Tour Diary - JEROME ALEXANDRE ON SUPPORTING FAT WHITES WITH DEADCUTS
Destination: Swindon (somewhere in the West of England)
Gig: Deadcuts and the Fat White Family at The Victoria
Temperature: Sticky and unpleasant
Air conditioner in tour vehicle: Non-existent
Month / Year: August 2016
Music on CD Player: Birthday Party - 'Sonny’s Burning' - from their Mutiny EP. Something that I actually like amongst our drivers vast collection of usually shite music.
Cast of characters: Deadcuts (Mark Keds - vox/guitars), Cass Browne (drums), Jerome Alexandre (guitars/backing vox) Joseph Johns (Bass/backing Vox) Nick Gough (Tour Manager) Natanya Louise Waybourne (Mark Ked's partner and mercy girl) Nadege Predaut (friend of the band) and Elise Wouters (Filmmaker and photographer)
Fat White Family: Lias Saoudi (Vox), Nathan Saoudi (Keyboards), Adam J Harmer (guitar backing vox) Severin Black (drums), Peter Stuart Hambly (tour manager)
Before we get Into this trip down memory lane, I would like everybody who can actually be bothered to read this to understand something. I'm not a reviewer or a critic - I'd simply like to show people that sometimes being a musician isn't always a glamorous expedition as most would have you believe...
I have memories that I sometimes am asked to share and if you think that these accounts are in any shape or form exaggerated or downright absurd then you either
1) have not been to a real rock ‘n’ roll gig or
2) have not grasped the notion that sometimes life is indeed stranger than fiction.
One of my favourite Jean Cocteau quotes are “true realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing ", and "I've always preferred mythology to history. History is a truth that becomes an illusion, mythology is an illusion that becomes reality". Is this account historical or mythological? I'll leave that to you to surmise.
The other evening I was asked to contribute a story to Gigwise so folks here it is...This trip begins like every other gig, I wake up from the little sleep I've been able to muster with a terrible stomach-ache cursing and bemoaning the fact that I don't use the kind of painkillers anymore that were at one time incredibly useful in situations like these such as...getting rid of oncoming anxiety, burning stomach acid and other varieties of bodily discomforts.
Mark and Natanya are asleep, curled up in each others arms the poet and his muse squashed against the van window like bottled Victorian foetuses one would find at a museum. Joseph and Nick are muttering odd phrases like, "how are we doing for eta "?" ...and other strange language that means nothing to a primitive such as I, for I know nothing other than writing, plugging in and playing that's my limit. In the corner yawning and stretching whilst pulling a face not unlike Groucho Marx planning world war three is our very own Keith Moon... Mr Cass Browne.
Cass looks to the left and right then yells to our tour manager, "Nick!!!! Are we near yet??” Unfortunately the music is so loud that when Nick replies he can barely be heard but from what I can tell he replies with the following, "Yes - cottaging is good for you – just don't fight John Bindon. It's not Brixton". Later on I found out that he actually said, "Yes. Past that scaffolding and on the right is the kingdom of Swindon ".
Five minutes later we pull up outside the venue - before I can even blink I jump out of the van spot a pub to our left and sprint inside to the bathroom. Immediately, I'm violently sick. And this is not helped by the fact that I'm hearing or hallucinating some farmers in the opposite cubicle talking about how they found a dead cow stuck under a tractor. (All in a days work apparently). That the only way to get rid of it is to chop it up and cook the remains. By the way I feel I must mention that this vomit is not brought forth by any so called ‘rock and roll debauchery’ or shenanigans - It's simply because earlier I'd managed to eat some thing resembling a spinal column in a bap at a service station off the motorway - a rule I have broken as I never ever eat before gigs and am now paying for it big time.
I wash my hands and shuffle along the street and am greeted by my long time friend Rob (who's promoting tonight's gig). Rob is a diamond - One of those fellows that always manages to make me feel happy (despite the fact I'm feeling like death).
Mark jumps out the van sucking on his vape stick followed by Natanya and we walk into the venue. We quickly assume the heads down in a "no mood to talk" position passing some punters queuing up already some of which look a little like they'd bash your head in if they didn't like your record. A few others look like Ben Wallers - complete with cowboy hat and military jacket - and are joined by a few journalists and resident town Goths. Some punters come and say hi anyway, whilst others just stare blankly at us like were literally The Living Dead. (A title for this band I'd have stolen myself had Johnny Thunders not already used it back in 1978).
After loading in - which feels like torture - I learn that to access the backstage room you have to climb up some wooden stumps that look like the remnants of what was once a ladder, made in the Roman era - (and is far from easy to climb in my spiky heeled boots). As I reach the top, I yearn for some solitude, which again as I should have learned by now never comes when you’re not in the Rolling Stones, U2 or Coldplay.
I go to fix a tea but can't find milk, so settle for a rum and coke and sit for a moment conversing with Taishi, Adam and Severin who have literally returned from Australia and must be the only band that don't get suntans. Lias enters - we greet each other with a hug and it dawns upon me just how fucking fast that guy’s hair grows - a few months earlier he had a shaved head! It’s also great to see his brother Nathan again too - who is literally one of the loveliest guys you will ever meet - and it dawns on me how lucky I am to be sharing a backstage room with a bunch of mates, than going through some petty small talk with a band I don't know nor like.
Last to enter is Angus (one time writer for the Quiteus) who is filling in for Saul tonight and who looks uber young and can't be older than 19 years old. I first met Angus at a few Warmduscher gigs and he also came to watch us play earlier in the year. We discuss the NY Dolls and how the next generation of kids may well be 70's glam rock revivalists.
Pete ushers everyone to the hall to sound check - there's a big panic as punters were meant to be let in half an hour ago and they are apparently not happy. Some sneak their way in, including one girl laying by the PA wearing daisy duke shorts, white calfskin boots and a black bra - complete with a tight leather jacket and long dark hair; someone you might have found at Club 82 back in the day dancing to 'Boogie Wonderland'. She can't actually move but by the gestures of her eyes, tongue and mouth…oh and the way she is playing with her tits leaves me thinking she wants more than just music tonight. One of the security whispers in my ear: "She's here every night a rock group passes through town but be cautious...she's a nut...oh and will definitely give you every disease under the sun/" I thank the security guard for the heads up and inform him that I have a girlfriend but may well recommend the disease-ridden lass to the support band.
The Fat Whites soundcheck, followed by our 10-minute soundcheck and somehow I manage to climb up the stumpy ladder again with my pedal case in my hand.
Beatrice Brown is joining us tonight to sing 'Ragged star' and 'Floods' and has a very young tattooed blonde boyfriend who looks like a model, and seems to be either on Coke or on MDMA - or perhaps a couple of red bulls. He is climbing on the top of the couches and asking me about sigils and chaos magic even though it seems he has a few tattooed sigils on his back.
Charles Manson is brought up possibly because it's nearing 8 August (night of the Manson murders) and at least once a day Charlie is on my mind and has been discussed since I was a teenager… The heat is intensifying so I go into the bathroom and start to apply my make up and for whatever reason, the Gods don't want me to put make up on tonight - each time I put on white foundation it literally melts. I'd have more of a chance of a pale complexion If I got two cream buns and just smeared them all over my face with vanilla ice cream - I look a fucking mess.
Mark is pouring himself a drink and to relieve myself of the bad make-up job I pour myself a quadruple whisky and coke to calm my nerves. I then hear Natanya, Mark, and Joseph in stitches as Cass starts to do impressions of Zippy from Rainbow. "Uh uh yes bungle lets go out into the woods with some AK’s shoot George for being pink and then sign up for Isis ". Coupled with my nerves and more zippy jokes I start to feel giddy.
Severin starts telling me about bands he really likes that have stood the test of time and one of them just happens to be Gorillaz. This now officially gives me the opportunity to boast and brag to Severin by telling him Cass was in Gorillaz - it's a terrible trait of mine and Cass loathes it and may well beat my ass after reading this. But hey if you were in my position, how could you resist? ... Does it sound like I'm bragging? Yeah I fucking am! I've got one of the best drummers in the world in my band what would you do?...
As I apply the last of my disastrous make up I notice a couple that offered me ecstasy earlier (I declined) and have started to heavily make out in the shower opposite. The girl is now reaching out and trying to drag me in to the shower. So it’s a massive relief that I can hear Rob calling me as it's stage time.
I psyche myself up and stagger onto the stage sipping a Coca-Cola that has a slight sour taste to it and start playing the intro music on my guitar, whilst being very aware that if it gets any hotter up here I'm sure to pass out.
Mark jumps onstage delivering sermon-like lyrics twisting and turning like some terrified Pope who has seen the very depths of Hell. He is begging the crowd not to venture upon the fiery mountains…the warning where vice and abuse can lead – the horror and how to escape before you’re torn to pieces. Three songs later, and despite the applause and witnessing the crowd singing along and really getting into it, I start to feel anger. Like really fucking angry - and it’s nothing to do with the crowd or band members. I sip again on my coca cola and realise that it’s definitely laced with speed or something. So I boot it to my right thankfully missing Adam's amp that he is lending me for tonight.
'Ragged Star' and 'Floods' are great and Beatrice is in the zone but - whatever was in that drink is starting to go beyond its effect. My heart races I'm boiling and I literally can't wait for the gig to be over.
'Summon the Witches' gets the crowd going. Cass looks like he's going to put a hole through the bass drum and looks equally angry his face bright red covered in sweat. Joseph thrusts the neck of his bass into the crowd, catching the lip of some guy who is now bleeding - but is somehow accepting it's all part of the drama or ritual. 'Dope Girls' is literally being sung by every punter in the house and I see Nathan to my left smiling and giving me a thumbs up, which is encouraging to me. After all, this is the third show we've done with Fat Whites and I feel that if there is any band in London that I connect with on a personal level whilst loving their music - it's 100 per cent them.
We then role into 'Opium Styles' and Mark literally walks into the crowd moving loosely like Richard Butler or Bowie after a sharp dose of laudanum. 'Kill Desire' sounds great except for the fact my vocal is slightly flat.
We then go for the frequency of foreboding and Cass speeds up the outro ‘Velvets style’ and I leave my guitar feed-backing and walk off the stage sadly feeling like something is missing. It's not the punters fault - the sound guy or the venues. I just simply feel empty; paranoid and broken although after watching the footage of the night I realise that it largely had to do with whatever was in that drink.
I climb upstairs and find Beatrice singing 'Dirty Old Town' with Nathan and Lias. I meet Elise Wouters who is a filmmaker I invited to document this night’s proceedings and she shows me some of her footage.
Somehow the girl from the soundcheck is sat in the corner and attempts to talk to me. “Why are you in love with the devil?," she asks in a slow Belgium drool. She's clearly off her head and suggests that I ought to join her at her house down the road since my soul needs saving. (Yeah, from you - you mentalist). She then informs me how to deliver me from this body of hell. I politely decline and later ask security to remove her as I catch her in the corner of my eye rummaging through my bag.
The Fat Whites are called on to the stage and are truly breathtaking. 'Tinfoil Deathstar' is anthemic and very much a reflection of an epidemic that's long been a part of where we're from (South London).
'I am Mark E Smith' is still a killer live track I just love the trashy beat that’s reminiscent of Iggy's 'Nightclubbing'. 'Touch the Leather' and 'Cream of the Young' sound just as anthemic and fresh as the time I first heard it when The Fat Whites and Deadcuts played together in a tiny shed in Brixton back in 2012.
Lias is surfing the crowd, (some of who are hanging from pipes on the ceiling) and without doubt is in the lineage of frontmen like Iggy pop, Lou Reed, GG Alin, etc. whilst possessing all of his own swagger.
You know every line, every lyric is a masterpiece and whether or not he's lived every moment of each song is irrelevant. He fucking means it. Adam's guitar sounds incredible. He isn't imitating the blues of the Mississippi delta - it's a South London blues that is unmistakable to the ears of the enlightened and lost.
Taishi's bass is a deep rumble that hits you from the waist down while Nathan's keys sound like a cross between a church organ and an atomic bomb. Angus plays really tight, and Severin beats those drums with uber ferocity and I'm witnessing something almost semi religious here.
Yet despite all of this hysteria and excitement there is something clearly missing for me ...and that's Saul, it's the tone of his echo-chamber guitar and his Spahn Ranch style backing vocals - his maniacal grin and presence.
I'm not one to get into band politics or choose sides but, yeah…I can't help but miss him here tonight after all he was the first Fat White that I developed a friendship and bond with.
Towards the end of their set, I start to feel giddy so retreat to the backstage room. I sit with Mark and Natanya and some girl in the corner is moaning about how she has missed the last train home and kinda making out that the bands should pay to get her home which I think is a fucking liberty! What next? Fans demanding hotels and accommodation provided by bands for gigs out of their immediate area? How about some champagne?
My friend Nadege compliments me on the show yet were interrupted by some dickhead who claims to be a "Famous DJ" and who is intent on chatting the utmost rubbish. The backstage area is now flooding with people who just want to pick up our guitars and "showcase" their talent - something no musician wants to hear when they are half deaf and knackered from performing. It’s definitely time to leave - I bid farewell to the lads and Rob and head out to the tour vehicle.
A massive skinhead walks towards me and I begin to wonder if I'm about to have my head smashed in. Instead the beefcake throws his arms around me looks me deep in the eyes and says - "I'm not here to chat shite or boost your ego ...but I just want you to know Sleaford Mods, Fat Whites and Deadcuts - you’re the only bands that matter".
His eyes begin to well up with tears "I'm a factory worker and your music helps me get through my day" as a music fan and ex-factory worker I find myself deeply moved by this man’s sentiments and sign a copy of each vinyl we've put out, before havin