Brisbane alt punk favourites, FAT, know a thing or two about the Australian music scene. With their beginnings in Victoria at the end of the eighties and a colourful history that has seen them play with everyone from Regurgitator and the Madmen to the Dreamkillers and Powderfinger, FAT’s current line-up comprises Glenn, Joe, Laz, and Rudi – an accomplished bunch of blokes who make for a formidable musical force. Their last album, Blue Meets Black, fuses punk, alternative rock, a raw garage sound, and touches of psychedelia to produce a unique and compelling musical brew that is best served frequently. Today we spoke with frontman, Glenn Brady, who told us about the band’s history, his musical influences, and some of the wild times he’s experienced in the name of punk.
SR. Can you tell us about the band’s history and how you got together? Whose idea was the name?
GB. We started in 1989 in Collingwood, Melbourne. It was myself, Matty, who had been in NTT and Bad Ronald in the 80’s punk days, as had Ian, the drummer from Mouthguard and Insane Hombres fame. Matty came up with the name. It was either FAT of McHaggis, which I still really like!
Matty and I were living in Melbourne and were part of a skate\pisshead punky crew called ‘Badlands’ run by punky king ‘Borgy’, and with him we basically spent the days drunk and on pills skating around Melbourne and visiting the many local pubs, running barbeques at the Tote and the Bendigo Hotel. We also used to wander around the tunnels under the city walking for miles as the infamous ‘Cave Clan’ (who were basically underground urban explorers). So basically, we had careers in doing nothing much! Then I got sick from all the pills and had to leave Melbourne for home – Matty came, but Ian stayed.
From there, we advertised for a drummer and met Cameron who was only 18 or so and damn good drummer. We jammed like that for a while, and then added a mate, Mick, on second vocals. We played our first gig with the Madmen (who became Screamfeeder) at some pub or resort in Noosa. We made $75 and that’s how much it cost to bail out a mate who got caught running around in the nude. The resort gave us rooms which were all wrecked in wonderful rockin’ and rollin’ ways, and we left with all the band and mates in the back of a large delivery van. If you had a gig back then, you had a contingent of drunken mates tagging along.
After that, we played quite a few shows upstairs at the Treasury with all sorts of bands from Brisbane and interstate: Big Bongin’ Baby, Velvet Hammer, Budd, Chopper Division, Dreamkillers, Powderfinger, and others. But music was changing via the rise of Nirvana. Brisbane was still pretty much starved for venues, as it always had been. And then The Zoo happened and a whole new group of people got together, who had been brought into the scene by the new Sub Pop Seattle bands. And things got exciting around the Valley, which had become a dull, dirty, fairly lifeless druggy hooker strip…which, as I recall, it always had been!
SR. Which bands have influenced you most, and in what way?
GB. Bands we’re into? I guess Matty and I and Ian are into the older punk bands like the Dead Kennedys, The Clash, D.R.I, and the whole American hardcore thing. But after the punk thing had kinda died down in the late 80s, I got right into other bands that I was supposed to hate, being a punk and all. I like Pink Floyd, King Crimson, and Neil Young. Midnight Oil was always, for me, one reason I wanted to be in a band. So my dream was to kind of have a half punk-type band, but with softer instrumentals and more than just ‘bang bang…scream…bang bang’. But I wasn’t much of a guitarist, and not much of a singer either. Eventually, Mick went and I met all of Cameron’s younger school friends. Dave Thompson and Ben Eli were in a band at it kinda fell apart, and Dave joined us a lead guitarist and all-round smooth dude. Through him we met Spacy, who became our second drummer, playing percussion. So we were a five piece, with a fairly big, chunky drum-fuelled sound that I had never counted on. But I was up for anything.
Funk was in, a la Chilli Peppers and Primus; and, at the other end was the Pearl Jam thing. I didn’t like either, so we tried to be something unlike either. The U.S punk band The Minutemen were a fave for Matty and I: funky, but not too shiny; heavy on the bass and percussion, which was fair up our alleyways. Sooo, I can’t recall how, but I met the gals Joc and ‘C’ who, along with a whole lovely bunch of their friends, had an idea of turning an old warehouse-type place into a music, food, and art venue, which Brisbane never really had. So, The Zoo was born and, since I had just really got into painting, I helped out on the walls and had my first two solo shows there. It became a great hangout, with pool tables and bring your own beer, and good, cheap food, and lots of nice people. The days of bloody speed-fuelled punk and skinhead carnage had vanished!
So we played on and on and on, all around Brisbane, with Powderfinger again and the newly formed Regurgitator and a whole new swag of bands, headlining the 4ZZZ Market Day. We practised twice a week for anything up to seven hours, trying to make enough money to record. We eventually raised $800 to make a cassette tape, which we sold around town in brown paper bags with FAT stamped on them with a carved potato cut in half. We toured up north to Mackay and down to Melbourne through Sydney, but even though we got great reviews, we never seemed to be able to get up the rock cock totem pole. Our first album sounded like a demo tape and our next CD, ‘Call It What You Will’, was overlooked by Triple J, who at the time had become the self-proclaimed kings of what they judged to be alternative music. They had six million listeners at one stage, so if you got a song on there, people all over would hear it, meaning more crowds when touring. Even though the CD had a quite poppy song on it, it got passed over and we got kinda stuck.
I had come off the rails with depression twice through this and was fairly lost in the head and missed the more unique, fun days of the early punk scene. Even though I made a lot of friends, I felt out of place in the new, hippy-type atmosphere. Eventually, after getting banned from a few venues for being drunken bastards, we split. I got the blame and I also had to pay off the recording bills we had with my paintings, as the others guys offered nothing. So we mostly stopped. We got together with a new drummer, Rudi, (who used to come and see us when he was still in high school) and other people, but it never really went anywhere.
SR. Your fantastic 2012 release, Blue Meets Black, features a range of musical styles, including punk, thrash, and it even has a psychedelic vibe. What was it like recording that album and how long did the process take?
GB. The Blue Meets Black album came out of two things. One was meeting my girlfriend and her telling me to pick up the guitar again, which I hadn’t in five years. The other was going to gigs, which I hadn’t done in years. I saw some bands and thought, ‘Fuck, I can do this! It looks fun again!’ and started to work on some tunes with Joe and Rudi. They knew Laz through the band scene (he had been in Misery) and he invited us out to his place in which he had built a really fuckin’ wonderful recording studio! So I felt like I would be both an idiot and a dickhead if FAT didn’t get back into it. The album was done slowly, as opposed to the way we used to record, (i.e. you had $1000 and a studio cost $80 an hour, so you kinda had to fuckin’ get into it and get it done.) So, with Laz and the studio, we could take our time and try different things.
SR. You recently played The Dead of Winter festival and the Return of the Joint Effort in Brisbane. What were those experiences like and do you prefer the energy of festivals or more intimate gigs?
GB. I like playing small gigs: small, loud gigs in dark rooms with no crowd barriers and no bouncers. But I’ll play anywhere, as I mostly have my eyes closed during the whole show anyway. It’s nice to be asked to play these mini-fests and get a good reaction. I just love playing as it makes up for a lot of the bad times we went through in the 90s, and I still enjoy yelling angry lyrics at strangers and not getting belted up for it! There are not many places you can do that. We haven’t played many of the many fests going around ZZZ…one a few times, and in 1995, we got a slot at The Big Day Out, which was neato and a highlight. But some smaller gigs have been a hoot as well. A good gig is basically when you finish a song and you can hear more than dead silence or ‘You suck!’
Brisbane is a lot of fun now, as the bands and people on the scene are great. There are a lot of different types of bands, lots of characters, and good venues, and everyone’s good to each other with no big egos. Something bad happens to someone and, straight away, there’s a benefit gig for them. I haven’t seen a fight at a gig in years. When I was in my teens, it was every weekend.
SR. Can you describe your song writing process?
GB. I don’t really write songs. I just doodle around on the guitar and try to make a tune either tough or soft – I like both. I jot down lyrics a lot, but have never really prided myself on a being a good musician or writer. I just try my best with the little bit that I know and make an interesting tune. But I’m not a ‘songwriter’, as such. I’m a painter. It’s not as kind of natural to me as painting is. It’s always a fight. I’m still flying on the angry days of punk; and, funnily enough, there’s still a whole swag of things to scream about.
SR. Do you have any pre-gig rituals?
GB. No pre-gig rituals. We have a few beers and get up and play. Oh, but afterwards, I eat a goat raw.
SR. What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened at a FAT gig?
GB. I used to play naked a lot in the old days, which was a hoot. Someone put a ciggie out on my arse at a gig in Kirra. Spacy let off a fire extinguisher at the Roxy while Front End Loader were playing and the whole venue filled with green dust. It looked wonderful, but got us banned and we lost the Bad Brains support gig. We got run out of Rockhampton for being nude at a service station. The cop actually said, ‘Get out of town before sundown.’ So basically, the kind of things that happen when five males are put together and swimming in the amber fluid. We were doing a drum instrumental one night at the Roxy when a gal got up and read from the bible for 15 minutes. That was kinda fruity.
SR. What’s next for FAT? Are you working on any new material at the moment?
GB. We are halfway through a double album at the moment. We have about 90 minutes of music: short songs, fast songs, and instrumentals. It’s kinda what I’ve always wanted to do in FAT but never had the money, skill, or opportunity to do. With Laz on lead guitar, a whole big, swirling noisy door has opened for us, and we shall gleefully run through it! I don’t really care about getting anywhere with FAT. I used to, but it didn’t work out. No biggie. So now, just to play and record is enough for me. And after 25 years, off and on, to still get a reaction from crowds is yummy.