Interview with bassist Fat Bob | By Hannah McFaull | Photos by Adam DeGross
Johnny Takeaway, Fat Bob and Nipper have had a busy 2013 so far, with tours of Japan, Europe, and America under their belt, and Australia planned for the end of the year. They also released TWO brand new albums – one for the boys and one for the birds. On The Balls, is their follow-up to 2004′s Same Meat, Different Gravy. There is an accompanying ‘ladies’ version – Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear – with a host of female musicians from all genres taking over the vocal duties. Beki Bondage, Joanna Newson, Liela Moss, Beth Jeans Houghton, Manda Rin and others take turn to lead such future classics as “Council Estate,” “That’s Bollocks Mate,” and “We’re Gonna Do Them.” The also talked Gaye Advert into playing bass on “The Kids Are Innocent.”
Hannah McFaull sat down with bassist Fat Bob before the final show of their US tour to discuss the album, awful bands, and how they celebrated when Margaret Thatcher died.
Whose idea was it to record two versions of the new album, one with all female singers?
Oi! is so male, it’s a bit horrible, and we just wanted to do something different. We’re always looking to fuck with people a little bit. We’ve requested a female band on every bill we’ve played on this tour. We played in Philadelphia with this band called The Droogettes, who all dress up like Clockwork Orange, and they were a really good laugh, and we play with this band in London called The Pukes. And thinking of the most radical thing we can do, we were like ‘let’s do the same album but with female vocalists instead’- from all genres. It’s just really fun to do something that no one has ever done before, as far as I know. Two separate versions of the same album, with twelve vocalists. The logistical side of it was a nightmare. But we got there and I’m really glad we did it.
Did you make a wishlist and then go after them? Were there people on the list who said no?
The only person who said no was this girl called Amelia Fletcher, who is in an indie band called Tallulah Gosh. Originally the album was going to be called Ten Birds, Twenty Tits, but there was twelve songs on there, that was the joke. We decided the title was just on the border of being out of order. She’s a chief economist, and said, ‘I can’t be on an album called Ten Birds, Twenty Tits.’ We were like, that’s absolutely fair enough. It was really fun to do and a lot of the girls did it on the same day in London. And we said, we can’t give you any money but we promise you we’ll get you absolutely pissed. So 250 quid later on booze, there was us three and loads of women dancing to our own album in the studio, talking about how amazing it was.
Have you had any run-ins with weird Americans on this trip?
We’re the same people but so different, and it really is apparent. My favorite thing that’s happened here is that they had the stuff on the radio about the shootings in DC, and they spent twenty minutes explaining how bad it was. The next thing was an advert to buy guns and bullets on the same radio station. And you’re like, yeah gun crime, who would have thought it’s be so high in a country that sells guns? We’ve got a t-shirt that says ‘America is Shit’, and no one’s proved us wrong. We’re still waiting for evidence that says otherwise, and I don’t think it’s happened yet.
Is there one of you who is more of a liability when it comes to being on tour?
Nipper and Johnny Takeaway are both liabilities, not me. I’m more of a liability with my mouth and I’m the most liable to end up in hospital because I’m so unfit. The other two are more liable to miss the plane.
You sound like you’re speaking from experience…!
We’ve only missed one plane, and been not allowed on a couple. We’re a well-oiled machine. Those two are well oiled. And I’m the machine.
Do you get given presents by fans? You strike me as the sort of band where people give you weird shit.
People always bring me sweets because I’m fat. Last night we got a full-scale slingshot. Someone came up to Nipper and said ‘I’ve got a present for you’ and it was an adult sling to put rocks in and throw at people. And the guy was like ‘what do you think?’ and Nipper was like ‘brilliant, I don’t know what to say…’
We get given untold amounts of really rubbish band CDs.
Do you listen to them?
Yeah, we wanted to do a covers EP of all the worst bands we’d ever played with. We’ve chosen five bands and I’m not going to say who they are. The worst crime in music is to be average. There are so many average bands. There are only a few that are really good and a few that are really, really bad, and I tend to miss out the middle part and go for both extremes. There are so many bad bands out there who should be applauded, because they spend as much time trying to be good as the good bands.
Do you read things written on the internet about you? Do you care?
No. There’s loads of rubbish on us that I actually really amusing. It all just fuels the legacy and slight legend of who we are. We don’t have a web presence, we don’t have Twitter, Soundcloud, we don’t do anything that would help promote anything and that is deliberate. This is going to sort like an old man grumbling, but when I was a kid I used to buy a record because I found it intriguing. And whether you liked it or not you gave it loads of time because you bought it. Now too many people have got a fucking view on you within ten seconds of listening. It’s like ‘they’re shit’ ‘how do you know that?’ ‘I listened to a song on Youtube.’ People liking you isn’t a ten second lifespan. I just hate all of that, but I’m a grumpy old fucking man.
In particular after the Rebellion Festival last year, there was a lot written about you on the internet, most of it not too complimentary. Specifically, Fat Bob’s comments about being an anti-fascist band were interpreted as an attack on a handful of Oi! Bands, calling them Nazis.
The same as a band being average is the worst, a band who sits on the fence is worst. I want people to nail their colors to the mast. If there’s a Nazi band then they’re Nazis and I’ll fucking hate them. If you’ve changed, come out and do an anti-fascist benefit, come out and say so. Don’t sit on the fucking fence. We’re there to be counted as stand up citizens and it saddens me at Rebellion when I see people walking around with t-shirts that are of openly racist bands, and there’s not enough people talking or doing anything about it. It’s really sad. If I called someone a dodgy bastard and I’m wrong, then I’m sorry, come and tell me what I’ve said wrong and prove it wrong and we can be mates.
There’s a website called ‘the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ (see here), which is supposed to be ‘exposing us.’ People have talked to me about it and I’m really not bothered. It’s just some delusional man who thinks he’s got us sussed out. Some of the facts he says are right, some of them are so far off the mark it makes me laugh. It’s comedy gold. In fact we forgot but we were going to put that website on our new single as our official website. They slag off The Oppressed, Angelic Upstarts and us, and quite frankly if I’m in the company of those two bands then I’m doing something right rather than something wrong.
How did you celebrate when Thatcher shuffled off this mortal coil?
The thing with us is that we’re still fighting Thatcher. Even though she’s gone we still fight against her legacy every day and need people to know that we’re against her, even though she’s dead. I actually went down to Brixton where they were having this big anti-Thatcher demonstration and loads of people got arrested. I didn’t get arrested because I move too quickly for the coppers. We danced and celebrated. She was a dirty old politician who ruined so many good things about England that we’ll never recover from it.