As one half of Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, Les ‘Fruitbat’ Carter topped the UK album charts, headlined Glastonbury and infamously rugby tackled Philip Schofield at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party. By the time I met him, at The Windmill in Brixton in the early years of this millennium, he was fronting his band Abdoujaparov and sharing the insight and experience gained from a couple of decades of making music with a new crop of bands, many of whom were regulars within these pages (a few still are) and quite a few of whom have become members of Abdou’s rotating line-up since (check out the Abdou family tree for a full list). Generous with his time, his Brixton flat also became a regular post-gig spot, as well as a haven for those who’d missed their last train home.
That generosity of spirit has always been evident in Abdoujaparov’s music, along with a strong dose of humour and a strong punk ethos, and their fourth long player Race Home Grow Love is no exception, packed with chunky riffs, moments of introspection and cheeky lyrical asides, whilst also tackling some serious issues, it’s quite possibly their best yet.
We caught up with Les for a guided tour of the record, track by track.
For the album opener I chose this little pop punk song about a skint parent attempting to shoplift to feed and clothe the kids. The la las on the end are the kids just enjoying themselves oblivious to the mum / dad’s trials.
If You Want To Save The World
This song was inspired by Greta Thunberg and the global movement including Extinction Rebellion who are attempting to raise awareness of the desperate situation humankind has created in its greed for more, more, more. The wider theme of the song is just imploring us all to listen to women, as most of the time they are way smarter than most blokes.
You Don’t Have To Be Alone
This was written during the first lockdown when my girlfriend and I were separated by hundreds of miles and we were both missing each other. It’s also a call to the world to be kinder and to love each other. In a time when everything seems to be falling apart, we all need to come together in love, not hate.
You’re Breaking Up
This is a sad song about the breakup of a couple whilst on holiday. I wanted it to have a Cliff Richard And The Shadows kind of feel, like the soundtrack to Summer Holiday (one of my favourite films) but it ended up a bit country and western. I’m ok with that though.
This is positive me telling negative me to get my arse into gear. It’s not the first song I have written about this and it probably won’t be the last. George is my middle name, it’s also the middle name of Richy who plays bass. He always has his arse in gear though. That wasn’t supposed to sound rude. I love my guitar solo on this one, I reckon it’s up there with the one on the end of the Carter song “The Music That Nobody Likes”.
Last year was my brother’s 60th birthday and naturally he wanted to have a party to celebrate. Despite us still being in semi-lockdown he invited something like 300 people to a campsite in Sussex. Several people pointed out that it would be illegal, but he forged ahead albeit with a greatly reduced invite list. In the end we had a much smaller and legal birthday party and it was a success. This year he is planning a bigger party. His name is not Valentine, by the way.
Where Was The Love When You Stitched Me Up?
Anyone that knows me will probably guess what this one is about. Another breakup song, but this one is a bit angrier.
Brixton Flippin’ Riots
Brixton Riots from the view point of someone passively watching the chaos as the bus he is on slowly tries to get through the upturned cars and burning bins. It’s exciting but also a bit inconvenient. He would much rather watch it on the TV later. I knew that police were really coming down on black youth at the time and there was a palpable feeling that something was going to give. It was surreal when it actually kicked off though as I was only a mile or so away and was watching it unfold on my parents TV. To see familiar buildings in flames and the violence from both sides really changed the way I saw Brixton from that point. It didn’t stop me moving to the centre of Brixton in the early nineties though. I don’t live there now I still love the place. Although…
The Town Where I Grew Up
This song is about growing up in Tulse Hill and going to Brockwell Park where my brother and I used to spend a lot of time playing and riding our bikes. There was a beautiful model village in the centre of the park. Over the years though as we got older the model buildings were vandalised (not by us, I add) and were not maintained at all by the council. It got to the point where bits were going missing. It made me very sad as it says in the song.
I left Brixton for Folkestone in 2010 as it was all getting too crowded, noisy and posh for me. The song ends with me returning to the park and realising that there were some positive things about the sweeping gentrification of the area. The model village had been partially repaired and had a fresh coat of paint. This made me happy.
Goodbye Sweet Bread
I didn’t know what this song was about until I started to record the vocals. It’s me bidding a fond farewell to some of my favourite foods due to the fact my body can’t take them in any longer. I should also give up booze, but I’m finding that tricky.
The Battle’s Won
This one has an almost religious feel to it. It started out as a homage to David Bowie, but I think it grew a lot wider as I finished it. So I will say that you should read anything you like into this one.
I was asked about this song when I was on a radio show recently. I told the DJ that I had no idea what the song was about. I have just re-read the lyrics though and now I know. It is about my having imposter syndrome, being unsure that I should be here and my abilities as a musician etc.
Everyone always seems so much more talented than me. It’s not false modesty either.
The album Race Home Grow Love is out now. Order it now via the Carter USM store.
Find out more on Abdoujaparov’s official website.
Introduction by Paul Maps