye for truckers – hit it bang on the nose with their front-page coverage of the pandemic: ‘We feel your pain, but we don’t want to help you relieve it…’
    “What’s all this Austin?” is usually a good question at this point. “We felt an affinity,” he tells me. “Orwell was a fan of the seaside postcard and we’re into the Star covers for much the same reasons. Sadly, the tragedy of them is that the punchline was the public’s health. These covers are better than Banksy and they still make me laugh.”
    In this Lias-lashing world where the funding body rules and curation is done by committee the two-men-in-a-pub model of cultural strategy is diminishingly rare. Hats off to the seedy hoteliers, then, for continuing to play the game by their own rum rules.
    Lias Saoudi and Adelle Stripe will be in conversation with at the Trades Club, Hebden Bridge on Tues 15 March from 8pm. £10.
    The Covid Covers Exhibition is for one night only at The White Hotel, Salford, on Thurs 24 March, 7pm til late. Free.


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