Touch The Leather: An Interview With Fat White Family Lead Singer Lias Saoudi


Full disclosure: there is nothing objective about this article. I love Fat White Family. The band, to me, represents everything I’ve ever held dear about rock n’ roll: chaos, rebellion, sleaze, art, drugs, poetry, and politics. The first time I saw the band play live, about a year and a half ago, I was more excited than that time I saw Martin Scorsese walking down the Bowery (re: very excited). After housing beers and watching various members of the band run around the venue with their most famous fan and cheerleader, Sean Lennon, I elbowed my way to the front of the hall and got ready to let loose. 15 minutes went by when the band’s six members, gangly, unkempt, and skinny, took to the stage, launching into a particularly cacophonic rendition of the opening chords of the band’s lead single off debut album Champagne Holocaust, Auto Neutron. Lead singer Lias Saoudi, already half naked and sweating like Usain Bolt at the finish line, jittered to the front of the stage like a character in a Chris Cunningham music video and the band belted in unison, “AH AH AHHHH AHHH AHHHHHHH!” Instantly, bodies began colliding in joyous punishment. In various levels of intoxication, the crowd bowed to the revolution of the Fat White Family. It hurt so good. By the end of the song, Lias had his cock out. The scene erupted like a Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition come to life.

The band; Lias, as well as Saul Adamczewski (guitar), Adam J. Harmer (guitar), Joseph Pancucci, (brother of Lias) Nathan Saoudi (keyboard), Severin Black (drums), and Taishi Nagasaka (bass); formed in 2011 while they were squatting and enduring various levels of impoverished horror in Peckham, forming an alliance and an agenda in the process. From the time that the band released their electrifying debut record, opinions of them were divisive but absolute. Hero worship and skepticism were thrown around equally, but nigh any journalist could argue against the fact that this band was relevant to our sick, scared, and poor era. Noisey called the band, “A reminder that rock n’ roll can mean something.” The Quietus called Champagne Holocaust one of the best records of 2014. Pitchfork, in a more lukewarm review, nevertheless described the debut record as the “shambolic beginnings of something.” Case in point, Fat White Family wants rock music to have substance again. Charged up by leftist politics and rally cries against the agonies of capitalism, Fat White Family is both aware of the culture while totally antithetical to the culture. The music, while certainly energizing, has its touchstones: the anarcho punk ethos of Crass, the shambolic poetry of Mark E. Smith and The Fall (they even released a single called I Am Mark E. Smith), the nihilist poetry of Country Teasers, and the early garage psych of The 13th Floor Elevators. But the music is only half the story with the band. I often say that the most effective (and my favorite) politicians (Obama, Churchill, etc..) do what they must to achieve power, and once the power is achieved use it to shake the culture and make change. It seems every article out there in one way or another finds different adjectives to describe the pestilence and grit and grime that define the entity that is Fat White Family. Though those descriptions aren’t false, they fail to mention the intelligence behind the art. Fat White Family is intimately aware of the power of performance and media. With a militaristic look, an aura of degenerate mystery, and ratchet stage antics full of blood and nudity, the band commands attention. Now that the attention has been achieved, the band can have their ideas known and their message spread.

Fat White Family’s new album, Songs for Our Mothers, is out today on Fat Possum. It continues the band’s political nihilism while incorporating a more subdued if not at all toned down sound. The melodies are more pronounced, and the incorporation of synths and horns brings to mind the more ambitious records of British pop music history. From opening track The Whitest Boy On the Beach, there is something off-kilter and more thought-provoking than the band’s earlier onslaughts, bringing to mind bands like Devo. It seems the album’s central conceit is an exploration of the volatile conditions that often create the best art, as the band has cited the work of Ike and Tina turner as a central influence on the band.

In anticipation of Songs for Our Mothers, I spoke to Lias on a Viber call. He is nothing like his stage persona. Expecting a bamboozled alkie, I found myself speaking to a fiercely intelligent young guy deeply worried about the state of the economy, highly aware of contemporary art, and fiercely committed to original art. Topics that came up were housing, the band’s unhealthy obsession with Irish actor Sam Neill, the divide between human being and performer, and of course lots about the new record. I also snuck in a question about Lias and Fat White brother in arms (as well as brother from same mother) Nathan’s collaborative band with electronic act Electronic Research Council and Sean Lennon, The Moonlandingz, whose record Expanded is out now.

Autre: Perhaps I’m off base here, but from the moment I first got into the band I detected at least an awareness of a performance art aesthetic, is that at all accurate?

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah definitely. I went to college for four years, at Slade School of Art in North London, so it’s something I’ve been a part of for a while.

AUTRE: What about politically? Did you develop your own sort of ethos on your own? Or did you pick up certain ideas from family members or friends growing up?

LIAS SAOUDI: Well my mum is sort of like a Yorkshire coal miner who was there during the strikes. My dad’s an Algerian immigrant. It’s not like I grew up on an estate, but I wouldn’t jump to say that I was, myself, working class. I was afforded opportunities both my parents never had, because they worked really hard. But both of them, yeah completely. But myself I guess I would say I was more lower-middle class. We would go on a holiday abroad every now and then. . I think it was the kind of environment, which set me up to take it where I am now. It was probably always going to turn out this way.

AUTRE: I find it interesting how some adults think that people our age, millennials or whatever, are apolitical or don’t care. But I just don’t find that to be true these days, certainly with bands like yours, and with what’s going on in the States right now with everything rallying around Bernie Sanders and things like that. Do you feel generally hopeful that at least people seem to be more aware than they were in the last few years?

LIAS SAOUDI: I think a certain amount of apathy has lifted, but I fail to see any real, genuine hope in the situation being altered. I think there is something to rally around and I think that’s really positive. I think it’s the lowest kind of cynicism to just not even bother. My issue with bands and music and the people here in London while I was kind of squatting around and studying is that people were just concerned with climbing up a ladder socially. There’s no way you’re getting anywhere.

AUTRE: Yeah, absolutely.

LIAS SAOUDI: I mean I’ve been in London for 12 years and we worked pretty hard at this project. From an outsider’s perspective it must seem like we’ve had some success. But my living standards have never increased, if anything they’ve diminished. And London, the city that I’ve kind of grown to love and consider home, is kind of out of my reach. That brings anger.

AUTRE: Yeah it’s the same situation over here in New York. What’s insane to me is that one of the main reasons people want to move to cities like New York or London is because they want to eat at great restaurants with really talented chefs, or see great bands or artists. But if they don’t start regulating the rent, these people aren’t going to exist and these cities are going to suck.

LIAS SAOUDI: It’s just become a little bit like Paris. The restaurants will remain, but all the other good stuff will fuck off. It’s prohibitively expensive to live here while you’re trying to do something creative. It’s always been tough, you know you have to work a shitty job while you’re doing your painting or your band. The city is for tourists and millionaires and for people to invest in property while you’re pushed further and further out of the housing market and the red market. It’s boring. There’s nobody standing up for you, there’s no rules, there’s no law anymore.

AUTRE: It’s pretty insane. Living in New York, I’ve been here almost four yeas years but I’ve already had to bounce around from three neighborhoods. It happens too fast. Blame it on hipsters moving to your hood all you want, but people are going to live where they can afford. No one is at fault other than greedy landowners and a government that doesn’t protect its citizens from encroaching poverty.

LIAS SAOUDI: It’s alarming that the government, our government, doesn’t want regulation when it comes to things like the housing market. But they are perfectly comfortable with regulating the Middle East. It’s like you won’t put a fucking cap on the rent in South London but you’ll happily bomb Libya. I’m confused now by what they mean by regulation. It’s just such fucking dog shit. Bands don’t traditionally come from London- they come to London to make their way. And I think we’ll see an end to that.

AUTRE: So I wanted to ask you some stuff about the new record, which I’ve listened to and I love. The first thing I noticed is that right from the first record, right from Auto Neutron, it kind of had this groovy but nevertheless full on oral onslaught. The new one seems a little bit more textured, maybe are there some synths in there?

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah there was a little bit of a disco element. Everybody was kinda getting into Donna Summer at that point.

AUTRE: Yeah, that’s interesting. I thought of the first Devo record honestly when I heard that second track.

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah it is that kind of vibe. I think it was just a lot more thought going into it. Not that we didn’t take it seriously the first time. It takes a long time to make a record. That’s always the case, it’s a refection of what everybody’s been into. It’s is a little less schlocky, a little bit I dare say understated. I’ll be held to that no doubt, but it’s about drawing a juxtaposition between that understatement and what actually goes on in the songs, the events and fleshing them out. If there’s a shock value that’s where it is.

AUTRE: I’ve always thought you guys even at your most cacophonic had some serious grooves going on. I feel like it comes in even stronger when you’re quieting down a little.

LIAS SAOUDI: It’s kind of like dance music I suppose essentially.

AUTRE: Yeah you can dance to it for sure. I know Joe Strummer had a quote that was like “the best rock and roll music just makes you want to stop thinking and dance and not give a fuck what anyone thinks.”

LIAS SAOUDI: I think so, and I think if you can do both at the same time that’s kind of the goal. If you can have both angles, and you can realize what you’re dancing to. The story behind it, the narrative.

AUTRE: Substance.

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah you’ve got two layers going on there. There’s an ever so slight intellectual side to it.

AUTRE: I caught some psychedelic vibes too, are you guys into Psychedelia at all?

LIAS SAOUDI: Yea of course I mean we’re steeped in that. I think especially on the first record. There was kind of all that dodgy psych that was all pouring out during the last five years. A lot of it was just an interesting sound, but it didn’t seem to have any essential purpose. It was kind of like vintage shop psych for metropolitan dudes to pose around to and get laid. There was no essential struggle or crisis. Which given the times we’re living in, like we were talking about earlier, I find a little apathetic and irresponsible to an extent.

AUTRE: Definitely. I thought it was interesting, when I saw you guys at the Bowery Ballroom last year I saw you running around with Sean Lennon. He actually co-produced this new record, and you guys are doing a side project with him? The Moonlandingz?

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah the Moonlandingz man!

AUTRE: I love that video.

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah it’s good, it’s fun. Kind of tongue in cheek, the whole thing. It’s all really well written stuff. We were playing this fictional band within a concept record, we just decided to take it to the next level. And then Sean got involved. I got something from Sean the other day actually, Yoko Ono is on one of the tracks now.

AUTRE: Oh sweet!

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah, we’re having a scream off on one of them I think. It’s nice, we’re in a position now where you can kind of cross-pollinate with other artists much more easily. Maybe the financial rewards are not as great these days for musicians, but if you get a little bit of a break you can start working with all kinds of people. It’s kind of exiting.

AUTRE: Definitely, and I feel like Sean is almost a perfect mentor for you guys because he for one thing is massively famous just because of who he is, but he also has an ear to the underground always.

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah and he’s a really great musician man. It’s great to have him in the studio. He’s just always been really lovely with us and always supported us since the first day we met him. He’s been a great ally to have, whenever we’re stateside we always hit him up.

AUTRE: Most people associate you guys with influences like The Fall and the Birthday party ad Crass, all that stuff, but I hear soul on your records, I hear funk. And he’s a good producer for that because he knows a little bit about everything.

LIAS SAOUDI: He’s kind more into the sensual side of it all than the harsh, politically charged kind of punk side of it. And that works well for us.

AUTRE: I feel like Fat White Family has a lot of hero worship attached to it. Rock n’ Roll lovers have a lot of faith in you guys. I mean Noisey described you as “the band making Rock n’ Roll mean something again.” Do you welcome this? Or are there times when you want to just play rock music without people attaching so much to it?

LIAS SAOUDI: I try and remain as ignorant as possible. I kind of gravitate towards things that I don’t really understand. I don’t really think about it that much, I just try and get on with my job. I find it extremely difficult to write and I’m quite precious about it, so I’m just getting on with it and I hope it works out. It’s not the most stable profession, all those people saying that is great, you know, wonderful, but it’s kind of just a lucky byproduct of what we’re doing.

AUTRE: You do get a lot of positive reception in blogs, but I can’t imagine it actually compares to the reactions you guys get at your shows when kids go fucking nuts.

LIAS SAOUDI: That’s great, that’s my favorite part of it. I was doing a little bit of performance art at the end of college, and I was kind of at a loose end- didn’t really know where to place myself. I’ve really become quite jaded and disdainful with the whole contemporary art scene. But being in a band you could kind of just do that at your own street level instead of having to curtail to some type of elite the whole time. So that was important to me, and the performance thing remains priority #1 for me. 

AUTRE: That is the benefit of Rock n’ Roll over art, because art is still contingent on you being able to sell your stuff to some rich guy, where as Rock n’ Roll is just contingent upon kids losing it over your music.

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah. You know when you’re shit because people just don’t stick around. It’s a lot more difficult to lie to yourself.

AUTRE: When I saw you at the Bowery Ballroom you had your cock out within the first three minutes of the show.

LIAS SAOUDI: (laughs) I don’t know where that comes from really. As a person I’m usually quite reserved, quite shy, quite insecure essentially, so it’s like an outlet I suppose. It’s not really like a pre-meditated thing. It just feels nice. Theoretically, again if you’re doing that in contemporary art it raises all sorts of questions. Difficult questions. But I think if you’re doing that in Rock n’ Roll it’s just a bit of spice.

AUTRE: Yeah! So you once wrote “Hell hath no fury like a failed artist” in Is It Raining in Your Mouth. The band has if not become overwhelmingly financially successful has gained a certain level of notoriety. Is it as easy for you to write those same sort of vibes with the success that you have now?

LIAS SAOUDI: Well a lot of the time when I’m writing there will be some sort of historical context, some sort of totem culturally that other people can gather around and hang their hat on essentially. When I wrote that I was actually talking about Adolf Hitler.

AUTRE: Oh shit that makes sense!

LIAS SAOUDI: (Laughs) Yeah! But it worked for me as well so I just put that in there. So that’s usually the angle I come in at when I’m writing sometime. So it’s kind of personal but it’s also got a different context usually.

AUTRE: Do you consider the rock star version of you to be you and a part of you? Or like a character that you have to get into to become what you are on stage?

LIAS SAOUDI: When I go on stage it’s a peculiar experience, I don’t feel like that person at all really. That’s just the way it happens when I perform. It’s strange when you get up on a stage in front of a big crowd of people, there’s all kinds of things that happen in your brain. Some of them healthy, some of them not so healthy, I think naturally I must be a real attention seeker. Because I do love it. It’s a weird one.

AUTRE: I was looking at the press release for the new record and at the end there it says something about this record being about love, death, sex, the actor Sam Neill. What’s with the obsession with Sam Neill?

LIAS SAOUDI: I don’t know where that comes from exactly. It’s a real thing in the group.

AUTRE: He’s good man.

LIAS SAOUDI: (Laughs) I think maybe it’s the film Event Horizon, which is arguably one of the shittiest films ever made.

AUTRE: He was in Possession, have you ever seen that movie?  Sam plays a spy that comes home to his wife who acts increasingly unstable wife who ass him for a divorce, that description doesn’t at all sum up the head fuckery that follows.

LIAS SAOUDI: I’ll have to check that out man.

AUTRE: That’s a good horror movie.

LIAS SAOUDI: He’s in one of the songs. In Satisfied, there’s a lyric in there about Sam Neill working outside or something. It’s fun when you bring things back down to the juvenile level sometimes.

AUTRE: Do you find it difficult to stay out of the bullshit side of the music business?

LIAS SAOUDI: It is weird and it’s slightly disturbing when what you do as a bunch of friends; living together in a shitty house; suddenly becomes your bread and butter. It’s something you just kind of have to get a grip on so you don’t have to go back to making pizzas or whatever. There’s an element of anxiety there. You’ve been struggling and then you get a little bit of a break, and then you have to grapple with how making art is an economic act whether you like it or not. You have to accept that.

I try to get at a part of that on the record, by talking about the relationship between Ike and Tina Turner. Just how in a way everybody kind of endorsed the violence that took part as a fan and a listener of the music. It’s in there.

AUTRE: It is interesting with Ike and Tina though because those songs are so beautiful but you can hear the tension between them. Or you go listen to old Phil Spector productions or something and they sound so perfect and pretty but then you realize that the guy who’s making them is quite psychotic really. It gives everything an interesting spin.

LIAS SAOUDI: It’s a brutal dichotomy and it’s something which you kind of find yourself in all of a sudden. As far as it being a business, and you have all these people around you, and you have to decide which you trust and which you don’t. There’s things that go wrong and it’s difficult but that’s the reality of the situation.

AUTRE: It must be even more frightening because Fat White Family does have potential to become quite a big rock band.

LIAS SAOUDI: I mean maybe, I don’t know. I’ll take what I can get. The more people that listen to it the better

AUTRE: Are there any other bands these days that you find to be adequate if not pretty great?

LIAS SAOUDI: There’s a couple of really great bands kicking around. There’s a band called Meat Raffle who are a new band just putting out their first release, but they’re worth checking out. I’m a fan of the Sleaford Mods I think they’re really good.

AUTRE: Oh yeah I like their new record a lot.

LIAS SAOUDI: It’s funny and it’s brutal and it’s full of the right kind of spite. It revels in its own authentic misery, and I think that puts the fear into all the right people. That’s the ultimate kind of process. You can just kind of dance to the pain, and that’s what it sounds like to me.

AUTRE: So are you guys going to be touring the states on this new record?

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah we’ll be over there. Our management is based in LA now so they’ll be really key in getting us over there. I imagine quite a bit in the next year. I think March, and then maybe later on in the year. I like to spend time over there, although touring is a bit tough. It’s a lot of fucking driving and a lot of shitty food. It’s that whole middle bit, which is quite a big bit, it’s pretty tough to get in the van and drive around and do shows. But once you get to the big cities its always fantastic you know?

AUTRE: Yeah. Alright man, I can’t wait to see you guys next time you come to New York, it was a pleasure speaking with you. Good luck and congratulations!

LIAS SAOUDI: Cheers man! 

Fat White Family's new album 'Songs For Our Mothers' is out today via Without Consent/Fat Possum Records, purchase here. Watch the music video for Whitest Boy On The Beach here. Text and interview by Adam Lehrer. Photographs by Flo Kohl, shot on location in London. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Dreams In Blue: An Interview With Artist and Painter Phillip Mueller

text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper

Viennese artist Phillip Mueller’s art is mythical, fantastical and deranged. It exists on a plane somewhere between Hieronymus Bosch splashed with modern pop references, Thomas Kinkade on acid and a print out from your brain of a recurring nightmare.  However, there is also something so sweet, alluring and romantic about his work. Mueller, whose solo show opens tonight at Carbon 12 Gallery in Dubai, is a genuine painter and he is studious about his work. In a world devoid of figurative meaning in painting, Mueller uses his paint and brushes almost like a protest, and the depth of his work is a war against contemporary’s artist stodginess.  His current exhibition in Dubai, entitled “Dreams In Blue. The Year Phillip Mueller Didn’t Wake Up,” is described as a “dream-inspired road-movie.” One of my favorite pieces by Mueller is a portrait of Byron holding a pack of cigarettes, wearing camouflage and a pope hat – it is painted on a surfboard, which is a regular platform the artist works on. In fact, the surfboard isn’t just a medium, it is yet another piece of the puzzle and symbolism for the artist’s seemingly voracious desire for freedom and rich excess. Rich, not in the sense of monetary wealth, but rich in the sense of life. There is a distinct vitality in Mueller’s work that spills over the canvas edge like an orgy. We got a chance to speak with Mueller shortly before Christmas, when he was still working on his current exhibiton at Carbon 12 Gallery, to discuss his practice, mythology and his desire to get back in the studio and back to work.

 Oliver Kupper: When did you know you first wanted to become an artist?

Philip Mueller: I never wanted to do anything else. I was painting my whole life. When I was 8-12 years old, all of the other boys went to play soccer, and I had painting lessons at the studio. I had lessons from a Croatian painter.  I was always painting.

OK: Did your parents support you as an artist?

PM: Mostly my father did. My mother didn’t want to see me as an artist.

OK: Why’s that?

PM: She was scared I would always be broke, you know? I wouldn’t be able to feed my child.

OK: Your work deals with a lot of allegory and mythology. Where did your interest in mythology originate? Why does it play so heavily in your work?

PM: It was always interesting for me. It’s an imminent level. There are so many strong stories and strong figures. You can tell these stories for the next ten thousand years, and it won’t get boring. You can see all these stories in our contemporary life too.

OK: You can turn to them to find answers, or to figure stuff out.

PM: They exist because of explaining life and humanity.

OK: I want to talk about some of the mediums you use. You use surfboards, which is really interesting. When did you first start exploring the surfboard as a canvas? Have you ever gone surfing? Vienna is kind of far away from surf culture.

PM: Actually, near Vienna there is a lake that is quite big. It’s a well-known place for windsurfing. About 4 to 5 years ago, I bought a windsurf board and started to paint on that. Since the late 50s and early 60s, the surfboard has stood for absolute freedom. It’s also a myth for freedom. It fits on this narrative level. 

OK: Freedom seems to be a major theme in your work. Would you say that freedom is one specific theme that you’re chasing? Is there any specific theme that you’re chasing in your work?

PM: Not only in my work, in my whole life. I’m looking for freedom in everything.

OK: When you conceptualize a work of art, what is that process like? Do you have visions that come to you? It seems like there’s a lot that goes on in your mind before you put paint to canvas.

PM: There are these stories, and I can talk about them. Then, there is a sketch. The canvas is like a playground. It’s like playing. It has to be playing from the start, in the end. Otherwise, it would get boring. It’s very important to have storytelling, but it doesn’t completely inform what I’m painting. Colors, structures, figures—they all come together during the painting. The longer it takes to finish a painting, the more complex and interesting it gets, for myself.  When I think it’s finished, I sit in front of it. That’s the part when the painting tells me what I have just done. The work reflects when it’s done. It’s a very exciting moment.

"There’s a lot of stuff that has to be done. I get really depressed if I haven’t painted for more than three days. Last week was tough because I barely had time to paint. Christmas is coming and I hate it."

OK: You apprenticed with Hermann Nitsch. We did an interview with him, actually. He’s amazing.

PM: He’s fit at the moment. He’s strong again.

OK: Yeah, he seems like it. I still owe him some California wine. What was it like working with him? What kind of impact did that have on your work?

PM: I was working with him at the Castle in Vienna where he lives and works. Normally, his assistants are working for him for 5 to 8 years. I quit after 1 ½ years because there was no time for my own work. Still, I think that time with him was very important for me. He’s one of the most intentioned and sophisticated artists I know. It was also quite heavy. It was good to see this industrial, factory kind of working. I learned things that I would have never learned at university. Creating exhibitions, dealing with art dealer and collectors. It’s quite romantic. There are lots of animals there. In winter, it’s like a Nazi movie.

OK: It’s like a fairytale.

PM: Yeah. Actually, I met him five days ago. He looks good. I didn’t see him for a while.

OK: He seems reinvigorated by something. Maybe more people are appreciating his work.

PM: Yeah. There was a time when the state of Austria was fucking with him.

OK: A lot of countries were.

PM: Yeah, but especially Austria. Now, they want everything from him.

OK: Exactly. Now he’s a national treasure. As soon as American audiences (or another big audience) appreciate his work, the country where he’s from ignores the past completely. Now, you’re a national treasure, no matter how controversial. You could be in jail for twenty years.

PM: [Laughs.] Once the American market embraces an artist, you’re perfectly right. Everything changes suddenly.

OK: Speaking of reception to your work, has there been a certain perception to your work in Dubai? Is there a controversy? What has the response been to your work in Dubai or the Middle East?

PM: Dubai is so international. People from all over the world come to those exhibitions. They are really happy to have my work there. There was this performance I did at my first solo show, “Eat when you can, sleep when you can.” You can watch it on YouTube. It was quite disturbing for most of the audience, I guess. I’m sure they went home and thought, “Wow, what the fuck, but good to have such things here.”

OK: Is there going to be a performance aspect to this new show?

PM: No. I don’t want to do performances at the moment. For the past two years, I haven’t been doing performances. I really want to be a painter.

OK: Do you think people are coming back to figurative work? It seems figurative painting is coming back as a more appreciated art form.

PM: It will come back. On the other side, I don’t care because it’s the only thing I want to do. I will do it anyways. Maybe it will come back because of me. [Laughs.]

OK: You asked people to watch Holy Mountain by Alejandro Jodorowsky (another person we interviewed) before seeing your show. Why Holy Mountain?

PM: It’s one of his strongest and most complex works. I’m impressed by the project itself, the grand scale of it. Every thirty seconds, you have an idea that is so unique and great. It leads to the next idea. Jodorowsky is interesting because he’s a logistical genius.

OK: And it’s full of symbolism.

PM: Yeah, of course. That leads to my work. He uses symbols that are already socially visible. Skulls, crosses, all of this occult stuff. he brings his own ideas onto those symbols. When you do that, you can create something really big based on those symbols that are already in our heads.

OK: What’s next? Is there a new body of work? You said you would focus on painting.

PM: Yeah, I will focus on painting. I’m so happy with the new works I will exhibit in Dubai. I already started a new series that is based on the works I did for Dubai. There’s a lot of stuff that has to be done. I get really depressed if I haven’t painted for more than three days. Last week was tough because I barely had time to paint. Christmas is coming and I hate it.

OK: You just want to be in the studio.

PM: Yeah, and there’s so much to be done. 

Phillip Mueller “Dreams In Blue. The Year Phillip Mueller Didn’t Wake Up" opens tonight in Dubai and runs until March 6th, 2016 at Carbon 12 Gallery. Unit 37, Alserkal Avenue, Street 8, Al Quoz 1 - Dubai. Photographs courtesy Carbon 12 Gallery. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

For the Love of Gore: A Conversation With Teenage Filmmaker Kansas Bowling

We met up with Kansas Bowling, the young, bright-eyed filmmaker who is about to release her first film – a “prehistoric slasher film” called B.C. Butcher – at Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles. It was the perfect setting for a late night nosh and chat about filmmaking; a not so unusual conversation among the famed booths of the Jewish deli where Bowling’s boyfriend, the iconic DJ and “Mayor of the Sunset Strip” Rodney Bingenheimer, has his own table. And it was at that table where we talked with Kansas about her upbringing in Los Angeles, her early fascination with low-grade horror films and B.C. Butcher, her first feature, which stars the likes of Kato Kaelin and Bingenheimer himself. The film is Bowling’s debut as a filmmaker and is being released today on the famed production and distribution company Troma’s digital streaming service. Troma is known for cult fare such as Toxic Avengers and Return to Nuke 'Em High. At seventeen, Bowling is in for a strange and wild ride with her cinematic pursuits, and being with Troma means that she is already in the right company. What you will learn in the following interview is that Bowling used a combination of production sources to fund B.C. Butcher, which include crowdfunding and a settlement from a car accident. Fate, it seems, stepped in at the right time. While other kids are gearing up for prom or college campus tours, Bowling is getting ready to “spend more money than she has ever spent in her entire life” to create a print of the film to project in movie theaters. In the following interview, you’ll understand that Kansas Bowling is surely a talent to watch.

Oliver Kupper: I want to talk about your upbringing. Did you grow up in Los Angeles?

Kansas Bowling: Yes. I was born in Beverly Hills. I lived in Hollywood, and then I moved to Topanga Canyon. I moved to Koreatown, then Mid-City, and then back to Hollywood. [Laughs.]

OK: Were your parents a part of the industry.

KB: No, not really. They did extra work, but all the kids do that. But not really. My mom works at Bloomingdale’s, and my dad works for the L.A. River.

OK: So there wasn’t really a film background. You jumped into it on your own?

KB: Yeah.

OK: You have a really interesting name. Were your parents artists or hippies?

KB: My dad’s a bit of a stoner. [Laughs.] They were in a popular grunge band in the 90s, when I was born. It was called Bottom 12. My mom was a backup singer, and my dad was a bass player. He used to get naked on stage.

OK: Was it based here?

KB: Yeah, it was based here. They didn’t have an album come out though. My dad has this big story about, “Oh, we could have made it!”

OK: Growing up, did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?

KB: Pretty much always. Ever since I knew what a filmmaker was. Before that, I wanted to be a firefighter, but that didn’t happen. [Laughs.]

OK: And then film came along?

KB: Yeah. I was a really big fan of Quentin Tarantino, since I was 7 years old. My sister and I would play Kill Bill. We had fake samurai swords. I would always be Lucy Liu, and my sister would be Uma Thurman. We would film it and stuff.

OK: How did you get access to those movies? Not a lot of kids are able to see Tarantino movies when they’re that age.

KB: My parents didn’t really care what we watched. Sometimes, they would introduce movies to us. But a lot of the time, we would just find movies on our own. They didn’t really care. Especially when I was older, like a teenager, my parents had never heard of the movies I was watching. Therefore, they didn’t care what I was watching. I watched I Spit on your Grave when I was 13. They had no idea what that was. It has the most horrific rape scene of all time.

OK: Specifically, the horror film genre—gore, exploitation films—is that what you got interested in?

KB: I don’t necessarily just love exploitation films, but I love lower-budget films. I feel like they have the most heart. Not just horror films, but also American-International Beach Party movies, Annette Funicello. I don’t know, just weird sixties and seventies sex comedies. Doris Wishman, Diary of a Nudist. Stuff like that.

OK: Can you remember the first film you ever saw? Or the first film that made an impact on you?

KB: Probably Kill Bill. And then when Death Proof came out, I liked that even more. I saw it when it came out, and that’s when I found out about those kinds of movies. I started watching Troma movies shortly after that, when I was about 12.

OK: And you started making films after that.

KB: I used to shoot little short films with my friends. It was fun. They were really silly. We’d have mini-premieres with all our parents. There were little red carpets we would set up, and we would take paparazzi photos. [Laughs.]

OK: And your parents were supportive of what you were doing?

KB: Of course. They were always really supportive.

OK: A lot of kids have no idea what they want to do. Or, their parents try to steer their kids into a different direction.

KB: They knew what I wanted to do, and they saw this passion and ambition that I had. They didn’t want to get in the way of anything.

OK: When you started making your first films, you started working with Super 8?

KB: I got a Super 8 camera when I was 13, for Christmas.

OK: Did you immediately know how to use it? Do you have any mentors that you started working with?

KB: It was pretty simple. My sister and I didn’t know about lighting at first. We shot a lot of things indoors at night that never turned out. [Laughs.] But we figured it out eventually.

OK: Let’s jump into the movie, “B.C. Butcher.” Where did that idea come from? That’s your first feature film, right?

KB: Yeah. Me and my friend, Kenzie Givens, wrote it when we were in high school, just because we were bored. I met her in high school because she opened up her locker, and she had a picture of Jack Nance from Eraserhead. I walked up behind her and said, “Oh my god, I love Jack Nance!” She screamed and fell over. [Laughs.] We became really good friends. The next day, we went to Cinefamily and saw the movie Possession together. She’s really in love with John Waters. I’m really in love with Roger Corman. So we decided to make a movie together. I said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we made something so cheap? All we would have to do is run around in a state park or something, with loin cloths. We could make a caveman movie.” And then she said, “Yeah, or a slasher movie.” Then we were both like, “Oh my god, a caveman slasher movie!” And then we just started writing it together. I was fifteen when we started writing it, and she was sixteen or seventeen.

OK: Did you make it during the summer or the school year?

KB: We graduated at the same time. I graduated my junior year, and she graduated her senior year. She went off to college, so she didn’t get to help me make it. But we said we were going to make it. I didn’t want her leaving to stop me, so I went ahead and made it.

OK: Where did you get the funding for the film? Did you crowdsource it or find producers?

KB: I shot one scene to use on Indiegogo. I got the money for that one scene from insurance money from a car accident. It was such a minor car accident, so it was no big deal.

OK: So it was fate?

KB: Yeah, it was definitely fate. I did one scene and put it online for a crowdfunding thing. I didn’t really get my goal, because I was pretty naïve. I thought, “Oh, I’ll put it up, and people will give me ten grand.” But I got $1500. A lot of it was because people started writing articles about it. I went to Monsterpalooza, this horror movie convention, and I passed out flyers to everybody. I passed some out to the right people, and they wrote about it. Fangoria wrote an article about it. This website called Birth.Movies.Death did a big thing that brought a lot of money. It didn’t get me all the money that I needed, but it did get me a lot of exposure.

OK: It’s hard to get a movie made, even a low-budget film. Especially when you’re younger and people don’t know what’s going to come out of it.

KB: Yeah. After that, I still wanted to get the money from my original goal. It took me about eight more months to raise that money, getting jobs and stuff. But I love it.

OK: Your cast is really interesting, specifically Kato Kaelin. How did that come about?

KB: Rodney [Bingenheimer] introduced me to him. They go to IHOP together all the time.

OK: Were you aware of who he was in the nineties?

KB: Yeah, he’s Kato Kaelin. Rodney said one day, “You know who you should have in your movie? Kato Kaelin. Here’s his phone number.” I called and said, “Hey, Kato, this is Kansas. Will you be in my movie?” Kato is so funny and so nice. He’s a really, really good person. He was so professional and cool. He added to a lot of his lines, and they’re the best lines in the movie.

OK: Was it mainly ad lib?

KB: Kato was the only one to ad lib. Kato was only supposed to be in one scene, but we expanded the role to give him more screen time. I told him, “Say whatever you want.” And it worked.

OK: When is the release of the film?

KB: It’s going to be on Troma’s new streaming service, called TromaNow on Friday. That’s available to TromaNow subscribers. The official release date is in March. The DVD is going to come out. We’ll have a theatrical release too. Video on demand, of course. Amazon.

OK: Do you have plans to go to film school, or will you just keep making more movies?

KB: Film school is such a waste of money. My sister is an actress. The other day, she had to go to an audition at a film school. I came with her, and I was waiting outside the room, poking my head into all these classrooms. There was a classroom where the teacher was showing a class YouTube clips of Eddie Murphy stand-up comedy. These kids are paying $100,000 a year to watch Eddie Murphy clips on YouTube. [Laughs.] I’m not going to film school.

OK: You could use $100,000 to make another movie.

KB: Exactly. I could make 10 movies.

OK: Do you want to go in the direction of this type of movie?

KB: Definitely. I don’t like serious movies. I like fun movies.

OK: That’s how some movies should be. There are a lot of serious movies, but people should be able to have fun at the movies too. Do you have any ideas for another film?

KB: I have a bunch of ideas lined up. It was hard to pick, but I did pick. But it’s a surprise. I keep giving hints. It’s going to be a pseudo-documentary.

OK: Is it going to be like Cannibal Holocaust? 

KB: Sort of, but not quite on that level. Have you seen Faces of Death?

OK: I’ve heard of it.

KB: It’s going to be sort of like that, with the narrator standing there. It’s going to be like an education film, but totally fake.

OK: You mentioned Roger Corman as one of your heroes. Have you met him? Do you have plans to reach out to any of your heroes and see if they want to work with you?

KB: I have met Roger Corman once. I just ran up to him and hugged him. I was 14 probably. He thought I was so weird. I was wearing this big, black fur cape and black leather pants and white go-go boots. I saw him at LACMA and hugged him so tight. I was like, “I love you!!!” And he was like, “Thank you.” I think I did the same thing to Jack Hill, who directed Spider Baby. When I was fourteen, I asked Quentin Tarantino to marry me.

OK: What was his response?

KB: He said, “When you’re eighteen, we’ll see.”

OK: Are you a film purist? Do you want to make things on film exclusively?

KB: Definitely. 100%.

OK: What is your advice to other young people that want to make a movie?

KB: Don’t sit around thinking about it. Just do it, because it’ll be worth it. 

You can watch B.C. Butcher, written and directed by Kansas Bowling, on Troma's digital streaming service here. Follow Kansas on Instagram here to stay in loop with her cinematic pursuits. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE