The astonishing band Moonlandingz sat down for a chat with Gigwise at artist catering in Eurosonic festival in Groningen, Netherlands earlier this year where they were busy promoting their brand new album, Interplanetary Class Classics, that's been released today via Transgressive Records (24 March).
Adrian Flanagan who writes all the music with Dean Honer was sat next to Lias who writes lyrics and sings in this group when he's not busy doing Fat White Family stuff. The conversation covers the pairs creative relationship, Saoudi's relationship with Johnny Rocket, and how Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono contributed creatively to the album. We talk at length too about Fat White Family and their future now they've moved to Sheffield, the early years in Brixton, and much more. Check it out below.
Johnny Rocket brings out the best in Lias Saoudi
The brilliant thing about Moonlandingz is that before they became a fully fledged touring outfit – they began as the fictional, little-known band hidden in a concept album by Adrian Flanagan and Dean Honer, otherwise known as, The Eccentronic Research Council. In the album the lead singer of the group, Johnny Rocket, is being stalked by a famous actress, Maxine Peake, flipping the ordinary person stalking the famous narrative on its head.
The Rocket character is something that Fat White Family member, Lias Saoudi, the now frontman in Moonlandingz, has grown into. So when you see a Moonlandingz gig, or listen to their albums, you come to realise that Saoudi is essentially a method actor. It’s a role that he seems to thrive in. “There was an opportunity to be a lot more ridiculous, slightly more degraded and brazen with the song writing than I would be as myself in Fat White Family. We can be daft, and it was refreshing for me,” says Saoudi.
Daft they certainly are. And after our interview it’s something further proved when he takes the Rocket character on stage. He asks the crowd if they have any ketamine, and parades around the stage with the words ‘LEAVE’ scribbled across his forehead. He makes his way through material from the album – through the unsightly named ‘The rabies are back’ and ‘Every man’s got a glory hole’ burying himself in the degraded mind-set of the character he has created.
Lias Saoudi hates mornings
“I fucking hate mornings, I’m a prick when I’ve just for up,” Saoudi says as I greet him. Nursing a pint, he tells me about how the Moonlandingz recording sessions meant he was required to get into the studio early, something quite unfamiliar to him as a member of Fat White Family. “I was thinking why am I in front of a microphone at 10 am? What the fuck is wrong with you? Why am in a recording studio with two old people at 10am in front of a mic with a pen and paper and no idea what I’m doing?”
Getting in the zone to write takes a few tricks
Drug use among artists, writers, and musicians in order to stimulate creativity is a old tradition, stemming back to the likes of Keats and Baudelaire. But those managing drug use effectively and successfully are very few and far between. For Saoudi "Ketamine, just after an orgasm, boredom, and embrassment," are his favourite states of mind for making music” Adrian Flanagan rolls his eyes slightly, preferring a much cleaner living style. “I just get an up have breakfast and get on with it.” Good on him.
It's not clear who wrote the chorus in 'Sweet Saturn Mine'
While Flanagan and Saoudi’s friendship seems tight, for the best part of the interview they spend their time disagreeing with each other. When asking who wrote their lead single, ‘Sweet Saturn Mine’, Saoudi states firmly that he was behind the chorus.“You didn’t do the chorus I did,” blurts Flanagan. “You didn’t do it that’s a fabrication. We’re not going to fight over it now,” replies Saoudi. The fighting returns later on when they get talking about the Stone Roses. Flanagan was bought up in Salford. His first band was managed by Derek Ryder, Sean Ryder’s dad. “I liked Happy Mondays and 808 State but not Oasis or Stone Roses." “Stone Roses first album was great. What you talking about? Are you trying to say ‘I Am The Resurrection’ does nothing for you?” “Jump down,” says Saoudi. “Jump down from what?” replies a bemused Flanagan. “Your ivory tower,” says Saoudi.
Fat Whites are bedding in together for the new album
The band have a five bed house in Sheffield for £700 and it’s the first house Saoudi has had to call his own in about six years. He seems chuffed. His decision to break away from London largely dictated by extortionate rent prices. “We just signed a deal with Domino and the money's alright but it's not so alright that we can live in London for a year and make an album. I don't want to rush.”
It’s concerning to hear. There seems to be creative brain drain going on in the capital, where managing a day job gets in the way of properly fleshing out ideas. The creative heartbeat of London is dying. It’s cultural vibrancy being lost to cheaper towns across the UK. Rent caps need to happen or subsidies for artists of some kind.
Fat White Family thought they’d be full time buskers
The band thought they’d reached their commercial peak after the first album came out. Their life plan was to be pasty-skinned beach bums in Barcelona. The poor exercising of this in reality is where the song, ‘Whitest Boy on the Beach’ comes from.
“’Whitest Boy on The Beach’ was born on the sandy beachfront of Barceloneta in Barcelona. We just moved down there thinking we were going to become these beach bums or buskers. We found out busking is totally illegal there. If you want to be a busker it's the worst place in the word, they arrest you straight away. They confiscate your guitar charge you to get it back.”
“It was just after we recorded Champagne Holocaust, and we didn't expect anything to happen with the album. Our plan was to become buskers somewhere warm. That was our life plan. We’d see these kids with their girlfriends, like these adolescent Adonis’, frolicking with their women in the sunshine. Hanging to the shred of shade there was, we’d sit and play a little. One time, Nathan and Saul started playing a little riff and we started singing ‘who’s the whitest boy on the beach’ over the top. It developed on from that, but that’s its origins.”
Major label bands getting public funding is not ok
In early January Fat White Family made headlines by criticising the decision made to give Slaves – who are signed to Virgin EMI – a government grant. The band received £12,000 and it was being used to go to SXSW. “I know that SXSW don’t pay, you play there for free so to play SXSW is a pain in the arse. But not if you put it in the middle of an American tour and you’re a major label,” says Saoudi.
“For a band like Slaves to get it is an insult to everybody involved in music, whether you’re a journalist or a producer or an artist. It’s an insult to everybody. It reeks of back room deals. Especially when it’s a band posturing as punk renegades and it’s two white blokes who call themselves Slaves taking public funding, they must be sitting on a fucking packet them boys, it’s sickening.”
Saul and Lias are doing a lot of recording together
Saul Adamczewski is no longer part of the touring line-up and is concentrating on his new band Insecure Men. Despite this change, Saoudi is positive about the pair’s creative relationship at present.
“Officially he’s not in the band right now. I don’t think we’ll tour together again. But I just went to New York to work on Insecure Men with him.”
So will Adamczewski be on the new album? “I think it’ll happen, he wants to work on the new Fat Whites record, depending on us not having a proper barney, I think that that will probably happen.”
“I think we’ll do some stuff with Sean Lennon. I wrote a song with Sean when I was in New York, a day before Saul made it into town. So the second song I’ve written with Sean.”
Sean Lennon was instrumental in the making of the Moonlandingz album.
Sean Lennon knows good music when he hears it and for the past few years Lennon has been a very active part in Lias Saoudi’s life, after inviting Fat White Family over to his studio in upstate New York. Naturally Lennon was well aware of Moonlandingz and expressed interest in working with them by remixing ‘Sweet Saturn Mine’. Following the remix, Flanagan and Lennon got talking – with the aim of trying to, “incorporate the electronic elements of what Moonlandingz do, into the psych rock elements of what he does.”
So how did the recording process work with him? “All the songs were done in Sheffield. All the electronic elements all the electronic drums, most of the guitars, most of the vocals were all done in Dean’s studio in Sheffield. At Sean’s we overdubbed drums, guitars, loads of weird instruments, organs. I was playing one of his Dad’s beautiful proper 60s ones,” says Flanagan. As for Yoko Ono, who also features on the new album, “Sean Lennon got his mum to do her thing over the top of a track they had already laid down. After that we chopped it up and wrote some verses and choruses for it.”
The Queens Head in Brixton was ‘carnage’
The Fat White Family cut their teeth playing shows at a pub in Brixton which - until recently - was a hotspot for live music and DJs. Now it’s a bland gastro-pub for Foxton’s window shoppers. "It was carnage, it was great, there was pretty much nothing you could do to get barred from there,” says Saoudi. “I used to say that the only way you could get barred from The Queens was through by having a go on the owner’s girlfriend. That was the only way you could get out of that cess pit. There were guys would smash the place up, my brother being among them, but they’d be back in the next day drinking at the bar. I loved that place, but it was damaging as well.”
Saoudi’s list of his 6 favourite albums of the moment
The Fall - Perverted By Language
Lou Reed - United states of America
Eden Ahbez - Eden’s Island
Bruce Haack - The Electric Lucifer
Colorblind James Experience – Considering A Move To Memphis
Bruce Sprignsteen - Darkness on the Edge of Town