On my radar: Lias Saoudi’s cultural highlights

The musician on his time in Cambodia, his obsession with Werner Herzog and Brad Pitt’s ‘unbelievable’ hair

Born in Southampton to an Algerian father and a Yorkshire coalminer mother, Lias Saoudi grew up in Scotland and Northern Ireland before studying at London’s Slade School of Fine Art. In 2011 he formed the indie-punk band Fat White Family (FWF) in Brixton with his brother Nathan (keyboards) and guitarist Saul Adamczewski. Their “decrepit, deranged” debut, Champagne Holocaust (2013), had the NME declare them London’s best new band. On stage, they railed against gentrification, got naked, and once threw a pig’s head into the audience. Following the release of 2016’s Songs for Our Mothers, Adamczewski left the band. The Moonlandingz, FWF’s collaboration with Eccentronic Research Council, release their debut album, Interplanetary Class Classics, next week on Transgressive Records and tour the UK from 22 March. They play Live at Leeds festival on 29 April.

John Healy, The Grass Arena: ‘a raw description of pain and misery.’
John Healy, The Grass Arena: ‘a raw description of pain and misery.’ Photograph: Penguin Modern Classics

1 | Book
The Grass Arena by John Healy

A friend of mine, Paul Duane, made a film about Healy called Barbaric Genius, and he introduced me to this. Healy lived a life of extreme violence and degradation in London, in and out of prison. He was abused by his father, and was on the cusp of becoming a professional boxer but slipped into alcoholism. Then he became a literary sensation: he wrote this autobiography for Faber & Faber, but threatened to go and chop them up with an axe, so they washed their hands of him. It’s like Jean Genet with all the romanticism taken out: a raw description of pain and misery, at turns tragic and tragicomic. I started reading it a couple of days ago and I can’t really put it down.

2 | Music
Drunk by Thundercat

Drunk by Thundercat

Sean Lennon introduced me to a song the last time we were recording together. It was the video to Tron Song, where Thundercat shoots his own cock off in a sandbox and then disappears in a cat’s anus. I was just bewildered. The music was so lush and sultry but at the same time there was this real obscure stuff going on, with lashings of ridiculousness – it hit all the right marks for me. The new album flits around from tune to tune in a mad array of different structures and things. It’s not just song, song, song. It’s spontaneous and sporadic, and it sounds like the guy is having a good laugh.

3 | Museum
Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The Killing Fields at Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

This is probably the most brutal thing I’ve ever seen. They have a pyramid made out of skulls in the middle of the Killing Fields, and every skull has a dot that corresponds to a colour chart: like, pink means they were murdered with a bludgeon, red means it was a hammer. I was in two minds about whether it was a responsible or respectful thing to do, but it was heartbreaking, just absolutely shocking. They had this tree they used to crack babies’ heads on. Because of the rain, they keep finding bones – you’ll be walking along and there’ll be teeth coming out of the ground. If you’ve got the stomach for that sort of thing, it’s definitely something you should see at least once.

4 | Art
John Bock, In the Moloch of the Presence of Being, Berlinische Galerie

Artist John Bock: extreme self-parodist
John Bock: extreme self-parodist. Photograph: PA

This is on until August, and it’s something I’d like to go and see when I’m on tour there soon. John Bock is someone I got into when I was at art school. He makes these performance installation pieces, videos. It’s a kind of catalogue of the absurd: it’s about as stupid as you can imagine a thing being but in a way that somehow makes sense. I saw a video of his when I was younger where he eats his breakfast cereal with a spoon that’s attached to the end of a chair. I like anybody who is willing to take themselves into a realm of parody as extremely as this guy.

5 | Film
Legends of the Fall (Edward Zwick, 1994)

Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall,1994.
Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall,1994. Photograph: Bedford/Pangaea/REX/Shutterstock

I think society should give this film a rethink. Whenever I mention it, I’m accused of either: a) being viciously ironic or, b) having no taste in films. But this is my go-to film – if I have to switch my mind off, I will go to Legends straight away. I can probably quote huge swaths of the script. It’s my mum’s favourite film as well. It’s got a fantastic montage on the boat – I saw it when I was very young and that scene never left me. It has got a lot to answer for. And Brad Pitt’s hair in it is unbelievable. I’ve got a saxophonist in FWF now, and he’s only in the band because he’s got hair a bit like that.

6 | Food
Four Corners Canteen, Sheffield

Four Corners Canteen, Sheffield

I live in Sheffield now, so I thought I’d do something local. I don’t really cook: I’ve been on the road a long time, so I’m a bit hopeless at looking after myself. They do this thing called a Mini Big Sur: poached egg, hollandaise sauce, hash brown, buttermilk biscuit and a pancake. It’s just the right size for me – not too heavy. If you want to kid yourself there’s some semblance of health in your life, they have a little bit of orange and melon on the plate as well, just for your mental wellbeing. I appreciate it for that. And it’s nice to go in for a chat – I spend all my time in a studio so I don’t know many people here.

7 | Documentary
Into the Inferno (Werner Herzog, 2016)

Werner Herzog in Into The Inferno.
Werner Herzog in Into The Inferno. Photograph: Professor Clive Oppenheimer/Netflix

I dip in and out of Herzog obsession – I mean, who isn’t obsessed with Herzog? In my most arrogant drunken moments, I like to fantasise that the work I’m struggling with is something akin to Herzog’s struggle. It isn’t, of course – that is just totally deluded, but it’s nice to fantasise. A friend of mine showed me this film and initially I was like: “A film about volcanoes, how interesting can that be?” But, of course, it’s Herzog, so it’s about the personalities, the mad people that go there and sit on the edge of a volcano while lava is shooting up to the sky. There’s a huge section in it about North Korea as well, where they’ve got volcano iconography running through their party politics, which was really fascinating.

Contributor

Kathryn Bromwich

The GuardianTramp

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