Flesh Eating Foundation can be best described as a loose alliance of musicians and creatives based in the Stafford area of the UK. With Jon E. Smoke and The Juddaman at the creative core, the duo plus more has an at times bewildering array of music, film and artistic projects to their name. After an early listen to their new album We Are Fucked and being impressed by its political anti-pop, we decided to ask them about the album them and much, much more.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s the story behind Flesh Eating Foundation and how would you describe your sound?
The story? It is shrouded in mystery and tinnitus. In its current form FEF are a collective. No fixed line up, no fixed abode, no fixed genre. At the core though FEF will always have the two core members, me (John E Smoke) and Steve (The Juddaman). We have known each other since we were in utero. not together, but our moms were friends and were pregnant at the same time. The fist FEF collaboration will have been gurgling fluids and farts
On the last recording We Are Fucked we relied on a lovely bloke called Jules for guitar parts. He’s way too talented for us. He can sing and everything. Adam Probert also crops up on vocals.
As for our sound. Consider us people who have tastes that range from synth pop to LSD influenced experimental rackets. The fact that our gear hasn’t always been very expensive or even in working order has tended to add that ‘Je ne sais quoi’ to our sound.
What motivates you and inspires your music, aesthetic and vibe?
We’ll deal with those in turn.
Music. I can’t live without it. I’m a restless soul. I always have to be doing something and sound is my first love. My music collection is massive, almost an archive. I continually search for something I haven’t heard yet, hence me doing radio shows, writing review blogs and running a record label. At the same time, I always have songs, melodies and lyrics popping in to my head, ideas for soundscapes, ideas for new pieces of gear or set ups. There is always something for me to try.
Aesthetic. We’ve had fun as FEF, we like to add a bit of performance art in there, whether we dress as clowns, zombies, butchers, lunatics, or simply wrap ourselves in cling film. We do that for enjoyment, if it adds value for the audience then that is a bonus. We also like to create as much of the sound live as possible and add a little improvised chaos. As such you’ll see a lot of weird electronic gear on stage with us. Yes, we run an element of the sound from a laptop but there is plenty of live elements too.
Vibe. Hmm. I like to think we come across as fairly chilled these days, aggressive yes, but not unpleasant. We’re old and sensible, there are varying degrees of marriage and parenthood throughout the FEF collective these days. Open minded, musically we’ll try anything, collaborate with anyone and perform in any location that has an audience or is just simply different.
You’re often pigeonholed in the industrial or noise scenes in the UK, yet your music is far from 4/4 dancefloor filler. Unless it’s a dancefloor full of angry people! What kind of audience reaction do you get to your live sets?
We’ve often been described as a ‘bands’ band’. That’s a curse! Other artists seem to recognize that we are doing something different and challenging but the audience doesn’t always get it. We’re not easy to dance to, we’re not radio friendly, we’re messy. So, we do OK but we know there will always be other bands who offer easier gratification to audiences. That’s fine, we’ll keep doing what we like to do. On the flip side, when we play to a noise or experimental crowd, with our drone and improv stuff, we are generally well received. I guess these scenes are perhaps more open minded and interested in technique and gear. Creating these soundscapes and experiments without a laptop in sight intrigues people.
You recently released an album called WE ARE FUCKED– is that a personal or political statement – or both?
Mainly the latter on this album. I think most of the songs this time have a political or social angle, though there are a few more personal moments in there lyrically too. The title track is a reaction to knee jerk politics, Brexit, Trump, and so on. Breaking the current set up without a realistic prospect for anything better or even simply different. Scumbags and Spent Slags plays on the theory of under and over classes, sharing similar moral depravities. Having Fun is an anti-austerity rant, with a strong disability angle. Being disabled myself and knowing many other people with limitations, I see first-hand how badly the government approach to social welfare is hurting the most vulnerable. Sick Prick Dick Lick is another (rather offensive) lash out to the elite classes. You get the idea.
‘Bending’ technology and instruments seems to be prominent element of your sound; is that experimental side of your music important to the creative process? Do you build an instrument with a sound in mind?
Sometimes I do. I’m no genius, there are many aspects of synth building that are beyond me, though I can knock up a set of simple oscillators and different means of controlling them. I’m better starting with something that already does something, and modifying it, changing the way is sounds and the way it is controlled. Toys are good candidates but so are a wide variety of musical instruments. If I want something to respond to light, or pressure, or even temperature then I can have a play. I also love acoustic instruments made from springs, rusty metal, anything that sounds good when you hit/pluck it. The magic happens when you can combine those two worlds.
It is important to our creative process, more than ever, and in multiple ways. Understanding core synthesis principles in hardware allows you to get under the hood of soft synths and effects to come up with something more original than a preset. In the hardware world we record improvised or free form stuff and sample/loop something that at first sounds random and use it as the backbone for a song. We also love playing with control voltages, the precursor to midi, it is cruder, rougher and quite spontaneous which of course we like.
What’s up next for Flesh Eating Foundation? Any upcoming gigs, new releases on the horizon, other projects?
So far We Are Fucked has only seen a digital release. A vinyl version is at the pressing plant. When it arrives, we will be hand customizing artwork for it before releasing it through my micro label Sonic Entrails. It will include a massive extended digital release, remixes, reinterpretations and a few other extras.
Gigs wise, FEF have nothing concrete planned, though all offers will be considered. I do a lot of solo stuff with my improvised sounds, circuit bent toys etc. I am also touring quite regularly with Adam Pobert, our blend of punk poetry and noise seems to be going down well. We have gigs with Anti-Sect, Discharge and Conflict coming up. A second album from us two is also in the works.
There is a lot of soundtrack work on the cards, fingers crossed there is quite a significant film project that I might be contributing to. Also, my second film is in the final edit stage and the third is in the planning stages. I do all the sound design for these too. They’ll hit the film festival circuit, so we’ll see what happens. I’ll try and fit a few new releases through Sonic Entrails along the way too. Oh, I want to write a book too.
We Are Fucked is out now on digital format via Sonic Entrails and the band gig regularly as well as working on other projects. Be sure to check out their social media for more details on the band’s activities – you won’t be disappointed!