A Quick Pint with Mark E, Smith
Paul Benney, "Jockey Slut," January 1996 (pp. 88-89)
Mark E. Smith is A British Institution, Legendary leader of The Fall, occassional DJ and top drinking partner, the man who has E for his middle name has now gone and made a trip hop record. On PWL ! Altogether now 'handbag house-er, trfip hop-er'
Slut: Why did you get involved with the D.O.S.E record?
It's a change for me and I like all that stuff. I was always really into 2 Unlimited - one of the few groups I like, believe I it or not. And I'm into dance and have been for quite a long time. What I think's good about the record is it's really brutal but it's got that Pete Waterman thing to it where it's really corny.
Slut: You're similar to Pete Waterman in that you like to keep up a high work rate and put out a lot of records.
Yeah, we've put out two albums this year. The amount of people that complain about it you wouldn't believe it. Record company people don't like doing any work. You'd think making two albums in a year was a bloody crime or something. That's why I left Phonogram because they want you to spend four months on it, they want to have a marketing meeting for three months and they want to plug it for three months and you've forgot what the bloody songs are like by the time they come out. I think it's outrageous me. I think it's disgusting. I think there's something a bit fishy about it. If you don't just bring three LP's out over ten years then somehow you're not credible. I did this thing on Friday about The Beatles like 'The Time The Place' or whatever. They had Paul McCartney's brother there, Pete Wylie, y'know loads of professional scousers. And I said "realise what's happening here don't you. If a young twenty year old kid makes the best record in the world it still wouldn't stand a chance at getting in the charts because he wouldn't be able to get it pressed because you can't get in the pressing plants because of this Beatles record until fuckin' March." And the debate was about whether the Beatles will be No.1 at Christmas and I said it's bound to be because no one else can get any records pressed. See the Beatles fit in with the record companies because the singer's dead so he can't mither them and the other three are transcendental hippies so they don't care.
Slut: Did you ever like the Beatles?
No. Do you?
Slut: Yeah I've got my parents old Beatles albums at home.
You get a lot of this don't you nowadays, listening to your parents records I find it really weird. On this programme they had this group called 'The Beatless', y'know like The Australian Doors or something, and they were knocking Oasis and Blur - which is fair enough - but I was going 'no matter what their faults are at least they're working'. And they were saying "they don't make the tunes like they used to," and then this bloke said "who are you to talk anyway? The Fall are rubbish." I would have layed him out if I hadn't been on live TV.
Slut: Did you meet Pete Waterman?
Yeah, didn't say much but I've always liked him - we're from the some background - northern soul, Wigan and all that. I think it's very brave of him to do this record. People always laugh at him, and call him a trash merchant but he does put money into young talent.
Slut: The record is very Chemical Brothers-like. Are you a fan?
Do you think it sounds like The Chemical Brothers? I like them but I tried to get the record more German sounding, more German-Italian. That's what I was aiming for with a bit of me of course. The Chemical Brothers, I think they're fuckin' great by the way, but after about half on hour live ... y'know there's only so much you can do with that sort of format. But when we were doing it I don't think we even gave The Chemical Brothers a thought. I've seen some DJ bands and thought they were crap. What about whatshisface, Poul ... err ... I've met him, Foul, Paul Wether ...
Slut: Andrew Weatherall?
Yeah that's him. Live it just doesn't work, he's a DJ not a live act ... and Soul De la Soul (sic), it's just like a kid with a ghetta blaster. Doesn't work in a hall.
Slut: You use the phrases 'trip hop' and 'hand·bag' on the record. Did you realise you realise that both phrases get right up certain peoples noses?
They cut alot of it out actually because at one point I said 'Handbag/clip clop/hip hop/fuck off', but I they cut it out. I just think it's all a bit academic As soon as these middle class kids get a hold of it they, start giving it these names but it's all dance at the end of the day innit. I mean I just thought handbag was the real crop dance music that you get in the clubs round North Manchester like Whitefield. I know some shady characters that put on clubs round those areas and it's all just bloody Woolworths dance music done by some bloke in a studio who's never been to a club in his life. It gives dance music a bad name.
Slut: What's the song all about?
Well I'd just got the tape of the song and I've been working on a 'swingbeat' track or whatever you want to call it for Factory 2 and they're dead serious about all them terms. I mean the song I'm working on is a really slow song - it's really good, it's sort of like Oran 'Juice' Jones. And there were all these bores coming into the studio talking about clip hop and saying this is swingbeat, I mean I thought swing beat was Glen Miller, I did. So anyway, when I got to do this one I thought I'd say something about it because it was all news to me you see, that there were so many phrases. And I thought it would wind Eastern Bloc up so ...
Slut: And what's the molasses bit about?
Well it's sugar isn't it.
Slut: Do you want another drink?
Slut: Ecstasy's in the news at the moment. Ever taken it?
I stopped taking it in 1989 actually. I started taking it with some mad fuckers in New York and we were working with a lot of dance people at the time, and really good dance music was coming out of when it was really warped.
Slut: Why did you stop taking it?
Well it turns you into a bloody sex maniac doesn't it? A musician I was working with once used to say all day, "I hate you, I hate you" and then later on he'd be going. "I love you Mark, I love you." Funny as fuck. I've got a lot of mates from Salford, what's terrifying is these blokes who used to take the piss out me for being in The Fall, now they're like, "I've always liked you Mark". It's terrible, they start getting eloquent about plastering or something. I prefered it when they used to threaten me. But I don't trust any artificial drugs. I remember when I was in New York, this guy actually knew the guy who had invented ectasy. It was very fishy the way it was invented. It was to get American middle class kids off the street. So it was like, here's a combination of coke, speed, pot and acid, but its the chemical equivalent. And I never trust chemicals, I'm against pot as well, it just cuts all your feelings off doesn't it. You've got to come out sometime haven't ya? It's the same with Prozac. Ecstasy's like a CIA drug or something, like Soma, ever read Brave New World?
Slut: Yeah, and Soma's the name of a record label as well.
Yeah, I know them lads, where are they from, Edinburgh? Glasgow is it? Yeah that's right, they're a good bunch them. They've got that club as well. What's it called? The Arches? It's fucking great that club.
Slut: You've got a reputation for always being pissed. Is it true?
No. But I think it's quite funny. That's usually written by journalists on speed and out of their crusts. I was just brought up not to drink in private. And I can hold my drink as well. I rarely get drunk actually. I wish I bloody could. Some people can't hold a drink. I mean, I can't hold a joint, if I have a joint I feel sick for days. Different strokes innit. There's a very middle class snobbery about drinking in England. When I'm on the road I get roadies going, "oh look its Mark with a pint, and it's only midday" and they've got a big litre bottle of vodka which they're swigging from in the big. You go to Germany and you get eighty year old women drinking litres of beer at 8 o'clock in the morning. It's good for you beer. I've been in the Hacianda, a couple of years ago mind, when all the Manchester bands were there, and I've been the most coherent one there. And then somebody writes in the NME the next week that I've had twelve pints and doesn't even mention that The Happy Mondays were standing on their heads in the corner - but that's ok because they are on E man. Sudafeds the same as E. Same ingredients. Did you know that?
Slut: Do you still go out to clubs?
Not really no. They're full of these crusties now. Clubs used to be cool didn't they? You can't got to the Hacienda anymore - it's just full of bloody students. The Fall are banned from The Hacienda any way. Why ? Cos we're The Fall, of course. Where do you go?
Slut: I go to our Fridays arr ...
Fridays? My girlfriend goes there. What's it like?
Slut: No, I mean Bugged Out at Sankey's Soap on Fridays.
Oh, is that what it means? So that's where she's been going.
Slut: What was the last record you bought?
Well, I bought up all the Italian shit out of my local dance shop. They said they weren't going to stock it anymore, said no-one buys it. What appeals to me about Italian House, well its got a bit of a twist to it, hasn't it. A lot of it is a lot like Euro Handbag trash but some of it really like ... sort of Italian ... like really spooky. Which is what a lot of dance music was like when it started out. I mean like have you heard some of those dance remixes of like Pulp and that? It's not even handbag is it. Fuckin' Woolworth's music.
Slut: Have you done any more DJing?
Yeah I did 501 (sic) in Liverpool a few times. What did I play. Italian stuff, a few Fall out-takes and rockabilly. It's easy money actually, I suppose it was because I was a 'celeb' DJ I suppose. But I just brought along 15 records, got the resident DJ to put them on for me, stood there for an hour and got paid 300 quid. And some of them Djs do five in a night. No roadies to deal with, no arguments. I'm in the wrong fucking job, but you do get some dickheads - them trainspotters watching you. I mean you can't tell them to fuck or go and stand at the other side of the stage like when you're in a band. But with DJs I think they're making a mistake when they try to get into performing live. It's a different thing innit. I couldn't do DJing. I'm not up to it in a way, I mean I was great and the scousers loved it ... I'd play Italian stuff and dance stuff and errr ... something else, and The Fall and then I'd play like rockabilly and joke records. It went down really well.
Slut: So has 1995 been a good year for you?
(After about twenty seconds of looking into his pint) ... Nah
Slut: And what can we expect from you in 1996?
Well they're talking about doing a follow up to this but I don't want to force myself on anyone. And The Fall have a new single coming out in January which is really good called "The Chisellers."
Slut: What's it about?
... errr ... chisellers - yer fuckin' twat.
Mark E. Smith was having a quick pint in some dodgy pub in Ancoats with Paul
Benney. Plug Myself In by D.O.S.E. featuring Mark E. Smith is out on PWL in