Neil Davenport, "A D.O.S.E. of Mark E Smith"
City Life, ?? 1996
The belligerent presence of Mark E Smith has been sorely missed of late. The Fall have consistently put out great, even staggering records, whilst others can take a couple of years just tuning up. The last few albums, in particular The Infotainment Scan and Middle Class Revolt, have been as great as any classic Fall LP you'd care to mention.
But exactly what's been happening in The Fall camp lately has been a bit of a mystery, even to the most ardent Fall follower. Smith has laid low and given little away and the music press consensus has simply been, 'another year, another Fall LP', a woefully ill-conceived approach. Eighteen years on from the band's first release, The Fall are infinitly more fresh and aware than any mad pop outfit currently doing the rounds.
'I can't complain, we've had a fair bit of attention', reasons Mark, 'but it seems that if you're prolific then they're very suspicious of it. If you don't take two ar three years over an LP then they don't think it's any good. My last label (Permanent) complained that as I had put out two albums last year they couldn't do anything with them.'
Presumably this explains why The Fall have a new deal with Jet records - better known for putting out ELO records in the '70s - who are releasing the new single, The Chiselers and the compilation LP Sinister Waltz.
'I didn't know that they were ELO's old label until one of the lads pointed it out', laughs Mark. 'Well I was fed up with the way Permanent records were handling The Fall. I was approached by Trojan records - Jet's parent company - who wanted to release some old stuff. So they're putting out the compilation LPs over three months. Permanent didn't like The Chiselers, they reckoned it sounded like an LP track - so Jet put it out instaed.'
The Chiselers is malignant and magnificent, reminiscent of Bend Sinister-era Fall. This is perhaps due to the recent return of Mark's ex-wife Brix, who it was once said, added some much needed glamour to the Fall. Why did she return to the band?
'Well, she returned to London after becoming bored with LA. She was doing music for adverts and some stuff with Nigel Kennedy and his mates,' explains Mark. 'I hadn't spoken to her since the divorce over two years ago so it was a surprise to get a phone call from her. We needed a new guitarist, somebody who could kick the group up the arse, so she joined in.'
After The Chiselers - which is out now - Smith appears on another single due for a March release. It's called 'Plug Myself In', a collaboration with Manchester dance act D.O.S.E. and is on Pete Waterman's new Manchester-based dance label Coliseum, operating out of a converted church at the Castlefield end of Deansgate.
'Someone who was doing a film for The Fall began working with Pete Waterman and he sent me a tape of what he was involved in. I liked it so I went down and did my bit.
What was Pete Waterman like?
'He was alright, quite an unassuming fellow. He didn't really interfere and I was impressed with the set up. I'm so used to going into the studio and seeing stoned freaks behind the tape deck. These kids at his studio worked around the clock. I actually like some of his trashier stuff. I'd Rather Jack was a great record. I could have done without some of the Manchester bands turning up asking me questions about the Boo Ridleys (sic) though. The brass cheek of some people.'