Richard Cook, "A SPIDER'S WEB"
Sounds , February 21, 1987, pp. 22-23
A member of The Fall and wife of Mark, BRIX SMITH tells RICHARD COOK about
the magic web The Adult Net are beginning to weave. Photo by PETER ANDERSON
BRIX SMITH is the girl who can't really help it: she has rich-baby
eyes, heavy blonde hair, a voice that comes in giggles. It's the sort of
identikit one might expect from a cheerleader, but it's the natural turf of a
nervous, shrewd, faithful American who has made her second home here.
Brix has patiently hollowed out a corner of British rock for herself.
When she married Mark E Smith and cautiously involved herself in the
history of The Fall, that noble band had been passing through its most wintry
period. Her early contributions, like the thunderous jolt of 'God-Box' and
some of the tunes on 'The Wonderful And Frightening World' injected new light
into a vision that had grown dreadfully dark.
Her Fall tunes are simple rather than simple-minded. Mark E's songs
have a trudging, inevitable quality that is usually hypnotic, but Brix's
tunes find a spark that The Fall have sometimes missed.
She moved from playing a rather dumpy, distant girl at the back of The
Fall's stage to becoming an integral member. Smith's lads have polished up
their charcoal atmosphere into something approximating hard graphite, with
Brix's glamour (there's no other convenient term) acting like the tablet
fizzing in the glass.
"I'm concentrating really hard on what I'm playing. The beauty of The
Fall is that it just keeps changing. I'm playing a lot more lead now, and
it's important to keep a sense of melody there. We've started to do 'Fiery
Jack' again, which comes from way before I joined, and I only heard the
record a couple of times. He throws things at us. You just have to get up
there and play it."
For a small figure, a guitar can be a sheltering thing.
"It makes you feel less vulnerable. If you're standing there,
twitching.... you can hide behind it, though I don't very much. I like it to
be like an extension of my arms, part of my body. Nothing phallic. I think
most of my guitars are girls, if they have a sex."
Are they weapons?
"Did you see the play we did? You machine-gun in it and it was funny,
it felt like my guitar. So it can be a weapon. Especially if strangers crawl
up on the stage, groping. Smack! I don't mind if people are dancing on stage.
I get freaked out when they touch.
"I'm not a real violent person. I don't like hitting people,
especially if they're smiling at you."
BRIX SMITH talks in a voice which sounds affected - all those American
soaps - but it can't be. It would be a yakkety American voice if she didn't
use it in such a charming way; you can hear that on the records by her own
project, The Adult Net, where she can sound flirtatious and silly or mean and
appealing. She tends to roll herself into a ball on the furniture. A smile
starts on her huge lips and sweeps up her face.
"I get nervous," she whimpers. "You're so quiet, you make me
Brix is always shaking. She trembles as though she's on a train, being
buffeted in a high wind, or living over a roller-rink. It's the nerves, the
tiredness, the coffee. And maybe the work of The Fall and The Adult Net
The Adult Net began as a sole single, 'Incense And Peppermints', a
psychedelic revival that chirped with good humour. The other side, a
'Rebellious Jukebox' that put real sparkle into the old Fall chestnut,
revealed the kind of creature Smith is.
She's an enthusiast, a fan who marvels at the brilliance of rock. Her
attempt at getting the sneer in the 'Jukebox' vocal suggests that she loves
the wit and energy more than the misanthropy in Fall music.
Since then, she's pieced together three more singles, with another due
in an instant. 'Edie', a clumsy tribute to Edie Sedgwick, didn't amount to
very much, but the locomotive pop of 'White Nights (Stars Say Go)' and the
nagging repetitions of 'Waking Up In The Sun' put the idea back on course.
The Adult Net aim at a tough and memorable music, but Brix seems
captivated by the innocent spirit of an older sort of pop. Their cover of The
Shangri-Las' 'Remember (Walking In The Sand)' is a wonder because it's not a
pastiche nor a joke: it's done with grace and trust.
Compare this with Siouxsie's disdainful cover versions: Brix is the
one with the pop heart.
"I like songs so much. If I pick up a guitar I just hit something and
it sounds good, and the rest just follows. I never make the song about
something - I never say this is going to be about teenage sex and the
emancipation of women. It comes out more like... a poem. 'Waking Up In The
Sun' is about spiritual enlightenment, if you want to look sooo deeply!"
Is she sent poems?
"Sometimes I get letters saying, Why did you marry Mark when I'm the
one for you? Or love poems. Sometimes...I was a witness to a woman saying to
Mark, What purpose do the girls serve in the band?
Those people can go and f*** themselves. A lot of people don't realise that
write a lot of the music. They think I'm there because I've got blonde hair.
"I wish I had more women fan's," she whispers. "I'm not feminist,
it's important that a person like me is showing I can do both these things
properly, look good, be a strong person--be a good role model. It's good to
show you have brains."
Brains are something that Smith has in, as they say of attractive
women, all the right places.
She has just returned from a visit to her family in Los Angeles- "I
love the dry heat and the crystal blue skies." While over there she tested
for a film, got a lawyer, an acting agent, a music agent, visited record
companies and A&R men and read for some acting parts.
BRIX HAS extraordinary belief in a pop idea that began as a simple
"It'll be different in America. Here, I'm coming from left field, the
indie scene. That's not where I want to be at all with The Adult Net. I want
to be right in the mainstream, and it's hard when people here go, Oh, it's
just that girl fromThe Fall, she doesn't do anything. If I could, I'd go out
and plug it myself. I could do the best job of everything."
Is it a trial, for a shy and nervous person, to work this hard in
front of people?
"I'm not really that shy," she says, in the loudest voice she can
muster. " I just have this will, it just takes over. It's an iron will. I can
go to someone's office, don't know them, they don't know me, and I have to
convince them without being too ballsy or too tough or too bratty or too
conceited that I've got something to offer that no one else has. And I just
do it. It's like job interviews.
"The thing is to do it with style. Who does it really well? Aw, I
don't wanna talk about people! I don't like saying names of bands."
She folds her arms, with the perpetual click of her bracelets. Perhaps
The Adult Net will have to go to America to make all their news. Here, stuck
with the bright but limited Beggars Banquet, there doesn't seem very far to
go. In a British pop scene that's more stratified than ever, they sound like
novelty act. Besides, why do this short circuit when there are people calling for
"I suppose everyone knows now that my partner in The Adult Net is
Simon Rogers. He does ballet scores, stuff for the BBC and adverts and
things. He wrote a ballet score and it was being put on in Poland and this
director heard it. And for two years he was calling about it, wanting to do
something. I told Simon, No, it's complete bullshit, these people in
Hollywood rob you blind. But it happened.
"One day this guy rang up while an Adult Net track was playing in the
background and he said, What's that? It's the other band I'm in. He loved it,
chose two songs for the soundtrack and said, Bring Brix out and have the band
play in the film."
It is, of course, a TV movie about teenage pregnancy. Smith flew out
and was given her own new Thunderbird for two weeks.
"And I got my best friend Lisa, best friend Tolly, Chris and Simon, we
just mimed to it in a party scene."
She thinks about Los Angeles for a moment, where everyone has a
script, a record and a pilot scheme, and sighs.
"For a long time I felt I was getting nowhere."
Nowhere? With all this?
"Yeah but I'm a workaholic! I'm proud of myself and what I've done,
but I've got a goal. I want to write great pop songs and have commercial
success with The Adult Net. It's easy to write rubbish pop. I want to do it
well. I don't care if it takes a long time."
IT MAY do yet. Their singles so far are good records, but not great ones.
Brix has a knack for a pop tune, but this is not a time when you can make
great pop records by instinct. There's something gimcracked and
done-by-numbers about some of their tracks which their spirit ought to
transcend and doesn't. Perhaps the forthcoming 'Spin This Web' LP will sort
it all out. How does she see herself perceived?
"So far it's been...on the favourable side," she answers, with a
resist-this-one! smile. "I think people like me. I'm beginning to earn some
respect in the press. I'm not the most secure person in the world. But I'm a
good person inside, I'm a good friend and a loyal person. I have a good
"They respect me in The Fall. They wanted me to join. They taught me
lots of things and were really supportive, when it could have been the
Though she lives in Manchester, she spends most money in London. On
black clothes. Did she ever want to be tall and thin and lovely?
"Well, I'm not fat! Do you think I'm fat? Past the age of 15, I knew
it wouldn't happen, I knew I wouldn't be like a model. I wanted to be a
jockey. I'm still a good rider and riding isn't such a snobby thing in
America as it is here. My family are giants, but I never grew tall.
"I don't mind being little. People always say, Are you the girl from
The Fall? I thought you were a lot taller!
"I always had style, but I never thought I'd be attractive. I thought
I'd never have a boyfriend. Kept waiting for that first date. His name was
David Hickman and he was the son of this guy who was a child actor. He was
cute in the way teenage boys can be.
"People say I'm pretty now but I don't always feel it. I feel good
She holds out one arm and beams. It is almost still.
"Look. I'm almost done shaking."
OUT ON the street, it's a day to chill the bones. Brix Smith sees a
taxi and runs for it; she is not a very graceful runner. Inside, she pulls
her bag up to her chin and peeps out at East End London.
"I'm one of those people...childlike in a way. I play a lot. The Adult
Net is kind of a joke because I don't think of myself as an adult. Because
life's so serious sometimes you have to let go and play.
"My Christmas present was a Rock Star Barbie, which goes with my
Marilyn Monroe Barbie. I just sit there with them and dress them up and comb
their hair and... make them have lesbian sex. Just kidding!"
The cab bumps on towards the West End.
"Oh," she murmurs, " I hope Terry Waite's alright."