James Brown, "Godhead!" Brix
New Musical Express, March 4, 1989, p. 20
" 'Adult Net' came from a really strange backing vocal that Mark E Smith put onto 'Craigness' on 'The Wonderful And Frightening World Of The Fall'. We just put it in there without anyone knowing, you hardly hear it amidst the guitars.
"One day I heard it and asked him what the Adult Net was, and he said, 'Well what do you think it is?' And I said I don't know but I'm going to use is as the title of my band."
North Hendon is bathed in sunrays. A mutant Monday in a winter devoid of water, slush, ice. The car rolls slowly on to the West. We could betangled up in honey. We might have slept through the mid-day heat. We must be caught in The Adult Net. Do we want to get out? No, I don't think so.
"Inspiration usually comes from within yourself but it's outside elements that make you realise them. Whether it's the beauty of a sunset or a slap in the face. To me it was the weather in LA, when you're coming into puberty and it's this really hot feeling all the time. "The world is so open and vibrant and you can do anything you want... and knowing that you can no matter what it is. That's still there inside me and I'm re-discovering it all now."
Brix Smith, guitarist in The Fall, wife of Mark E Smith -- the infamous Blizzard of Whiz -- is guiding us into The Adult Net, her golden solo project, rich with heatspots, glowing with the music of her West Coast American childhood. Twenty-two years ago a small girl ran out of her mother's wild Hollywood mansion and encountered the hippy from the freak scene at the top of the house in the drive way. The dope-pope looked at the kid, grinned, and then declared "I am sooo stoned!". The inquisitive child was informed by the bemused mother that 'stoned' was "Just like being drunk, honey".
The big era was already shining. The slack had laid out Western youth, the years were sliding into the novelty history books as one long exciting love-in, and nobody seemed to care. The Beatles shaped music, fashion, accents, and haircuts around the world, Charlie Manson wrote songs with Brian Wlson, and Vietnam was just a far off place where a few good ole mercenary boys were playing pingpong with the heads-of local Commies.
As the young Brix grew up in the Hollywood Hills she received an education in The Beach Boys, Mamas & Papas, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Crosby Stills, Nash and Young, and Sly And The Family Stone. Special tuition came in the form of 'Revolver' and 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'. Of course, there was proper school but that seemed so much less important than 'California Girls' which was never off the radio.
Such songs were special, they were about the area Brix lived in, and they would affect her for the rest of her life. Jumping from mother (Hollywood) to father (Malibu) at weekends, Brix spent the formative years in places I thought only existed on the side of liqueur bottles. By her 12th birthday she had sold her soul to the devil's desciple, Jimmy and like millions of other Led Zeppelin loving zombies across the States could listen only to Robert Plant's tonsils and Page's lightning guitar work.
Moving to Chicago with her mother, before heading back to the West Coast, she spend her "wild, not criminal, just wild" teens, underage drinking in rock clubs and living life forever kissed by the sun. By 16 she was back in Chicago, going to see the Ramones as often as possible, and working for Fiorucci. Wearing the clothes she was meant to be selling, spending Saturdays go-go dancing and being lifted by strongmen in the store window, Brix and a cast of a thousand new wavers provided colour, vitality, and subordination for what was apparently the wildest shop in the Windy City.
"People came in and they wanted wild punk make-up and glitter and I glued this women's eyes together and she was screaming. I got into trouble. After a year at college in Vermont she left music theory behind, and took her bass and her friend, Lisa, back to Chicago. There she played and sang in a band with a series of angst- ridden names like The Rage and Burden Of Proof.
Three months after her return a skinny Englishman called Smith [came?] into her life and they fell in love. She returned to Manchester UK with him, and it wasn't long before she was firing away on lead guitar in his band The Fall.
The Fall, through twisted mouths and wretched hands, were dissipated Britkings of post-industrial sci-fi threatability, social-surrealist aggro and beer (Phew!).
Brix helped widen their vision and augment their sound. Few people know how close Mark E Smith came to packing in his band before he married, had he done so we would have missed out on 'This Nation's Saving Grace', their G-Mex appearance, the ballet 'I Am Kurious Oranj' and 'Hit The North', a weird hit with a million kaleidoscopic dance versions.
Brix's time in The Fall we know of. There have been vintage LPs, bizarre and shocking projects, hit singles, and now a major deal.
HOW BRIX'S MUM ARRANGED JOHN BELUSHI'S FINEST HOUR
Fall head over heels now.
Immediate submission will be easier on you. There'll be less ridicule from those already ahead. And there'll be no more need to excuse the crappy mauve pop-rock that sometimes creeps by. If The Fall exploded out of a diseased yet fantastic Northern poverty, Adult Net was born and raised in the nutritional LA sun. Hear the music from the forthcoming (untitled) LP and it'll tone up your record collection and bronze your ears.
It isn't the bumped up brat Brit-anthems that Brett Easton Ellis scores his novelettes with, but strong diverse West Coast pop, laced with beauty. The first and most powerful source of inspiration, however, has been her mother:
"My mother came from a very poor family, broken home and a very unhappy childhood. She was very smart and won a scholarship to go to Berkeley. She was apparently quite overweight and unattractive, she went to Berkeley and blossomed, she ended up being one of the top models in the '60s.
"She worked on the Kennedy Campaign with Bobby Kennedy and Pierre Salinger. She eventually got on CBS News, the 60 Minutes programme, and she worked her way up from being a researcher to being producer. Then she moved to Chicago, to her own news programme, and after that she was made head of Motion Pictures for the State of Illinois. She's responsible for bringing in films like 'The Blues Brothers, and she organised the police cars to go through Daley Plaza window.
"She was just fantastic and she's a really smart business woman and she brought millions of dollars into the state, wonderful woman and mother, and total inspiration. I came from a background where a woman could be strong and beautiful and do this. I saw that, and I knew I could do it as well."
Although your Adult Net songs are soaked in this rich West Coast sound how much of your writing has been shaped by living in England?
"Loads ... 'Waking Up In The Sun' is a very old song that was written a long time ago but everything else on the LP has been written since I've been here. You have to sharpen your senses to remember things. You have to have your memories imprinted in your mind, be sensually aware. England is very inspiring and people have always been supportive of me. Mark and the rest of The Fall have been very encouraging. I think people need that sort of support.
"Before I got here I had always seen England as this fairytale place like the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland. Manchester was inspiring because there's so much creativity there. There's something in the air there that's good for writing and good for bands."
"Bands that have come out of the North have always inspired me. It was a very different lifestyle, throwing yourself into that situation only leads to growth as a person. I'm a really strong person and do have a really strong core, I'm a survivor but at the same time I am feminine and vulnerable.
"People have said that I'm quite childlike. I also have a wicked sense of humour that is quite crude and unladylike at times, as I'm sure you've witnessed. It's just capturing all the things about yourself. In my songs I am baring my soul all the time and there are many different levels.
"Writing a good song is the best medicine ever. I can only write the way I know how to write and writing for The Fall is one kind of inspiration where you tap your emotional bank. It's a more hypnotic, aggressive, slightly sarcastic bank. And for The Adult Net it's just totally me. I'm writing for myself, not for something else."
The musicians you've used in The Adult Net have been in some great bands, but don't they keep dissappearing?
"Well no, Clem (Burke, Blondie's drummer) is with me now, so are Craig Gannon (The Smiths, Morrissey, Bluebells, Aztec Camera) and James Eller (The The, Johnny Marr). You have to work with people who want to work with you and enjoy what you're doing, I wouldn't want to have some old session guy on there because it was a gig and some money."
Is that what happened with Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke after they'd performed live with you? I heard they demand ridiculous retainers.
"Well, Mike and Andy wanted to do it and we did the gig and that was fun but then something else came along they would rather do and they did that. People should get paid for what they do but if they would rather work with someone else for whatever reason then that's up to them.
"I know that Mike has a wife and a baby and, at the point, I wasn't signed to Phonogram and I wasn't in a position to shell out money. I'm not cheap or anything but you pay for what you get.
"We want to tour and we were actually going to play in two weeks but loads of complications came up. When we tour in the autumn if James and Clem and Craig want to do it then I'll have them, but if not I'll find someone else. And from finding someone else you also grow as a band. I've learned that from The Fall because there's been a million different musicians in that band."
ROCKING OUT BENEATH THE NEON SUN
If Brix Smith's working approach to The Adult Net is almost muso then it only serves as a backstop for the fireball of life, light, heat, and laughter that is her music to tumble over. The Adult Net LP flows from one incendiary device to another handsome hand grenade, from the raunchy power pop-rock songs of 'Spin This Web', 'Honey Tangle', and 'It's The Way' to the lush and laidback 'Tiffany Tuesday', and then up into the heated heavens of 'August' and 'Waking Up In The Sun'. It is 'Sad' that holds most excitement for Brix. Cloaked in six string parts that were orchestrated specifically by The Beach Boys' veteran Van Dyke Parkes and mixed with producer Craig Leon's lute and Brix's strychnine-as-sugar whisper.
"lt is such an absolute godhead track, I've got to play you it. We put it down live and sent it to Van Dyke Parkes who scored the strings and arranged them around that and sent it back. And then The Brodrinski Strings came in and played it.
"I worship Van Dyke Parkes and I was so excited about working with him and that he wanted to do a song for me. I just worshipped The Beach Boys and all the things he did with them - 'Heroes And Villains', 'The Smile' album that I have a tape of which is my prize possession - it really is a totally Godhead song.
" 'Waking Up In The Sun' are very much Beach Boys, I'm paying homage."
For the moment we are to be teased with just a single, the LP will follow in a couple of months.
"I didn't really want to call the single 'Take Me' because of what it sounds like sexually, it sounds like something Sam Fox might call her record, but it's not that. It's about someone trying to break your spirit, to steal your dream, to take your heart. It's quite a painful and angry song. Quite nasty. It was about a business relationship not about a personal relationship; about someone in business who was holding me back. Nothing to do with Mark, no one should think that. The only true love sang I've ever written is 'It's The Way', and that's totally for Mark."
Luxurious, never sparse or calipered, Brix's songs are designed to be like "paintings in the mind". "The Stones were a great influence also," she admits, "especially the earlier stuff when Brian Jones was alive."
Unlike so many of today's young impressionables Brix's time in The Fall has allowed The Adult Net to soak up and use her influences and not be merely saturated by them. Do you think people will be surprised by The Adult Net?
"People might be shocked by how professional my music is and by how much depth there is to it. I'm sure people have it in their mind that The Adult Net will be some indie-type sounding girl group. It's a whole other league.
"I would like to write songs for other people because it's a challenge and I'm always up for a gamble. One of my favourite LPs of late was The Traveling Wilburys, none of them were bullheaded enough to overshadow each other. When Dylan sings you hear Dylan singing and it goes perfectly with Roy Orbison singing about how he'd been ignored for years and then re-discovered. And then there's George Harrison who suffered so much Beatles-damage and he came through it."
Is there such a thing as Fall-damage?
"Oh sure. I don't think I have Fall-damage but I think bands who copy The Fall do suffer from it. We're cool. The Fall is just another shift in mood for me, another side.
"My total idol, and people are going to drop dead when they hear this, is Jimmy Page...Jimmy Page is the reason I play guitar.
Did you recognise yourself in Hammer Of The Gods?
"What, in the groupie scene?"
No, the fans, the Led Zep army.
"Oh yes, I just loved Led Zeppelin so much because some of their songs were so beautiful."
You added a brighter appeal to The Fall, do you think you're an extrovert?
"Only when I have to be. It's different when you're on stage because my theory is, and a lot of people will disagree with this, when you're on tour the most important part of the day is the hour and a half you spend on stage.
"After the show I hardly ever go out. I just go back to the hotel, have a shower, wash my face, and go to sleep. It's a regimental way and people say, 'Hey you've got to enjoy it', but I do enjoy it."