Life Is Like A Box Of Records: Fraser Stewart (Fat Goth)

Some time ago I was sitting on a bus with a token playlist of songs that had influenced my life in some way or another. Being somewhat refreshed, I started thinking of all the times that these songs had become significant and thought, wouldn’t it be an excellent idea to delve into other people’s ‘Life Record Boxes’. Luckily people have been wonderful and we have an incredible series continuing.

Today is the turn of Fraser Stewart from Fat Goth. You can find out more about their music here: Photo by Alan Robertson.

‘Music Is Shit!’

Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush‘Don’t Give Up’

There are times when I’m amazed I developed any interest in music at all when I consider my initial introductions to the medium, courtesy of my dear mother and father. Like most vibrant young folk, my parents once shared an enthusiasm for credible and respected artists. I believe Mum used to be rather fond of David Bowie, while Dad was an avid Beatles fan. He tells me he used to own a significant number of the original pressings back in the day before getting shot of them, presumably to save space and make the task of moving flat that little bit easier. Needless to say, that decision is one he has learnt to regret a great deal! I think by the time I came kicking and screaming into the world, their interest and pursuit in pop music had yielded to various other pressing matters taking place in their lives, such as the demands and responsibilities faced when one decides to start a family. I assume music became little more than appropriate background noise for dinner parties and long drives in the car. I can remember a fair amount of Enya, Simply Red, The Art of Noise and numerous other abominations, although a Peter Gabriel ‘Best of’ was certainly one beacon of light in an otherwise dark sea of crud. Regardless, I love my parents very much and they’ve done incredibly well to put up with my shit for all those years!

‘Get in the ring, Motherfucker!’

Guns ‘n’ Roses‘Out To Get Me’

The school playground is arguably the first instance where one is forced to find their place upon the social ladder. Although the trials and tribulations faced in the confines of a Primary School environment are tame in comparison to the scathing Hell Fire of Secondary (more on that later), it became clear to me very early on that I was never going to be regarded as popular and/or well-loved by my peers. Therefore, I occupied space in the nether regions and befriended the weirdos and outcasts, which has remained a constant throughout my life.

I was over at a friend’s house after school one day when he asked if I had heard of Guns ‘n’ Roses. His Dad had given him a cassette copy of the second installment of their infamous Use Your Illusion opus, and I was captivated by the sounds coming from his stereo system. It was the first time I had ever been exposed to hard rock music, and while the tones and aggression certainly resonated, I was more entertained by the sheer degree of profanities within their songs. I had always assumed swearing in music was a universal ‘no no’, so hearing Axl Rose go off on ludicrous tirades against everyone and everything was highly amusing and appealed to our immature sense of humour. A week or two later, I was in the supermarket with Mum and asked for an advance on my pocket money so I could purchase a copy of ‘Appetite For Destruction’. She must of been in a hurry to get home, as a can’t imagine she would of agreed if she noticed the lyrical content, dodgy ‘rapey’ artwork and the big, glaring ‘Parental Advisory’ sticker on the front! Despite the justified flack G’n’R receive from most folk, I still think ‘Appetite’ fucking slays and I’m proud to say it’s my first musical purchase.

Welcome to Puberty!

Oasis ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’

Being a teenager is fucking horrendous, and anyone who says otherwise is either lying or is actually one of those rare pieces of shit who goes through their life without experiencing any notable degree of humiliation, depression and/or completely unjustified hatred from their fellow man…not that I’m bitter or anything!

During my time at Dundee’s Harris Academy Secondary School, I was usually seen rocking a wax jacket, unfashionable (yet sensible) shoes, while sporting a fine display of severe acne over my general person. Females didn’t appear to dig my style, and so my continual conflicted opinions on sex and relationships along with various other self-destructive hang-ups have remained an integral part of my creative drive. The school used to host the occasional evening disco in the gymnasium, where the popular kids would show up in their finest Rockport gear and engage in messy French kissing and awkward dry humpings to the sound of DJ Quicksilver and the like at 100,000,000 DB. This was around the time of ‘Britpop’, so mercifully the DJ would throw in the odd Blur or Oasis record from time to time. Sadly, Slayer never got an airing. They were utterly miserable events, but one night a nice girl from my year took pity on me and we proceeded to neck each other’s faces off to the mediocre tune below. It was a significant moment for me and one I thought would never come. Afterwards, I foolishly declared my love for her, which was obviously insane and understandably freaked her out, while simultaneously terminating any chance of it ever happening between us again.

Despite this initial foray into courting members of opposite sex, a scenario so bad I imagine it would make even Alan Partridge cringe, I finally got to experience a girl’s affections and my plans to commit suicide were subsequently put on hold in the hope my good fortune would return someday. I made a mental note not to make a complete arse of it next time.

‘I’m so happy because today I found my friends, they’re in my head.’

The Stone Roses ‘Fool’s Gold’

Taking into account I play in a band that specialises in abrasive, noisy, angst-ridden rock music; it’s probably no surprise to learn I liked Nirvana. In fact, it would be fair to say my 16 year-old self was somewhat obsessed with them. I struggle to sit and listen to their records at length nowadays, but they are undoubtedly the main catalyst for me becoming a musician. I’m eternally grateful to Nirvana, not only for their own music which was there when I really needed it, but also for the numerous other amazing artists they brought to my attention, most of whom are arguably superior but have sadly never received the same degree of acclaim or financial success.

The constant nightmare of sexually orientated thoughts is just one of the many afflictions bestowed upon the teenage population. Perhaps another consideration could be the minefield of friendship and trying to avoid the undesirable position of being labelled a ‘loner’. Looking back, I had two choices – I could of tried going it alone, where I would be fair game for all the psychos and sociopaths prowling the school premises and surrounding areas, or I could try and fit in with established groups/cliques where the risk of getting my head kicked-in was mildly reduced. I chose the latter and ended up spending the remainder of my school years in the company of those I seriously doubt ever had any intention of being my pals. It’s a terrible thing not to be yourself and try to alter your personality in order to win approval of others, but true confidence and self-assurance aren’t traits normally associated with youth. That said, the older you get, the wiser you become.

There are times when I feel a lot of anger towards my past and some of the things I experienced, but even when it’s at it’s worse and those memories hang over me like a dark cloud, I can always hold my head high and take a great deal of comfort in the fact I never, ever followed suit and said I liked The Stone Roses. I’ve always maintained their music is utter shite.

Live and Direct

Laeto ‘Rowan Guerilla’

Going to gigs was always an exciting prospect! My first ever show was Radiohead at Dundee’s Caird Hall. OK Computer had just been released and the show was a warm up for the subsequent world tour. I was a big fan by that point and I vividly remember struggling to comprehend the fact I was in the same room as them. That sounds ridiculous and little more than adulation from an over-enthusatic teenage fan, which it was, but it’s worth noting this was long before YouTube. Back then the only access I had to my favourite bands was through their CDs, magazine articles and the posters on my bedroom wall, so the novelty of going to see and hear them in the flesh took time to wear off. I think it’s a shame that degree of mystique no longer exists, but then again the internet is a Godsend in terms of exposure and making your work available to the world.

A year or two later I went to see Idlewild play The Marriott Hall. I had a blast and was particularly taken by the support, Laeto and their largely instrumental rock music, of which I was entirely unaccustomed. I learnt Laeto were also based in Dundee. The Courier newspaper published a preview of the show that week and it featured an interview with Fraser Simpson from the band. I remember thinking it was extremely cool to see local guys getting a spot like that, so I guess it made me more determined to pursue my own musical creativity in the hope I might get to do something similar one day. As it turns out, Laeto’s very own Kevin Black now supplies the low frequencies for Fat Goth. Fancy that!

Quadruple Vodkas

Aphex Twin‘Come To Daddy’

With the formidable misery of school behind me and a substantial student loan sitting in my bank account, things were looking up by the time I enrolled at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. At school, Art and Woodwork were the only subjects I really excelled at and enjoyed, so it made sense to pursue one and try to make my way in the world. In hindsight, opting for an apprenticeship in joinery may have resulted in a more comfortable and financially secure lifestyle compared to my current situation, but Art School sounded like fun and it really didn’t matter because, ‘I’m going to get a band together and become a successful musician, man‘. My ignorance had no boundaries back then.

I had a total blast over the course of those 4 years: I got to make art everyday, I met lots of new people, started making real friends, I was in a relationship with a really nice girl, went to lots of parties, heard lots of great music I would of otherwise missed, fired in about all the booze and drugs – awesome! The only negative aspect was once I got my degree, I was unemployed, thousands of pounds in debt, overweight, living in a horrible little flat and still without a band. Was it worth it? Absolutely!

The first time I was exposed to Aphex Twin’s ‘Come To Daddy’ with it’s accompanying video was at the tail end of a particularly heavy house party during my first year. There were numerous individuals in a comatose state all over the floor, a strobe light going mental in the corner while in the company of my pal, who was still flying high and raving extremely hard with a couple of glow sticks. It was a memorable experience.

Taking It Down A Notch

Louis Armstrong‘What A Wonderful World’

I picked up the guitar at 16 and got lessons for about a year. Normally the scales are taught first, but the guy I went to started me on the chords and a bit of finger picking technique before I felt I knew enough and stopped going. All I really wanted to do was learn how to play my favourite tunes, which at that time were all basic bar chord punk and metal songs. I had fun figuring them out in my bedroom while gradually experimenting and learning more in the process. After about a year or so I started writing my own material. I didn’t get a chance to join a band until I was 21, so I had to make do performing on my own. By the time I was at Uni I was playing a lot of live solo shows and releasing recordings of my songs. I cringe when I hear that stuff nowadays, but they were my first serious attempts at music and I learned a lot about song craft during that time.

Fat Goth is the kind of band I always wanted to be part of and it’s great to finally have the opportunity to play obnoxious, noisy, sleazy rock music on a regular basis. That said, my appreciation for classic song craft has remained and I’m a sucker for a beautiful vocal or a very tasteful chord structure. I suppose what I try my best to do is merge those two disciplines together whenever possible and see what results we end up with. That’s what I love about writing music: there’s no right or wrong, only what you think is good.

I consider the recording below to be one of the greatest songs ever written.

Bring In The Beef!

Melvins ‘Revolve’

I wish I was one those folk who can say they’ve listened to cool music throughout their entire life. While there are exceptions to the rule, I regrettably listened to a lot of crap growing up and was completely oblivious to so much stuff I now adore. The guys in Laeto setup Dundee shows for the likes of Zu, Oxes, June of 44, and I never went to any of them, which is obviously a tad frustrating. Thankfully, playing in bands provided me with plenty of opportunities to meet other musos, who in turn gave me an education in good listening materials. I remember struggling to understand Red Medicine the first time I heard it, but I wanted to appreciate what everyone else loved about Fugazi and bands of that calibre so I kept listening until the penny eventually dropped. I love music that challenges the listener and develops your understanding and appreciation of art. If nothing else, I certainly view it as a fun and rewarding method of human communication.

The idea of Fat Goth, or Perineum as it was previously known, happened when I discovered the Melvins. I owned ‘Melvinmania’. It was a compilation of their Atlantic Records releases, which I later found out was unapproved by the band themselves. Regardless, I loved what I heard and have been feasting on the rest of their ever-expanding back catalogue ever since. Personally, the Melvins along with others like The Jesus Lizard and numerous Mike Patton projects are constant sources of inspiration. The Melvins in particular are a prime example of how to do rock music correctly, constantly reinventing themselves and experimenting just like The Beatles, minus the global and massively lucrative success. The Beatles were nowhere near as good a live band, though!

Slow Oscillations

Stars of The Lid‘Austin Mental Hospital’

My situation towards the end of 2010 wasn’t great having just come out of a long term relationship. It was my first proper experience of heartache and it took a few months to get over the worse of it. However, I came out the other end feeling more positive and happier than I had anticipated. Although it was an ordeal, I’m glad I have the experience. At least I now know women are the work of Satan and exist only to bring abject misery and pain.

One of the things I believe was of huge benefit to me at the time was the music I was listening to. For a good few months I went completely teetotal and started swimming regularly. I felt great physically, while mentally I was beginning to level out and generally feel good. While all this was going on, I discovered an new enthusiasm for ambient drone music and listened to lots of Earth, Sunn O))) and Tim Hecker. There’s something about low, resonating tones I find incredibly reassuring and relaxing. I guess it relates to kicking back in the womb and doing fuck all.

My latest purchase was ‘The Tired Sounds by Stars of The Lid’, which I enjoy very much.

Wait! Maybe Music Isn’t Shit?

Pietro Mascagni‘Cavalleria Rusticana Intermezzo’

I love making music and I feel privileged I get the opportunity to do so. I can’t imagine living without it and I hope to continue making it for the remainder of my days, and beyond if that’s doable? It’s just an awesome way to communicate. A unique way to share ideas, emotions and opinions while simultaneously bringing people together in their collective appreciation.

I don’t know what else to say, so I’ll end with one of the most beautiful things I’ve had the pleasure of hearing.

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