Author?, "Mates: MES and Mike Pitrick"

SELECT, ??, 1994

Ubersturmbannfuhrer of The Fall and his longstanding pal, a one-time unisex hairdresser-turned-guitarist.


Mark E Smith mates with a hairdresser? Are you sure about that? You don't want to come outside and, y'know, talk about it, do you...

People warned Smithy against becoming friends with Mike: "Hairdressers talk" they said. Equally, Mike was warned about Mark being"miserable and bitter". "But," says 28 year-old Mike, "I don't see any of that in Mark, no way."

And six years after meeting in Mike's salon, they're in the Cushion & Crown on Corporation Street in Manchester, nursing their respective pints of Joseph Holts and matching each other fag for fag. Neither seems to be the worse for the liaison as they cackle together conspiratorially.

Mike is nowadays the hairdresser, stylist and monitor-man to The Fall (yes, they do have an image man). But he turned down Mark's offer to join the group -- partly because "I know what he's like" and partly because he's aware of Mark's revered post-punk status. He'd hate other musicians to think he was cashing in on his friendship.

"I'm more of a hindrance anyway than a help, sniggers Mark. "Inspiral Carpets were doing great until I turned up."

Today, Mark isn't at all the morose and well-marinaded cynic of myth and legend. Anyone who saw the gimlet-eyed monster who went toe-to-toe with Caitlin Moran on Naked City ('I've fucked more women than you've had hot dinners, love...") would be amazed. He's had a few, admittedly, but he's assisting with the general levity of the situation and seems to be perfectly at ease with Mike. Just goes to show what a change of company can do. So what makes this partnership work, Mike?

"We like the same beer, the same food. We like olive oil, we have the same kind of taste in music and films..."

On a good night out they'll get drunk. On a good night in they'll get drunk round at Mark's watching Zulu on video ("We must have seen it about a dozen times," says Smith) and listening to Nancy Sinatra records. It's not all macho camaraderie ...

"Mike's good 'cos he agrees with all me gripes. I can have a right whinge. Like, Mike'll be sitting round me house and it will always be at some time when me wife's leaving me or I'm having a row with me girlfriend. Mike nods matter-of-factly: "I pick him up and help him through these things." "We don't always go to the pub either," Mark assures us. "I'm very nervous around a lot of people. Sometimes we just sit round the house and talk."

They share a common disdain for the bored and insular rock star scene in Manchester, and they stick to their own side of town. They off-load their problems on one another and have complete faith in each other.

Smith: "In front of him, I don't care if I'm screaming me head off, with all me hair sticking up, while me wife's leaving me, I get sick of playing the tough guy -- that's expected of me -- but not with Mike.

And where other people understandably fawn at the imposing Smithy's feet, Mike just tells him things straight.

"I'm completely honest with him all the time, and I don't always take his side. The Mark I read about isn't the Mark I know, because I always know what stage he's going through. They do write an awful lot of rubbish though."