Simon Price, "Counter Culture"
Melody Maker, December 18, 1993, p. 8
Hurry, someone call THE FALL for a quick fix of 'bah, humbug-ah' anti-Xmas misanthropy! Yes, we got Narky Mark And His Clunky Bunch to stop off at the pub before their 17th Peel session, for their umpteenth MM interview, on the occasion of their millionth single, 'Behind The Counter'. Mere pseud mag writer: SIMON PRICE.
MES on being a randam, meaningless surrealist; a musical Roger Irrelevant or Reeves & Mortimer.
"CORRECT. All 'off-the-wall stuff'. But that's the state of British journalism, isn't it, Simon? Half-literate. Half-educated. Nobody wants to take the time to read a book, or study anything in depth. It's not my fault. I think it's crystal bloody clear. Makes perfect sense to me, much more than a lot of what you hear from America, or even Liverpool, bloody bands. They write rubbish. They've got nothing to say.
MES on the fact that his reputatian for being sarky and detached, and his band's for being difficult and angular, causes people to overlook moments of genuine emotional resonance (see 'Gentlemen's Agreement') and beauty (See 'Frenz').
"THAT'S very kind of you, Simon. I think 'Gentlemen's Agreement' is one of the best things we've ever written. But I can't be objective about it. You write a song like that, and expect people to be really impressed, and it just washes over them. They just think it's The Fall A Bit Slower. People always tend to underrate us a bit.
MES on The Fall's unexpected status as a seminal influence on America's avant-grunge margins.
"That's funny, innit? People were coming up to me saying 'listen to this', and playing me Pavement records on a Walkman, and I just asked, 'What live tape is that of ours? Is that from Holland in 1987 or something? That's a fucking drum riff I wrote. The cheek!' They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I don't hold with that. I feel sorry for them, actually. I don't get mad, I just can't see the point of forming a group if you're imitating someone else, it's like, get a life, man. Get a real job! I found this when we set up the label Cog Sinister. We used to get five to ten tapes a week, and they all sounded like New Order or The Fall. We gave up in the end. The reason I formed The Fall was because no one made the music I wanted to hear. We can't sound like anybody else. We try to but we can't. We're always contemporary, I believe. At arm's length from the mainstream, most certainly. For most bands, it's just a student hobby. In America, everybody forms a group until they reach 27 and leave college. It always makes me laugh when you read 'Black Flag Have Broken Up', and it just so happens they're 27 and they've finished their law degrees!"
MES on spontaneity Vs forward planning.
"I never stop and reflect on what I've just done, and I don't think more than three months ahead. Takes all the fun out of it, doesn't it? Cos otherwise you just get stuck. I make LPs, I listen to them once to see they're all right, and that's it. I can look at all that shit when I'm like 60 or something, know what I'm saying? I know I can do those songs 10 times better, but I'm not that self-consumed. Peaple always say 'If you recorded "Totally Wired" properly it would be a huge hit', but I haven't got the time, man. That's not what art's about. Or creativity. I get bored very quickly.
"When you read adverts saying 'Their first LP in two years, I think, 'What have you been doing?' Like Status Quo and The Buzzcocks and UB40: they reaIise they're skint so they reform. Even The Smiths are reforming. Unbelievable.
"That's what I like about rave stuff. It's done on a bleedin' Tuesday and it's out three weeks later. All the hi-fi's out of sequence, it's the wrong speed, it's all [makes horribly distorted bass noise) and it's great!"
MES on The Fall's interest in dance music outlasting that of their Madchester neighbours.
"WHEN they get in the studio for the second LP, they get really smug, then they have kids and that, and. .. it's true, though, innit? Because, believe it or not, I do get invited to these bloody things (Manchester biz gatherings, presumably, and I just go and observe. But I avoid musicians like the bloody plague."
MES on technology.
"I've got no interest in Visual Reality (sic). Cranky! Like sex, innit? (Taps journo's arm conspiratorially). People who don't get it talk about it. Hahahaha! A very prurient state. My theory is we're degenerating into an animal state. I played that fucking 'Edgehog game, and I actually got a minus five for trying to kill the fucking 'edgehog in the first frame. But I'm not against technology. Machines are there to abuse.
MES on shopping and consumer choice (the apparent subject of "Behind The Counter").
"I'm a very instinctive shopper. Are you? Where are you from? Wales? Have you heard of Arthur Machen, the writer? He's from down there. No one from Wales has ever heard of him. Stephen King ripped off everything from him. I used to be into horror fiction as a teenager.
"Shopping's different where I live. People are being told about stuff that they don't really need. In Manchester people are so fucking stupid. You get women who see some chocolate or Cosmetics To Go, and they're on the fucking dole, but they think they have to have it, so they buy it, then they never use it! The streets are packed with people in a trance, gazing in shop windows at stuff they can't afford. I just know what I want - I don't care what it costs - and I get it. And if, after going into a few shops, you can't find it, it's time to go 'ome. What I hate is when you go out, you'll stand next to some fucking cunt in a bar, and he'll look at your leather shoes (displays shiny but distinctly unstylish lace-ups and go 'Yuppie!' And he's got fucking trainers on that cost 10 times more than your shoes! He's wearing a baseball hat worth more than my jacket, a Swatch watch worth more than mine, and I'm the yuppie?!"
MES on the dignity of labour.
"I WALK through town, me, going 'Get a fucking job, you cunt.' The establishment thinks if you give these people L300 a week (this Job Seeker's allowance pretty generous - SP), they'll be happy. But they'll never be fucking happy. For a start, you've got to give a man an occupation. Give him L5 a week, and as long as he's got his occupation he's happy, he's got his pride. Give him L300 and he's just gonna be nagged and dragged round the shops by his wife. I know this from employing musicians. You can give'em L1000 a week and they'll still skint by Friday. Just open a few fuckin' factories and chuck people in 'em.
"People call me a workaholic, but I don't want to sit around the house with a bloody wife talking about what carpet to get. It' s totally middle class, man. Grotesque.
MES on the way to another Peel Session.
"YOU got enough there, cock? I'm on a roll, but I've got to be off.
The 'Behind The Counter' EP is out now on Permanent.