Mark Sutherland, "We have ways of making you talk"
NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, 1995, p. 45
MARK E SMITH, YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL NORTHERNER AND I CLAIM MY FIVE POUNDS...
"NOW, YOU see, I wouldn't agree with that because a lot of the early Fall stuff was actually about professional Northerners, if you listen to it properly. It is an accusation I get sometimes but, y'know, it was me that said that about professional Northerners in the first place! I never play up to being a Northerner.
"I hate people like that, always have. If you go round London with northern bands, they are quite obnoxious. They use being northern as a last resort. When they get a bit stuck for an idea, they come up with "you soft Southerners" and all that. See, now I'd call Andy Kershaw a professional Northerner... do you know the BBC advertise for people with northern accents now! But once you get out of Britain everyone sees us as the same anyway. Except in America, where everyone seems to think I'm German."
MAYBE THAT'S YOUR LYRICS. AFTER ALL, MOST OF THEM DON'T SEEM TO MAKE ANY SENSE. AND YOU ALWAYS PUT "AH" ON THE END OF EACH LINE...
"WELL SOMETIMES I don't know what they mean myself. They don't seem to make sense when I write them, but it usually comes round. Sometimes they become clear to me about the same time as they do to people listening to the record. But no, I've never been stuck for a line and just stuck a jumble of words together. I have the opposite problem--I write too much. I have to edit myself severely or every song would end up a 20-page essay.
"But I can't grasp that 'Ah' thing. It's just having a go at me for my accent. That's easy, that's lazy. I could do that to you. (Proceeds to do woefully inaccurate impression of your correspondent's Hampshire burr.) If these people can't use their f--ing ears then that's their problem. It's almost become my catchphrase in the NME--but not anywhere else. In Belgium and Germany they understand me quite properly. I don't laugh when I see it in the NME, no. I think it's quite sad.
ALL THIS FANNYING ABOUT WITH BALLET AND THE THEATRE IS A BIT PSEUDOINTELLECTUAL ISN'T IT?
"NAH. I enjoyed doing the ballet and the play and stuff cos they make you grateful to be in rock music. The people working in ballet or the theatre, they're all shits. There are a lot of shits in the rock business, but it's a lot worse in those two. My ballet wasn't pretentious, no way. It were a good ballet, that. But they do look at you like you're an upstart rock singer.
"I remember once I was in this cafe and this bloke came in with about eight girls. He must have been a dance teacher or something and he sat about a yard away from me and rambled on about how this ballet had been ruined by some bloke called Mark Smith, who had his hand in his pocket and couldn't sing. But people ask me to do these things, so I do them."
WHY DO YOU THINK THE ENTIRE WORLD IS RIPPING OFF THE FALL? AND HOW COME ALL THE BANDS YOU DO INSPIRE ARE ALL COMPLETELY F--ING DREADFUL?
"I AGREE totally! I never know if it's a good thing or a bad thing but they don't last long, do they! See, they're just diluting my art and I don't like any type of watering down, it upsets me. I'm not flattered by it, in any way. They always deny being influenced by me as well, but I know. I KNOW. If anyone asks me who influenced me, I tell 'em straight up: Can, Lou Reed... if bits of my stuff sound like either of those two, it's the truth. But these bastards, they don't, which makes me immediately suspicious. "It does annoy me sometimes, like with Pavement. You see, Pavement's ___ and you get connected with it. I shouldn't have said that actually, 'cos we're on the same record company in America, but there you go. As for seeing The Fall in everyone, well, yeah, I do get a bit like that. It's only natural."
THE FALL ARE THE ULTIMATE PHASE BAND--LIVED AND BREATHED FOR THREE YEARS AT COLLEGE AND THEN GROWN OUT OF." DISCUSS...
"YOU'RE TALKING about student bands there, cock. I don't know what you're talking about. We're not a student band. We're not! Our fans are actually very young, they haven't even got to college yet. At the moment they just seem to be getting younger and younger. See, kids aren't as daft as people ____. But phase... nah, what's really sad is blokes my age buying early '80s compilations, trying to relive the past. If I end up like that, go for the jugular man. I give you carte blanche."
DO YOU EVER THINK YOU SHOULD HAVE PACKED IT IN YEARS AGO?
"NO WAY. I think we're still the most topical group in Britain. Listen, the only reason I do it is cos I've still got something to say. This LP is f-ing dynamite. If I ever thought I'd run out of stuff, I'd slit my throat and I'll die. No, really, I would. I've got better things to do than all this."
"ALL SORTS of things. You haven't seen Manchester lately. There's a lot to sort out. There's always plenty to say."
BUT MAYBE ONLY ONE WAY OF SAYING IT. 'COS ALL FALL RECORDS SOUND THE SAME DON'T THEY?
"NAH, I don't agree there 'cos I rip everything up after each LP, always have done. Mind you, I also believe in the seven-year cycle, you do come round to the same sort of thing eventually. But basically I work in a completely different way now to in the early days. Now I just arrange things, write the lyrics and do a bit of music, whereas I used to have to put the band through everything. I can trust the band more now. I give them more of a head."
HMM. YOU'VE STILL GOT A REPUTATION AS A COMPLETE TYRANT, HAVEN'T YOU?
"WELL, YOU know, I still don't understand musicians. I find them completely unfathomable. I can't work out where they're coming from. They think new guitars and who's played with who is important, but I'm the sort who just yells at them: "Play D, E and A, fast and hard." So, obviously, I've chucked a few people out of the band. Half the time it was them jumping but the rest, yeah, it was me pushing. I get tired of them, you see, even though I never socialise with them, and when things become a routine it's easier just to let go. Most musicians just want to do the same old songs, but I won't have that. Musicians aren't completely interchangeable. Craig, Simon and Steve have been with me a long time now, but they don't get any credit 'cos they keep their mouths shut."
WHY DO YOU FIND IT SO DIFFICULT TO ACCEPT YOU'RE WRONG?
"WHO'S CONJURED these questions up! Do you all sit round going (puts on daft squeaky voice) 'He's a very nasty man, Mark Smith' and making questions up! Nah, I've made mistakes but you don't find it easy to admit to yourself that you're wrong, no-one does. If I went round apologising for everything I've done, I wouldn't get anywhere. The Fall wouldn't even exist. I don't think I've got any more self-confidence than anyone else but it's like, if you'd listened to everyone who said, 'Don't be a journalist,' you wouldn't be a f-ing journalist, would you!"
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THE PEOPLE WHO ACCUSE YOU OF BEING A DODGY RIGHT-WING XENOPHOBE ?
"THAT''S A load of bollocks. Politically, I'm to the left of Communism. I've never said anything about foreigners, this is just the NME ganging up on me. All my band's foreign. I've got a Yank, an Irishman, a Jewish person... you should say that to Blur, they're all WASPs. I don't know why it's ever been levelled at me, I don't understand it. I live in a f-ing extremely orthodox Jewish area and I was brought up by Irish Catholics so what are you f-ing going on about! Just 'cos me name's Smith. It doesn't make me angry, I just think it's lazy journalism. Just 'cos I don't toe the line, just 'cos I don't act like a Manc band.
(After a great deal of cajoling, Smith finally admits to the odd anti-European remark in the past.) "Well, we all know this, don't we! We've all had a hard time in Europe, have we not? Why can't they get their shit together! You'd think people in Russia and Yugoslavia would've had enough of war in the last 50 years to not start one again, wouldn't you? And what do the British do? We moan about veal and then drop food on these people so they carry on fighting. We should send the Black Watch in.
"Do you want to hear a funny story? You know how the British veterans of Japanese POW camps have gone over to Tokyo to get compensation? Well, I had two uncles who were both tortured in Japanese POW camps and they've been going on about how they were tortured and never got any compensation ever since. And they died last week! Four days before they were going to set off for compensation? That's my idea of a very funny story, anyway."
Mark E Smith was accused by Mark Sutherland.