L. Verrico, "The Smiths Reform"
VOX, May/June, 1995, p.42
"He was a dour Northerner, she was an LA rock chick. The Smiths were rock's unlikeliest couple until she ran off with a Kennedy. So how come they're making sweet music again?"
Five years ago, Laura Elise "Brix" Smith walked out on her husband Mark E Smith and her job as a key member of The Fall. Over seven years, she had co-written and played guitar on albums including Perverted By Language, This Nation's Saving Grace, Bend Sinister, The Frenz Experiment, I Am Kurious Oranj and Extricate. Last year, Brix rejoined the band to tour the States and recently wrote and played on The Fall's latest album, Cerebral Caustic.
Mark: "If anyone had suggested asking Brix back, I'd have said, 'No bleedin' chance.' We hadn't spoken to each other for three years. I didn't even know where she was. Then she called me up out of the blue last summer. She said she'd been rehearsing with Hole and was really pissed off with it. At the time, I was looking for a guitarist and arranger. I wanted either a really young kid or an old producer--someone to put some bite back into The Fall, to kick them all up the arse. When I told Brix, she immediately said she'd do it and got on a plane. I'd rather take a chance with someone I know than some smart-arsed kid who wants to be in Oasis. Brix is a great musician. She revitalised the new LP. I was flattered that she wanted to leave Hole to come back to The Fall. They could have paid her 1,000 a week, as opposed to the L50 she gets now.
"When I first saw Brix again, it was like meeting an old mate you've lost touch with. She looked so different. She's changed her image. I admire her for keeping up. She used to look like a rock guitarist. I thought now she'd look like Nigel Kennedy's ex-girlfriend. She doesn't; she looks like one of Hole--Courtney Fine or whatever she's called. I only met Courtney once, when we played LA a year and a half ago. She tried to get on the bus. I got someone to get rid of her. She wanted a lift to her mansion. Poor old Kurt was just left standing backstage, surrounded by loads of horrible little grunge kids. I said: 'Why don't you get a taxi? You've got enough fuckin' money.
"I've no idea what Brix thinks of me. I know what other people think of her. She's a great weapon. She puts her shit up a lot of people. I love that. If some guy is giving us hassle, Brix just says: 'Look, buddy, I'm from LA.' The guys melt. If they get stroppy, she says things Like: 'I'm a black belt in karate,' like something out of LA Law. Elastica: they sound just like The Stranglers and The Fall, but that girl is nothing like Brix. She talks bout how she likes little lads wanking off to her. Brix wouldn't do that. Brix has a sense of humour. That's what I missed most about her.
"The actual split was very amicable. Brix never demanded money. She always asked politely. I didn't mind seeing her out with someone else. I'm not like most men; I didn't want us to fall out. It's the creepy lawyers who got in the way. When I tried to speak to her, they called it harassment. It's good that we're pals again. It's very mature. If I see any other ex-girlfriend, or even an old band member there's a lot of mutual tension. With Brix there isn't cos she's got her head her screwed on. She's a very solid person, even though she seems a bit mad, she's very LA, into therapy and working out. That's why all the pseudo-Yanks don't like her. All the grunge mob hate her. "The rest of the band are like my children. But not Brix. I don't get off on them being afraid of me. They think I'm Oliver Cromwell. Brix and I are a lot more honest. We can tell each other when something's crap. She was marvelous when we toured the States last year. The press were very prurient. Brix told them that we'd split, but that she had realised how good The Fall were. I respect that. Not a lot of exes would have said that.
"Am I still in love with Brix? No. I've been married twice since. She's got her boyfriend, I've got a girlfriend. It depends on your definition of love. I just think she's great. Like one of the lads. There are no songs on the LP about Brix, not even 'Don't Call Me Darling'. I write about ex-girlfriends, readies, the milkman... but never Brix. It's funny, you'd think I would, but I don't feel the need to."
Brix: "I left Mark because I needed to find my own identity outside The Fall. I was 20 when I married. I moved from my mum's to Mark Smith. I'd never been on my own. I was socially retarded. I didn't know how to sign a cheque. I was just this weird cult pop princess and really arrogant bitch. You know that bit in Spinal Tap where the guy goes: 'This bread is too small for this meat.' That was me. I was really unhappy, except when I was playing.
"For a couple of years, Mark and I had no contact at all. I wouldn't say we fell out; I just wanted a completely fresh start. I didn't try to keep up with what The Fall were doing. I heard The Infotainment Scan and I thought it was awesome. It was like a punch in my gut cos I wasn't on it. I never went to see them, though. I couldn't. It would have been like seeing a child I had abandoned. Friends kept telling me what Mark was doing, saying he'd written songs about what a bitch I was. I don't know if that's true. I always thought 'Bad News Girl' on Kurious Oranj was about me. He wrote it when we were going through our break-up. I used to hate playing it. It drove me crazy. I contacted Mark again because of an American singer, Freedy Johnson. He's a massive Fall fan. He couldn't believe I didn't have any of our old records. He bought them for me and made me listen to them. For the first time, I was proud of what we'd done. I phoned up Mark and told him he was brilliant. He was shocked. He didn't trust my motives. Then he called me and said he wanted me to come back. He said he'd give me anything I wanted. I'd been playing with Hole. When their bass player died, Courtney invited me up and I stayed at her house. She's so fuckin' smart, it's scary. In the end, she got someone else. I had already committed to The Fall but I think Courtney was threatened by me. She's very much the star of that band.
"Mark is less angry these days, definitely more calm. I think he's happier. It's easier working with him now because I've grown up, not because we're not married anymore. We had our house and our cats. He's still the dictator of The Fall. That's probably why the band has lasted for 18 years. I stand up to him, though. He respects me cos he knows I can kick ass.
"I never compare myself to Mark's new girlfriends. I know I'm special and he knows he'll never find another me. My current boyfriend is Mark Hudson, who was in The Hudson Brothers in the '70s. He's now a really successful songwriter and producer. He wrote 'Living On The Edge' for Aerosmith and stuff for Ozzy Osbourne. Mark met him and asked why he hadn't bought me a house.
"Did I miss Mark? Yeah, in some ways. It's hard to let go when you're used to being with someone 24 hours a day. I just filled up my hole with other things."