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An interview with Fat Truckers, Sandman Magazine, Jun 2003.
You get the impression Fat Truckers get asked the same questions over and over again. Sandman is wearily asked if there’s anything about Electroclash on the question list, and there is obviously relief when I say no.
We’re sat backstage with Ross Orton, Ben Rymer and Mark Hudson, before their gig at the Fuzz Club to promote their eponymous debut album. Ben’s sporting a large plaster on his head, where he walked into the door at the Workstation earlier in the day (“It fucking hurts!,” he complains). He and Ross do the talking, while Mark, the main singer in the band, is pretty much silent.
The Truckers are a band that trade in bleeps, squelches and pure sonic onslaughts, which the music press dig but are hard-pushed to pigeonhole. So far singles ‘Teenage Daughter’, ‘Superbike’ and ‘Anorexic Robot’ have got rave reviews and are on heavy rotation at some of the country’s trendiest clubs, but people seem confused where they actually fit.
Obvious reference points would be Sheffield pioneers Cabaret Voltaire and electronic bands such as Suicide, but this is one act where the easy choices don’t always apply.
“We’ve got most in common with I-Monster,” says Ben, “and they sound completely different. But they’re like our peers, and they’re our mates and they do electronic music and we write songs. But the actual songs and the way it sounds is completely different. But we’ve got more in common with them than we have with some German electro band.”
Another unlikely contemporary is Girls On Top’s Richard X, the bootleg master who has taken Sugababes and Liberty X to the top of the charts. He’s a drinking partner of the band, and Ben has DJed with him.
“The first Girls On Top single came out about the same time as ‘Teenage Daughter’,” says Ben. “It’s very funny to see what happened. He’s gone to get to the top of the charts with Liberty X, and we’ve gone on to be identified with this fucking right trendy scene, but when we sit down and talk we’ve probably got more in common with him in terms of attitude than we do with most.”
Fat Truckers was conceived with something of an anti-band ethos. Ross has drummed in several local bands around Sheffield, and was also one half of Sheffield dance act Supafix, and it’s Mark and Ben’s first band.
“It was just using the bits we had around us,” says Ross, “which are these things and a computer and desk in the bedroom, rather than the usual rigmarole of bands paying for a rehearsal room and going down there three times a week with everything turned up load and loads of drum, we just couldn’t be arsed with that any more.”
“It was getting a half decent computer that made the difference,”says Ben, “cos we got a PC and it had Cubase and stuff on it that we could record vocals, and suddenly it made it a lot easier to record vocals and do songs, rather than just sitting there with a sampler spending 28 hours doing a rhythm track.”
“It’s weird people see it as a band and songs sort of thing,” says Ross, “although we probably do a lot less than certain dance acts do, when they’ve got a desk and two geezers on stage going like this. That’s pretty much what we’ve been up to, but we don’t ever get put in that dance bracket.”
The line-up was augmented to a five-piece live, with added members Ginger Dave, and All Seeing I’s Jason Buckle. Now it’s back to the founding threesome.
“Generally, when we first started doing it,” says Ross, “it was like we got asked by someone to support them, we weren’t a band and we’d never done it live or anything, and we sort of thought about what we needed to do to do it live. But as time went on we found we could do it between the three of us anyway”
“[Jason’s] kind of into doing puffed-up house and that,” says Ben. “When we did it live, the sound changed, it started to sound like fucking Orbital and Leftfield and that. This went on for a bit and we had these arguments with him about it. He was all right, but he’s not very good at using synthesisers.
“He started doing stuff with Jarvis instead [as Relaxed Muscle], mainly cos Jarvis is just as useless with synthesisers. We’ve sort of left those people behind – in our wake as it were.”
The Truckers came to a lot of people’s attention when they became touring support for Pulp, and part of Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackeys Desperate Sound System. At the live gigs it was very hard to ignore the fact that they divided audiences somewhat.
“That was right interesting that”, says Ross, “seeing people with their fingers in their ears wincing”.
“That’s a good thing though, innit?,” says Ben. “It’s better than people stood there going ‘oooh, this is alright’”.
“It were good though, we fucked them up,” says Ross. “It was like letting a rapist loose in a nudist camp full of blind people.”
“The thing is about Pulp gigs is there’s two sorts of people,” explains Ben. “People who are into the music, and about 25% of people who are just Jarvis loonies. The doors open at about half seven, and within about two minutes it’s six deep of people at the front waiting, who are not going to move, who are there to see Jarvis.
“The great thing about doing those gigs was that we come on, make an almighty racket, really fucking loud, and they stand there and they wouldn’t be able to move cos if they move they lose their place and they wouldn’t be able to gaze into Jarvis’s nostrils or whatever they do.”
The band deny they’re part of any specific Sheffield scene (“we’re starting to see it as not a bad thing” says Ben, “it’s better than people saying we sound like we’re from fucking Cleethorpes”). The also see a lack of support from their home town, and register the fact that, with the exception of All Things Electric, they never get played at club nights.
“Most people seem shocked that people like us,” says Ben. “People actually says stuff like, ‘how come people like you?’ That’s nice. Cheers!”
They do, however, recognise the city as a home for interesting music.
“In Sheffield when it’s fucking pissing it down and there’s nowhere to go people start pissing about,” says Ben, “and the more they piss about the better they get at stuff.”
“You can get straight through it, that’s the thing,” says Ross. “In Sheffield if you do music you can do the newest most exciting thing if that’s where you feel you want to go. Generally people who don’t do that will try and make money out of it and you just end up with a shit band.”
So what are the Truckers’ expectations for the album?
“Double platinum,” says Ben, unironically.
“He says with big fucking plaster on head and a can of warm Carling,” laughs Ross.
“I’m serious,” insists Ben. “In times of recession people like fucking weird music, it’s always happened. And just doing something different and actually getting it out, I think it’ll be all right.
“I’ve got great faith. Everyone goes on about ‘the music industry’s fucked’ and all this, but I’ve got great faith in if you’re doing something that’s fucking good, people will listen to it and buy it.”
Lock up your teenage daughters. The Fat Truckers are here.